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Insider’s Guide NYC

Insider's Guide NYC

Greatest Happy Hour Ever In Honor of #Nationalpastaday and Everday

October 17, 2016
Have you ever seen such a beautiful bar?

Have you ever seen such a beautiful bar?

Don’t you love when you stumble upon somewhere and it turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to you? This is what occurred the other night after declining the restaurant we had planned on, due to a waitress we despise. (We shall not name said place as I have good manners.:) Needless to say we kept walking down Orchard Street on the Lower East Side until we hit Division and found ourselves once again at Bacaro.

I’ve waxed poetically on about this place before:

Bacaro-Perfect Winter Restaurant

But, I had no idea they had the happy hour of your la dolce vita dreams.

First, and this is the biggest first ever, they have aperol spritzes for seven dollars. Not just any spritz either, legit, the BEST SPRITZ I have ever had. The lovely-warm-bartender, Alain, adds a lemon rind and this just brings it to a whole other level. Best spritz in the city by far!

Such beauty in a glass, look at that lemon rind!

Such beauty in a glass, look at that lemon rind!

The bar itself is beautiful marble with an antique cabinet proudly and artfully displaying all the liquor and alcohol. Aside from a warm bartender and the best cocktail to ever hit your lips this side of Sicily, it has some of the yummiest-reasonably priced nibbles. Let’s not forget that this is the sister restaurant to Nolita’s illustrious Peasant restaurant, so you know every dish that comes out is going to be pure perfection and this is the case even for their happy hour appetizers. Incredible crostinis with the likes of perfectly whipped ricotta and freshly shelled peas. Hot and creamy salted cod and potato on a lightly olive oil-brushed and toasted piece of bread. And did I mention these bites of mouth-watering joy are $1?!?!!? That’s correct, you just read one dollar. The other day I bought gum at the deli and it was $4.00, so you get my drift here. Yet, my favorite happy hour dish that I literally think about during the day like a fat kid who loves cake, is the tuna sandwich. I know, you are probably pondering what does an Italian place know about tuna? Well, according to this, evidently everything! Because I have eaten more tuna sandwiches then a Red Sox fan has eaten hotdogs and this is THE BEST TUNA SANDWICH I HAVE EVER CONSUMED! Now, when I say sandwich, what I really should be saying is “tea sandwich.” It’s a crustless configuration of salty sumptuousness. Italian tuna with olives and purple onion in the perfect blend, covered with herbs and served with a hard-boiled egg. I can not begin to tell you how truly delectable this is. So much so that we tend to order at least two.

Also, if you go beyond happy hour their “regular menu” is filled with beyond exquisite Italian food. We had the special stuffed artichoke which was covered in breadcrumbs and cheese and sat in a pool of white wine sauce.

Artichoke.

The newly added vegetarian lasagna with smoked mozzarella and creamy béchamel was devoured in under four minutes flat and discussed around the house for the next week. Each dish that comes out of the kitchen is so thoughtfully presented with only the freshest and finest ingredients. I can not tell you what a joy it is to enter and savor all the delights that is, Bacaro. From the rustic warm vibe, to the incredibly friendly staff, it truly is a slice of la dolce vita in the best way possible and their happy hours is one of my most favorite discoveries by happenstance in recent years.

Bacaro Link

Insider's Guide NYC

NYC’S BEST CROISSANT-NOW ON MY BLOCK-CECI CELA

September 21, 2016

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My favorite little cafe/patisserie with the world’s best lattes and French pastries has moved to my block. I know, somewhere the diet gods are laughing. Do you know how hard it is when you are feeling a little peckish around four o’clock to NOT go get a delicious baked good? It is a testament of will power unlike any other, one that I have not been winning lately.

Why is it so hard you ask?

Because Ceci Cela which is now quite literally on my corner has the best croissants in all of NYC.

