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Incognito Bistro

2013-08-20 17.58.16-2 Paolo Montana and Adriana Moretti are the most gracious hosts delivering Scottish and Italian flair to Union Square/Madison Square Park. I had walked by Incognito many of times as I used to work on 18th and 5th. I always looked in but never had a chance to sit down. There are so many restaurants in this city that you may never be find the best ones by just listening to the restaurant newsmagazines. Sometimes, you just have to dip into a place and check it out!

I’d been invited to take part in these blogger dinners and was excited about taking part in them until I went to the first one. Restaurant lighting never was designed to make food look good, it was designed to make your dining companion look good. Unfortunately, this is reflected in the shots on most food writers’ sites. Weird shadows, a lot of flashes… food doesn’t end up looking very appetizing. I like to get there when there’s great light and shoot the food the way it really looks. I think you’re doing a disservice to a restaurant if you get plates as beautiful as these and don’t take care in the photography. I know I’m not the best, but I’m getting better with each shoot.

With that, let’s see some food!

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Vegetable Plate

Eggplant caponata, roasted fennel, sweet corn, butternut squash, and caramelized onions. I must say, the roasted fennel was almost my favorite thing I tasted today. Paolo told me it was simply fennel, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and it was heaven. It’s the simple things.

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Prosciutto + Caprese

The center of this mozzarella literally melted under my fork. It was so creamy! There was a lemon vinaigrette over the prosciutto. Of course, when you think of a Caprese, you don’t think of ham (you don’t necessarily think of lemon vinaigrette either), but they both worked. The mozzarella stole the show. It’s imported from Naples. Great sourcing on this one.

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Highland Haggis

Lamb sausage with turnips, creamed potatoes & whisky jus. This was my first haggis experience and I have to say it was very pleasurable. Don’t be afraid of the word “Haggis!” You’re not afraid of the word sausage, are you? It’s made out of the same stuff (except this is from a sheep). My suggestion, try the haggis.

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That is, if you’re not a huge lasagna fan. A few years ago I went to have the lasagna at Eataly because they told me it was the same as the stuff at Babbo. I was really excited about lasagna at Babbo because I’ve heard so many great things about it. Either I didn’t get the same lasagna they were talking about, the quality controls hadn’t been put in place to make sure the lasagna was up to par, or the lasagna at Babbo was not that great to begin with. I’m guessing #2, but regardless, this stuff (only five blocks from Eataly) was much better.

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Allo Scoglio

Spaghetti with shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. Look at this deliciousness. Apparently Allo Scoglio means something like “Reef Spaghetti.” I like these Italians and their nomenclature. “Hey Enzo, what’s that sauce that the whores make? What’s that called, I forget the name of it?” So simple. I don’t know what the difference between this and Frutti di Mare is – more tomatoes in the FdM maybe? Anyways, if you like seafood, this is a great choice.

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Chocolate Torte

The chocolate torte came with this amazing salted butterscotch, some berries, a little bit of whipped creamy/vanilla puddingy stuff and you could dip the chocolate torte in any one of these items to give yourself four dessert combinations one one plate. Awesome idea.

Please check out Incognito Bistro if you’re in the Madison Square park area – definitely worth a sit if you like hearty Italian or it’s been too long since you’ve had your favorite Scottish fare!

The food at Incognito Bistro was provided to the author by the owners.

Incognito Bistro
30 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011
(212) 414-1231

Ellary’s Greens

2013-07-22 17.35.37-2 This new West Village establishment had a lot of thought put into it. It is the first foray into restaurants for the New Orleans native Leith Hill. She’s just as energetic and vibrant as the drinks they serve here.

When you arrive, the bright light streaming in from the future herb garden in back and the die-cut leaf screen overhead gives you the feeling of walking into a forest. It’s a very well done restaurant and it doesn’t seem like an expense was spared. It’s good to know that there’s wifi and an abundance of plugs for any temporary officeless workers.

A very welcoming place.

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Dining Room

Onto the food.

Alex Oefeli is a Swiss born chef most recently at Whole Foods in Tribeca. He brings some European style to this fresh concept.

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Tuscan Kale Salad

The kale salad was bright and crisp. It was just about the goatiest feta that I’ve ever had.

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Pan Roasted Sweet Potato

A quick bite to get you started and solve your hunger problems immediately. I love things like this; just something that, if you’ve been holding off a long time for lunch or dinner, will immediately satisfy you.

