Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer

Chef and Co-Owner: Joe Isidori
Cuisine: Craft Burgers and Beer
Vibe: Casual / Hipster / Bar-only seating
Location: 529 Broome Street (between Sullivan and Thompson)
Website: Black Tap

Finally got my hands on some craft burgers at Black Tap! I’ve heard so much about this place over the past few months and have been itching to try it. The space is tiny — it’s exclusively bar seating and fits about 18 or so people. I was super pumped to learn that BT’s beef purveyor is Pat LaFrieda, which is super high quality and absolutely delicious. We tried the Greg Norman (thick beef patty cooked perfectly medium rare) and the Bison Burger (super juicy and flavorful with an awesome pesto mayo). I totally loved the Greg Norman and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the Bison burger!  My goal is to try every burger on their menu — who’s with me? :)

The Bison Burger (fresh mozzarella, pesto mayo, arugula, shaved parmesan)
The Greg Norman (wagyu beef, house buttermilk-dill, blue cheese, arugula
Inside the Greg Norman

Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer

Pier A Harbor House

Executive Chef: Richard Gras
Cuisine: American / Seafood
Vibe: Casual / Beer Hall / Spacious / Picnic Table seating
Location: 22 Battery Place
Website: Pier A Harbor House

Back at Pier A for a family member’s birthday and so excited to be here! I couldn’t have beer and whiskey (they are part of my Lenten sacrifice), so I went for the Pimm’s Cup which is super refreshing and light. Cucumber cocktails are awesome. Since there were a bunch of us celebrating, we ordered up a storm and I got to try a little bit of everything. A few of my faves: the warm pretzel with beer mustard (amazing!), chicken strips (so juicy), and lobster mac & cheese (nice chucks of lobster and the perfect amount of melts cheddar). Even though it’s technically spring, it’s still 35 degrees out so we couldn’t sit outside… But I’ll be back again soon! Added bonus: I found out that Pier A is open every day until 4am. Perfect for night owls like me. :)


Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s No. 1, ginger beer, cucumber and lemon) 


Assorted East and West Coast Oysters


Warm Pretzel with beer mustard and honey mustard


Fish & Chips


Chicken Strips


Fried Shrimp


Lobster Mac & Cheese


Ooey gooey cheesy goodness!


Montauk Calamari


The Long Hall Kitchen

Pier A Harbor House


Executive Chef / Owner: Esther Choi
Cuisine: Korean Ramen
Vibe: Casual / Counter seating
Location: Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue (between West 15th and 16th Street)
Website: Mokbar

After a few meetings at the office, my lovely friend, LaNinaEffect, and I headed over to Chelsea Market for lunch at Mokbar. Since I still can’t eat beef or pork until Easter (I gave them up for Lent), I decided to try the Chicken Ramen. It was so good! I actually think I like it better than the pork ramen. <gasp> The dark meat was so juicy and tender, and I’m obsessed with Chef Esther’s cucumber kimchi. LaNinaEffect, a gluten-free vegan, gives the Vegan Miso Ramen (with rice instead of noodles) two thumbs up. I had it during my last visit and loved it. The broth is so savory and flavorful. We were treated to a Kimchi Trio — absolutely amazing! My personal faves are the cucumber and daikon. I could eat them all day, every day. Many thanks to LaNinaEffect and to Chef Esther for a fabulous lunch!


Chicken Ramen (Roasted Chicken Thigh, Cucumber Kimchi, Garlic Chive Salad)


Close-up of the amazing chicken ramen


Kimchi Trio (Cabbage, Cucumber, and Daikon)


Vegan Miso (Kombu Shiitake Doenjang Broth, Tofu, Triple Seasonal Vegetable, and Crispy Potato) 


Seasonal Tea: Apple Cider


Table Talk with Chef Deepak Ballaney

Current Gig
Executive Chef and Owner, International Wings Factory

About the Chef
Chef Deepak Ballaney’s first job was at IBM in the Information Technology department in India. Eventually, he switched careers and went into the Hospitality field, where he worked for the Taj Group of Hotels.  Chef Deepak came to the United States in 2003 and continued to work as a hotel consultant for another six years. At the peak of his hospitality career, he decided to follow his passion and enroll in the Culinary Institute of America. After graduating, Chef Deepak consulted for several restaurants, including two Indian restaurants (Akbar in Edison, New Jersey and Delhi Heights in Queens, New York) and a Mexican restaurant, El Dorado. In 2012, he decided to make his dream of opening his own restaurant a reality. At first, he couldn’t decide between fine dining or doing something more casual that would help him create his own brand. Chef Deepak went with his gut and opened International Wings Factory in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 2013. IWF serves up tasty wings, burgers, and sandwiches and is known for their unique sauces with global flair.

