Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

6/24/15

Rediscovering the "De-chained" CPK and Loving It

Ever since I moved to NYC, I've had a very strong aversion to chain restaurants. Why should I eat at a place that I can eat at anywhere in the country when I have the best restaurants in the world mere footsteps away?, I thought. 

However, California Pizza Kitchen has always had a special place in my heart as it used to be the go-to birthday spot when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles. I always knew about the CPK, as it's affectionately known, at 30th Street and Park Avenue, but have never been nostalgic enough to visit during my almost 7-year NYC tenure. But that all changes now.

California Pizza Kitchen NYC

Monday night I had the opportunity to visit CPK--the only location in Manhattan (so is it really a chain? Haha!)--as they celebrated their 30th anniversary and their new mission to "dechain the chain."

I first got a tour of the newly redecorated space, featuring a chalkboard and a wall of herbs at the entrance, reclaimed wood table tops, and scenic NYC photos adorning the walls. The space already feels more welcoming than your typical, cookie-cutter franchise.


Next, I was given an apron and whisked into the kitchen with Head Chef Brian Sullivan (who developed the iconic BBQ Chicken Pizza more than 20 years ago!) and NYC pizza chef Juan who both taught me how to make a pizza and (here's the best part) TOSS THE DOUGH! My first attempt ended up with me breaking holes in the dough, but try number 2 got some serious air and I transformed it into CPK's Wild Mushroom Pizza ($13.49) with 5 different types of mushrooms, 3 cheeses, garlic, and scallions. Yum!

Stretching pizza dough at CPK
Juan teaching me to stretch the dough
Tossing pizza dough at CPK
Oops! Popped some holes!
Tossing pizza dough at CPK
That's a winner!
My Wild Mushroom Pizza
My Wild Mushroom Pizza
At this point, I was finding flour in my hair and covering my arms--tis' the life of a pizza arteest!--but I was having a blast. Then I sat down with CPK CEO G.J. Hart, one of the nicest people I've ever met, who along with Chef Brian walked me through some of the new menu items and cocktails.

The first drink I tried, my favorite of the evening, was the California Roots, a Svedka vodka concoction with muddled avocado, mint, and agave sour rimmed with fennel salt. Talk about unusual! I also tried G.J.'s creation, The Executive Decision, which has Casamigos tequila blanco, muddled mint, fresh agave sour, Monin organic agave nectar and fresh lime, and I thought it was like vacation in a glass. Lastly, I sampled the Blueberry Ginger Smash, which cleverly mixes Jack Daniels with agave nectar, Domaine de Canton ginger, fresh blueberries and lime and cranberry juice into a delightful fruity libation. I told G.J. I could see these drinks going for upwards of $16 at some Manhattan hot spots, but he told me the price point was about half that depending on which CPK you were visiting!

California Roots cocktail
California Roots
The Executive Decision cocktail
The Executive Decision
Blueberry Ginger Smash
Blueberry Ginger Smash

Next, the food! Delicious, delicious food! When I used to come to CPK as a kid, I would always reliably order the BBQ Chicken Pizza. While the old classic is still on the menu, the items that surround it are new, improved, and focused on seasonal ingredients. Case in point, the California Fields Salad (half $9.99, full $13.49) is comprised of gorgeous field greens with fresh watermelon, sweet strawberries, feta, and California pistachios, topped with a housemade Champagne vinaigrette.

California Fields Salad
California Fields Salad

I also tried the new Maine Lobster Flatbread ($10.99), a wonderful dish for sharing, it features real Maine lobster meat, mayo, fresh herbs, arugula, and shaved red onions on a parmesan flatbread. It's like a pizza version of a lobster roll, and I LOVE lobster rolls.

Maine Lobster Flatbread
Maine Lobster Flatbread

For main entrees, I sampled the Tricolore Salad Pizza ($12.99), which is a salad lover's dream! It features a different take on the crust--caramelized honey and parmesan lend it to be thinner and crispier--cooked and then topped with field greens, tomatoes, and shaved parmesan tossed with housemade Dijon balsalmic vinaigrette.

