For the Love of Cocktails! St. George’s Spirits

For many people, making cocktails can be complicated. They can require a host of ingredients, and it can be expensive to make. I don’t mind complicated cocktails. When done properly, they are an experience like no other. I, however, have one caveat. They must be balanced! Sweet, spicy, earthy, it really doesn’t matter, but they must be balanced. Fortunately, St. George’s Spirits fulfills all my requirements and more!

This month, Morea started up a wonderful monthly food and cocktail dinner pairing. June’s dinner featured St. George’s Spirits. They are based in California and have been around since 1982. They make a variety of products including gins, vodkas, whiskeys, and liqueurs. The dinner consisted of four specialty cocktails, created by Morea’s own Billy Hines, and were paired with different main courses, followed by dessert. Having a few extra samples during the evening of their products was also really nice.

The first course was spicy smoked barbecue ribs, with a tequila barbecue sauce and coleslaw, paired with the Morning Glory cocktail. It had spiced rum, St. George Bruto Americano, St. George Nola coffee liqueur, pineapple, passion fruit, agave, and lime. This was one of the highlights of the night. The ribs were perfectly cooked, and brought out the inherent sweetness of the cocktail. Absolutely perfect for a summer or fall day. Yum.

Next, we were served a sirloin steak with roasted multi-colored cauliflower, and a red wine and beet reduction. It was paired with a Spiced Pear Martini. It was a foodgasm waiting to happen. This cocktail contained St. George spiced pear liquor, St. George California citrus vodka, honey, lemon, and smoked rosemary. It was like the fall season in a glass, but paired with the steak, it was lovely. The steak was perfectly cooked, and I absolutely loved the cauliflower.

Our last savory course was the pre-cursor to one of the best tasting desserts we’ve ever had. It was a Chili Lemonade paired with a mahi-mahi taco! The taco came with iceberg lettuce, avocado, pico de gallo chipotle sauce, and micro greens on a homemade corn tortilla. The Chili Lemonade consisted of St. George chili vodka, St. George Breaking and Entering whiskey, agave, and lemon. This was summer on a plate. The mahi-mahi flaked beautifully, and combined with the chili spice, it was one of the best taco’s that Eric and I had ever eaten. It reminded us of the taco’s we had in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, during Eric’s birthday trip last year. It was absolutely fantastic!

For dessert, we had the Revolver cocktail. It was made with St. George Breaking and Entering whiskey, St. George Nola coffee liqueur, bitters, and agave. This was paired with a Deep Fried Delight. It was Oreos filled with a Reese Cup, then deep fried in a funnel cake batter. It was rich, chocolatey, and a fantastic way to end the night. The cocktail paired perfectly with this amazing dessert.

Morea’s plan is to host these events once a month. I encourage all of you to come out, drink fantastic cocktails, eat fantastic food, and have a great time. On July 19th, the theme is “tiki”, and the featured liquor is going to be Don Q rum. Eric and I immediately bought our tickets! Don Q is our favorite rum and holds a special place in our hearts. Eric was born in Puerto Rico, and that is the rum of choice the islanders drink. Get your tickets by clicking here, and see the flyer below for more info. The Don Q rum dinner pairing is sure to sell out!

Billy Hines: From Filmmaker to Cocktail Genius!

Once upon a time there was an aspiring filmmaker named Billy. He was smart, handsome, and super talented. But in order to pay the bills, he chose to work in the hospitality industry. Fast-forward from the 1990’s to the present, and Billy Hines has carved out a wonderful legacy of cocktails from Orlando and Las Vegas, to more recently, Wrap Shack and Morea here in Philadelphia. He’s a champion flair bartender, consultant, bar owner, mixologist, and more recently general manager and beverage manager at Wrap Shack and Morea.

I got the opportunity to interview this virtuoso of cocktails last week at Morea, heading into Memorial Day weekend. Here is the conversation I had with him.

How did you get into bartending?

I got into bartending via T.G.I. Fridays. I was working as a filmmaker, and to supplement my income between movies, I worked as a bartender at a T.G.I. Fridays in Florida. I was inspired by the movie “Cocktail”.

Tell me about a memorable cocktail you’ve created?

I am not going to tell you about this one drink, it has an interesting name, but one cocktail that is on Morea’s drink menu is the “Drunken Elephant”. This drink I’ve had in my head on and off for the last eight years. Another cocktail that was really memorable for me was this Crown maple cocktail that I created without actually tasting it. It was 2013, and there was a top 30 cocktail competition, Best of the U.S. I saw this recipe, tweaked it, and submitted it to the event. People loved it, and I never needed to make it, or taste it.

Yes or no, cocktail influencers are a bad influence for the industry?

They are a definite yes for me. Cocktails should be pretty, should evoke a memory, and cocktail influencers have a good effect right now.

What are some trends that are good, and trends that you wish would go away?

One trend that is definitely here to stay is batching cocktails. Gone are the days of just making a 10-minute cocktail. People like the idea of having a drink that is poured from a keg. The trick is to make sure that you are creating cocktails that everyone will like and buy. Cocktails should always look good, and have something different and interesting. Also, making draft cocktails just as good as craft cocktails. One thing that I’ve always strived for is a good, balanced cocktail. Most places may not necessarily think about how to balance a cocktail, and that is something that I always do. One definite trend that should go away is something that I like to call, the arrogance of cocktails.

