Tag Archive | Food

Yes, It Exists: Hello Kitty Pasta Sauce

Hello Kitty Pasta Sauce
Photos By Gail

It’s a Hello Kitty world, and we just live in it. Cost Plus World Market on 6th Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets in Manhattan just re-imagined itself as a Hello Kitty Pop Up wonderland, where Hello Kitty-themed items spread out across the entire merchandise floor, save for a very narrow perimeter of the store, where you can still find throw pillows and scented candle with the Cost Plus brand attached. There are also many step-and-repeat-style Hello Kitty selfie stations scattered throughout the store, so expect to start seeing this marketing nightmare ‘Pop Up’ all over Instagram.

Hello Kitty Pasta Sauce

The red sauce, whose label boasts that it is made from “fresh, ripe tomatoes from Napoli, Italy,” sells for $6.99 per 19.6-ounce jar.  They also sell Hello KItty-shaped dry pasta, but I am saving that for another post.

The Hello Kitty Pop Up at Cost Plus World Market will be open through the Holiday Season  into January 2020!

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Copper Branch Brings Delicious Plant-Based Cuisine To NYC’s Greenwich Village

Copper Branch Store Exterior
Above Image Courtesy of Scout 22 PR. All Other Photos By Gail, Except Where Noted 

New York City knows how to do food. No matter what type of cuisine you’re craving, finding a great restaurant is easy. But when you’re vegan or vegetarian, you might end up settling for a place that offers just a few meatless choices, rather than walking into a restaurant where you can enjoy every dish on the menu. And while there’s a Sweet Green or Chop’t on nearly every block, it’s challenging to find a healthy, quick lunch alternative when you are tired of eating salad. This is why the NYC arrival of vegan restaurant chain Copper Branch is cause for genuine excitement!

Bianca Andreescu Endorsement
Celebrity Endorsed!

Copper Branch was founded in 2014 and currently has 50 locations across Canada (and six in Europe), but the chain’s new store in NYC marks its first US location. In mid-September, just a few days after the store opened, I was invited to a private tasting at Copper Branch where guests had the chance to taste not only bite-size samples of many popular menu items, but were also invited to order anything on the menu that we wanted to try. As a confirmed meat-eater myself, what I discovered is that Copper Branch is about so much more than veggie burgers and tofu: this is vegan food that even a die-hard carnivore can get enthusiastic about. Check out just a few of the items offered on Copper Branch‘s very extensive, all plant-based menu.

Mushroom Galaxy Burger

The satisfying Mushroom Galaxy Burger starts with an oven-roasted portobello mushroom, which is topped with zucchini slices, carmelized onions, vegan provolone cheese, lettuce and aioli sauce. All burgers and sandwiches are served on your choice of organic kamut (an ancient variety of wheat) or gluten-free bun, collard green wrap or organic spelt wrap.

Copper Beet Burger Bites

Copper Branch also offers a delicious Spicy Black Bean Burger (which I tasted but neglected to photograph) and a Beet Burger, bites of which are pictured above. I love beets, so I really enjoyed this item, which is served as a patty comprised of beets, organic brown rice, pea protein, sesame seeds organic hemp seeds, sunflowers seeds and lemon juice. These sample bites were dressed as the burger is, with sprouts, caramelized onions, shredded lettuce and Dijon and maple ‘vegenaise.’ I would definitely go back for this burger alone!

Beet Hummus Ad

Beet fans can also enjoy organic Beet Hummus served with house-made Blue Corn Chips!

Shiitake Teriyaki Sandwich Bites

I know there’s a lot of greenery here but underneath fresh lettuce, sprouts and tomatoes is one of Copper Branch‘s tasty specialties: Shiitake Teriyaki Mushrooms, which can be served as a Sandwich or a Burger. The taste and texture is comparable to teriyaki chicken.

Zucchini Noodles with Coppernata

Pictured above is a bite-size tasting of the Zucchini Noodles with Italian-inspired ‘Coppernata‘, a take on Caponata, the delicious Sicilian eggplant dish. This combination is available in one of the Signature Bowls for a hearty, healthy vegan meal that you won’t find anywhere else in the city!

Nachos

Do you like Nachos? Who doesn’t!  Featuring black beans, vegan cheese, jalapeños, olives, tomatoes, vegan sour cream and guacamole piled onto organic blue corn chips, at Copper Branch, you can enjoy this Mexican favorite guilt-free!

Spicy Buffalo Wings

Soy-based Spicy Buffalo Wings (served with sriracha cole slaw and a choice of dipping sauces) could please the most discerning palate. They taste just like your favorite spicy wings and they even look like chicken on the inside.

