A log of my Locally Experienced Daily Tips:

07.15.2014: A Celebration of Italian Artisan Culture - Il Buco, Il Buco Alimertari & Vineria, and Il Buco Vita

I don't recall the first time I went to Il Buco or how I ended up going there, but I do know it became an important part of my NYC experience from my very first visit. The space is rustic, warm, and authentic; the people are friendly, welcoming, and relaxed; the food is fresh, delicious, and innovative; and the wine list is simply outstanding. 

It is hard to believe, but the restaurant opened as an antique store 20 years ago this year. As the story goes, shoppers would often join the staff for pranzo, or lunch, that was prepared in the tiny back kitchen of the shop. 6 months later, the antique store was transformed into an delectable enoteca. Over the years, the chef and the staff have changed, but the watchful eyes of owner Donna Lennard has ensured a consistently warm, friendly, and delicious experience. Donna entrusted the kitchen toChef Joel Hough who embodies the brand and the legacy of this treasured NoHo restaurant.

A couple of years ago when I heard that they were opening another location one block north, I was excited as this would certainly make it easier to get a reservation at the always full Il Buco. During an afternoon run many months later, i happened to run down Great Jones St and stumbled upon the new spot called Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. I stopped and stepped in to check it out. While it was only operating in soft launch, the staff was kind enough to give me a tour of the new restaurant. A market in the front of the house with a large dining room in the back and another dining room upstairs. The enthusiasm and excitement of the staff was contagious and I just knew it would be special. I returned for dinner a couple of weeks later and I was in love once again. The spot felt different, but for all the right reasons. The menu is simple and straight-forward, however the food is bold and delicious. The chef, Justin Smillie, like his peer at Il Buco is a student of Chef John Waxman (Barbuto) and equally talented. The restaurant earned NY Times' highly coveted 3-star rating in 2012.

Molto bravo to Donna and her talented team for creating two amazing restaurants. Sadly, reservations at both restaurant are extremely tough to secure. Plan ahead!

This spring, on another afternoon run in late April, I happened to run down Bond St and after peering into Il Buco, I noticed a sign on the street for Il Buco Vita just a few doors down. I stopped in my tracks in wonder. Another restaurant? Some type of pop-up restaurant? I climbed the staircase and to my delight, I discovered a world of beautiful artisan products and antiques. Another masterful concept by Donna and her team. This 3rd edition to the Il Buco brand is a series of artisan products hand selected from a series of small artisans from Central and Southern Italy. These products are core to what makes the Il Buco restaurants special and inviting. And now, you can buy them for your home. Below are a couple of pictures I took during a recent visit.

I can't wait to see what is next!!

07.07.2014: Films on the Green

There's something really magical about grabbing a blanket, a couple of pillows, some vino, and food and heading to the park to catch a film. Even better on a perfect night weather-wise in NYC and with a great film.

The French Embassy is hosting a series of Films on the Green throughout NYC Parks May - September of this year. All the films are French and they are free. 

We arrived about an hour before showtime and a lot of the best seats were already taken. By showtime, the area around the temporary screen was packed with a couple hundred people. The city somehow seemed silent for the hour and a half long movie. I felt as if I were in a field in the middle of the countryside. 

We saw La Haine in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. A great film and a great evening. Check out the following site for the schedule and make sure you see at least one film: http://frenchculture.org/film-tv-and-new-media/festivals/films-green-2014.

07.01.2014: Di' Vino Bacco

Today, I want to share two very important lessons I've learned as it relates to seeking out the local experience while traveling. And how these lessons led me to one very special restaurant called Di' Vino Bacco.

Firstly, people in the restaurant and bar business, especially thus more senior, typically know the best places to eat and drink. Therefore, being friendly to them and getting to know them can provide special benefits. Secondly, living in NYC opens many doors when traveling abroad.

To illustrate this, I think back to my first trip to Milan in 2008. On my first night, I asked my hotel for a recommendation for dinner. They reached into a drawer with stacks upon stacks of business cards and handed me one without much consideration. I was suspect of the recommendation, but given my jetlag I proceeded to the restaurant hoping for the best.

