Blue Ribbon Federal Grill
July 24, 2017 by Jen Balisi
If you live in NYC and have never heard of The Bromberg Brothers’ Blue Ribbon restaurants, you must be living under a rock. With 10 restaurants here (plus a few more on the West Coast), spanning everything from sushi to fried chicken, they’ve built a serious empire that embodies their founders’ approach of having “something for everyone.” Their recently opened Blue Ribbon Federal Grill is no different, with a crowd-pleasing menu filled with hits from their other restaurants plus a variety of new dishes. Continue Reading
July 20, 2017 by Jen Balisi
Italian food is probably my favorite cuisine. I would easily eat pasta, pizza, and Italian cured meats every single day if it weren’t for the calories. Given how much of it I eat, lately it’s been hard for Italian restaurants to truly impress or surprise me, as I’ve probably already had a better version of that spaghetti pomodoro/tagliatelle bolognese/etc somewhere else. So when I got to try out some delicious dishes I’ve never had before at Sessanta, a multi-regional Italian restaurant in SoHo, I was actually relieved. Continue Reading
Grilled Ribeye Steak and Watermelon Salad (Sponsored)
July 19, 2017 by Jen Balisi
This post is brought to you by Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. All opinions are my own.
Over 4th of July, I went down to my family’s house near Long Beach Island in NJ. While I definitely got some quality beach time, including pit stops for seafood and drinks at a beach bar, the best part of the trip is always spent hanging out in the backyard by the grill. This time around, I got to grill a couple of my favorite ingredients: steak and watermelon. The two items separately pretty much scream summer, but most people wouldn’t think to pair them together. By making this Grilled Steak and Watermelon Salad, you bring in sweetness that acts as a great balance to your juicy grilled steak, the same way you might have a side of caramelized onions or use a sweet and tangy steak sauce or Asian-style marinade on beef.
Chef’s Club Counter: Eggslut Grows Up into Alvin Cailan’s Paper Planes
June 6, 2017 by Jen Balisi
There are breakfast sandwiches at every corner bodega in NYC, but when Eggslut – one of LA’s most popular breakfast spots – came to the East Coast by way of Chef’s Club Counter, it was a big deal that had everyone talking. For those unfamiliar, Chef’s Club Counter is a modern fast-casual spot that curates a limited menu of dishes driven by their selection of esteemed chefs. It’s ultimately up to the chef to decide what to feature on the menu, so Chef Alvin Cailan of Eggslut decided to switch things up this June and retire his Eggslut menu in NYC. Instead, he’s launched brand new breakfast items under his Paper Planes concept, and the results are highly successful.
Breakfast Mac and Cheese with Baked Eggs
August 2, 2016 by Jen Balisi
Honestly, can we just take a moment and admire the beauty of this thing? I’ve had the idea to make Breakfast Mac and Cheese with Baked Eggs for a while, but going out for brunch most weekends had prevented me from getting around to cooking it. Now that I’ve finally made it though, HOLY is this mac and cheese the perfect dish to add to the homemade brunch rotation. This recipe gives your standard mac and cheese the BEC (that’s Bacon Egg and Cheese) upgrade.
While most versions of breakfast mac and cheese I’ve seen throw a fried egg on top, I was inspired by shakshuka to instead cook the eggs directly in the mac and cheese so everything melds together into one wonderful masterpiece with runny yolks that you can spread right into your cheesy, bacon-y pasta. I also mixed in roasted grape tomatoes to pair with the bacon and add that perfect cut of acidity to balance out the richness of the dish. You could also try making this with a pesto-mozzarella cheese base or even with buffalo chicken instead – will work on posting recipes for those soon.
Breakfast Pizza with Rosemary, Bacon, Mushroom, & Caramelized Red Onion
March 8, 2016 by Jen Balisi
Breakfast pizza is one of my absolute favorite things to cook. Eggs + cheese + carbs is always a good combination, but making the cheese + carbs in the form of pizza adds a level of goodness that a piece of toast can never match. I’ve previously posted a lighter breakfast pizza recipe with kale and ricotta, but this time around I wanted to go all in with some of my favorite toppings: bacon, mushrooms, and caramelized red onions. It all sits on a base of creme fraiche, parmesan, and mozzarella before it’s finished off with rosemary and grated Parmesan to bring all the earthy flavors together.