I do not take this lightly, I take croissants as seriously as Morimoto takes his fish. There is nothing worse than one which has so sacrilegiously been made with margarine. Not here, Ceci Cela is as French as Eric Ripert (what’s with all my chef analogies-side note his book 32 Yolks is quite good.)   Buttery-flaky croissants that literally leave a wake of crumbs in your lap as you eat (no doubt crumbs which must be licked up as dessert.) They are exactly as a croissant is intended to be, light and fluffy with layer upon layer of perfectly toasted pastry. To say it’s mouth-watering heaven would be an understatement.

Truly though, everything I’ve ever had at Ceci Cela has been excellent, you can read about their spinach-spanikopita-like pastry here:

Best Coffee and Croissants In the World, or NY At Least: Ceci-Cela, Nolita

 

Their new location offers freshly squeezed orange juice and lots of great easy sandwiches to pick-up on the go. It’s Parisian and quaint with confectionaries for the eyes and belly. Definitely worth a swing by and most likely you will see me there with a croissant in my mouth and a dog and crumbs in my lap.

http://www.cecicelanyc.com/

Insider's Guide NYC

Laid-Back Brunch On LES-Berkli Parc

May 9, 2016

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I love brunch. I have become such a brunch head late in life that it’s truly the highlight of my week. Yet, brunching on the weekends in Nolita can become quite a hipster obstacle course. Sometimes you just want to roll out of bed and scarf down some benedict without having to look every perfectly coiffed trendsetter in the eye. So where do you go to avoid the crowds? Well, I’ll tell you this is quite the conundrum, and we were faced with it this weekend on Mother’s Day.

Those weekend Hallmark holidays always get the hordes of hipsters and the price fixe; neither of which I like. So, instead, we opted to go to our local cafe that we normally order in from, Berkli Parc. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much. I think I pigeonholed this cute-rustic spot as a sandwich-only kind of joint. I’ve written about their sandwiches on here before, and they definitely shouldn’t be missed-but, brunch?

Well, let me tell you this is the secret spot if you want to catch a low-key delicious meal without all the crowds.

My sister had a breakfast burrito, one of the best ever I’d say. Oozing Pico de Gallo and served with crispy-spicy hash browns this is every hung-over person’s dream. My Mom had the whole wheat pancakes because she’s “over eggs.” Now, when I read whole wheat pancakes I think, belly bomb. They are always sort of dense, and dare I say mealy? Not here; these were the best whole wheat pancakes I’ve ever had. Nay, best pancakes I’ve ever had in NYC! Light and fluffy and full of spices. I think they had nutmeg and cinnamon in them making them sort of a cross between banana bread and flap jacks. I kept reaching over and taking more bites. Seriously that good.

I had the eggs benedict. What sold me here was the homemade English muffin. Not like those hard over-toasted ones you so often get. These were light and fluffy and perfectly soaked up the tangy-hollandaise sauce.

The prices are so reasonable at Berkli Parc, the crowd chill and service with a smile. I was really so pleasantly surprised by their brunch, I have no doubt I’ll be going back again. If you are looking for a less crowded-laid back brunch, then this is your spot. Check out link below for more detailed info.

Berkli Parc Link

Insider's Guide NYC

Forgotten Freemans Alley

March 22, 2016
down an unassuming alley

down an unassuming alley

Do you ever go to a restaurant and then kind of forget about its existence? This is how I feel about Freemans Alley. I went when it first opened, bewitched by the magic of venturing down a tiny alley on the Lower East Side. But, then I just kind of forgot about it.

That is until the other day, my Mother’s birthday in fact. After running some errands and walking home, we found ourselves once again on the edge of that infamous alley, and thought, why not try it again? Let me tell you, we were left nothing short of marveled. I don’t know if they have a new chef, or what is happening, but, seriously, it was one of the best meals in recent months. I’ll walk you through….

We started with the artichoke dip. I love dips, all kinds, but I tend to feel weary of artichoke dips. Most of the time they don’t taste at all like artichoke, and end up being more of a garlicky-cheese bomb. What arrived at our table was a bubbling crock of melted-mouth-watering goodness with a bountiful side of freshly-toasted-crusty bread. This artichoke dip was, for lack of a better word, super artichokey. Huge hunks of heart of artichoke bathed in a bath of pungent-ooey-gooey cheese. Seriously, one of the best hot dips I’ve ever had.

