Avant Garden

A dear friend and I enjoyed a beautiful and absolutely delicious meal at Avant Garden, a cozy new vegan restaurant in the East Village. We sampled three dishes, one cold and two hot, which were all incredibly flavorful and satisfying! I loved the beet, mango & avocado cold dish so much that I ordered a second one for dessert ūüėČ. Chef Andrew D’Ambrosi doesn’t just make good vegan food, he makes good food. PeriodI will definitely be back soon! 

 

Roasted cauliflower, pine nuts, capers, raisins, concord grape sauce
  
Potato Cannelloni, pine nut ricotta, eggplant merguez, arugula pesto
  
Beet, mango, avocado, black sesame, tamari, lime, tobanjan
 

Avant Garden

Bar Primi

I was really sad when I found out that Peels closed down — it was a great restaurant with amazing food. In it’s place, Chefs Andrew Carmellini and Sal Lamboglia opened up Bar Primi, a casual Italian pasta shop. Pasta is one of my favorite things in the whole world, so naturally, I had to check it out. I was in great company with three food-loving friends who are equally as passionate about good pasta as I am. We all like to eat as much as possible, so we ordered a bunch of items and shared it all. To start: ricotta bruschetta, stuffed meatballs, and farro piccolo (just to throw a semi-healthy dish into the mix). So far, so good. I’m obsessed with meatballs, and these are pretty darn good. Super tender and juicy. Now for the main event: the pasta! After much deliberation, we agreed on one traditional:¬†Strozzapreti (ragu alla bolognese) and three seasonal:¬†Rigatoni (jersey corn, maitake mushrooms, scalogno),¬†Cavatelli (salsiccia, red grapes, pepperonicino, sage), and¬†Paccheri (shrimp, cubanelle peppers, gaeta olives). My favorites were the strozzapreti (I’m a sucker for good bolognese) and the cavatelli (the red grapes sounded strange at first, but ended up being super delicious). We ended the meal on a sweet note with a classic tiramisu and creamy pistachio gelato (there were a few hardcore pistachio fans at the table). Overall, a solid meal. Bar Primi a great addition to the neighborhood!

 

Bar Primi: 325 Bowery (at East 2nd Street)

Stuffed meatballs in sugo

Farro piccolo with cauliflower & avocado dressing

Ricotta bruschetta with figs & sardinian honey 

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Strozzapreti (ragu alla bolognese)

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Rigatoni (jersey corn, maitake mushrooms, scalogno)

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Cavatelli (salsiccia, red grapes, pepperonicino, sage)

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Paccheri (shrimp, cubanelle peppers, gaeta olives)

Pistachio gelato

Tiramisu 

Bar Primi

Ippudo – East Village

Back for more delicious ramen at Ippudo! This time I’m with some friends visiting from out of town who are huge Ippudo fans. We feasted on the Pork Hirata buns (one of my favorite dishes), Tori Tatsuta-Age (Japanese fried chicken), and, of course, the Akamaru Modern ramen. So excited to have this twice in one month! It is so cozy and savory — I just can’t get enough of it. Next time, I’m planning to check out the vegan ramen. When I tell this to friends, they are like, “Why would you ever want to do that?!?” Even though I’m a hardcore carnivore, I have to admit that I’m super curious about how the vegan version tastes. So far, I’ve heard good things, so I’m hopeful. Stay tuned for my vegan & pork ramen side by side comparison!

Ippudo: 65 Fourth Avenue (between East 9th and 10th Street)

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Ice cold Sapporo

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Yamitsuki Goma Kyuri (Japanese cucumber with sesame oil dressing)

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Pork Hirata Buns

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Tori Tatsuta-Age (fried chicken with grated daikon ponzu sauce) 

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Akamaru Modern¬†(thin ramen noodles topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions and garlic oil)

Ippudo – East Village

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 consomm√© (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!

Hearth

Nicoletta

We’re celebrating a special occasion tonight at Nicoletta — the 50th birthday of a beloved family member! Nothing like pizza and gelato to commemorate fifty great years and the next chapter in life. :) ¬†Since we had a large group, we ordered family style and shared everything from stromboli and arancini to meatballs and pizza. We also each received a little bowl of the best Italian wedding soup on the planet, which I was super excited about! To top off the celebration, we ordered a round of fior di latte gelatos with a variety of tasty toppings, including my two favorites: salted caramel and espresso caramel. Thanks to Chef Michael White and the awesome team at Nicoletta¬†for a fantastic meal!

Nicoletta: 160 Second Avenue (at East 10th Street)

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Stromboli (pepperoni, mozzarella, parmesan, pomodoro)

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Arancini (fried porcini risotto, parmesan fondue, chives)

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Arugula salad with apple, walnuts, shaved parmesan, lemon vinaigrette

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Italian Wedding Soup (chicken broth, mini meatballs, ditalini pasta, sauteed spinach, parmesan)

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Brick oven baked neapolitan meatballs with pomodoro & bread crumbs

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Can’t go wrong with a classic! The Classica pizza

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Funghi pizza w/ wild mushrooms, sauteed spinach, porcini marsala, mozzarella, garlic

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Salted rum caramel or espresso caramel? Can’t decide, so ordered both!