When I discovered the recommended restaurant was completely empty at 8p on a Thursday, I knew to keep going. Luckily, I stumbled upon a bar down the street called Nottingham Forest and stopped in as the place had a lovely ambience. A chat with two folks at the bar turned into a introduction to the owner of the establishment (all in English thankfully). Once I got to know him, I asked him a very simple question, "if you could eat anywhere tonight in walking distance, where would it be?" Without any hesitation, he recommended Di' Vino Bacco.

10 minutes later I was on my way. I loved the appearance of the restaurant right away as it was a small spot with an authentic charm. However, I can't say I was given the warmest greeting from the host. Maybe it was a language issue, maybe they just expected a full house and I came without a reservation. However, I persisted and I was shown to a table.

They lacked English menus which was a positive sign in my mind as this meant they catered to locals. The host attempted to take my order as my waitress and I just couldn't break the language barrier. Come to find out, the host was the owner and his English was just as bad as my Italian. As we suffered through a fractured conversation, he asked me where I was from. When I responded NYC, his expression beamed with delight. He went on to tell me how much he loved NYC. It seemed he was trying harder to communicate with me. Thankfully, he understood, "bring me the best." And that's just what he did... Amazing food and great wine came my way. 

The owner's name is Rocco and his brother, Vittorio, is the chef and they are from Sicily. After dinner as the restaurant emptied out, I was asked to stay as Vittorio and the sous chefs spoke decent English. We moved to the bar and the drinks flowed for hours. Lots of laughs after lengthly translations. The next night I went back for another amazing meal. After dinner Rocco and Vittorio took me out on the town to their favorite spots. I go back to Di' Vino Bacco each time I'm in Milan and consider them both dear friends. This is what I call Locally Experienced!

06.30.2014: A Frenchie's Must-haves in NYC:

I think it is fair to say the French know a thing or two about food and wine. Thus, today I profile a wonderful lady and a dear friend named France. She recently moved to NYC from London with her husband. France however is aptly named, as she is French born, raised, and educated.

Professionally, she is a talented freelance digital producer, but outside of the office she has a great appreciation for life in the city and a love for food, cooking, and wine. Thus, upon arriving in NYC last year, she quickly sought out her French staples. Here's a list of her recommendations from around the city:

Q: Let's start with the obvious... Where do you get your baguettes?

A: I buy my bread at Kayser, only for the Monge baguette or pain. Monge is actually the name of a little place in the 5th arrondissement, which I love. It's not far from the Sorbonne.

Q: The French also love their croissants, where do you get yours?

A: Yes we do. Balthazar is where I buy croissants. (Union Market in LES has very good croissants as well.)

Q: I personally love really good salt, especially for cooking. What do you use?

A: Big Salt from Guerande. It's really wonderful and you can get it at Sur La Table.

Q: Other French staples to share with our readers?

A: I get Maille Cornichons and Comte cheese at Union Market. They have a few great French products. And there is this delicious goat cheese (from Connecticut) at the Union Square Market on Mondays and Fridays. Also, A L'Olivier fig vinegar is really wonderful on salads and for cooking. I get it at Whole Foods.

Q:  As we both know, food in Paris is really wonderful. That being said, what are some areas where NYC shines?

A:  So far, I'd say that the sushi and Japanese cuisine is much better in NYC! I think NYC is an amazing place for exotic restaurants, which we lack in France. I also absolutely love the farmers markets and the heirloom tomatoes are outstanding.
I also love the variety of nuts, kale, and butternut squash you find in NYC! You just can’t find such varieties in France. I go to Chelsea Market's Nut Box to buy my nuts.

Q: Any unexpected finds in NYC?

A: Well, September Wine Shop is my go-to wine shop in my neighborhood. But, that’s not the unexpected part. What is however is a NY wine I tried there from the Brooklyn-based Red Hook Winery. I never would have guessed it was from NY. You must give it a try!

Oh and they do a Calvados ice cream at theLaboratorio del Gelato. It takes me back to my Normandy roots!

Thanks so much France for sharing your French favorites in NYC! Allez les Bleus!!!!

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06.28.2014 - Edi and the Wolf and the World Cup!:

I've always loved Edi and the Wolf as it is a cozy, bright, and airy restaurant with delicious food, but pour in a little World Cup action and this Alphabet City spot is taken to a whole new level. The service is outstanding, the space is comfortable and the food, beer, and wine are excellent. It is especially good for any and all Germany matches when Edi and his staff squeeze in as many chairs as possible and happily snake through them to delivery beers and bites to their hungry customers.