I love that there was enough bread, don't you find with dips you always have to order more?

I love that there was enough bread, don’t you find with dips you always have to order more?

From there, we had the bean burger as well as the fish burger. The bean burger was hearty and perfectly seasoned. A sprinkle of arugula to cut the richness of the beans, with a nice slather of chipotle mayo. It would make even a carnivore feel super satisfied. Oh, and their fries! Skinny-crispy and perfectly salted, the ideal side to any burger. The fish burger is not to be missed either. A fresh-flakey piece of white fish served with the aforementioned fries. Exactly what you would want out of a “fishwich” from any Eastern Seaboard town.

even more yummy than it looks, and the fries...oh did I mention the fries?!?!

bean burger-even more yummy than it looks, and the fries…oh did I mention the fries?!?!

The restaurant itself was bustling; the waitress was very helpful. If like me, you’ve forgotten about this quaint-magical place, I suggest you give it a try again. Freemans Alley is a real NYC gem that shouldn’t be missed or forgotten about.

Magical place

Magical place

Freemans Link

Dinner Party, Insider's Guide NYC

Breakfast of Champions-Orwasher’s Spelt Bread

March 2, 2016

 

breadI feel like carbs, and bread in general, are words and foods not uttered much around these parts. I told an Upper East Side looking girl the other day that I had eaten toast and she looked at me as if I told her I’d buttered a kitten for breakfast. Bread. Bread is pretty much blasphemous in NYC. Atkins, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Fasts, Juice Cleanses, we’ve heard it all. Yet, like everything in life, I like to go against the grain. And in this case, I mean quite literally. Orwasher’s Bread, specifically, their Spelt Bread, is unlike any other bread I’ve tried. I’ve written about it on here before, because, quite honestly, this loaf is of mythically, maybe even biblical proportions. Quite literally, this is the best bread I have ever had, and it makes me feel healthy, not bloated, and utterly satisfied.

Orwasher’s Bakery is a “veteran old-school bakery” on the Upper East Side. Undoubtedly, not ventured upon by the aforementioned-Uptown-bread naysayer from the party. I’ve never actually been to their bakery, but have had the privilege of having their Spelt Bread conveniently delivered to my door by the geniuses of Fresh Direct. It comes frozen, and contains quinoa, raisin, whole wheat and sunflower seeds. Spelt itself is a medieval grain, high in protein and low on the gluten and Glycemic Index. I’m not sure what is with this literal slice of heaven, toasted, with its warm inside and crusty-sunflower-coated outside; it is simultaneously moist on the inside with a satisfying crunch on the outside. I like to toast mine to a warmth, though not all the way hardened toast. Slather it with whipped cream cheese, and eat it in about two bites. It satisfies like a cinnamon raisin bagel in the flavor category. Yet, unlike bagels, it doesn’t make you feel bloated, just full; in a healthy way. Honestly, I know it may seem peculiar to blog about bread, especially to the carb-free-fanaticals of Manhattan, but this bread is seriously delicious, and healthy. Order some from Fresh Direct, or go to the bakery itself, and try this wondrous loaf of heaven.

Orwashers Link

Insider's Guide NYC

The Ship NYC-Divine Cocktail Bar For Winter Months

January 17, 2016

Cocktails and conversing, isn’t that what the weekend is all about? So in honor of the weekend (and not the singer) but our current long weekend, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite places to grab a drink with friends.

The Ship on Lafayette is much more than a watering hole, but a stylized cocktail bar featuring superb libations, and surprisingly good food. Down a long flight of stairs and into the galley or main room that is The Ship lies a dark cavernous cocktail bar to drink the winter months away.

down the stairs to cocktail heaven

down the stairs to cocktail heaven

During the frozen time of year, I always like places that are underground, making you completely unaware of what the weather is throwing you outside.