Billy, who’s a bartender’s bartender, believes it’s more than a cocktail, but focus more on the guests and the experience. He told me, “it’s not just about the spirits you serve, but the spirit of those you serve”.

What is one tool that a bartender should have in their personal and professional inventory?

Proper tin and topper. No need for a super expensive brand, but as long as you take care of it, it will last.

What’s a favorite bar or city that you like going to?

New Orleans. There is nothing like going to New Orleans and finding something new, or rediscovering an old favorite. Most bartenders will mention a local place, but I love New Orleans.

What’s your advice to home bartenders?

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Be creative, and just because someone may not like how you made a cocktail, don’t stop, or get mad.

Never one to stay put, Billy always makes sure that the cocktail menu is in line with the seasons. He likes to change the menu slightly so customers won’t tire of the same drinks. I got to try his three new specialty cocktails. They were all amazing, and perfect for the warm weather ahead of us.

If you haven’t been to Morea, put it high on your list to go. The food, cocktails, and service are among the best in the city.

Morea: A gastronomic gem in Center City

In a city where there are so many brunch options, it’s always fun to find a new place that serves up great food and drinks, live music, and all at a great price. Morea on 11th street between Samson and Chestnut Streets serves up all this and so much more.

When you walk in, the vibe is modern but with a relaxed atmosphere. The incredibly friendly staff is ready to welcome you and make you feel like you are at home. Have a seat at the spacious bar, or grab a comfy table, and prepare to have a great time.

Your biggest challenge will be when you look at the menu. There are so many options, and the prices are super reasonable. There are traditional brunch favorites like the eggs Benedict, or push yourself outside your comfort level and try the shakshuka, or the Philly cheesesteak omelet. And where else can you order a Bloody Mary flight that’s served with a perfectly sized charcuterie board, or a mimosa flight served with avocado toast. You can’t go wrong with either choice.

And while you are enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and great food, enjoy the live jazz music as well. Fortunately, they keep the music at a nice level so you can actually hear and talk with the people you are with comfortably. You won’t have to yell to have a conversation here!

Morea not only serves up a terrific brunch, but their lunch, dinner, and happy hour menu is not to be missed. They have everything from small plates to full size entrees. Their cocktail selection is amazing, thanks to Billy, the beverage director. His philosophy is to make sure all the ingredients are balanced properly so that one thing doesn’t overpower another. It’s one of the most creative cocktail menus I have seen in a while.

Once you come here, you’ll be asking yourself why haven’t I heard of Morea before? Well now you have, and you need to try them. Be sure to spread the word!

Mushroom stroganoff with spicy shrimp

I know it has been a while since I last posted on my blog. I have been very busy with editing my cookbook amongst other things. Because my next door neighbor wants a copy of my recipe, I’m back. I have also made the decision to start recording video’s of my recipes. Please check them out on my Facebook page, Food and Wine Blogger.

Ok, here is my version of Mushroom Stroganoff with Spicy Shrimp:

Ingredients:

Cremini mushrooms

Butter, Heavy cream

Minced Garlic

Black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, flat leaf parsley, dried basil, oregano, rosemary

Spaghetti

Shrimp marinated in cayenne pepper, red pepper flake, and rosemary

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to package directions. For the sauce, melt a generous portion of salted butter in dutch oven or covered sauté pan. Once melted, add minced garlic, cremini mushrooms, and dry spices. Add the Worcestershire sauce and heavy cream last. Bring sauce up to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes, allowing the liquid to cook out of the mushrooms. Stir in flat leaf parsley once the sauce has cooked down and been removed from the heat. Allow the sauce to sit and thicken while sautéing shrimp in a separate pan. Once the pasta has been cooked to desired doneness, strain and add to dutch oven with shrimp. Toss together and plate family style in a large bowl. Garnish with remaining flat leaf parsley, and serve immediately.

If you plan on pairing this dish with wine, we did a nice funky Italian red from Versi Vino. They are based in Pennsauken, NJ.

I did not record this recipe via video, so if anyone has any questions, please just email me at duboistiffany2@gmail.com.

Soup a la pork butt

Bonjour mon amies! It has been requested that I share the recipe for my pork butt soup with you all. I realize that I haven’t posted anything in a while, but that is because I am still working on publishing my first cookbook, “Cooking with Tiffany! A Guide to Eating and Entertaining”. I hope to have it edited and photographed by my birthday in February.

A few notes for everyone. This is a two day operation, and the pork butt needs to be marinated overnight before making the soup base. The wine used was not pleasing on my palate for drinking, thus I used it in the stock. One of the ingredients used is leftover turkey gravy from Thanksgiving. I will be providing that recipe to be prepared ahead of time as well. Enjoy!

Slow cooker pork butt soup

Ingredients:

Pork butt: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, aleppo pepper, ground ginger, rosemary, lemon & lime juice. Marinate overnight in the fridge.

Homemade gravy recipe:

Ingredients: 2 and 1/2 cups turkey stock. The stock was made using the gizzards and neck seasoned with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, celery salt and smoked paprika.