Tricolore Salad Pizza
Tricolore Salad Pizza
I also had a clever take on a gluttonous dish, their Shrimp Scampi Zucchini ($14.79), which had half regular pasta and half noodles made from zucchini (aka: zoodles!) sauteed with lemon, garlic, and white wine. This entire dish is only 470 calories!

Shrimp Scampi Zucchini
Shrimp Scampi Zucchini

Lastly, my favorite entree of the night was the Hearth-Roasted Halibut ($23.79) served over grilled asparagus and butternut squash farro and baby kale. I could eat this morning, noon, and night, and it's a good thing too because the size of the piece of fish they give you is ginormous! Definitely enough for 2 meals for me. And the farro adds a truly unique touch.

Hearth-Roasted Halibut
Hearth-Roasted Halibut
Of course they didn't let me skip out on dessert, and neither should you. Both the salted caramel pudding ($4.99) served with black cocoa cookie crumbs, whipped cream, and sea salt and the Butter Cake ($6.79) served with ice cream and whipped cream are decadent options to end your meal.

Salted Caramel Pudding
Salted Caramel Pudding
Butter Cake
Butter Cake
I go to a lot of restaurant events, and I must say the hospitality I received at CPK was top notch. You could tell the people who work there enjoy the company for more than the fact that it gives them a paycheck--there's true passion behind the food and drink. Their prices are also fabulous! Lunch specials range from $9-11 from M-F, 1-4pm, and they also have happy hour specials.

Me with CPK's head chef and CEO
From Left: Head Chef Brian Sullivan, me, and CEO G.J. Hart

G.J. also told me that CPK is committed to the communities they operate in, offering fundraising events as often as they can. They are also relaunching their grocery store branded items, so keep an eye out for those in the coming months. I also took home a copy of the CPK cookbook, so maybe I'll be trying some of their creations for my next dinner party!

The CPK Cookbook
The CPK Cookbook
CPK Cookbook inscription
Love the inscription!

It's official, I've been converted (partially) back to the chain. CPK, you have thoroughly impressed me and I'll be singing your praises for a long while.

Disclosure: CPK hosted me for this event and paid for my food, but all opinions are my own.


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6/23/15

Your New Go-To For Snack Attacks

Searching for a snack that will get you through your afternoon, or even a nice, no-mess addition to a picnic in Central Park? I recently came across Crispy Fruit by Crispy Green, specifically the mango and Asian pear flavors, and I loved them so much I had to share. 


Each snack pack comes in a convenient tear-open packet and what you get is 100% pure fruit. It's been dehydrated of course, but don't confuse this process with the typical drying method we've seen produced by several supermarket brands. The way Crispy Fruit is made preserves the true flavor of the fruit with no added sugar. The result is a light, crispy texture with maximum taste.

Crispy Fruit are available for purchase throughout NYC at stores like Gristedes, Garden of Eden, and Balducci's. Comment below which is your favorite flavor!


Disclosure: I received free snack packs of Crispy Fruit but all opinions are my own.

6/22/15

Get Your Greek On at Eons

The Chipotle model has obviously proven so successful for Mexican food, so it's no surprise we've seen numerous other cuisines steal the build-it-yourself meal restaurant and make it their own. The Greeks have done it this time with Eons in Murray Hill (633 Second Ave @ 34th Street) and it's bound to be your new go-to for fresh, flavorful food.

Eons Greek

Walking in, you get the view similar to what you seen in Chipotle--a line of people waiting to choose their base (here you get you meal served as a pita, over rice, or over salad), protein (chicken, pork, shrimp, octopus, steak, lamb, salmon, or veggies), and toppings (tzadziki, garlic spread, feta spread, eggplant, humus, or something called lado sauce). Then you can choose from a variety of veggies and condiments to top off your meal.