Spicy Buffalo Wings

Mmm, chicken-y.

Sweet Potato Copper Cubes

Also on the menu are oven-baked Copper Cubes (made with white potatoes) and Sweet Potato Copper Cubes as a popular and health-conscious alternative to french fries.

Asian Fusion Bowl with Tofu Scramble

You can make you own bowl or choose from a selection of Copper Branch‘s own creations, such as the Asian Fusion Bowl seen above, which features edamame salad, organic kimchi, lettuce, beets, spiced chickpeas, carrots, broccoli and non-GMO General Tao sauce. The bowl above was customized with the addition of Tofu Scramble.

Copper Branch Waffles
Image Courtesy of Scout 22 PR

A breakfast menu, featuring Copper Branch Blueberry Cocoa Waffles, is served all day!

Copper Branch Meal
Image Courtesy of Scout 22 PR

Copper Branch will cater your next event or office party!

Chocolate Zucchini Brownie

There’s also a selection of house-made vegan desserts, like this most and decadent Chocolate Zucchini Brownie!

And now, dear readers a Special Offer: To further celebrate Copper Branch‘s New York City location, the restaurant is offering a FREE General Copper Bowl or a Black Bean Burger — two of their most popular  menu items — to both new and repeat customers at the Greenwich Village location for one day only! The General Copper Bowl is a  specialty that features General Tao tofu, fresh avocado, sriracha coleslaw, steamed broccoli and organic brown rice. The Black Bean Burger is a classic, featuring a black bean and sweet potato patty, tomato, lettuce, vegan Southwest sauce, all on an organic Kamut bun. This special promotion will be held all day on Friday, October 25th, 2019. Store hours are 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM. The offer is valid for one item  per customer and it cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion. Tell them Worleygig.com sent you!

Copper Branch NYC is Located at 195 Bleecker Street (Between 6th Avenue and Macdougal), in New York’s Greenwich Village. For More Locations, Menus and Other Details, Visit Eat Copper Branch Dot Com.

Watch a Video from the Opening Night Event!

Copper Branch Menu

The Quest for the Perfect Cheeseburger Begins and Ends With Jarlsberg Cheese!

Jarsleberg Burger Trio
All Burger Images Courtesy of Jarlsberg

This summer, Jarlsberg launched its second annual Global Burger Awareness campaign, starring two of everyone’s summer favorites: Burgers and Cheese. As part of the campaign, Internationally acclaimed chef Elizabeth Haigh, who is considered to be one of the brightest shining stars on the London culinary scene, created four burger recipes, each with an essential story: the Northern Temptation, Nutty Mushroom Melt, Orient Cheese Express and the Korean Hot Bite.

Jarlsberg Cheese Board
Photo By Gail

The Global Burger Awareness campaign hit stores and social media, showcasing the excitement and versatility of Jarlsberg Cheese. While the campaign has officially ended, the burgers live on. Check out these international beauties!

Jarlsberg Northern Temptation Burger

The Northern Temptation  Burger, based on an exotic Swedish recipe, features regionally specific ingredients such as thinly sliced Reindeer meat, freshly Pickled Chanterelles and Lingonberries. Find the recipe Here.

Nutty Mushroom Melt Burger

The Nutty Mushroom Melt is a Vegetarian, mushroom-based burger with Jarlsberg double layered on the patty and the bun, for extra melty goodness. In addition to mushrooms, the vegetarian patty includes black beans, walnuts and rice, and the recipe also includes step-by-step directions for making your own pickles to top the burger. Check out the super easy-to-follow recipe Here.

Korean Hot Bite Burger

Are you craving a burger with little extra kick? Try the Korean Hot Bite; a seitan-based veggie burger with melted Jarlsberg that’s first coated in a seasoned-flour mixture — that includes pulverized ramen noodles —  and then fried to a crispy finish! Top with Vegan Kimchi, et voila! Recipe Here!

Orient Cheese Express Burger

Homemade Gochujang Mayonnaise (with red chili paste) is a secret ingredient of the Orient Cheese Express Burger. This is a juicy beef burger that you can make with or without added bone marrow. Find the recipe Here.

Enjoy, and thanks to Jarlsberg for the delicious cheese featured in this post!

Favorite Products, Packaging and Booth Displays From The Summer Fancy Food Show 2019!

SFFS19
Prepare To Be Wowed! (All Photos By Gail)

Food Glorious Fancy Food: the most-anticipated annual food show is now behind us, and  I must say that nobody has their act together quite like the Specialty Food Association does when they take over the Javits Center for the annual Summer Fancy Food Show here in NYC. Cheese whiz, what a fantastic show!

