Friday, April 17, 2015

Farmer's Market Frenzy - Topping Rose Farmer's Market: Bridgehampton, NY

Farmers' Markets are my jam.  Ok, bad pun.  Really, any opportunity to buy locally grown/made/harvested products from a variety of sources all at once excites me to no end.  The Riverhead Farmer's Market is a treat and Smorgasburg (more like a farmer's market on steroids) is incredible.  And the Topping Rose Farmer's Market, which is run by a boutique hotel and a fine dining restaurant, is incredible.

The Market is housed in a multi-use building on the hotel grounds.  Part barn, part meeting center, connected by a glass corridor.  In this corridor, they had a magician doing balloon animals and magic tricks to entertain the kids.  Check, now on the shopping and tasting.

As for vendors?  They range from high end caterers to a vineyard to sunblock.  Some of our favorites:

Spoils from the Farmers Market
- Cavaniola's Gourmet Cheese Shop: This Sag Harbor mainstay offered the most delicious soft cheese and figs to taste.  The boys indulged on a $6 bag of fresh potato chips which was seriously decadent, both in price and flavor.

- Wolffer Estate Vineyards: One of our favorite vineyards on the East End had their latest rose on offer, so we had to make a purchase.  And dry white cider may be my new favorite.  Tip: These tastings are free here whereas you have to $15 - $20 for a flight at the vineyard.

- Clarkson Avenue Crumbcake:  Speaking of decadent, try the crumb cake - classic, chocolate or double chocolate.  Excellent crumb to cake ratio.  I could eat this every day.

- Wyse Organics: This interesting new(ish) business offers organic meals that are made sous vide style aka fancy for boil in bag.  The potato kale soup seemed a little bland but I bet their ricotta macaroni and cheese or lamb & butter bean ragu are worthy purchases.

- Hamptons Aristocrat: Having a party?  The radish appetizer and mini angel food cakes from the Hamptons Aristocrat would bring any party to the next level.

- Montauk Juice Factory: I haven't jumped on the juicing boat, yet.  If I did, I'd start with Montauk Juice Factory.  Try for yourself.

- East Hampton Gourmet: The winner here is the Lentil Rice Crispbread. Probably the best gluten free crack(er) you'll ever have. Rosemary, pink sea salt, everything or cheddar chipotle.  All equally excellent.

- Old School Favorites: Move over Nutella, this is our new chocolate spread.  They suggest having it on ice cream, I say eat it on a spoon.

- Sharp Hamptons: After all your cooking, you may need your knives sharpened.  Sharp Hamptons will come to you.

- Baby Hampton: And speaking of the Hamptons you may need some sunblock, be it at the beach, on the tennis court or on the golf course.  Try some local SPF.

This is one of the nicest Farmer's Markets you'll find anywhere.  However, the market is only open about 6 times a year -- the 3rd Saturday of the month in off-season.  In fact, the last market of the season is April 18th, so hurry up and figure out how to get there.

And if you're still hungry, stay for brunch.  We adored lunch at Topping Rose and can't wait to get back.

Until our next Burger, 

Topping Rose Farmer's Market
Topping Rose House
1 Bridgehampton - Sag Harbor Turnpike
Bridgehampton, NY

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Not Your Average Italian Restaurant: Verace, Islip, NY

Verace in the village of Islip is booming on a weekend night but on a Wednesday you'll find it a pleasing place for a celebratory dinner.  We have Italian restaurants in almost every town on Long Island, some better than others.  Lucky for all of us, Verace falls in the better category.

Sit in the dining room with its soaring ceilings while savoring a nice glass of wine and some crusty bread.  Homemade pasta is de rigeur here so we split the Penne Alla Vodka three ways for our starter.  Garlic and shallots cut the creamy pink sauce making it lighter than the norm.

I mentioned it was a celebration therefore steak was in order.  They have two to choose from: A filet mignon with rosemary, garlic and potatoes or a hanger steak with sunchokes and shallots (you can see they have a thing for garlic and shallots.)  The promise of vegetables led to me to the hanger steak which was well-seasoned and just delicious.  It also required another glass of wine.

And who could resist a Nutella Bomb with peanut butter gelato, Nutella mousse and caramel sauce.  We certainly couldn't.

I look forward to returning in warmer weather to sit on their back patio, indulge in one of their artisanal pizzas and perhaps just a little more vino.

