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Omakase at Sushi Zo

December 26, 2017

Omakase at Sushi Zo, a LA import just south of Washington Square Park, is a quiet and tranquil retreat.

It starts off with a beautiful plate of sashimi of tuna, striped bass, abalone, Kumamot oysters, and Japanese sea bas.

Then comes a piece of halibut from Long Island with ginger..

and a Spanish mackerel…

… then sweet plump Hokkadio scallops…

… followed by medium fatty toro with a touch of soy.

Uni is always a favorite, especially if it’s Hokkaido.

Shishito pepper adds a nice kick to the red snapper…

A few more pieces of beautiful sashimi of sea perch and amber jack and seared toro…

The parade of fish is interrupted briefly by an intermission of soy cured ikura and chawamushi studded with scallops and crab.

The parade of sashimi continues with skip jack, baracuda, and sweet shrimp from Santa Barbara.

A rather unusual piece of protein takes form in a beautiful seared waygu beef..

Two more final pieces, cherry trout and sea eel before

A tuna hand roll marks the end of the beautiful parade of fish…

Before we move onto the tamago, a small bowl of red miso as a palette cleanser…

And finally, a refreshing citrus sorbet to end the meal.

Sushi Zo | 88 West 3rd Street, New York, NY 10012 |

My Maine Bites: The Holy Donut

December 25, 2017

While vacationing in Portland, we decided to go on a donut run.  Now this is my kind of run, a literal donut run where we trotted through the streets of the neighborhood towards our ultimate destination, The Holy Donut.

Luckily it was fairly quiet on a weekend morning at their original location on Park Avenue so we didn’t have to wait long before diving into our prizes for running a mere mile down hill.

Half a dozen of the best that The Holy Donut has to offer, all made with local Maine potatoes for extra fluffiness and moisture.  Classic flavors include pomegranates and maple bacon while seasonal flavors like blueberries are more of a rare treat.

These were definitely worth a brisk run in the morning… or any time of the day.

My Maine Bites: Lobster Roll Highlights of Maine

December 13, 2017

To say I had a singular goal on the trip to Maine might be a slight exaggeration but it’s not that far from the truth.  I wanted to eat as many lobster rolls as I can manage without getting sick of the delicious summertime treat.  I managed to sample quite a few recommended from various sources including a local write-in candidate.

We set foot in Portland Saturday morning and made a beeline for Eventide Oyster Co., a popular hip Portland bar known for its long lines and, of course, delicious brown butter lobster roll.  Not a surprise but arriving half past noon meant that we were facing a 45 minute wait in the blistering heat.  What do we do?  Meander over to the Two Fat Cats Bakery for a square of their blueberry bar to satiate our growling stomachs.

Even though it was grueling outside and the oyster bar inside was quite tempting, we still opted to sit outside to enjoy our lunch.

A local ale cooled us down and was quite lovely to wash down our oysters with kimchi ice.

Next up was the fish sandwich, with iceberg lettuce, tartar, and pickles.  Sounds simple but done so perfectly – a tender flaky filet with crunchy golden crust and the perfect balance of sauce and pickles.

And then finally, the piece de resistance, the lobster roll.  Two things set this particular roll apart from any others we have had.  The first is the soft springy Chinese bun used instead of the typical roll and the second is the toasty brown butter laced throughout the plump lobster meat.  How do you make a warm butter lobster roll even more decadent?  By browning the butter of course for a toasty dimension.

Highly satisfied with a modern spin on the lobster roll, we went searching for something a little more classic.  A brief chat with some locals at the beach resulted in a small change our original itinerary and led us down a windy country road just north of Portland.  With a little help from the GPS, we found Libby’s Market in the town of Brunswick, off the beaten tourist path.

With only a few tables outside in the parking lot, the bare bones operation was tucked away inside a convenient store.  Within a few minutes, we plopped down on the picnic tables and chowed down on this simply prepared lobster roll.  A well toasted lobster bun, check.  Sweet plump chunks of lobster in a light mayo sauce, check.  All served with a handful of chips from the cash register on a paper plate, check.  A truly simple authentic local experience, check.

