I recently finished reading Danny Meyer’s book “Setting the Table.” Danny Meyer is a New York City icon within the food industry, and one of the greatest restauranteurs of our time. His philosophy on business and hospitality is unique and noteworthy, and his work in the industry has been an inspiration to me personally. I highly recommend this book, especially to those immersed in the New York City food scene, as it offers fascinating insight into the thought process and labor behind Danny’s restaurants, menus and impeccable service. For instance, you get to learn about Danny’s lengthy research journey across the US to sample the best burgers and custard, and the long hours spent in the kitchens of Eleven Madison Park developing the perfect frozen custard concoction for Shake Shack with the help of Eleven Madison’s pastry chef at the time. Every time I bite into a Shake Shack burger since reading “Setting the Table,” I think of Danny’s long journey to create the perfect blend of sirloin, chuck and brisket, and I understand the reason it’s so good.
Danny Meyer opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, in 1985. Being Danny Meyer’s original restaurant, it has obviously been on my “list” since I moved to NYC, however reading “Setting the Table” was what finally pushed me to make the reservation. Union Square Cafe is a product of Danny Meyer’s year spent in all of the finest trattorias in Italy and brasseries in France in his 20’s after he left his successful career in sales. Danny took all of his favorite elements of the European dining experience and brought them to life in NYC with his vision of Union Square Cafe. Today USC may not be the trendiest spot in NYC, but it sure is reliable. Reliable is serving some of the highest quality yet simple Italian cuisine, coupled with some of the best service in the city.
It was truly a unique experience to dine at Union Square Cafe after reading the book and truly having an understanding of Danny Meyer’s story. I noticed things about the dishes and service that I otherwise would have overlooked had I not gained a sense of Danny’s fine-tuned attention to detail, style and philosophy through his book. USC met all of my expectations. (Note I did not use the word exceed simply because I have the highest expectations for Meyer’s establishments based on experience). Bravo Union Square Cafe, a New York classic with outstanding food and service.
21 East 16th St. New York, NY 10003
What to Order: Fritto misto, any pasta (I had the spaghettini with flaked sea bass), roasted chicken, cannelloni beans, broccoli rabe
I’ve been wanting to try Traif for quite some time, but I get lazy on weekends and it takes a lot to get me out of Manhattan. (Note: Traif is in Brooklyn). Furthermore, Traif is a fairly hard reservation to get, so some advance planning has to go into it. Luckily my good friend did plan ahead, and made a reservation for 6 and dragged us all to Williamsburg for the night!
And I’m sure glad he did…Traif was absolutely incredible. It’s a small and cozy restaurant with a charismatic open kitchen and a backyard patio. The food is served tapas style (my favorite), so you get to try a bunch of different things. There was not a single dish I didn’t absolutely love, which is rare for a small plates place; I usually find that there is at least one dish I could have done without. The waiter suggested about 2-3 plates per person, which ended up being a perfect amount of food.
A few things to note about this restaurant: 1) It is NOT vegetarian friendly. Pretty much everything was heavy on pork, shellfish or some other kind of meat (hence the name, Traif which means non-kosher). No complaints from my end, but don’t bring your vegan or kosher friends here. 2) Most of the dishes are served in multiples of 4, so I would suggest going with a party of either 4 or 8. We had a (ravenous) group of 6, which was a bit tough and resulted in fighting over the last two pieces of each dish.
I’d say if I HAD to pick my favorite dish, it would be the baked muenster, pictured below. Keeping in mind I am a cheese lover, this was the most decadent and delicious melted cheese plate I’ve ever had. It was literally a pot of thick, baked muenster cheese, so thick that you couldn’t dip like fondue; we had to use knives to cut pieces of the cheesy, gooey goodness. This is one not to be missed, but then again I could say that about so many other dishes here as well!
229 South 4th St. Brooklyn, NY 11211
What to Order: Spicy Bigeye Tuna Tartare, Hampshire Pork Belly, Strawberry-Cinnamon Glazed Ribs, Baked Muenster Cheese, Broccoli Rabe
*Note: The menu seems to rotate quite a bit, but these were some of our favorites in April 2015!
Guess what everyone? It’s officially T-3 weeks until bikini season!! (For me anyway…). Cathy and I leave for Thailand right after Memorial Day Weekend, so it’s crunch time for getting that summer bod ready. And believe me, it’s been tough. NYC is FINALLY beautiful out which means everyone wants to get rooftop drinks…all the time! That’s sure not helping anything. I’m really trying to be good before I leave on my 2+ month summer world tour, just so that I don’t feel guilty about eating all of the pad thai, baguettes + fromage, and kebabs I want on my travels through Southeast Asia and Europe! The good news is that I’ve been testing out a bunch of easy, healthy recipes to keep me fueled throughout the day.
This is one of my new favorite go-to lunches. It’s extremely nutritious, surprisingly filling, and vegan-friendly. It’s also a very quick meal to prepare, and I have portioned out the ingredients to be perfect for a single-serving salad. The dressing takes inspiration from my time studying abroad in France, where my good friend adopted the recipe from her “host mom” who pretty much used it on everything. (One interesting tidbit: I became obsessed with French dijon mustard while in France, and the only brand I’ve found to be close to what they served in France is the Trader Joe’s brand! So clearly that’s what I used for this dressing).
I hope you enjoy this French-inspired healthy salad, and good luck to everyone trying to shed that winter layer!
Simple Kale Avocado Salad
1 Cup chopped Kale
1 Cup shaved brussels sprouts
1/4 Cup Toasted Almond Slices
1/2 Avocado, sliced
5-7 Baby Carrots, chopped
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
Pinch of Salt
Assemble all of the salad ingredients onto a plate. In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Drizzle the dressing onto the salad to your liking.