Tag Archives: See and Be Seen

Sorella So Really Good

I have this weird love hate relationship with the Lower East Side.  I Hate, with a capital H, that I can never get a cab anywhere in the Lower East Side.  Seriously, I think what Paula Cole really meant was “where have all the cabbies gone”?  But I do LOVE the neighborhood, and in particular, the neighborhood gems.  And one such neighborhood gem that I cannot get enough of is Sorella, because Sorella is so really good.

Sorella is a modest Italian restaurant on Allen Street that serves small plates.  This rustic yet chic restaurant is dimly lit for a touch of romance.  It has this homey feeling that makes you feel comfortable right away.   The same can be said of the service.  With a few key recommendations from the waitress, we knew we were awaiting a great meal.

Similar to tapas, small plates are meant to share.  This is my favorite way to eat because you get to try so many things, and so many of Sorella’s things are exceptional.  Don’t get it twisted, Sorella may serve small dishes, but they pack a big punch.

We started with a few meats and cheeses, because the joys of salty meat and creamy cheese are hard to pass up.  The prosciutto was delicate and mild while to soppressata was dense and salty.  Paired with creamy cheeses, honey and hazelnuts, this was the perfect way to start our meal.

I don’t know about you, but I have a very difficult time passing up Brussels sprouts.  Sure, I maybe a parent’s dream come true, but I’m really just a humble vegetable eater.  Can you just picture the devious smile across my face?  Well, you should try cause it’s awesome.  Just like the Shaved Brussels sprout salad I had at Sorella.  This salad was the perfect balance of flavors.  The mild Brussels sprouts were the perfect base for the crunchy croutons, salty capers, spicy red pepper flakes, sweet onions and creamy cheese.  Piled high, this salad was a big mountain of excellence.

After the Brussels Sprout salad, we ordered the Beef Carne Cruda.  But this was not your average Beef Cruda because this beef was imported from the Hearst Ranch in California.  That’s right, Hearst, as in Hearst Corporation.  The Owner and Chef of Sorella, Emma Hearst, imports her beef from her family’s cattle ranch in California.  Seriously cool right?  As if that isn’t cool enough, rumors are floating around about her opening a steakhouse in New York using the beef from her family’s cattle ranch too.  While these are just rumors right now, I’m still crossing my Bite-Sized fingers that this becomes a reality one day soon.  One more thing, Emma Hearst made the list of “30 Under 30” by Zagat, and no one can argue that this 24 year old is seriously deserving of such exciting recognition!

Okay, back to the beef.  The bright red, supple meat is garnished with simple fried onions and accompanied by side salad of shaved celery and radish.  So simple, yet so good.

I had never heard of Pici pasta (pronounced peachy), but after a solid recommendation from the waitress, I knew I wanted to try it.  Plus, how do you really resist a pasta called Pici?  The thick, doughy noodles swim in a bowl of hearty pork ragu, ricotta and pepperoncini.  This is an unusual dish that I would make my usual meal.

Agnolotti are ravioli, and these ravioli were Bite-Sized. No truly, they were tiny, but seriously divine.  The agnolotti were soft and pillowy.  Stuffed with beef short ribs and drizzled with sage butter and parmesan cheese, these baby ravioli were robust bites of comfort.

A side of broccoli was a must, especially after we found out it was fried and covered in a spicy aioli.  Reminiscent of Japanese style broccoli tempera, these bites were unexpected for an Italian restaurant.  It was like a surprise party for my tastebuds.

A trip to Sorella wouldn’t be complete with dessert, because dinner isn’t really done until you have dessert.  But especially because they have a gelateria next door called Stellina.  We ordered 3 scoops of gelato, and each was better than the last.  Seriously, this was THE best gelato I have ever had in the United States.

We also ordered cheesecake.  I know, I was surprised we weren’t too full also.  But, we weren’t so cheesecake we ate.  The light and airy cheesecake was shaped like a pyramid and covered in a delicate layer of smooth chocolate.

If your mouth isn’t watering, I think you might be sick.  So, please make sure to call the doctor.

Sorella
95 Allen Street
New York, NY
212.274.9595

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Sunday Lazy Sunday

I love waking up on a Sunday knowing that I have nothing to do but go to brunch. This hybrid meal takes on activity status for a reason.  If done correctly, brunch can last the whole day.  Whether you spend the entire day eating and drinking or spend the entire day in a food coma slash drunken stupor is entirely up to you. We all know who the Bite-Sized Blonde in the food coma is…

One of my favorite places to brunch is Peels in the East Village.  This adorably quaint restaurant is totally unassuming.  Don’t get me wrong, this place exudes that cool factor.  Case in point: the heaps of hipster customers.  But, that’s not why this place is cool.  This restaurant, known for their baked goods, turns out amazing breakfast, lunch and their love child, brunch.

