Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Rosemary’s: Not Worth the Trip

Dedicated to eating at farm-to-table, fresh, and organic restaurants, I just had to visit Rosemary’s. It is one of the places to go to for healthy and quality food in Manhattan. When I searched for new restaurants of the sort, Rosemary’s kept popping up. TimeOut, Culture Trip, Guest of a Guest: they all feature Rosemary’s among the best such locales in the City. But, I did not see it. It was just, well, ok.

I walked into the restaurant very excited, of course. At first, I was not disappointed. There was an inviting environment to it. Very naturally  lit, very open, very low-key. Located in the West Village (I have a bias towards the Downtown-ish neighborhoods for restaurants),  I expected it to be very authentic and thought the food would be delicious. It even has its own rooftop garden: how cool!

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I ordered a caprese focaccia, which comes with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella; a carbonara pasta; and an orange juice, which came with exotic ingredients. I know: orange juice and an Italian lunch are not the best mix. But I was at this hip restaurant that had its own private garden, so I wanted to be healthy. I said to myself: take a chance; order the juice.

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I should have stuck with a pinot grigio. It was a regular orange juice. I did not feel that natural texture and taste to it or any of those other quirky ingredients. Whatever.

The focaccia was very fluffy and bready, and the pasta was very creamy and oily. I even just started eating separately the bits of bacon in the end: the pasta just bored me.

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Honestly, I did not feel that the food was masterful at all. It was just very standard and regular. It was not truly Italian, and I do not know if it was truly farm-to-table. If I had not been told, I would have thought that the ingredients were bought at a supermarket. And that juice could perfectly pass for a Tropicana product. They definitely do have a good marketing team, so kudos for that. And maybe it was just that in wintertime their garden is not in use. But I would not recommend this place to anyone. To me, it is the Times Square of farm-to-table restaurants.

Sorry for this negative review or for this rant, but I feel it necessary to report the good and the bad. The main takeaway to Rosemary’s is: just don’t.

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Eggloo: Your Waffle Cone Doesn’t Get Much Fresher

Can I just say, you have to check this place out!

I had friends who had told me about this place, but I never realized it was in Chinatown until I Google mapped the location. Upon arrival, I realized I had passed by this little gem many times before. I was glad to finally be checking it out now though.

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I went on a Saturday afternoon, so it was pretty busy inside. It is a small space, with only really “seating” (really just standing) by the window.

They have their menu posted on the entrance wall, and I was surprised by the assortment of options they had. The best part is, when you order a cone or sundae, you get unlimited toppings! This alone makes this ice cream stop great since most places will charge you around 75¢ for toppings.

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I ordered at the register and since there were so many people there, I had to wait a while for my order. They make everything as it is ordered, including the waffles which are shaped either for the sundae cup or made into a cone. The waffles themselves even come in 3 different flavors; I went with the Original for my first time.

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It was a lot of fun to watch them make every order and see what creations other people requested. I did end up having to wait maybe 10-15 minutes for my ice cream to finally be made, but it was worth the short delay.

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They did an amazing job decorating my cone and placing my large number of toppings on top. I love how they made it into a spectrum of rainbowed colors, something I had not expected when ordering.

The waffle was warm and freshly baked, making the combination of it all a heavenly gift. I saw many people sharing the cone with friends and families, but I really recommend getting your own to enjoy because while it may look like a lot, the Eggloo treat disappears fast.

I really look forward to my next visit! I plan on trying the sundae version next time!

Café Viva: The Unexpected Vegan Haven

With midterms coming around, I didn’t have time for a sit-down meal, but still wanted to indulge in a tasty, healthy, meal. That’s when I found Café Viva. I was struck by the variety of items they had, from vegan pizza and gluten free pizzas on spelt, corn, or whole wheat crust to salads to pasta and calzones. I finally settled on a slice of Zen Pizza (vegan) and a vegan Pasta Bolognese.

The order arrived within twenty minutes, thirty minutes earlier than Seamless had predicted.

Café Viva: Broadway Avenue (between 93rd and 94th Street)

Zen Pizza (Vegan):

Green tea herb, miso-tofu, green tea basil pesto, shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomato, and roasted garlic on a green tea herb spelt crust.

I didn’t expect much since I had never tried green tea and tofu on pizza, and had never really considered pizza as “healthy,” but I was pleasantly surprised.

2017-04-07 18.08.59-2The pizza had an overall herby scent, and the shiitake mushrooms and green tea worked surprisingly well together. The sun-dried tomatoes were rather acidic, however, and overpowered the other flavors. The miso-tofu was also rather dry and flimsy – by the end, I was just eating the tofu and mushrooms alone (san-crust). Despite the flimsiness, however, the flavors blended very well in a zen-like manner.