Even though we just ate, we jumped back into the car to find our next lobster roll in order to stay on schedule.  A short drive up the coast and we found ourselves in the town of Wiscasset on the banks of Sheepscot River.  Red’s Eats is a well known establishment locals and visitors alike for 78 years.  The long line of people snaking down the road from the stand certainly made this obvious from a few blocks away.  My mind was set and not even the blistering August sun could deter us from the 2+ hour wait.

By the time we made it to the ordering window, we managed to digest the lobster roll from Libby’s and even worked up a little appetite.  So in addition to the lobster roll, we threw in an order of fried clams as well because why not.  The lobster rolls here are not kidding around.  The huge barely broken apart lobster meat were so succulent and sweet that I barely even needed the buns that acted really as a catch all for the butter that dripped down.  This was definitely the one roll that really allowed the main ingredient to shine without anything to hide behind.

And the clams?  Not so shabby with plump bellies that were coated in a crunchy yet light batter.  The giant pile disappeared really quickly as we sat by the river and soaked up some rays.

Not a shabby view while we dug into the fruits of our labor of waiting.

Two Fat Cats Bakery | 47 India St # D, Portland, ME 04101 |

Eventide Oyster Co. | 86 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101 |

Libby’s Market | 42 Jordan Ave, Brunswick, ME 04011

Red’s Eats | 41 Water St, Wiscasset, ME 04578 |

My Maine Bites: Palace Diner

August 23, 2017

So where exactly is Biddeford, ME?  I am not quite sure but I do know that there is a little vintage diner worth a pit stop right off Main street in the sparsely populated downtown.

The Palace Diner is sort of a rebirth for the good old fashion Americana diner.  Located in an old fashion vintage dining car, the counter service only restaurant seats a mere dozen or so for breakfast and lunch.  We arrived quite a bit before noon but even with that early start our group of 5 had to wait for our turn.

I always prefer a bar seat so this was kind of my dream of a restaurant with only a row of counter seating.  I loved watching our hipster servers dance around each other in the tight space taking order and making sure that no coffee mugs were left empty.

When it came to the food, they take classics such as this breakfast sandwich to another level.  Buttery fluffy English muffin was the perfect vehicle to deliver the beautifully cooked square of fluffy eggs, bacon, cheddar and some jalapeno for a lovely kick.  The smashed crispy potatoes with a still creamy center was just the cherry on top of this unbelievably flavorful dish.

And for a sweet treat, I couldn’t resist the French toast.  This comes in a single or a double stack.  I don’t understand why anyone would have only a single piece of this delicious toast.  Perfectly golden brown, the middle was a lovely custard that was lightly sweet, ready to soak up some golden syrup.

If you ever find yourself driving up from Boston to Portland, be sure to make the Palace Diner a part of the trek.  The throwback diner in the middle of nowhere is churning out some decadent versions of classic breakfast and lunch treats that made me wish that it was tucked away around the corner of all small towns in the USA.

Palace Diner | 18 Franklin St, Biddeford, ME 04005 |

My Maine Bites: Sweets and Treats

August 23, 2017

We snuck away to Portland Maine last year to celebrate my 30th birthday last year and I can still taste the delicious treats we sampled across the adorable seaport town.

First stop was a slice of blueberry bar from Two Fat Cats Bakery while we waited for a table at Eventide.  Of course it had to be blueberries because why not?  Buttery and intensely fruity, the bar was one of our first delicious bites in the city of Portland and happy to have it be such.  This little unassuming local bakery also churned out some delicious looking pies that smelled incredibly irresistible but we refrained to save room for some delicious lobster rolls.

For breakfast, we hit up The Holy Donut while on a run because we had passed the mile mark and deserved a break.


This local gem uses local potatoes to make its donuts whose flavors change daily.  The flavors were intense and the texture moist and dense.  We couldn’t decide which of the 16 daily flavors to chose from so we decided to go with our top 6 because we only turn 30 once right?