There is so much ground to cover when attempting to distill the Summer Fancy Food Experience, and it’s a monumental task because, as the largest show of its kind, there are literally thousands of participating exhibitors! This year, I was fancying a wide variety of sweet treats and snacks. Let’s go to the photos!

Cest Gourmet

Mmm, don’t these look delicious? C’est Gourmet makes exceptional artisanal pastries – in both sweet and savory varieties – that arrive frozen so that customers can bake fresh pastries at home easily and conveniently. C’est Gourmet selects only the finest ingredients, including organic fruit and artisan cheeses, and they have mastered their own European methods of laminating and resting dough, which results in flavorful pastries with crispy, flaky texture, and a memorable eating experience. C’est Gourmet’s newest offering is the Croissant Muffin (pictured above). I could eat a dozen of them!

Bakerly Crepes to Go

Bakerly Crepes To Go are authentic French Crepes rolled with delicious fillings and packaged individually for bakery-fresh, grab-and-go snacking! I discovered Bakerly crepes a few years ago and they are now one of my very favorite snacks! Fillings inside each impossibly flaky crepe include Chocolate Hazelnut, Crunchy Chocolate Hazelnut, Crunchy Caramel, and Strawberry. Take one bite and you will understand immediately why Bakerly’s website is loaded with glowing five-star reviews of these extremely yummy crepe treats!!

Sugar Bowl Bakery Signage

Sugar Bowl Bakery makes tiny snack-sized cakes that are instantly addictive, but my favorites are their Duet Bites.

SugarBbowl Bakery Duet Bites

Duet Bites are two treats in one, combining a luscious almond-flavored Madeleine cake and a moist chocolate Brownie in one tiny cake. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Sugar Bowl Bakery Duet Bites

Resistance is futile.

Deweys Bakery

By the time you say the name of Dewey’s Bakery Donut Shop Soft Baked Cookies Collection, your mouth will be watering, just imagining the dream-like idea of cookies that taste like donuts.

Donut Shop Soft Baked Cookies

Choose from Old Fashion Glazed, Cinnamon Bun, Chocolate Glazed, Apple Fritter and other luscious varieties. Best served warm!

Too Good Gourmet Donut Hole Cookies

And while we’re talking about Donut Cookies, check out these Donut Hole Cookies, which are brand new from Too Good Gourmet.  Enrobed in a sense-tempting glaze and colorful sprinkles, they look as amazing as they taste.

Tru Fru Display

If you seek a sweet snack that manages to be both indulgent and healthy, you may flip for Tru Fru; 100% frozen fresh (aka freeze dried) fruit — cherries, strawberries, raspberries and chunks of coconut — encased in white, milk, or dark chocolate. Mmmm.

Tru Fru Raspberries

I sampled Tru Fru’s Whole Raspberries in White & Milk Chocolate and they were just insane. Unlike dehydrating, the process of freeze-drying locks in the majority (97+%) of the vitamins, nutrition, taste color and texture the fruit. Tru Fru is a unique fruit-based snack that lives up to its name.

Candy Pop

Behold, an idea whose time has come: Candy Pop popcorn (by Nestle) is Butterfinger candy-coated popcorn drizzled with peanut butter. Please pass the dental floss!

Funky Pretzel Truffles

Socado Funky Pretzel Truffles have successfully harnessed the power of the sweet and savory combination. Individually wrapped for extra fanciness, these crunchy, sweet morsels of endless goodness take the Milk Chocolate Truffle experience even further, adding a creamy filling studded with salted pretzel bits. Kill me.

Hands Off My Chocolate Truffles

Hands Off My Chocolate truffles are made with the finest fair Belgian chocolate. They not only come in unique flavors such as Strawberry Meringue and Cinnamon Cookie, but some varieties also embrace interesting shapes, like these highly-Instagrammable truffles that look like a sunny-side up egg. Fun! Hands Off My Chocolate‘s packaging illustrations are also very whimsical.

Hands Off My Chocolate Birthday Cake Truffles

Remember the popular Birthday Cake flavor profile from SFFS18? Hands Off My Chocolate is keeping it on-trend!

Witches Finger Cookies

Halloween is not too far away to make you aware of this Witches’ Finger Cookie Kit from The Invisible Chef! Bake up a batch to keep the little Goblins happy!

Fiasconaro Dolce Presepe

Inside this classy-looking, cylindrical red box, there lurks one of the most unique food products I saw on the exhibition hall floor. Let’s see what’s inside!

Fiasconaro Dolce Presepe

Well, it’s Fiasconaro Dolce Presepe, a traditional Italian holiday cake made with fresh candied orange and raisins, and flavored with Marsala and Zibibbo (I had to look it up; it’s an Italian white wine) that surrounds a nativity scene carved from white chocolate. Holy Italian Cake! It is almost too fancy to eat. Almost.

