Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Vine Wine Bar Review, Merrick NY

The Vine Wine Bar
2259 Merrick Road
Merrick, New York 11566
(516) 812-7883

It's finally Friday! After a long day of work, like most, we wanted to unwind and forget about our week by becoming aquainted with a glass of wine.  In the mood for a new scene, with old friends, we wandered to: The Vine Wine Bar in Merrick for wine tasting on the south shore of Long Island!    
Our group of six quickly glanced around the quaint space, and found comfort in the lounge portion of the restaurant.  A small rectangular section composed of a booth sectional, ottomans, and small end tables put us in a dark cozy corner.  We situated ourselves accordingly, suggesting table rearrangements to the staff, in order to accommodate our anticipation for more space when our drinks and food arrived. Our corner did help us forget that we were right off of Merrick road since we were unable to see the street view.
This time around, we wanted to climb the vine, because of the fun wine tasting menu that the restaurant offers.  The menu is heavy duty, primarily filled with pages of various wines and cocktails, so feel free to skip the gym that night, and just do a few reps with this book!  Before we could "take flight," in wine tasting, we needed something yummy to pick on. 
The food, while not extensive but expensive, has the perfect picking options from olives to cheese plates to salads to panini's.  It seems that you could certainly get your munch on while getting your buzz on as well.

Here comes another *DnA tip!*  Go out in groups! The great thing about going out in groups is more food to munch on and more options to share.  (It doesn't hurt to go with your siblings also because then you won't feel guilty about eating their food).

We decided to dip into the white bean and atichoke dips while also indulging in some cheese platers.... Afterall, why else do people drink wine?

We each tried a wine flight which is equivalent to 2 glasses of wine.  Our flights descended to the table in fashion with a great presentation.  Four filled mini wine glasses sat perfectly on their wine board which contained a receipt showing your wine choices.  The waitress instructed us to drink starting at  the handle of the board and go down  the line. 

 I realize that I am not at a winery, but when wine-tasting, I'd be lying if I said that I wasnt waiting for such an explanation: "You'll taste top notes of sweet berry with a base note of tobacco."  They are not pretentious, as stated on their website however, they are also not too informative when it comes to the wine (which is the main focus of this restaurant).  Our flights took off and so did the fun conversation.  There was definitely a great vibe which went hand in hand with putting a local twist on wine tasting in your area.  While chatting, we had run out of room on our mini tables when our appetizers arrived.  The staff does their best to work with larger groups, but overall there just isnt enough space!  The dips were average featuring quite a hit of garlic in the white bean, and a mild sour cream consistency in the artichoke dip. The cheese platters were generous including our choice of three cheeses, an assortment of crackers, and a cute bunch of grapes.  Our appetizers lasted us halfway through our flights, but we all needed some more grub!

Round two:  Panini's and Grilled Cheese Time! For $10-$16 buckeroos, we had the mozzarella, tomato, peppers and artichoke heart panini with a balsamic dressing and Dino made his own grill cheese with a weird combination of cheddar, mozzarella and pecorino Romano cheeses.  

Again, the food is nothing special and quite frankly over-priced for half a panini with no sides in sight!  They came with just some garnish and grapes.  A chip, side salad, or slaw might help.  This place isn't for you if you are looking to fill up on food.  Fill up on wine instead!

With curiosity and a little room for dessert, we were memorized by the martini flight, and the chocolate fondue.  The mini martinis featured for $24 that night included: passion fruit, coconut, banana, and a white chocolate martini. Our expectations were high from the colorful, appealing presentation, and we all shared some sips! Overall, very tasty minus the coconut martini.....I'd say it was more of a milky tasting beverage than a grown up martini.  

The fondue was more of a fon-Don't.  For $18 bucks go buy a bag of

ghirardelli chocolate chips, melt them and add butter: A componet missing from this fondue which changed what should be a silky dessert to a lumpy one.  Be sure to use your dippers sparingly as there aren't many to go around!  I'm sorry but three huge strawberries (slice them) and five mini rice krispis, doesnt exactly scream a sharing dessert to me.