Directions on stock: bring to a boil 2 quarts of water with gizzards and neck. Season generously and allow to reduce to 1 and a half quarts. Reduce to a simmer after 30 minutes on medium to high setting. Strain liquid into gravy measuring cup. It should equal the 2 and a half cups needed to make the gravy.

Gravy: 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour dissolved in 1 cup of water. Poultry seasoning, salt, ground black pepper, celery salt.

Directions: In a medium saucepan, bring the turkey stock to a boil. In a glass measuring cup, dissolve flour in water. Gradually whisk slurry into the turkey stock. Season generously with poultry seasoning, salt, ground black pepper and celery salt. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat after two minutes and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until thickened. Strain gravy into gravy boats and serve!

SIDE NOTES: according to the recipe the seasonings should measure 1 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon. I didn’t measure this time. Also, this recipe is courtesy of Allrecipes.com. You may also need to make an additional slurry to get the gravy to the right consistency. In addition, this should NOT be prepared without the gizzards and neck.

Soup Base:

1 bottle of 2016 red bordeaux style wine, onions; cut in half, tomatoes;sliced, celery; chopped, carrots; chopped, whole fresh garlic, whole serrano hot peppers, fresh flat leaf parsley; roughly chopped, whole bunch of fresh mint; roughly chopped, pork butt, 1 stick of butter, water, black peppercorn, aleppo pepper, ground ginger, flour slurry; 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 cup of water, leftover homemade gravy.

Directions: in a slow cooker, pour entire bottle of wine first. Add onions, tomatoes, celery, carrots, garlic, serrano hot peppers, pork butt, leftover gravy, pork butt marinade, parsley and mint and butter. Set slow cooker on high heat for 6 hours. Between the 3-4 hour mark, add slurry of flour and water and dry spices. Serve with rye bread or whatever you have available. Pair with your favorite wine, cocktail or champagne.

Bon Appetit!

Georgia Wines, No Not the State!

I realize it has been a while since I’ve posted anything new, but with Covid-19 and the fact that I’ve been barricaded at home working on my cookbook, it is understandable.

I have had the great pleasure of still making connections in the wine world, and wanted to introduce two new wines. Kindzmarauli, which is a semi-sweet red, and Tsinandali, which is a dry white wine. These two bottles were sent to me from Zurab Cherashvili, owner of Sada Wine Imports.

Now, I’m sure you are asking yourself, what am I talking about? Good question. I’ve never heard of these wines either until recently. Both are from Georgia. No, not the state, the European country. Quick geography lesson my readers. Georgia is north of Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

I was fascinated to learn that Georgia is credited as the birthplace of wine. While doing some research, I read that archaeologists traced the world’s first known wine creation back to the people of the South Caucasus in 6,000BC. These early Georgians discovered that grape juice could be turned into wine by burying it underground for the winter. We all should be thankful to those people every time we raise a glass.

The first wine we tried was the semi-sweet red Kindzmarauli. It was light and sweet on the nose, but full of flavor once we tasted it. We discovered that it paired well with spicy food. For dinner this evening, we were having a lovely spice-rubbed duck breast with a mushroom gravy, and an arugula salad paired with cucumbers, tomatoes and citrus dressing. The wine went very well with our meal.

On the bottle, it states that it pairs best with cheese, desserts, and fruits. My husband said when he first tasted it that he would serve it with a cheese platter. It reminded him almost of a dessert wine. I could definitely see this being paired with either. You just have to make sure you choose the correct ones.

Overall, we really liked it. Having it with a spicy duck and arugula salad was quite different from what the bottle recommended, but that is what makes wine fun. You can experiment to your hearts content. There are recommendations, but no right or wrong. Always remember, in the end, the most important thing when trying a wine is whether you like it or not.

The next one we tried was the dry white Tsinandali. Once again, on the nose, it has a fruity quality. When we tasted it, it had a funky taste, and a very dry after taste. The bottle recommends that you pair this with fish and cheese. Luckily, we were having shrimp for dinner, so we were curious how it would taste with our meal.

The shrimp we made this evening was spicy, and cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and red bell peppers. Once we had a few bites, we tasted the wine again. It’s character certainly changed. The funky taste mellowed out quite a bit, and the dry after taste didn’t linger as much. If you like dry white wines, this would probably suit you. Although the wine did pair better with our spicy shrimp dish, we just aren’t fans of dry whites. Again, everyone’s palate is different. That’s what makes drinking wine so much fun.

I want to thank my friend Zurab Cherashvili for sending me these two bottles to try. My husband and I have never tried wines from Georgia. We had no idea that they were credited with being the birthplace of wine. This certainly opened another door for us, and we would love to try other wines from this region.

Remember, when drinking wine, have fun and explore new regions. Don’t get boxed into one specific area. There are so many wines and so little time! If anyone is interested in additional food pairings, please feel free to contact me or go on Zurab’s website and order a bunch of their wines. Enjoy!

Philadelphia: Violence & Reflection

I am disgusted. Horrified and confused. The last 24 hours has been absolutely heartbreaking. I am not sure what I can do to help the situation. Is safe to go out and do anything. It has been disheartening to see what has been going on. Who is responsible? Who out there is to blame for this situation? Is it the police? The people protesting? Those that are out there actively looting and vandalizing clothing stores, restaurants, and businesses?