Of course the maple bacon was a favorite of ours because bacon just makes everything better.  Cake donuts are usually not my jam but these almost changed my mind…

And while meandering through the cute streets of downtown Portland, we stumbled upon Mt Desert Island Ice Cream.  This little ice cream shop had unique flavors from brigadeiros to bay of figs to coriander and blackberry swirl.  If only we had found it at the beginning of the trip we would have tried everything they had to offer.

Two Fat Cats Bakery | 47 India St # D, Portland, ME 04101 |

The Holy Donut | 194 Park Ave, Portland, ME 04102 |

Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream | 51 Exchange Street, Portland, ME 04101 |


A Day of Food and Fun in North Fork, Long Island

June 25, 2017

North Fork on the north shore of Long Island is just far away enough from the more popular Hamptons to have developed its own personality.  It was heralded as the Brooklyn of Long Island after all with delicious .  This made it a perfect weekend get away or, in our case a day trip, for us girls.

We left bright and early on a sunny Saturday morning.  So early that we made it to our first stop, North Fork Roasting Company, by 7.30.

Set in the town of Southold, this quirky little breakfast and coffee spot was a large house with a huge front yard decorated with lawn furniture.

The house inside was dotted with little dog accents here…

And here…

But nothing beat the real deal who hung out with us as we recharged with delicious coffee and a little breakfast food.

A bit of waffle egg sammy with bacon and gruyere..

with fluffy strawberry flapjacks…

And finally a little healthy bowl with kale and two fried eggs and sweet potatoes.

After we were full of delicious breakfast foods and pumped with caffeine, we took the windy road further into North Fork and stopped by the lavender farm and local farmers market before finally reaching the town of Greenport.  By then, the sun was hanging high in the sky and basking the beach town.  Even though we were right by the water, it was starting to get a little too hot for comfort.  Time to retreat indoors for lunch at Salamander’s General Store.  

A refreshing drink of mint lemonade while we wait for Salamander’s General’s famous fried chicken lunches.  Crispy crust and briny moist meat, there’s nothing better than made to order fried chicken in every which weather.

The fried oyster roll wasn’t too shabby either.  Plump and briny oysters were fried to perfection and stuffed into the soft roll.  And in case you were more interested in enjoying the delicious food outside, Salamander’s General also has a take-out section that will package things for picnics.

Once again, we had stuffed ourselves so after a little bit of shopping on Main Street.  So it was time to hit the beach for a much needed afternoon nap where we spent much of the afternoon relaxing.

Before heading back to New York, we pulled back into the town of Greenport for an early dinner at Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market.  

The cute waterfront shack offered a small menu featuring mostly fresh oysters and clams on picnic tables under bright umbrellas.

And because I am a hands-on diner, of course I volunteered to shuck our oyster dinner.

Not before a refreshingly spicy Michelada with a fresh oyster though!

I went to work after a few slurps of delicious creamy chowder on our 2 dozen oysters, all fresh and briny, tasting of the Atlantic Ocean.

As confident as I am in my oyster shucking skills, I left the clam shucking to the experts.

And that, rounded out our day of food and fun girls’ trip in North Fork.  Good food, sun, and relaxation.  There really isn’t much more you can ask for in a summer weekend.

North Fork Roasting Company | 55795 Route 25, Southold, NY 11971 |

Salamander’s General Store | 38 Front St, Greenport, NY 11944 |

Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market | 37 Front St, Greenport, NY 11944 |

My Madrid Bites: Bar Casa Dani and Sala De Despiece

June 14, 2017

When in Spain, tapas are a must.  For a more down home experience, we headed to Bar Casa Dani for lunch and for supposedly one of the best tortilla espanola.  Situated in the middle of a busy neighborhood market, Mercado de la Paz, Bar Casa Dani, a family owned bar was a mildly chaotic and authentic experience that one only hopes to find when traveling abroad.

Packed to the gills during lunch time with locals and tourists alike, we knew immediately this was going to be a wonderful experience as we waited patiently for a table and watched plates of delicious food come out of the kitchen. Of course, the tortilla espanola was a must have here.  Runny with creamy butter potatoes in the center, these were some of the best versions of the dish I have had.

A bowl of chilled gazpacho to cool off from our walk all the way from Plaza del Sol.

