Mary's Fish Camp seems like the type of place you drop into once a week to have "the regular." Maybe a cold beer, some fries and a lobster roll. You can sit at the counter, the waitress is likely to remember you and know what you like.
But Mary's is not your typical fish and chips joint. The atmosphere is laid back, there is awesome music playing and they do serve great fries, but the food itself goes far beyond your simple fish and chips. Fresh ingredients combined with Mediterranean, French and Asian flavors elevate Mary's to a different level. Menu items have a uniqueness that you don't often find at your local seafood hangout.
Fish doesn't get much fresher than Mary's. It's delivered 6 days a week and when they run out-that's it-you're SOL. Mary is visible almost all nights-standing tall behind the tiny pass and moving briskly as she prepares signatures like grilled Greek durade filet with ruby red grapefruit, fava and mint salad or boquerones with naval orange, calamata olive and almond bruschetta. Whole fish is also an option and can be grilled or fried for two to share.
We started with a half dozen Malpeque oysters with blush mignonette. They were some of the freshest oyster's I've had. Ever.
Our next course was the seared calamari with lime, cilantro, peanuts and mint. This dish tasted very Thai to me. I love the freshness of the cilantro combined with the seafood.
The roasted golden Tile filet with red quinoa, Fayeh yogurt and chili oil was my favorite dish of the night. This dish was Meditteranean, light and fresh and something I would definitely go back for.
A surprise was the cuban corn. I would never guess Mary's to serve Cuban corn and this corn was damn tasty. I had to stop myself from eating it all as I was getting so full!
Finally, dessert. Desert at Mary's is NOT an afterthought. Her hot fudge sundae is worth a trip any day of the week. Homemade peanut brittle sits a top none other than il laboratorio del gelato's vanilla ice cream and homemade thick, gooey fudge.
A strawberry shortcake is adorned with local berries and homemade whipped cream, and is a light refreshing summer option-but go for the sundae...you had fish for dinner anyway!
Mary's is definitely the type of place you'd want to visit frequently-just be prepared, as the rest of the West Village agrees with you and they don't take reservations!
Mary's Fish Camp 64 Charles St. New York, New York (646) 486-2185
This is one of those places that you only tell your best friends about. Which is why I hesitated to even write about it here. But it's too amazing not to share. If you weren't looking for it on Perry St., you'd most definitely miss it. The tinny little spot opened it's doors just a couple months ago and already has a local following.
Many things make Aria stand apart from other wine bars in the area. First they have a full liquor license and the classic cocktails such as mojito's and pimms cup are written in chalk on the wall with a list so long it goes from the floor to the ceiling. These aren't your average cocktails but each is handcrafted with care and it shows in the quality of the drink. The mojito I tried was perfectly muttled with fresh mint and lime.
Another thing that sets this wine bar apart is that the wine list is dedicated to women wine makers. Next to the type of wine is the name of the woman proprietor. The glasses are tiny but the prices are low and it's a nice way to be able to try different things, and with over 20 wines by the glass there is no shortage of choices.
Roberto Passon is another key ingredient to this wine bar. Chef at many midtown Italian restaurants, he is now running the Italian tapas style menu at Aria. The "Cicchetti" are $9 each and range from things like gorgonzola stuffed dates to homemade and grilled vegetable lasagne. With prices so low it's easy to sample several of the cicchetti.
There are always specials, but be forewarned, this is where things can get a little pricier. Specials the other night included burrata with prosciutto and tomatoes, ribs and gamberi. We ordered the burrata not knowing it came with an $18 price tag, but the cheese was creamy and delicious, topped with a touch of balsamic and fresh black pepper and as always pairs perfectly with the salty prosciutto.
We also tried the grilled eggplants stuffed with goat cheese. These were incredibly gooey and delicious, covered in a light tomato sauce and they literally melted in your mouth.
Other specialties I'd like to try include the grilled lamb chops in a balsamic vinegar sauce and mushroom burschetta with mantasio cheese.
The wine's I've tasted have been lovely as well. A sparkling Chardonnay/brut from Italy for $9 a glass was light and refreshing where as a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile was rich and full bodied at $7 per glass.
But what really makes this place so incredible is the warm atmosphere and inviting service. After my second visit, I was already treated like a regular. They brought me grappa at the end and welcomed me back. The setting is rustic and intimate but still lively. I can't wait to go back.