The Ship is a bunker of bubbles and good times. They have crushed iced served with their thoughtfully designed cocktails. Some of our standouts have been the Maha Mai-Tai, a delectable tropical drink sweetened with orange juice and lemon. Nothing says f-you winter like sipping a drink normally served on an island with steel drums in the dead of a NYC deep freeze! Also, the wine is excellent, and the wait staff is only more than happy and courteous to steer you in the correct vino direction. Both wine and cocktails are good size, and you feel content with the prices as the drinks are seriously well curated, as is the wine list.

drink me

drink me

Another great thing about The Ship is the general vibe. Dark and warm, they have fantastic round booths that line the perimeter of the space easily and comfortably fitting four to five people. You can chat while looking out and people-watching, one of my  favorite activities. The food is oddly good as well. Though, I have yet to order, they serve deviled eggs with salmon that has walked by me on more than one occasion and made me drool. I have ordered the cheese plate, which is large and creamy and enough to share. Also, I must give a shout to the Brussels sprouts. The green things are something my sister will order anytime they are on a menu. Though they aren’t my favorite, I kept nibbling on these at The Ship. And I think it’s fair to say, they are one of the best Brussels sprouts in the city.

inside

inside

Located on Lafayette St., The Ship is the perfect place to come with friends and spend a night chatting, sipping and munching happily away. It’s one of my favorite local spots and I hope it remains in the neighborhood for some time. The Ship will sail you through nights of boozy bliss and friendly conversation and laughs.

The Ship Link

Insider's Guide NYC

Jadis Wine Bar LES

January 5, 2016

So few of my friends actually call me anymore. I hate to admit it, and I hate to say that I fall in the same category, but it seems so many of us just text, WhatsApp, or sigh…email. Yet, I have one friend in particular to whom I still actually converse with over the somewhat antiquated telephone. After each said conversation, I look at my iPhone and notice we have been talking for at minimum forty-five minutes. Never sixteen, never even twenty, it’s always upwards of an hour or more. I couldn’t tell you exactly what we were discussing. Dating? Our families? Life? The weather? Who knows! But, evidently we like to gab and no subject seems to result in a laconic response.

So that means when the two of us get together in person, it’s quite literally a chatathon. Our ultimate “date spots” are somewhat quiet, with good food, and reasonably priced wine. Seems like easy enough prerequisites, yet actually it’s not.

The most obvious answer is usually to go to a wine bar. However, time and time again I find them too cramped, overpriced and with stale bruschetta as their only food offering. I tend to leave asking myself why I’ve decided I like wine bars in the first place. Yet, Jadis on the Lower East Side is the perfect unassuming catch-up spot with surprisingly good food and a wine list to appease any oenophile.

Located on Rivington Street this cozy brick-walled establishment is the ideal place to gossip the night away with girlfriends. The staff is really friendly and you can get a decent bottle of wine in the twenty to thirty-dollar range. Plus, did I mention the food is rather delicious? Quiches are the signature here, and like a good cheese plate, a quiche and a cold glass of white vino makes for quite the match in savory food heaven.

Quiche-perfectly warm with a crunchy crust.

Quiche-perfectly warm with a crunchy crust.

Also, I’ve never been one for beets, but something they do with them here in a perfectly diced-sweet then savory way works.

Roasted beets served with goat cheese and pistachios will turn anyone into a beet lover.

Roasted beets served with goat cheese and pistachios will turn anyone into a beet lover.

Every time I come to Jadis I leave feeling warm and fuzzy. Here, at this little French wine bar, time and time again you are reminded what life is really all about. Good food, good wine and good conversation, that is, Jadis.

Jadis Link

Blah Blah Blah, Insider's Guide NYC, Thoughts

Night At 92 Y

December 16, 2015

 

 

nyc_photography_nat_ma-15

As I’ve mentioned before recently, or even, currently, I have been gorging on the books of Marlena De Blasi. I use the word gorge, as I seem to be binging on them. Choosing to curl up with her whimsical tales of Italy, more often than not I’ve found myself in bed with them at eight pm. Disenchanted with my own life, and enchanted by hers, I read about her adventures, and her hunger-awakening luscious descriptions of food. Often times I have to get up and out of my bed at ten for a night snack after reading a particularly descriptive passage about olive oil and bread. There is something about the way she articulates the simple pleasures in life that gives me new perspective. The beauteous bliss of a freshly baked loaf, really tasting olive oil, as if it were a good wine. Only the very green and finest first-pressed olio d’oliva will do. The greatest pleasure of one’s life it seems, should simply be a finely baked piece of bread with quality olive oil, and a “whisper of sea salt.” It leaves me thinking about food, and the dolce vita of my own life.

