The Meatball Shop Review

My dad, besides being my original and still favorite lunch date, is the funniest person I know. I have never known anyone who can tell a raunchy, politically incorrect joke like him.  He does it with utter charm and…dare i say…sophistication?  Naah, it isn’t that.  It’s really just that he has a great sense of humor!  He makes me laugh until milk comes out my nose.  Because yes, I am just that appropriate in public.  So when he was in town for the day, you can be SURE that i grabbed that opportunity to have lunch with him.  And he wanted to go The Meatball Shop



Um-making politically incorrect jokes while eating a meat filled lunch that someone else (who you love!) pays for?  Could anyone HAVE a more delightful experience?

 


I don’t think so.



The Meatball Shop is small but well laid out.  There is a first come first serve bar area and tables that you wait for by putting your name in at the hostess stand.  The space is casual, with an open air kitchen at the back and large glass doors that open up on sunny days. 



 And the smell coming out of the kitchen…DIVINE!  Like your sweet Strega Nona is back there cooking up her specialties.  Just be prepared to wait about 20 minutes for a table if you come between noon and 2 pm.  


Sooner then later, though, we were seated and started to make our menu selections




The menus are laminated and come with dry erase markers, so you check off what kind of balls you want, and how you want them, and with what sides.  We made our choices, as you can see:





You can order your meatballs on a variety of sandwiches with a variety of toppings, or on pasta, risotto, ro potatoes, with a whole bunch of veggie sides…it was hard to narrow down the choices!  But in between discussing Curb Your Enthusiasm and playing with the ifart application on his phone, we placed our order and very shortly, the food arrived:



From the top, going clockwise, you have the beef ball with marinara sauce, the spicy pork with spicy meat sauce, the daily special with mushroom sauce, and the chicken with pesto wraps up the quorum. 


I LOVE THESE BALLS (That’s what she said)




Let’s break it down:

Beef ball-my least favorite, just because it was so basic.  A well made, airy meatball that was squishy and traditional tasting.  It was covered with a sweet and tomatoey marinara sauce.  Not innovative, but a classic well done and much enjoyed.

Spicy Pork Ball-WHOA NELLIE!!!  This little ball of goodness was DIVINE!  garlicky, hot, sweetly pork-a-licious…with the mildly spicy meat sauce, this was a dream!

Daily Ball-A bolognese ball made with beef and mortadella, this was FAB!  It was filled with basil and oregano, and the fatty, garlicky characteristics of the mortadella really pumped up the natural hearty flavor of the beef.  With the unusual vegetable and stock based mushroom sauce, chock full of meaty shrooms, this was an umami bomb and a taste sensation!

Chicken Ball-What a shocker!  I loved this ball!  Light, juicy, and well seasoned, this was the chicken all other chicken dishes DREAM of being!  The pesto was the best i have had in recent memory- just fresh and fragrant basil, pungent garlic, buttery pine nuts and salty parmasean cheese.  It brought the sweet and juicy ball to  a whole ‘nother level!


We LOVED these balls on their soft buttery brioche buns.  I’m telling you, the key to these little meaty bundles of love was the TEXTURE-they squished pleasantly so you could eat them, but were packed tightly enough so they did not fall apart.  How did they do that?  More eggs than I use maybe?  Different breadcrumbs?  I don’t know, but I am telling you, the texture with all those fresh and fantastic flavors was dynamite!  I loved the spicy pork, my dad loved the special bolognese, and not a crumb of bread remained by the time we were done!




We also got a side of the daily greens, which was a chilled green bean salad with mint and a whole grain mustard vinaigrette.  These were simple but so delightful!  Clearly fresh, al dente green beans served room temperature with that bracing mint and tart mustard dressing.  The whole grains provided great textural contrast, and the mustard totally brought out the vegetal sweetness of the beans.  These were a great side order since our other side order was:





Rigatoni.  In sweet, tart, tomatoey sauce.  Cooked al dente.  Positively BATHING in aged parmigiano reggiano.  The hot sauce coating each and every noodle, getting into the tiny ridges and through the hollow tubes.  The gentle taste of sautéed onions mingling with the nutty cheese and sweet sauce.  Need I even SAY we totally polished this off?


The whole meal, with 2 sodas, was under $30.  It was a STEAL considering the portions and the quality of ingredients.  Delicious, inventive, and cheap…isn’t that the trifecta of an awesome date?

Oh, and you should have a really fun, kind, and hilarious dining partner.  That definitely makes the dining experience that much better!  So go get some balls with your dad today!  Yep…I just said that…


The Meatball Shop on Urbanspoon

Bon Chon on John

Say THAT five times fast!