I look around my apartment and think, “What are we going to do?” As many of you are all aware, my husband Eric is media manager for WPVI-Channel 6. Nydia Han covered the news today, and Christie Illeto was live on Walnut street seeing people steal clothing from Modell’s. The people out there right now are in a precarious situation. Hugh E Dillon survived Covid-19, and has been vocal about his experiences, and has also been covering the news today. There is another protest happening right now, and I don’t know if they will be safe.

As someone who is part African-American, I am beyond disgusted at what has been going on, not just this week, but for decades! History has shown that those that try to effect change have to go through many moments of abuse, racism and a lack of understanding from others. Is there a point to any of this? Is there anything that we can actually do to effect change? I’m not sure.

I would like to close this piece on a more optimistic note. I realize there isn’t anything that I can physically do, but I think it is important for everyone to be safe, be healthy, and if you feel the need to vent, do it in a manner that isn’t destructive to you or your environment. As a public relations professional, I know I need to maintain objectivity during a crisis. I sincerely hope this isn’t the beginning of the end of decency, and an increase of violence in our country. Thank you.

Tiffany C. DuBois-Morales

President and CEO of DuBois Public Relations, LLC.

Editor’s Word

Good afternoon everyone. I realize it has been a while since I have posted anything, and I apologize to all of you. These last few months of being isolated from people has been hard on me. I cannot imagine how Covid-19 has affected you all as well, especially those of you that are putting your health on the line in servicing us at grocery stores, hospitals, and restaurants. 

Since most of you are in the hospitality business, and as someone who has worked at a number of restaurants a few times, and has blogged about your places of work on Tiffany’s Blog, I hope you all have been well and safe. My mother also works in the restaurant industry. I hope she has been well, and able to maintain a sense of calm within this chaos. 

I want everyone to know that I greatly appreciate the work that you all have been doing, and know that I miss seeing your faces in person. I miss eating the food that you have prepared, and hearing the stories that you have to tell. I promise that as we enter a new normal for indoor and outdoor dining, I will try to continue to tell your stories. This is not a pitch or platitude for you all that read and follow my blog. This is my way of saying thank you. I sincerely hope that we get to meet again in person soon. 

If anyone just wants to talk or connect virtually, please do not hesitate to add me on your contact list on Zoom, or Facetime with me if you have an iPhone. I am here to listen, and if you happen to want me to pitch to news stations or help you in anyway, let me know. 

I would like to close on a positive note. As some of you may be aware, I am writing a cookbook. I am close to finishing all my chapters, and hope to publish later this year or in the early spring of 2021. I will need recipe testers, and look forward to working with all of you again. If anyone has any recommendations for food editors and publishers, please let me know. Thank you so much for listening and reading this post. I’ll see you all soon! 

Tiffany C. DuBois-Morales 

Tiffany’s Blog & DuBois Public Relations, LLC. 

Duboistiffany2@gmail.com

(610)209-7764

Paris honeymoon food series!

Now as you may already know, I’m a married woman! I promised you all details of the restaurants that we went to while honeymooning in France, so I present these goodies to you. I’m not going to tell you about all the places we ate at, but these are my highlights. Enjoy!

We were pretty tired once we finally arrived in Paris. Our AirBnB wasn’t quite ready, so we walked across the street to a restaurant for a light lunch. The restaurant is called Le Relais du Louvre and it was wonderful! Our hostess was so nice, and was able to accommodate us and all our suitcases.

We needed a shot of caffeine, so we ordered their French coffee with cognac and a large dollop of whipped cream. That certainly woke us up! I also ordered a kir royale. We split an order of pate which was delicious, and a mini charcuterie. My entree was an order of chicken and fries, topped with poulet jus. Eric ordered the steak and eggs. Both dishes were fantastic. They were light and fresh. Nothing was over or under seasoned. How lucky were we that this place was right across the street from where we were staying! We would definitely be back.

After we finally got settled into our AirBnB, we took a much needed nap after all that traveling. We needed to recharge because we had dinner reservations and a burlesque cabaret show to attend later that evening.

For dinner, we went to a wonderful restaurant called Chez Francis. They have a partnership with the cabaret show we would be attending later on that evening. We picked this place because the two are literally a stones throw from each other. The restaurant was beautiful. The decor was classic French. Low lighting, dark tones, warm and comforting. It was stunning. As an added bonus, you had a great view of the Eiffel Tower from the restaurant! I couldn’t believe I was actually in Paris!

We started with an order of six oysters, and an avocado salad. Both were so good! The oysters were so fresh and delicious. The salad was a perfect mix of seasoning and citrus. For our main course, I ordered the grilled salmon steak with asparagus, and Eric ordered the free-range chicken breast with mashed potatoes. Everything was cooked to perfection. The salmon was buttery and flakey, the chicken was tender on the inside, and the skin was perfectly cooked on the outside.

For dessert, we ordered the vanilla bourbon creme brûlée, and the molten heart chocolate cake. Both desserts were perfect! The creme brûlée wasn’t overly sweet and the chocolate cake was hot and gooey on the inside. The entire meal was simply wonderful.

We were now off to see the cabaret show at the world famous Crazy Horse lounge. If you are ever in Paris, you have to go. We had so much fun, and the show was wonderful. It was a great mix of music, lighting, and dancing. It was a perfect first night in the city of lights.

