Monday, January 21, 2019

Middle Eastern Delights: Persian Hot Spot Sofreh

A Taste of Cherry cocktail
If you like lots of herbs and seasoning - in your cocktails and food - Sofreh is for you. The always packed restaurant has delicious vegetarian and meat dishes, and interesting cocktails to accompany. 

Tahdig, the crunchy rice scraped from the bottom of the pan

Where to start

Share one of the fabulous dips: eggplant with mint, yogurt with shallots or feta with tons of herbs. They all come with warm, house made seeded bread. 

The recently departed beet salad
We had a new dish recently, grilled cauliflower with pickled vegetables and pistachios. Yummy. The beet salad is no longer on the menu, but if it returns, grab it.

Grilled cauliflower with pickled vegetables 
The vegan Zershk sour
You’ll want Tahdig, the crunchy bits of rice scraped from the bottom of the pan. There’s usually a chicken sauce over it, but we leave it off. Warning: this dish runs out by the end of the night. There are also rice dishes to accompany your main course, with saffron, or a new one with carrots.

Get a salad or two: pomegranate and feta, or the new tahini and date. The herb and noodle stew, listed with the salads can be your entree. It has lentils, onions, mint and tons of flavor. The only one we weren't cray about is the Shiraz salad, maybe because the cucumber, tomato and onion salad was too familiar. I like the surprise of all the unusual flavors at Sofreh.

Smoked eggplant entree
Meat eaters rave about the chicken with plum and barberries and duck with a rich walnut pomegranate sauce. 

Vegetarian options abound

I love the smoked eggplant with poached eggs and more of that great bread. There’s also fish with tamarind sauce and fenugreek and a new butter bean and dill dish. 

The Vesper martini: vodka, gin, saffron and rose petals

Persian Cocktails

The Zereshk sour has bourbon, beet, and aquafaba (chickpea water instead of an egg white. So it's vegan!)  The martini variations include a Vesper with saffron and Hendricks with mint and cucumber. All fantastic. A new 'Taste of Cherry' has Old Tom gin and sour cherry syrup. Yummy. 


Desserts so far are not for chocolate lovers. The saffron rice pudding and rosewater sorbet are fine but I’ll hold out for chocolate.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Luxury Lifestyle: Swanky Eats at Intersect by Lexus

Buratta with roasted pears at Intersect by Lexus

If you've walked past the Soho House or NeueHouse and longed for access to the exclusive spaces, check out Intersect by Lexus. The new meatpacking space has a deluxe cafe, chic bar and ritzy restaurant, along with gallery space occupied now by the LF-1 Limitless concept SUV.

On the ground level, right across 14th Street from an Apple Store and the designer shoes and clothing store Jeffrey New York, is a cafe. You can get a perfect espresso and a pastry. There is also an extremely cool bathroom with automatic doors and high end toilets.

In New York, you get excited by clean public toilets.
Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept SUV at Intersect by Lexus

Frenchie - a bit of Paris in NYC

The restaurant upstairs will switch chefs every four to six months. Currently, Gregory Marchand from Frenchie is in charge.

As a guest of Lexus, I got the full court press at lunch. We started with fluke crudo. It had contrasting textures with raw and roasted beets, and crispy quinoa.

Crudo with beets
We also shared buratta with roasted pears and granola. The creamy cheese was excellent with the crusty whole grain sourdough.

Save room for dessert
A vegetarian main course of cauliflower steak spoke to me. It was described as having 'curry, seeds & nuts, dates.' The crispy hunk of cauliflower had to be dipped in the sauces, a vibrant yellow curry and a slightly sweet, thick date sauce. The crunchy bits and micro greens gave every bite a burst of flavor.

There was also monkfish with mushrooms and a coffee / black garlic sabayon.

For dessert, we had Banoffee - banana with dulche de leche and pecans. Again, this had a contrast of flavors and textures that made it irresistible.

Vegetarian main course at Intersect by Lexus

Swanky but less Formal Bar

At the lovely bar, in the front, you can have specialty cocktails. I have to come back later in the day to try the gin based Intersect, which includes rose, almond milk, sesame, and of the moment Aquafaba. Bar food includes a cheese plate or a lobster roll. Most of the wines are from France. The beer is from Brooklyn.
Model cars on the way to the bathrooms

Global Presence

There is an Intersect by Lexus in Tokyo, and another in Dubai.

Note: I was a guest of Lexus at lunch. Opinions and full stomach were all my own. I was not otherwise compensated.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Unique Columbus Ohio: Seeking the Local

Many midwest cities have a numbing sameness. Columbus, Ohio stands out.

Columbus, the state capital, may be the most fashionable midwestern city. The home of L Brands, which includes the Limited, Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, the city attracts lots of designers. In the Short North Arts District, I found local boutiques with highly fashionable clothes, shoes and jewelry.