Peels is as popular as it is delicious and cool.  So, you should expect a wait. But, it’s well worth it.  The baked goods sell quickly, so make sure to order them as soon as you sit down! I made the mistake of waiting to order the monkey bread until after we ate brunch, and I was SOL when I was told they were sold out!

Here are some things you shouldn’t miss:  The Fried Chicken Sandwich and The Roasted Tomato Benedict.   The Fried Chicken has a crunchy and salty exterior. Cushioned by a soft potato roll and complimented by tangy pickles and shredded lettuce, this sandwich is irresistible.

If the words Roasted Tomato Benedict don’t turn you on, then maybe it’s time to do a little soul searching.  These beautifully cooked eggs sit on top of homemade biscuits.  These doughy biscuits are still warm when they are covered in basil and roasted tomato hollandaise.  So simple, yet to elegant.

And now for the money shot…

oh yea…that’s good.

Food is everything to me, but a close second is caffeine.  A great cup of coffee has the potential to change a day, just like a bad cup of coffee is essentially a recipe for a bad mood.  The cappucinno at Peels is rich and earthy.  Better just tell the waitress to keep em coming.  Like I said, brunch is an all day activity and you’re going to need your strength.

Peels
325 Bowery (Corner of 2nd St.)
New York City, NY 10003
646.602.7015

Party in the City Where the Heat is On

When I think about Miami, I think of palm trees, night clubs, and of course, Will Smith…I mean how can anyone not love that song, or love to hate it at least.  (Apologies now if you are still singing this song at the end of the day.)

Palm trees and night clubs are great, but never do you hear someone say Miami has great food.  Miami is just not a front-runner is the culinary world, and no, I am not hating on Miami because I hate on the Heat.  (Let’s Go Knicks!)

Don’t get me wrong, Miami has great restaurants, just not that many.  They are hard to come by without a little hard work.  And lucky for you, this Bite-Sized Blonde did all the hard work this weekend.

My first stop in Miami was Casa Tua, which means “your home” in Italian.  This hotel, which is really more like a private residence, has only five private suites.  I didn’t stay here, but I did have the privilege of dining in the restaurant.  Yes, you heard my correctly, PRIVLEGE.  This restaurant is special, and you feel that the minute you walk into the lush garden terrace.  The restaurant is designed to feel like you are in someone’s home; it is adorned with photographs and bookshelves piled high with books and trinkets.  Even the menus are special, decorated with personal photographs for an intimate feeling.

I would be remiss not to mention the enormous open kitchen that embellishes the dining room.  Although I didn’t sit in front of it, I had a pretty good view; Cameron Diaz and A-Rod were at the table next to me.   While this Bite-Sized Blonde might not be a celebrity, I was certainly treated like one.  The service was outstanding.  Our waiter, well versed in the menu, helped us pick a perfectly hued Rose and well as a number of exceptional dishes.  He made sure they were stacked so we could savor each and every one.

We started with The Branzino Carpaccio with Pink Grapefruit and Toasted Hazelnuts, which was enhanced by crisp scallions.  The carpaccio was everything that carpaccio should be, light, refreshing, and delicious.

We also enjoyed The Grilled Octopus with Borlotti Beans, Celery and Red Radish which was tender and creamy from the beans.  The celery and radish added a unique element of texture to the dish.

Spinach Salad is usually something I stay away from in a restaurant with endless options.  But as it was a recommendation, I decided to ignore my initial instincts and give it a chance.  Boy am I glad I did. This spinach salad was anything but ordinary, with prosciutto, fresh figs, fried red onion and balsamic dressing.  The spinach, along with a few sprigs of basils, was cut into beautiful ribbons, mixed with the fresh figs and fried onions, tossed in the balsamic dressing, and then wrapped up in the prosciutto like a beautiful present.   Gosh, I love an early birthday gift.

The Casa Tua Tuna Tartar was prepared more like a beef tartar, with olives and capers.  It was an interesting take on a classic dish.

The Tagliolini with Maine lobster and fresh tomatoes was a dish I couldn’t pass up, and do you really blame me?  The sauce was sweet which complimented the succulent lobster so effortlessly.

For the grand finale, we ordered the Grilled Waygu Skirt Steak with Baby Cipollini Onions and Roasted Mini Sweet Bell Peppers.  The juicy meat was smoky and woodsy from the rosemary yet sweet from the onions and the peppers.  When such a simple dish has such complex flavors, you know there’s a great chef behind it all.

Casa Tua is a great restaurant, and not just for Miami.  This restaurant would be successful in New York and Los Angeles.  You know why? Because exceptional food, outstanding service and a warm atmosphere are like love, universal and hard to come by.