Aria 117 Perry Street New York (212) 242-4233
AMAZING!!! Gooey! Sweet! Cookie dough! All these words come to mind when taking a bite of the incredibly delicious chocolate chip extravaganza at the Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery in Manhattan's lower east side. For only $4 I was elevated to a place of cookie ecstasy. Layers of creamy whipped goodness sandwich chocolate chips and cookie pieces that give it the moist flavor of a cookie dough.
Coming across this extravaganza was mere luck. I googled a bakery in the area and Sugar Sweet Sunshine came up. Most of the reviews blab on and on about their cupcakes, which I'll get to, but I immediately noticed the trifle looking cookie off to the side in a large bowel with only a few servings left and knew I had to have it. Best decision ever.
You must know that the presentation of the individual serving is nothing spectacular. It's kind of dumped in a cardboard white cup-which could be beneficial to you if you are afraid of a roommate stealing your extravaganza. And be forewarned, if said roommate taste's it, they will most definitely steal it.
I also did end up trying a few of their cupcakes: the sunshine which was yellow cake with vanilla buttercream. Your standard vanilla cupcake here. Good-not the best and not the worst.
Pumpkin: pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese icing. Quite good, but personally I'm not in the mood for pumpkin in the end of August.
And the strawberry peanut butter: A strawberry cupcake with peanut butter icing. This was surprisingly light but not my favorite. Too reminiscent of a PB&J which is best as a sandwich, not a cupcake.
We tried the pumpkin eggnog pudding. Served in the same style of the extravaganza, this too was excellent but also should be saved for a fall treat.
A sample of the red velvet cake with vanilla buttercream frosting was the only big set back of the night. It was TERRIBLE! I really don't understand how the masterminds behind the extravaganza can make such an awful red velvet. Probably the worst red velvet I've ever had.
But I will return for the extravaganza...potentially tomorrow!
Sugar Sweet Sunshine 126 Rivington St. New York (212) 995-1960
It's official! I'm a New Yorker! And thus I find it completely appropriate to write my first review on Taim Falafel & Smoothie Bar. I was leaving my gym and debated just getting a smoothie from the juice bar bought thought better of it when I came across the yelp of this place. 379 reviews and four and a half stars...and only 2 blocks from where I was standing! It was meant to be.
When I arrived the line was out the door-a good sign for picky New Yorkers and their discriminating tastes. This is NOT the place to go for a nice leisurely lunch with a friend. This is the place to go if you want awesome food quickly. There are only a few bar stools as most people order to go.
The menu seemed pretty basic and everything I read seemed to talk about the falafel, so I ordered the falafel sandwich for $5.25. I choose the harissa falafel-a mildly spicy falafel, but there are two other options: green, with parsley, cilantro and mint or red with red peppers. I think the spice really added to the flavor though so I would definitely recommend the harissa.
The falafel sandwich is made to order and came with hummus, israeli salad, marinated cabbage and tahini. I also asked for eggplant spread on mine as I like things SAUCY! I choose a white pita and watched as they very quickly made the orders ahead of mine.
When I got my falafel all warm and wrapped in tin foil, I dug right in. It was incredible - easily the best falafel I've ever had. The perfect balance of creamy, spicy and crispy. Their smoothies were enticing as well, particularly the date, lime, banana and the cantaloupe and ginger. However the smoothie would be a meal on it's own for me. Next time!
Taim Falafel & Smoothie Bar 222 Waverly Pl. (212) 691-1287
In a city where "trendy" restaurants come and go as often as celebrities faces on US Weekly, I was surprised to walk into Cecconi's more than a year and half after their opening to see that the place was still "happening", and it was a Monday night! I was out for a girls dinner and I wanted to go somewhere fun and obviously I wanted the food to be good. Unfortunately there aren't that many restaurants that fit that mold in LA. Asia De Cuba is fun, but I am frankly over their food which hasn't been changed in what feels like a decade. CUT can be fun, but also hard on the wallet. Boa is fun, but the food is often terrible. So I ended up going back to Cecconi's and hoping for the best.
