Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts


What You Missed at Thrillist's 2015 Taco Knockout

Remember when I told you about an epic taco event taking place this past weekend? Well, it was flipping fantastic and indeed epic.

Thrillist Taco Knockout pinataThrillist Taco Knockout event

Thrillist's 2015 Taco Knockout drew more than 600 people to the Hudson Hotel's Tequila Park Taqueria on Saturday May 2. There were pinatas and sombreros and tons to eat with 10 different tacos from NYC restaurants all competing for the acclaimed Taco Knockout belt. 

The 2014 Taco Knockout belt
Armed with empty stomaches, my pals and I had a mission to try all 10 in the 4 hours we were allotted and we felt the mission was more than doable. We were given our cocktail tickets and a fancy blue chip in which to vote for our favorite.

First things first...Milagro cocktails! I tried the "Freshest Margarita" while my friends sipped on the "Paloma Milagrosa."

Milagro cocktails at the Thrillist Taco Knockout event

Margarita at the Thrillist Taco Knockout event

Then we got right down to it. Here's the listing of tacos in the order we tried them and our thoughts on their merits:

Chef Alfonso Ruiz & Chef Tom Casatelli’s Sunset Pork with chipotle pineapple pork, pickled jalapeno corn tortilla, picked red onion & chipotle crema: This creation from Ho'Brah was a fairly standard taco, but delicious nonetheless. The meat was cooked nicely but the flavor combination was nothing special.

Sunset Pork Taco from Ho'Brah
Sunset Pork Taco from Ho'Brah
Chef Robert Cho’s Cho Nut Taco with smoked brisket, bacon, smoked kimchi, bourbon chipotle sauce, cheddar cheese, fried ramen crumble on a buttered fried tortilla with powdered sugar: This was a real flavor explosion from the chefs at Kimchi Smoke. They combined traditional Korean flavors with downhome-style BBQ deliciousness. The powdered sugar and fried ramen crumbles were unexpected yet welcome.

Cho Nut Taco from Kimchi Smoke
Cho Nut Taco from Kimchi Smoke
Tequila Park Taqueria Executive Chef Geoff Rudaw’s Chicken Vindaloo Taco with mango chutney, raita & crispy mee krob noodles: This was my favorite hands down and the one I voted for. I love it when flavor combinations from different ends of the world meet and this taco epitomized that concept. The only thing we wanted was a bit more heat.

Chicken Vindaloo Taco from Tequila Park Taqueria
Chicken Vindaloo Taco from Tequila Park Taqueria
Executive Chef Jesús Nuñez’s Taco y Olé with beef oxtail, fried egg cream, piquillo pepper, crispy jamon Serrano, herbs and pickled veggies: This taco, from Socarrat Paella Bar was another flavor fusion. We also appreciated how colorful it was, and I was a big fan of how the sauces mixed well in each individual bite.

Taco y Olé
Taco y Olé from Socarrat Paella Bar
Chefs & Owners Eduard Fraundeer & Wolfgang Ben’s Crispy Chicken Schnitzel Taco with ramp remoulade, radish and Austrian pumpkinseed salsa: "I love ramps," my friend exclaimed as she took a bite into this taco. The chefs from Edi & The Wolf really threw a curve ball with this taco, both because it was the first hard shell we had tasted and also because...schnitzel!?! It was much enjoyed, especially because of the ramps.

Crispy Chicken Schnitzel Taco from Edi & The Wolf
Crispy Chicken Schnitzel Taco from Edi & The Wolf
Chef Thomas Kelly’s Smoky Carnitas Tacos with manchego, crispy tortilla strips, corn salsa & creamy chipotle: Food truck cum storefront Mexicue went all-out comfort food with their taco. All together I thought it tasted reminiscent of a cheeseburger, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. My only complaint about this taco was how much liquid spilled out whenever I tried to take a bite. Definitely not something to eat on a first date.

Smoky Carnitas Tacos from Mexicue
Smoky Carnitas Taco from Mexicue
Chef Barry Frish​’s Buffalo Chicken Taquitos with family secret buffalo sauce and bleu cheese/ranch dip: When we first saw these creations from Taquitoria, a conversation was instantly sparked on the glories of Costco taquitos my friends and I apparently both devoured in middle school (those were the days). These babies were served with a combination sauce that had a bit of a big kick. The glory of the dipping sauce was though that you could control how much you wanted. Thanks for the walk down memory lane Taquitoria!

Buffalo Chicken Taquitos from Taquitoria
Buffalo Chicken Taquitos from Taquitoria
Executive Chef Adrian Ramirez’s Mahi Mahi BLT Taco with grilled mahi mahi, chipotle-piloncillo bacon, shredded lettuce, lime pico de gallo, agave cilantro aioli: Frankly, I'm surprised we didn't see more fish tacos. This version from La Esquina was perfect for me and almost earned my vote although my friends thought it was a bit too spicy. The thing that most impressed me about this taco was that the chefs were making the tortillas right in front of us. Talk about fresh!