Pasta Bolognese (Vegan)

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Café Viva offers both Linguini and Penne Pasta options, and I ordered the Linguini option. The meat sauce was extremely fresh, and the pasta was the perfect texture.

The 2017-04-07 18.09.48portion is extremely large (especially so after finishing a whole slice of pizza), and there was ample sauce. Although the pasta did not look particularly appetizing, it tasted heavenly.

The pasta came with bread, but it was overly salted on the inside and under-seasoned on the crust.

I will definitely go to the Café Viva store next time to sample some more of their other vegan pizzas and pastas.

Big Booty Takes the Cake

While searching for bakeries within walking distance of my office downtown, I stumbled upon Big Booty Bread Company, and of course, I was first struck by the playful name.  But then I scrolled through the menu, and the Latin American-inspired pastries sounded too good to resist, particularly the namesake booty buns.

The exterior
The exterior

Escaping the harsh winds of New York and stepping into a cozy niche in Chelsea was the perfect conclusion to a long day at work, and I was immediately impressed by the relaxed atmosphere of the location, devoid of the pretentious attitude that some patisseries have.  Dining alone that day, I definitely welcomed the calm.  There was an expansive display cabinet and counter at the front of the store, while the back contained simple wooden tables, topped with flower vases.  There were also some examples of apparel hanging on the wall, and I might have to return again just to purchase a shirt that reads, I <3 Big Booty.

The seating area
The seating area

I arrived with a very clear sense of what I was going to order (having already scoured the menu), but the packed display case made me pause because all of the fresh pastries and baked goods were so tempting.  Beyond cupcakes and cookies, Big Booty also offers paleo and gluten-free options with a Latin American flavor, like a cheese bun or guava pocket.  I probably could have ordered one of everything, but I decided to stick to my original order: one strawberry booty bun (a brioche bun stuffed with strawberries and topped with sugar) and a ham and cheese empanada with chimmichurri sauce, completed with a half tea, half lemonade.

Just some of the delicious looking pastries
Just some of the delicious looking pastries

The warm empanada melted in my mouth, and the sauce added that little bit of kick to put it over the top.  The booty bun was the perfect complement, with a crunchy, sugar-coated exterior with a soft bread in the middle.  I will definitely be returning to Big Booty Bread Company, so I can sample all of the booty bun flavors because one just wasn’t enough.

My empanada, booty bun, and drink
My empanada, booty bun, and drink

Narcissa at The Standard, East Village

Narcissa was a very happy find for me. Looking for farm-to-table restaurants is not exactly the easiest task. Thankfully and despite the lack of several choices, I am thrilled to have discovered Narcissa.

Walking in, I thought I had come across a 21st century Garden of Eden. Its design is very modern and sleek. Wood panels, white marble countertops, colorful pieces, and abundant flowers can be found inside. There is a beautiful lush garden that highlights the restaurant’s farm-to-table take. All of this is made more idyllic by ubiquitous bright light. It is fresh and green, yet manicured and neat.

Since it was brunch and I was in such a nature-inspired restaurant, I wanted to order something cool and different. Yet, I ordered a burger. This can seem to be a rather basic plate, but with the right ingredients and in the right place, it can be magnificent.

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And it was. It was accompanied by guacamole, Manchego cheese, and a spicy orange sauce. Need I say anything else? It was pure perfection. A mixture of very diverse flavors blended in my mouth each time I took a bite from this moist dish. When the guacamole fell off the other end of the burger, I grabbed a knife and rubbed it back unto the burger. I think that pretty much sums it up.FullSizeRender

I would return any day to this inviting, cozy, hip, and elegant locale!

16 Handles

Location: 325 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY, 10023

Hours: 12:00 PM to 11:30 PM (Mon-Thurs and Sunday), 12:00 PM to 11:30 PM (Fri-Sat)

I love healthy food, but I also love frozen yogurt. The compromise? Get a green smoothie from a frozen yogurt shop. I had bookmarked 16 Handles since the beginning of the semester for its raving reviews on Yelp. It did not disappoint.

Located on Amsterdam Avenue between 75th and 76th, 16 Handles was extremely easy to locate, especially with its lively music and brightly lit environment. There is a wide range of options for frozen yogurt, with low fat, fat free, gluten free, and vegan options, and fresh fruit amongst other toppings. What caught my eye, however, were their green smoothies.

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I ordered an “Oh Kale Yeah!” smoothie made of fresh IQF pineapple, banana, spinach, kale, coconut water, and white grape juice. There are no artificial ingredients or ice. The staff was extremely friendly, inviting me to test out their new frozen yogurt flavors while I waited for my smoothie.

