Vinateria

This eatery in Harlem is a little bit off the beaten path for me.  I don't usually venture that far uptown for food.  Since this place has become one of the go-to places for a foodie friend of mine, I thought I should check it out. 

I liked the energy and vibe of the place almost immediately after entering the imposing black doors. The space was light-filled and airy, lively but not chaotic. I was able to get a seat at the bar and have my morning coffee before my friends arrived. 

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The brunch menu had all the usual brunch items.  I liked that brunch items automatically include coffee/tea and orange juice/mimosa/bloody mary. 

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Not sure how I got talked into ordering the Steak and Eggs  I was surprised to see such an enormous portion. The steak was a bit overcooked, but very tender and juicy nonetheless. It was a very yummy dish. Definitely the thing to order if you are hungry!

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I had a bite of my friend's French Toast. It tasted as good as it looked. I would totally come back and order this. 

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My other friend's burger looked ridiculously decadent! 

The french burger with Caramelized onions, Bacon, Mustard Sauce, White Cheddar

The french burger with Caramelized onions, Bacon, Mustard Sauce, White Cheddar

On my second visit, I got the Porchetta sandwich.  Since the sandwich was topped with a fried egg, it counts as breakfast in my book.  The pork was nice and juicy, but not super flavorful. I did like the aioli sauce on the toasted bread.

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Believe it or not, we actually found room in our stomachs for dessert!  This Olive Oil Cake was my friends' favorite dessert item. I liked the combination of the Olive Oil Cake with kumquat.  The citrus of the kumquat balanced out the richness of the olive oil nicely. The sesame seed ice-cream, on the other hand, was a bit of a miss for me. I liked the sesame ice-cream fine, I just didn't think the flavor went with the cake well. 

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This house made blueberry and orange sorbet was my favorite. It was icy, refreshing, and the intensity of the fruit really shines through. Excellent palate cleanser and a great way to end the meal. 

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Verdict: A; Comfortable space, friendly service, good price, and not hard to get a reservation….all good reasons to check this place out if you are in the neighborhood. 

Venateria
2211 Frederick Douglass Blvd (@119th Street)
http://www.vinaterianyc.com

Il Buco

Perfect day for lunching alfresco!

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I arrived at the restaurant on the early side, so I got a chance to browse. I was surprised to find a rustic interior, with farmhouse details.  The space felt cozy and homey, not at all what I had imagined for this upscale restaurant…but in a good way.  If it wasn't such a beautiful day outside, I would have chosen to dine "in".

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The appetizers were small in portion, average in taste, and way overpriced!  I mean, $19 for 4 measly prawns?!  The prawn shells didn't even peel off easily, which made me think that something wasn't quite right…  

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The housemade pappardelle with porcini mushroom was fresh, light, and tasty. 

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The risotto tasted more like Asian rice than Italian risotto. The portion was big, but it didn't have much flavor. 

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The star of the meal was definitely the chicken. Moist and full of flavor. 

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Verdict:  A.  I was a bit disappointed with the food here. I love Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, the more casual sister restaurant to Il Buco, so I assumed the original Il Buco would be even better.  Maybe my expectations were too high...  While I love the atmosphere of Il Buco, I much prefer the food at Il Buco Alimentari.   

Il Buco
47 Bond Street (Between Bowery & Lafayette)
http://www.ilbuco.com

Tiramisu

Low-key dinner with friends on the Upper East Side. 

We ordered the fried calamari, which ended up being both calamari and shrimp. No complaints here!  I really liked the spicy marinara sauce that came with it too. 

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All the pasta dishes were fresh and tasty.  I normally don't order Spaghetti Bolognese at restaurants because I think it's a dish that's theoretically easy to make at home (if I cooked, that is).  This Spaghetti Bolognese made me want to order to it the next time I dine here.  

TAGLIATELLE WITH MUSHROOMS AND SHRIMP  

TAGLIATELLE WITH MUSHROOMS AND SHRIMP  

SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE 

SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE 

SPAGHETTI WITH MEATBALLS

SPAGHETTI WITH MEATBALLS

Verdict: A.  Solid neighborhood Italian place. 

Tiramisu
1410 Third Avenue (@80th St.)

Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken

Happy National Fried Chicken Day!! I Any excuse to eat fried chicken =)  

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We ordered thighs and drumsticks, along with "Fries with the works".  

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The skin was super crispy and well-seasoned (with cayenne pepper…I think).  The meat was very tender and juicy. Pretty much all that I look for in good fried chicken. 

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The fries with the works = french fries topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and bacon bits.  It was amazing!  I would come back for these fries alone! 

FRIES WITH THE WORKS

FRIES WITH THE WORKS

Being a bit of a germaphobe, I was really excited to see this motion-sensored garbage bin. I wish more places would adopt this trash disposal unit, so we can all avoid touching dirty, germ-infested trash bin lids! 

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Verdict: A. Clean fast-food-esque joint with good fried chicken and amazing fries.  I would take this over Hill Country Chicken any day of the week!

Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken
28 East 1st Street (@ 2nd Avenue)
http://blueribbonfriedchicken.com

LexingtonBrass

Very few solid breakfast/brunch options in Midtown East.  Lexington Brass is a passable one.  The restaurant is located on a corner, so the space gets lots of natural sunlight.  Given its midtown location, it is generally busy, but not packed.  Quite a pleasant place for a lazy start in the morning.  

My favorite dish here  is the baked eggs, nestled inside avocado halves, topped with blue crab. It is divine! The restaurant used to serve this dish in a cast iron pan, which made for a better presentation. Thankfully, the dish is just as tasty served on a white plate. 

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Lexington Brass
517 Lexington Avenue (Between 48th & 49th St.)
http://emmgrp.com/restaurants/lexington-brass/