 

Bon Chon is a Korean restaurant chain that has recently opened outposts in NYC.  It specializes in fried chicken.  Korean Fried Chicken-gives KFC a whole new meaning, hey?

I crack myself up.

 

ANYWAY…Korean Fried Chicken is not like traditional American fried chicken in the south.  It is coated in a thick batter and served with waffles, but rather fried twice and dipped in a soy-garlic, slightly spicy sauce.

This Bon Chon location is casual but very nicely appointed, with dark wooden chairs and tables…

And a bar with shochu and beer along the side of the restaurant. There is a 4-8 pm happy hour deal every day of the week.  Booze AND spicy fried chicken?  Be still my HEART!

And acclaims from Esquire and the New York Times line the wall.  What more could you want?

Except the return of the tv series Avonlea.  You might want that.

Lunch specials come in small, medium, and large sizes, and you can get spicy or mild wings, drumsticks, all white meat, or chicken strips.

Once we ordered from the counter at the back, and got our cans of Diet Coke, we waited for about 10 minutes until we recieved…

Our chicken!! Don’t they look like Korean happy meals?

Once we opened the cartons, the smell of soy, chilis, and garlic wafted up towards us.

And then I took a bite.

Sticky. Sweet. Spicy.  Succulent.  Any other delicious ”S” words you can think of probably apply here.  The skin was LITERALLY the most delicious chicken skin I had ever tried.  It was so crispy and well fried that there was an air pocket in between the skin and the meat. As a result from the high frying temperature, the chicken was (shockingly!) utterly greaseless!  The sauce was sweet and spicy, like the most delicious chili sauce in the world.  It was not mouth searing, just gently tingling on the lips.  The strips were coated in the same sauce minus the heat-the sauce tasted of  herbaceous ginger, salty soy, caramelized sugar, and pungent garlic.  Can they make me a perfume like that, please? The chicken itself was moist and fell easily away from the bone.

For my side I got the kimchi coleslaw.  It was basically your everyday, mayonnaise based coleslaw with a little kimchi marinade poured in.  I was disappointed with it-I was looking forward to a super garlicky, vinegar based slaw.  But I still ate it.  Because-need I remind you?  I am a pig

Fries.  Medium thickness, freshly fried, salty and crispy, these babies were a NATURAL match for the chicken.  Fried and Fried…it sounds like the beginning of a love sonnet…

This is what our tray looked like at the end of the meal.

Gee, ya think we liked it?

Well, we LOVED it!  We both got the small meals, and with one side each and 3 drumsticks or 6 chicken tenders, plus a soda each, the total was under $18.  The restaurant was nice enough to go to with friends, and casual enough that we could sit there sopping wet and not feel out of place!  The staff was quick and courteous, the price was right, and the food was SENSATIONAL. I can’t WAIT to go back for the happy hour special, and this time…I’m getting the large!

Bonchon Chicken on Urbanspoon

Tree Bistro Review

This is Lauren:

 

She is fairly adorable.  She runs in marathons, she works her but off in an office job, she is a sports FIEND (Go Rockies… whatever that means…), and she loves to EAT!  Lauren loves things like tofu and tea (GAG ME), but also indulges in things like nachos and margaritas(YES PLEASE!).  We both celebrated our birthdays recently, so we celebrated with a rad deal from http://www.scoutmob.com/ for half off our bill at Tree .  In case you don’t know, Scoutmob.com is like Groupon but without paying for it-you just get the dining deal without putting up any money upfront!  You simply MUST join-well, you don’t have to…but if you don’t, I’m judging you.

 

We made our way down to the village to a teeeny little restaurant with a very sweet hostess/waitress.  She led us out back to a lovely, covered garden area.  It was a really humid, rainy night, and to sit outside with the rain pattering down on the roof was really relaxing and fun!

The restaurant was very casual but the menu looked very serious.  Which was good, because we were seriously hungry.  Luckily, there was some very serviceable, if unremarkable, bread and butter.  We carbo loaded and talked about our upcoming marathon..well, LAUREN’S upcoming marathon…mostly, I just text her “good luck” on the morning of the race, then go back to sleep for a few hours.

And, being fairly serious girls ourself (we were discussing important world issues…like what kind of jeans fit different girls’ bodies best), we ordered the very adult sounding dish of pickled beets with baby spinach and toasted walnut breadcrumbs.