Fun was had and the wine was great, but the pricey menu will lead us to most likely eat before we come to try another wine tasting experience at the Vine.  It's different, fun and an excuse to go out on a Friday, but this vine seems to think that it is growing in New York City.  I can get a glass of wine for $12 there as well, but that doesn't mean I want to...especially in a local spot.  However we all loved the vibe, so we will most likely be back for another flight and some cheese =)

DnA Approved!
Dino & Amanda

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

David Burke Kitchen at James Hotel, NYC

23 Grand Street
Soho New York City

There’s just something about Burke that keeps us craving more!  We trekked from his townhouse on the upper east side down to his kitchen in Soho because he can not disappoint our taste buds!  I’d happily travel from one part of the city to try all of his restaurants.  That of course is what led us to David Burke Kitchen at the James Hotel.  While the day was rainy, we were depending on Burke to give us the food energy we needed to keep up with our busy New York City day of museum hopping.
            Upon our arrival, I immediately fell in love.  Deep breath, the restaurant is EVERYTHING that I want my kitchen to look like and more.  From a large bar, wooden benches, and picnic napkins to a stationery bread bar in the middle of the room, I was in a trance.  Could it possibly get better?  Would it also be love at first bite?  Let’s see....

            Our clocks were apparently set to the early bird special which made us the first patrons to dine...Ekkk guess that reservation wasn’t 100% necessary, but in their defense all of you responsible people were working on a Friday early afternoon.  On second thought, seriously, leave your desk right now and indulge in the magical 3 course pre-fix for $24.07 because it will be worth it.  Yes, you read correctly, 3 courses in New York City for under $25.  Have you left work yet?  Need more convincing? You typical stubborn New Yorkers, okay here goes:


 Our smiley and persuasive waiter greeted us with cold water and giant homemade popovers!!

We love popovers!

 Before he even asked, I needed to put in our “jar” order to start our meal because I was quite intrigued.  Due to the fact that this was the first Friday of lent, we had to alter our plans and go meat free for the day.  As a result, it was no to the chicken liver/pistachio jar, and yes please to the tomato/eggplant/ricotta jar.  Just as described this little jar arrived layered evenly with each ingredient.  O.M.J (oh my jar) the crostini combined with a spoonful of each layer sent my palate into shock.  It was charming in its presentation and plentiful in its flavor.

We scraped that jar clean just as we were deciding on our three courses. 

            Now the prefix will not allow you to order just anything, so as delicious as the black sea bass in a tomato miso vinaigrette with bok choy in tomato & ginger olive oil may sound good (which was pushed several times by the waiter), don’t be swayed!  Follow the rabbit symbol, and hop your way to the included portion of the prix fix menu.  I was drawn to the tuna tartare tacos with whipped avocado, followed by the salmon with parsnip puree, brussel sprouts, and bacon (sigh).  I had to take a deep breath before asking for no bacon.  Dino decided on lobster soup with lobster dumplings and also the salmon.

F.Y.I - Dino and I usually have strict rules:
#1 NO SALMON- it’s easy to cook and hardly ever tastes spectacular
#2 never order the same entrees

We broke two of our rules during this lunch, primarily due to our limited options being surrounded by beef and chicken.  This and the cavatelli were our only choices. For dessert, we put our heads together and chose the ten layer red velvet cake and the warm apple tart.  I know that this is a lot of food for 12 p.m but it’s already been decided on so go with it.

      Dino’s guess as to what was on this flaming burner in a glass pot in the bread station being apple cider was incorrect, in fact it was his first course!  As his lovely lobster dumplings arrives, the waiter made a pit stop at the bread station to get the lobster soup.  

My tiny tuna tacos were visually adorable and I enjoyed very small bites to make them last as long as I could.  The freshness of the tuna with the fresh lime juice really elevated the flavor of this simple taco and polished the dish for me.

 It’s entree time, the light crowd keep the food flying out a little too fast, leaving little time to breathe and digest, but the service was tip top. Our salmon looked delicious and was perfectly cooked, but the stars of the plate were the parsnip puree and believe it or not the brussel sprouts!  I actually found myself searching for more, when does that happen?  I don’t know what he did to make brussels edible but holy delicious.   I felt like I was a judge on the show Chopped, you know the contestants  always seem to create a puree and a parsnip puree seemed like something they would immediately present.  As tasty as the dish was, I couldn’t help but think how much more amazing it would be with bacon!  There are no points deducted as it was Burke’s intention to include that fantastic ingredient however we did question our religion for a moment/ wonder why we foolishly went to his restaurant knowing we would have to play vegetarians for the day.