This breakfast pizza starts by giving your bacon an initial sear (it’ll finish crisping up in the oven) and then starting to caramelize the red onions in some of the rendered bacon fat. After the onions are nice and golden, the mushrooms cook in the same pan (hooray for less clean-up!).
Next it’s time for the dough. I usually just use store bought dough for convenience, but you can definitely make your own if you’re so skilled! Stretch it out into an oval if you’re using a baking pan like I did, but if you have a pizza stone, you can make a full-sized pizza by doubling the recipe I provided. Once you’ve got your base for the breakfast pizza, add on the creme fraiche and cheese, then make a ring with the mushrooms and caramelized red onion that will keep the eggs from flowing over the crust.
Tonkatsu in Tokyo – Maisen & Katsukura | The Indulgent Travel Guide to Japan, Part 3
February 2, 2016 by Jen Balisi
Welcome to Part 3 of The Indulgent Travel Guide to Japan, which highlights my 2 week trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, & Osaka in October 2015. In this part, I’m focusing on tonkatsu, which is Japanese panko-breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet. It’s typically served with shredded cabbage and a thick, tangy tonkatsu sauce that’s similar to Worcestershire sauce. There are 2 popular chains serving the dish across Japan: Maisen and Katsukura. Here I’ll give my rundown of both, as well as recommended sights near each of the restaurants.
Want more Japan tips? Check out Part 1: Ramen and Part 2: Udon & Soba.
Tonkatsu Maisen is a chain of tonkatsu restaurants, serving up the dreamiest, juicy, crispy and flaky deep fried pork cutlets that’s ruined all future tonkatsu for me. While they offer standard pork as well as other options like shrimp in the deep fried form, what you have to get is their Kurobuta pork, better known as Berkshire pork in the Western world. It’s basically the Kobe beef of pork, with a superior quality and intensely flavorful meat due to the marbling throughout the meat. When you take a cut of meat that’s already so good and then deep fry it in panko bread crumbs to perfection, it doesn’t get much better. It comes with a sweet and tangy Tonkatsu sauce as well as unlimited rice and cabbage (pro-tip: pour the sauce on the cabbage to keep your meat crispy) and some sides.
I highly recommend going to their Aoyama location near Harujuku, which has a spacious upstairs traditional tatami dining room where you sit on the floor with your shoes off. You’ll also be walking distance to the Harajuku neighborhood, famous for the Harajuku girls of years past, lots of great shopping, and Takashita Dori.
Udon and Soba at Omen and Honke Owariya | The Indulgent Travel Guide to Japan, Part 2
January 13, 2016 by Jen Balisi
This is part 2 in my Indulgent Travel Guide to Japan, which highlights my 2 week trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, & Osaka in October 2015. In part 1, I gave a recap of all the different kinds of ramen we ate during our travels. This time around, I’ll be focusing on Japan’s other noodles: udon and soba.
One of the top things to do in Kyoto is the Philosopher’s Walk, a 1.7 mile tree-lined path along a river that is dotted with temples and shrines along the way, including the Silver Pavilion as the main attraction at the end. If you manage to work up an appetite from the walk, then you should make sure to satisfy it with delicious udon at Omen. Located a couple of blocks from the Silver Pavilion, Omen serves delicious bowls of warm, comforting udon in a 2 floored restaurant, with the option to sit on the floor in their first floor traditional tatami dining room or go upstairs for standard western seating. The udon noodles are handmade and come separate from the broth, with a variety of toppings on the side to mix into the broth to your liking. Just mix, dip, slurp, and enjoy. The tuna avocado appetizer and tempura are also recommended.