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Creamy fior di latte gelato and espresso caramel

Nicoletta

Hearth

WOW. That sums up my meal at Hearth in one word. I can honestly say that it was one of the best meals I have ever had! I loved everything about, well, everything. Starting with our server, Keara, who was amazing. She was super friendly and knowledgeable, and she recommended a fantastic German Pinot Noir for us to try (we were totally indecisive about what to get). While sipping on our tasty wine, we surveyed the menu. It all looked so good. We settled on six dishes to share: arugula & anchovy salad, cauliflower soup with uni, grilled octopus with blood orange, veal ricotta meatballs, polenta, and the “Lesso Misto”:¬†beef short rib, house-made cotechino (boiled Italian charcuterie), chicken thigh, and veal tongue. Each dish was PHENOMENAL! I swear, I’m not exaggerating. So much great flavor and a variety of textures. By this time, we had finished the wine, and I ordered an awesome Belgian beer, Lucifer. We had apple cider doughnuts and a pineapple tart for dessert. When passing by the kitchen on the way to the restroom, we noticed that there were a few people seated there. We asked Keara about it and she told us that if you come early enough (like 5:30pm), you can sit there and watch the chefs in action while you’re eating! I’m totally going back to do that. In addition, Hearth¬†has a Beer Director, David Flaherty, who will create custom beer pairings for your meal upon request. How cool is that!?! I’m now a huge Hearth fan and cannot wait to return!

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

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Our amazing server recommended this German Pinot Noir (R√ľdesheimer Kirchenpfad Sp√§tburgunder). We loved it!

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

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Cauliflower Soup with uni, brioche, radish, bottarga, and chives

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Grilled Florida Octopus with blood orange, hearts of palm, sicilian pistachios

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Veal and Ricotta Meatballs with swiss chard cannelloni 

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Cayuga Farms Polenta 

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Lesso Misto: beef short rib, house-made cotechino, chicken thigh, and veal tongue

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Discovered this awesome Belgian beer, Lucifer

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Apple Cider Doughnuts with apple compote and whipped cream

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The dining room

Hearth

Nicoletta

After finishing an amazing dinner at Sushi Nakazawa, we were in the mood for a midnight snack. I mean, raw fish can only fill you up so much. We all love Nicoletta so we decided to head on over for some gelato… which turned into two whole pies and a bottle of Lambrusco. SECOND DINNER! ūüėČ ¬†We housed everything except for two slices of the special pizza of the night: Meatball Parm. It was so good. I even got an Italian Wedding Soup to go (it’s my very favorite Italian wedding soup and I order it every time I’m there). The perfect end to a delicious evening of foodie fun. Second dinners rock!

Nicoletta: 160 Second Avenue (at East 10th Street)

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Love this Lambrusco!

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(top): Special Pizza of the night: MEATBALL PARM 
(below): CLASSICA (pomodoro, whole milk mozzarella, aged parmesan, fresh basil)

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ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP (chicken broth, mini meatballs, ditalini pasta, sauteed spinach, parmesan)

Nicoletta

Nicoletta

Chef Michael White never lets me down. I knew I was going to love his newest restaurant, Nicoletta, a casual pizzeria that¬†opened last summer in the East Village. Since we were having a big family dinner, we went all out and ordered meatballs, rice balls, fingerling potatoes, Italian wedding soup, two salads (panzanella and arugula), lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmigiana, and four different types of pizzas: classica, carbonara, parmigiana, and calabrese. Whew! And that’s not including dessert — vanilla gelato with assorted toppings (salted caramel, pistachio brittle, crushed oreos, you name it). ¬†I sampled a little (and sometimes a lot) of pretty much everything… and was a very happy camper. The meatballs were outstanding — so moist and flavorful. I think I inhaled three of them as soon as they hit the table. The suppli (deep-fried rice balls with mozzarella and pork ragu) and fingerling potatoes (with pecorino, lemon, and truffle oil) were both amazing. I must say that the Italian wedding soup was the best I’ve ever had (I took it home so I could enjoy it again later). The broth did it for me (it was so delicious) and, of course, those mini meatballs. I’m a huge fan of Chef Michael’s pastas, and the spaghetti was no exception — it was cooked al dente with a great tomato sauce. All of the pizzas were fantastic, particularly the parmigiana pizza which had fried eggplant. On top of the amazing food, our server couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful — he really gave exceptional service. Such a fun night with great company and delicious Italian food. I’ll be going back very soon with some more family members that I know will love it as much as I did. :)

Nicoletta: 160 Second Avenue (at East 10th Street)

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POLPETTE (brick-oven baked neapolitan meatballs, pomodoro, bread crumbs)

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ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP (mini meatballs, pasta, sauteed spinach, garlic, chicken broth, thyme, parmesan)

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PATATE (crispy fingerling potatoes, pecorino, lemon, truffle oil, parmesan fonduta)

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SUPPLI (risotto, mozzarella, pork ragu)

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CLASSICA PIZZA (pomodoro, whole milk mozzarella, aged parmesan, fresh basil)

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SPAGHETTI & POLPETTE (semolina pasta, neapolitan meatballs, pomodoro, garlic, parmesan)

 

Nicoletta