 

Brunch at Butter; Tea at Tiffany’s!

I realize I have been a married woman for almost six months, but I know how much you all love reading about my bridal excursions in New York before my wedding. Travel back in time, if you will, to September 2019 for brunch at Butter, and tea at Tiffany’s Blue Box Cafe!

As you all know by now, Butter is one of my favorite restaurants in New York City. It’s owned by my favorite Iron Chef, Alex Guarnaschelli. The decor is stunning, and the food is simply some of the best I’ve ever had. On our last day in the city, we met up with some friends, and headed over to Butter for their amazing brunch. The brunch buffet is $40.00 a person, but the amount of food they put out is amazing. Trust me when I say, you will get your money’s worth.

The selection of brunch items include scrambled eggs, potato cakes, applewood smoked bacon, salad, fennel sausage, fruits, breads, pastries, cured salmon, home fries, spinach, plus the chef’s choice selection, which is usually steak. See what I mean? You can try and eat as much as you want, but one thing is for certain. The food is fresh and delicious. As much as we wanted to stuff ourselves, we had to show restraint. We had another special place to go to a few hours later.

Whenever you are in New York City, please make sure you give Butter a try. Whether you go for brunch or dinner, you will love it. The food and service are top notch. You will see why it’s one of my favorite restaurants!

So, we have all seen the movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, right? If you haven’t, you should. A couple of years ago, the Tiffany and Company flagship store in New York decided to open the Blue Box Cafe. Shoppers could finally dine at Tiffany’s. It was an instant hit, and it is probably one of the hardest reservations to get in the city! Through a roundabout way, my husband and I were able to get in!

After letting our earlier brunch settle, it was time for our tea at Tiffany’s. It was awesome! The place was fully booked, and it was easy to see why. We ordered the Breakfast at Tiffany, which was your traditional afternoon tea service. It was a beautiful presentation of tea sandwiches, pastries and scones. The tea was also outstanding. Everything is served on Tiffany plates and tea cups.

If you can get into the Blue Box Cafe, do so. But again, I wish you good luck. You just may need it to get into this immensely popular restaurant. Bon appetite!

 

 

 

The Hadley: Elegance on the Parkway

Forgive me my readers, for I have sinned. I have deprived you of my reviews for a while, and I do apologize. It’s been a rather busy few months, but I am getting back into the swing of things.

We recently moved into a new apartment complex in Philadelphia, and as luck would have it, there is a terrific restaurant on-site that is open to the apartment residents and the public. The restaurant is The Hadley at the Park Towne Place apartments on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. If you haven’t heard of it, you should make a point of dining here soon.

We have become very good friends with the entire staff at the restaurant, and they are a fantastic group of people. They have treated my husband and I like family ever since we first went in to try them out. Not only are the staff super friendly, but the food and drinks are amazing. The decor is stunning. It’s bright, clean, warm, and inviting all at the same time.

There is something on the menu for everyone. You have your choice of soups, salads, vegetarian, American, Italian, and Asia fare. All of it is good. On the weekends, they have a wonderful brunch, and for a set price, you can have a bottomless mimosa or bloody Mary brunch.

Some of our favorite dishes have been the house burrata, the margherita and funghi flatbreads, braised beef short rib, fruits de mer, seared Maine diver scallops, and the roquefort crusted filet mignon. Everything is fresh and made to order. The filet mignon was exceptionally delicious. It was cooked a perfect medium rare, and the beautiful roquefort cheese that gave it a wonderful umami. I highly recommend it!

Equally fantastic are the cocktails. We’ve had a few, including their Mexico on Fire, which if you love tequila and mazcal, you will love this drink. The Hadley Berry, paired with the filet mignon, is a delicious combination. There’s also the sweet Mary Marge and Summer Vacation. All the bartenders at The Hadley are amazing, but our favorites are Ariella and Abby. These two know how to make great cocktails. And don’t be afraid to order something off menu. Ariella is incredibly creative and loves coming up with new creations for you.

The Hadley is conveniently located on the parkway, surrounded by some of the city’s best museums. When the weather turns warmer, they will be opening up an outdoor deck that patrons can dine on, or just hang out with a great cocktail. See you soon! You know where you can find us!

 

Bodega: Deliciously Balanced!

Hello my darlings! I realize it has been many months since I have written a blog post. Rest assured, it wasn’t because of anything bad! I got married, went on a fabulous honeymoon, that I promise to tell you all about, then it was the holiday season, and I am in the process of finishing my cookbook. I will spill all later on these many months of married life, but for now, I have a review to give!

Bodega Bar and Kitchen is a brand-new Latin themed restaurant in Philadelphia’s Midtown Village section. The food is beyond perfect, the cocktails are deliciously balanced, and the overall ambiance is warm, calming and exciting! Stavros and Alex Vasiliadis have created a beautiful gem in this intimate space.

The décor was amazing with dark colors, glass and brick walls, up lighting that didn’t distract, and a welcoming warmth that I can still feel. Alex said he wanted a romantic vibe at the restaurant, and he nailed it.