International Wings Factory: 1762 First Avenue (between 91st and 92nd Street)


Chef Deepak Ballaney in the kitchen at International Wings Factory

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Bombay, India. At first, my life was exactly what my parents wanted it to be. If your father is a scientist, then you will become a scientist. Just a very typical Indian family. I graduated with majors in chemistry and physics, and got a job at IBM. But my long-time dream was always to attend culinary school and have my own restaurant.

What did you enjoy eating most as a kid?
Scrambled eggs, but done the Indian way. It’s called Bhurji.  The eggs are made with clarified butter (ghee), a lot of masalas, onions, tomato, and prepared on a flat iron skillet. No matter what time of day, I can always eat them. I used to love to eat them at three in the morning after a long night of drinking. (Laughing) They are the best!

At the moment, what is your favorite ingredient and what do you like to make with it?
I use spices a lot, but my all-time favorite ingredient is chipotle pepper. I use a lot of them in my cooking along with other Mexican chilis. Since I own a wing place, my favorite sauce is buffalo sauce. It’s the base of many other sauces that we make here at IWF.

What kitchen items are important for a home cook to own?
I would say that everyone should own a whisk and a spice rack. Some of the spices that I cook with most often are cumin, black pepper, and cayenne.  They are absolutely essential. So much flavor comes from good spices! I also highly recommend the Vitamix blender.

If your food were music, what music style(s) would it be and why?
Definitely house music.  Most of the time, there are no vocals – it is just clean music with simple rhythms. It’s very upbeat and it makes me happy to listen to it. I play it all the time in the restaurant. I have seen people from all over the world come in, and after five minutes, they are bopping their heads and tapping their feet to the house music. The good vibes are contagious! (Laughing)

Where are your favorite places to travel for the cuisine?
Mexico, Thailand, Spain, and India are my favorite countries because of their cuisine. Flavor-wise, these countries contribute so much. Their flavors give life to any food. I have actually never been to Mexico — I tried to plan a trip there on three different occasions, but something always happens and I had to cancel. It’s number one on my list for places to visit.

If you had not gone the culinary route, what would you have done instead?
I would probably be an actor. I always tell people, the restaurant industry is like Broadway. We put on our best face every day – it’s basically like putting on a show. I love it. (Laughing)

Which chef do you admire most right now?
Thomas Keller is number one to me. He has a good history with food. I have not had a chance to eat at French Laundry, but I have been to Bouchon and Per Se. I think it’s an amazing experience to dine at his restaurants. It shows how much effort goes into each step from sourcing the food to putting it on the table. I would love to spend just one day in French Laundry to learn everything that they do.

When you get a chance to dine out, where do you like to go?
When I want fine dining, I love Per Se and Daniel.  For every day eating, I enjoy going to Pongsri for Thai food and Marseille for French.  As for Indian restaurants, Yuva Indian Grill or The MasalaWala are great. My latest passions are ramen and dumplings – I’m always looking to try something new. The problem with the chef lifestyle is that unfortunately there is not much time for eating out! (Laughing)

If you had to give up one of the five food groups (Bread & Potatoes; Milk & Dairy; Meat & Fish; Fat & Sugar; Fruits & Vegetables) and could not eat anything from that group for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?
Bread and Potatoes. That was an easy one. I very rarely eat carbs, so I won’t miss them very much!

Table Talk with Chef Deepak Ballaney

The Little Beet Table

Executive Chef: Franklin Becker
Cuisine: Local / Seasonal / 100% Gluten-Free
Vibe: Casual / Upbeat
Location: 333 Park Avenue South (between East 24th and 25th Street)
Website: The Little Beet Table

Finally made it to The Little Beet Table! I gave up beef and pork for Lent, so this is the perfect spot for yummy non-meat eats. For those of you who can’t eat gluten, you’ll be happy to hear that LBT is completely gluten-free. Tonight I’m with my foodie bestie, SaraDISH, and we are ready to get our healthy eat on. Bring on the veggies! We loved the roasted carrots w/ ricotta and roasted sweet potatoes — simple and perfectly prepared. The prosciutto & mozzarella flatbread was really good, too, except that I had to remove the prosciutto (I was so sad). Being the amazing friend that she is, SaraDISH ate it for me. Friends don’t let good food go to waste. 😉  The salmon with avocado caponata was one of my favorites of the night — I will definitely be back for more of that omega-3 deliciousness. SaraDISH, you’re the best for treating me to this dessert-worthy dinner!


Such a cute logo!


