Plating It Up: It’s Not Just a Side Dish

Bacon, crostini, East Village, Lower East Side, Mac 'n Cheese
Crostini

Mailiano

The common side dish is no longer playing second fiddle. What was once considered just a side dish on menus has slowly grown into the focal point of some entrees. The trend in food culture of upgrading the side dish has been especially popular with macaroni and cheese, with portion sizes that create this childhood favorite into an adult meal.

S’mac (Sarita’s Mac ‘n Cheese) has has created a meal with familiar combinations like cheese burger and buffalo chicken and some exotic spices with their cajun and masala versions of the mac ‘n cheese which are served in your own individual cast iron pan. Another favorite, that’s also good for kids, is Brooklyn Mac in Greenpoint. With similar dishes as S’Mac but with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. There’s even a kids menu with smaller portions, making Brooklyn Mac a perfect family destination.

Another favorite, especially for the late night crowd, is the Mac Bar in the heart of SoHo. It’s modest size with its yellow walls and curved interior makes you feel as if you were standing inside and elbow macaroni noodle. The Mac Bar’s menu of playful and rich version of classic pasta dishes, including the Margarita Mac, Mac Stroganoff and Mac Lobsta will make you forget you’re eating a bowl of mac ‘n cheese!

Pigging Out

Bacon, New York City

“[The] Bacon trend will never End, ” according to Food & Wine magazine. Why is the Bacon trend still goes on…can it still be called a “trend” after all this time? Some fads come and go, but bacon is definitely here to stay! As long as I can remember, everyone’s been crazy about bacon. That aroma of bacon sizzling on the stove brings a smile to everyone’s face and them running to the kitchen.

photo: courtesy of Food & Wine magazine

photo: courtesy of Food & Wine magazine

More and more restaurants are promoting items on their menus around our obsession with bacon. The bacon “trend” stems from the food industry making us more aware of our love for the pig! Over the last few years, I’ve seen some interesting combinations and concoctions with bacon as the star ingredient. It’s not just for sandwiches anymore, bacon has been infused into cookies, milkshakes, pies, ice cream, alcohol, mayonnaise, jams and even candied and dipped in chocolate are just a few examples.

For those who just can’t get enough, there are restaurants and bars, in New York City, that have dedicated large part of their menu to bacon! Hell’s Kitchen has the Bar Bacon, offering beer and bacon, even a bacon tasting option on the menu. Swine in the West Village, where pork belly and bacon are staples and Pork Slope in Brooklyn is another favorite. There was even a bakery on the Upper West Side, Baconery, that was solely dedicated to all things bacon, from sweets to soaps to pillows, it was pork heaven. Unfortunately, it’s no longer in business but not forgotten, as bacon surely is when it’s gone from your plate.

Bar Bacon, 836 9th Ave., New York, NY 646-362-0622, BarBacon.com

Swine, 531 Hudson St., New York, NY 212-255-7675, Swinenyc.com

Pork Slope, 247 5th Ave., Brooklyn, NY 718-768-7657, PorkSlope.com

Are Doughnuts the new Cupcakes?

Bakery, Coffee, Doughnuts
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photo courtesy of Dough

The collapse of Crumbs Bake Shop signified the cupcake craze may have ended. Not that the love of cupcakes is gone but that the never ending buzz over cupcakes may be over for now…until someone makes some kind of hybrid cupcake.

New Yorkers have stopped waiting in long lines for cupcakes and are now sugar-hungry for the doughnut. It’s almost three years later and a line still forms as early as 4am outside Dominique Ansel Bakery for the Cronut. In October 2014, Dough opened it’s second location in the Flatiron District and found lines around the block during the week of the grand opening.

Month of the FlapJack

Lower East Side, New York City, Pancakes
photo: Clinton St. Baking Co.

photo: Clinton St. Baking Co.

Once in a while, I’ll have breakfast for dinner. And I know I’m not alone, out there! Usually when I do have what I call a “late breakfast” it’s something fast like bacon and eggs. If its anything hearty like waffles, its usually packaged, and honestly, it’s usually because I’m feeling too lazy to cook so I turn to something simple. I love pancakes, but have never found any packaged version of it that is satisfying.

When I was younger, my idea of going out for a great meal was when the family went to IHOP. It didn’t happen too often so on those rare occasions it was a real treat. I looked forward to my favorite thing on the menu, which I ordered every time, pigs-in-a-blanket. Pancakes wrapped around sausage links topped with whipped cream! The saltiness from the sausage and the sweetness from the pancake and syrup; it has my mouth watering, as I think about it. Pancakes have always been my breakfast comfort food, with french toast coming in a close second.