We met the owner Anoush and she sweetly walked us through our options and made some recommendations.


Eons Greek counter and menu

Anoush making my lunch
Anoush making my lunch
Proteins!
Proteins!
More proteins!
More proteins!
Toppings!
Toppings!
Prices range from $7-$15 (with octopus by far being the most expensive). I opted for salmon over rice and have been craving it for lunch ever since! The fish is super flavorful and you can tell that it hasn't been sitting there for days just waiting to be served. The tomatoes which topped my bowl were some of the reddest I've ever seen and I would definitely recommend you not skip the lentils! Also they serve Boylan's sodas, so Eons officially gets 2 thumbs up.


Anoush also brought us a sample of Eons' spreads. The humus was, well, not my favorite, but all the others were great, especially the garlic spread! Mmmmm. No vampires here!

A spread of spreads
A spread of spreads
Our lunches
Our lunches
If you live or work in the area, Eons would be a great place to pick up lunch or dinner. And if you're anything like me, you'll even have leftovers! Don't be afraid to splurge for bigger ticket items like the salmon because they are fresh and definitely worth the few extra bucks.

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6/19/15

Satisfy Your Crustacean Craving at Ambrose Beer and Lobster

Last month the Seaport got a new venue that has our vote for awesome summer hangout spot. Ambrose Beer and Lobster (18 Fulton Street) hosted a fun-filled event featuring the longest lobster roll I've ever seen, music by DJ Kalkutta, and an appearance by Dashca Polanco from Orange is the New Black.

Ambrose Beer and Lobster

 First things first, we headed for the bar. Vaction-y drinks we sampled included the Starboard--Absolut Mango, watermelon juice, and Saint Germain--and the Shipwreck--Sailor Jerry rum, Malibu, Bacardi, lime juice, and grenadine. Just add sand :)

Ambrose Cocktails
Ambrose Cocktails
The decor is great. Very shipwreck meets fun times. There's even a giant lobster!


Ambrose Beer and Lobster


Ambrose Beer and Lobster

The food was just want you'd want while sipping a beer outside on the cobblestones. We tried the giant pretzel with spicy honey mustard and cheese sauce, lobster avocado lettuce wraps, truffle fries, and the aforementioned lobster roll. Can you tell they like their lobster here? Dascha Polanco likes it too (see below!).

Giant lobster roll
Giant lobster roll!
Awesome in New York with Dascha Polanco
Look who we met!
 lobster roll
Lobster roll
Dascha Polanco loves the lobster roll too!
Dascha Polanco loves the lobster roll too!
Lobster lettuce wrap
Lobster lettuce wrap
Giant pretzel
Giant pretzel
Truffle Fries
Truffle fries

Check out Ambrose Beer and Lobster for a warm summer evening of fun and let us know what your favorite menu items were!

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5/22/15

Buy a Cookie from Your Favorite Broadway Star

Disclosure: I LOVE Schmakary's. I've tried at least half of their cookie flavors and merely walking into their shop and inhaling the aromas of fresh-baked cookies makes me smile. I also love their strong ties to the local Broadway community.

Schmackary's Logo

So it only makes sense that if they were going to do a fundraiser, it would be for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS--a wonderful organization that practically all of the Broadway productions get behind twice a year to raise money for people afflicted with the terrible disease.

Join them for the third annual BROADWAY BAKES 2015, and come watch your favorite Broadway stars play cookie peddlers just for you! From May 25-29, 2015, from 3-7pm, over 20 of the biggest names on Broadway (Audra McDonald came last year!) will join together to work behind the counter at Schmackary’s selling delicious cookies.

Half the proceeds from cookies sales and 100-percent of the tips generated while the Broadway stars are working at Schmackary’s will go directly to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Over the last 2 years, this event has helped raise more than $25,000 for the organization.

Here are some photos from last year:

Schmakary's Broadway Bakes 2014


Schmakary's Broadway Bakes 2014



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