Dopo East: Fresh, Organic Italian Cuisine With a Contemporary Twist

Helmed by the proprietors of Trattoria Dopo Teatro in Times Square, Dopo East in the Upper East Side is a townhouse fashioned into a modern Italian restaurant with a rustic charm. It’s easy to forget that you’re dining at a restaurant until the waiter comes over with the menu. “Would you like sparkling or distilled water?” he asks politely. And then he hands you the wine menu, where the list ends at the bottom of the second page.

The wine is curated from various sections of the globe, and a popular one is the Prosecco Abati Regali, a sparkling Italian wine that goes very well with most dishes, especially pasta and seafood.

Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” plays gently in the background as the waiters shuffle around the townhouse in their crisp black and white uniform, lowering platters of colorful Italian cuisine in front of customers. This would be ideal for a romantic date night.

Big City Tavern Offers More Than You'd Expect

I love this DIY craze that’s been hitting the American food scene! With all the attention that consumers are placing on where things come from and how they’re made, it seems as if many individuals have resorted to the notion that the best way to know the exact what, where, and how of a product is to make it yourself. In addition to controlling such things as the quality and sustainability of the food, making it yourself gives you full reign over the flavor and appearance of a finished product, as well as enabling you to add your own unique flourishes. The DIY revolution doesn’t seem to be merely confined to the home, however, as many chefs are finding more and more items that they can make from scratch, attempting everything from jams, pickles, condiments, and even cured meats...and they don’t seem to be turning back. I am so glad to see that, along with sourcing local products, the trend of making things in house is on the rise in South Florida and can be found a lot closer than I had previously thought. Big City Tavern, on the bustling Las Olas Boulevard, has always been a popular spot for good, informal meals and a convivial vibe, but I have often overlooked this restaurant as a mere purveyor of standard pub fare until a recent meal led me to discover otherwise. Local meat and produce coupled with excellently cured house-made charcuterie, along with a delicious array of homey desserts make Big City Tavern perhaps one of Fort Lauderdale’s best “right-under-our-noses” culinary secrets.

Sushisamba Introduces Desserts Galore

Sushisamba, the well-known ethnic restaurant that has spots on Park Ave. and 7th Ave., is no stranger to keeping things fresh. They are constantly introducing new characters to their menu; such as their innovative quinoa rolls and their summer brunch menu.

Sushisamba is stepping up their game once again with new additions, this time, to their dessert menu! Pastry Chef Michelle Duran wanted "to bring innovative and interesting ingredients to the menu, which will keep our guests guessing and coming back for more."

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts

There’s only one word you can use to describe the weather in New York City—HOT! The heat is enough to drive a seemingly sane person to do unnatural things. The price of air conditioners and energy bills will certainly go up but don’t let this heat allow you to loose your cool. Fight off your stress with summertime comfort food: ice cream. And we’re not just talking plain vanilla or chocolate, let the heat sway you to try some crazy, innovative flavors.

Jennifer Welser and Jonathan Baker allowed their disappointment in cookie dough ice cream drive them to create their own versions of the flavor of which a growing number of people just can not seem to get enough. Flavors like Earl Grey Ice Cream with Shortbread Cookie Dough and Cardamom Ice Cream with Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough certainly don’t ring a bell to most people. They even have a treat for those with a more strict diet in Vegan Coconut Milk Ice Cream with Gluten-Free Chocolate Coconut Macaroon—perhaps it’d be easier to order if you just point.

Must Go: Donatella Arpaia's Namesake, Donatella

The golden mosaic tiles of the pizza oven of Donatella Arpaia’s namesake restaurant, Donatella, acts as a beacon calling to diners, “come inside, you look hungry. I’ll cook something for you” just as countless Neapolitan mothers have done for centuries. Once you’re off the busy streets of Chelsea, sit down at one of Donatella’s marble topped tables, drink a glass of the finest Italian Campanian wines, and snack on a plate of crostinis while you painstakingly decide which of the pizzas you plan to try. Keep in mind though; Donatella’s is not your typical New York City Neapolitan pizza-focused restaurant. Donatella Arpaia, who is a recurring guest judge on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” series, a contributor to NBC’s “Today Show,” as well as being behind a number of successful restaurants, such as Kefi and Dona, feels that Donatella is her most personal endeavor to date. Her goal for Donatella was to capture the traditional foods she enjoyed while summering in Naples during her childhood and bring them to New York. By using authentic and fresh ingredients (We mean fresh as in picked up from customs that very morning.) Donatella celebrates not only the famed pizza of the region but the pastas, desserts, and wines as well.

Zac Young Knows How to Sweet Talk

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Err…maybe not. But, at least for red carpet regulars, it is a pretty glamorous season. And while most of us won’t necessarily have the opportunity to decide between the Versace and the Valentino, we can still invite our besties over to cheer for the winners and play a few rounds of “guess who bought more Botox?” We're talking about the nominees, obvi!

To bring a bit more flavor to these uber-tasteful soirees, First Course grabbed a seat in the sweet kitchen of Flex Mussels’ Executive Pastry Chef (and former Top Chef: Just Desserts cheftestant) Zac Young. Check out Zac’s suggestions for the ultimate awards season dessert party and why everything is better with bacon.

2011 New England Dessert Showcase

The 2011 New England Dessert Showcase is a “must” event for anyone who loves sweets. Hosted by The Anthem Group on Saturday, September 17 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, the event featured various premiere dessert exhibitors from around New England.

There were a million different ways to indulge my sweet tooth at this event. My first stop was the O’Sugar! Cakery table, designed by Rago Events, displaying an assortment of pastries and chocolates on a fantastical pink and orange spread of flowers, cupcake stands and Willy-Wonka-esque cakes. To taste were a variety of cake and cake pops in red velvet, strawberry shorcake, snickers, and carrot cake.

Grapefruit Pie

With all the success of the infamous Key Lime Pie why didn't anyone ever think to try grapefruit as a citrus component for a tasty summer dessert? If you love the sweet and tart flavor of grapefruit, you will enjoy this soon-to-be family favorite.

Grapefruit Pie:

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup grapefruit juice (about 1 ½ grapefruits)
  • zest of one grapefruit
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grapefruit pulp
National Macaron Day at Chicago French Market

May 31st is National Macaron Day, and for those of you looking to get your French fix, Chicago French Market is the place to go. Celebrate the delicate pastry at Chicago French Market's many vendors including Vanille Patisserie and Delightful Pastries.

Personally, I'm partial to Vanille's pillowy sandwich cookies, made with the finest ground almonds and smooth ganache fillings. Flavors like rose, pistachio, coffee, and chocolate-covered orange peel are not only visually tantalizing, but live up to high expectations of taste as well. Yummiest of them all was the passion fruit-coconut macaron, which has convinced me that piña coladas are just a poor man's substitute for this tropical flavor combination. Each macaron is $1.50 individually, but the more you buy, the less expensive they are. So stock up!

Sweet Enough To Say "I DO"!

Springtime is here and it tis’ the season for fabulous, extravagant WEDDINGS! This is the day every little girl dreams about, where perfection is seen in every corner (hopefully). Gorgeous flower arrangements fill the room, elaborate tables are carefully decorated, and the beautiful bride is wearing her more than perfect white dress! Besides the Bride and Groom, what is the most eye-catching part of a wedding? The Cake!

The Cake represents the finale of a wonderful reception filled with friends and family! This dessert is said to date back to Roman times, making it a western tradition. A wedding cake is filled with meaning, having each tier represent a part of this new journey the couple will take while the cutting of the cake is a symbol of a new partnership the newly weds will embark on.