Back Again: Ristorante Morini

Recently my sister and I re-visted a favorite brunch spot. We hadn’t been there in a while, but our prior experiences had been so fantastic that we consistently recommended it to our family and friends. Social media famous, the restaurant has no trouble bringing in a steady stream of customers. When we returned we found that while the service was as friendly as ever, the food had taken a nosedive. The prices had gone up, and it was clear that the establishment had cut corners on the meal in order to save time and money. When half your meal consists of inedible chips, you know it’s time to move on to greener pastures. It was disappointing to have to remove this once-beloved spot from our list of recommended brunch spots. The best places, I find, are the most consistent not only in great food and service, but also over time. Ristorante Morini is one such place.

Ristorante Morini Chicken Eggplant Meatballs

My sister (perpetual lunch, brunch, and dinner companion) and I returned to Ristorante Morini in March after not having been for almost a year. Unlike my ill-fated brunch spot, Altamarea Group’s Ristorante Morini, did not cut corners over time. The menu is varied and the offers are exciting. I could spot a couple of old favorites (like those insane Bocconcini – chicken eggplant meatballs) as well as more than a few new menu items that I was dying to try.

Ristorante Morini Burrata Salad

To start we had the Burrata salad – creamy mozzarella, car acara orange, mache salad, and a toasted baguette. I love burrata, and the tartness of the cara cara orange and balsalmic reduction cut through the creamy mozzarella in the most delightful way.

Ristorante Morini Pasta NYC

My sister had Spagetti Vongole, a comforting pasta studded with manila clams and baby leeks. I had the Hanger Steak – grilled hanger steak with broccoli rabe and salsa verde. The entire dish was so good, I was tempted to lick the plate.

Ristorante Morini Hanger SteakBest Lunch Spots in NYC

A newer addition on the Ristorante Morini menu, the Semifreddo, was the dessert that surprised me the most. The dessert is a white chocolate semifreddo dome, complete with cashews, blackberries, and tiny mint leaves. I was immediately taken by the dessert mostly because I couldn’t stop eating it – it has great textures and flavors, but I really liked that it felt understated, it was a simple dessert that didn’t overwhelm the meal.

Ristorante Morini NYC

We also had the Torta Di Cioccolata (dark chocolate mousse, chantilly cream, and hazelnut gelato), which is another testament to what a great restaurant RM is. Last time I was here the same menu item looked completely different, and while the structure of the dessert has changed all the flavors are still here. In fact, I quite like how they changed it. This time, instead of being served in a bowl, the torta was served like a tiny cake. It was a perfect chocolate dessert.

Ristorante Morini Torta di Cioccolata

We also had the Torta Di Olio, which the fantastic waitress recommended to me. I’m not entirely certain if it’s a newer menu addition, but it was a first for me. The Torta Di Olio is an olive oil cake, with ricotta mousse, raspberries, rhubarb, served with pistachio gelato. My favorite flavors are tart and sweet, so this was right up my block, and it might just be my favorite dessert. Everything about it was perfect, from the meringue shards as garnish to the moiste cake and lemony curd. I wish I had one right now!

Torta di Olio Ristorante Morini

The staff at Ristorante Morini were absolutely kind, never hovering but always available. I cannot recommend this spot enough if you’re looking for a great brunch, lunch, or dinner. Their prices are fair, and the prixe-fix menu is definitely a deal. Most encouragingly, you can rely on Ristorante Morini for a great dining experience, every time.

Ristorante Morini
1167 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10028
(212) 249-0444

http://ristorantemorini.com

The NYC Chocolate Project: Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland

With two locations in the city, Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland offers NYC tourists and locals some seriously decadent confections. Founded in 1932 in Switzerland by Dolf Teuscher, Tuescher’s signature offering are the champagne chocolate truffles – of which I have eaten many, many, many of. The chocolates themselves aren’t the prettiest things to look at, they’re simple, polite domes dusted in a powdery white sugar coating. But the quality and care put into creating these unassuming treats are obvious in the flavor.

