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HOW-TO
Minty Fava Bean Dip

Ever since I discovered fava beans, I have become borderline obsessed. These spring season-celebrated pea pods are light, hyper-packed with vitamins, and low in fat compared to other beans. They take no time to cook, and their slightly overcooked mushiness makes them a perfect candidate for nothing other than a dip! They are also relatively inexpensive, allowing you to stock up without splurging. Feed the masses or freeze them for future use.

After many trials with spices and flavors, I've locked in this top-ranking recipe, which highlights the bright and fresh flavor of the fava. Spoiler alert: The secret ingredient is FRESH MINT. And I forewarn, you may just give up chickpea hummus all together after whippin' this dip. (Gasp) Blasphemy!

RESTAURANT 101
Habana Tapas is a True Taste of Cuba in Brooklyn

Any Miami native is familiar with the ubiquity of Cuban cuisine. It is not treated as a special “ethnic” food as it often is here in the big NY; it is simply the sustenance of the land. It is no surprise to find pastelitos de carne at the gas station or a supermarket stand doling out shots of rich Bustelo while you grocery shop. Spoiled with this kind of accessibility, this Miami Cuban finds it uber frustrating when she cannot find a decent croqueta or ropa vieja without an exorbitant price tag in New York City. Well all of my angst was put to ease when I discovered Habana Tapas, newly opened in the southern “Slope” of Brooklyn.

RESTAURANT 101
Izakaya Brings Japanese Tapas to Brooklyn

I spent three weeks in Japan, sustaining myself on the cuisine of the land. I spent one hour in Izakaya on Smith Street in Brooklyn and rediscovered that authentic taste without having to endure that 13-hour flight again, thankfully. The newly opened Japanese tapas restaurant (from co-owners Charlie Tanjung and chef Tani Halim) combines my favorite style of eating (small tasting portions) with one of my favorite foods. And if you think Japanese is all sushi, think again (something this American heartbreakingly discovered in Japan). With only a fourth of the menu dedicated to raw fish on rice, Izakaya (the namesake referring to this communal and casual style of Japanese dining) offers an overabundance of tasting fare. From hot and cold appetizers and large plates, to salads, soup bowls, noodles, curry dishes and grilled yakitori skewers, it is difficult to pick your spread, especially with such reasonable prices. We grabbed a table by the window in this 44-seat modern space with sleek black tables and globed ceiling lanterns and began a diverse sampling.

CULINARY OCCASIONS
Summer BBQ Blowout Coverage

As the name implies, barbecue was the challenge and a few standouts stepped up to it with their sample plates. Namely, the team behind Dos Torros with their succulent shreds of pork layered into a warm soft taco with melted cheese, a heap of fresh pineapple guacamole and a generous squeeze of sweet and spicy BBQ sauce. Also supremely savory was the grilled baby quail from Dizzy's Club set atop a delicious yogurt-dressed slaw with a juicy Mandarin orange wedge. (I most certainly had seconds from each of these contenders, but let's keep that on the down-low.)

If you were there, you know what I'm talking about. If you weren't, let these photos paint a picture for your palate.

RESTAURANT 101
CVI.CHE 105

One of the things I can always count on when returning to my native Miami is dirt-cheap authentic Cuban food - the sustenance of my heritage. But now, with Miami's booming culinary scene congregating in the resurgent Downtown and the newly created Midtown, that good quality at affordable prices is true for other cuisines as well. Miamians are broadening while fine-tuning their culinary palates, and Peruvian Chef Juan Chipoco knows it.

In September 2008, Chipoco opened a brilliant restaurant centered around the cuisine of his homeland in the heart of downtown - a risky move (that paid off) in an area that is known to transform into a ghost-town at the close of office hours. The playfully named CVI.CHE 105 (pronounced ce-vi-che) was the word on the street upon my recent visit back to South Florida, and the packed, boisterous sleekly-clad space proved it. On a random downtown street, lined with empty storefronts advertising the "coming soons," CVI.CHE 105 had guests pouring out the door on an early Sunday evening. I squeezed my way through the disproportionately cramped waiting area to find a grand gray and white concrete expanse flecked with bright Caribbean colors and numerous occupied tables. First turn-off: the noise level is almost too much to bear, bouncing off the lofty walls and floor. First turn on: mounds of fresh fish ceviche were piled high on pretty white plates being doled out one after another from the ceviche bar at the front of the house. My stomach was rumbling. Next thing I see: Chef Chipoco standing solidly, arms crossed observing what I was observing but with a different eye. Mine, longing. His, scrutinizing. Talk about pressure in the kitchen. He almost made me nervous. But his overbearing attentiveness gets the job done; his food is spectacular. His hands-on approach wafts from the kitchen to the house as well, personally greeting guests at each table with pointed eye contact, a firm handshake, and an immaculately white smile. To assume he is meticulous man would be more than fair. And it radiates through his menu.
CULINARY OCCASIONS
NYC Restaurant Week Extended through Labor Day!

Foodies can breathe a sigh of relief now that NYC's 20th annual Restaurant Week has been extended until September 5th. But don't get too comfortable. Reservations are already going like hot cakes for the food fiasco. This is the rare opportunity for you to get a teasing taste of all the restaurants on your wish list for a fraction of the cost. Participating restaurants create three-course menus for lunch ($24.07) and/or dinner ($35), usually with a few options to choose from within each course. (Just know that drinks, taxes, and gratuities are not included.)

CULINARY OCCASSIONS
BBQ Blowout Festival

Nothing screams summer like a dance block party with stellar food and music. Finger on the Pulse (the twin team of Darin & Greg Bresnitz) brings this to you August 6th at City Winery.

What makes the food stellar? Only that they will be the creations of 10 standout NYC chefs: Sam Mason (Tailor / Empire Mayo / Lady Jays), Phillip Kirschen-Clark (Vandaag), Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar), Sam Talbot (Imperial No 9 / Surf Lodge), NoahBernamoff (Mile End), Thomas Kelly & David Schillace (Mexicue), Jenny McCoy (Craft), TimSullivan (Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola), Daniel Holzman (The MeatballShop) and Oliver Kremer & Tyler Lohman (Dos Toros). Not too shabby.