 Our finale concluded with a disappointing duo of desserts.  My warm apple tart was more like a burnt, deflated pillsbury biscuit with a few thinly sliced apples.  As far as the red velvet 10 layer cake was concerned, I think they may be more successful trying to stick to one layer.  Perhaps a new dessert concept wouldn’t hurt.  The color of this red velvet was extremely dark and the cheesy plate scribble did not work for us.
While Dino used the restroom, I took a moment to be sly and get the check before he got back. I’m a lucky lady whose fella always pays, but I wanted to treat him for a change!  The waiter on the other hand seemed a pinch confused as he stated, “really?”  YES a girl can treat her boy to a meal too, hmfph!
            Burke, we’ll be back for certain, probably for brunch and definitely not on a Friday during lent.   We are making plans for a possible Burke in the Box visit soon, so watch out for a review in a next few weeks.  Keep up the beauty and amazing decor because it certainly works for us and tons of other mouths. 

DnA Approved!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Aperitif - Rockville Centre, NY

242 Sunrise Highway
Rockville Centre, NY

Peak-a-boo! We still see you =) Sorry we've been M.I.E(Missing in Eating). I'm not blaming writers block or laziness, the truth is that time flies and blogging has been put on the back burner due to everyday life. I don't have to tell you that we have still been steadily eating in order to achieve our newest goal. The mission, which we have eagerly accepted, is to find the perfect go to spot, where the owners know your name, and the food never disappoints. Yes, Dino & Amanda are desperately seeking to become regulars somewhere delicious. While we haven't had any luck yet, we will keep eating until we find the place where "Everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came." It shouldn't be that difficult to find, after all we do live in NY, one of the most scrumptious cities in the world. On second thought, that could be our very problem!

This weeks trial regular spot =
Aperitif Bistro Wine Bar, in Rockville Centre for some local French cuisine!

When we arrived at the restaurant (it was Valentine's Day!), we were warmly greeted and asked if we would like our coats checked. We were then seated in a cozy booth on the bar side of the restaurant, where we were able to observe that we were definitely on the younger side of the spectrum. While the age range of patrons seemed older, the place was packed and loud! The energy started to diminish when our less than excited waiter strolled by and asked if we were ready to order.....Order? Sorry, I didn't catch your name, get my menu, or even decide on a drink yet pal. While this may not have been the best start, around the corner appeared "baguette boy." In that moment, I was willing to start over. That magical, warm, lightly toasted, partially sliced 3 times beautiful baguette had made everything better again. Oops, my mind has wandered...sorry but the bread was amazing, and it gave us just the energy we needed to decide on a drink. We'll have two glasses of white wine to toast our happiness and our third Valentine's Day together (Feel free to insert aww's.)

The wine was generously poured and tasty which helped assist us in what we would like to eat. The menu is big and each choice sounds yummy so you will probably want to eat everything like we did. There's a tapas section with a selection of small plates, and everything from beets & goat cheese to tuna tartare flat breads to baby lamb chops, you will have difficulty deciding. A little advice-take your time, enjoy the wine & bread and let it all soak in before making any rash decisions.

Dino's starvation prompted us to order the prosciutto flat bread & the risotto fritters to start. For our main courses, he'll have the Sole Amandine, and I could not resist the beef bourgouignon. The second I saw it on the menu, Julia Childs popped into my brain! My brain then continued to wander and I thought about the movie "Julie & Julia." Just then, another waiter who seemed far more attentive than ours, walked by and he looked just like Stanley Tucci. That was all I needed to confirm my order, bring on the beef!

Our appetizers appeared quickly, and we dove right in!

The risotto fritters with mushroom and fontina cheese were the perfect bite size treat. The only problem was that there were only three mini fritters. Were they trying to cause a fight on V-Day? Luckily we love each other, so we decided to split the third. * DnA tip to restaurants* Always bring food in even numbers. Nobody wants to be the 3rd wheel, not even a risotto fritter. We literally licked the plate clean, so I guess that we enjoyed it. This dish had the perfect balance of crunch to risotto fluffiness and the mushroom sauce won my heart.