Casa Tua
1700 James Ave
Miami Beach, FL
305.673.0973

When I Grow Up…

When I grow up, I want to live on the corner of Commerce and Barrow. I can picture my charming apartment now, just above my Bite-Sized bakery and restaurant. It is one of the most beautiful blocks in Manhattan. It looks like it’s straight out of a fairy-tale, which is why it is the perfect setting for my storybook ending and dreams come true. Until then, I will just have to visit my favorite block when I visit one of my favorite restaurants, Commerce. Commerce is a quaint, contemporary American restaurant with a menu that is as seductive as it is robust.

The restaurant buzzes with energy from the crowd and the staff. You can tell they actually want to be there, which let’s face it, makes a world of difference in the service industry. And you know what else makes a world of difference? A phenomenal breadbasket. Commerce serves 3 different kinds of breads, right out of the oven, which goes a long way with this self-declared Carb Connoisseur. The only problem with the breadbasket? Filling up before you even get your meal! It’s impossible to resist the warm pretzel, onion and garlic rolls.

Do yourself a favor – sample each roll and then walk away from the breadbasket. Repeat after me, “Put down the rolls and no one will get hurt.” You’ll want to save room for the Roasted Sweet Potato Tortellini. The plump tortellini are filled with a sweet potato puree and tossed in a beurre noisette with toasted hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds. Beurre noisette is brown butter, which is rich and nutty. The concentrated flavor of the butter accentuates the hazelnuts and plays off the tart pomegranate seeds to create a luscious dish.

The Summer Vegetable Fricassee with Truffle and Poached Egg is also a must have. A thin parmesan crisp sits delicately on top of a poached egg. The egg, once punctured, oozes into the vegetable stew. This creamy dish is as flavorful as it is colorful.

The Ragout of Lamb with a Soft Rosemary Pappardelle is as comforting as it gets. The wide al dente noodles are the perfect platform for this tender meat. The green hued pappardelle tastes fresh which balances out the slow cooked flavor from the lamb ragout. A bite of this dish feels like a great hug.

The Classic Veal Meatballs are actually not your classic meatballs at all. In fact, they’re paired with polenta and barbeque sauce rather than the “classic” tomato sauce. This dish was not what I was expecting, but it was delicious.

So back to the seductive and robust menu. There were at least half a dozen other dishes that I wanted to order. You know what that means, don’t you? I guess I’ll be getting to know my future neighbors sooner than later. 

Commerce
50 Commerce Street
New York, NY
212.524.2301

Not Your Standard Grill

On a beautiful day, the best seat in the house is at a table outside, right? Well not if you are at The Standard Grill.  Don’t get me wrong, sitting outside is great.  But why sit outside, when you can sit inside at the Chef’s Counter?  That’s right.  The Standard Grill has a glorious chef’s counter.  There are about a handful of seats at this counter that face a window into the kitchen.  You get a firsthand look into the life of a chef, and for this Bite-Sized Blonde, that experience is priceless. 

Even if your sights aren’t set on being a chef one day, this is still a cool experience.  It’s like dinner and movie, or in my case, brunch and a show.  I had a mint lemonade to start which was super yummy.  The lemonade was freshly squeezed and mixed with a handful of mint leaves; such a refreshing way to start a meal! I couldn’t decide between the burger and the olive oil poached eggs, so I ordered both.  Hey, you only live once. 

The eggs were divine.  They were served floating in a shallow bowl of spicy olive oil with a side of grilled French bread.  I ordered a side salad to go along with my eggs; I love mixed greens with eggs.  Try it some time; it rocks! The eggs were perfectly cooked.  The yolk ran into the olive oil which was the ideal mixture of creamy and spicy for my bread.  The salad, as simple as it was, was also great.  The greens were crisp and they were dressed with just the right amount of vinaigrette. 

The burger, which I had the privilege of watching being cooked, was awesome.  It was charred yet tender.  The bun was soft but sturdy enough to handle the juicy meat.  The fries were crunchy and salty, just the way I like ‘em. 

So, the next time you are in the mood for a not so standard brunch, make a stop at The Standard Grill, and don’t forget to indulge.  You can walk it off on The Highline after.

The Standard Grill
848 Washington Street at 13th Street
New York, NY
212.645.4100

Dutch Master

There are a few things that can always get my blood pumping…cute shoes, Bradley Cooper, and trying new restaurants.  Nothing makes a girl feel sexy like a new pair of heels, and I’m pretty sure Bradley Cooper and new restaurants are self-explanatory.  I have been excited to try a lot of new restaurants this year, and most of them have lived up to the hype.  But, there is only one restaurant that has opened so far that has exceeded my expectations.  The Dutch is an American restaurant in Soho brought to you by none other than Andrew Carmellini.  If you are wondering why his name sounds familiar, it’s because he also brought you the deliciousness that is Locanda Verde.