Green Preservation Society (Hendricks gin, cucumber juice, lime, cracked pepper)


Roasted Carrots with whipped ricotta, sumac, and pistachios


Prosciutto Flatbread w/ arugula, pecorino, mozzarella and fresh tomato


Slow Cooked Salmon w/ avocado caponata, pistachio, and black olive


Roasted Sweet Potatoes with smoked sea salt and olive oil


White Bean and Kale Soup


Roasted Apples, vanilla-walnut haroseth, and battenkill cream


Chocolate Mousse, chocolate chip cookie, and kona caramel


The dining room


The bar

The Little Beet Table

Lincoln Ristorante

Executive Chef: Jonathan Benno
Cuisine: Modern Italian
Vibe: Elegant / Upscale / Spacious / Floor-to-Ceiling Glass Windows
Location: 142 West 65th Street (between Amsterdam and Broadway)
Website: Lincoln Ristorante

So excited to be at Lincoln for my birthday this year! Chef Jonathan Benno’s food is simply amazing, and our meal was beautiful and delicious from start to finish. I really loved my burrata appetizer — it was such a unique combination of ingredients that totally worked! The eggplant parmigiana (a side dish) was quite possibly the best version I’ve ever had at a restaurant. And, naturally, the pastas were exquisite. Pistachio gelato for dessert was the perfect end to a fantastic meal. Can’t wait to come back for more!


Rosato Sbagliato (aperol, zucca rabarbaro, cocchi rosa, solerno blood orange liquore and topped with prosecco) 


Lurisia Gazzosa (Sparkling Italian Lemon Soda)


Eggplant Caponata amuse bouche


Burrata, garnet yams, pomegranate, pistachios, and radicchio


Eggplant Parmigiana


Agnolotti di Sedano Rapa (celery root filled pasta, foie gras sauce, pecorino romano, black truffle)


Conchiglie Nere con Frutti di Mare al Fra Diavolo (quid ink pasta, lobster, shrimp, seppia, mussels, chili, basil)


Gelato Trio: Cinnamon, Pistachio, Chocolate


Birthday treats


Beautiful open kitchen

Lincoln Ristorante

Table Talk with Chef Esther Choi

Current Gig
Executive Chef and Owner, Mokbar

About the Chef
Chef Esther has been involved in the restaurant industry since she was fourteen years old. After high school, she worked in marketing and helped out at her parents’ restaurant in her spare time. Chef Esther realized that her true passion was food and decided to quit her corporate job to pursue her dream. She moved to NYC to attend the Institute of Culinary Education. While in school, Chef Esther simultaneously worked as a line cook at Ilili and interned at Rachel Ray magazine, followed by Food Network. When her internship at Food Network ended, Chef Esther continued to work there as a full-time employee for two years before moving on to La Esquina for about six months. In early 2014, an opportunity arose to open her own restaurant in Chelsea Market. Mokbar, which means “eat bar” in Korean, is a ramen shop that uniquely combines traditional Korean flavors with Japanese-style ramen noodles.

Mokbar (in Chelsea Market): 75 Ninth Avenue (between West 15th and 16th Street)


Chef Esther Choi at Mokbar

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in a little town called Egg Harbor Township in Atlantic County. It’s in South Jersey right next to Atlantic City.

What did you enjoy eating most as a kid?
To be honest, I loved candy!  (Laughing)  When I was really little, I was a picky eater. I literally never wanted to eat. In order for my parents to get me to eat anything, they would say, “If you finish your food, we’ll give you candy.” Even though I didn’t eat much, I always remember wanting to be in the kitchen. I would follow my grandma everywhere while she cooked. When I was in third grade, I moved to South Korea for a few years. Over time, I fell in love with Korean cuisine.

At the moment, what is your favorite ingredient and what do you like to make with it?
My favorite ingredient will always be kimchi. I don’t think that will ever change. I can incorporate kimchi into every dish – I could probably make it into candy or ice cream if I tried!  (Laughing)  In every type of cuisine that I have cooked, I have always incorporated kimchi. I like to experiment a lot with making different types of kimchi – we make about eight or nine different types in house at Mokbar. I use it as a side dish as well as a main ingredient on our menu.

What kitchen items are important for a home cook to own?
I’m so Asian and I can’t help myself… I have to choose chopsticks! (Laughing) They are very useful when it comes to cooking and plating. Chopsticks are just so versatile and can be used to do so many things. I use the longer wooden ones all the time.

If your food were music, what music style(s) would it be and why?
The food at Mokbar would definitely be Korean pop music from the ‘90s. I love ‘90s K-pop! (Laughing) While I was growing up, it was such a big part of my life. When I cook at home, I get inspired by listening to jazz.