The food that was featured included crispy Brussel sprouts, that I never got to try because they were demolished in two seconds. There was a lovely beet gazpacho that was acidic, refreshing, and very well balanced. It paired very well with the featured cocktails. There were also these absolutely delicious pork croquettes! It had a lovely hoisin sauce, dried katsuobushi, and a spicy mustard.

Tasso y corn beignets were also featured this night. It came with Red Eye ice cream, and bacon fat powder.  The piece de resistance was the Pretzel Fried Pastrami Chicken. Think chicken and waffles but with an amazing selection of sauces, and house pickles n ferments. It was one of my favorite foods.

Now onto the drinks! All the bartenders did a fantastic job. Despite the crowd, or maybe because of it, they handled everything perfectly. I honestly couldn’t decide which drink was my favorite! The featured cocktails included the Especial Margarita with Campo Azul Blanco, lime juice, Luxardo triple sec and a lavender-honey syrup. The Diplomat featured Conniption Gin, Rosolio di 12 Bergamotto liqueur, lime juice and a dash of Peychaud. The Ginger Rodriguez was made with Orendain Reposado Tequila, 10 ginger syrup, lemon-lime juice, and bar spoon Mezcal. And finally, The Gypsy’s Ramblas, featured Appleton Estate Jamaican 10 rum, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a dash of bitters.

I can’t wait to go back for dinner and try more food from their menu. Everything I tried was fantastic. I have zero complaints. Please be sure to visit Bodega. You’ll love the decor, the super friendly staff, the cocktails, and the food!

Dear Irving: Stunning Views and Cocktails

Located on the 40th and 41st floor inside the Aliz Hotel, Dear Irving on Hudson is an absolute must when visiting New York. The decor is beautiful, the cocktails are amazing, and the views are breathtaking.

We came here for a drink after our wonderful dinner, and we were not disappointed. There is indoor and outdoor seating, and we were seated inside, right in front of a very large picture window. The view was simply mesmerizing.

The service was amazing and the cocktails were wonderful. It had been a very long day so we didn’t stay as long as we wanted to, but we will definitely be back. You have to put Dear Irving on your list of places to go to whenever you are in New York.

 

Boqueria: Authentic Spanish tapas New York style!

We are very lucky to have some wonderful Spanish restaurants in Philadelphia. But, when we were in New York, Eric found a fantastic Spanish tapas restaurant near Kleinfeld’s in the Flatiron district. The restaurant is Boqueria and this is, without question, one of the best restaurants we’ve ever dined at. You have to go here when you’re in New York.

When we were in New York for my first bridal fitting, Eric came here while waiting for me. He was so impressed with the place, he insisted that we go again after my fitting, just so I could see what he was talking about. He was so right. The tapas and glass of wine I had were amazing. So much so, that we made a dinner reservation for the next time we were in New York for my second fitting.

It was time for dinner! We really couldn’t wait to come back and experience a full dinner service. A word of advice. Make a reservation! When we got to Boqueria, the place was packed. Once we were seated and looked at the menu, we decided to go with the chef’s tasting. I’m so glad we did. Everything was absolutely delicious.

Here is what our meal consisted of. Ready? Datiles con beicon, which is dates stuffed with almonds and Valdeón blue cheese, wrapped in bacon. Next was an artisanal cheese and charcuterie plate. After that was pimientos de padron, which is blistered Shishito peppers and coarse sea salt, which was absolutely amazing. Then, we had a tapas trio plate that was out of this world. It consisted of cojonudo, which was quail egg, chorizo palacios, and toast points, croquetas cremosas, which was creamy croquettes of mushroom and Serrano ham, and albondigas, which was Colorado lamb meatballs, tomato sauce, sheep’s milk cheese and basil. Readers, let me tell you. This was the holy trinity of Spanish tapas. Incredible flavors, incredible taste. This was fantastic!

The food kept coming. Next up was another charcuterie plate of ham, peppers, olives and bread. I have to say, it was very smart how they broke the food order up by giving you a break from heavier foods. The charcuterie was a nice break before the next tapas came out.

Next up was the gambas al ajillo, which was shrimp, garlic, brandy, and Guindilla pepper in olive oil. This could be the best shrimp dish we’ve ever tasted. The level of spice and flavors was simply magical. It was amazing. The final tapas dish was an incredible chicken dish, the pollo rustido, which was a Catalan style roasted chicken, Ibérico lard, lemon, herbs, and salsa verde. The chicken was so moist and juicy! This could also be the best chicken dish we’ve ever tasted. I can’t stress enough how amazing the food here was. Before I forget, to wash this amazing meal down, we had a complimentary pitcher of sangria, and we just had to order a bottle of the wine we had here before. It was a 2016 La Tremenda Alicante.

The grand finale was dessert. It was their turron, which was an almond and hazelnut cake, honey dulce de leche ice cream, and chantilly. It was just amazing. Everything was amazing. We’ve done chef selection tastings before, but this truly one of the best we’ve ever had the pleasure of trying.

Please, please, please, go to Boqueria if you are ever in New York. It is truly an authentic Spanish tapas restaurant. The food is amazing. The staff and service were amazing. And you’ll make friends with the other customers next to you. We had so much fun here. I can’t wait to go back!

 

Bridal Excursions, part 2!