On the other hand, the prosciutto flat bread left us wanting less. While visually mouthwatering, with a waterfall of gruyere cheese melting everywhere, there was just t.m.c.o (Too many caramelized onions!) It took away from any other component that this flat bread had to offer. It was even difficult to taste the prosciutto, plus we even love onions! Good attempt, but this flat bread fell flat for DnA. We will be sure to check out the other flat bread options.

Before our plates were cleared, the entrees had arrived... so let's take a minute to tip our hats to the great overall service. Our water glasses remained full throughout the meal, and even the manager of the restaurant pitched in and poured us a refill which we found to be a nice touch.

Dino's Sole Amandine entree were filets of sole sautéed in lemon butter sauce, served with julienne vegetables and basmati rice. The flavor of the lemon butter sauce was pretty tasty as it played into the vegetables and rice. However, the sautéing seemed to have made the skin of the sole become a rubbery mushy texture. He pretty much peeled off the layer of skin and just went for the fish. I would not recommend this dish. It fell flat, nothing exciting to brag about. If you are in the mood for fish, try the bronzini or the always safe pistachio crusted salmon.

My highly anticipated beef bourguignon appeared, and I was excited to gobble up this hearty plate. For those who don't know, this dish is a beef stew with carrots, onions and mushrooms in a red wine sauce, accompanied in this case with mashed potatoes. The beef was extremely flavorful and tender, but there was not enough sauce to support the stew! Perhaps my bowl was not hydrated with that red wine goodness and I found that disappointing. My portion was also missing carrots and mushrooms, which are great parts of the stew. Instead of getting what I expected, there were a few unwelcome components in my dish, including a whole bay leaf, and a piece of an uncooked potato found under the little scoop of mashed potatoes. Tasty, but disappointing.

We opted not to leave room for dessert with our disappointing entrees, but we do have high hopes for Aperitif. We would definitely go back for drinks and small plates because they have such a great variety of dishes which all sound tasty, with prices that are very reasonable for a 'French Bistro'. While we left feeling a little cold breeze which came from the door opening & closing and from our unfriendly waiter, I do think we will return. But will we become regulars? Not likely.

On to the next! But for now, Aperitif is:
DnA Approved.

Food and love.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Press 195 - Rockville Centre, Long Island

22 North Park Ave
Rockville Centre Long Island

Consider this a makeup review for Press 195 in Rockville Centre. My first visit to this restaurant, was when it had first opened at this location. To make a long story short, it did not go well. I had complained about my experience, and a $25 gift certificate was sent my way in order to be more impressed by Press 195 the second time around. I certainly appreciated the quick response from the management, and decided that tonight was the night.

We strolled in on Saturday night when most R.V.C spots are hopping, press's vibe bordered on de-pressing. We were seated immediately in the back where only a few other tables were occupied. Our waitress, Amanda (perhaps an indication that this meal would be amazing) greeted us in an enthusiastic manner, which was much appreciated.

This restaurant in particular is where we spent our first Valentine's Day. We were anxious to see what changes had been made, to to transition from Gabrielle's Brasserie & Wine Bar into panini mania. The set up was exactly the same as far as the tables were concerned, but they had added almost a stain glass tile on half of the ceiling of the restaurant. It gave off a rustic vibe with high tables in the front of the venue, and an outside garden for those who want to eye gaze under the sunset =) It's a casual scene where the servers wear black t-shirts and jeans.

After our 4 games of bowling, by the way since we are also about sharing our love, we took advantage of the 99 cent games which are offered in r.v.c from 2pm-6pm Monday through Friday. Scoring a 105, my all time high, I was starving!