Until our next Berger,

599 Main Street
Islip, NY

Brunching Vietnamese Style: Cyclo, Long Island City, NY

We love our Vietnamese food and are happy to have found a new one in Long Island City just off of the LIE before you enter the Midtown Tunnel.  Long Island City has become much more gentrified since JB and I considered moving there in 2005. I guess in 10 years that will happen.

We saw so many intriguing places on the way to Cyclo that we can't wait to go back and explore. But nothing would keep us from our Hanoi Heaven today.

The small stark dining room was packed around 1:00 on a Sunday. Didn't you know that Banh Mih is the brunch of champions?

JB snagged a Vietnamese coffee to start. Followed by a hoisin duck roll complete with carrot, daikon and fresh basil salad. Sweet and tangy, this was an ideal first course.

I knew a big dinner was in store for us so I had a fried tofu appetizer with a red pepper slaw. Again, perfecto. The red pepper complemented the tofu so well.

The Banh mi?  Their version has ham and pork and pate. The one at Boi Sandwich is more his speed.  Still any Banh mi is better than no Banh mi.

Until our next Berger,

5-51 47th Ave
Long Island City, NY

Oy Alert: Liebmans Deli, Bronx, NY

Oy. The iconic Jewish deli is disappearing. Liebmans in the Bronx used to have almost 100 other Kosher delis competing against them in their borough, today they are one of two who remain. (Thanks New York Times for that fact).

From the street you see hot dogs in the window and salami from the ceiling. Step inside and it's the old world: Formica counters, old school waiters and menus bigger than a small child.

Hot Dogs in the Window
Hanging Meats
Massive Menu

Service is brisk, though the food has stood the test of time. 

Matzoh balls are firm - just how I like them. JB swore by his pastrami and their potato pancakes were impeccable. Huge and impeccable. 

The boys hamburger was 100% Kosher and tasted like a fine steak. Fries were hot and thick. 

Fingers crossed this one doesn't close, too. This is a New York legend to try. No, it's not Katz's or Second Avenue Deli, two of our all-time favorites. It may be better. Try it for yourself.

Until our next Burger, 

Liebman's Deli
552 W. 235th Street
Bronx, NY

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Quicksie Takeout: Beyond Philly, Blue Point, NY

Shout out to Groupon for introducing me to Beyond Philly, a very casual Cheesesteak place in Blue Point. Had I not seen, and subsequently bought, that Groupon, I would never have known about this specialty spot. It's no Pat's (or Geno's for that matter) but it hits the spot when you are beyond Philly. Get it?

JB had a classic "wit whiz and onions". Everything was fresh and authentic. It could have used more of kick but that did not stop him! 

My Italian Chicken was cheesesteak style with melted mozzarella and tomatoes. The tomatoes were mealy, which I should have gathered since it is March, though aside from that, I liked my choice. I'm not really a cheese whiz kind of gal. 

Hot dogs and burgers round out the selections. Plus fries, rings and corn nuggets. No kale salad here. 

In the mood for some grub? Go for it. 

Until our next Burger,

Beyond Philly
168 Montauk Highway
Blue Point, NY

  • Berger Review!: Zinburger, Nanuet, NY

    Tucked among the strip malls and big box stores of Nanuet in Rockland County is a newish outdoor mall. It's relatively upscale (Lululemon, Apple, J. Crew) and has some nice(r) chain restaurants to match including our new favorite Zinburger. Actually, it's their official name that tugged me in the door - Zinburger: Burger and Wine bistro. Sounds like a winning combination to me.

    It's bright, loud and there's always a wait. Give them your cell and they will text you when your table is ready so you can hit the stores. Note to parents: The Apple Store will do the trick.

    There are over a dozen burgers available or you can make your own. The Zinburger with manchego and Zinfandel braised onions spoke to me. More like it sang to me. I loved it.  JB's Classic double had two patties (obviously) american cheese and chopped onions. Also a fave.

    We also tried zucchini fries but found them greasy. Although I enjoyed the Parmesan coating, I think JB was expecting something more like the avocado fries we had in Palm Desert last year. Yea, we still talk about them.

    The kids menu was also a hit.  $7 for a burger, fries and a drink = happy kids.  Big Z asked if we could come back the next day.

    This is the kind of place where there are so many things you want to try on the menu.  And I'm not just talking about burgers.  The mac and cheese that flew past our table looked like it really belonged with us.  And salads looked incredible from the now requisite Kale Caesar to an Ahi Tuna.

