Chef Mario Batali has captured my palate again with the small Gramercy tapas joint, Casa Mono. (Batali’s Greenwich Village Italian restaurant Otto is currently my favorite pizza in all of NYC). After a trip to Spain earlier this year with my girlfriends, I’ve been all about tapas, and you don’t have to stray far in NYC to find some incredible Spanish tapas- many even better than those I had in Spain. Casa Mono is extremely intimate with seating for maybe 25 people, and it does not take reservations—prepare for a 2 hour wait on a Saturday night. Luckily my friend and I went on a Thursday rainy night around 7, and we only had to wait about 30 minutes. Bear in mind it was also raining :/.
The menu is not one for the unadventurous; items like sea urchin and sweetbreads are sandwiched between more typical iberico ham and patatas bravas. The interesting combinations of flavors is what really captured my attention as I stumbled with what to order—half of the items I had no idea what they were, but most sounded intriguing.
The Buffalo’s milk burrata with saffron oranges was the perfect combination of creamy, tangy and sweet. I definitely don’t think I’ve ever had burrata with orange, but it was a fantastic twist. The simple pan con tomate was done flawlessly, on a toasted baguette with juicy tomato preserves. I would say it was a bit pricey for what you get, but worth the splurge at least once. I could easily see myself returning to tapas places like Macando or Pata Negra, but Casa Mono might be a one-time dining experience for me; given the unconventional menu items and steeper prices, I can’t see it becoming a regular stop, but man was it worth it for a unique dining experience.
Casa Mono $$$$
52 Irving Place New York, NY 10003
What to Order:
Tapas: Pan con Tomate, Buffalo’s Milk Burrata with Saffron Oranges, Chorizo Meatballs, Casa Pareja Marinated Goat Cheese
Greetings from sunny Los Angeles and Happy Thanksgiving Week! I was fortunate enough to get to spend a long weekend in LA before heading to northern California for Thanksgiving with my family, and I can’t get enough of it. I left a frigid 30 degrees New York City for sunshine, kale, beach and 80 degree weather for a few days and it feels fantastic! Not only was I reunited with my blog partner, but we got to see UCLA kill USC at the Rose Bowl! In honor of being in LA for the weekend, I took a staple Thanksgiving ingredient, sweet potatoes, and made a typically LA muffin: gluten-free and no refined sugar. Oh LA, you care about trendy healthy foods way more than NYC.
While gluten-free and healthy, these muffins actually taste fantastic, and they make a great start to your morning as you are running out the door. The sweet potato and greek yogurt keep them exceptionally moist, and the almond meal base gives them a delicious nutty flavor. Most importantly, these muffins are a great easy fix to your problem of having way to many leftover sweet potatoes after Thanksgiving dinner. So fear not; when life gives your sweet potatoes, make gluten-free muffins.
Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Muffins
1 Large Sweet Potato
2 Cups Almond Meal (I crushed whole almonds in a food processor until meal consistency)
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Non-fat Greek Yogurt
1/4 Cup Pure Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake sweet potato on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes. Take sweet potato out of the oven and remove the skin. Mash the sweet potato until no lumps remain. In a large bowl, combine almond meal, baking soda and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs. Add sweet potato, greek yogurt, maple syrup and vegetable oil. Whisk until smooth. Stir wet ingredients into the almond meal mixture. Batter should be fairly thick. Spoon batter into a greased muffin tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever faced my continual brunch dilemma of savory or sweet, but it’s an ongoing battle. Every time I go out to brunch, I’m immediately drawn to the decadent description of brioche French toast with fresh berries or lemon ricotta pancakes, but resist because I know myself too well; I will take two bites and crave something savory to even out the sweet. Well, I found my solution at Beauty and Essex, a genius idea of brunch small plates to share which means everyone can have a bite of both sweet and savory.
Beauty and Essex wins at life, and they win a top seat on my favorite brunch spots, which is saying a lot coming from a bruncher like me. When you enter the old furniture store front that the restaurant has tastefully kept intact, the dark front room is full of cases holding antique jewelry, skis and other strange items. You immediately hear bouncing club music from the champagne brunch day club upstairs, and as you enter the dark velvet adorned bar, you’ll spot girls in furs and heels galore. I’ll admit the trendy, dressed-up aspect of the place is not really my style for brunch, (pretty sure I was in Lululemon leggings…) but it makes for fantastic people-watching. If you’re not into “the scene,” this place may not be for you.
Now let’s get to the food. Chris Santos, the executive chef, is hands-down the king of small plates. After eating at his restaurant Stanton Social, I couldn’t wait to see what his other Lower East Side spot had to offer. We started off with vanilla beignets with raspberry preserves for a sweet bite, and they were incredible, warm and oozing with raspberry. Luckily there were four of us, so we got to try quite a few different savory bites as well. My favorites were probably the “bagel and lox” pizzetta (a “pizza dough” that literally tasted like a flattened everything bagel with a generous portion of lox), the braised short rib huevos rancheros and the lobster hash. We were not disappointed in anything, and could easily have ordered about 8 other dishes; it was very hard to choose! And the best part was getting to try a few bites of everything. Tapas-style brunch is definitely the way to go, well done Beauty and Essex.
Beauty and Essex $$$
146 Essex St. New York, NY 10022
What to Order:
Small Plates: Vanilla Beignets, Hot & Sweet Marinated Tomatoes on toast, Bagel & Lox Pizetta, Lobster & Chorizo Hash, Braised Short Rib Huevos
*Note: Order about 2 per person
I’ll just cut right to the chase…we’re slackers. Fall has been an insanely busy time in New York, and apparently in LA too. And it may only get worse with holiday season approaching! Even though October and Halloween have come and gone, our pumpkin kick has not. It’s still appropriate to obsess about pumpkin until the end of Thanksgiving, right? Call us Basic if you must, but the truth is pumpkin is delicious, versatile and easy to cook with, so the pumpkin posts continue.
Oat balls are one of my favorite healthy snacks because they’re so easy to grab on your way to the gym or if you need a midday kick at work but want something light. They also keep for a reasonable amount of time sealed in the fridge. These ones are fairly similar to this peanut butter variety I’ve posted previously, but mainly uses the pumpkin as the adhesive to make the balls stick instead of peanut butter. They take about 10 minutes to make, so I always choose these instead of processed granola bars from the store.
I have to admit, this pumpkin spice flavor was maybe one of my favorite combinations yet. I guess I should stock up on pumpkin purée from Trader Joe’s now before the season ends! Pumpkin spice balls in July, anyone?
Pumpkin Spice Oat Bites
1/2 Cup Almonds
1 Tbsp Agave or Maple Syrup (I used Trader Joe’s Agave-Maple Blend)
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puréé
1 Cup Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
1 Tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/4 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips (Or regular chocolate chips, chopped)
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
Place almonds in a food processor or powerful blender and blend until completely crushed into a powder, on the verge of becoming almond butter (note: may need to pulse and continually scrape sides). Place almond powder into a large bowl. Mix in Agave and pumpkin until smooth. Stir in oats, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie spice, mini chocolate chips and chia seeds. Use your hands to roll the mixture into balls, about 1 – 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place in fridge for best results to allow the balls to set.