I won’t lie, i didn’t read the menu right.  I had no idea the beets were pickled.  I’m that person that skipped over the boring parts of  Tess of the D’Ubervilles (most of that book was boring parts, fyi)  So yeah, I skipped over the part that said the beets were pickled.  So when I lifted the garnet colored root to my mouth, imagine my shock when the sharp and tangy taste of vinegar pervaded my mouth.  It was GREAT!  The beet was sweet, velvety, and soft.  It was tangy and sweet and just delicious with that slightly bitter spinach and nutty breadcrumbs.  Breadcrumbs on salad is SUCH an awesome play on croutons!  This way, each and every bite had some carby goodness!  The salad was lovely, and although some lovely blue cheese would have been a welcome addition, the dish was satisfying as it was.

Lauren got the roasted  vegetables.  Normally I would say-LAUREN!  WHAT A WIMP!  Get a REAL meal, girl!!!  But she had indulged in a Sunday Funday the day before (If you have never had a Sunday Funday, please post your name and email in the comments below, and I will be most happy to take you on the best, booziest, cheaper- than- you- thought- it- could- be day of your life).  Sunday Funday leaves you a little bit meat-logged and under the weather, so these veggies were just what the doctor ordered.  The juicy tomatoes, sweet zuchini, earthy fingerling potatoes, crisp haricots verts, and gently caramalized onions all worked beautifully in the tangy and gentle balsamic vinegarette.  It also came with a tiny tub of goat cheese that lauren eventually polished off with her fingers.  Now do you see why I love her?

I ordered the salmon appetizer for my main course.  It came with a small tangle of watercress and crisp slices of toasted baguette.  The baguette was dressed in DELIGHFUL honey mustard dressing-seriously, I would like to buy this, pour it on my arm, and lick it off my own body, that is how great it is!  And the salad was fresh, slightly bitter, and a wonderful contrast to the fatty salmon and sweet dressing. The salmon itself…kinda meh.  The chunks were tough and some were even stringy-it looked like remnants of the salmon entree, versus a dish on its own. The fish was fresh, but not particularly seasoned beyon parsley and a few capers.  If it were not for the honey mustard, I would not have wanted to finish it all.  But, the honey mustard improved the dish, and as you know, i am a PIG.  So i ate it all.  And supplemented it with…

Pommes frites.  Otherwise known as french fries, chips, G-ds gift to women with PMS…all of the above.  I was not PMSing but GEEZ did these fries hit the spot!!  Like gourmet McDonalds-greasy, crispy, flecked with herbs and glistening with oil-they were totally delightful.  And seemed so light and delicate as I shoveled them into my mouth hand over fist, trying to beat Lauren to the crunchiest little morsels.  She is an athlete…she has fast reflexes…i had to literally smack her hand away sometimes.  Our friendship is now on shaky ground, but it was so, way worth it!

When we paid the bill, after tipping on the full price that the check would have been without the discount (of course-please always do this if you use a discount at a restaurant), I still only ended up paying $25.  WHAAA??? I have paid that much at a PAX deli, for way lower food quality and absolutely NO atmosphere!  Tree was a charming and well serviced restaurant, and though the prices would have been a bit high without the discount, with the discount it was just what the doctor ordered.  And with a fun friend like Lauren? What could be better??  Now, if you will excuse us, Lauren has to go running, and I have to watch “Teen Mom”.  We are both really dedicated to what we do.

Tree on Urbanspoon

The Diavolo Made Me Do It

I have very few vices.  I don’t smoke.  Don’t steal.  Don’t gamble

 

 

All right, that last one was a lie.  I love to gamble.  But that’s really my only devilish inclination!

 

Unless, of course, you count…

 

FRA DIAVOLO!!

Fra Diavolo is a pasta sauce that is made with tomatoes and crushed red pepper.  It’s main charictaristic is the intense spice, which gives it the name “brother devil”.  It should be teeming with garlic and make you start to sweat with the spice.  Basically-bad first date dish, GREAT fifth date dish!

And although you can have fra diavolo plain, with lobster, or with other seafood, I prefer it most…

 

 

With gloriously fresh mussels.  Mussels are remeniscent of clams but I find them to be even sweeter, more tender, and less seafood-tasting.  They are cheap, easy to prepare, and so delicious in a spicy tomato sauce!

First off, you throw diced  carrots (a package), onions (2), and celery (2 heads) into a large pot

This is fennel.  It has the texture of celery at the bottom and dill up at the fronds.  It tastes faintly like licorice and pairs brilliantly with chicken and fish.