For the Germany v Ghana match, the house was full and German fans were standing outside along the railing glued to the tight match. A fantastic atmosphere only the World Cup can produce!! 

Reservations are encouraged. If you don't have a reservation, try to get there 30-60 mins before the match. If you can't get in, their sister bar, The Third Man, is only a block away and is a fine option. If you like a more raucous scene for the World Cup matches, Zum Schneider, located just across the street from Edi and the Wolf, can't be beat.

Go #USMNT!!

06.19.2014 - The Blind Barber:

Looking for a great place in NYC for cocktails, craft beers, or wine with a cool vibe, music, and attractive people? Give The Blind Barber a try if you haven't already. Be it a night out with friends or a date, this place is fantastic for drinks pre-dinner, post-dinner, or late night. 

If you haven't been before, don't be confused by the barber shop at the front of the shop. The drinks are in the back room. Speakeasy-ness decor, mostly black and white, with mood lighting and a variety of music depending upon the night. 

They have three locations... LA, the East Village, and earlier this year they opened their third location in Brooklyn. Hours and food options vary per location.

They always have different things happen at each location, so follow them on Facebook to keep up-to-date. For example, the LA location, which celebrated it's 2nd anniversary in May, has a live music series called UNWIND which started this month.

They also have a hair product line that can be purchased at their shops or at Barney's. Oh, and you can also get a haircut which comes with one free drink! 

06.18.2014 - Casa Mari y Rufo:

This hole-in-the-wall, family-run restaurant simply can't be missed on any trip to Barcelona!

I was in Barcelona a few years ago with a friend as part of my first visit to Spain. A local recommended a spot for dinner that evening and our hotel made the necessary reservation. However, as we headed to dinner, we passed a small place that grabbed our attention. To say it was a hole-in-the-wall would be no exaggeration. But, the place had a certain appeal, so we decided we would stop in and grab some appetizers before we continued on to our reservation.

We sat at the bar and quickly determined that Mari and Rufo were married and ran the place. Their son worked there as well. Listening to them argue in Spanish made me feel as if I was sitting in the middle of a Spanish version of "All in the Family" (a show from the 1970s for my younger readers). Clearly, a family-run restaurant. 

They had a variety of seafood, all of which was caught in the Mediterranean Sea that day. We decided to try the octopus, calamari, and a small piece of fish. The calamari was the BEST I've ever had in my life. The food was so good, we completely blew off our reservation and asked Mari and Rufo to keep the food coming. As time went by, we were surrounding by Spanish speaking locals... always a good sign when you are looking for good and affordable food. 

As we said our goodbye's, she told us that she made the best paella in the world and invited us back the next night to try it. Sure enough, we went back and she was spot on... delicious! If you want to try it, make sure you call in advance as Mari cooks it for 4 hours.

I've been back on several occasions including twice last year and the food was still fantastic! And, I was still surrounded by locals. By the way, Mari and Rufo have run this place for more than 35 years.

06.12.2014 - The Promenade Plantée - A great place to run in Paris:

A few days ago, I did a photo essay on the High Line in NYC. While beautiful and embraced by locals and tourists alike, the High Line is not an original concept. The first-ever elevated-railway-turned-park was thePromenade Plantée in Paris, also known as Coulée Verte. Paris inaugurated this park in 1993, yet it does not get the fanfare or attention that the High Line has obtained. Which is probably completely fine to the Parisians!

Both provide an excellent escape from the busy city streets below and are full of beautiful trees, plants, flowers, and art exhibits. However, the Promenade Plantée is also a great place to run. The elevated path takes you from the center of Paris, near Opéra Bastille, out of the city through a series of beautifully designed foot bridges, parks, and tunnels. Once the elevated park ends, a large park called Bois de Vincennes is only a few blocks away. This park is full of trees, running paths, ducks, geese, and other birds, a lake, and a series of streams. It can be reached within 20-30 minutes depending on your pace. The park leads you to the 14th century castle Château de Vincennes. Plan ahead and bring money or a ticket for the Metro as the Château de Vincennes stop on the M Line is nearby and will take you back to central Paris.

