Category Archives: Food Destinations & Neighborhood Eats

Looking for a quick tip on where to eat in a destination? How about what’s good on the menu too? We have you covered.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo

You may have heard of Kalamazoo from one of the many popular songs about the city – from Glenn Miller to Ben Folds Five to my favorite, Walt Kelly’s Deck Us All with Boston Charlie – or poems, including one by Carl Sandberg. Kalamazoo has many nicknames, including Windmill City, Celery City, Mall City, and Paper City; it is the home of the Kalamazoo Promise, which offers college tuition to Kalamazoo Public School students. It is a city of entrepreneurship and hard work, including Upjohn Pharmaceuticals, The Peppermint King, Checker Cabs, Gibson Guitars (this is a very musical city), paper mills, and medical innovations, like those of orthopedic surgeon Dr. Stryker, who invented the cast-cutting saw and a turning bed frame.

History of Kalamazoo at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo
History of Kalamazoo at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum

The name Kalamazoo is a Potawatomi Indian expression, meaning boils like a pot (one look at the surface of the Kalamazoo River and you will nod your head in agreement). This is a vibrant small town with more diversity than you’d expect, thanks to the large corporations in town, as well as Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College. That means good food! There’s a fantastic farmer’s market, and plenty of great food trucks (both at the farmer’s market, and downtown at Bronson Park during lunch and events).

Kalamazoo Public Library. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo
Inside the Kalamazoo Public Library

Speaking of Bronson Park, so much surrounds this public space – my favorite library, the Institute of Arts, the Civic Theatre – and it was the center of a deadly tornado, in 1980. Town founder Titus Bronson slept here in 1831, on his first night before settling in and founding the town; President Lincoln spoke here, as did Stephen A. Douglas, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, and both John and Robert Kennedy. Today, you’ll hear bands in the bandshell and see kids splashing in the fountains in summer, and in winter, you can walk among the holiday lights.

Be alert when driving around town – you might catch a glimpse of the famous Banana Car! Kalamazoo is about 140 miles from Detroit and Chicago, and less than 35 miles from South Haven, if you’d like to see Lake Michigan on Michigan’s Sunset Coast.

It was extremely difficult to narrow these categories down. Kalamazoo is a food town, I’m lucky to say. I’m sure this won’t be the last you’ll hear this from me.

Breakfast at Nina's cafe. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo
Breakfast at Nina’s cafe.

Breakfast: Nina’s Café
Since 1998, locals have been flocking to Nina’s café for their excellent, home-cooked breakfasts and friendly atmosphere. You’ll find people of all kinds here, but there’s one thing they have in common: they love a good breakfast. It’s a small diner-type restaurant, with under a dozen tables and some stools at the counter. Most of the bread is homemade, so ask when you order. They also serve lunch, but I’ve never tried that – WHO CAN RESIST a breakfast menu?

My Suggestion: Anything with hash browns. They are crispy, crunchy, and oh, so delicious. Eggs of any form are delicious, and be sure to try the biscuits and sausage gravy if you love them (ahem, me). Or the corned beef hash (ahem, me). And the homemade toast? Yes…

Price $5- $10
Hours 6:30am- 2:30pm every day except Sunday, 8am-2:30pm
Address 1710 W Main St
Phone (269) 373-6462
Website http://www.ninas-cafe.com/

Second Breakfast (Bakery)
There’s only one place to send you, and I hope that you’ve worked off breakfast, because Sarkozy’s Bakery is extraordinary. I’ve eaten their oatmeal bread my entire life, and their pastries are the epitome of deliciousness. On weekends, you’ll find live music from local musicians, and definitely pop in during Art Hop. If you’re coming to the area, sign up for Judy Sarkozy’s email list – it’s not only interesting, and a behind-the-scenes look at running a bakery, but you’ll also learn about local ingredients and and special offerings (paw paws this fall, paczkis for Fat Tuesday). You can get meals, too – quiche, soups, etc. – but save room for lunch!

Sarkozy Bakery's apple pies. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo
Sarkozy Bakery’s apple pies

My Suggestion:  I can’t decide. So I will give you several. The Chocolate Croissant is luscious. The Almond pastry – divine. The Cookies. The Apple pies, crisp flaky, with a tender Michigan apple filling with just the right amount of cinnamon and crunchy turbinado sugar. Hold on, I’ll be right back…

Price pastries are $2-4.
Hours Monday-Friday7:30am –5pm, Saturday7:30am–4pm, Sunday 8am–2 pm
Address 350 E Michigan Ave
Phone (269) 342-1952
Website under construction, try http://www.yelp.com/biz/sarkozy-bakery-kalamazoo-2

Lunch: Saffron
Let’s just pause a minute for the joy that is freshly baked naan. Now, pause another minute for this gorgeous salad with pomegranates. Do you want to eat anything else? The answer, at Saffron, is a resounding yes.

Composed salad at Saffron's lunch buffet. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo
Composed salad at Saffron’s lunch buffet – look at those pomegranates!

My Suggestion: When you walk into Saffron and view the wonder that is the lunch buffet, you know you won’t need a menu. EVERYTHING on the buffet is delicious. Highlights for me are the composed salad that we definitely need a recipe for, tandoori chicken, chicken curry, and many other delicious dishes, but best of all, finishing up with a creamy rice pudding studded with my favorite spice, cardamom.

Price buffet $11, entrees around $15 at lunch
Hours M-Th, 11:30am-2pm, 5-9:15pm; F 11:30am-2pm, 5-10pm; Sat 12-2:30pm, 5-10pm. Closed Sundays
Address 1710 W Main St (yes, just a few doors down from Nina’s)
Phone (269) 381-9898
Website http://saffronkzoo.com/

Coffeeshop: Something’s Brewing
There are several contenders for this spot (Black Owl,  my favorite coffee in town, but closes at 3pm ; Water Street, crowded at times but open late; Chocolatea, but far down in Portage). The one that rose to the top like foam atop steamed milk is Something’s Brewing. Located just across the street from the main library, this is a small coffeeshop with a big heart. Kalamazoo’s original coffeeshop (opening in 1994), the shop has new owners in the last few years, and they know how to bake. I tell EVERY SINGLE PERSON about their homemade cinnamon pop-tarts. They have luscious chai latte ice cream smoothies in summer (!), and delicious drinks year round. The barista is so friendly that you feel welcome every time. Plus, she can turn a great espresso.

Something's Brewing, Kalamazoo. Fromi8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo
Something’s Brewing menu board. I know, so hard to choose…

My Suggestion: Frankly? Anything on the menu; I especially love the mochas. Our daughter gets the peanut butter peppermint mocha and swoons. I like their atmosphere (it’s small!) and the comfy chairs at the back, or the outside seating in the summer. If you like iced coffee, they use coffee ice cubes – a genius trick for not watered down iced coffee. Check their facebook page (their only web presence) for the baked goodies of the day. If you see the cinnamon pop-tarts, RUN. They sell out fast.