It is fresh and crunchy when raw, and tender when cooked.  So dice one whole stalk all the way up to the tip top, wash it, and toss it in the pot!

See that little red lump at the bottom of the pot? That is…

TOMATO PASTE! (This is my Alice in Wonderland shot..since it is upside down and all).

*In case you have never used it, tomato paste is a MARVELOUS little ingredient.  It is tomato pulp and sugar that has been boiled to a thick paste, and works as a thickener for tomato based dishes.  It is intensely tomatoey and comes in tubes or cans.  I prefer the tubes that you can refridgerate in between uses, but if you happen to use the can, use a can opener to open BOTH SIDES of the can, then extract the paste as follows:*


Remove the top lid, then invert the can, and using your finger, press the lid of the can through the can with your fingers…

 keep pushing…

Ta-Da!!

Now dump the whole, glorious, quivering mound into the pot!

Now you are going to toss in about 3 cups of water or seafood stock, and a BUNCH of whole peeled tomatoes-either 4 cans worth or a huuuuuge industrial sized can

And if one falls on your counter as you are pouring them in…call it Jackson Pollack’s ode to tomatoes!

Now just throw some whole garlic cloves on top, cover the pot, and let the whole thing boil on medium high heat until the carrots are soft-about 30 minutes.  And don’t worry about putting the garlic in whole-it cooks gently and thoroughly, so all the stinging bite is taken out.  And if you don’t like the peices, the whole cloves are easy enough to eat around.  I am just so thoughtful like that!

After the pot boils down, take a big whiff

Now add about 4 tbsp of capers, a cup of white wine, and a healthy dose of red pepper flakes.  Remember, this is the devil’s mussels…gotta make it fiery!  Now let it cook for another ten minutes or so.

By this time, that sauce should smell fabulous

 

I pureed it all in the food processer.  You don’t have to…

But the smooth texture is just so luxurious and divine.

Now put some of the broth in a shallow pan over medium heat, and when it bubbles, throw the rinsed  mussels in (1.5 lbs for 4 people)

Cover the pan (you may have to do the mussels in several shifts to be able to cover the pan).

 The SECOND the mussel pops open-just a couple of minutes for some of them-take that baby out and toss it in the bowl of pureed sauce

 

Now throw in gorgeous, fresh whole leaves of basil

And add a whole stick of butter.  Yes, I said a whole stick and I meant it.  The land animals feel badly that this is all a seafood dish.  I’m adding a dairy product to make those sweet little cows feel included :)

 So if you don’t add the butter…you are really just being a jerk to the cows.

Oh LORDY those are so freakin yummy!

 

Aaaah!!!  I’m sorry, I just felt innapropriate feelings for mussels…if your children were reading this, i apologize profusely.

This is everything you want a mussel dish to be.  Hearty, robust, spicy, fragrant, sweet from the tomatoes and salty from the capers.  The mussels are plump and juicy as they slide down your throat with the savory garlic and fragrant basil.  Add some crusty sourdough bread and you are well on your way to heaven…well i guess you are really on your way to hell

But I’m thinking…

What a way to go!

I am Still a Horrible Jew

 I continue to disgrace my people.


In New Jersey.  This is where my people COME from (well, not since biblical times, just from the sixties on. My PERSONAL people did better in the suburbs than the middle east.  Wouldn’t you?).  Point is, I shame them on their home turf.  But I’m not alone.

Look at what this place is called.  You think the people that own Klein’s Fishmarket, Grill, and Waterside Cafe are Protestants?

Don’t make me laugh.

.

look at this gorgeous menu full of shellfish and pork

Look at this um…charming set up…

who cares

Look at THAT puppy

These are steamers.  They are the KING of clams.  And this is how you eat them:


1)open the clam and rip off the empty half of the shell

 

 

2) Separate the entire clam from the shell

 

3)Grab hold of the little black sock thing on the end of the clam, and slip it off…thats what she said

4)Dip it in clam broth first, to rid it of any residual sand, then into the melted butter

5)Look up to heaven as you eat this briney, tender, sweet, buttery, juicy, flavorful mollusk and hope that G-d does not smite you on the spot.

As long as you are still alive, on to:

The crabcake sliders.  Pan fried to crispy perfection, loaded with rich crab and just a touch of buttery breadcrumbs.  Spread with a caper, chili sauce, and mayonnaise remoulade that was creamy, tangy, salty, and sweet, the slider was a bite of heaven on the soft potato roll.  It paired perfectly with:

Clam chowder.

That is a spoon standing upright in the soup.  That is how thick this incredibly un-Kosher THRILL is.

