1. Big Green Egg Smoker/Grill
On a recent trip to Atlanta over Memorial Day weekend I discovered this awesome Big Green Egg grill. If you haven’t seen one of these things – its totally cool and easy to use. And it’s BIG. And GREEN. And looks like and EGG. It’s actually a ceramic grill and smoker that reaches temperatures up to 700 degrees F and has the ability to grill, smoke or steam everything on the planet in about 15-20 minutes. Very cool. We made a delicious Thai Sea Bass in Banana Leaves recipe from their Big Green Egg Cookbook and for our big BBQ party we smoked some amazing Texas-style Beef Brisket for about 11 hours and grilled a ton of fresh veggies from the farmer’s market. The result? Perfectly cooked crispy veggies and BBQ with a charred seasoned crust to DIE for – if only I could have one of these cool tools on my NYC rooftop, life would be even sweeter than it already is!
2. Butterfield Market, UES NYC
It’s funny how when you live in Manhattan, going to another part of town feels like going to another country at times. I discovered this cool market on a recent excursion to the Upper East Side when I went to a book launch party at Candle 79 for Michael Natkin of Herbivoracious. It’s more than a grocery store, and its not just a farmers market. Butterfield’s has an amazing bakery full of fresh baked breads, pastries, cookies, pies, tarts and cakes that will make you feel like you’re on a little hidden street in Paris. Rows and rows of fresh fruits and veggies, cheeses, frozen yogurt, gourmet prepared meals, sushi, sandwiches, soups and salads, imported goodies (chocolates, oils and vinegars, jams, caviar, coffees and teas..the list goes on) in their gift shop and a great catering menu to boot. Definitely worth paying a visit even if it means taking a trip to the other side of the world (just kidding!) or you can check them out and order some goods online.
3. Mandarin Napolean
I recently attended The Manhattan Cocktail Classic – a really cool event in a private suite at the Andaz Hotel sponsored by Mandarin Napolean liquor brand. The waitresses were decked out in French costumes, the lounge suite had old B&W movies with backgammon and zengo games on the table – and the outdoor bar had some really unique cocktails they whipped up featuring this delicious Belgian liqueur – a rich Sicilian Mandarin orange flavor-infused luscious brandy. Mandarin Sours, Belgian Coffee, Mandarin and Tonic, and Mandarine Mojitos are just a few of the creative cocktails we sampled at the event. The story goes that Napolean actually created the idea for this unique liquor back in 1892, by soaking Mandarin oranges in cognac – Mandarin oranges were a symbol of wealth and power, a perfect blend for the powerful ruler – and a legend to this day.
4. Manducatis Rustica, LIC NYC
Manducatis Rustica is a cool little Italian place in Long Island City, run by owner and head Chef Mamma Gianna. They serve classic rustic Italian dishes and fresh pasta such as Lasagna, Wood-fired Pizzas, Antipasti, Chicken Piccatta, and Lobster Ravioli in Sage Lemon Butter and more. What’s even cooler are the life-sized statues out front, imported from Italy (which according to Mamma Gianna won’t be there much longer, so visit while you can!) and their famous homemade gelato in tons of different flavors like Pistachio, Mocha, Lemon and Tiramisu..mmmm!
5. Melt Shop, NYC
I don’t know about you, but I’m an absolute sucker for a mean Grilled Cheese sandwich. Enter Melt Shop, the ultimate hot shop for comfort food in Midtown Manhattan, run by Spencer Rubin and Chef Katy Sparks. They offer 13 different kinds of gourmet Grilled Cheese sandwiches – try the Truffle Melt made with Havarti, Arugula, fresh cracked black pepper and truffle oil, or the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Melt full of Jalapeno-Jack cheese, red cabbage slaw and Melt sauce, or the 12-hour Braised Pulled Pork with sharp cheddar, dill pickles and homemade BBQ sauce. Their Tater Tots are amazing and come with 5 different types of dipping sauces like Parsley Pesto or Truffle Mayo, and they also serve a great list of Breakfast Sandwiches, Wraps and Biscuits and have a few tempting desserts and handmade milkshakes on the menu too. Don’t forget a side of Homemade Tomato Soup to dip your Grilled Cheese in for the classic comfort food fix.