Andrew is renowned for his innate ability to awaken the palate.  His food is just down right delectable and the fare at The Dutch is proof of that.   I went for a late dinner so it was the late night menu for this Bite-Sized Blonde.  The late menu is more limited than the lunch or supper menu.  But if you ask me, I think it’s a compilation of all the most mouth-watering dishes they serve.  After you order, but before you get your food, they serve you a warm piece of scallion and pepper cornbread with whipped butter.  This sweet and savory starter is an indication of all the scrumptious food that is on its way.

I started with the little oyster sandwiches.  The golden-crusted oyster sat on a soft bun with a generous dollop of a smoky aioli and crispy lettuce.  The oyster was so fresh you could taste the ocean.  It was salty and briny and all the things a good oyster should be.

I followed the oysters with one of my new favorite dishes, Smoked Ricotta Ravioli.   It’s such a simple, yet not obvious idea that is executed flawlessly.  The smoked ricotta adds a depth of flavor to a tried and true Italian classic.  The pasta was perfectly al dente which is a testament to AC’s skills.  The ravioli rests on a bright red bed of sweet yet subtle tomato sauce.  The dish was finished with soft herbs, which added an element of freshness to one of the best dishes I have had in a while.  There are about 10 ravioli in an order, and I swear I could have eaten 100 of them.  I almost asked the waitress to put in another order, but then remembered I also ordered fried chicken and a burger.  This Bite-Sized Blonde has big eyes and an appetite to match, but hey, even I have my limits.

I’m usually not a lover of fried chicken, but the fried chicken at The Dutch is noteworthy.  The skin is jam-packed with smoky flavor and lots of cayenne for a touch of heat.  It’s crunchy and yet the meat is juicy as can be.  It’s not an easy task to cook a piece of fried chicken like that; this is yet another testament to AC’s talent.

I didn’t think this meal could get any better after the ravioli, but they always say the best things happen when you least expect them, right?  Well that’s what happened at The Dutch.  To say I love a burger would almost be an injustice to burgers everywhere; it doesn’t nearly convey the love in my heart and my stomach.  If I could eat one meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of my life it would be a burger with a glass of champagne to wash it down.   What can I say; I’m a simple girl.

This simple girl happens to be a tough critic when it comes to food, but especially burgers.   I guess that’s expected from a Food Snob though.  My new favorite burger, and I do not say this lightly, is the cheeseburger at The Dutch.  Cooked to a perfect medium, the burger’s juices ooze into the bun, adding flavor to flavor. The meat is tender beyond words.  The delicate bun is the perfect vehicle for this patty of love.  It’s covered in one slice of cheddar cheese, a thick slice of ripe tomato, a crispy piece of lettuce and a generous dollop of special sauce.   The special sauce is creamy and smoky and so good that ketchup is not only unnecessary, it’s shameless.  One bite and my knees were weak.  The fries were a little too well done for my liking, but it was almost a blessing in disguise.

As if the incredible food wasn’t enough to make you want to spend an evening at The Dutch immediately, the atmosphere is also fantastic.  Andrew makes his own playlists, and the boy knows his music as well as he knows his food.  My dinner didn’t end until 2:00 am, but I still found myself wanting more of The Dutch.  I probably would have slept there if the staff had allowed it.

The Dutch
131 Sullivan Street
New York, NY
212.677.6200

Pappardelle with a Side of Attitude

As New Yorkers, we are trained to be rude, inconsiderate, and untrusting of just about everyone.  But, of course, we expect everyone to be polite and considerate to us.   So when someone is nasty, we’re foolishly surprised.  But, there is one place in New York that we not only accept rudeness, we have learned to expect it, and that my dear friends, is Bar Pitti

Bar Pitti is the more casual, next-door neighbor to Da Silvano.   The sidewalk, and restaurant, is littered with artists, bankers, and celebs anxiously waiting for a table.  But, if you expect any sympathy from the host you are sadly mistaken.  You can wait and wait and wait for a table until you are blue in the face, but will that earn you any respect? Of course not! No matter what you do or who you are, you will get an attitude from the waiter.  Sorry Charlie.  

Expectations are everything.  You have to know what you are getting yourself into. Bar Pitti is not about service, it’s about good food.   So, if you go with that mindset, you will not be disappointed.  The Pappardelle Alla Fiesolana is a plate of heavenly goodness.  These large flat noodles are covered in tomatoes, cream and bacon. Yes, please! Plus, they are homemade.  The difference between homemade pasta and the pasta from a box is like the difference between fine Italian leather and well, not real leather; the homemade stuff is just better. Sometimes the simplest of dishes are the best, so don’t overlook the Penne Strascicate, covered in a hearty yet light meat sauce, that’s as baffling as it is delicious.  Bar Pitti is great spot not only for dinner, but for brunch as well.  Just don’t order the Rose, unless of course you are hoping to get something resembling cranberry juice. 

Bar Pitti
268 6th Ave
New York, NY
212.982.3300