And another bowl of something a little warmer.

And for main courses, we chose a stuffed pepper with tuna served with golden patata bravas and a wonderfully rich and hearty Madrid style veal tripe stew called callos a la madrilena.  If you like tripe, this was definitely a winner.

We were far from being fluent in Spanish so we completely missed the whole concept of a set menu that changes daily for only 10 euros per person for 3 courses!  What a steal!

For a slightly more modern experience, we headed to the neighborhood of Rios Rosas to check out Sala de Despiece.  This spot came highly recommended by a few travel magazines which made me a bit wary but our delicious meal there completely blew me away.

While most Spaniards would drop by Sala de Despiece for a bite of two and a drink before heading out to dinner, we decided to park ourselves at one of the counter seats the whole night, sampling our way through the extensive menu.  A bag of crisps to munch on while we perused the menu which luckily was also written in English on the back.

Our first dish of course had to be the solomillo de tomata, a signature dish here at Sala de Despiece.  A whole sweet juicy tomato was peeled and marinated in tomato juice, sugar and salt.  Topped with crispy fried basil and some flakes of salt and finished with a drizzle olive oil, this was a simple dish that really lets the fresh ingredient shine through.

Next, we indulged in tiny bites of foie gras and morels with truffles…

while we watched our waiter, dressed in white overcoats, work on our next bite of cured egg yolk wrapped with lightly torched cured pork fat.

The blow torch melted the fatty cured pork over the golden yolk like a silk wrap, a delicious salty savory wrap that is…

The piquillos cured in honey and Hawaiian salt was a refreshing break from the last few rich bites.

But then we moved onto the meatier courses.  The first one up was sirloin tartar, served up in a petri dishes with sauces in pill shaped droplets.  A little delicious DIY science experiment disguised as a meal.

We followed up the beef with these exquisitely charred baby squid with a homemade aioli, tender and tasting of sweet yet salty ocean with a smokey finish.

We moved back onto another beef dish with the carpaccio with more truffles.   The waiter showed us how to make these thinly sliced beef into a tiny bite packed with flavors before we were left to our own devices.  Another yummy fun DIY dish.


And finally, just because we were still a bit hungry, an order of octopus to wrap up the night.  The generous meaty portion of octopus was braised to tender perfection and was topped with chimchurri.  A wonderful end to a night of delectable innovative tapas with a modern twist.

Bar Casa Dani | Calle de Ayala, 28, 28001 Madrid, Spain |

Sala de Despiece | Calle de Ponzano, 11, 28010 Madrid, Spain |

My Madrid Bites: Churros con Chocolat and More

June 12, 2017

A long weekend in Madrid in late May was the perfect time to experience some sunshine and of course devour a lot of delicious jamon iberico and churros con chocolat.  Sure Chocolateria San Gines is probably one of the biggest tourist attraction but it doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of a quick and delicious stop, especially since they have been slinging these delicious treats since 1894.

The location of San Gines near Plaza del Sol is almost always bustling with activity, even at 7am in the morning.  To keep up with the demand, the kitchen just keeps churning out these delicious crispy snacks plate after plate.

We enjoyed ours, both thin and fat churros, in the shaded alley way of the plaza.

The chocolat was the perfect consistency for dunking the golden churros, not too sweet for a great balance against the fried donuts.  Now that’s a snack.  Did I mention that this place is open 24/7?  We definitely came back a few more times during our short trip.

For a slightly more modern coffee stop, we checked out Santa Eulalia a few blocks away.

The display cases at the front of the coffee shop drew us in, the beautiful interior intrigued us to linger and the smell of the freshly baked bread and desserts brought us to a table tucked away in the back.

A cappuccino and freshly squeezed orange juice to accompany our pastries…

Almond and pistachio financiers were dense and buttery while the raisin almond bun was light and fluffy.  Perfect place to rest our weary feet after spending the afternoon exploring the beautiful streets of Madrid.