When it opened it was near impossible to get a reservation, I decided my money was better spent elsewhere where I wouldn't be fighting over a table. The food had always been rather mixed in my opinion. Pizzas were decent with a nice crust, coming out of the wood burning oven and prawns were delicate and sweet with a crumb topping. However simple dishes like pea soup were incredibly disappointing and lacked flavor. Scallops wrapped in pancetta were painfully salty (and still are). However there is a great meal to be had there if you know what to order. But doesn't that speak true of most restaurants, ordering the right or wrong thing will make or break your entire experience. Which is why most experts will tell you to ask the waiter what he or she recommends. Unfortunately you are putting your faith in someone who may or may not like the institution where they work and may or may not give a shit about what dish ends up in front of you. But you should always ask and then, depending on their enthusiasm or whether or not it seems you are just being steered towards the most expensive dish, you can decide whether or not to take their advice.
So, Cecconi's on Monday. I ordered the fiore-a cocktail with prosecco, St. Germain and a lemon twist. I loved everything about this drink except the lemon twist. It overwhelms the drink. Next time, I will request the drink without it.
We decide on a few of the classic appetizers for the table. Meatballs are from the wood oven and come with a heaping amount of tomato sauce, which I love. The meatballs themselves are a little boring though and could use cheese (lots of it) and maybe even some salt for flavor.
Corn ravioli with shaved truffle are excellent and can be done as an entree or appetizer as with most of the other pastas on the menu. The baked gnocchi romana with gorgonzola is a rich dish for a starter but I do like the creaminess with the sharp flavor of the cheese.
The Chino Farms beets with burrata are great. The burrata is incredibly creamy as it should be and compliments the beets nicely. Tuna tartare is prepared table side, which I think is a waste of time and holds everyone else's appetizers while someone sprinkles it with olive oil and salt. The end result of the tuna is fresh but rather bland.
Entrees are hit or miss. I got a hit with the branzino-crispy fish with skin on came with cherry tomatoes and olives from the wood burning oven. The fish was light and flakey with a nice flavor. My friends didn't do as well with the halibut. It was large and bland. The veal ossobuco gremolata was rich and flavorful and again came with a lot of sauce.
Lamb chops had potential-they were from Sonoma and paired with artichokes and fava beans, but became dried out when they were over cooked. Mushroom risotto is kind of a hot mess. Rather bland and boring. A side of mashed potatoes will put a smile on anyone's face though as they are creamy and sweet.
Cecconi's is a great place to go with friends-just be sure to tell them what to order so that they enjoy the evening as much as you do!
Cecconi's (310) 432-2000 8764 Melrose Avenue
What makes a resort a magical place? Is it the right music playing lightly in the background as a courteous staff welcomes your arrival? Is it magnificent surroundings that constantly have you breathless? Is it a beautifully decorated room with the finest linens and water views? Or a gourmet restaurant set over looking one of the most loved lakes in the world?
The new CastaDiva Resort in Lake Como has all these things and more.
I stumbled across CastaDiva Resort by chance. Having been open for only 2 months they weren’t running at full capacity quite yet, but would be within one week as all the 75 rooms had been rented out for a wedding.
Judging from the website, which boasts beautiful photos of the recently renovated Villa Roccabruna, originally built in the 18th century, there was no cost spared on the reconstruction of this fine Lake Como property.
Lake front and composed of 9 separate villas, the resort is designed to make you feel as though you are staying at someone’s private home in Lake Como. During my stay I rarely saw people unless I was at breakfast or the pool.
There are other five star hotels on Lake Como. Villa d’Este is world-renowned and for what, I am not exactly sure. Upon visiting that hotel, there were hoards of tourists who all seemed more interested in each other than the surrounding views of the lake. Buildings were old and bathrooms were screaming for renovations. Villa Serbelloni, although conveniently located in the picturesque town of Bellagio is another that desperately needs redone and isn’t exactly remote or serene.
CastaDiva is much more private than the others. Located in the quite town of Blevio, it’s hard not to feel the history throughout the grounds. Opera singer Giuditta Pasta lived at the villa. She is know for inspiring Vincenzo Bellini who wrote his greatest works at the villa, “Norma” and “La Sonnambula.” It’s not hard to see where he garnered his inspiration. The views are nothing short of spectacular as the blue lake is framed by mountains towering more than 8,000 feet above. Beautiful old villas line the lower part of the lake, most with steps down into the water to receive boats and guests.
Guests have the luxury of choosing from rooms in the main villas or having an entire villa to themselves for the length of their stay. Even the most basic rooms offer stunning lake views and beautiful renaissance inspired modern furnishings.