Price under $5
Hours M-F, 6am-5pm, Saturday 8am-1pm, closed Sundays
Address 120 W South St
Phone (269) 349-1295
Website https://www.facebook.com/SBCoffeeKzoo/

Happy Hour
Kalamazoo is the center of Michigan’s craft brewing scene, so if you love beer, you can’t go wrong in this town, annually named as a top beer town in the US (here’s a beer map to all 14 breweries). Perhaps the most recognized craft brewery is Bell’s (try their Oberon Ale, in the summer). But with a slew of breweries, where to go?

Arcadia Ales. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo
Arcadia Ales

My Suggestion: Head to Arcadia Ales. Located a few blocks east of downtown, and on the Kalamazoo River, Arcadia Ales offers more than a few beers. I took a Yelp Elite tour of the brewery, and came away amazed. Started in 1996, Arcadia Brewing offers year-round, seasonal, specialty, and draft only beers. Here’s the thing that will make you happy (besides the outdoor patio) – the smokehouse. HOLY SMOKES, this is good stuff (ha! see what I did there?). While I love the brisket the most, I also enjoy the house made sausage, dry-rubbed spare ribs, and mac and cheese. All meat is locally-sourced. The smokehouse offerings make the beer even easier to drink – it’s a complete package. Try a flight of beers if you can’t decide!

Price Beer flights $10-15
Hours Tues-Saturday, 11am-11pm, Sunday 11am-9pm, Closed Mondays.
Address 701 E Michigan Ave
Phone (269) 276-0458
Website http://arcadiaales.com/

Dinner: Food Dance
I recommend Food Dance for more than their delicious food. They embody a farm to table ethos that goes a bit further: “We support artisans who practice craft food processes that have been around for generations—growing, raising, preserving, curing, aging, pickling, butchering and more.” Not only can you get that at the restaurant, but also at the small shop outside of the restaurant, where you can purchase artisanal meat/bread/etc. The restaurant annually wins awards, and it’s easy to see why – elegant atmosphere, attentive waitstaff, and extraordinary food.

My Suggestion: While the entirety of the menu is delicious (or so my

Ultimate Mac & Cheese, Food Dance. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo
Ultimate Mac & Cheese, Food Dance. Photo: MLive

family says), I would drive 24 hours straight to get their ultimate macaroni and cheese. This, too, wins awards for best Macaroni and Cheese in Michigan – take a look at the ingredients: rustichella d’abruzzo rigatoni, grafton aged cheddar, cream, caramelized onions, house made bacon, fresh spinach, toasted bread crumbs, field greens salad. You’ll thank me. I get it EVERY SINGLE TIME. Note: try the ginger mint lemonade – it’s scrumptious.

Price Ultimate Mac & Cheese, $19. Entrees range from $20-30
Hours Monday-Thursday 7am-10pm, Friday and Saturday 7am-11pm, Sunday 8am-3pm
Address 401 E Michigan Ave #100
Phone (269) 382-1888
Website http://fooddance.net/

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Kalamazoo
Downtown, in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park

 

 

 

 

The End. Go Eat.

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Jessie Voigts, except where noted.

i8tonite’s Call for Submissions

Food, for all of us, has many implications. We need it and can’t do without it. Yet, something so necessary can create illness, disease, laughter, memories and happiness – it’s as conflicting as hot and cold. We manipulate what we eat so we can become leaner, bigger, faster and stronger. There is no end to the discussion of what food can do and the stories we can tell.

Therefore, we, at i8tonite, have decided to open up “Food Musings” to writers who want to write about food. Whatever that may be from the extremes of eating,  tending to a garden and maybe raising a family chicken. It’s a no-holds-barred story.

Unfortunately, we aren’t paying – yet. We are working on finding a sponsor but then, just to be clear; we started i8tonite five months ago.

Besides, I get sick of listening to my own ramblings. When we don’t have one, I will pinch hit because – personally, every time I eat something, I have a story.

Please send all submissions at a word count of 1000 – 1200, and photos you would like to use (because we all love photos) to submissions@i8tonite.com.

With every essay, we want the author of each story to supply a recipe. Something fun for the reader to make at home  — easy and homecooked. It can be part of the story or something you just want to highlight. You decide.

We will promote the story for you to our readers – making you famous.

  • — Brian and i8tonite team

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Boston’s Beacon Hill

Credit: David Fox
Credit: David Fox

Colonial America boasts an astonishing number of great walking cities. For our forefathers –and mothers – let’s not be sexist, land travel was either horse, buggy or early American settlers’ feet. Rambling from the North End to Boston Common, Financial District to West End, visitors can walk with the ghosts while reading plaques denoting historical spots, great bars and shopping along 18th-century cobblestoned streets. And Beacon Hill, Boston’s tony neighborhood is a microcosm of all three experiences.

Before the Revolution, Beacon Hill was a livestock grazing pasture with notable residents such as John Hancock, the flourished signer of the declaration. Now the historical area is home to over 10,000 occupants enfolded in restored early American brick row homes and carriage houses styled in Federal, Greek and Revival periods. Situated on a petite one-half square mile, the densely populated area is bordered by Beacon Street, Bowdoin Street, Cambridge Street and Storrow Drive, with Charles Street as its commerce hub. Ambling throughout the vital area to America’s birth, visitors are greeted with tree-lined lanes, gaslights, brass knockers and distinctive wrought iron decorations.

Credit: Greater Boston CVB
Credit: Greater Boston CVB

It’s hard to believe that the area, during the mid-20th century was home to urban decay, now it’s considered to be one of Boston’s most desirable neighborhood with homes well over the million dollar mark. For visitors and residents alike, Beacon Hill is one of the most historically-laden and significant areas in the country. It’s also one of Boston’s best locations to discover great eats while getting a history refresher course on how the US began  – right in time for an election year.

Pancakes Paramount Breakfast: The Paramount, opened since 1937, has long been considered the place for breakfast and inexpensive dining. Families, students, and young couples gather to sip coffee, eat waffles and fortify themselves before heading starting their day. The restaurant has received many “best of” by Beantown’s local media. Don’t question, just eat. Dinner is also superb.