06.11.2014 - The Spotted Pig:

Today's locally-focused tip is centered on the Spotted Pig in honor of its 10th anniversary this year. Longevity in the Big Apple is a very difficult proposition, especially in the restaurant business. However, the Spotted Pig continues to fill up on a nightly basis and has stayed relevant with locals and tourists alike. This corner pub heralded the concept of the Gastropub and the no reservation policy...  two trends that spread across NYC, the country, and major cities around the globe. 

The Spotted Pig is a great place for brunch, dinner, drinks at the bar (I prefer upstairs), and for late night drinking. They are best known for their chargrilled Roquefort burgers, but the gnudi is my favorite dish! Chef April Bloomfield is quoted as saying that she will eventually take it off the menu... thankfully that day has not yet come. If you haven't tried this dish, please make it priority #1.

If you love the Spotted Pig, give The Breslin Bar & Dining Room a try next time you are in midtown. Both are creations of Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield and both are 1-star Michelin restaurants. Other notable spots from this pair include Salvation Taco and John Dory Oyster Bar (awarded a two-stars review from the New York Times).

06.05.2014 - Mustapha Blaoui - Iconic Moroccan Shopping:

Today's tip is focused on shopping... In-the-know travels know of the iconic shop Mustapha Blaoui in Marrakesh. This place is the quintessential Moroccan shopping experience! A must for any stay in Marrakesh! But don't go looking for it blindly on the streets of Marrakesh as this store doesn't have a sign outside the store (nor a website). Those seeking the floor-to-ceiling irresistibles within need to look for the two large wooden doors on Rue Bab Doukkala near #142/144.

The store is packed full of the best products made by local artisans including lamps, rugs, ceramics, glassware, blankets, jewelry, and more. They also have an amazing selection of antique furniture and unique items for the home. Those with the skill to bargain will be rewarded! And they ship internationally!

06.02.2014 - Barthélémy:

If you love cheese, Barthélémy simply can't be missed on your next trip to Paris! 

I met some Parisians while dining at Verjus and they told me about this cheese shop and raved about their magnificent mozzarella cheese amongst others. I stopped in a few days later and was blown away by the selection and the knowledge of the employees at the shop. Oh, and the mozzarella was the best I've ever had. No trip to Paris is complete without stopping at Barthélémy.

Located a short walk from Musée d'Orsay. Just check the hours of operation before you go as their hours are limited.

05.30.2014 - Motorino and Luzzo's:

There are tons of options for pizza in NYC, but I'm particularly blessed living in the East Village where there are two incredible spots a stone's throw from the corner of East 12th St and 1st Avenue. In no particular order, there is Motorino on E 12th St and 1st Ave and Luzzo's on 1st Ave between E 12th and E 13th Sts. 

Both Motorino and Luzzo's produce delicious thin crust Neapolitan-style pizza. Motorino cooks their pizzas in a brick oven, while Luzzo's has a 120+ year-old coal-burning oven. Coal-burning ovens are rare in NYC as no new ovens are allowed, they must be inherited! 

Motorino's strength: a focus on fresh ingredients. Their Soppressata pizza is outstanding, as well as their seasonal specials. Their restaurant is small, charming, and causal and they usually have a line out the door.  

Luzzo's strength: Their coal-burning oven does magical things to their crust. Their Salsiccia E Broccoli is phenomenal. Luzzo's is causal and charming as well, but it is a slightly larger restaurant and thus seating is easier to get. They also allow BYOB with a $15 corkage fee.  

You really can't go wrong with either. And if one has a long wait, go to the other for amazing pizza. They both have locations in Brooklyn and beyond (see their websites). 

05.28.2014 - La Ciau del Tornavento

A friend and I were wine tasting in the Barolo region of Piedmonte when we befriended a wine maker and a in-the-know local. A discussion on wine quickly changed to food and she was kind enough to give us some recommendations for dinner in the area including several of her favorites. One of them was La Ciau del Tornavento.  

Simple put, this place dazzles the senses in some many ways. The food, an imaginative, contemporary-style cuisine, is fresh and delectable. The wine cellar is mind-blowing with an extensive and impressive list of wines from the region at far better prices than you will find once the wines reach the US. The restaurant opens up to an outdoor patio with evocative views of the Langhe country side below. And while some Michelin-starred restaurants may seem a bit stuffy, this place is welcoming with impeccable service. The chef even steps out of the kitchen each evening and walks around and chats with each table. The prices are extremely fair given all this place has to offer.