Also, of course, I can’t help but reflect back on my brief trip to Italy years ago. I curse myself for not realizing the large orange drinks everyone was guzzling were indeed my now favorite cocktail, the Aperol Spritz. If only I would have known, I lament. Or if I would have read her before my trip, would I have considered, contemplated and treated the habitual customary bread served before each meal differently? These are all thoughts that I’m bewitched by under the spell of De Blasi. Yet, after reading a passage a few days ago, I’ve become more obsessed with it than any other part of her work. I’ll give you a summary.

So in the last book I’ve read (and already finished)The Lady in the Palazzo, Marlena and her husband move to Umbria. I’ll keep this short, but essentially, she moves into an old ballroom, and her neighbor is a violinist. She knows this, as his music seeps through her windows, and she always listens, appreciating, but wishing just one day he would play a waltz. So much Brahms, if only a waltz!

Then, at the end of the book, she has a dinner party for all the crazy characters who make up her life in Umbria. Friends from completely different walks of life, they are all to gather in her dining room in a sort of ‘house-warming.” It took her over two years to finally move in, and the “friends” are by society standards, people who would not mingle well. Dukes and shepherds, a very wealthy woman and a maid. The polar opposite guests are asked to also wear fine dresses, and tuxes, so there is a real fairy tale/ball feeling going on here with her fete.

She calls the local conservatory to ask for a violinist to come play for her guests. The man on the phone says, “we have two violinists, should I send them over, so you can interview and choose which one you would like?” She tells him, “no, you choose and send him over at seven pm.” The night of the supper, the violinist arrives. It is the head of the conservatory, and her neighbor. He gets there before any of her guests, at this momentous occasion, to mark her newly formed misfit tribe of friends, and finally moving into her home after two years. She tells him to play whatever he wants. He sets up with his violin in the window, and starts to play. And what does he play? A waltz. Finally a waltz, how would he have known? She smiles to herself, and thinks “let life shape itself.”

This is sort of a motto of hers, “let life shape itself.” I think she means in some small way, that life has its own pre-destined course and to let serendipity play itself out. I’ve been mulling about this for some days now (obliviously.) In my mulling, I’ve decided that lately I’ve been really forcing my life in some strange way. Desperate for something magical to happen, and shift my life in a way I feel it so dramatically needs. Now, after reading De Blasi, I’ve told myself I’m going to chill out for a bit, and try to take a breath, and “let life shape itself.” No easy feat, for a somewhat control freak/ocd person like myself.

So last night, my Mom, sister and I went up to the 92Y to hear Lazlo Krasnahorkai and Salman Rushdie speak. I’ve never been to the Y, and bought the tickets months before the reading, thinking to myself, finally we will do something cultural in NYC! Last night came, and along with it, a deluge of a rain storm. We trecked up the FDR in a tiny car, our driver crawling along with barely working windshield wipers. All of us had forgotten our umbrellas and when we finally reached 92 street, it was quite literally a monsoon and we had forty-five minutes to kill before showtime. I noticed we had driven by a cheese store, so led my Mom and sister through the puddles two blocks back to see if we could get a glass of wine and piece of fromage. Soaked and wet-footed we were quickly denied seating by the hostess. I cursed a bit under my breath, thinking, we always have troubles when we go uptown, and this generally isn’t a great start to our evening.