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Expecting a more starchy bland smoothie, I was blown away. The smoothie was not extremely heavy, and provided a nice citrus-y freshness. While the banana seemed overpowering at first, it blends extremely well with the spinach and kale, which tone down its flavor. The natural sweetness of the white grape juice balances the acidity from the pineapple, allowing me to enjoy every sip I took. The spinach and kale substantiate the smoothie, making it slightly more filling. This was definitely the best green smoothie I’ve had in a long time, and believe me, I drink a lot of green smoothies! I am addicted! The “Oh Kale Yeah” would be perfect after a workout, or just for a slight healthy boost before shopping at the Sephora nearby.

Green smoothies in a frozen yogurt shop: unexpected, but extremely well-made.

Hope you had a great break, and till next time!

Fiona

 

 

Juice Generation

644 9th Ave, New York NY 10036 (Between 45th and 46th St)

Mon–Sat: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

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This healthy little gem is located on 9th Ave, between 45th and 46th St. It’s not too far from the Times Square subway station, making it very accessible if you’re shopping nearby. This famous chain also has many other locations, including one on 117 W 72nd St, which is much closer to campus. While the physical store is quite small and has no seating available, they have a wide variety of options. 2017-02-18 16.44.13

Need a quick pick-me-up?  They have healthy juices and smoothies. Want something more filling? They have nicely portioned açai bowls, vegan lunch options (rolls, burgers, and noodles), and vegan pastries. What is unique about this chain is their “juice farmacy,” which is made up of small drinks with jam-packed nutrients. One such drink is the “lemon lozenge,” a blend of lemons, cayenne, and ginger, to help clear an irritating cold.

I ordered a “Green Guardian” smoothie and a “Jackpot!” açaí bowl, while my friend ordered an “I Heart Watermelon” smoothie, sweetened with agave and an “Almond Butter Bliss” açaí bowl. For smoothies, you have the option of almond milk or hemp milk and you can sweeten them with either agave or dates.

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“I Heart Watermelon” Smoothie and Almond Bliss Açaí Bowl

“I Heart Watermelon” Smoothie: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon.

Overall, the smoothie had a nice balance of sweetness and acidity, and was not too overpowering. The first note of the smoothie had a very strong raspberry taste with a subtle hint of watermelon that was gradually brought out upon further tasting. It was very light compared to the “Green Guardian,” with a more liquid texture (as opposed to starchy), and would be perfect for a post-workout refreshment.

“Almond Butter Bliss” Açaí Bowl: açaí, almond butter, almond milk, banana, coconut shavings, hemp granola, and strawberries.

The “Almond Butter Bliss” açaí bowl had an overall extremely nutty flavor that my friend thought was slightly overpowering. The bowl could have used slightly more acidity with the addition of more citrus-y flavors. Interestingly, she tasted a hint of chocolate milk, which could have been caused by the mixture of almond milk and banana.

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“Jackpot!” Açaí Bowl and “Green Guardian” Smoothie

“Jackpot!” Açaí Bowl: açaí, almond milk, banana, coconut oil, coconut shavings, hemp granola, jackfruit, kiwi, and strawberries.

The açaí bowl was actually more liquid-y than I had expected, and didn’t look too appetizing by looks alone. I was blown away by the taste. The textures in the bowl brought a nice variety and they struck a perfect harmony between the chewy and crispy granola, the tarte fruit, and liquid-y açai. The nutty flavor contrasts the typical sweet and sour açai bowl and provides a nice base note. Kiwi is an unusual fruit to add into açai bowls, but it definitely works here and provides the desired citrus-y acidity. The fruit used in my açaí bowl was really fresh. After eating this açaí bowl, I felt a lot healthier and even  refreshed!

Green Guardian” Smoothie:  avocado, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, spinach, strawberries, and swiss chard.

At first, I regretted my decision to order this smoothie. It was rather bland compared with the “I Heart Watermelon,” and I wished that I had chosen to sweeten the smoothie with dates or agave. The smoothie was rather starchy and thick. About half way through the smoothie, it was difficult to obtain any more liquid and I had to constantly poke around the cup. The more I drank, however, the more my opinion of this smoothie improved. The almond milk fragrance became more identifiable and there even seemed to be a banana-like taste in the background. Definitely sweeten the smoothie if you order this drink!

Juice Generation has a nice variety of healthy options and I can’t wait to try out the many other options that it offers.

Till next time!

Fiona

Sedutto – Unexpected Ice Cream Haven

I love ice cream. Coming to New York City, I’ve made it my mission to  try all the ice cream shops the city has to offer.

Working a job on the Upper East Side, I spent my night looking forward to a late-night treat. I had not really known much about Sedutto before visiting but had it bookmarked on my Maps as an ice cream shop to try. I was more than pleasantly surprised to find the shop lighting up the corner of 78th and 1st Ave.