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Crispy Organic Chicken Breast

My favorite entreé. It was similar to a chicken-under-a-brick and had a celeriac puree in place of mashed potatoes. That was a winner for me. The chicken skin gave a healthy crunch when approached, this one is a redo.

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Grilled Cajun Shrimp

Loved the char on that shrimp. Just a tad spicy as well!

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Chickpea Burger

This was interesting, although the bun is a bit bulky. I remember the last time I had a veggie burger – it was in Mancora at Loki Hostel – I remember thinking that if veggie burgers were this good, I’d order them all the time. This one comes close. Could use more condiments.

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House Cured Grilled & Smoked Bacon

This thick beast is definitely a share item, similar to the bacon at Peter Luger’s. Although the chef said the BLT doesn’t have mayo. I would bring a mayo packet. I love me some mayo. Smoky and delicious.

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Dairy-Free Chocolate Mousse

This was pretty special. The whipped cream was simply whipped coconut butter and the mousse was made with avocado. A must-eat for lactose intolerant dessert lovers.

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The Lighten-Up and the Sunshine

The Sunshine: carrot, green apple, lemon, ginger, mint
The Lighten-Up: apple, lemon, fennel

The Sunshine was the winner here. I finished it even though I was full at this time. I couldn’t control myself. The lighten up was similarly easy drinking, but I was just really excited for the Sunshine.

Drop in if you’re in the West Village! My recommendations: Kale Salad, Chicken, Chocolate mousse, and definitely get the Sunshine.

Food provided by Ellary’s Greens

Ellary’s Greens
33 Carmine Street
(212) 920-5072


2013-04-30 17.39.45I have to say that I was really impressed with Thalassa. It’s a Greek restaurant that’s in a building that’s owned by a shipping company and has been there for the last I don’t know however many years. It seems like if you own the building, you’re going to have a better possibility of being able to manage a restaurant at the bottom of it, but the food here speaks for itself.

To the left, Chef Raphael Abrahante is perfects the seafood display. This guy really knows his fish. I feel like this guy is going to make a name for himself, but I can’t find a lot of articles about his food just yet. There will be more soon, trust me.

Onto the food:

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It looks pretty, but I think it needs to be eaten when it’s hot. I had photographed all of the appetizers before I got to try it and the cooling off did something to the texture. I can’t comment on this one in one way or another, only to say that it needs to be eaten hot.

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Or as I like to call it, the fancypants Greek Salad. I think I ate the whole thing. I might have skipped the flower. Look at how GD gorgeous that thing is.

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Katifi Wrapped Scallops

Maine Sea Scallops wrapped in Kataifi filo with sheep’s milk butter and a Kalamata balsamic reduction. These things are a must order when you dine here. They are DECADENT, so beware. These are easily someone’s main course. A refined fried scallop dish if I’ve ever tasted one.

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Tartare Trio

Three tartares of Royal Dorado, Tuna, and Lavraki respectively. My favorite was the classic tuna and avocado. Hard to go wrong with this light fare after you’ve punished yourself with those scallops (we advise splitting the scallops with two friends).

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Soft-Shell Crab and Fiddleheads

This one is not on the menu right now, but I just wanted to say DAMN! FIDDLEHEADS! If you haven’t had yourself some fiddleheads at this point in time this season, go find yourself some and cook the heck out of those badass mothers. You’ll LOVE them. Also, soft-shell crab? Definitely my favorite type of crab. If it’s on the menu, this is what I am ordering. Very springy.

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Susan was telling me a story about how all of the Greek restaurants used to have a washing machine in the kitchen. The washing machine would tenderize the octopus. Now, these washing machines have been removed from the great kitchens because they are “unsanitary.” I mean, I am guessing they are not made for this type of stuff, so they have the potential to be unsanitary, but I basically side with the chef on this one, especially in a restaurant of this caliber. These octopi were hand-massaged. They are plenty tender and you get an absolute mammoth portion of it. Not cheap, but if you like octopus, this really is an exceptional dish.

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Panna Cotta

This one is available in the $38 prix-fixe. When I think Greece, I don’t typically think Panna Cotta, but I was happy with this one. Panna Cotta it is one of my favorite things to photograph. I’m not sure I did this one justice.

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I don’t think you could see it, but the honey was absolutely sparkling in the sunset. Sparkling honey is not necessarily a mark of good baklava, but they nailed it. If you are a high-end Greek restaurant, you need to nail the baklava.