  • My suggestion:  The Buttermilk Pancakes are fluffy Frisbees of American goodness. Sprinkled with powdered sugar, served with whipped butter and pure maple syrup. Warming. Comforting. Fortifying.
  • Price: $8 for a stack of three. Yes, that’s right. Eight dollars in an area with multi-million dollar homes. For some of us, it may be the closest we get to living in one.
  • Hours: Breakfast is served daily until 4:30 pm
  • Address: 44 Charles Street, Boston, Mass., 02114.
  • Phone Number: (617) 720 – 1152
  • Website: www.paramountboston.com

 

Credit: Figs by Todd English
Credit: Figs by Todd English

Lunch:  Figs by Todd English. Long before I’ve eaten Mr. English’s illustrious pizza, I’m headed to Umbria with a former wine client from Montefalco  – before the blog. She’s drunk on ecstasy and champagne before we are even off JFK’s international runway. (Trust me, the relationship did not end well.) After knocking back a few to keep myself sane – sans drugs – she starts tapping and whispering in my ear, “Isn’t that the famous chef Todd England?” (That’s what she called him.) I look at her, then him and shrug. She does it again. I say with an irritated edge because she’s becoming a nightmare – all touchy-feely, “I don’t know. Why don’t you go ask him?” It turns out it is. Very nice man and on his way to Perugia to sample Italian produced foodstuffs for his restaurants. Yep, dedicated, handsome, with a lumberjack-like stature, Todd – as he suggests we call him, is very nice. She is all over him. Todd and I stayed in touch and hung out with him at Olives, one of his dining New York City outposts. Lost touch after a period of time. That was my Todd English experience. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

  • Figs Eggplant PizzaMy suggestion: Pizza. Seriously. The man goes to Italy to source product for his customers. Get the pizza. Any of them will do.
  • Price: $17.00 – $24.00
  • Hours: Monday – Friday, 11:30 am – 10:00 pm. Friday – Saturday, 11:30 am – 11:00 pm. Sunday, 12:00 pm – 10:00pm.
  • Address: 42 Charles Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02114
  • Phone Number: (617) 742 – 3447.
  • Website: http://toddenglishfigs.com/
Credit: Courtesy of TipTap Room
Credit: Courtesy of TipTap Room

Snack:  The Tip Tap Room. Okay, Boston is a beer town. It’s has a lot of swilling ale lovers of all persuasions  who belly up to the bar. And The Tip Tap Room has a 100 of them and counting. The food – cheffed by Brian Poe — is delicious as evidenced by its accolades from places like Stuff, Urban Daddy, Maxim and Boston Magazine. After the food service is over, it becomes a hotspot for swinging singles. If you stayed for the food, stay for a little longer – you may not need Tinder.

  • My suggestion:  Drink a beer. Any beer. Order something to go with the beer like the Baked Brie, Boar Meatballs or Hoisin Riblets.
  • Price: Who cares? You’re drinking beer in a Boston bar. Cheers!
  • Hours: 3:00pm – 1:30 am
  • Address: 138 Cambridge Street, Boston, Mass
  • Phone Number: (857) 350 – 3344
  • Website: www.thetiptaproom.com 
Credit: Mooo Restaurant. (Love saying, "moooo.)
Credit: Mooo Restaurant. (Love saying, “moooo.)

Dinner:  Mooo Restaurant is a steakhouse housed under the roof of XV Beacon Hotel. Created in 2007, by Chef Jaime Mammano, who also opened the famous Mistral – the legendary restaurant which put both the chef and Boston on the culinary map. Since, Mooo serves the food for a luxury hotel you don’t really have to leave the building as the eatery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to the patrons of the property.  (But get out – get some exercise and fresh air, unless you’re on a romantic weekend.). More importantly, Mooo (great name) features a Strube Ranch Wagyu steak on the menu. With fries. Steak and fries. In Boston. With beer. Sweet dreams are made of this.

  • Credit: Mooo Restaurant
    Credit: Mooo Restaurant

    My suggestion: Strube Wagyu Steak Frites. Strube is one of the leading bio-ranchers in the country. Their beef is well-marbled and succulent. If you’re going to eat a steak, make it a good one.

  • Price: $38.00
  • Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm, Friday and Saturday, 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm.
  • Address: 15 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass, 02108
  • Phone Number:  (617) 670 – 2515
  • Website: www.mooorestaurant.com

 

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Eating in Boston's Beacon Hill

The End. Go Eat.

 

 

i8tonite: with Chef Ruggero Gadaldi, San Francisco’s Delarosa & Spicy Holiday Italian Meatballs

Editor’s Note: This is a posting from  contributor Penny Sadler, Adventures of a Carry-On.

Beretta-Proof-385
Ruggero Gadaldi: Credit Aubrie Pick

From his childhood days helping out in the family market and churning butter on the farm near Bergamo, Italy, Chef Ruggero Gadaldi developed his love for and understanding of regional Italian foods. His passion for preparing only the most authentic Italian cuisine lead him to study at Italy’s prestigious San Pellegrino Hotel School. From there, he made his way to the US via a number of positions at five-star hotels throughout Europe, New York, and finally San Francisco, with a stop in Los Angeles to cook for Pope John Paul II.

Inside
Inside Delarosa: Credit, Aubrie Pick

In 2008, Gadaldi received the San Francisco Chronicle Visionary Chef Award. His restaurant, Antica Trattoria, was voted Best Neighborhood Italian, Bay Area Critics Choice Award, SF Chronicle, 1996 – 2008.

 

In a city known for great food and plenty of Italian options, Delarosa, Gadaldi’s latest venture, is the kind of place that locals favor for reliable and reasonably priced Italian food served in a casual and contemporary atmosphere. The newest location at Yerba Buena Lane has exactly the same look and feel as the Marina location: the kitchen is open, and space is light, with accents of orange.

Delarosa is only one of a number of celebrated Italian restaurants in the Bay Area to which Gadaldi has dedicated his passion for preparing authentic Italian food.

Chef’s Questionnaire with Ruggero Gadaldi

Delarosa-198How long have you been cooking? Since I entered the “Scuola Professionale Alberghiera di Stato” for Chef in San Pellegrino, Bergamo, Italy in 1972.

What is your favorite food to cook? Regional Italian.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese, salami and pickles

What do you cook at home? My wife does the cooking at home, I’m the dishwasher. (Big smile.)

Photo By Aubrie Pick
Photo By Aubrie Pick

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? When a customer is served and they take that first bite, they pause and then a smile appears. We hope then that we have added to their day.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Being disrespectful.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex

Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine with my meal, and a Negroni at the end of my day.

Your favorite cookbook author? Joyce Goldstein

Your favorite kitchen tool? Gnocchi paddle.

Your favorite ingredient? Piemontese white truffle.

Your least favorite ingredient? Can’t think of one.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Gutting sardines.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork

Favorite vegetable? Dino kale or Tuscan Cabbage.

Chef you most admire? Mario Batali. 

Mussels and Tomato Sauce
Photo by Aubrie Pick

Food you like the most to eat? Hearty stews

Food you dislike the most? There isn’t much I dislike. I love food !!!

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Zero. I admire some but cringe when I think about the pain they had to go through to get them.

Recipe: Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce (Serves 4 – 6)

Delarosa-Proofs-54Tomato Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 4   Chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp   Calabrese chili flake
  • 16 oz.   Tomato-basil sauce

 

 

In a saucepan, heat olive oil and add garlic and chili flakes. When garlic starts to get brown add tomato- basil sauce. Cook for 10 minutes at medium heat.

