Le Pain Quotidien [lunch]

My new healthy obsession: the quinoa taboule salad at Le Pain Quotidien. It’s filled with lots of fresh, delicious ingredients (avocado, radish, chickpeas, quinoa, and arugula) and topped with a basil vinaigrette that is to die for!  I try to stop in for this salad at least once a week. The Le Pain by my office is super spacious and never crowded. I’m normally not drawn to dishes that contain no meat, no cheese, and no fat… But believe me when I tell you that this salad is amazing. I was so inspired after first discovering it that I attempted to make quinoa tabbouleh at home (and it came out pretty darn good). Thanks, Le Pain Quotidien, for creating something both delicious AND super healthy!

Le Pain Quotidien (there are so many locations!)

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Organic Quinoa Taboulé Salad with arugula, frisée, chickpeas, avocado and basil vinaigrette

Freemans

So excited to be back at Freemans! I can’t believe that it’s been several years since my last meal here. I’m a huge fan of  both executive chefs, Preston Madson and Ginger Pierce. They are amazing chefs and the cutest couple ever (who have THE most adorable son on the planet! Check out his food adventures on Instagram: #SebastianEats). A friend that I haven’t seen in almost four years met up with me for drinks and dinner — it’s so much fun to reconnect with old friends. We were so happy to see Chef Preston at the restaurant and chat with him for a bit. He treated us to a tasty whipped goat’s milk ricotta on crostini — it was so good that we devoured it before I could snap a pic! That first bite was the start of an evening filled with incredible eats: grilled pork sausage & shrimp skewers (loved this dish at From Farm To Tray), homemade ricotta and kale salad, smoked bluefish spread, crispy squid with spicy ketchup, baby romaine with pecorino & porcinis, oven-roasted cod w/ white beans & veggies, and seared filet mignon with mashed potatoes & horseradish cream. What a feast! Our last bites consisted of an amazing pound cake dessert with buttermillk ice cream and warm cherry sauce. A huge thank you to Chef Preston and the Freemans team for such a satisfying and delicious meal!

Freemans: 191 Chrystie Street (located at the end of Freeman Alley, off of Rivington between Chrystie and Bowery)

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Domaine Dominique Gruhier Bourgogne Epineuil

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Grilled Pork & Shrimp Sausage Skewers with fava bean hummus, fennel & red mizuna salad with chili oil

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Homemade Ricotta & Kale Salad

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Smoked Bluefish Spread with assorted raw veggies

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One of the specials: Crispy Squid with spicy ketchup

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Another special: Baby Romaine with porcini mushrooms & pecorino

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Special entree: Oven-roasted Cod with white beans and veggies

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Seared Filet Mignon, sweet & sour onions, mashed potatoes, and horseradish cream

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Roasted carrots

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Pound Cake with warm cherry sauce and buttermilk ice cream

Stix Mediterranean Grill

I found out about STIX from a friend in real estate who helped secure the commercial space for the restaurant about a year ago. I have been trying to eat lighter and healthier, so Greek fare seemed like the perfect choice for dinner. A few friends and I sampled a bunch of small dishes, including the spinach pie, zucchini balls, organs kale, roasted eggplant dip, tzatziki,  and two of the signature “stix”: chicken and pork. Everything was tasty and fresh — and very reasonably priced! My personal faves were the roasted eggplant dip, spinach pie, and chicken stix. Looking forward to returning soon to check out more of what STIX has to offer.

Stix Mediterranean Grill: 112 East 23rd Street (between Park Ave South and Lexington)

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Spinach Pie with feta cheese 

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Tzatziki (Greek yogurt, cucumber, lemon, garlic & dill) with whole wheat pita

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Zucchini Balls with scallions, feta cheese, yogurt dill sauce

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Organic Kale, sesame, balsamic vinaigrette glaze

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Roasted Eggplant, parsley, cilantro, scallions & Greek yogurt with whole wheat pita

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Chicken Stix, honey-mustard & thyme

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Pork Stix, extra virgin olive oil, thyme & lemon

Hearth

Ever since my dinner at Hearth in January, I’ve been counting the days until my return. This time, the plan was to get to the restaurant as early as possible — which meant 5:30 on the dot — in hopes of scoring two of the four highly coveted seats right by the kitchen. My friend and I arrived well before anyone else and we enjoyed an ice cold beer at the bar before being seated at the kitchen at 6. Yes! It was so much fun to have an up close and personal look at all of the action. I was hoping to see Beverage Director, David Flaherty, who knows everything there is to know about beer. Last time, our server told us that he could do custom beer pairings upon request. I was all over that! To our delight, David was at the restaurant and we caught him on his way out. He graciously picked out six beers to complement each of the dishes that we chose. And then the feast began! We savored one delicious dish after another, starting with chilled pea soup (amazing flavors and textures), Hearth’s housemade charcuterie board (pure heaven), arugula & anchovy salad (one of my favorite salads), ricotta sformato (creamy and dreamy), and finishing up with the braised wild striped salmon in bacon consommé (absolutely divine). The beer pairings started off light and refreshing, and got progressively richer and darker. We wrapped up the meal with a few tasty sorbets (rhubarb, grapefruit and yogurt). What an awesome experience! A big thank you to our fantastic server, David Flaherty, Chef Marco Canora, and the Hearth team for one of the most enjoyable dining experiences I’ve ever had.

Hearth: 403 East 12th Street (at First Avenue)

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Enjoying a Bell’s Beer Oberon Ale at the bar

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Loved having front row seats in the Hearth kitchen!

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Cannellini bean soup with apple

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Chilled Pea Soup, pickled shrimp salad, spring onions, creme fraiche, and trout roe

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The Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephaner

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Housemade Charcuterie: liver pate, pork rillette, whipped lardo, pig head terrine, pastrami duck breast & rabbit ballotine

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Arugula, Fennel, and Anchovy Salad with pickled cippolini onions & croutons

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 21st Amendment Brewery Bitter American

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Ricotta Sformato, roasted mushroom trifolati, gremolata, and parmigiano

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Braised Wild Striped Salmon, bacon consommé, crispy bacon, peas, and pickled onions

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Prairie Artisan Ales Birra — my favorite of the night!

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Rhubarb, Grapefruit, and Yogurt sorbert

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More kitchen action 

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I could watch these talented chefs all day long!

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Is our meal over already? We’ll be back again!

Plated: Seared Salmon with Butter Lettuce Salad and Tomato Sherry Vinaigrette (Home Cookin’)

For as long as I have been cooking (and eating) salmon, I’ve always paired it with white rice. (Those who know me well know that I am completely addicted to white jasmine rice.) Having salmon with just salad and no carbs was quite a deviation from my norm, but I eagerly embraced this change. I thoroughly enjoyed the tomato sherry vinaigrette, which was a gorgeous blend of sweet, tangy, and acidic flavors, and really complemented the salmon. The meal as a whole was fresh, light, and perfectly balanced. I think I’m going to start eating salmon with salad from now on! (Well, maybe sometimes… :-) )

Plated

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Looking forward to a nice, light meal

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Love this tomato sherry vinaigrette with shallots, chives, and honey

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The pan is super hot so that the salmon skin will be super crispy

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Crisp salad of butter lettuce, radicchio, arugula and frisée 

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Medium rare salmon with super crispy skin over a fresh salad