Food is also a focus in the city. There are beer, distillery and coffee shop trails that encourage visitors to patronize local establishments. And get a free t-shirt.

Even my hotel, Hotel LeVeque, emphasized this local mentality. The minibar had a craft bottled cocktail from Watershed Distillery.
The minibar goes local

Hotel LeVeque's sumptuous lobby
The hotel's restaurant, The Keep, uses Watershed Distillery's gin for a barrel aged Negroni. It makes use of many local products: the bourbon, rye, apple brandy, and bitters are all local. You might think you were in a bar in Brooklyn.

Local coffee shop

Although Hotel LeVeque has a chain coffee shop in the lobby, I did check out a fantastic local place, The Fox in the Snow Cafe. The latte was perfect, and the latte art on point. The sublime egg sandwich was made on house baked bread, with arugula. And the biscuits would please a Nashville purist.
Perfection: the egg sandwich at The Fox in the Snow

Taking home a bit of CBus

Concocting a candle at The Candle Lab
I made a candle at The Candle Lab. You choose a few scents, see what goes together, and create a custom candle. Cleverly, the candle takes a couple of hours to set, giving you time to shop the local boutiques and art galleries. Or have a meal or drinks at Service Bar. This restaurant is attached to another local distillery, Middle West Spirits.
Barrel aged Negroni at The Keep

Note: I was a guest of Experience Columbus, which covered my travel expenses.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

All Aboard: Driving the Chevy Traverse around New York

Does it seem odd to drive to a train show?
Holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden

Well, the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is a bit of a misnomer. The annual show, in residence for two months, has plenty of model trains. But it also has models of houses and structures around NYC.

We particularly liked the Coney Island section and the area devoted to Lower Manhattan. When you see the show with older kids, you examine the buildings more closely. We were saddened by how many of them had been knocked down.

The glorious Beaux Arts Penn Station was there, rendered in bark, leaves and twigs. At least the building's demise led to an outcry and to the formation of the NYC Landmarks Law.

Spreading out in the Chevy Traverse

Second row comfort, and light pouring in through oversized windows
I was surprised that the 3 row Traverse is considered a midsize SUV. We found it quite roomy, with captains seats in the second row and a full size third row. There was plenty of floor space for an overgrown dog as well.

Behind the third row there was a large cargo area. We drove to Thanksgiving in it, instead of squeezing into our small sedan, and had tons of room for the cakes, pies and sides I was supplying.

Button on lower right reveals a secret compartment
The Traverse gets only 18 mpg in the city, 27 o the highway. But considering that we drove our friends, who were going to take a second car, w saved a ton of gas. If you are just driving yourself around, this may not be the ideal vehicle.

We didn't get to put the AWD to the test. You switch into this as needed. But considering I had the SUV a week after a snowstorm paralyzed the New York region, with cars spinning off the road, this is an important feature.

Note: Chevrolet loaned me the Traverse. I was not otherwise compensated.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Fit for Foodies: Holiday Gift Guide

A 'shot' of peanut butter from Pic's

Have a foodie you need to shop for? Try these holiday gifts

A gift that isn't nuts

Peanut butter is essential to a vegetarian or vegan diet. [sorry if you are allergic]. We usually have three or four different peanut butters at hand. A creamy for me, crunchy for the kids. Both natural. And another natural that is thinner and better suited to baking. Sometimes we have a specialty pb: spicy, or mixed with chocolate.
GoSili reusable travel mugs

Now there's another brand to consider. Pic's Really Good Peanut Butter, from New Zealand, could be your all around peanut butter. Pic's shines in savory dishes, like an African ground nut stew with tomatoes and sweet potatoes. It has a subtle, very fresh taste that goes well in cooking.

Pic's has both salted and unsalted varieties, smooth or crunchy. And it is just peanuts and salt. It is non GMO verified and about $12 a 16 ounce jar.

A cheese plate with Polaner fruit spread
And if you are giving gifts to a traveler, the 'peanut butter slug' is ideal. You can put these in a stocking, or pair a few with crackers.

A honey of a gift

Local Hive has raw and unfiltered honey in 16 varieties. The honey is made throughout the country, so you can buy honey that is local to your area, or try a honey from a different region. Each varietal has its own flavor profile. Local Hive, from Rice's Honey, is also kosher. One pound jars are $5.99- $7.49

And sweet alternative#giftguide #holidaygiftguide #foodiegiftguide

If you want to avoid added cane sugar, Polaner Fruit & Maple is sweetened with maple syrup. These fruit spreads come in strawberry, peach, raspberry and blueberry. The peach pairs well on a cheese plate, since it is less sweet than most jams. The gluten free and kosher jams also have no high fructose corn syrup.