Meatballs

  • ¾ lb. ground beef
  • ¼ lb. ground veal
  • ½ lb. Italian sweet sausage (out of casing)
  • 1 cup Bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 Egg whites
  • ½ C Grated Fresh Pecorino cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to Taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Mix thoroughly, though not over handling.  Before creating balls, put a little bit of olive oil on your hands in order to minimize sticking. Spoon out mixture and create meatballs that are approx 1.5-inch balls.  Place on a greased sheet pan and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Place meatballs in the Spicy Tomato sauce and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.

Plate:  2 to 3 meatballs on a plate and add a spoonful of sauce on top.  Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite: My Most Memorable Eats of 2015 & Moving to the Southwest

Grand Canyon_A. DuarteAt the beginning of 2015, if anyone predicted that I would be living  at year’s end in Phoenix — or starting my food blog for that matter, I would have howled with laughter. Me? In Phoenix? The American Southwest? Writing? Besides, press releases and commenting on Facebook? Yet, I am listening to my fountain cascade into the plunge pool and writing this lengthy post. I open the front door daily to walk the dogs and am awestruck with a view of Pietesawa Peak, crowned by blue skies and cottony clouds. Holly, our eleven-year-old Pitbull waddles past the security guard gate and the golf green, trying to keep up with J.J., our seven-year-old French bulldog, who likes to chase after rabbits. The bunnies hop around on our neighbor’s sixteenth golf hole, the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Arizona Biltmore – a mere five-minute walk to luxury pools and spas.  I look at all this splendor with gratitude. It’s also coming from a person who – 25 years ago — thought he could never leave  Manhattan, then the center of my Universe.

Kevin Dooley 2
Photo by Kevin Dooley

As I grow older, and I’m grateful I am,  the center of my Universe has expanded. Eventually, the Northeastern winters drove me to Los Angeles for 16 years, with 3 years in San Francisco for good behavior. Spiritually, I never felt either city was home though. They both seemed to be stopping points. I never really wanted meant to stay as long as I did. However, where do you go after Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco? These are our national hubs of entertainment, technology and finance. International culture is unsurpassed in these meccas.  You are supposed to want to be there. Did I think Miami? Paris?  Back to New York? Phoenix wasn’t even a thought.

Photo by Kevin Dooley
Photo by Kevin Dooley

After much discussion, Nick took the offered Phoenix position and we came out to look for a house. Instantly, we fell in love with the desert landscape, rich culture, sheer vastness and low-cost of living. Phoenix, in my eyes, is North America’s hidden gem, but it’s hard to hide the 6th largest city in the United States. However, it feels protected. Off the beaten path, waiting to be discovered. Tourists may come and visit one of Arizona’s 300 resorts but until you become a resident, hike the trails, meet the people, work and become a Phoenician do you understand the city’s natural splendor and sophistication.

I reckon The Valley of the Sun is physically the most attractive place I’ve ever lived. Red mountains are dissected by roads and Camelback, the dromedary rock formation casts its legendary shadow over the valley. It’s peaceful sentinel-like presence feels protective, calming and inspiring.

As we enter into the remaining days of 2015, and for the coming year, I urge you to allow change to happen. Step out of your comfort zone. The things you would say no to trying…try.  Explore new possibilities and never say, “Never.” I’m so glad I did.

Photo by Alan Stark
Photo by Alan Stark

Before I begin my 2015’s five – whoops, six most memorable food experiences, I need to let you dear reader know I still talk about these eats. That’s why I choose them. Some are new, some are not.  I would go back to eat them time and again. Additionally, I paid for each one of these meals. Nothing was given gratis or comped, so I have nothing to gain from telling you about them.

Let’s start:

Photo Courtesy of Carson Kitchen
Photo Courtesy of Carson Kitchen

Carson Kitchen, Las Vegas, Nevada: Chicken Fried Skins, served with Smoked Honey Dipping Sauce ($9). The late Chef Kerry Simon, who died early this year with complications related to Mulitple Sclerosis, was a master of New American cooking. He imbued his dishes with a sense of humor and surprise.  This dish is indicative of that experience. Who is going to order only chicken skins with a side of smoked honey? Well, I did. Three orders of the crunchy, salty, deliciously deep-fried morsels with the side of lightly smoked sweetness. I would never make this at home. Let’s definitely score points for that understanding.

Courtesy of Factory Kitchen
Courtesy of Factory Kitchen

Factory Kitchen, Downtown Los Angeles, California: Handkerchief Pasta with Almond Basil Pesto ($19). I was living in San Francisco when I ate at Farina which is where I first had Chef Angelo Auriana’s superb pasta. I was in the middle of a fight with an ex. I try not to remember him. However, the sheet-like folds of pasta expertly painted with a light basil pesto, I remember. It wasn’t until I went to Factory Kitchen did it come back hauntingly. This time, I was celebrating one of my best friends birthdays (Shelley Levitt) in Los Angeles. We ordered the Ligurian-style noodle with green sauce. One bite, I knew I had eaten it once before. It’s so good that even years later I remembered it, except with this experience, the atmosphere was much more light-hearted and loving to enjoy it.

Photo Courtesy of Tropicale
Photo Courtesy of Tropicale

The Tropicale Restaurant & Bar, Palm Springs, California: Brown Sugar-Brined, Double Cut Kurobata Pork Chop ($28). A little over a year ago, I discovered my longtime friend Chef Scooter Kanfer had encamped to this boisterous watering hole in the resort town of Palm Springs. About 10 years ago, she was the chef/owner of a stunning little place in LA’s Larchmont area called The House. Here, she received national accolades with her inventive takes on homespun items like macaroni and cheese and my favorite milk and cookies which is milk served in a whiskey shot glass accompanied by shortbread animal cookies. Now, she is under less pressure as the Chef de Cuisine of Tropicale but her food is still the best. I choose the Kurobata Pork Chop because she recommends it to me every time I see her. The only other place I ate this type of big, flavorful battering ram was at Cindy Pawlcyn’s Napa Valley-based Mustards Grill. I wasn’t in Napa this year but this may be the best pork chop in a restaurant ever.

Courtesy of Hollywood Pies
Courtesy of Hollywood Pies

Hollywood Pies, Los Angeles, California: The Hollywood Pie ($27). I was never a lover of deep dish Chicago style pies. I didn’t get it. And then, I ate from this blink-and-you-miss-it spot. Jesus made this pizza for me. Seriously, that’s one of the names of the pie-makers. Everything from the crust to the cheese, the pizza sauce, homemade meatballs is made in-house. Unfortunately, getting a pizza isn’t always easy. They take forever to make (up to an hour). Sometimes, they don’t even pick up the phone to order one. This deep dish thickly crusted – like a casserole – is from heaven. Chewy, hint of heat in the sauce, pull until it snaps mozzarella…..trust me, Jesus made it.