Waffle Shot Display

Eventually, someone had to invent the Waffleshot: a edible cup made from an ice cream waffle cone, coated inside with Belgian chocolate and, depending on the variety you choose, possibly hiding a filling at the bottom. I mean, it was only a matter of time.

Waffle Shot Product

Look at these cups. Just look at them, ready to be filled with hot coffee, cocoa or espresso. Or whatever.

Waffle Shot Packaging

Created by Los Angeles-based sisters Doris and Naomi, Waffleshots come in a variety of exciting flavors and can be purchased at This Link, just in time for the Holidays!

Parmela Creamery Aged Nutcheese

If you like nuts and you also like cheese (because who doesn’t) you may be intrigued to know that nuts are now being used to make cheese. Yes I just typed that. Parmela Creamery Aged Nutcheese is traditionally cultured from creamy whole cashew milk. OMG.

Quesadilla

This quesadilla was made with Parmela Creamery’s shredded, sharp cheddar variety artisanal nutcheese and it tasted as delicious as you would expect any quesadilla to taste! What a welcome product for the lactose intolerant, or anyone who cares about reducing greenhouse gasses caused by cattle farming. A delicious product with a conscience deserves our support!

Milkadamia Products

Nuts are also getting into the world of dairy with Milkadamia products, which are derived from the finest raw macadamia nuts — because plant-based dairy is officially a thing.

Milkadamia Buttery Spread

Milkadamia Buttery Spread, a heart-healthy, reduced calorie alternative to butter and margarine, was a new product at SFFS19. This spread has a fantastic buttery taste and a light, creamy texture. Milkadamia also has an extensive line of macadamia nut-based milks and creamers. At the show, I was given a 32 oz carton of their Unsweetened Vanilla Macadamia Milk to take home, which I enjoyed on cereal and in my coffee over the course of three weeks. I emphasis three weeks because a message on the carton recommends consuming the milk within seven days after opening, but it tasted very fresh and delicious for three times that long. Worth noting!

Cauliflower Chips and Snacks

Another trending ingredient among a more health-conscious consumer base is Cauliflower. Not surprisingly, we saw new products at SFFS19 using this versatile vegetable in innovative ways. From the Ground Up makes familiar savory snacks, with a plant-based twist, with their line of Cauliflower-based Tortilla Chips, Stalks, Pretzels and Crackers. Yummy.

Egg Thins Cauliflower Crepes

Crepini brand Egg Thins crepes, made with cauliflower, are a carb-free, gluten-free, paleo-friendly bread alternative.

Egg Thins Cauliflower Crepes With Turkey

I sampled Egg Thins cauliflower crepes rolled up with a slice of deli turkey at the show, and it was a super tasty snack. These crepes would be a great starting point for creative party snacks to impress even your most finicky guest. I definitely will be following up with Crepini post-SFFS!

Terrapin Ridge Farms Bacon Sauces

The Summer Fancy Food Show is an place ideal to discover a vast selection of gourmet variety jams, dips, spreads and sauces. A leader in this category is Terrapin Ridge Farms, who were one of the first outlets I know of to market several kinds of Bacon Jam!

Terrapin Farms Margarita Jelly

Terrapin Ridge Farms products allow the home cook to redefine his or her approach to food, entertaining and cooking. One jar of their sauces eliminates the need to buy multiple ingredients and spend hours in the kitchen, leaving you more time to spend with your guests! Margarita Jelly, which can enhance the flavors of meats or sweets, is one of their new products on the shelf!

Apple Blueberry Salsa Bacon Queso

Stonewall Kitchen, unique not just for the distinctive hand-written-look of its labels, but for the culinary innovation that goes into all of its sauces, jams, dips and spreads, always has dozens of delicious new products to sample SFFS. This year I especially loved the Apple Blueberry Salsa and Bacon Queso!

Bitchin Sauce

The memorably-named Bitchin’ Sauce took home a pair of Sofi Awards for its delicious Almond Dip! Congratulations!

Freak Flag Kale Pesto

Freak Flag Organics, possibly the best-named product in the sauces category, makes a healthy Kale Pesto that tastes great on pizza or pasta, or used in dips. Let your Freak Flag fly in the kitchen!

Crazy Go Nuts Walnut Butter

Crazy Go Nuts Walnut Butter not only has a funny name and a wacky label, but it also tastes amazing! Co-owned by friends Courtney Carini and David Wolfe, Crazy Go Nuts is a small business dedicated to environmental advocacy as they turn the superfood that is the walnut into a delectable, wholesome spread that tastes great on bread, fruit, or just eaten by the spoonful from the jar! You can buy Crazy Go Nuts products on Amazon!