Mahi Mahi BLT Taco from La Equina
Mahi Mahi BLT Taco from La Equina
Executive Chef Sasha Shor’s House-Cured Smoked Pork Belly Taco with poblano lime ranch and hot pink pickled onions: Talk about flavor! This taco from Tres Carnes was the ultimate in mega-rich taco with homemade pork belly that melted in your mouth. I also got a kick out of the hot pink onions.

House-Cured Pork Belly Taco from Tres Carnes
House-Cured Pork Belly Taco from Tres Carnes
Executive Chef Brian Tsao’s Beef Bulgogi Tacos with wonton skins, Asian pear, kimchi slaw, toasted sesame & scallion: Last but not least, this taco from Mira Sushi & Izakaya wins the award for most likely not a taco, but it was still good anyway. The crispy wonton shell gave it an interesting flair and the beef was flavorful.

Beef Bulgogi Taco from Mira Sushi & Izakaya
Beef Bulgogi Taco from Mira Sushi & Izakaya
Other scrumptious food items available throughout the event were super-creamy guacamole from Rosa Mexicano and all sorts of churros (some with bacon bits and dulce de leche and there was even a chocolate fountain!).
Guacamole from Rosa Mexicano
Guacamole from Rosa Mexicano
There was also fantastic entertainment by DJ Dirty Digits, percussionist Jimmy Lopez and flash mob performances by the Northeast’s finest mariachi band, Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino and folkloric dance group Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York. 

Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino
Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino
Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York
Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York
Where can I get one of those dresses?

As the event wrapped up and everyone yearned for their stretch pants, Mexicue was awarded the 2015 Thrillist Taco Knockout belt for their Smoky Carnitas Taco.

Chef Barry Frish from Mexicue wins the Taco Knockout
Chef Barry Frish from Mexicue wins the Taco Knockout
And lastly, here are some snaps of my and my friends with our taco-eating hats on...literally :)

Friends at Thrillist's Taco Knockout

Friends at Thrillist's Taco Knockout

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! Celebrate responsibly, please!


Take a Trip Around the World...With Grilled Cheese

There are two kinds of adults in this world--those that think board games are meh and those who could literally spend all day playing them. We think that those in the latter category are, well, awesome and we have found the perfect new bar for all these cool folks to congregate, play games to their hearts' content, and munch on the best damn grilled cheese in Brooklyn.

We recently attended the press preview night for HENRI on Fifth (279 5th Avenue, Park Slope), which recently opened with an eclectic menu (grilled cheeses of the world!), a cupboard of all your favorite board games from Operation! to Hungry Hippos and Cards Against Humanity, and a comprehensive list of bespoke cocktails.

First things first, I sampled the Dirty Henri with gin, cucumber, and moscato. This drink was a little sweet for me, but I loved the freshness of the cukes. Friends who tried the other 4 drinks on the menu (one bourbon, one whisky, and one house-infused rhubarb vodka) agreed with me on the sweetness pattern, but that could all be attributed to the opening night jitters of a heavy-handed bartender. 

The stars of the night were the grilled cheeses. The owner told us that the restaurant was named after his little son, Henri, who inherited German and French heritage from his mother and Pan-Asian genes from himself. Therefore, the menu includes a mix of all these influences. For example, you can order a grilled cheese sandwich in 3 different ways:
  • The Classic (American): Cheddar and fontina on pullman bread
  • Le Classique (French): Gruyere and caramelized shallots on garlic toast with sherry thyme au jus
  • Die Klassische (German): Muenster, sauerkraut and brautwurst on pretzel bread with beer mustard dip
All were amazing, but days after I still find myself craving the American version. Simple, cheesy goodness. The German, however, was definitely the most unique grilled cheese I've ever tried. All sandwiches come cut in fours (easier to share!) and with shooters of tomato bisque or butternut squash soup.

The Classic
Die Klassische

Other standouts of the night included the Sriracha Deviled Eggs and the Korean Bahn Mi Taco. 

Sriracha deviled eggs -- We could eat a tray of these
Bahn Mi Taco
Before heading out, we had to indulge in some board game action. I'd say we broke some sort of Jenga record...37 rows! Props to Dave from Barton's Bites for being an excellent player!

And just to make things even better, we found this on a shop near the bar. So it's a legit neighborhood :)

If we lived in the area, this would be a go-to spot. I can't imagine a better way to end a workday than with a Classic grilled cheese and a rousing game of Pac Man (they have the old school game tables!) followed by a epic round of Jenga.

Henri on Fifth on Urbanspoon


Calling All Holiday Shoppers! (And Free Cocktail Lovers!)

Headed to the Renegade Craft Fair this weekend? More than 200 indie vendors will be hawking their handmade wares at the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 W 18th St) on November 15 and 16 and it's never too early to begin holiday shopping!