An ex-girlfriend of mine went to Greece on a trip and came back complaining about the bland food. I’ve been to a lot of Greek restaurants in the past and I’ve never been super excited about the cuisine.

After Thalassa, I am.

Editor’s note: This meal was provided to the writer compliments of the restaurant

179 Franlkin Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 941-7661

Oficina Latina

2013-04-09 17.04.09-1 I really enjoyed eating at Oficina Latina. The thing that I enjoyed the most was talking to the owners, Paolo and Max. These guys are passionate. They’re passionate about food, travel, and design. All three things about which I am also passionate. It’s so much fun to talk with people who share your outlook on life. I really think these guys have it down.

When you go into Oficina Latina, you notice the decor immediately. The corrugated metal sheet roofing that acts as the awning for the outdoor seating area is a perfect touch. There is no roof more ubiquitous along the Pan-American highway then the corrugated metal roof. I forgot to mention, the theme of the restaurant is a culinary tour along the Pan-American highway. This road is near and dear to my heart, as I’ve spent many hours on a motorcycle along the coastlines of these Spanish-speaking countries, and a greater number of hours in buses on the same roads. I am just a huge fan of this cuisine.

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We started with some cocktails. Below is the Prickly Pear Mojito:

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I think this one is the Ancho Litchi Mezcalita:

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Not to be confused with the Margarita. I could be wrong about these, I’m reaching out to the guys for clarification, so you could see some edits here in the future.

Luis is the bartenders name, and he was from a town outside of Cuenca, Ecuador. One of the top cities at which Americans retire in South America. Solid cocktailer, this guy.

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These are the Scottish Raw Salmon Arepas:

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Fresh and light. A nice starter that takes the edge off. Then, the paella de marisco:

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I was really excited for this one. A very satisfying, true to the paella you see in 40″ diameter pots down in Mexico City. Lots of seafood. Then, the fat plate of Camarones Al Ajillo:

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Such big and juicy shrimp, they might scare the cat.

Finally, the Grapefruit Ceviche:

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A little daring with the grapefruit, but they pulled it off. There are so many ways to make ceviche, I have had arguments about it.

The guys are designers by trade, and it shows in the great ambiance here. If you’re dining out or having drinks, you always want to go to a place where you would think the cool people are going to be. When you walk into Oficina Latina, you know you’re there.

My favorite was the Paella, I ate the whole thing. Even so, you could probably live off the cocktails here – they’re the standouts. Come for the cocktails, stay for the cocktails. Have some Paella and some of those humongous shrimp if you get hungry before you get too drunk.

Oficina Latina
24 Prince St
New York, NY 10012
(646) 381-2555

Jeanne & Gaston

2013-03-25 19.08.30 As I am trying to do more food related stuff in New York City, I accepted a press invite to Jeanne & Gaston. I never heard of this place. It’s on 14th. 14th is a weird place to have a high-class, smaller restaurant. You wouldn’t think it would be a weird place to have a restaurant, but it is. I’ve been to two of these in the past year or so, and it’s only weird because of the traffic. Once you get inside, it’s all the same.

The one interesting physical thing about this restaurant is that their garden is quite secluded. The garden wasn’t open when I was there, but it looks like a great place to have a quiet dinner or brunch. The buildings around the garden go about four stories up on each side with no windows. It just looks like an interesting little secret place. I’m curious to see how it looks in the spring.

Onto the food:

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Charcuterie – Prosciutto, Rosette de Lyon, garlic sausage, and chicken liver mousse

My favorite thing was the chicken liver mousse. Reminded me of BLT Prime.

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Warm smoked herring with potato blinis and Creme Citron

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Quiche “Boudin Noir,” with apple and blood pudding

The Quiche was made with phyllo dough – very light.

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Seared skate wing with brussel sprout fondue au jus

And there were these little croutons that came with it. I wanted more croutons!

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Rum Baba, Traditional Apple Charlotte, Cinger Crème Brulée

We were having a conversation at the table that all desserts should come like this. You always want to save room for dessert but never have any, and when you get there you still pick one but you can only pick one! Tapas dessert bars, the new thing in New York coming to a fine restaurant near you.

Thanks, Claude!

Note: The meal was provided for me, and as such, no recommendation is conferred

Jeanne & Gaston
212 W 14th St
New York, NY
(212) 675-3773