Courtesy of ICDC
Courtesy of ICDC

ICDC, Los Angeles, California: Salt & Pepper Caramel Doughnut/ Buttermilk Brown Butter ($2.50). ICDC, which stands for ice cream, donuts, and coffee, is a dream child of Amy Knoll Fraser and Pastry Chef Maria Swan. I don’t know Maria. I would love to know Maria. I would love Maria to make me  a donut every day for the rest of my life. The Salt & Pepper Caramel along with the Buttermilk Brown Butter are heavenly puffs of circled dough with a little richness (butter or caramel) and a surprise (salt & pepper and not just butter but browned butter). If you have never had a seasoned donut or a browned butter donut – it’s wrong. Just wrong. It’s like being a virgin and everyone around you talking about sex.

Courtesy of Breakfast Club
Courtesy of Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club, Scottsdale, Arizona: Huevos con Masa ($9). On our first trip to Phoenix, we got hungry as people do at the beginning of the day. We had appointments to look at houses and needed to fortify ourselves.  We went to dine at place at 8 am. Twenty-minute wait. We left. Found another highly recommended eatery with a wait-time of twenty-minutes. Nick and I are starving, and it’s 9 am. On the third try, we arrive at Breakfast Club. They have a wait time too. We sit at the bar to avoid the wait time. It’s packed.  Maybe 9:15 am on a Wednesday morning. I order the Huevos con Masa, a creative southwestern version of eggs benedict. Instead of hollandaise sauce, a pork green chile is served with poached eggs and chipotle cornbread. Eating it, I thought it was worth waiting for the discovery. The chile, a little heavier than I normally would eat for breakfast, is rich but compliments the poached eggs runny yolks. The cornbread has just enough heat and is incredibly moist, with flecks of chipotle. The Valley of the Sun breakfast experience also prompted me to write a story on the area’s breakfasts.  (Note: If you like blonde, athletic women serving your food in skin-tight, black fitness wear, this is the place for you. Do not come if you want to see a brunette or red-head. Hell, I don’t think there was a curl in the place, either. Just sayin’.)

Places and dishes of note: Nobuo at Teeter House, Pork Belly  Buns (Phoenix, Arizona); The Original Breakfast House, Cinnamon Rolls (Phoenix, Arizona); Revolutionario, Falafel Tacos  (Los Angeles, CA); Khin Khao, Khao Mun Gai (San Francisco, CA); Pizzeria Bianco, Margherita Pizza (Phoenix, Arizona).

The End. Happy 2016.

i8tonite: Patrick O’Malley, North America’s Coffee Man & Holiday Espresso Martini

Patrick O'Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Patrick O’Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Where do you think North America’s leading authority on coffee is located? Seattle? Portland? Boston? New York? San Francisco? If you guessed Tempe, Arizona, you could win Jeopardy. On a small street, not far from Arizona State University and the nationally known brewery Four Peaks, is Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Italia, a roastery creating some of the country’s most sublime caffeine brews. In a warehouse full of beans and leaves, O’Malley, the leading national authority on coffee and possibly tea works, lives and breathes caffeinated beverages.

O’Malley is unique as he is the only trained individual in the United States and 43rd in the world, allowed to teach Specialty Coffee

Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Association of Europe’s certification. Matter of fact, mostly Europeans train – with a smattering of Americans — at his International Barista Coffee Academy where they learn every facet of making the perfect cup and cupping. He educates students on a specially created espresso machine that he – along with five of the world’s leading coffee authorities — and Sanremo, the Italian high-end coffee manufacturer produced. O’Malley’s students are much like him, fans of the brew and owners of cafes throughout the world such as Belgium, France, Italy, Turkey, although some do come from the States to attend.

According to O’Malley, his hardest test was passing the Q certification – the system by which all coffee is graded. He ranks number 1043rd in the world out of a little over 3500. “It was harder than a sommelier’s test,” he notes.

Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith
Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith

The good thing for global coffee lovers is O’Malley opened a European-like café in April called Infusion Coffee and Tea. They just have to travel to Tempe.

In i8tonite’s Food People Questionnaire O’Malley talks about his love of soup, dislike for tofu, why he loves butchers and how to create a caffeinated martini, a new tradition for the holidays – sort of like egg nog except with caffeine. Heh.

What is your favorite food to cook at home? Wow. Good one. I would have to say my potato and leek soup because that’s what brings the biggest smile to Bugs. (Devin, my daughter.)

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Butter, white wine for cooking and garlic. My go to base for sauces.

O'Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.
O’Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Adventurous people who will gladly try anything once.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? If they won’t even try something; how do you know if you don’t try it?

Beer, wine or cocktail? Guinness, Hendriks tonic and fresh cracked pepper. Its stupid good.

Your favorite cookbook author? Anthony Bourdian.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My knives.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Anything where I need to make a sauce. I love making a sauce.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood or tofu? NO TOFU. I love meat. All meat. Even entrails sometimes. They are the best bits.

Favorite vegetable? Beets.

Chef you most admire? Locally?? No way I can answer that we have so many in this town (meaning Phoenix and the surrounding communities) that deserve to be named. I have to go with my Mom. She was a baker but could cook very well. She raised 6 of us (5 boys, 1 girl and Dad) on not a lot but we ate like kings. Her liver and onions was the best you will ever have.

Food you like the most to eat? Just about anything placed in front of me, but I am a soup guy for sure. So soup.

Food you dislike the most? Tofu.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Travel, because I get to try new food.

Who do you most admire in food? Butchers. I love to watch them break down an animal that people can take home and eat, it’s cool to watch a good one work.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Every one of our customers’ restaurants. I rarely dine at a place unless they are an Espresso Italia customer, our accounts are our family.

Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.
Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.

What is your favorite restaurant? In Treviso, every time I arrive, Carlo, the owner of Sanremo espresso machine factory takes me directly to L’incontro. They have an appetizer bar that opens like a clam’s shell, once open its full of some of the best seafood and pure goodness ever.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Nope not one, I don’t follow trends. It’s just not who I am. I have never had a desire to have one, and if I did I don’t think tripe or liver would look good on my arm. LOL.

Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Martini 

Martini: Photo by Edsel Little
Martini: Photo by Edsel Little

Espresso made with Infusion Push blend (blueberry, lime and chocolate profile) or if you can’t find it any espresso will do.

Vanilla Vodka 1oz

Chambord .25oz (or any good quality raspberry liquor)

 

Shake over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Look out! It’s yummy.

 

The End. Go Eat.

 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Oregon’s McMinnville, Best Town West of The Mississippi

Downtown McMinnville, Third Street: Photo, McMinnville DowntownMcMinnville, Oregon is a town so wholesomely picturesque it borders on being a Stephen King settlement – meaning it’s so perfect a spot, something strange is bound to happen. A scant 45 minutes outside of Portland, it’s a charm-filled street scene with a couple of stoplights, red brick Victorian buildings, one post office, a few piercing and tattoo shops – it wouldn’t be Oregon without them — and the small town newspaper, right along their main drag, Third Street.