The spa was created to be a destination in itself. Over 4,000 square feet, it was created around the four elements of fire, water, earth and air. A glass floor suspended over a 19th century dock creates a lovely waiting room before your spa treatment or a nice peaceful place to read and relax. It has an indoor pool and Jacuzzi and countless specialty baths and saunas that include a Finnish sauna, a Mediterranean sauna, a Turkish bath, a Kneipp bath and Salt therapy area.
The restaurant features the same beautiful views as the rest of the resort with Italian cuisine by Paolo Casagrande.
Simply put, CastaDiva is a place that you don’t want to leave. I’ve seen some beautiful places but CastaDiva is truly special. Whether taking advantage of a tour of the lake on a Riva that picks you up from the hotel, or reading on the pool suspended over the lake, it’s easy to get lost in CastaDiva’s magic.
http://www.castadivaresort.com/ Lake Como, Italy 39 031 3251 3035
I had one place I was determined to eat at on my most recent visit to Manhattan: Marea. I had heard incredible things about Marea. A GM at very well-regarded restaurant here in LA said it was the best meal she had in NYC-she also ate at Per Se, but yet her lunch at Marea seemed to out-shine what I'm sure was a fantastic meal at Per Se.
A friend and I arrived to Marea around 8pm to a somewhat empty restaurant-an hour and a half later there wasn't a single open seat. It always surprises me how late people eat in New York. The restaurant is modern and beautiful, right off of Columbus Circle. We started with a champagne cocktail and looked over the very large menu that was full of seafood, so much in fact that it made you feel as though you were in the Mediterranean. The menu was divided into several main sections: crudo al taglio (sliced raw fish and shellfish), antipasti (all seasonal and all featuring seafood), pasta fatta in casa (all pasta made in house), secondi di pesce (seasonal fish dishes), carne y volatili (meat and poultry) and finally, pesci and crostacei (whole fish and shellfish). There also was the option of doing a tasting menu, but considering I'd eaten a lot that day, the tasting wasn't in the cards.
We decided on sharing a few dishes so we could try several different things. We were brought out an amuse bouche of peach soup with pistachio. This was not my favorite. It was rather bland and watered down.
We started with the "astice"- a novia scotia lobster with burrata, eggplant al funghetto, and basil. How could a dish with burrata and lobster go wrong? It was nice and light. The salty, creamy burrata complimented the lobster well and it was a great starter. I also liked the way the plate looked like a seashell.
For entrees we decided on the spaghetti with crab, Santa Barbara sea urchin and basil, as well as the fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow. I am not a huge fun of sea urchin (uni) or bone marrow, but I had heard from friends that these were the dishes not to be missed.
These were some of the best pastas I've ever had, period. We were also brought and orecchiette with spot prawns, chilies and rosemary-also excellent. The fusilli was the richest of the three pasta's but it was also probably my favorite. The flavors came together so well to create a rich savory dish in a lightly spiced tomato sauce.
The second favorite was the spaghetti. This dish was much lighter but still extremely flavorful. It came in a uni cream sauce with fresh tomatoes and bread crumbs.
The orecchiette was very satisfying as well and the spot prawns were the star of this dish. This came in a light tomato sauce with fresh chives.
We were too full for dessert but were presented with lovely chocolates at the end of the meal. This was by far the best meal of my trip and definitely a restaurant worth visiting while in NYC. I can't wait to return.
Marea 240 Central Park South (212) 582-5100
I am always strolling through the grocery store looking for new exciting products. I pick something up, take it home and try it and decide whether it was worth the however many odd dollars I paid for it. This past week I came across something extraordinary: Arctic Zero Frozen Dessert.
It comes in a pint, just like ice cream and tastes ridiculously good for having on 34 calories per 1/2 cup.
YES on 34 FREAKING calories...compare that to your favorite pint of Ben and Jerry's which probably averages closer to 230 calories in 1/2 cup. So what that means is that you can eat the ENTIRE pint for only 128 calories!
I've tried two flavors-vanilla and chocolate peanut butter. I am a fan of the vanilla but won't be buying the chocolate peanut butter again. I place it in a bowl with my cupcakes or cake and it tastes awesome.
I don't really know how they do it, and with the first two ingredients being purified water and whey protein concentrate I don't feel like its that bad for me.
I think I've found a new freezer staple!