ODang Hummus Dressings

O’Dang Hummus makes a line of flavorful and low calorie chickpea-based bottled Salad Dressings.

Funny Farm Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese from a box, despite its crave-able taste and comforting mouth feel,  can get a bad rap for being a convenience food that’s perhaps not so good for you. Funny Farm Macaroni & Cheese Dinner mixes (by LaLoos) challenge that notion, appealing to ‘kids of all ages,’ as they say, for its use of lower-in-fat goats’ milk-based cheese and its absence of preservatives, artificial flavors and synthetic dyes. I tried Funny Farm Mac & Cheese at SFFS and can conclude that it is one of the best-tasting dinner mixes I’ve encountered. They also make a version with the same enriched pasta, but in the shapes of little goats, pizza slices and ice cream cones, to get the little ones on board.

Cheese Shaped Mardi Gras Beads

Funny Farm also had these Cheese Wedge-Shaped Mardi Gras Beads as giveaways in their booth!

Princess Shaped Mac and Cheese

Also getting into the game of healthier Mac and Cheese in fun shapes is Pastabilities (bonus points for getting to that name first), who make this organic Mac ‘N Cheese dinner with pasta in the shapes of princesses, crowns and castles! Why didn’t this exist when I was a child?

Moon Cheese

Moon Cheese (Cheese That Crunches) has all the flavor and nutrition of real cheese because it is really just 100% delicious cheese that has been made into little crunchy nuggets. Without additives or preservatives, crunchy Moon Cheese is a perfect on-the-go healthy snack that needs no refrigeration! They also gave my first-ever fidget spinner! Yay, Moon Cheese!

Check out these random products that made it into the recap for their funny names or eye-catching packages!

Smooth Caffeinator

Kudos to Java Factory for its Smooth Caffeinator medium-roast Keurig pods. You know you hear Sade crooning in your head right now. You’re welcome.

Tea Pigs Display

I love this name: Tea Pigs. Because pigs. Tea Pigs is a UK-based small company dedicated to the enjoyment and worshipping of tea. Tea Pigs is a high-quality, whole-leaf tea that, rather than a standard tea bag, comes in a roomy, biodegradable mesh bag that they call a tea temple. I love it.

Tea Pigs Cold Brew Box

Wouldn’t this Lychee & Rose cold brew tea taste refreshing on a hot summer day? You know it would. Tea Pigs teas are available in the US via Amazon.

Mrs Muffin and Mr Brownie

There is so much more to and Mrs. Muffin and Mr. Brownie than set of adorable names. These individually-wrapped mini snack cakes are so delicious, you really should read the brand backstory for yourself!

Uglies Potato Chips

Uglies Kettle Cooked Potato Chips are delicious chips crafted from potatoes with minor cosmetic imperfections. This includes potatoes that are too large or too small; those with the wrong color or the wrong sugar content. Some of the potatoes are slightly blemished and, of course, some are just farmer surplus. Until now, these orphaned potatoes were destined to become food waste. Uglies has helped to reduce food waste by saving over 1,500,000 pounds of potatoes since 2017. Uglies for the win!

King Floyds Bitters

King Floyds Bitters: Bitters are not my thing, but the name made me smile!

Joe Tea

Joe Tea and Joe’s Lemonade: Because these label are works of art!

My favorite product that isn’t exactly a food product, but is nevertheless edible, goes to Gerrit’s Top This! Edible Cake Toppers, made by retro and nostalgic candy company Gerrit Verburg! These take me back.

Now I’d love to pay homage to the exhibitors who went the extra distance to guarantee that the Summer Fancy Food Show is Instagram-able for more than just the food. Check out these creative displays, fun use of props and outstanding booth designs!

Goodie Girl Signage

Goodie Girl, makers of  gluten-free cookies in both creative and classic varieties, got a brand new sign this year: a Pink Neon glow encircling their Giggling Goodie Girl logo! Distinctive and fitting!

Goodie Girl Animal Crackers Box

Goodie Girl Magical Animal Crackers are new on the shelf now!

Salsa God Booth Display

Salsa God, makers of delicious spicy salsa varieties, earns a mention in our recap each year, because skulls! I love these little Day Of The Dead skulls!

Salsa God Chips and Salsa to Go

Salsa God’s new product on the shelf is this Chips & Salsa Combo Pack, so that you can enjoy crunchy tortilla chips and fresh hot salsa as a grab-and-go snack any time! Salsa God!