Where are your favorite places to travel for the cuisine?
To be honest, I haven’t been to many other countries. I lived in Korea, but have not been back in eight or nine years. When you travel or eat out at restaurants a lot, you can be heavily influenced by those cuisines and other chefs’ ideas. In a weird way, I think not traveling very much has worked to my advantage. My palate and mind are like blank slates. I think that it keeps things very clean for me and forces me to be more creative. In the future when I get the opportunity, I would love to travel all over Asia and Europe.

If you had not gone the culinary route, what would you have done instead?
This is such a hard question! (Laughing)  I think I would definitely be doing something in the art world – something creative. That’s where my true strengths lie and that’s what I love to do. Ever since I was little, I was always interested in art, drawing, and creative things.

Which chef do you admire most right now?
I don’t really have a specific mentor, but I do draw inspiration from everyone around me, from my cooks to dishwashers.  One person that I have always been a big fan of is Jamie Oliver. I’ve been following his career since the very beginning – I love what he’s doing and his philosophy on food.  I also really respect Chef Hooni Kim, who helped to bring Korean food into the forefront here in New York City.

When you get a chance to dine out, where do you like to go?
I always love Koreatown – it’s so much fun. I love eating Korean food and I love soju!  (Laughing)  I also love Japanese food and I like going to hole-in-the-wall places. I’m not a fan of fine dining – I prefer more casual spots with a rustic style of cooking.  Pocha 32 was my go-to spot in K-town.  I’ve been going for about 8 years and I love it, but it’s becoming much more popular now and it’s always crowded. So I started going to Flushing for Korean food and have discovered some great spots that are still under the radar.

If you had to give up one of the five food groups (Bread & Potatoes; Milk & Dairy; Meat & Fish; Fat & Sugar; Fruits & Vegetables) and could not eat anything from that group for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?
You’re killing me!  (Laughing)  I think I would choose bread and potatoes since I’m not a huge fan of heavy starches. Actually, that was pretty easy!

Table Talk with Chef Esther Choi


Executive Chef / Owner: Esther Choi
Cuisine: Korean Ramen
Vibe: Casual / Counter seating
Location: Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue (between West 15th and 16th Street)
Website: Mokbar

In the mood for something warm and cozy, so I stopped by Mokbar in Chelsea Market for some Korean ramen takeout. Since I gave up beef and pork for Lent, I decided to try the vegan miso ramen. It was so flavorful and satisfying! Perfect for this frigid weather. Totally loved it and would order it again. :)


Before adding the broth: Tofu, Triple Seasonal Vegetable, and Crispy Potato

Vegan Miso Ramen (Kombu Shiitake Doenjang Broth, Tofu, Triple Seasonal Vegetable, and Crispy Potato)


Left Bank

Executive Chef & Owner: Laurence Edelman
Cuisine: Modern American with European Influences
Vibe: Casual / Cozy / Neighborhood feel
Location: 117 Perry Street (at Greenwich Street)
Website: Left Bank

It’s always great to be back at Left Bank, especially with wonderful friends like Ziggawow and SaraDISH. Many thanks to Chef Laurence Edelman for saving three handmade pork and shrimp dumplings for us — they are the best! I’m a huge fan of Chef L’s pastas, too, and the capricci pomodoro was incredible. I scarfed down the whole bowl and almost ordered another one to take home. Thank you, Ziggawow, for treating me to an early birthday dinner!


Roasted beets, Swiss chard, and poppy creme fraiche 


Pork and shrimp dumpling


Capricci Pomodoro with burrata, anchovy, and basil

Left Bank

Gramercy Tavern

Executive Chef: Michael Anthony
Cuisine: Modern American / Seasonal
Vibe: Main Dining Room: Upscale w/ Prix Fixe Menu; Tavern Room: Casual
Location: 42 East 20th Street (between Park Avenue South and Fifth Avenue)
Website: Gramercy Tavern

Had a wonderful time celebrating a very good friend’s birthday at Gramercy Tavern! I haven’t been here in years and am glad to be back. We all loved the Seasonal Tasting Menu, comprised of six bright, beautiful, and elegant courses. Most memorable dishes for me: the poached hake and the duck breast. Both were perfectly cooked, incredibly tender, and full of flavor. What a lovely meal!


First course: Marinated Shrimp, Citrus, Caramelized Yogurt, and Coriander


Second course: Lobster Salad, Kabocha Squash, Braised Kombu, and Trumpet Mushrooms


Third course: Poached Hake, Heirloom Beans, Scallions, and Kohlrabi 


Fourth course: Toasted Tagliatelle, Pistachio, Parsnips, and Bacon


Fifth course: Duck Breast, Bacon, Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts, and Hazelnuts 


Sixth course: Pear, Panna Cotta, Vanilla Tapioca Pudding, and Sherry Granite 

Gramercy Tavern