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Teuscher’s champagne chocolates are made with Dom Perignon champagne (the good stuff! I feel like Ina Garten would approve), butter cream, surrounded by a dark cream ganache, then enrobed in milk chocolate. These rank up there with Grey’s Papaya hot dogs, good pizza, and good sushi for me. Pure comfort. My family has actually made a yearly tradition of walking to see the tree at Rockefeller center, taking a touristy picture, then swinging by Teuscher. There’s something about being surrounded by the chaos and glamour of the city while enjoying fancy chocolate flown in from Zurich. Then, of course, we brave the crowds and descend upon the problematic subway system (you did hear that they’re raising the fares soon? Crazy!).

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Don’t sleep on Teuscher’s other chocolate offerings though, these jewel-shaped gianduja truffles were silky and ideal. The Bailey’s Irish Cream and Pistachio truffles are definitely worth trying too. What’s really pleasant about Teuscher chocolates is that you can taste the intensity of the chocolate without missing out on the flavoring aspect. You taste the champagne in the champagne truffles, but the chocolate is good enough that you taste that too. There’s nothing quite as trying as a champagne truffle that doesn’t taste like it has even the remotest splash of champagne in it. You won’t experience such disappointment here.

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Though the $112 a pound price tag can cause general sticker shock, two champagne truffles usually cost between $8-9, which is not entirely astronomical considering that they’re flown in from Zurich and are comprised of quality ingredients. If you’re looking for an extra special gift, stop by during the holidays. These pictures are from the Summer, where they go all out on décor and specially styled boxes, so you can imagine the effort and imagination that goes into the holiday offerings. My family actually hangs a little Swiss doll ornament that we purchased at the Rockefeller Center shop years ago.

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If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, the 61st Street shop is much smaller, and much quieter thanks in part to their no cellphones rule (suggested by a sign posted on the door). Find more information about Teuscher, and to purchase your own chocolates, click here.

NYC’s Breads Bakery

I am ridiculously late to the Breads Bakery bandwagon. Still, I’m sure there’s room for one more, which is great seeing as how I am officially addicted to whatever Breads is selling. Just yesterday after what feels like years of planning on going, I finally went. Breads, if you don’t know, is NYC royalty thanks to their famous Chocolate Babka. While there was plenty of babka to be had, I did not actually try it (it has Nutella, so yes get it, it’s probably fantastic), but I did end up with some amazing pastry.

Breads Bakery1Breads Bakery10
Breads on-premises baking facility means this New York institution is serving up fresh joy on a daily basis. I went to the flagship location by Union Square, but they also have a spot over in Bryant Park, as well as near Lincoln Center.

Breads Bakery2
Whenever I try a new spot I like to stick to the “five item rule” – it’s my personal completely bendable and terribly breakable rule. I try to limit myself to just five items – that way if I turn out to not like a place at all I won’t feel like I broke the bank pointlessly, it’s also a good way for me to tell whether or not a bakery is popular because it has an item that makes a good instagram photo or because they actually are offering up amazing goods. By the way, Breads Bakery is both. For my maiden voyage, I picked out two raspberry marzipan cookies, two apricot marzipan cookies, their creme brulee type pastry, spinach and cheese pastry, chocolate croissant, fruit tart, and lemon meringue tart.

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Yes, I completely broke the five item rule. But that’s the good thing about self-set rules, you can break them and feel absolutely guilt-free.

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I shared my haul with my mom and sister, and while we’re normally people generous in spirit we were kind of reduced to horrible greedy humans as a result of these sweets. Someone may or may not have been threatened over half of a chocolate croissant. Which is pretty much the identifying sign of great food – when you’re willing to eliminate a family member over it.

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I definitely recommend that you try as many pastries as you like when you go to Breads, but absolutely do not walk out without their marzipan cookies and at least one croissant.

For store locations, times, and more information, check out Breads Bakery here.