Attitude Vodka Dragon Booth

Got Attitude Vodka made the most of a less-than-desirable end-of-the-aisle booth location by bringing in a mechanical Fire Breathing Dragon! Every few minutes, the dragon’s mouth would open wide, its eyes would begin to glow red, and smoke would emerge from its mouth, along with a mighty roar! You had better believe everybody stopped by for a sip and a snap!

Attitude Vodka

Got Attitude Vodka is smooth and sassy, and tastes great with any mixer, or on the rocks with a twist. It’s a party in a bottle!

Got Attitude Vodka Dragon

Here’s a close-up of the dragon’s glowing-red eyes (which I imagine would be more impressionable in the dark)! Still, it provided show-goers with a memorable Game of Thrones-style moment!

Jelly Belly Booth Mascot

Over at the Jelly Belly booth, there was a photo op with Mr. Jelly Belly, who is the brand’s official mascot! He is all kinds of cute.

Jelly Belly Cupcakes

Jelly Belly Candy Cupcakes, a non-jelly bean candy similar in texture to candy corn, is new on the shelves now!

Maud Borup Organic Cotton Candy

Maud Borup is known for providing retailers with unique flavor profiles and confectionery gifts that include candy, snacks, baking kits, and beverage mixes, which often come with a reusable collectable item that is sure to be remembered. Check out this sweet and simple display they created to show off their Organic Cotton Candy treats!

Maud Borup Paper Flowers Detail

It was so festive! You really felt like you were at the Fair!

Coco Well Booth

Coco Well 100% Pure Coconut Water constructed its booth from clear lucite panels filled with fresh whole coconuts. What a clever idea, and there was no confusion as to what their product is all about!

Coco Well Product

We know that coconut water is super health and hydrating, and Coco Well produces the freshest tasting coconut water possible by packaging its beverages in Tetra Pak, an eco-friendly and socially-responsible form of packaging based on the use of a sustainably-sourced wood fiber. Coco Well is good for your body, and the planet!

Greenpoint Trading Cart

Greenpoint Trading Co (based in Brooklyn) brought in this a bike-driven cart as part of their booth display for its line of Spices, Herbs and Seasonings. It definitely relays the message of freshness!

Pop Art Popcorn Booth

For SFFS19, Pop Art Gourmet Popcorn made good on last year’s promise / threat to retire their fabulous Mirrored Disco Ball Booth, only to debut a new booth design that is equally distinctive; being comprised of multi-colored, stacked LEGO bricks, making it a work of Pop Art itself!

Pop Art Popcorn Signage

Pop Art also replaced their famous Neon Popcorn Kernel signage with this stunning new sign, which is also made of LEGOs. Well played.

Pop Art Gourmet Popcorn

New flavors of Pop Art Popcorn include Dill Pickle Ranch (which tasted exactly like what it says it is) and Cheddar Jalepeno!

Belgian Boys Pink Booth

The Pinkest Booth at the Summer Fancy Food Show award (which is a thing that I just made up) goes to Belgian Boys European bakery! Beyond the pink plush carpeting (which was very comforting to our tired feet), let’s take a look at some of the awesome pink things found in the Belgian Boys booth!

Pink Recycling Waste Bin

Put It Here: Pink Recycling / Waste Bin!

Pink Smeg Refrigerator

Keeping It Cool: Pink Smeg Brand Refrigerator and a Pink Plant!

Belgian Boys Bakery Booth Display

The booth’s central display was a counter comprised of colorful dessert packaging, stacked high and topped with a Pink Sand Beach, which included a Pink Pineapple!

Belgian Boys Treats

Alongside the Boys‘ best-loved product line such as their famous Mini Cookie Stash (#rockthatstash), authentic Stroopwafels and assorted Liege Waffles and Waffle Chips, SFFS19 launched the debut of a full line of gourmet single-serve Mini Cheesecakes and a Dark Chocolate Lava Cake – super decadent. These treats are imported from Belgium and come two to a pack, with a premium presentation in a re-usable glass ramekin!  Begian Boys new desserts are Non-GMO and made with premium ingredients, no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, and are kosher certified. Crave-able flavors include Key Lime, Cookies & Cream, and Raspberry. Yum!

Niman Ranch Booth

Niman Ranch, purveyors of humanely-raised quality meats, went all out with their idea of a Summer BBQ, bringing the free spirit of outdoor entertaining inside the Javits Center for the debut their new line of sustainably raised products featuring New Belgium Brewing’s Fat Tire Amber Ale!