With nothing on the table to hold us off, we ordered the guacamole, which interestingly enough is called the veggie salsa when you look over your bill later on. Shortly after, a large basket of warm chips headed our way with two tiny condiment sized plastic cups. On one side, we have the guac and on the other end you will find their salsa. The guac left little to be desired as it was brown (add some lime juice people come on). It definitely didn't seem like homemade guacamole. It was alright, as was the salsa, a bit on the spicy side, but overall this starter didn't cross the finish line for us. We were left with a mostly filled basket of chips which had pieces of fresh wilted parsley and julienned carrots sprinkled on top. Are you confused too? Join the club. However, if you should want more guacamole or salsa, feel free to ask, as our attentive bus boy informed us that the cups are that small to make the dish look pretty, but you can have as much as you want.
Our panini's came out, along with our belgian fries while we were still munching on our chips. Personally I think there is a reason it's called a starter, and I'd like to finish it before my meal comes out......

First off, our paninis were hot.hot.hot! Allowing my panini to cool off, I decided to munch on a french fry which was calling my name in it's mini fryer styled basket! Meh, they were alright, I had higher expectations since on the menu they appeared to have quite an ego explaining "double cooked for the ultimate fry, try them once and you'll be hooked." Well, I wasn't, so calm yourself.....

I ordered the #15, out of the 40 panini options, that you have to choose from. Ranging from $9-10 dollars. I'm easily swayed when it comes to goat cheese, which is why the portabella panini with baby arugula, goat cheese and a garlic & olive spread seemed like a no brainer. However my panini also underwhelmed me this time around....again. The portabella was tough, and the arugulas bitterness border lined on burnt, which overpowered the whole taste of the panini. As always there wasn't enough goat cheese, and the garlic & olive spread didn't stand out at all for me.

Dino ordered the number 9. This had roast pork, monterey jack cheese, onions, jalapenos and a roasted garlic spread. The roast pork was pretty dry, but the roasted garlic spread was tasty. Dino said he could spread that on anything and it would make it taste better. This was a decent sandwich for you roast pork lovers, but if you don't like onions, do not get them on this sandwich. It seemed to overpower all the flavors. The roasted garlic spread and the kick of the jalapenos really made this sandwich work. All the panini's also came with a side of cucumber salad. Nothing special in our books.

To each his own they say and in this case, I think that this will be our final try of Press 195. There are lots of choices which may tempt you, and some will argue that these are the best paninis ever! I have to disagree as I am a true fan of Paninis and Bikinis in Long Beach, but I was willing to give another town a chance. For us the meal didn't hit a high note, and I don't think we will be returning.

As always, Extra Love...even if it was a little tough this time


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cafe Formaggio Carle Place, NY

Cafe Formaggio
307 Old Country Rd, Carle Place, NY 11514
TEL: 516-333-1718

Two Italians, a Filipino, and a Hawaiian walk into an Italian restaurant...

This may sound like the opening to a joke, but there was nothing funny about Cafe Formaggio in
Carle Place, New York. Growing up, I frequently ate at Spago which was the previous
restaurant at this location. It was a delicious family style Italian restaurant, which
received two thumbs up from this girl! Perhaps it was the attachment to the old
establishment, or the fact that the parking lot only has valet, either way it has taken us
over a year to eat there. This week’s goal was to find a delicious Italian restaurant, so
that chains like Olive Garden can stop making money off of insulting dishes, and a real
home cooked spot can benefit for a change..........Let’s dig in.....

After valet parking our car, we were greeted by two young girls who were the
hostesses. We were unable to be seated because the other “two-some” of our “foursome”
(Let’s keep it PG people) were running fashionably late. When our table was ready our
friends were still on there way, but one of the girls showed us to our table saying, “I
don’t want you to have to wait again for another table.” I was pleased by her kindness in
accommodating us because rarely can you be seated without your full party.

Shortly after being seated, our waiter greeted us. and then....HALLELUJAH! A bread basket was placed in front of us filled with garlic knots, focaccia and mini pizzas. It also came with a side dish of olives, homemade hummus, and chunks of Parmesan cheese! Oh how I love my
Italian heritage!

The menu reads like a book. Seriously, I think that every Italian dish ever created
was on it, so be prepared to feel slightly overwhelmed. Order yourself a fun frozen cocktail or a glass of wine to make the process a bit easier.

A common cuisine misconception is that Italian food easy to make, but I completely disagree with that philosophy. In fact, I am never satisfied with Italian food because in my mind no one
makes it better than Mommy!