Breads Bakery
18 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003

April 21st Event Alert: Join Dr. Whitney Bowe & dr.brandt at Sephora!

Calling all beauty and skincare loving New Yorkers! This Thursday, on April 21st, celebrated dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe will be visting the 9th Avenue Sephora store and offering one-on-one dr.brandt skincare consultations and demonstrations of dr.brandt award-winning anti-aging products! I’m so excited – dr.brandt is one of my favorite skincare brands and my mom loves their overnight serum.

drbrandt Sephora Eventdrboweheadshot

Dr. Bowe’s work in skin rejuvenations, laser dermatology and the link between nutrition and skincare has made her one of the most in-demand skincare experts in the entire country. She was one of the first two physicians named to the dr.brandt Skin Advisory Board, an impressive roster of specialists who, like the legendary Dr. Brandt, are pioneers in the field of anti-aging cosmetic dermatology and skin care. Members of the dr.brandt Skin Advisory Board are dedicated to continuing Dr. Brandt’s legacy of breakthrough innovation that adheres to the strictest standard of scientific excellence.

At the Sephora event, Dr. Bowe will introduce two new dr. brandt anti-aging products available at Sephora stores nationwide beginning this month. Inspired by the skin-revitalizing and radiance-renewing vitamin shots available in Dr. Brandt’s medical offices, new Power Doses

C & D are topical treatments in liquid form that can be blended into moisturizer or smoothed directly on the face and neck:DRB VITAMIN C SILO 07C_WHT GRACOLDRB VITAMIN D SILO 07E WHT GRACOL

• Vitamin C Power Dose is engineered to deliver the highest Vitamin C concentration that the skin can absorb. It has been shown to dramatically boost collagen production and brighten skin for a visibly smoother, firmer complexion with enhanced skin clarity. It has also been shown to shield skin against free-radical damage that can lead to hyper-pigmentation and premature aging.

• Vitamin D Power Dose is formulated to mimic sun exposure and trigger the natural production of Vitamin D in the skin without the harmful effects of the sun exposure. By harnessing the essential sunshine vitamin, it helps create a barrier against environmental damage. This barrier helps prevent breakouts and reduces dryness, sensitization and other signs of premature aging.

Event Details

Sephora NYC drbrant Event

WHAT:  Dr. Whitney Bowe Skincare Consultation and Demonstration

WHEN: April 21st, 2016, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

WHERE:  Sephora
                  27 9th Avenue
                  New York, NY 10014

Last Minute NYC Valentine’s Day Gifts with Gilt City

Looking for a great last minute Valentine’s Day gift? Or are you spectacularly single and looking for the best way to celebrate Galentine’s Day? Personally, I’m spending my Valentine’s Day weekend adventuring in the city with my sister. While I don’t have my own romance to celebrate, I do have people in my life that I love to shower with cheesey gifts all in the name of love. As usual Gilt City has pulled through with some excellent offers perfect for a romantic duo or ideal for going solo! Check them out below:

Valentines Day Gilt City

Valentine’s Day at Wave Hill

Before this sells out, snack a spot at the Valentine’s Day Chocolate & Wine Tasting at Wave Hill! Spend an afternoon tasting delicious chocolates and sipping on wine. Your purchase also includes a year-long individual membership at Wave Hill – complete with serious perks like discounts, parking vouchers, unlimited admission, and access to exclusive sales! Reserve your spot here.

Wave Hill Valentines Day

The Paint Place

Unwind as you sip and swirl your brush at this cozy Upper West Side, take the two-hour class with your bae or bestie! More info on The Paint Place here.

The Paint Place Gilt City

Hampton Luxury Liner

Chill out and turn up on this Valentine’s Day three hour tour for two. Visit three Long Island vineyards and enjoy a live rock, blues or jazz performance – this tour definitely makes for the perfect weekend excursion. For more info, click here.

Hamptons Liner Gilt City

Boqueria

Is food your love language? I know it’s one of mine! Share a delicious paella feast for two at one of this famed restaurants three locations. Boqueria has definitely been on my “must try” list for some time! For all locations click here.