Fat Tire Neon Sign

Grilled tastings and samples of the meats were an instant hit! The Niman Ranch booth also included a living plant wall with  bicycle tires, and with a bar serving freshly brewed Fat Tire Amber Ale. The joint venture of one of the most recognized names in the craft beer industry and a highly-regarded meat company brought show attendees a fresh idea on how to reach millennial audiences — who are concerned with how their food is produced — while supporting value-driven brands.

Niman Ranch BBQ on the HighLine

For fans who longed for an expanded taste of the new line, Niman Ranch hosted a BBQ Party at Hearth restaurant, located on NYC’s High Line Park, after the Monday evening of the Summer Fancy Food Show, where I was able to enjoy all five items that make up their complete BBQ collection. I hope my photos of the event will inspire you to include Niman Ranch products in your next summer BBQ! Let’s eat!

Beer Brautwurst

Fat Tire Beer Bratwurst, served here on a potato roll with sauerkraut and German-style mustard.

Cheddar Brauts

Fat Tire Spicy Cheddar Beer Bratwurst served with pickled mustard seeds. Little bits of cheddar cheese locked inside the sausage become melty and extra flavorful when grilled!

Pulled Pork

Niman Ranch Pulled Pork with Fat Tire BBQ Sauce show here alongside all the fixings — including crunchy coleslaw and crisp fried shallots — to make an amazing sandwich!

Pulled Pork Sandwich
Pulled Pork Sandwich. Mmmm.

St Louis Style Pork Ribs

St. Louis-Style Pork Ribs with Fat Tire BBQ Sauce. Unbelievable!

Shredded Beef and Pork Rib

Shredded Beef with Fat Tire BBQ Sauce on a potato roll, sharing the plate with one of those tender, meaty pork ribs. Outstanding!

BBQ Spread with Ribs

All items are uncured and fully cooked, making the line perfect for anyone looking for easy-to-prepare meals without sacrificing quality and taste. The new Niman Ranch New Belgium line will be available in specialty stores across the country beginning in August. The complete selection will also be available on Niman Ranch’s new digital storefront powered by ButcherBox.

Sofi Award

And that wraps up our recap of Summer Fancy Food 2019! Congratulations to all of the SOFI Award winning brands and thanks to the Specialty Food Association for another fantastic show! See you back here in 2020!

Scoozi Events Hosts a Chef Tasting in Midtown!

Scoozi Events
Above Image Courtesy of Scoozi Events; All Other Photos By Gail Except Where Notes

When you have attended as many catered events and cocktail parties as I have, you get the opportunity to sample a variety unique and tasty foods. But after your umpteenth morsel of Prime Rib on a Crostini, or Coconut Fried Shrimp, you might tend to encounter a lot of sameness among the small bites being offered by various NYC catering companies. Yes, you have perhaps tasted it all, until you are lucky enough to attend a party catered by Scoozi Events: and it is only then that your tastebuds will be fully awakened to true culinary innovation!

In operation since 1996, Scoozi Events is a full-service catering and event resource. Voted New York City’s Most Creative Catering Company, Scoozi is also a company with a conscience. Certified green with three stars by the Green Restaurant Association, Scoozi recycles, composts, and uses eco-friendly products in an effort to continue reducing its carbon footprint. The goal is to provide clients with an unmatched experience, from décor to cuisine; and the true magic is in the details. Recently, I was invited to a Chef Tasting hosted by Scoozi at one of their intimate midtown venues, where my mind was fully blown by the unique selection of mouth-watering Hors D’Oeuvres and craft cocktails that I had the extreme pleasure to enjoy. Take a look at some of my favorite bites!

Bagel Chip with Cream Cheese and Smoked Carrot

Scoozi has an extensive menu of vegetarian-friendly small bites, including this Smoked Carrot ‘Lox’ on a Bagel Crisp with Cream Cheese and Dill Garnish.

Eggplant Nigiri

Eggplant Nigiri: it looks like Smoked Eel Sushi, but it’s a teriyaki-glazed slice of perfectly torch-finished eggplant!

Chicken Cilantro Taco

Chicken Verde Tacos with Scallion Crema and Queso Fresco on a Mini Flour Tortilla. These tiny tacos were presented on a long tree branch with wedges cut out to nestle each taco perfectly. Check it out!

Chicken Tacos on a Branch
Image Courtesy of Scoozi Events

Mini Big Mac Detail

Mini Big Macs, Scoozi Style! These Baby Macs surpass the ordinary slider, taking the classic ingredients of a McDonald’s Big Mac sandwich but swapping the expected dill pickle for a slice of sweet Bread and Butter Pickle — for a little flavor thrill!

Ramen Burger

Another alternative to the traditional beef blider is the Ramen Noodle Burger; an open-faced, teriyaki-glazed Burger on a Ramen Noodle ‘Bun.’ Delish!