A couple of weeks ago, we had to take another trip to New York for my second bridal fitting. It was a quick overnight trip, but it also meant new restaurants to explore and try out. As luck would have it, our good friend Randee and her boyfriend Chris, were also going to be in New York the same weekend. They were there to see a show, so she graciously agreed to meet me at Kleinfeld’s for my bridal appointment. They would also join us on a couple of our restaurants stops, but more on that later.

Back to our arrival in the big apple. On the train, Eric found a spot not far from Kleinfeld’s called, The Cellar, in the Flatiron district. There are two floors to the restaurant. The street level restaurant has a great rustic vibe to it. There is a small bar area, and tables throughout. You can order food to go from their large counter area, and there is an area that you can see them making cheese. How cool is that? They have a wine bar downstairs that opens up later in the afternoon.

We were in the mood for a snack, so I ordered a mac and cheese flight. There are five different mac and cheese options, and if you get the flight, you get to choose three. I got the “world’s best”, lobster and garlic breadcrumbs, and the prosciutto and peas mac and cheese. The portion sizes were very good, and all three were delicious! We met the chef and he told me next time we come in, to try the kale and spicy peppers mac and cheese. It was his favorite. I definitely will.

Eric ordered the beets and burrata salad, that had red and golden beets, blackberries, tarragon, and chia seeds. It was fantastic. For drinks, Eric ordered a glass of Joel Gott zinfandel, and I got the “bartender’s choice”, which was a spin of a classic Moscow Mule. Again, the drinks were wonderful.

This was a really good find, and fun place to eat at. The staff were super friendly, and it was really cool to see them making their own cheese. If you in the Flatiron district, be sure to check out The Cellar! We’ll definitely be back.

While I was at my bridal fitting with my friend Randee, Eric and her boyfriend, Chris, waited for us about a block away at a cute French restaurant called, Le Singe. The restaurant had a wonderful Parisian flair to it, and the bartender and staff were so nice. Eric was texting us the cocktails he was having, and they looked amazing. When we finally got there, I was able to have a drink, and it was so good.

The bartender, Nicholas, was from Croatia, and made an amazing gin cocktail, flavored beautifully with basil. When we told him our wedding was coming up soon, he poured us a complimentary glass of champagne. He was one of the nicest bartenders we’ve ever met. He made us feel to welcome. We didn’t get a chance to order any food because we had dinner reservations at another spot in a couple of hours, but I would love to come back here and try out some food off their menu.  Make sure you put Le Singe on your list of must visit restaurants!

It was time to leave, and head back to our hotel to freshen up before dinner. We also had a reservation for after dinner drinks at a fantastic rooftop bar. Stay tuned!

New York: Bridal excursions weekend, day three!

All good things must come to an end. It was our final day in New York. We headed out in the morning, and walked around a bit before heading to Maison Kayser for breakfast. It was our first time visiting one of their restaurants, and it was really good.

The staff and our server were extremely friendly. It was a warm morning, so we started out with a couple of iced coffees that were delicious. Eric ordered their Parisienne egg cocotte, which was organic poached eggs, smoked ham, béchamel, and mushrooms. I ordered the smoked salmon, with creme fraiche, organic sunny-side up egg, capers, and a red onion. Both of our dishes were delicious. They were full of flavor and seasoned very well.

The location that we were at was really nice. It was across the street from the New York City Public Library. It was spacious, and the decor was very nice. After a busy, fast paced couple of days, it was nice to go somewhere, relax and recharge.

After our wonderful breakfast, we walked around the city some more. We visited some of the fantastic shops along 5th Avenue before heading back to our hotel to collect our bags and head to the train station.

It’s always a bit sad when we have to leave New York. We always have a great time when we are here. But, knowing that we’d be back in a couple weeks for my second fitting, leaving this time wasn’t so bittersweet. Stay tuned fellow readers! More adventures are on the horizon!

New York: Bridal excursions weekend, day two!

Good morning New York! Day two of our bridal excursion weekend started at Balthazar for breakfast in the SoHo district. We’ve heard good things about this place, and we weren’t disappointed. When you walk in, you feel like you have been transported to a beautiful French brasserie. The decor is beautiful! It’s classic French throughout.

We started out with a wonderful cup of coffee and a round of their kir rose. The coffee was good and strong. Just what we needed! The kir rose was delicious. It was refreshing and light. For our food entrees, I ordered the avocado and poached eggs on toast. It came with a tomato jalapeño salsa. It was delicious. The eggs were poached perfectly, and the salsa and avocado were the perfect paring. Eric ordered the eggs en cocotte, which is eggs, cream and thyme baked in a ramekin. The presentation was stunning, and it tasted great. It’s a classic French dish and they nailed it.

Balthazar was a wonderful experience. The staff went above and beyond to make us feel welcome, and the service was impeccable. We’ve been to some fantastic restaurants for breakfast or brunch in New York, and this place ranks with the best of them. If you’re in the mood for a wonderful breakfast in trendy SoHo, but feel like you are in Paris, you have to come here!

After a wonderful breakfast, we headed uptown for a private tour of the ABC television network building and studios. My fiancé, Eric, works for the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia. He’s good friends with some of the staff in New York and told them that we were going be in town. They graciously invited us for a visit, and we had a great time. After our tour, we were in the mood for a quick drink. We went to Cafe Fiorello, which is literally across the street from Lincoln Center. We couldn’t spend a lot of time here unfortunately, since I had my bridal fitting coming up soon.

