Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On an unseasonably warm November night, I decided to take a leisurely stroll along the Highline before my dinner reservations. Thank goodness I did so because it helped build up an appetite I certainly needed for this place. As the hour approached 7, I hurried back, hustled down the stairs and walked into Ventanas.

Dinner By Candlelight
I may as well have stepped into a travel brochure! I was instantly greeted with a seductively romantic and dimly lit restaurant with bright bursts of reds, violets and indigo hues everywhere. It was very reminiscent of walking down a Moroccan street at sunset (not that I’ve been to Morocco, but I imagine it to feel like that). Long couches with plush pillows and candle lit tables surround you at every turn and the smooth beats of Western Mediterranean music transport you to an ultra exotic locale. A house DJ provides musical entertainment Thursdays through Saturdays (Saturdays includes bellydancing) and a Flamenco show yields more merriment on Tuesdays, and by all accounts, this should have dinners dancing in the aisles between courses. Add to that an extraordinarily friendly staff, sensational drinks and food that is out of this world and you have a recipe for an experience that will leave you wanting more.
Clockwise from top; Grilled Spanish Sausage,
Merguez (Lamb Sausage with Couscous),
Patatas Bravas (Spicy Roasted Potatoes with Aioli)

My night began with the Girasol Martini. This is a dangerous little passion fruit martini that will definitely sneak up on you if you're not careful. Tangy and sweet, it’s a wonderfully refreshing cocktail to start off any night on the town. As for the food, there are a few regulars that you can find in most tapas restaurants, Jamón Ibérico (Spanish cured ham), marinated Spanish olives, Patatas Bravas (spicy little potato bites with a smoky spicy aioli) and an assortment of both grilled and cold Spanish chorizos graced their menu, all of which were fantastic. Then I got into the more glamorous options; the incredible flavor combinations basically bitch slapped me across the Atlantic.
Empanadas de Rabo (Oxtail Emapanadas)

There was the Merguez, a lamb sausage & couscous dish that was loaded with juicy little sausage bits surrounded with tender couscous, fava beans & mini heirloom tomatoes. I could’ve easily eaten a cement truck full of this and still asked for more. Then I had the Empanadas de Rabo (Oxtail Empanadas). Wow! These crispy bite size shells were replete with moist and flavorful shredded meat inside that made you want to shout “Holy Cow!” Literally. It came paired with a tomato dipping sauce which just added to the dramatic layers of deep earthy flavors this dish packed.

As my decadent meal came to a close, the waiter brought out my final 2 dishes. The first one, traditional Churros with a chocolate dipping sauce immediately followed by Empanadas de Dulce de Leche (caramel empanadas) with Caramel ice cream. Oh my sweet Jesus! These sinfully blissful desserts are the very definition of perfection. Both covered in sweet and sultry cinnamon sugar the Churros were the right combination of soft on the inside and crisp on the outside with a chocolate sauce you would think fell from heaven itself. The Empanadas were bursting at the seams with cream cheese and caramel. One bite and the end result will be an impish little smile from ear to ear.
Emapanadas de Dulce de Leche (Caramel Empanadas)
 with  Caramel Ice Cream

Overall, I cannot wait to return here. Food, drinks, entertainment (did I mention food). A girl couldn’t ask for more. I’m already making plans with to go see the Flamenco show as soon as I can. If you're looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle that is the city I love, look no further than that little corner under the Highline.

Till next time, 

Love Peace & Bacon Grease <3


Friday, November 11, 2011

Getting Ready For My Mediterranean Adventure

Hot Mediterranean tapas, an extensive list of Spanish wines and a quartet of belly dancers. What more could you ask for?! This weekend I am venturing forth to Ventanas, a new tapas bar cozily nestled underneath the Highline in Chelsea. From everything I've read so far, this restaurant looks exotic, romantic, and seems capable of transporting you halfway around the world for an incredibly unique dining experience. The menu is chock full of fantastically delicious sounding Spanish bites like an assortment of Chorizos, Oxtail Empanadas, a duo of Paellas, or warm Churros for dessert. Here's hoping that this will be a thoroughly decadent adventure that I will be sure to relay to all you out there.

Till then,

Love, Peace & Bacon Grease <3


Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to one and all! I'm sitting here getting ready to dish out some treats for the little ghouls and goblins and I was wondering, what are some of your favorite Halloween treats?

Love, Peace & Bacon Grease <3

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mission Apple Pie... Complete!