Even better, when your feet get tired and you begin craving a complimentary cocktail, head on over to the Ace Hotel on Saturday 11/15 from 6:30-8:30 pm for the official afterparty sponsored by Flavorpill and Sprout by HP.


CancerCare 70th Anniversary Gala Recap

It's not often I go into a giant party and leave with not only a giddy buzz, but also a renewed feeling of hope and confidence in humankind. After attending CancerCare's 70th anniversary gala last week at Cipriani 42nd Street, I was able to observe first-hand the power of community and effective fundraising.

Waiting for my friend outside of the venue, I had a grand old time watching the fancy shoes click clack on the feet of philanthropists and cancer survivors as they arrived at the Spring gala. It was like a shoe fashion show! Upon entering ourselves, we were greeted with Cipriani's signature Bellini. We also sampled truffle mushroom tartlets and veal with marinara sauce. Yum!

The former bank was decked out in class, with the extensive silent auction wrapped around former teller windows and other monetary memories. In addition to Soul Cycle class packs and gift certificates to Casellula and David Burke restaurants, I spied a giant bottle of 1993 Dom Perignon (can you imagine the pressure behind that bottle's cork!?).

Katie Couric was the first to present an award. She gracefully told the story of how CancerCare came to her family's aid when her husband was diagnosed with cancer several years ago. I couldn't help but think a) how amazing she looked, b) how poised she was, c) how well she kept herself together while opening up an extremely vulnerable side of herself to a roomful of strangers. I am in awe of that woman.

Katie Couric

In addition, 13-year-old Maddy Gold, CancerCare's youngest advocate, told the extremely moving story of how her mom fell victim to cancer when she was only 6 years old and how CancerCare has provided support to her family. I felt goose bumps up and down my arms while listening to her speak eloquently and beautifully (and I'm getting them again just writing about her). I kept thinking, "How can this person be only 13 years old?!"

Maddy Gold

The live auction featured Sotheby's auctioneer Hugh Hidesley, who entertained the audience with his clever methods of raising auction bets and ultimately bringing in more support for the organization. Amazing prizes included an ultimate foodie trip to Paris and a private dinner cooked in your home by the one and only David Burke. Next time I have $17K to spend, I know where I'll go...

We didn't stay for dinner, but I can definitely attest to the bartenders' martini-making abilities. Up, very dry if you must know :)


Broadway Recap: Realistic Joneses and Bullets Over Broadway

April is one of my most favorite months because it means I get to see many of the new Broadway shows. This Spring is shaping up to be a celebrity-filled, comparatively scandal-less season.

One new show I saw, The Realistic Joneses, starred Toni Collette and Tracy Letts as a middle aged married couple dealing with life and their new "friends" played by Michael C. Hall and Marissa Tomei who enter their lives and stir things up. The play is an interesting take on the saying 'keeping up with the Joneses' because each of these couples has more traits to be repulsed by than jealous of. But maybe that's a statement on life? The grass is always greener, right? The acting was superb, but unfortunately the story was a bit hard to follow at the end. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to see Hall out of the serial killer role or observe a particularly chipper Tomei.

(The Realistic Joneses is now open at the Lyceum Theater; 149 W. 45th Street and tickets can be purchased here).

The second show I saw was Bullets Over Broadway, starring Zac Braff in his usual goofball but surprisingly charming and intelligent role. Originally written for the screen by Woody Allen, Bullets is a revival that's all glitter. Dance number after dance number, this show shines with pure entertainment and pizzazz. The plot revolves around a playwright (Braff) who needs someone to back his next show and a mobster who needs a way to please his showgirl girlfriend. Love triangles abound and lines are crossed. The two leading ladies, Marin Mazzie and Betsy Wolfe, are shining lights who perspire talent and really steal the show away from Braff, who is fantastic to watch but owns vocal chops nowhere near as amazing. There's a lot of Tony talk buzzing around this show so get tickets before they become a hot commodity.

(Bullets Over Broadway is now open at the St. James Theater; 246 W. 44th Street and tickets can be purchased here)

Before I saw Bullets, I was invited to the Lantern's Keep, a hideaway of a cocktail bar tucked into the lobby of the Iroquois Hotel, for a pre-show blogger reception. I tried their signature cocktail, The Glass Door, with gin, lemon juice, cucumber, apple and sugar. Yum! We also sampled some of their bar bites, including candied nuts, olives, pancetta wrapped white asparagus, risotto balls (seriously one of my favorite foods!), lamb carpaccio on a potato chip, peanut chicken satay, and ceviche on a cucumber. All was delicious! I'm definitely going to have to remember this place as a pre-theater time filler :)

Stay tuned for more Broadway recaps and be sure to give us your full reviews of any of these shows in the comments below!

Lantern's Keep on Urbanspoon