    Oops, I almost forgot to mention the wine, 18 varieties by the glass and 1/2 price bottles on Wednesdays.  Beer drinker? 17 local brews are available.  Suggestion to the staff - bigger pours, please.

    Pour size notwithstanding, if you're one of the lucky ones there may be a Zinburger in your state. Check it out!

    Until our next Berger,

    8141 Fashion Drive
    Nanuet, NY
    845.624.3245 for the East Coast Locations including FL, GA, NC, NY, NJ and VA. for their five AZ locations 

    Sunday, March 15, 2015

    Quicksie Sushi Lunch: Kaji Sushi and Lounge, Garden City, NY

    Got $9? You can have a very pleasant sushi lunch at Kaji in Garden City. For that price you get green tea, miso soup, a small salad with the requisite ginger dressing and two rolls of your choice. The rolls are of the basic kind - yellowtail scallion, tuna avocado, shrimp tempura - you know the drill. Still for $9 it can't be beat.

    If you like it and have the money - dinner gets more interesting. Spicy tuna gyoza are a favorite. And cocktails. Saketini anyone??

    Until our next burger,

    Kaji Sushi and Lounge
    965 Franklin Avenue
    Garden City, NY

    On the Run Vietnamese Sandwiches: Boi Sandwich, New York, NY

    On the run in NYC? A stop at Boi Sandwich on 3rd Ave in midtown is a mandatory.  In a matter of two minutes you can be indulging in one of their authentic Vietnamese sandwiches.

    We suggest the signature BBQ pork with all the fixins - mayo, cilantro, cucumber and daikon radish. Feeling vegetarian? The veggie with fried tofu, cabbage, bok choy and avocado is just as delicious, maybe better. 

    All sandwiches have a big chewy baguette. The French did colonize Vietnam, if you recall. So don't count out their skills in the boulangerie. 

    Take out is the only choice. No matter, these flavors will last for hours. And with time, it just gets spicier. 


    Until our next Burger,

    Boi Sandwich
    708 3rd Avenue (between 44th & 45th)
    New York, NY
    No website, but check MenuPages

    A chain reaction: Miller's Ale House (Nationwide!)

    Sometimes you need a kid-friendly chain restaurant. With TVs, coloring books, kid cups and alcohol. Lots of alcohol.

    To satisfy this need we chose Millers Ale House for 4 adults and 4 kids for Sunday brunch.  There's beer in the title. 

    Food is typical. Burgers, salads, sandwiches. Fried calamari was better than I've had in much fancier locales. Sizzling fajitas stood out. 

    But mostly the beer did, or cider, or whatever your alcoholic fancy. 

    Service is helpful and friendly. A kid hot dog wound up on the floor and boom, a new one arrived, free of charge. 

    So pile up the kids and head on over. They have over 70 locations across the country, so there's probably one close to you. 

    Bonus: kids eat free on Tuesdays. Suggestion to the management - how about parents drink free on Mondays or really any day? 

    Until our next Burger,

    Miller's Ale House
    Find your nearest location:

    A Mexican Winner (in a Strip Mall!): Tocalo Cantina, Garden City, NY

    You know you're officially a Long Islander when you are excited about dining in a strip mall. And before you start questioning my sanity, note that Tocolo Cantina in the Gallery at Westbury Plaza is no ordinary strip mall establishment. Prior to establsihing his Long Island prowess, Alexis Samayoa the chef worked at some extraordinary New York City eateries including WD-50 under the tutelage of Wylie Dufresne and Alex Stupak of Empellon Cucina.  So I was expecting great things from this new Mexican restaurant in Garden City.

    When you enter the soaring space bathed in turquoise you forget that you are sandwiched between the Container Store and the Sports Authority Elite. Our group came for the $15 two-course lunch. A steal in any locale. Course 1 offers a variety of guacamoles and salsas with homemade corn chips. (Note: lots of choices for Gluten-free diners) Guacamole is brightly flavored with just the right amount of lime. A mango version offers a more fruity approach. An ear of Mexican street corn or ceviche are also on offer.

    Course two gives more options - tacos, salads or tortas. Tacos, at two to an order, are on the smallish side. The fish tacos, fried "Baja style" are the fan favorite, though the pork belly pack the biggest flavor. Speaking of packing, the tortas are huge Mexican sandwiches. Just massive, especially compared to the tacos. 