In 2014, Parade Magazine readers and editors named it Best Main Street, West of the Mississippi, an honorable distinction, second only to a Tennessee town (figures). During the summer, the leafy trees shade the sidewalks where couples stroll hand-in-hand while their little tykes pull their Fisher-Price telephones. In the colder months, people are doing the same thing, except in coats. The area wasn’t always a thriving economy, but it got assistance in the eighties by the burgeoning wine industry. With its red soil called jory, the Yamhill County area, where McMinnville’s located, is now the center of Oregon’s Pinot Noir country. It’s also one of my favorite eating destinations – in the world.

I’ve had meals in far-flung places that rocked my palate, but the element of surprise in a location, an ingredient or chef is what gets me. McMinnville, in my humble opinion, is one of the great small eating destinations in the country, and it was revelatory. I was smitten by the town’s quaintness but blown away by the sophisticated food.  Every diner, restaurant, and café, there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch.

Hash Crescent Cafe photo by Courtney ZBreakfast:  Crescent Café. Opened in 2007, this family owned and operated eatery offers locally sourced food and ingredients. Open only for breakfast, lunch and brunch, over a cup of strong coffee customers can talk forever to the staff about where the food is sourced. (Yes, it’s very Portlandia.) Best of all the bread is freshly made in-house including the English muffins. That alone is worth going the trip. Actually, if your in McMinnville, having breakfast here is a must – sort of like going to the Grand Canyon.

  • My suggestion:  Scrambles. They change daily. Light and fluffy eggs with a variety of choices of the day such as a Fontina Cheese, Bacon, and Sundried Tomato
  • Price:  Varies according to the market price.
  • Hours:  Monday – Friday, 7:00am – 2:00pm. Saturday – Sunday, 8:00am – 1:00pm
  • Address:  526 NE Third Street, McMinnville, Oregon 97128
  • Phone Number: (503) 435 – 2655
  • Website: www.crescentcafeonthird.com
Tuna Melt, Courtesy of Community Plate
Tuna Melt, Courtesy of Community Plate

Lunch:  Community Plate. The menu was created by Chef Eric Bechard, from the nationally acclaimed restaurant and winner of Oregon’s “Best Restaurant” in 2011, Thistle. The owners, husband and wife team Scott and Courtney Cunningham, seized the opportunity to craft a humble American neighborhood place sprinkled with scrumptious sandwiches, house-made pastries and a social atmosphere. At this little spot, the food is completely made on-site – from nut butters, to bread, to pickles. It’s also not an arm and a leg.

  • My suggestion:  Grilled Cheeses. Oregon cheesemakers highlight this grownup white cheddar, chévre and Swiss sandwich with sautéed apples, a little fresh thyme on house-made bread. Simply one of the most delicious concoctions between two slices. One oozy bite and the eater receives a jumble of sweet, herbaceous and savory tastes.
  • Price: $11.
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday, 7:30 am – 3:00 pm
  • Address:  315 NE Third Street.
  • Phone Number: (503) 687 – 1902
  • Website: www.communityplate.com

McMenamin's Ale, Courtesy of McMenaminsSnack Time:  McMenamin’s Pub. Located in a historic, Victorian hotel, this Oregon-based, family run brewhouse, pub, restaurant, coffee roaster and winery crafts delicious beers. The carved wood-filled space has a Pacific Northwest camaraderie where you hunker down at the bar, order up a cold one or a coffee and make friends in a minute. There are several McMenamin’s throughout Oregon and Washington, but they’re located in a significant, historical building, which keep the integrity of the community.

  • My suggestion:  Get a beer. They many including IPAs, stouts and seasonal ales, all made in consideration of the environment.
  • Price:  Varies
  • Hours:  Sunday – Friday, 7 am – 11 pm; Saturday 7am – 1 am.
  • Address: 310 NE Evans Street, McMinnville
  • Phone Number: (503) 472 – 8427
  • Website: www.mcmenamins.com

Nick's: Courtesy of Nick's Italian EateryDinner:  Thistle might be an obvious choice, but I have to give it Nick’s Italian Café.  In 2014, The James Beard Foundation honored this 40-year old restaurant with an “American Classic” award. When it first opened in 1977, McMinnville was a small farming town – now it’s a hub of the most sought after American pinot noirs. This casual restaurant with the pool table in the back has been producing some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest Northern Italian food. The audience has broadened incorporating more travelers, but Nick’s Italian Café is still a neighborhood place since the creation of Oregon Wine Country.  For me, Nick’s was an epiphany of the idea of small-town restaurants. I remember entering the compact restaurant with an antique stove centered against the wall. The waiter mentioning we could wait in the “Back Room” for the table, watch a game of billiards. I thought this was not going to good. It turned out to be one of the most deliciously, memorable meals I’ve ever had.

  • Dungeness Crab Lasagna, Courtesy of Nick's
    Dungeness Crab Lasagna: Photo, Nick’s Italian Cafe

    Oregon Dungeness Crab Lasagna with Local Pine Nuts. I know you are not to mix seafood with cheese but – goodness gracious…this is the reason why you should.

  • Price: $16
  • Hours: Opened Monday – Sunday: Lunch, 11 am – 3 pm; Dinner, 5 pm – 11 pm.
  • Address: 521 NE 3rd Street, McMinnville
  • Phone:  (503) 434-4471
  • Website: www.nicksitaliancafe.com

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Eating in Oregon's McMinnville

Photo: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

The End. Go Eat. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i8tonite: A Road Trip with My Mother, Baked Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving

As I do every year, I picked my mother up for Thanksgiving from her San Bernardino home. She will stay with us for a couple of days but instead of Los Angeles, the drive is from Phoenix, a round-trip excursion through the Sonoran desert. We will laugh, and I will tease her about her hearing as she’s asked me the same question three times, which I’ve answered three times.

I will finally state:  “I think we need to get batteries for your hearing aids.”

She’ll roll her eyes in amusement and swat at me, laughing in annoyance, “Brian! You know I don’t wear hearing aids.”

I respond, “Exactly.”

She’s aging and frankly, so am I; these car journeys won’t be happening forever. My mother gave me a love of road trips. We took them often from Duarte, California, where I was born to wherever she wanted to go. Disneyland. Pasadena. San Diego. Santa Monica. The best voyage was when my parents divorced. She wanted her maternal family closer – they lived in South Carolina — and her best friend lived in Baltimore. The ink was barely dry on the papers, and she packed up the red Pontiac Firebird with the vinyl top.  It was game on, a car trip through the southern half of the United States – East Coast bound.