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I walked in to find a cheerful yet modern shop with a plethora of flavors, toppings, and choices. Having trouble making decisions, it took me a few minutes to get my bearings. They had over 40 flavors of hard ice cream, ranging from Red Velvet to Pumpkin to Banana Fudge to Green Tea. There was two full freezers in front with a list of more that they had in the back. They also had several soft serve ice cream choices. To narrow my options, I just considered the hard ice cream flavors. While contemplating what I should order, the man behind the counter let me taste try a few samples, one being Red Velvet.  I finally decided on Birthday Cake and Midnight Cookies in Cream, two of their most popular flavors, in a cookie crumb waffle cone. I was amazed at the varieties of cones they offered. They had multiple speciality waffle cones in unique flavors like birthday cake, and of course the classic cake and sugar cones.
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With the first bite of my ice cream I knew this place was a hit. Of all the other ice cream places I had tried so far, this was definitely the best quality. The Birthday Cake flavor was undeniably frosting sweet and had wonderful cake chucks perfectly mixed in. I often order this flavor, and Sedutto’s version was definitely one of the best. Reaching Midnight Cookies and Cream, I was amazed at the stark contrast between the sugary cake-like ice cream and a decidedly rich chocolate flavor. Midnight Cookies and Creams successfully combines the depth of chocolate with the classic taste of cookies and cream. My cookie waffle cone held up well, and the ice cream was hard set, allowing me to leisurely take my time-consuming this richly flavored ice cream.

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I was sad when I finally reached the bottom of my cone, but I look forward to returning and trying some of the other hard-to-find flavors.. This ice cream shop is definitely a gem that does not get the attention it deserves. 
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ABC Cocina

ABC Cocina is Jean-Georges’s Ibero-American take on its famous sister restaurant, ABC Kitchen. It is an airy, hip, and modern place located in the Flatiron District that manages to marvelously mix the city with nature.

The restaurant has a very cozy feel to it, filled with a very young and refreshing crowd of urbanites. Dimly lit by an abundance of widespread lights throughout the restaurant, it has a very natural look. I was glad to notice the silence that permeated the place: not due to a lack of customers but because of spacing arrangements to give customers a very individual experience.

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The menu has abundant influences from the Spanish and the Mexican kitchens. There are plenty of tapas options, reminiscent of a Madrid restaurant, from jamón ibérico to octopus. There are also many tacos and corn-heavy plates that show its Mexican influence. All of these plates feature a noticeable twist from the norm with their farm-to-table attributes and healthy ingredients. Fruits, plants, and spices are highlighted throughout the menu as the centerpiece of the site.

I chose to have a more Latin American experience by ordering guacamoleempanadas, and finally flan. They were all wonderfully splendid. The guacamole came with tortillas, a red, mildly spicy sauce, and nutty seeds in it that gave it a fresh taste. The empanadas were absolutely amazing. They were filled with moist mushrooms and accompanied by a green chili sauce. Lastly, the milky flan was incredibly soft; it dissolved in my mouth.

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This place is a must!

Irving Farms Coffee Roasters

Now that finals are upon us, I decided to try a coffee shop closer to campus so that I wouldn’t spend too much time away from my work. I wish I had known ahead of time that Irving Farms’ location on W. 79th St is the perfect place to study. The second I walked in, I noticed the comforting and trendy atmosphere as well as the multitude of tables. Unlike most coffee shops in Manhattan, which are extremely cramped, Irving Farms’ location on the Upper West Side is massive. This location has both a front room and a back room, each of which are larger than most New York coffee shops. Though it was quite crowded, I was still able to find a table because the shop was so large. I encountered numerous students who definitely had made Irving Farms their frequent coffee shop because they had come prepared with all of their studying materials.

The display case
The display case

In addition to the multitude of coffee options available, there is also a menu for those looking to have a meal while enjoying their coffee. I decided to take advantage of both. I ordered a medium vanilla latte and a caprese sandwich with Narragansett fresh mozzarella, slow- roasted tomatoes, and homemade seasonal pesto on a ciabatta. My latte was probably the best latte I have had in a long time. The sandwich was also delicious, but nothing out of the ordinary. Though both my latte and sandwich tasted delicious, honestly, they did not compliment each other. I still enjoyed both, but I would have enjoyed them more if I had tried each separately.

Medium vanilla latte
Medium vanilla latte
Caprese sandwich
Caprese sandwich

I definitely plan on going back to Irving Farms and next time, I will be sure to bring studying materials with me. It is definitely the perfect place to study during exams if you are looking for a calming atmosphere that isn’t too crowded (the exact opposite of Butler). I also look forward to trying another one of their many other locations in Manhattan. I would recommend this coffee shop to anyone looking for good coffee and/or food as well as students looking for a nice spot to study.