Paella Gilt City

Anti-Valentine’s Day at Royalton

Celebrate the single life at Royalton’s anti-Valentine’s Day singles party. On Saturday, February 14th head to this iconic spot to enjoy cocktails and attend this unique party. Click here for more info.

Singles Party at Royalton

The Spa at Trump SoHo

Have no one to spoil this Valentine’s Day? Spoil yourself! Enjoy a spa treatment at this luxurious oasis, choose from a pedicure, facial, bath treatment, or massage! Click here for more info.

The Spa at Trump SoHo Gilt City

I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day!

New York City Valentine’s Day Chocolate Guide

New York City Valentines Day Chocolate Guide

New York City is home to some of the world’s best chocolate shops, from bonbons to bars, truffles and filled treats, whatever you’re looking for chances are you’ll find it. I’ve been on a mission to find the best chocolates in the city, and now that Valentine’s Day is almost here I thought I would share my shortlist of the best places to buy chocolate in New York City for Valentine’s Day:

L.A. Burdick

L.A. Burdick is perfect for easy Valentine’s Day gifting. The chocolates are very intense, which makes them great for dark chocolate fans! Their signature assortments are packed with bonbons and L.A. Burdick’s signature chocolate mice, packaged in an adorable wood box and sealed with wax and a ribbon. The petite wood assortment contains approximately 10 bonbons and 1 small mouse and clocks in at just $16. Located at 5 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003 and online here.

LA Burdick NYC

Xocolatti

For the adventurous palette, Xocolatti chocolates toy with exciting flavors that are definitely worth tasting. With flavors like Olive Oil Basil, Sake, Rye Whisky, and Pineapple Habanero, it’s no wonder that Xocolatti’s chocolates made it onto Oprah’s Favorite Thing’s list of 2015. A 9 piece truffle collection will cost you around $28. Decorated in bright, beautiful colors, the truffles taste as eye catching as they look. At 172 Prince St, New York, NY 10012 or online here.

 

A photo posted by Krista (@nyctalon) on

Chocolat Moderne

Chocolat Moderne is hands down my favorite chocolate place right now. If you like your chocolates to have that great snap, to be perfectly balanced, and not overly sweet, this is the chocolate shop for you. Although Chocolat Moderne favors more intense dark chocolate flavors, even milk chocolate lovers will fall in love with Moderne’s offerings.  I stumbled upon this hidden shop before the holiday season and have already been by at least four times since. The quality of chocolate and perfect use of flavor keeps me coming back again and again, a selection of these is sure to win the heart of your Valentine! The friendly team at Chocolat Moderne will gladly tie up your chocolates with a bow. Pick up your chocolates at 27 W 20th St #904, New York, NY 10011 or online here.

Chcolat Moderne NYC

Stick With Me Sweets

Former Per Se Chocolatier, Susanna Yoon’s Stick with Me sweets shop is a great place to stop by for Valentine’s Day gifting. Her bonbons are works of art, and the flavors she offers are sure to score you points with a loved one. I recommend the Caramelized Banana, Liquid Salted Caramel, Raspberry Rose, and Wild Strawberry, but whatever you get them, they’re sure to love. Located at 202 Mott St, New York, NY 10012 and online here.

Stick with Me NYC Susanna Yoon

Jacques Torres

Jacques Torres was one of my first forays into artisan chocolates. In my house, we consider his chocolates the old faithful of sweet treats – they never fail to please. A box a champagne truffles is my Valentine’s Day pick, but don’t forget to pick up some Love Bugs (a passion fruit white chocolate) and a few of his insanely delicious chocolate chip cookies. At 285 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10023, for a full listing of locations or to order online click here.