If you love wine, the Piedmonte province produces some of the highest quality wines in the world including Barolo and Barbaresco. The landscape is beautiful with its green running hills covered with vines. Makes for some fantastic driving and scenic views. In addition to some amazing and beautiful vineyards, there are many drivable small towns with historical buildings, boutique hotels, and fine eateries. Let me know if I can help you curate a locally-focused trip to this amazing region of northern Italy.

05.22.2014 - The Best NYC Sunset:

For the best NYC sunset, you have to leave Manhattan and head over to Williamsburg. The L Train is an easy way to get there or a taxi if that line is not convenient for you. Head to the beautiful Wythe Hotel on 80 Wythe Ave. at N. 11th St and ask the host(ess) for entry into The Ides Bar on the 6th floor. Try to get there about an hour or two before sunset and enjoy a couple of leisurely cocktails at the bar. The bar itself is inside, but it has a very nice outdoor patio attached. The backdrop of the bar is the beautiful Manhattan skyline. Hang at the bar or head outside to enjoy the sun and the unobstructed view. Enjoy the sunset as it dips behind the the city. Some nights are busier than others...  the crowd is a mix of locals and stylish tourists from around the world. Cheers!

05.21.2014 - NoDa Bodega:

Today, it's all about sandwiches... unbelievably delicious sandwiches made with tremendous love!

During an extended stay in Charlotte last month, I was enjoying a couple of beers at a wonderful craft brewery called Birdsong Brewing Co. During a chat with the owner and one of her employees, I was tipped off to the NoDa Bodega located a few miles down the road. Both promised me this place made the best sandwiches in all of Charlotte.

Two days later, I drove out to the Bodega. The location is a little off the main strip of NoDa and is oddly located on a corner surrounded by homes. It looks like a basic corner shop, but it has a local twist including a variety of local beers and a small, but nice selection of artisan wines.

I ordered the Italian Stallion, a regular menu item, and the special of the day, the Phoenix. The sandwiches couldn't have been more different and I'm pretty sure they couldn't have been more delicious. Their sandwiches are exceptionally creative and were made with fresh ingredients and delicious meats. Each sandwich is literally a work of art. It easily took 5+ minutes to construct each sandwich including toasting. The end result was well worth the wait.

It is fair to say, my new friends at the brewery were spot on with their recommendation. Any future trip to Charlotte will definitely include at least one stop to the NoDa Bodega! 

05.20.2014 - La Perle:

In grieving the loss of a beautiful soul, I reflect on 3 wonderful days in Paris last summer where I got to spend a couple of amazing evenings with my dear friend. There is a wonderful cafe in Le Marais neighborhood where we met up time-and-time again called La Perle. To honor my friend's life, this is my tip for today because this spot truly embodies the fun-loving and beautifully eccentric spirit of my friend.

La Perle... let me start by saying that I've never tried their food. Let's be honest, people don't really go there for the food. The draw: the characters that hang out at this cafe and pour out onto the curbside and the atmosphere. A beautiful mix of locals and travelers from around the world. Professions range widely from screenwriters, actors, fashionistas, businessmen and woman, musicians, etc. Straight mingle beautifully with a mix of the LGBT community.

Come here for a drink in the early evening before dinner or after. Don't expect the best service, but expect lots of laughs and a very interesting evening on a lovely corner in Le Marais meeting amazing people from Paris and around the globe!

05.19.2014 - Forgetmenot:

As the sign indicates inside this cozy surf bar on the border between Chinatown and the Lower East Side, "Locals Only." It's called Forgetmenot and it's a wickedly cool spot, so make sure you look the part and don't act a fool.

Forgetmenot is great for drinks with friends, a date, or for a causal, but delicious meal. It's located on 138 Division St and was expanded several months ago. Some expansions lessen a place. This expansion makes this dark, locals spot even better. Make sure you try their spicy watermelon margaritas now that the warm weather is here!