Now, some of you may know that I have been obsessed with perfecting my apple pie skills for quite sometime now. I've tried and tried and never been happy with the results. After 10 years of many trials and errors, I may have finally come across a recipe that worked! Of course I made some variations to it and made it a bit of my own, (Can we say Rum Apple Pie?). Overall, this was an experience that left me leaping joyously and triumphant in my kitchen! Here's a link to the unaltered recipe below. For my version, read on:



  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup frozen solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

  • 3 1/4 pounds Winesap apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • Vanilla ice cream

  • For crust:
  • Mix flour, salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter and shortening; rub in with fingertips until coarse meal forms. Mix 3 tablespoons ice water and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Drizzle over flour mixture; stir with fork until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 30 minutes.
  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch; turn edge under and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate while preparing filling and topping.

For filling:
Mix all ingredients in large bowl to coat apples.

For topping:
Blend first 5 ingredients in processor. Add chilled butter cubes; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles wet sand.
Toss filling to redistribute juices; transfer to crust, mounding in center. Pack topping over and around apples. Bake pie on baking sheet until topping is golden, about 40 minutes (cover top with foil of browning too quickly). Reduce over temperature to 350°F. Bake until apples in center are tender when pierced and filling is bubbling thickly at edges, about 45 minutes longer. Cool until warm, about 1 hour. Serve with ice cream.

Let me know if anyone tries this recipe out and if you guys out there feel inspired to take on your own variations. 

Till next time,

Love, Peace & Bacon Grease <3

Monday, October 24, 2011

Scents of Autumn Filling my Kitchen...

I just had the most fantastic weekend with my sisters and cousins at the pumpkin patch Saturday. Yesterday we hit up some quaint little farmers markets and a country bakery stocked with the most blissfully indulgent pastries and pies at the Delaware Water Gap just over the border into Pennsylvania. I picked up some wonderful looking Stayman Winesap apples that I'm baking into a pie this week (I'm in serious need of honing my pie making skills lol). So stay tuned for my crusade for the perfect apple pie, or disaster. And maybe, a seasonal recipe or two.

Till next time,

Love, Peace & Bacon Grease <3

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tribeca Taco Takedown Part 2

Hello again and welcome to our continuation of the Tribeca Taco Takedown coverage. This evening I will be presenting to you, my esteemed readers, the competition portion of today's programing, accompanied with various pictures for your viewing pleasure. Our journey begins with an overwhelming encounter that quite frankly, left me speechless.
Pork Tacos w/ Tomatillo Sauce (Chipotle)

First off we have Chipotle Tacos. Remember when I said this experience left me speechless? Well I meant that literally. Now I consider myself to be able to handle spicy foods with grace, and while these tacos did have a nice tomatillo sauce flavor, it was so incredibly spicy I couldn’t taste much for almost a full 15 minutes after. I think Chipotle is great for when you’re out and about and want a quick bite, but when in NY, there are so many better taco joints to choose from that I would have to go elsewhere.

Tuna Ceviche Taco (Dos Caminos)
The next taco sampled was more of an aperitif than an actual taco. But don't let that fool you, the folks at Dos Caminos were very clever in their choice of taco to compete with. They presented with a Tuna Ceviche taco that was utterly sublime. These little hor dourves sized treats were an explosion of sweet and delicate Asian flavors with a buttery soft tuna that just melted in my mouth. I plan on making a trip to this place soon to see what other delicacies they have to offer

These little bite size morsels were followed up by a duo of tacos from Nixtamal. They were serving up tacos with authentic and fresh flavors. I thoroughly enjoyed both their shrimp and carnitas tacos. A lemony corn pico de gallo topped them off and complimented both pork and shrimp beautifully.

Pork Tacos (Dos Toros Taqueria WINNER)
Next up we have Dos Toros Taquerira, the winners of the Tribeca Taco Takedown, and rightfully so. These tacos were out of this world. The pork tasted, no lie, like my father’s cooking. It just fell apart and had so much flavor you didn’t know which way was up or down. I had the sour cream topped one (my mouth couldn’t take any more spice at that point) with guacamole and some unholy sauce that I went back for seconds, thirds and fourths. I plan on putting a day’s worth of meals aside to visit this place, because if that taco made me want to cry, I can only imagine what the rest of their menu will make me want to do.

I followed up Dos Toros with Rockaway Taco and a magnificently made fired fish taco that you can read about in yesterdays post.

To cap off the afternoon, I visited the table for The Harrison/The Red Cat for a devilishly good treat. Technically a crepe, this restaurant provided the one part of the meal that no one should ever have to live without. DESSERT! A spiced banana “taco” this dessert was a light and satisfying end to the afternoon. The pastry chef works at both The Harrison and at The Red Cat and I am certainly planning a trip to both to investigate what other desserts I can get my hands on.
Dos Toros Taqueria Leo and Oliver Kremer

Dos Toros Taqueria earned a well deserved win that the crowd seemed to agree with and in the end, this was an awesome experience that I thoroughly plan on repeating next year and every year after that.