For more great Valentine’s Day related content, be sure to check out these awesome posts written by my fellow Chosen Chix bloggers:

Brunch with Gilt City: Catch NYC

I don’t think there are words that describe how relaxing and fun it is to have brunch with one of your closest friends (okay, my sister) on a rooftop surrounded by the city sights and sounds of the Meatpacking District. But I’ll try. This weekend, thanks to Gilt City and Catch – a trendy restaurant in the heart of the Meatpacking District – I was able to try Catch’s exclusive Gilty Menu.

Brunch in NYC with Gilt City | read more at nyctalon.comBrunch in NYC with Gilt City | read more at nyctalon.com

To start we both ordered the Catch Roll, which features tender crab, salmon, and miso-honey. My sister and I adored this roll – we eat a lot of sushi, and we could tell right off that the salmon and crab were fresh and we loved how they torched the roll whilst serving it. As a party of the Gilty Menu, you also get a glass of Chandon Delice – which is delicious by the way!

Brunch in NYC with Gilt City | read more at nyctalon.comBrunch in NYC with Gilt City | read more at nyctalon.com

You get about four options for your entree, and trust me it is hard to pick with tasty brunch opportunities like Blueberry Pancakes with orange segments and blueberry butter or Organic Chicken Breast salad with Tuscan kale and caraway seed vinaigrette. Alas, we both settled on the Lobster Roll, served with old bay chips. There’s something irresistibly decadent (and dare I say New York) about eating lobster while sipping bubbly on a roof downtown.

Brunch in NYC with Gilt City | read more at nyctalon.comCatch NYC Rooftop Brunch

The lobster roll was hands down the best lobster roll I’ve had in the city. I’m not kidding, and I’ve had quite a few rolls. There was a generous portion of meat (and ample claw meat at that), but not too much that it becomes overwhelming. The lobster salad had a delicate citrus flavor and benefited greatly from the presence of chives, a buttery potato roll, and a side of old bay potato chips.

Brunch in NYC with Gilt City | read more at nyctalon.com

For dessert we were served a chocolate cookie sundae with caramel chocolate sauce and the ice cream of the day – there definitely was a scoop of chocolate ice cream, and the green colored scoop tasted of either matcha or basil – it was literally the most perfect dessert for our brunch. Honestly, Catch served up one of my most favorite meals that I’ve had this summer – I definitely recommend that you pounce on their deal with Gilt City!

The Gilt City Catch offer is a part of Gilt City’s Best of Gilt City collection! Snap up your next NYC experience by checking out the entire collection here!

Best of Gilt City Collection | read more at nyctalon.com

Sunday Lunch at Vai

For weeks now I’ve been trying to hammer down a date with my mom to take her to lunch at Vai. I had read good things about the small restaurant and after browsing their menu online, everything sounded so good that I was really excited to eat there. So after ages of figuring out a day that was good for both of us we finally made it!

We made reservations over the phone, although I was given the impression that it wasn’t absolutely necessary to do so. We arrived right on time and were promptly seated, a few minutes later we were given our menus and glasses of water. The place had about five to six other couples, and the actual space was far smaller than I had imagined it would be. That being said, I loved the décor and general feel of the place – it was nice without being stuffy, and I loved the brick walls, hanging lights, and massive mirror over the bar.

Vai Restaurant NYC | nyctalon.com

Now here comes the sticky part. It took forever for them to take our order, granted there was only one host and one hostess, our order wasn’t taken until at least half an hour after we arrived. We didn’t see our first course until an hour had passed. On top of that, the menu was reduced to a few items (we only had one choice for the second course) and didn’t at all reflect the options seen online. There was a moment where we had waited so long for our food that my mom and I just sat there, grinning at each other, driven far past being incredulous and almost into insanity by the discomfort of the wait. The host and the hostess kept refilling our water glasses and seemed as embarrassed by the wait as we were. It just has to be said, two hours for lunch is far too long especially when almost all that time is spent seated and waiting.