Cream, butter, thyme, butter, clams, butter, bacon, butter, potatoes, butter, onions, BUTTER…this clam chowder was reminiscent of the my Proust-ian relationship with clam chowder at Disneyland’s New Orleans Square.  If you have ever had the Disneyland Clam Chowder, you know what I am talking about.  Rich, buttery, almost embarassingly thick…this tasted more of potatoes than clams.  Usually I would hate that, but since it reminds me of childhood, i felt at once giddy and satiated…and forgot that i was sinning.

Scallops.  These mollusks are broiled quickly so the outside is caramelized with paprika and the inside is still slightly translucent.  Velvety, succulent, soft, with just the faintest crunch on the outside.  With a dollop of spicy cocktail sauce and some  creamy coleslaw, it is the world’s most delicious way to sin.  I have NEVER had scallops better than at this little bare bone establishment.  Butter with only the faintest hint of the sea.  This is great way to introduce someone to seafood.

And this is a great way to be a bad follower of the Torah.

Smile on little one.  You are still a sinner in the eyes of…

OH JUST HELP ME NOW!

The lobster roll has got to be the most indulgent way to eat this fabulous crustacean.  Creamy mayo, crunchy celery, the faint acidic tang of vinegar, the bite of pepper and salt.  Sweet, meaty pieces of lobster piled into a buttered and toasted hot dog bun.  Those freakin DELICIOUS waffle fries.  Well, at least the fries are not treif.

Not that Kevin cares.  He isn’t Jewish.  His rabbi won’t be judging him this Shabbat.

 

This meal was simply divine.  Fresh seafood, very reasonable prices, casual atmosphere, wonderful company.  I would go back in a HEARTBEAT.  It might mean that I am a horrible Jew, but… a horrible Jew is better than a hungry one!

Klein's Fish Market Waterside Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

Pam Real Thai

You know those friends who are really freakin honest?  The ones who actually tell you when you look fat, act cranky, or talk way too much about Jersey Shore? You love them because you really trust them.  This is one of those friends:

Jesse and I are truly kindred spirits, and not only because we are both fabulous leos with great singing voices, but because we have always believed in and stayed loyal to each other.  Jesse makes me laugh like none other, and I was so excited to meet up with him for his birthday lunch.

We went to one of our FAVORITE restaurants on the face of the PLANET, Pam Real Thai.  There is an offshoot of this restaurant called Pam Real Thai Encore, and both places are equally fabulous.  This restaurant is casual, dirt cheap, and so delicious….well, this is what it makes me do:

That’s right.  It makes me so thrilled i look constipated from the joy.

That is how much i love this restaurant.

LURVE IT.

Pam Real Thai is a bare bones establishment-laminated menus, sparse decorations, cash only.  You don’t come here for atmosphere, you come here for food.

*And, if you are Thai, for special kinds of food.  Many times I dine here, I see Thai people with condiment caddies of spices and sauces and special menus written in Thai.  This is stuff that I have never gotten, and for which, I am embarrassed to say, I have never asked.  I should really just bite the bullet and ask for this stuff and the next time I go.  I am weirdly scared that I will be denied the special menu, but even I know that I am being ridiculous-and I am DYING to try the food that Pam considers the most authentic!!!*


Jesse got the Pad See Eil (Stir Fried Beef with Chinese Broccoli and Gravy over Stir Fried Flat Rice Noodles)

 

Do you see that?  That is what makes a 24 year old man cry from joy on his birthday.  It was, as always, AMAZING!  The rice noodles are chewy, and slippery with the sweet, salty, pungent gravy that is redolent of fish sauce, soy, and palm sugar.  The beef pieces are not those tough, meager cuts one gets in lesser establishments, but garlicky marinated steak.  And the Chinese broccoli is in between broccoli raab and spinach-toothsome at the stalk, and silky smooth at the leaf.  Its’ slight bitterness cuts through the delightful fattiness of the dish, and at once perfects this totally sublime noodle dish.  The NY Times reccomends this dish, and so do I!  And what’s more, so does Jesse-and you already know by now that if he didn’t like it, he would just say so ;)

My standard dish here is the Pad Kee Mao-Stir Fried Meat and Flat Rice Noodles with Basil, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Chili.  This probably sounds like a relative to Pad Thai.  But does Pad Thai make you do this?