Standing under an awning, whilst my sister fretted about her Chanel ballet flats, she saw a restaurant across the street. Once again we dashed through the puddles and into the restaurant. This time we were greeted by a much friendlier host who told us we could sit down. We were led through the curtains to a beautiful white-walled room with chandeliers and fresh wild flowers on the table. Essentially, a perfectly “girly” spot. Once seated, it dawned on us we were in an Italian restaurant, so instead of ordering wine, my sister suggested we get my beloved Spritz. Waiting for our drinks while watching our phones for the time, I looked across at my Mom whose hair was freshly out of the shower wet, and next to me to my sister, whose hair too was soaked, her signature frizzy in humidity look coming out. Again, not the best start to our night I thought. The waiter then interrupted my trepidation with our drinks, two gorgeous bright orange Aperol Spritzes for me and my sister, and a nice chilled white for my Mom. We toasted ourselves and I relaxed a bit.

“Oh what I wouldn’t do for a bit of bread,” my Mom said as she sucked back her Pinot Grigio faster than she normally would, now looking at the ticking time.

“I’d feel awkward asking for bread since we aren’t eating,” I told my Mom matching her by anxiously looking at the time as well. We all sat silently nursing our drinks hurriedly with the looming deadline of the reading a mere twenty minutes away.

“Would you like some bread, signora?” the waiter suddenly appeared and asked. “That would be lovely,” my Mom quickly answered. In a minute’s time, a crusty loaf, still warm to the touch, was presented to us. A side of thick olive oil saddled up next to its basket. We tore at the bread, dipping it into the olive oil. Soon we discovered, quite literally the best bread we’ve ever had at a restaurant. I couldn’t help but pause and smile, thinking of De Blasi to myself with a wink. The Italian staples of crusty bread, good quality first-pressed olive oil and Aperol Spritz now all in front of me at the table. A savory bite of olive-oil soaked bread washed down by sweet-citrus Spritz. Marlena would be proud, I thought to myself.

After we quickly finished everything, we ran across the street through the rain to make the reading. Soaking wet blond hair sticking to each of our faces, my Mom and sister with soggy shoes. We sat down in our seats, and I wondered how the readings would be. The beginning had a somewhat soporific effect, and I thought to myself again, this was going to be quite a long night. But, then it picked up a bit and the readings, and final interview section were totally entertaining and engaging. We left with the rest of the throngs of New Yorkers, inspired and energized after listening to a pair of such intellectual writers. Outside we waited on the step for our car, yet again racing into the rain to sit soggily in the backseat.

I sat in the back of the car as it whizzed down Lexington avenue, the Christmas lights colorfully streaming by. My Mom chattering on and reflecting on the readings, my sister, texting away on her Blackberry. All three of us still damp, somewhat sticking to each other. Every once in a while one of us would interject to remind us how good the bread, olive oil and drinks were. I half closed my eyes, with the cherished women of my family beside me, the words of a writer I’ve admired for years echoing in my ears, and a mixture of crusty bread and Aperol Spritz warming my stomach. I sat back and thought, “let life shape itself.”

I think it just did.

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Insider's Guide NYC

Heart of India-Divine Indian Food In The East Village

December 14, 2015
lunch special

lunch special

Good Indian food is something I’m constantly on a quest for. Like a fantastic pad thai, Indian food, you would think would be an easy thing to find on our culinary capital of an island. Yet, my search has been elusive, and I am always rendered utterly disappointed. Our last delivery from a local kebab house was an over-priced curry stink bomb that left us off one of our favorite cuisines for the better part of the last year. But, then the other day during a sunny walk in the East Village we found Heart of India. My sister’s twinkle stars of hunger, and a “lunch special” board prominently displayed outside lured us in.

Inside is exactly what you’d want from an Indian restaurant. Bright colors, and smiling waitresses, with a soft scent of tamarind spicing the air. Our lovely server with flawless caramel skin and a bright red lipsticked smile welcomed us with perfectly sugared chai teas. From there we ordered a vegetarian lunch special to share among the three of us, as well as some extra samosas and naan for the table.