UDON/SOBA IN SHIMBASHI JR STATION
I need to be frank – I have no idea what the name of this restaurant is in English and can’t find it’s exact location on any map, but I do have a photo of the entrance. If you happen to find yourself traveling through the Shimbashi JR train station for whatever reason (perhaps to get to Odaiba, more on that soon), you should definitely make a stop at the udon/soba restaurant situated to the south of the main JR entrance where you show your rail pass if you need a quick bite. Our hotel was a couple of blocks away, so this was our main train station we used, and the vending machine-run udon/soba restaurant offered soul-satisfying, solid, and dirt cheap udon and soba (we only had the udon, but you could select which type of noodles you wanted in your soup). The katsudon set, which offered a bowl of udon and small bowl of pork katsu cooked with egg over rice was only around $5.50 and was one of the better meals of the trip, comparable to Udon West in NYC. The best touch? A box of tissues next to the tray return for all those post-soup sniffly noses.
Shimbashi station connects to the the popular Odaiba area of Tokyo. We didn’t make it there ourselves, but we were bummed to have missed out on the giant Gundam Statue located in Diver City in Odaiba. You can take the Yurikamome train from Shimbashi station across the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba, which offers views of Tokyo harbor.
We only got soba once during our entire trip, mostly because it’s just so difficult to resist all the amazing ramen. If you’re going to get soba, then do it right and get it from Honke Owariya – Kyoto’s oldest restaurant where they’ve been making incredible soba dished for over 500 years. Everything was delicious – I recommend any of the soba dishes that have yuzu in them, as the bowl we ordered had such a delicious, vibrant broth thanks to the added citrus flavor of yuzu. But the must-order here is the Hourai Soba, pictured above, which gets you a stack of cold soba noodles, a small container broth, and 8 different toppings from shrimp tempura to wasabi to seaweed, so you can mix and match to create different flavor combinations with each set of noodles. They also had a really great tempura appetizer that came with deep-fried soba noodles – genius.
Next up in this Japan series is a rundown of the 2 most popular chains for tonkatsu aka Japanese panko breaded & fried pork cutlets. Stay tuned!
Where to Eat Ramen in Tokyo, Kyoto, & Osaka | The Indulgent Travel Guide to Japan, Part 1
December 28, 2015 by Jen Balisi
Let me just be outright in saying that I absolutely loved Japan. I take a big trip every October to celebrate my birthday (and more recently, my anniversary with the BF), which makes for a great excuse to really splurge and experience as much as possible in a given location. This year, we spent 2 weeks in Japan exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, with day trips to smaller cities along the way. And while we saw a ton of beautiful places and experienced many uniquely Japanese things (I’m looking at you, Robot Restaurant), our trip was unsurprisingly guided by the goal of eating as much amazing ramen, sushi, katsu, curry, takoyaki, matcha-flavored sweets, and other Japanese food as possible. So I’ve constructed this guide around my favorite places to eat and drink while I was there, from Michelin-starred restaurants to hole-in-the-wall spots to street food to 6 person bars, along with recommendations on non-food related activities and sights nearby.
We went to a ton of places, so I’m constructing this guide into separate parts because I could probably write an entire post just on my birthday meal with Jiro’s son. I wanted to kick things off with the kind of food we ate the most during our trip: RAMEN. I did a final count, and Mike and I ate a combined total of 16 bowls of ramen during our 2 week trip in Japan – basically more than bowl a day. But can you blame us? In a country filled with so much amazing ramen and so many different styles, we couldn’t resist trying as many as possible. (UPDATE: Since originally posting this, I went back to Japan with friends in September 2016 and have noted which shops we loved even on the second visit!)
For the majority of these recommendations, I’ve included my photos via Instagram. The great thing about this is you can click on the timestamp to be taken to the photo on Instagram, from which point you can click through to see both the geotagged location and other photos from that place very easily 🙂 Where possible, I tried to include a Tripadvisor link, but I found in traveling around Japan that it wasn’t too difficult to just search by name in Google Maps or Foursquare, and then ask strangers to guide you once you’re in the general area (thanks Google Translate!)
TOKYO ABURA SOBA