That’s right-this baby is one of the most mouth searing dishes i have ever had in NYC.  I HIGHLY reccomend you bring tissues for when your eyes start to tear and your nose starts to run.  And yet, it is so insanely delicious, you can’t help but eat through the pain.    Of course, you could order it less spicy, but why would you want to offend me?  You learn to sort of love the pain!  it makes you a masochist…sorry, too much info…

ANYWAY…

This dish is insanely delicious!!! Especially if you get the pork as your meat-the pork’s sweetness really works well with those spicy chilis and wide rice noodles.  The bell peppers and onions are cooked only slightly, so they still have heft to them, and cloaked in the salty, spicy, garlicky sauce, they are heavenly.  Don’t eat this on a date unless your date eats it too AND you both have very sturdy digestive stystenms…’nuff said.  And if your date doesnt like this…DUMP HIM/HER

BUT…

I DIDNT GET THIS!!

That lovely arm in the background belongs Jesse’s friend Carolyn, who was also at lunch.  I branched out this time and ordered:

I mean, it was on the list of the day’s specials, and it is a SPECIALTY  of Northern Thailand.  PLUS I had never had it before, and you know what i say-leave no meal untasted!  The server warned me that it was very spicy and you just KNOW how that phrase is music to my sick little ears :)

This was-and this is an ABSOLUTE compliment-Thai sloppy joes!!!  seasoned ground chicken in a soupy sauce made of corriander, tomatoes, and something sweet-probably palm sugar.  I did NOT find it very spicy-I wasn’t even sweating-but it was totally delicious!  it had that really awesome, comforting feel of sloppy joes.  Plus the heady taste of cilantro permeated the dish, which just added to the aromatic Thai sensation.

On the side, I got cucumber, cabbage, and steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets.  At first these additions seemed totally random, but when i dipped these veggies in the chili, it gave the dish a whole new dimension! Stirring the raw cabage into the stew, gently wilting it, brought out the fragrant Thai spices and gave the cabbage a savory, meaty heft.  This is not a dish that i totally loved, but then-i’m not really a sloppy joe kinda  gal.  I mean don’t get me wrong-i still finished the whole thing because i am a PIG-i am just saying that pad kee mao is still my one true love at pam real thai ;)

So I basically had a garlicky, fish saucy, gossipy, AWESOME time with the birthday boy.  Pam Real Thai is inexpensive, has great service, and is my favorite thai spot in the city.  I can highly reccomend it, especially if you come with a damn fine lookin friend for life,  like Jesse :)

Pam Real Thai Food on Urbanspoon

Two Boots Pizzeria Hell’s Kitchen

Let’s just get one thing straight: I am, by most accounts, a traditionalist.  I like musicals from the 1950′s.  I like retro style clothes.  And damn straight I think they boy should pay for the first date(but that’s just because I am cheap).  I get a little weirded out when people mess with my clasics (coke ZERO can kiss Diet Coke’s ASS), but sometimes…just every now and then…a twist on an old fave really tickles me pink!

 

Enter Two Boots Pizza.

 

This inventive chain, with outlets mostly in NYC, names its restaurant after the boot shapes of Italy and Louisianna.  You got it-many of the pizzas are Cajun influenced!  They also all have cornmeal dipped crusts, which create a pleasing and unique crunch.  You can order by the slice or by the pie, and there are tons of toppings that range from the standard sausage and onions to the way more funky crayfish and jalapeno pesto!  There are also menu items like salads and po boy sandwiches, but let’s be honest-if pizza is on the menu, are there REALLY any other choices?    I thought you would see it my way :)

Step past the groovy painted windows, and through the embellished door…

to the small but clean restaurant, featuring campy posters of 1970′s films on the walls.

Look at those guys just ACHING to get you a piece of pizza.

After we chose pizza slices from the glass case(slices run between 2 and 3 dollars a slice), the slices took a quick trip through the oven till the cheese was bubbly and melty.  Then we sat down at a booth, showered the pizza in red pepper flakes, parmasean cheese, and italian seasonings, and got to work on those puppies!

This is the Cleopatra Jones-hands down my favorite slice here.  Sweet Italian Sausage, peppers, onions, and mozzerella top it and DAMN do those toppings combine to make some mighty fine music!  The fennel spiked sausage is juicy and salty, and blends perfectly with that sweet red onion.  The sauce is that classic american-italian flavor, heavy on the oregano.  The mozzarella is stringy, clean tasting and rich-none of that pre-gratd grocery junk here.  And the peppers give the otherwise greasy bomb a vegetal, virtuous feel.  Sweet, melty, meaty, pungent, spicy with the red pepper flakes, flavor just DRIPPING down your chin…And all of this on a crust that is thin yet with substance enough to stand up to all the toppings.  The cornmeal is a particular star here.  Ever had sausage and grits?  That is what comes to mind with the crust and the sausage here.  Yeah this baby can only be improved by a heavy dousing of Sriracha, which I always do when I take out this pizza to eat at home…I like the pain :)