Till next time,

Love, Peace & Bacon

P.S. - You can view these pictures and all the others from that day at http://www.facebook.com/carolinep86

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tribeca Taco Takedown Part 1

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only last Saturday that I was at the Tribeca Taco Takedown, and what an amazing event it was. A festive menagerie of films and tacos of all shapes and sizes with varying degrees of heat and even some dessert "tacos". Being that this was a film festival as well as food festival the ushers brought around samples of the recipes we were viewing on screen. For part one of my Takedown experience, I'll start with the films viewed and their respective munchies.

Scrambled Egg & Chorizo Taco (Hilah Johnson)
We begin with "Cooking with Hilah - Hangover Tacos" a film by internet sensation Hilah Johnson. Her clever film starts off with a seemingly hungover Hilah showing us how to make her version of a pick me up, a scrambled egg and Mexican chorizo taco. A quick and simple recipe that is sure to beat any hair of the dog cure you may have lying around. As her film was running, I sampled this delectable treat, and let me tell you, she's onto something. With a nice smokey chorizo flavor, it was just greasy enough to cure any hangover. Next time I've had a "long night" I'm making sure I'm stocked with eggs and chorizo to get me going the next day.
Salted Caramel Macaroon (Danny's Macaroons)

The next three films are by Liza de Guila at "food.curated", showcasing Danny's Macaroons, Robicelli's Cupcakes and La Newyorkina. All three places left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside and wanting more. Starting off we have Danny's Macaroons. Now, I've never been a big fan of macaroons, but after taking a bite out of the Salted Caramel Macaroon, I was in utter bliss! These were certainly not the typical cookie I've had in the past, instead it was a crunchy yet gooey caramel on the outside and a moist soft coconut center. I was in complete heaven! Danny has changed my mind for good. Though, may I suggest you order early. I have a feeling these guys are going to be swamped come the holidays.

Buffalo Chix & Blue Cheese (Robicelli's Cupcakes)
Next up we have Robicelli's cupcakes. These two were certainly a creative and absolutely adorable couple who create cupcakes with a child's whimsical imagination for flavors. The cupcake sampled was a Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese cupcake that, albeit not for me, for I have a high distaste for buffalo sauce and blue cheese, it was a cupcake I could see many a good acquaintance of mine swooning over. I can't wait to order my first dozen to sample and share with you all.

The last of Liza's films centers around a Mexican native who brings us not tacos, but popsicles, or Paletas in Spanish. I give her 3 F's. Fun, fruity and fabulous! These frozen treats are loaded with chunks of fresh fruit flavor and are a wonderful summer treat.The White Sangria was a phenomenal burst of summer fruits that could have easily brought me to my knees. Although only open seasonally, they do have a few locations that serve winter favorites like Mexican hot chocolate and warm churros. I'm SO looking forward to going there.

Fried Fish Taco (Rockaway Taco)
Finally we reach a film by The Selby where we learn about a little hidden gem on Rockaway Beach. Introducing Rockaway Taco, a beach bum surfers paradise. If you're a summer fanatic like me then you have to check this place out. I got to taste their other worldly creation during the competition itself. The line for their fried fish taco went from the front of the room to the back for the duration of the event. Never having liked fish tacos, imagine my surprise when I took my first bite and was immediately greeted with a moist, flaky piece of fish that didn't taste like a fish stick. Topped off with a red cabbage slaw, guacamole, radishes (yes radishes) and lime, it was a refreshingly light dish in comparison to the rest of the participating restaurants. Unfortunately they are too are closed for the winter season, but I am counting down the days until they reopen and I can once again immerse myself in their taco greatness.

Hope this got you hungry for more so stay tuned for part two of the Takedown tomorrow.

Love, Peace & Bacon Grease <3

(pictures courtesy of Becky Perez)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Taco Challenge Accepted.

Now, having kept my eyes and ears open for the past week or so, I've stumbled upon a little event in Tribeca. The Food Film Fest, taking place October 13th through 16th, is a celebration of, well, food and film about food. With several events taking place, from burgers and beer, to an Edible Peruvian Adventure and a Food Porn Party (whaaattt?!?!) this is sure to be an experience for all the senses. I personally plan to attend the Taco Takedown on Saturday, where the public plays judge to a taco competition between Dos Toros, Nixtamal, Dos Caminos, and Rockaway Taco. Open beer bar included, because you know, you can't eat tacos without a nice cold brewski. I'll be positing pictures of this event for your entertainment.

http://thefoodfilmfestival.com/ - Food Film Festival (proceeds go to Food Bank for NYC)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Would You Like Some Vodka With That Cheese?

When you think of a cocktail the first thing that comes to your mind may be a Mojito, a Jack and Ginger perhaps or a Cosmo. But would you ever think of ordering a concoction that's part childhood comfort food part alcoholic mad genius? Well, that's where a Grilled Cheese Martini comes into play.