6. RTR Bag & Co/Baggalicious NYC
Handpainted and made to order by RTR Packaging, these bags are just chic, creative and downright cool. Most of their clients are corporate but their bags are so fun that I might just need to track them down to get some hand-painted bags of my own – perfect for an event or party!
7. Tello, Chelsea NYC
If you’re looking for a great Sunday brunch place in NYC – this is the place to go. Tello is a trendy Chelsea-based Northern Italian trattoria decked out with red-checkered tablecloths, a big brass and wood bar, year-round Christmas lights, a jukebox pumping out Sinatra tunes, outdoor cafe seating and a Prix-Fixe Brunch Menu including cocktails for only $20. I ordered the Moules Frites (steamed mussels soaked in buttery white wine, garlic and herbs) with a refreshing Mimosa while soaking in the sun on the patio reading a good book and being amused by the Chelsea crowd walking by. According to NY Magazine, their Fried Calamari, Penne and Meatballs in Tomato Sauce and Chicken Tello (boneless pieces sautéed in garlic and white wine with mushrooms and sausage) are a few of their specialties also worth a try.
8. Barolo’s Garden, SOHO NYC
Located on West Broadway in Soho, Barolo’s Italian Ristorante and Garden is just a beautiful place to eat, period. I went there with some friends this past Easter for Sunday Brunch, and we dined on their magical garden patio surrounded with Cherry Blossom trees studded with sparkling white lights. We sampled a delicious Watermelon, Feta and Arugula salad and Fresh Mozzarella with Basil and Tomatoes for starters while sipping Champagne and enjoying a beautiful sunny Spring Day. For entrees, we had the Risotto with Gorgonzola and Blueberries (interesting combination of flavors!) and their Classic Rigatoni with Sausage and Peas in a Tomato Cream Sauce. They specialize in Northern Italian cuisine from the beautiful wine region of Barolo, Italy and also have an amazing wine list with over 1,200 Italian and imported wines and also have a huge restaurant inside and offer space for catering and events. A must-see for a special or romantic occasion!
9. Dekalb Farmer’s Market, Atlanta
It’s amazing to me that I lived in Atlanta Georgia for 12 years and only visited this awesome international farmer’s market maybe ONCE?! I was down there for Memorial Day Weekend this year visiting friends and we took a trip over there to buy some fresh goodies for our Thai Sea bass we made one night. This market has fresh fruits and veggies from all over the world, and also has every kind of spice you can imagine along with fresh baked breads, seafood, meats, cheese, a pastry and dessert section, teas and coffees and ingredients that you won’t find here in the U.S at a regular grocery store. I bought about 12 different bulk spices (all for less than $10!), tea, Thai coconut, mini wild blueberries, pecans, pistachios, sea salt, seasonings and other dried goodies that I could take back in my suitcase with me. Oh, and you can’t take pictures in there (I actually got scolded and was asked to put away my camera LOL) but you’ll absolutely love this place – it’s like taking a trip around the world and finding the best international gourmet foods all under one roof.
10. Yogi Mayan Cocoa Spice Tea
I may be a die-hard coffee fan, but tea is something I’ve been trying to drink more of not only for its health benefits but also to reduce the caffeine buzz in my life. I discovered this Mayan Cocoa Spice tea at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market but I’m sure you can find it at health food stores or other gourmet grocery places. This delicious tea is a concoction of ground cocoa shells, (full of powerful antioxidants!) mixed with Ayurvedic warming and cleansing spices of Cardamom, Clove and Organic Cinnamon Bark, Black Pepper, Chicory Root, Natural Vanilla and Ginger Oil. Perfect way to start your day before a healing yoga session or a run – and it will get your blood flowing without the caffeine jitters with only 5 mg of caffeine. Serve it with a natural sweetener and steamed milk and you’ve got yourself a tasty Cocoa Chai Latte you can make at home!