Did Cafe Formaggio fill our tummies with satisfaction? Relax everyone; let’s
break it down for you starting with some appetizers. Your usual antipasto, fried zucchini,
and mozzarella are on there, but meatball sliders in a puff pastry, what?!?! Four mini meatballs rolled our way, and boy was I delighted! The meatball itself was great; it had excellent flavor with perfect consistency, and a beautifully red traditional sauce! The puff pastry bun was also a hit, put it together and what do you got, meaty-ball-boppity-boo! Just don’t make the same mistake that my friend Jess did by attempting to cut the slider in half.....I know and she’s a pastry chef! Leave it whole and enjoy two delightful bites!

The calamari arrabiata came out, and it was tossed in hot cherry peppers with a roasted garlic and marinara sauce. The deep fried calamari was swimming in the delicious sauce, while the peppers gave it the right amount of kick. I would definitely recommend this classic dish with a bit of a spin. Make sure you have more than 2 people eating this appetizer. It was quite filling, but delicious!
Off to a promising start with a scrumptious meatball and a tasty traditional marina
sauce we were excited about the main course. For me, I stuck with pasta ordering the
ravioli alla verde: fresh homemade ravioli in a spinach cream sauce. Upon first glance, I
was slightly frightened by the green eggs and ham color of the sauce, but the old saying
holds true, Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover. The ravioli was awesome and fresh, and if
they weren’t, well then kudos for fooling me. They were cooked perfectly in a full of
flavor sauce. I am quite a fan of spinach, but this increased my love of the vegetable
with it’s depth of savory goodness.

All pasta dishes range from $15-$25 which in my mind will never be fully justified. Solely because I know how inexpensive pasta is, BUT with the enormous serving sizes that they provide you with you will feel less jipped.

The other Italian ordered the chicken rolladue; A chicken breast stuffed with
ricotta spinach topped with melted mozzarella on a bed of mashed potatoes in a madeira
wine sauce. The chicken was juicy and delectable with a tasty spinach stuffing. The
sauce, which resembled a marsala sauce, was on point as well. This was a very
successful dish which was enhanced by a classic mashed potato side. After all, isn’t
everything better when mashed potatoes are on the plate?

The Hawaiian went up against the Veal Osso Bucco: Veal Shank served over
Italian risotto with a demi glaze sauce. The shank was super tender, and sat right on top of the risotto, allowing all its flavors to soak right into the risotto with the peas and carrots. The shank even came with marrow in bone, served with a little fork to make it easier to eat the delectable goodness. It was a little bit of a pricier dish, but if you want your shake for your shank, try it out!

Dino the Filipino tried the veal parmigiana. Here’s hoping I don’t have to explain
what parmigiana is to our readers, am I right? This dish can easily be unpleasant
when eaten out, but this was just like grandmas! Tender slices of veal came out, which you couldn't even tell, as it was smothered in mozzarella and pomodoro sauce. Along side was a mixture of vegetables and some roasted potatoes. This was your classic veal parm dish, although Dino said he would rather have had it with some pasta instead. The vegetables seemed out of place, and the potatoes needed some ketchup, not pomodoro sauce. Nonetheless, it certainly filled his belly.

The meal ended on a high note, as our stomachs were too full to attempt the
dessert menu. With the usual options of cheesecake, tiramisu or cannoli there weren’t
any items worth unbuttoning our pants for (so to speak).

The decor leaves little to be desired, and it could use a face lift. I’d say it’s going for a Tuscan feel, but the dreary drapes and curtains surrounding the space created a boring vibe overall. If Jeffery Lewis from Flipping Out walked in there, he wouldn’t be impressed that’s for sure.

We loved the staff as they were both friendly and attentive. My water glass
always remained full, and our table was quickly cleared. An applause to you, Cafe
Formaggio for satisfying not one but two stubborn Italian stomachs! Oh and the
Hawaiian and Filipino were also pleased =) DnA Approved! If the prices were a bit
lower, we’d be regulars, but with entrees in the $17-$25 range, I think we’ll still be
having Sunday dinner at home with an occasional bite at Cafe Formaggio.

Ciao For Now,

With Extra Love,