    Don't count out the salads, a kale, quinoa and queso fresco with an agave dressing was lighter in calories but still up there in taste. 

    And the best surprise was a complimentary shot of Mexican hot chocolate for all members of our party. Wow - what a combination of flavors - nutmeg, cinnamon, hot pepper - yum. 

    And that was just lunch. Dinner offers bigger choices like paella, fideo and enchiladas. And don't forget drinks - this could be the next big spot for happy hour - margarita, sangria, you name it.

    The New York Times thinks it's excellent and so do I. 

    Save some room for shopping. 

    Until our next Burger,

    Tocolo Cantina 
    920 Old Country Road
    Garden City, NY

    Friday, February 27, 2015

    A Skipper: Joes Garage, Riverhead, NY

    We're continuing our explorations in Riverhead.  Our latest venture took us to Joe's Garage, located on the ground level of an apartment complex overlooking the Peconic River (and McDonalds). So really, not that scenic.

    Regardless, they do a big outdoor business and in the winter that area is tented and heated for crowds. But from our experience, I don't expect very large ones. 

    They do have one good thing on the menu: Tokyo Drift sliders.  These beauties have pork belly, cucumber salsa, kimchee and a spicy sauce. The Pork Belly is crispy, salty and fatty -- all the things that pork belly should be.  

    Other than that, skip the rest of the menu. Burgers were small and lacked flavor. And the fries were not fries at all, rather potato discs. If I order fries, I want fries, and fries are not round.

    A creamy bacon grits appetizer with a 5 cheese blend sounded tasty. It wasn't. It was greasy, mushy and I never actually saw any pieces of bacon. 

    Even the salads were eh. The servers said the ribs are the best. Not that I'd believe these servers anyway. 

    When I asked for a wine list, I was given a dumbfounded look. "Ok, do you have any sparkling?" I suggested. The response, "Um, no."Another try, "Do you have Prosecco?" Finally, "Uh, yeah. We got Prosecco." 

    Sorry, Riverhead.  This one is a skipper.  But we'll keep exploring.

    Until our next Burger, 

    Joe's Garage
    40 Peconic Avenue
    Riverhead, NY

    Farmer's Market Frenzy: Riverhead Farmer's Market, Riverhead, NY

    We've been spending more time in Riverhead lately. This Eastern Long Island town is attempting a Renaissance. Neither Hamptons nor North Fork, Riverhead is grasping for a new identity. And what better way to do so than with food. 

    Enter the Riverhead Farmers Market.  Right in the slowly gentrifying downtown (a Perabell in opening in Spring), a formerly vacant building is now repurposed for foodies, families and everyone in between. This indoor (outdoor in warmer months) market is a perfect escape on a cold winter's day.

    Booths to Visit:
    -  Tainos Sofrito & Mojo: I can't stop eating the jar of Sofrito I bought at this booth. Their version includes an amazing combination of cilantro, onions, peppers and garlic. Thus far I've had it with grilled chicken, shrimp, turkey, eggs, pasta and, I admit, just out of the jar. Seriously it goes with everything. Fair warning though, you may have some lingering garlic breath, so invest in some mints. 

    - Terranut: They had me at "tastes like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup." Terranut sells paleo-friendly mini-bars. The PNut has peanuts, gluten free oats and raw organic sugarcane, just three ingredients.   Crumble into a smoothie or just eat as a snack to boost your energy. At 92 calories this is a better choice than that bag of Peanut M&Ms from the vending machine. 

    - Mavi: This booth represents a Mediterranean restaurant that is opening in Spring 2015 in downtown Riverhead. Their feta dip is divine. I want to be their first guest. 

    - Two Brothers Pizza: Taste some "take n bake" pizza and then take some home for yourself. That's right, Two Brothers specializes in a fully made but not cooked pie. Bring it home, toss it in the oven for 20 minutes and voila, a hot-from-the-oven pizza. The samples there were worthy of a taste.

    - Hamptons Chocolate Factory: Always decadent, always delicious. Try my favorite the East Hampton Bark with dark chocolate, toffee and almonds. JB's favorite? The peanut butter and jelly bar.

    - Sang Lee Farms: You can't beat their incredible organic vegetables.  Their dips and sauces are also splurge-worthy. 

    - Blue Duck Bakery: I dare you to make it home without tearing into one of their fresh baguettes. 