Chocolat San Gines | Pasadizo de San Gines, 5, 28013 Madrid, Spain |

Santa Eulalia Boulangerie | Calle Espejo, 12, 28013 Madrid, Spain

Wood-Fired Pizzas and More at Pasquale Jones

April 29, 2017

Pasquale Jones calls a corner just north of Little Italy home.  Sandwiched between trendy Nolita and more traditional Italian American enclave, Pasquale Jones is a beautiful modern restaurant featuring deliciously wood-fired pizzas and other dishes worth a trek.

Ponder over the small plates for a nibble.  For example, the warm braised leeks might suit your fancy one evening.  Served with walnuts and shards of parmigiano reggiano, this was a lovely  light starter.

A bite of pasta is never a bad idea but make sure you share it though to save room for the main star of the restaurant.

The pizzas of course!  The margherita pie is a great equalizer and judge of the quality of sauce and dough at any pizza spot.  Balance is key when it comes to sauce and as for the dough, I always like to see a few blistered on the crust for that true wood-fired kiss.

As a person who prefers white pies, the better pie was the little neck.  Studded with briny bites of little neck clams, the pie was bright with a squeeze of lemon and parsley.  I will be returning here for a bite of this very soon.

It’s easy to make a dinner with simply pizzas and overlook the rest of the menu but the wood oven fired entrees are worth paying attention to.  Specifically this beautiful pork shank for two.  Unbelievably tender, the meat fell off the bones with a light pull from the fork.  A simple plate of arugula salad thoughtfully accompanied the meaty entree in case you were looking for some greens.

As for dessert, well, there really aren’t any.  It’s a bold move but I appreciate a restaurant that knows its strengths.  To end the meal, the kitchen offered just one choice, poached seasonal fruits with homemade ice cream and pistachio crumble.  A beautifully simple way to end a delicious meal.

Pasquale Jones | 187 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012 |

Omakase at Shuko

April 23, 2017

Shuko is right around the corner from the apartment but not exactly easy to find with the nondescript door.  Took a bit of planning to secure the reservation but finally managed to check off another omakase from the list.

The menu was simple enough, a straight forward sushi only omakase or a kaiseki experience with both small plates and sushi.  We of course opted for the kaiseki but that wasn’t all though.  We were then given the choice of upgrading our experience with a few supplements, playfully drawn out on a small menu.

Once the hard decisions were made, we just sat back and waited until the plates started to arrive.

First, a homemade mochi bite with pistachio, miso and shiso.

Followed by refreshing salad of dungeness crab with cucumber yuzu.

Next was a decadent ball of chopped toro with Beluga caviar and a side of homemade sweet milk bread.

The Spanish mackerel with bonito sauce, shiso and daikon was followed with a beautiful plate of ocean trout with spicy mushroom, ikura and crispy trout skin.

Next, we moved onto some hot dishes.  Warmed lobster pieces were served on top of carrot puree with savory bacon bites and snap peas.

We had unknowingly ordered more lobster from the supplemental menu, a plate of spicy lobster with green and white onion and lotus root to share.  More lobster never hurt anyone right?

The last of the hot kaiseki dishes was a small plate with buttery veal with ramps and baby turnips.

A small bowl of consomme before we move onto the sushi portion of the meal.

A nice fatty piece of toro to start things off…

then skip jack…

and dorado…

and spanish mackerel (one of my favorite pieces of sushi)..

That was followed by fluke with seaweed..

… a piece of sea bream with ume…

… striped bass with bright yuzu…

And a lovely sweet piece of scallop.

A beautiful piece of uni was up next.  Always a favorite at any omakase, this was no exception.

While we savored the uni, we watched as the chef worked on meticulously removing meat from a tuna bone.

A hand piece with singed toro was deliciously decadent.

Soft shelled crab made an appearance on a sushi piece.

And was followed by a delicious piece of spicy sea trout crispy rice.

A simple tuna roll…

And a one bite of ume and shiso wrapped in paper thin lotus root marked the end of the sushi service.

A sorbet palate cleanser was followed by a slice of warm apple pie with bay leaf ice cream.  A bit of Americana touch to a traditional kaiseki meal before we were sent on our merry way into the night belly full of sushi.

Shuko | 47 East 12th Street, New York, 10003 |