Hamachi Yellowfin Tuna Duo, Vai Restaurant NYC | nyctalon.com

Even so, my mom and I absolutely loved the food. Yes, really. In fact we loved it so much that we’d even go back again – despite the possibility of a long wait. We both had the Hamachi and Yellowfin Tuna Duo with avocado and preserved ginger sauce. It was seasoned perfectly, the creaminess of the avocado, sweet almost citrus flavors of the preserved ginger sauce, and bright punch from the cilantro garnish was, as my mom said, “perfectly balanced”.

Burrata Ravioli from Vai in NYC | nyctalon.com

For our second course we both had the Burrata Ravioli. Two ravioli served with a rich truffle cream, tiny Hon Shimeji mushrooms, and 18 mo. Parmigiano was the stuff of dreams. It was incredibly rich and creamy, I had to restrain myself from licking the plate. It was the sort of dish that you eat in complete silence, letting the flavors envelope your tongue.

Trout, Vai Restaurant NYC | nyctalon.comScottish Salmon, Vai Restaurant NYC | nyctalon.com

Lastly, my mom had the trout served over cannellini and chorizo (the menu item isn’t on the website), and I had Scottish Salmon with roasted cauliflower and chorizo. We both loved our fish – perfectly cooked, served attractively, and tasted wonderful. I loved the crunch of the roasted cauliflower and the saltiness of the chorizo – I’d have it again in a New York minute!

Overall, prepare for a wait, but definitely come for the food!

Vai
429 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024
(212) 362-4500

http://vairestaurant.com/

Jazz Brunch at the Blue Note

City life can get pretty hectic, although my family is never physically too far away from each other, we can get so busy that we don’t have many opportunities to spend time doing something fun together. We bought these great voucher’s for a jazzy brunch at the iconic Blue Note jazz club down in the West Village from LivingSocial, so one Sunday the whole family and I headed downtown for a morning of debauchery.

Blue Note, Blue Note Jazz Club, NYC

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Blue Note, Blue Note was opened in 1981 by owner and founder Danny Bensusan and is considered one of the world’s most famous jazz venues. I remember when I was a little girl that my dad would listen to Blue Note tracks, John Coltrane, Johnny Hartman, etc. and I have him to thank for my love of jazz music. Anyways, back to brunch, a line formed pretty fast, so if you do go for the Sunday brunch don’t be fooled by early open hours – plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early or you won’t get very good seats, this is especially important if you’re going with a group.

Blue-Note-Brunch-Menu

The Blue Note usually has nightly performances, with Sunday brunch performances. The Sunday we went NYU Jazz Studies artists/faculty group Combo Nuvo was playing. Our brunch tickets included a main dish as well as a drink (refills not included). I am going to be outright with you here, and really there’s no toeing around it – please do not expect a five star food experience. If you go to the Blue Note for food you will be disappointed. Blue Note boasts a full working kitchen but the items that my family ordered off their brunch menu were all lack-luster to say the least. Luckily Blue Note isn’t famous for their fries, haha!

Combo Nuvo, Blue Note NYC

Blue Note really feels like what I’ve always imagined a NYC jazz club would feel like. From the old tables and dark lighting, it just feels like New York City. The performance by Combo Nuvo was amazing – I’d love to hear them again. There really is nothing like a proper live jazz performance, especially in NYC. It was my brother and sister’s first live jazz experience, so it was pretty special being there with them for that – and it was all of our first time at Blue Note, so that was pretty cool too. All in all we left feeling pretty jazzed about our brunch at Blue Note!

Restaurant Review: Dinner at Grace’s Trattoria

I recently had the pleasure of joining Grace Balducci Doria as well as key members of her staff for a press tasting of some exciting dishes on their menu. Having never been to Grace’s before I was completely blown away with how delicious the items on their menu were and am really looking forward to the next time I return! To see a complete recap/review of my whole experience as well as plenty of pictures click on over to From Val’s Kitchen where the full article is!

Graces-Trattoria

If you live in or visiting NYC, I highly recommend that you stop by Grace’s Trattoria!

Grace’s Trattoria
201 E 71st St, New York, NY 10021
(212) 452-2323