She drove that car – a single woman and a kid — through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (two days), all the way to South Carolina in the early seventies. The AM radio was blaring Helen Reddy, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Vicki Lawrence, and The Carpenters. Wolfman Jack’s raspy baritone kept the truckers company and single family station wagons happy on long stretches of nothing. I recall a preacher man who drove his van around the dusty highways, solely to assist stranded drivers with broken cars. After fixing our ruined timing belt, his payment was joining him in prayer. My mother’s not a religious woman, but she believes in God. She was incredibly grateful for his help, so we held hands on the side of the two-lane desert highway and prayed.

This time, as we crossed the Colorado River, the border between California and Arizona, I was driving. She was the passenger, and the music was coming from an iTouch playing singalong Cher, Dusty Springfield, America and maybe Florence and The Machine. I threw in Elvis for my mom. The road has expanded from one car in each direction to a six-lane thoroughfare, at times almost eight – half going east, the others going west.  I’ve rented a car, so I don’t have to worry about breaking down. I will call the rental company and be on the road in no-time.

Yes, it will be a good holiday.

Baked Sweet Potatoes (No recipe) (“It’s not Thanksgiving without them,” my mother’s declares)

Find the largest sweet potatoes you can grab. Wash and then dry thoroughly. Determine where the top of the tuber is and poke a line along the length of the skin. Then do the same with the center width (You should have a cross.) Rub with vegetable oil, wrapping in aluminum foil. Bake for about an hour or until done. Serve with crème fraiche (my favorite) or butter (my mother’s favorite). Throw some chives and serve.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Downtown Las Vegas

Courtesy of Marc Cooper. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Downtown Las Vegas
Courtesy of Marc Cooper

On my fourth or fifth visit to Las Vegas, I wanted something different. I’ve danced at nightclubs, eaten the fancy meals with celebrity chefs, played slots and viewed the shows. On different occasions, I saw Bette Midler and Cher on both of their final farewell concerts before they came back with “I’m still here” tours. There are the repetitive Cirque de Soliel extravaganzas which are fun the first time around but by the third show, it’s schtick.

This time, I wanted food indicative of living in Las Vegas: What do the locals eat and where? I wanted to go beyond the Wynns and Arias, the Stratospheres and the MGMs. Nick and I were in agreement, walking through another smoke-filled casino to locate decent food should not be trying to get through a gauntlet.

Courtesy of Mob Museum. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Downtown Las Vegas
Courtesy of Mob Museum.

Luckily, great food exists in Sin City – without the gambling — but it is in downtown Las Vegas. The rents are still cheap in the historic area. Restauranteurs have always been mavericks when it comes to selecting destinations for their outposts – fringe and marginal are words that come to mind. Moreover, downtown Las Vegas is no exception to that theory. Bright with a billion lights. Rowdy but there’s an honesty as the drunkards had all the intentions of getting drunk.  No pretending it was post-theater. It is Las Vegas for the hipster set. Ignore – if possible – the Fremont Experience, which isn’t as fascinating as it sounds and Robert Urich has sadly long left the area. If you must, go ahead and at least do a one-time plunge down the Slotzilla Zipline. Once you’ve had the familiarity and said, “Okay, now I’ve done that”, head to the thought-provoking spaces such as Container Park, the Mob Museum and Emergency Arts building where artists, writers and other creative denizens showcase their wares.

Downtown Las Vegas Eats: 

Eat! i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Downtown Las Vegas
Courtesy of eat.

Breakfast:  eat. Designed by Chef Natalie Young as a showcase for her creative breakfasts and lunch dishes in the Las Vegas’ downtown dining scene, eat features American comfort classics prepared with the chef’s culinary-trained twist, using the freshest and locally-sourced, organic ingredients.

  • My suggestion:  Shrimp and Grits with Two Poached Eggs, Pico de Gallo. It’s Vegas. Have shrimp for breakfast and Chef Natalie’s cooking will make you see the night-time twinkling stars.
  • Price: $14.00
  • Hours:  Monday – Friday, 8 am – 3 pm. Weekends, 8 am – 2 pm.
  • Address:  707 Carson Street (at 7th), LV, NV, 89101
  • Phone Number: (702) 534 – 1515
  • Website: www.eatdtlv.com

Lunch:  Carson Kitchen. The late celebrity chef Kerry Simon’s Deviled Eggs with Pancetta and Caviar. Carson Kitchen. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Downtown Las Vegasrestaurant is an anomaly in the pantheon of Las Vegas eating establishments. First, it’s splendid and should be considered one of the city’s finest places to eat except the drinks don’t come in tumblers, there isn’t a slot machine, and I don’t remember seeing anyone smoking inside. It’s pure American comfort food with twists. Bacon Jam with Brie? Yep. Deviled Eggs with Pancetta and Caviar? Yep. Sophistication meets trailer-trash. Thank god they pulled the underwear from the clotheslines.…although, at Carson Kitchen, I probably would envision La Perla flapping in the desert wind.

  • My suggestion: Crispy Fried Chicken Skins with Smoked Honey. This is revelatory. I will come back for this time and time again in Las Vegas. Who knew it was just the skin you needed to eat and not the chicken?
  • Price: $6.00
  • Hours: Sunday – Wednesday, 11:30 am – 10 pm, Thursday – Saturday, 11:30 am – 11 pm
  • Address:  124 South Sixth Street, Suite 100, LV, NV, 89101
  • Phone Number:  (702) 473 – 9523
  • Website: http://carsonkitchen.com/
Chillspot. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Downtown Las Vegas
Courtesy of Chillspot.

Snack Time:  ChillSpot by SassaPops. Located in Container Park. The owner and creator of Zappos.com did something brilliant for the community and families of Las Vegas. He created an outdoor shopping mall and play area with interesting food – from high-end eating to handmade sweets. The park and mall are built entirely of shipping containers, and it includes a playground, a stage for music, and a screen for outdoor movies, plus food, glorious food. Chillspot’s conception is an outlet for the brother and sister team of SassaPops.  Essentially, Sassapops or SassaSnow are freshly-made frozen desserts – ice cream, snowcones – without the use of additives. They make scrumptious chocolate brownies and cookies as well.

  • My suggestion: International Snow. Asian iced treats such as Filipino Halo-Halo or Korean Patbingsu. Sweet, fun, and culinary.
  • Price: $7
  • Hours:  Monday – Thursday, 11 am – 9 pm; Friday – Saturday, 11 am – 10 pm, Sunday, 10 am – 8 pm.
  • Address:  707 Fremont Street, LV, NV 89101
  • Phone Number: (702) 900 – 7873 (PURE)
  • Website: www.chillspotlv.com
Andiamo’s Italian Steakhouse in the D Hotel. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Downtown Las Vegas
Courtesy of D Hotel

Dinner: Andiamo’s Italian Steakhouse in the D Hotel. Reminiscent of an old-school Las Vegas, when the Italian mobsters ran the town. The leather banquettes, smoky mirrors, and brick might have something to do with it, but the place is fairly new. I expected to see The Rat Pack – led by Frank Sinatra – walking through the joint with a martini in one hand, a showgirl in the other and a cigarette dangling from Dean Martin’s lips. Thankfully, guns are outlawed but singing is not.