Here is the Night Tripper-Sun Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic, and Jalapeno Pesto on a white pie. I have had this one too and it is also a winner winner, Cajun-Italian dinner!!!!!  Made with the same high quality mozz they use on the Cleopatra Jones, I also detect a sharper taste in here-perhaps asiago, or pecorino romano?  It was something with enough tang to stand up to the salty and umami filled sundried tomatoes and the spicy, fragrant pesto.  And the garlic…

Let’s just talk about roasted garlic for a second.  It is like butter and caramalized onions, and finding out the girl who was mean to you in middle school is now fat and ugly.  That’s pretty much how awesome roasted garlic tastes

Now add it to all that melty cheese and spicy pesto and sundried tomato-ey goodness?  Well, if you do not enjoy licking the sweetly sticky garlic juice from your hand as it mingles with the spicy and salty and creamy of this pizza-then I DON’T THINK YOU ARE A VERY NICE PERSON

The other two slices we got were

The Tony Clifton with wild mushrooms, sweet red pepper pesto, vidalia onions, and mozzerella, and…

The Sicilian pie, which is a thicker crust pizza with tomato sauce, mozerella and fresh basil as toppings.

I didn’t try either of these, but judging from Steve’s face:

It was outstandingly delicious!

Judging from plates that all looked like this:

All the slices were equally fantastic!!

This pizzaria is unique, clean, and most of all DELICIOUS!  There are cheaper pizzarias, there are bigger pizzarias, and there are surely more traditional pizzarias.  But more delicious pizzarias?  Now THAT is a fact that is debateable, and I will take that debate over a slice of pizza any time, any day…your treat ;)

Two Boots Pizza on Urbanspoon

SHO Shaun Hergatt Lounge Review

There is just NOTHING like a really SWANKY gals night out. One where you get all dressed up, indulge in way too many cocktails, and feel like you are part of Sex and The City So when I got a 2 for 1 cocktail offer from Tasting Table to go to the newly opened bar at the Pearl Bar, part of the incredibly fancy and well regarded SHO restaurant downtown-I knew I was hitting this spot with some lady friends!






Located in the Setai hotel, you walk through a quiet and elegant lobby, into some elevators, and emerge on the second floor






Please excuse the blurry top photo and instead focus on how beautiful this space is.  SHO is an eclectic restaurant, with French and Pan Asian influences, and the Asian sensibility is definitely showcased in the decor.  Sharp lines and taupe fabric lining the walls melded with deep burgandys and shiny black laquered tables.  There were high ceilings, lots of space between tables, and tabletop candles bathed the room in their soft light.  I was feeling in the mood and i hadn’t even had a drink yet!




As I sat down on a very comfortable bar chair (with a BACK, thank you very much!), two extremely fun and knowledgeable bartenders gave me a menu and a glass of water, without my asking for either.


*These bartenders were ROCKSTARS! They were patient, witty, very helpful in choosing cocktails, and most of all, NOT SNOBBY!  We were there for a special deal, they were not going to make a mint off of us, yet they treated us like we were QUEENS.  This speaks volumes to how the restaurant is run, and the exquisite service is not to be overlooked as a key selling point in this totally stellar bar*




I got the Shiso Fix-Citadelle Gin, rasberries, lemon, and shiso.  Shiso is an herb that tastes like a slightly more savory mint. The rasberries were fresh and not muddled till juice, just left till there were some large, sweet, pulpy pieces.  The lemon was tart but not bitter, and the shiso sharp and refreshing. Add some smooth top shelf gin in there-and by some, I mean enough to get a little buzz going-and there is just nothing wrong with this gorgeous cocktail!




Lauren, one of my harem for the night, ordered the Queen’s Park Swizzle, made with Cruzan White Rum, Lime, Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters.  


YUM!!!! Please get this drink if you like rum!! The rum here is smooth, sweet, almost creamy liquid that recieves just the tiniest edge of tartness with the lime. The bitters just add enough of a deep, complex edge to make you swirl the drink around in your mouth and taste savory, sweet, light, rich, bitter, and refreshing all at once. This drink was a WINNER!


By this time, Ann and Kate arrived, and we asked if we could be moved to a table in the bar area. As if they were trained on an olympic seed skating crew, the bartenders and table runners, who seemed to appear out of thin air, ushered us to a spacious and elegant booth.  We all felt like Cinderella.