The naan soon arrived in a covered basket. Uncovered, steam streamed upward from the flat bread, so hot to the touch we could barely hold it with our fingers. Pockets of hot air filled the fluffy naan and I can quite honestly say, was one of the best I’ve ever had. I could have eaten pounds of it. Then we all sampled a bit of the lunch special, which included two vegetarian entrees, rice, more naan, salad, pakoras and rice pudding. Now, one of the things that seems to happen with me and Indian food, is one dish tastes the exact same as the other. For instance, you get a mixed vegetable and a cauliflower and peas. Though, the vegetables are different, the sauce seems to be the same. So you feel like you are eating duplicate dishes. Snore. But here, there was such care taken with the food, each dish had such specific seasoning. I was particularly in love with the mixed vegetables. Just the right amount of curry, onion and spice to flavor the medley.   The other entree, the lentils, were a bit more tomato-spicy. The side of cool-cucumber raita offset the heat, and I ended slurping the last dribs of the sauce up with the naan and basmati rice.

Lastly, we had had the rice pudding. Now for some, rice pudding is nothing more than granny food. But, to us, specifically my mother and I, it is a delicacy and one of our favorite desserts. Here, we were left utterly satisfied and licking the bowl clean with our spoons. Smooth and delicate and laced with coconut, it cooled our palette perfectly after our hot lunch.

If you want authentic Indian cuisine, at affordable prices, definitely give Heart of India a try. The staff, the food, everything felt made with love. A perfect oasis and lunch spot to dive into the flavors, aroma, and hospitality of India.

Heart of India Link

Insider's Guide NYC

Fantastic Mexican on LES-La Contenta

November 22, 2015

There are certain things that are really hard to find on the island of Manhattan. A cab when it’s raining, the perfect little black dress when you have a function, a man who wants to commit, and good Mexican food. I have been searching for a delicious Mexican joint more than I have a single-eligible man.

Seriously, I have tried everywhere from the “fancy” Mexican spots to the little hole in the walls, to questionable cantinas. Each time I am left disappointed and stating once again, “there’s no good Mexican in NYC.” But, Friday I discovered a Mexican restaurant on an unassuming corner of the Lower East Side delivering the best, most gourmet food I’ve had called, La Contenta.

On a quiet part of Norfolk street with a small store front that could easily be walked by is this welcoming little restaurant. The second we walked in we were greeted warmly with smiles and made to feel right at home. It’s cozy and small in the perfect way, and I must say, they play fantastic music (read The Smiths) which is always an added bonus for me. I began with trepidation, as we know my past history because Mexican in Manhattan has been riddled with disappointed. We were early so we got to try out the Happy Hour menu. I love when they include food, not just booze. Everything on the HH menu is eight bucks. From the margaritas to the tacos; eight dollars.

We started with the nachos, which is literally my sister’s favorite food group. I like nachos, but I always find them a bit too cheesy and that I’m left with a hint of a gut ache. Yet what arrived looked like a piece of artwork, I kid you not. A gorgeous-blossom like placement of the chips so carefully arranged you knew the chef must have pain-stakingly arranged each chip. Homemade chips are then covered in the perfect ratio of black beans to salsa, crème fresca and guacamole. Literally we were high-fiving each other at the table they were so good. My sister actually deadpanned asked if we should order another plate, that’s how good they were.

nachos, am I right?

nachos, am I right?

We then asked our lovely waitress what to order next. Debating between the spicy shrimp slider and classic fish taco. I had seen the fish taco online and didn’t think it looked like much. But, she told us to order the fish taco, so we did. Again, they didn’t look like much when they came. Two tortillas with a big piece of fried flounder and some chipotle mayo, very unassuming. When we took a bite though, all was forgotten. Some sort of tangy sauce married with the crunch of cabbage and crispy fried fish. I’m gonna say it, one of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. And I’ve been eating fish tacos since So Cal circa 1999. Blown away would be an understatement, we quickly ordered another round of fish tacos, and once again devoured.

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When I came home I did a little research on La Contenta and discovered that the chef has French training origins, and I think this can be seen in all the food here. Instead of bland, thrown together Mexican, this has careful attention to detail, and sauces that bring it all up a notch. The staff is lovely, and get this, in the warmer months they have a K9 menu for dogs sitting outside. I know, what more could I want from a restaurant? It is only a matter of time until this place gets a true cult following, so I suggest you go there before the buzz gets too big. Clearly, I’ll see you there.

La Contenta Link