Cooling Off on The High Line: Mexican Paletas

Hot Dogs, Ice Cream, Ice Pops, Pork, Tacos

We had some scorching hot days this summer! The kind of heat that makes you not want to venture out from your air-conditioned dwelling to do anything but find refuge from the weather at another location. I found myself out, on one of the milder days, taking a walk on the High Line. I noticed the increased presence of food carts on this aboveground park. I decided to cool off and get a Mexican popsicle, a paletas, from the LaNewYorkina cart. I got a mango/chile paletas, and as I sat on the bench to bite into it, I thought it would be great to have these food options in other city parks. Normally, if you want sit in the park and eat you have to BYOB, and I usually don’t get hungry until I’m already in the park.

There Goes That Food Truck Again: Cool Haus

Desserts, Food Trucks, Ice Cream
photo: Cool Haus

photo: Cool Haus

At Union Square West: It’s been a very mild winter so far, so it no surprise to see an ice cream truck, Cool Haus, in New York City – with a line, of course. What’s highlighted on the menu, of the artisan ice cream maker? This day, it was an ice cream sandwich with sweet potato & marshmallow swirl gelato between two pumpkin spice cookies and caramel hot chocolate with chocolate blossoms and whipped.

Follow Cool Haus Truck on Twitter: @CoolHaus

Redefining ‘Airplane Food’

airplane, Food Trends, Gourmet, JetBlue, Restaurant

JetBlue is trying to prove an airline can provide an affordable “first class” experience, with all the bells and whistles, for a decent price. It’s not only the comfortable seats, early boarding and the free Wi-fi that are amongst the great amenities. The brightest has to be the food.

The JetBlue Mint service offers a menu worthy of a five star restaurant. JetBlue has consulted with New York City’s Saxon+Parole  executive chef to develop a menu composed seasonal, small plates. The menu also includes artisan sweets from Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery and Blue Marble Ice Cream. No corners are cut in table service here.

Hot Chocolate in the City

Bakery, Best Of, Chocolate, Food Trends, Hot Chocolate

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During the rough winter months, one thing to look forward to, besides a hot bowl of soup, is a cup of hot chocolate. And I’m not talking about a watered-down package of instant hot chocolate. I’m talking about hot chocolate that’s been brewed in a black kettle pot. During one of the coldest months, February, there’s a Hot Chocolate Festival at City Bakery in the Flatiron District. Each of the 28 days there’s a different flavor, like: Caramel Hot Chocolate, Banana Peel Hot Chocolate and Rum Raisin Hot Chocolate. It’s best to try to grab a cup of “magic” during the week or you’ll be waiting on a long line if you wait for the weekend at City Bakery. But when the party, er..ah, festival is over, this in New York City, and there’s no shortage of options for hot chocolate.

Cocktails & Hot Sauce

Cocktails, Jalapenos, Latin, Spicy

Most of us grab a hot cup of coffee or tea to, amongst other things, warm us up, especially on those bone-chilling winter (and some spring) days. Now, let’s say you’re going out for drinks or for dinner, and you’re in the mood for a warm drink; a cup of coffee or tea isn’t the optimal choice here. A word of caution, if you don’t like spicy foods, you’re not going to enjoy this suggestion. Try a jalapeno-infused cocktail. Many Latin restaurants around town, especially Mexican, offer jalapeno-infused tequila on their drink menu. You’ll feel the heat once it hits your lips, and it’ll warm you up like the best moonshine, east of the Mississippi, going down. Now, I love spicy foods so I’m a huge fan of these jalapeno-infused spirits. The best, of this spicy brew, make you cough after the first two or three sips like you’re a teenager taking your first swig of hard liquor.

Calle Ocho, inside the Excelsior Hotel, ‘Mule Kick’ with jalapeno-infused tequila and ginger beer

Mule Kick

Finger Licking Good

Chelsea, Chicken, Mac 'n Cheese, West Village

Dirty Bird

The other day, a friend complained to me about how food trucks serve such small portions. I explained that it’s because the food is meant to be eaten “on-the-go”. In most scenarios, you won’t have a place to sit and eat. So most people eat the food right outside the food truck or take it directly back to their office for lunch. Also the trucks are limited to the amount of inventory they can carry to serve the lunch crowd; too large of portions and they’ll run out of food while the lines are still long. This conversation had me thinking more and more about one of my favorite finger foods, chicken wings. A chicken wing is the perfect finger food, no fork required!