05.16.2014 - Verjus:

Last summer, a friend in Paris introduced me to a little restaurant and wine bar called VerjusOh, what a gift! This cozy little spot in the 1st arrondissement is a stone's throw from the Palais-Royal and a short walk from the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre. Verjus is housed in a charming 19th-century 3-story building with the wine bar on the ground floor (once a horse/carriage stable) and a dining room upstairs. While they offer a 4-course or 6-course tasting menu in the dining room, I sadly have never made it past the wine bar. And for good reason... The wine bar is sensational. The setting is gorgeous in its simplicity and everything on the bar menu is delicious with an outstanding array of wine. This tiny spot is welcoming and comfortable and it is quite typically to hear french and english conversations dance through the vaulted ceiling. I've tried a majority of the dishes on the wine bar menu and I simply don't want to leave once I've arrived. Their buttermilk fried chicken with napa cabbage, red chilies, and micro greens is some of the best fried chicken I've had anywhere in the world. 

The owners/chef are American expats who have called Paris home for 7+ years...  New Orleans born and Boston bred chef Braden Perkins and his partner in work and life, Saint Paul native Laura Adrian. Next time I will certainly try the tasting menu, but only after enjoying the fried chicken and string french fries in the wine bar!

05.15.2014 - Taïm:

Do you love falafel? Have a ridiculous french fry weakness like me? TaÏm in NYC is the answer! This tiny spot in the West Village packs a huge punch when it comes to taste and quality. Opened in 2005 by husband and wife team, Chef Einat Admony and Stefan Nafziger, with a desire to bring Tel Aviv street food to NYC. Their pitas/falafels are fresh and delicious and I rank their crispy french fries as some of the best in the city. And any visit without grabbing a cup of their ginger-mint lemonade is simply a mistake. Just bring a little patience as the lines can be long. Thankfully, there is also a location in Nolita as well!

05.14.2014 - Cetli:

After a visit to Cenote Azul, we headed south to Tulum to check out a restaurant a friend recommended. We could not locate the restaurant, so we stopped at a nearby hostel to get directions. There I met a Parisian expat who now calls Tulum home. As we talked about life in Tulum, he recommended a different restaurant called Cetli. He said it was by far the best restaurant in town with run by a chef who previously worked in some of the greatest food cities on the planet. Intrigued and trusting the "local" point-of-view, I went to check it out. Cetli is located on a modest backstreet in Tulum. The restaurant, once a home, stands out as the most beautiful property in the area. Once inside, I was completely taken by the unique intimacy with an eclectic Mexican feel that couldn't be duplicated. To our surprise, we were approached by the chef who arranged a sitting for us later that evening. The restaurant is run by Mexico City-born Chef Claudia Pérez Rívas plus a staff of 1 and holds no more than a dozen tables. 

Dinner that evening at Cetli was out of this world. The best Mexican food I've ever eaten and our favorite meal in Mexico. Chef Pérez Rívas turns out dishes that are equally gorgeous to the eye as they are to the mouth. Her mole sauces are delicate, yet packed with with favor. Her passion for artistry rings true in the atmosphere she has created at Cetli and the food that she turns out of her small kitchen. If you ever find yourself in Tulum, make sure you pay Chef Pérez Rívas and Cetli a visit. You won't be disappointed! 

05.09.2014 - La Barbacoa de la Tulum:

I'm currently traveling in Playa del Carmen seeking out the local experience. Last night, we went to La Barbacoa de la Tulum based on the recommendation of a local. This place was specular! You know you are eating at a great spot when you are the only non-local at the restaurant. Especially given the fact that we were only one block away from the uber touristy 5th Ave strip. The meal was inexpensive, the tacos and gringas were delicious, and the the buy-one-get-one-free daiquiris were wonderful. My favorite was the barbecue taco! A wonderful spot to for a great meal while in Playa del Carmen!

05.04.2014 - Barbuto:

Spring is a special time to be in West Village given its gorgeous cobblestone streets lined with tall flowering trees. It is also an equally special time to stop by Barbuto (@BarbutoNYC) as the warmer temps means the garage doors are lifted resulting in a beautiful open-air setting. It is one of my favorite places year around, but it really is phenomenal on a warm, sunny spring day when it is opened up to the neighborhood, the sun, and the breeze coming off the nearby Hudson River. This restaurant was once a garage for antique cars, but now serves up some of the best Italian food in the entire city. And this year the restaurant and John Waxman (executive chef) are celebrating its 10th anniversary! Highly recommended for lunch, brunch, dinner, or a few drink at the bar.