  • My suggestion: The enormous Andiamo Grande Meatball. Meat. Tomato sauce. Ricotta cheese. The size of a basketball.
  • Price: $11
  • Hours:  5 pm – 11 pm, nightly.
  • Address:  301 Fremont Street, LV, NV     89101
  • Phone: (702) 388 – 2220
  • Website: http://www.thed.com/dining/andiamo-steakhouse/

 

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 i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Downtown Las Vegas

The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

 

 

 

 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in New York City’s West Village

This is a re-post of some of my favorite haunts Manhattan’s West Village. I’ve been traveling again….and it always messes with my postings. 


West Village 2The West Village conjures up Carrie Bradshaw-types and her many boyfriends tripping the light fantastic in the early morning, afternoon and night. It’s now a neighborhood peppered with forever young adults feigning an old-school worldliness…. and it was my playground for many years. At one time, I was one of those young adults so I know what I’m talking about.  The West Village is timeless with it’s cobbled neighborhood streets and hustle and bustle of it’s residents. It’s on this colonial streets where I learned how to shop for food, drink gallons of vodka and eat well with my friend, Penny, sometimes Sharon, Annie and Tanya but mostly, Penny. With Penny – whom I claim as my culinary mentor — we would stop at Murray’s Cheese Shop to purchase a crunchy French baguette and an excellent stinky fromage. Then, we would traipse half a block to the Korean market, interestingly enough named Bleecker Farm Corp which carries some of the best priced produce. Once we filled our woven Parisian handwoven bags – because shopping without them is so… mundane — we would just jaunt up to Ottomanelli & Sons for a decent, inexpensive cut of something and then cook it. In between our mock-European “marketing”, we would stop at a bar for an alcoholic refreshment (or three) …something to give us a jolt before we started being all culinary and stuff in Penny’s miniscule “3 x 5” kitchen. God, I love New York.

Hudson Diner

Breakfast: Hudson Diner. There are so many fancy,
schmancy places to get your eggs in the area. Steamed. Boiled. Chopped. Shirred. But there is nothing like a New York diner. Nothing. They always manage to please no matter what you order. It wasn’t the best food, meaning that every salad was made with iceberg but it was good food. Plentiful and cheap. Now, it’s not so cheap…but cheaper than the others.  You can still find one of the old New York diners and pretend it’s 1986.

My suggestion: An omelet with hash browns. It’s like a New Yorker, it never goes out of style. Order any kind you want as long as it comes with the hash browns.  There’s nothing like a pulpy bite with crisped almost burned edges. Heavily salted. (Potassium for the hangover.) Get rye toast. Or pumpernickel. They never offer you pumpernickel outside of New York City. Go ahead, eat the carbs.

Price: $12.75

Hours: 6:00am – 11:30pm

Address: 468 Hudson Street, NYC, NY

Website: https://www.grubhub.com/nyc/hudson-diner/

dasilviano.600Lunch:  Da Silvano. For about eight or nine months out of the year, New York is the Emerald City. Beautiful fashion, amazing people watching and for the most part — lovely weather. When the weather is perfect in the Big Apple, it’s glorious which is why I love having lunch at Da Silvano, eating outside with freshly prepared Tuscan food. I can’t believe it still exists in the same place – corner of Bleecker and 6th Avenue — for the past forty years. While deciding on what to eat from the housemade pasta or antipasti, take a sip of a refreshing Negroni or a glass of Gavi di Gavi and gaze at the passersby. There is nothing more entertaining than watching people – in real time — while eating some of the best Italian food in the West Village. Who needs Broadway and the cinema when you have the spectacle of New York?

My suggestion:  Any of the antipasti for lunch are brilliant and fresh. My favorite is the beef carpaccio. This was the first place I ever ate it.

Price: $14.50.  Negronis are a separate price.

Hours: Sun – Thursday: Noon – Midnight; Friday and Saturday: Noon – 1:00am

Address: 260 6th Avenue, NYC, NY,

Phone Number: (212) 982 – 2343

Website: www.dasilvanos.com

White Horse Tavern

Snack Time: White Horse Tavern. If there was ever a quintessential watering hole of the West Village this would be it. Serving up drinks since the 1880s, it’s a tavern with a literary bent – Dylan Thomas, James Baldwin and Jack Kerouac – all bellied-up to the bar. It’s probably in every New York City guidebook as it has a sense of history which most bars in the area don’t have anymore. This corner establishment with its neon sign beckoned so many famous and non-famous New Yorkers through its doors – for the casual nip or the full-on-let’s-drink-until-we-puke – it’s a slice of Manhattan history that hasn’t been replaced….yet. It’s not a dive – just worn around the edges with love and history. (Note: There is a well-known Alcoholics Anonymous building down the street at 50 Perry Street, just in case you have too many of the puke-till-you-drop episodes. Just sayin’.)

My suggestion: Anything you want with a slice of literary.

Price: Cheap. Cash bar…which is why it’s cheap.

Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11:00am – 2:00am. Friday and Saturday, 11:00am – 4:00pm.

Address: 567 Hudson Street (between Perry and 11th Streets), NYC, NY

Phone Number: (212) 989-3856

Website: No website.

Cornelia StreetDinner: Cornelia Street Café. In the 80s, the trend was not quiet little restaurants but big oversized – well, everything. Nightclubs, restaurants and, of course, that silly velvet rope. But down in the West Village, on a small little colonial street with a carmine-colored front lies Cornelia Street Café, a picturesque neighborhood establishment that has outlasted all the big guns and has only become better with age. In the beginning, there was a toaster, microwave and a coffee machine now – almost four decades later — it has expanded with two kitchens plus a cabaret. Owned by three artists who are still the proprietors, the café has become a landmark. It has the bistro chairs and tables, brick-walls, redolent of New York past and lovely food prepared by Chef Dan Latham. An absolute must. Small aside – I had my last date with a woman at Cornelia Street Café. She was a dancer with the Joffrey and was absolutely stunning. Olive-skinned. Beautiful body and face with Andie MacDowell hair. I knew I was gay when I only wanted to talk about her hair and clothes.

My suggestion: Black Sesame Crusted Salmon

Price: $22.00. (Seriously, where are you going to get a delicious piece of fish at this price in Manhattan?)

Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 10:00am – 12:00pm. Friday – Saturday, 10:00am – 1:00am.

Address: 29 Cornelia Street, between 4th Street and Bleecker

Phone: (212) 989 – 9319

Website: www.corneliastreetcafe.com

 

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in New York City's West Village

Photo Wikimedia Commons: Adam Jones

The End. Go Eat. Black Sesame Salmon