Ann and Kate, who made up the remainder of our evening’s entourage ordered the Delores Del Rio, made with Milagro Tequila, pineapple, homemade grenadine, Green Chartreuse, Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe, and lime.  Both girls loved this drink, although I must be honest-I did not taste any since I was already in love with my second cocktail of choice



This is the Lower East Side,consisting of Old Overholt Rye, Carraway, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Bitter Truth Celery Bitters, and a slice of cucumber.  One of our OUTSTANDING bartenders Sean had told me about this drink earlier at the bar.  He said it was a twist on an old fashioned, and that the rye, carraway, and celery bitters made it the cokctail equivilant to a pastrami sandwich!  Well, then I started waxing poetic about Katz’s Deli, and Sean and I had a brief but impassioned discussion about pastrami…mmmm…pastrami…



When we moved to our table, Sean sent me over the Lower East Side so I could see for myself what it was like.  Now, I will be honest, when I first took a sip, my eyes bugged out a little .  Rye is STRONG!  


But as the large ice cube melted and the whisky settled into the aromatic celery and savory caraway flavors, I grew to LOVE this odd little drink.  Totally masculine and not at ALL somehting I would ever order, it was deep, pungent, savory, and vegetal tasting.  The whisky became more mellow as it sat with the ice, and went from intimidatingly strong to smooth and easily drinkable.  The celery bitters made the heavy alcohol light, and the vermouth gave the whole thing a slightly sweet finish!  The more i drank it, the more i realized how GREAT it would be with a pastrami sandwich.  May I suggest that Pearl Bar add a mini pastrami sandwich to its’ food offerings?? :D  Anyway-if you want to go out on a limb, and try something that will help your tastebuds think outside their comfort zone, get this wonderful and inventive drink!


Speaking of food…you didn’t think we weren’t going to order anything did you?  The first food item we recieved was part of the Tasting Table deal…SERIOUSLY, join Tasting Table.  The deals are awesome!



This is 24 Hour Pressed Gravlax with Pommes Dauphine and Wasabi Mayonnaise (The menu says creme fraiche, but our server said it was the mayo, and that’s what it tasted like).

Have you ever felt seduced by your food?  Because that’s how we all felt after putting these little pieces of pure SEX into our greedy mouths!



The potatoes were  hot, perfectly fried puffs of airy mashed potatoes. They were rich with butter and disappeared in the mouth all too soon.  The salmon, lushly rosy and fringed with sprigs of dill, was cut into sensual, thick strips that filled the mouth with the rich, fatty, oily, salty, elusive taste that only truly wonderful salmon brings.  The mayonnaise on top was sweet and creamy sauce mixed with just a touch of the nostril flaring horseradish heat that is wasabi.  The mouthful was hot, cool, salty, creamy, spicy, salty, and smooth all at once.  Instead of cupcakes, these are what I wish I had had at my sixth birthday.




Since the cocktails were taking their toll on us, we also ordered a cheese plate.  This plate included-but was not limited to-a goat cheese, a semi hard sheeps milk cheese washed in champagne, a mild blue, and-my personal favorite-Brillat Savarin.  Brillat Savarin makes all other cheeses look like Velveeta.  It is a triple creme cheese that is not melty or waxy-merely creamy.  Like taking a mouthful of cream.  Like Brie on steriods.  Like my one TRUE LOVE.



The blue cheese was milder than I like, but the goat cheese was wonderfully understated, with just a touch of grassy undertones.  I occasionally find goat cheese unpleasantly grassy tasting, but this was just wonderful!  The cheese plate came with candied hazelnuts, honeycomb, and an apricot pate de fruit (basically a fancy gumdrop) for accompaniments.  There were also warm slices of cranberry nut toast.  There MAY have almost been a fistfight over the last piece of toast






This was taken after the fistfight.  Clearly, Kate still holds grudges she didn’t win.


The Pearl Bar was an OUTSTANDING experience.  From the moment we walked in to the time that we(reluctantly!)  left, we were treated to an elegant yet unstuffy evening.  The servers were unobtrusive, the bartenders delightful, the food scrumptious, and the drinks inventive.  This is not a cheap destination-the cocktails run $15 each-but in this case, you get what you pay for.  Thanks to the Tasting Table offer, I was introduced to somewhere bound to become one of my favorite spots.  I will be sure to return-but this time, I will be sure to smuggle in a pastrami sandwich to eat with my Lower East Side cocktail!


SHO Shaun Hergatt on Urbanspoon