    -  Mecox Bay Dairy: Their Brie-like Atlantic Mist is pricey but oh so dreamy 

    And the list goes on. New vendors are added each week. Come spring when the market heads back outside expect many more names. 

    Visit their Facebook page to learn more about this exciting venture from the Riverhead Business District.  And pay them a visit when you can.  Help support local farmers and businesses. 

    Until our next Farmer's Market,

    Riverhead Farmers Market
    221 East Main Street
    Riverhead, NY

    Saturday, February 14, 2015

    Chain Reaction: Soup's On at Noodles & Co.

    Soup season is now. While we've been exploring ramen -- there's another a great wide world of soups out there. We have been missing out.

    I'd never been to Noodles & Co., despite their 400+ outlets.  Fast casual is the game here, pick your entree (most of which involve a noodle), add a meat, an optional side and you're in business.

    Noodles range in all different styles from classic Italian like Pesto Cavatappi to Bangkok Curry. Gluten-free? They can solve for that, too.  Don't want any noodles? Sandwiches and salads are also on offer.

    So back to that soup.  Thai Curry Soup (with tofu) was my choice.  It warmed me right up.  Rice noodles, a slew of vegetables and a coconut curry broth.  For a chain, I'd say it was pretty good.  Really good.  And just enough spice to clear your sinuses.

    Good news for Long Islanders, the Garden City chain where I visited, will soon be joined by stores in Patchogue, Hicksville and Farmingdale.  In fact, according to a recent article in Newsday,  the goal is to open over 20 more Long Island stores in the next 5 or so years.

    So you can get your soup on (or noodle), anytime.

    Until our next Burger,

    Noodles & Co.
    Visit to find the location closest to you

    Wednesday, February 11, 2015

    San Francisco Treats: E & O, Fresh Roll, Sears, District and More, SanFrancisco, CA

    Phew - 3 days in San Francisco and I was exhausted.  But not of their food.  So many choices, so little time.  I barely scratched the surface of this magnificent city.  And even though I was mainly in very touristy areas (Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf and SoMa) where I could have eaten overpriced, mediocre fare, I really lucked out.  Here's how I navigated it all.

    For a quick bite
    -  Cafe Bellini: Just off Union Square, this cafe had your typical de rigeur quinoa and kale plus panini and espresso.  A little on the pricey side for a quick lunch.  You get what you pay for.

    - Fresh Roll: Vietnamese food Chipotle-style.  Pick your style - pho, summer roll, salad or Vietnamese sandwich, then your fillings and toppings.  My tofu summer roll with peanut sauce was a stunner. Someone please open this on the East Coast.

    Happy for Happy Hour?
    - E & O Asian Kitchen:  The tastiest thing I've had all year are the butternut squash dumplings at E & O. $1 each and worth every penny -- the sweet dumplings come in a curry sauce. Just phenomenal. 
    Oysters are also $1 each though these West Coast delights are not nearly as  good as those on the East Coast (I'm talking about you Eventide Oyster House.)  Wine is also half off during happy hour -- always a good thing.

    - District: Elevate your happy hour at this elegant wine bar near A T & T Ballpark. Delectable small plates include $1 oysters (much better than E & O), spicy lamb meatballs and arancini. Wine here ranges from your basic Pinot noir to some special finds. Forget happy hour, stay the whole night.

    Do the tourist thing
    - Sears Fine Foods: The line moves quickly at this San Fran institution. Go for the Swedish Pancakes - all 18 of them - and add on some lingonberries for tradition's sake. Truthfully, I've had better and thinner Swedish Pancakes but it's an experience worth enjoying.  I recommend adding Aquavit to the menu.

    - Fog Harbor Fish House : If in San Fran as a "tourist" chances are good you'll visit Fisherman's Wharf. My recommendation is not to go to one of the nicer restaurants. The food at Fog Harbor wasn't terrible. The tuna was fresh and well-seasoned. But service is horrendous and prices are astronomical. Save your money, grab a bread bowl and spend the rest of your dough on chocolate. Ghiradelli anyone?

    I'm taking recommendations for my next visit.  Can't wait to return.  So much more to see, do and, of course, eat.


    Cafe Bellini
    235 Powell Street

    Fresh Roll
    157 4th Street

    E & O Kitchen and Bar
    314 Sutter Street

    216 Townsend Street

    Sears Fine Food
    439 Powell Street

    Fog Harbor Fish House
    Pier 39 Concourse