[Try it paired with Pic's peanut better for a real treat!] An 8 ounce jar is $3.99

Drinks on the Go

Reusable coffee cups may be great for the environment, but they are often difficult to clean. GoSili has a dishwasher safe silicone cup that is reinforced with stainless steel. The cups stay cool to the touch and they are lightweight. They also fit easily in stroller or car cup holders.

If your coffee (or tea) gets cold, you can pop it in the microwave. The 16 ounce mug, in teal, gray or (millennial) pink is $15 at Target.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Powering Up breakfast: Eat Your Veggies

Vegetable Frittata with veggie bacon

In my fantasy world, I get up and make a nutritious, delicious breakfast..

Scratch y fantasy, my cook prepares a nutritious, delicious breakfast..

Breakfast in a jiffy
In reality, I often eat cold cereal. But now, Garden Lites has a frozen line of veggie filled egg dishes that you pop in the microwave and don't find yourself scrabbling around for donuts or chocolate croissants at 10am.

Garden Lites Frittatas

Garden Lites "Veggie Made Great" Frittatas remind me of the New York Times frittata recipe that are more vegetable than egg. The spinach egg white version  has spinach, tomatoes, onions and red peppers, along with egg whites and mozzarella.

Keep on hand in the freezer
Each frittata has 70 calories, five grams of protein, and no added sugar.

I loved the veggie bacon & potato frittata. The veggie bacon is made from pinto beans. These are 80 calories. And five grams of protein. the main ingredient is cauliflower.

Both frittatas tasted even better with a hit of Sriracha.

Garden Lites products are vegetarian, kosher, gluten free and non- GMO. They are also made in a nut free facility.

If you are running, or running off to work, these frittatas start the day right.

Note: I got samples of the Garden Lites Frittatas. I was not otherwise compensated.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Staycation: A Night in Manhattan

On top of the world: Empire State Building Observatory

In the original Fame, one of the characters lives in an apartment in Times Square.

But unlike the movies, most New Yorkers live in more residential neighborhoods. So I jumped at the chance to spend the night at the Embassy Suites on 37th Street.

#NYCHotel #NYCFamilyhotel #Familyhotel #bestNYChotel #empirestatebuilding
The new hotel, the first Embassy Suites in NYC, is officially Embassy Suites by Hilton New York Midtown. And it's ideally located for anyone spending a couple of days seeing Broadway shows, visiting museums, and of, course, going to the top of the Empire State Building.

On top of the world

Room with a view AND windows that open
Before my recent stay, I had only been to the top of the ESB once (I also edited at a magazine in the building for 8 years). I was with 2 of my daughters, then 5 and 10 years old. As soon as we got to the top, the power went out in the trip-state region and we had to walk down 86 stories, and 6 and a half miles home.

Skylawn Bar at Embassy Suites
This time, with the 5 year old now 20, nothing so dramatic happened. And we actually got to go twice. We had a New York CityPass, which allowed us to go in daylight, and after 10pm. How convenient that we were only 3 blocks away.

My foodie 20 year old also had a bucket list for her short time back in NYC between her summer internship in Buenos Aires and returning to college. One place on it was Beyond Sushi, a vegan sushi restaurant that happened to be just a block from the hotel.

Colorful and tasty vegan sushi

Plant based dining

Beyond Sushi, a mini NYC chain, has plant based sushi and dishes like 'fun guy' mushroom dumplings, (say it out loud) noodle soups and curries and shared plates with roasted cauliflower, eggplant with tahini and farro sunchoke risotto. We over ordered but managed to eat everything.

Hotel food and more

Some rooms at the Embassy Suites have balconies
The Embassy Suites has a cocktail and appetizer evening reception daily, with a rotating menu of snacks. We checked it out and there was cheese, chips and bean dip. Just for journalistic purposes, I had a martini and it was quite delicious. There were meaty olives and it was icy cold.

If you want a craft cocktail, with top shelf liquor, the SkyLawn Bar has both indoor and outdoor seating and local spirits. Brooklyn distillery NY Distilling Company supplies the local Dorothy Parker gin (one of my faves) and Ragtime Rye Whiskey. There is also a Rooftop Cinema Club, open to the public. Hotel guests get priority seating.

A bar for little kids: the cereal bar
Like all Embassy Suites, the hotel includes breakfast. Omelets are made to order, with lots of fresh veggies. There is also fruit, cereal and yogurt. We were impressed that the fruit included fresh mango.

Leaving the hotel

Apps at the evening reception
If you are traveling with little kids, Bryant Park has a carousel, and free games and crafts. Once there's a nip in the air, the park has free ice skating.

Madame Tussauds New York features wax replicas of local celebrities. And you can also walk The High Line from the northern terminus on 34th Street down to the Meatpacking District.

Note: I was given a complimentary one night stay at Embassy Suites. Opinions expressed are my own.