05.03.2014 - Mama's Fish House:

Love seafood? Have plans to go to Maui? If so, do yourself a huge favor and grab dinner at Mama's Fish House (@MamasFishHouse) on the northern coast of Maui. I hit this spot after a day driving and hiking along the Hana Highway. A day full of waterfalls, beautiful vegetation, clean air, amazing vistas, and a short drive in my Jeep on a remote beach surrounded by mountainous terrain. Mama's Fish House is no secret so the waits can be long, but a wait that will be rewarded. I bypassed the wait by grabbing a seat at the bar and ordered a series of appetizers to get as much variety as possible. I've never had seafood as fresh and delicious!

05.02.2014 - Cinekamari Santorini:

The Greek island Santorini is a very special place including picturesque towns straddling the crescent-shaped rim of the island, amazing restaurants and fresh seafood, some of the best sunsets on the planet, and gorgeous beaches. However, one of my favorite experiences while I was there last summer was taking in a movie at Cinekamari Santorini (@cinekamari). This gorgeous open-air cinema shows English movies with Greek subtitles. The setting is elegant with a large screen hanging from the stars above a stage surrounding by beautiful plants and large greek vases. During intermission, as Greek conversations dominate the theater, you feel for a moment that you are experiencing local Santorini life. Oh, and grab a Yellow Donkey (@donkeybeer) or two for the movie. This local Santorini craft beer is fantastic!

05.01.2014 - Aux Merveilleux de Fred

Last summer I was lucky enough to spend about 3 weeks in Paris. One of my favorite finds during my visit was the delectable Merveilleux cakes of Aux Merveilleux de Fred. I stumbled upon the pâtisserie in the 7th arrondissement near the Eiffel Tower and I’ve dreamed of the Merveilleux ever since! What is a Merveilleux you ask?  Get this… this sinful pastry (comes in six flavors) is a meringue coated in chocolate whipped cream covered with shavings of dark chocolate. Out of this world! My recommendation for you: Grab an individual sized Merveilleux (or two), walk down to the park between the Alexandre III Bridge and Les Invalides, find a free patch of grass, and sit and enjoy your pastry and you will be in heaven.

Frédéric Vaucamp, the creator and owner, has opened several locations in Paris, Lille, Metz, and London.

04.30.2014 - Garde Manger:

If you find yourself in Montreal, there is a small restaurant in Old Montreal called Garde Manger. You simply can’t go to Montreal without trying this place. The food is outstanding and the charm of this place is off the charts. Oh, how I miss their jerk king crab legs! Make sure you get a reservation well in advance. If you aren’t in Montreal, well shame on you. Let me help you plan a trip there. It is a beautiful city with friendly people, lovely architecture, fantastic food and nightlife, and gorgeous weather in the summer. It’s like going to Europe, but without the jetlag and expensive flights.

04.29.2014 - Bistro Petit:

Bistro Petit (bistropetit.com / @BistroPetit) is a true NYC gem and must-do dinner spot for several reasons. First and foremost, the food is outstanding. Chef Sung Park, born and raised in Korea, is an innovative chef who brilliantly merges french and asian influences. His craft clearly benefits from time cooking under some legends such as Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Chef Laurent Tourondel just to name a few. Secondly, the small restaurant is located on a quiet corner in Williamsburg and the setting is intimate with amble ambience. Lastly, the restaurant is BYOB, so it is quite easy to enjoy an amazing meal very affordably by bringing your own bottle of wine or favorite 6-pack with no corkage fees.

04.28.2014 - Chelsea Market:

While you are at Chelsea Market (chelseamarket.com / @ChelseaMarketNY) picking up some fresh pasta (yesterday's tip), make sure you stop by Buon Italia (buonitalia.com / @Buonitalia_) for a wide variety of gorgeous foods sourced from Italy. My favorites: The burrata is made fresh in Pulgia and shipped over twice a week. Add a little olive oil and sea salt and you have a real crowd pleaser. Other must-have items include their sausage, dry cured meats, fresh buffalo ricotta, and "mother-in-law tongue" crackers.

04.27.2014 - Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina: 

Cooking dinner at home tonight? You MUST try the fresh pasta from Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina (Rananyc.com / @RanaNYC) located in Chelsea Market (chelseamarket.com / @ChelseaMarketNY). It makes Italian cooking @ home infinitely better with little effort and for only a couple of dollars. Absolutely love the pappardelle!