Cafe Fiorello is a very spacious, warm and inviting restaurant. There is seating at the bar, the restaurant itself, and at their antipasto bar. We sat at the antipasto bar and it was wonderful. There were so many food selections, and they all looked amazing. This place is definitely on our list to come back for lunch or dinner. I ordered a glass of sancerre, and Eric ordered a wonderful rum cocktail. Our server was so nice that he gave us a sample of their limoncello, and salted chocolates. I can’t wait to come back and really try their food items. I have no doubt everything will be delicious.

It was time for my first bridal fitting. Eric accompanied me to Kleinfeld’s where we met up with my maid of honor, her daughter, and her mother. It was time for Eric to take off, but don’t worry readers. This is New York City. He already had planned where he was going to go and wait for me. The place he found was so good, that I went there after my fitting, and we made a dinner reservation for the next time we were in New York. The place is Boqueria. Trust me when I say, if you love Spanish food and tapas, you absolutely have to come here. Another great find by my fiancé!

Boqueria is an amazing restaurant. It has such an authentic, Spanish tapas restaurant feel to it. There are a couple of locations, but we visited the one in the Flatiron District. Eric first started with their version of a Moscow Mule, which he said was delicious. It was vibrant and very refreshing. He then ordered the cojonudo, which is quail egg and chorizo on toast points. He absolutely loved it. The presentation was stunning. He ordered a glass of Spanish sherry to go with it, and texted me that he was in heaven. I was getting jealous! He finished his snack with a glass of 2016 La Tremenda red wine that blew him away. He told me it was so good, that after my fitting, we had to come back for a quick bite and drink. And we did!

I immediately fell in love with Boqueria. It was everything Eric said it was. It had the authentic Spanish tapas restaurant feel, the staff were super friendly, and the food and wine were amazing! I tried a glass of the La Tremenda wine and it was so good! My fiancé knows his wines. I taught him well! We also ordered another tapas plate to go with it. I got the montado de bistec, which was a perfectly cooked hanger steak, shishito pepper, aioli, and salsa verde on a toast point. It was absolutely delicious. I had such a wonderful experience in the short time I was here that we made a reservation for dinner when we would be back in New York in a couple weeks for my second fitting. Don’t worry, you’ll be getting a full report on dinner soon!

We went back to our hotel and got ready for dinner. We were finally going back to one of my favorite restaurants, Butter. It’s owned and operated by my favorite chef, Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. The decor is stunning, and the food is amazing. She wasn’t at the restaurant this evening but her second in command, Michael Jenkins, was there and we got to meet him. He was so nice!

We started out with a couple of cocktails. Eric ordered Dorothy Meets Perry. It was made with Dorothy Parker gin, egg whites, glenmorangie, b&b liquor, rosemary, and orange juice. It was amazing. The combination of ingredients and flavors was incredible. I ordered the Dirty Dancing, which was made with Hendricks gin, sage liquor, St. Germain elderflower, and salted grapefruit water. It was so good. The balance of flavors was just amazing.

We told them that we were in New York for my first bridal fitting and they treated us so well! They sent out a complimentary glass of champagne, and a couple of small bites. One was a beautiful roasted small corn dish, and the other was a walnut and heirloom tomato bruschetta. Everything was fantastic. We couldn’t believe that they did this for us. They are such an amazing group of people here!

It happened to be Restaurant Week in New York, so Eric ordered off that menu. He started with their Hepworth Farm little gem lettuce, which came with toasted walnuts, green radishes, and a tarragon and shallot vinaigrette. It was delicious. The dressing was absolutely delicious. For his entree, he got the pan roasted striped bass that came with Prince Edward Island mussels, wild fennel, and smoked lemon. Again, it was simply delicious. Eric said it was one of the best striped bass dishes he’s ever had. For dessert, he got the rum-poached ebony sweet plums, with coconut ice cream and a ginger crumble. It was so good. It had some of his favorite flavors, such as coconut, rum and ginger. HE was in heaven!

I ordered their gnocchi mac and cheese for my appetizer. It was so good that it brought me to tears! It literally melted in your mouth. It was out of this world. For my entree, I got the petite Hudson Valley duck breast. It came with braised Tuscan kale, cherry jam, and sorrel. The duck was cooked perfectly, and the Tuscan kale was delicious. It was so good that we buy it know whenever we go food shopping. For dessert, I got the millionaire shortbread, which consisted of a chocolate ganache, caramel fudge, and Maldon sea salt. It was fantastic. The salt was a perfect balance to the sweetness of the dish.

With our wonderful meal, we ordered a bottle of a 2014 Taltarni shiraz. It was fantastic. It had the right amount of spice and flavor, and just went perfectly with our food. Once again, our experience at Butter was simply amazing. The fact that they took such good care of us, and brought out a couple of complimentary dishes, just goes to show how amazing this place and the staff are here. I can’t stop raving how good Butter is. You simply have to come here whenever you are in New York.

Well, that wrapped up day two in New York. It was a very full and busy day, but it was so much fun. Trying out new restaurants, visiting the ABC television station, and my bridal fitting made for a wonderful day.