Welcome to The Cellar. The restaurant arm of Beecher's Handmade Cheese in the Flatiron District. Now I'll get to that intriguing libation in a moment, but first I would like to share my most pleasant experience at this establishment. Walking downstairs you are instantly greeted with a cozy yet rustic room filled with candlelight and a few dim lit corners (perfect for a first date). Exposed brick walls and clever use of old wine barrels for bar-stools make for a warm and laid back environment. The restaurant doubles as a working cheese cellar where they age their house made cheeses.

The service was spot on the entire night and I have nothing to say except "Well Done". The food, though a bit on the pricier side, was fantastic. I sampled the French Onion Soup, "Worlds Best" Mac & Cheese, as well as one of their cheese plates and some prosciutto. The soup was a hot, flavorful masterpiece bursting with onions and cheese that would warm even the coldest of bellies. They melted the cheese not only on the top, but at the bottom of the bowl as well and topped it off with a toasty crouton that still retained some crunch throughout. Mac and Cheese followed the soup and, though I may not call it the "Worlds Best" it would certainly come in at a close second. Made with their one-year aged Flagship and their Just Jack cheeses, it was a piping hot, gooey delight that made me want to do a little dance.

Next up, their cheese plate and prosciutto. Here is where I thought their prices were a bit steep. The prosciutto, while beautifully tender, had only 4 small slices per plate. The Cheesemonger’s Three Cheese Plate had only 3 tiny wedges of cheese along with a fruit/nut pairing. Don't get me wrong, it was all fantastic, but for the price paid, I think they could have loaded the plates a little more.

Finally, the moment you have all waited for. COCKTAILS!!! I only sampled 2 out of their extensive list of drinks and wine. First up, the Elizabeth Tilton. This muddled blueberry and rum medley made me do a little dance in my chair. Not too sweet, not too tart it was the perfect drink to end an unusually warm day in the city.  If your a lover of summer fruits, then this is the drink for you. Then the ever mysterious, Grilled Cheese Martini. I have to admit, I thought that this was going to be horrendous, so imagine my surprise when I took my first sip, and smiled. The house made "Grilled Cheese" vodka, was not over powering and the surprise after-note of fresh basil at the end made it reminiscent of tomato soup, but with a kick. The Balsamic Reduction/Pancetta rim was jaw-droppingly good; like, eat it with a spoon kind of good and the tomato ice cube seemed to make the whole drink creamier as it melted. Overall, not a drink I would get again, only because I prefer slightly sweeter drinks, but if you enjoy a Bloody Mary then you will definitely enjoy this martini.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this restaurant. Its charming demeanor, friendly staff and memorable food/drinks would make for a lovely time had by all. Just make sure you ask for your tomato soup with a side of Grilled Cheese Vodka.

Till next time,

Love, Peace & Bacon Grease <3

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs...

A beautiful Sunday morning walking in and out of the shadows of giants, and I have a brunch reservation to get to. Enter Yotel. A new trendy hotel off of Times Square that opened earlier this summer. Here we have the home of Four @ Yotel where they serve an "Unlimited Small Plate and Cocktails" brunch.

The atmosphere; open spaces with an obvious Asian theme made apparent by the Japanese style tattoo art splashed all over the walls. An in house DJ and a very diverse crowd makes for good people watching and a furnished terrace for those who want to dine al-fresco. The cocktails were fantastic and free flowing; the Lychee Mimosa... WOW! What a perfect combination of fruit and champagne. Then there was the Sake Sangria; a powerfully deep purple wine punch that was smooth, velvety and refreshing all at once. Unfortunately, the food was something left to be desired, but there were a few dishes that made a lasting impression. The Chilaquiles, a Mexican fried egg dish with a black bean puree and salsa roja brought a welcomed taste of Latin cuisine in a predominantly Asian menu. The other dish I would recommend would be the Crispy Shrimp. They were perfect little shrimp poppers that packed quite a punch. Finally, the House Ground Meatballs. These succulent little bites were a superb explosion of Asian flavors, but they needed a rice or noodle accompaniment to balance them out.

Now, most of the other egg dishes were short of inedible. In every poached egg dish, the egg was practically raw, but the Sweet and Spicy Bacon dish had to be my biggest disappointment. Neither sweet nor spicy instead it looked chewy and soggy. It was so unappealing I didn't want to try it.

The service is where they lost me. Our waiter started off friendly and attentive, but quickly began to get orders wrong or forget them all together. His demeanor instantly changed when I asked him about a dish he had forgotten and became irate when the table next to us went through a similar situation. To me, this is a HUGE no-no.

Overall, I would say that this is an alright place. They suffer from inconsistent cooking and our waiter's attitude left a bad taste, but they do have good cocktails and some tolerable dishes. I probably won't return here unless I couldn't find somewhere better which shouldn't be too hard in New York. Stay tuned for tomorrows take on Grilled Cheese Martinis.

Love, Peace & Bacon Grease <3