Mexican Street Corn on a Blue Corn Tortilla

Mexican Street Corn on a Blue Corn Tortilla!

Spaghetti and Meatball Tuna Tartar on a Crispy Rice Cake

Spaghetti and Meatball, and Tuna Tartar with Sriracha Aioli on a Crispy Rice Cake. Everyone wanted to know how they got the pasta into that shape!

Pigs in Blankets

An updated take on the cocktail party favorite of Pigs in Blankets, Scoozi calls this the Beef Pig in a Pretzel Shell with Grain Mustard “Caviar.” Absolute perfection in a single bite.

Lemongrass Chicken Pop Up

Sizzling Lemongrass Chicken with Sticky Rice ‘Pop Up’ — These customized “General Zoe’s” Chinese Take-Out containers were presented in an oversized wok filed with uncooked white rice!

Pineapple Orange Coconut Mojito with Sugar Cane Stirrer

My thirst was quenched by a selection of refreshing and fruity cocktails: the Pineapple Orange Coconut Mojito (above) and Blackberry Mojito (below), both served with a fresh Sugar Cane stalk stirrer!

Blackberry Mojito
Blackberry Mojito

Cocktail Gummies
Image Courtesy of Scoozi Events

Yummy Alcohol-infused Cocktail Gummies improve on the usual Jello Shot, being part cocktail and part sweet dessert!

Alcohol Infused Gummy Bears

The Pink Paloma was my favorite!

S'Mores Pipes

For dessert, these Deconstructed S’mores are a Scoozi original: Toasted Marshmallow rounds dusted with Graham Cracker Crumbs and accompanied by a squeezable pipe filled with Warm Melted Chocolate! To enjoy; bite the marshmallow and simultaneously squeeze the chocolate into your mouth. Decadent!

Afogato

Affogato is a traditional Italian dessert consisting of Espresso Cold Brew poured over Vanilla Ice Cream, here topped with whipped cream. Simple, but amazing! Notice that the attention to detail includes a fun miniature replica of a Greek Diner Coffee Cup. Adorable.

Scoozi Desserts
Assorted Desserts Image Courtesy of Scoozi Events

During the tasting, I had the chance to enjoy a marvelous, casual conversation with Scoozi Events President and CFO, Gianluca Ballarini, who is as charming as he is talented. Gianluca’s fascinating background includes a former career in the international fine jewelry business, and he can share stories both amusing and enlightening that probably qualify him as the guy at any party who everyone wants to talk to.  But beyond being entertained by our chat, what I got most from Gianluca is the degree to which he cares about the services that Scoozi Events provides: because it’s not just business to him, it’s really more like a family. If I hadn’t already been won over by the fine food and drinks, Gianluca’s kind heart and commitment to customer service sealed the deal.

Beyond their impeccable food, cocktails and decor, Scoozi Events also work with many cool venues all over NYC, and they can recommend a variety of places to consider when you need a place to book an upcoming event. To find out more about Scoozi Events, see menus (including so much more in the way of food, cocktails and desserts than what you’ve seen here), and request a personalized proposal to plan every perfect detail of your next event, contact them via their website at Scoozi Events Dot Com!

Mini Big Macs

Product Review: Garden Lites Vegetable Bakes

Garden-Lites Logo
Above Image Source, All Other Photos By Gail

Being a single, working woman means that I am all about convenience foods. With so many options available to shoppers, I know that I can count on finding delicious meals in the grocer’s freezer section that will go from the package to my plate in about 30 minutes, but I also want to eat food that’s healthy. That said, the ideal frozen entree should fill me up, but not fill me out, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

Cheddar Broccoli Bake Packaging

For all of those (and so many other) reasons, Garden Lites Vegetable Bakes are a terrific way for convenience-seekers to eat smart. Part of the Garden Lites line of vegetable-forward products that include muffins, waffles and entrees, Garden Lites Vegetable Bakes are an easy way to create a tasty, meatless meal that anyone who saw it would think you spent hours cooking.

Cheddar Broccoli Bake With Packaging

For this review I tried three different varieties of Vegetable Bakes: Cheddar Broccoli (seen above), Zucchini, and Roasted Vegetable. Each vegetable bake comes in its own baking dish and takes about 30 to 40 minutes to bake thoroughly, which gives you time to open a bottle of wine and make a pot of rice, if you choose — which I did.

Cheddar Broccoli Bake Back of Packaging

When fully cooked, Vegetable Bakes are similar in consistency and mouth-feel to a very vegetable-dense quiche or frittata, where eggs have been added only to bind the ingredients together. Therefore it’s understood that these dishes, while vegetarian-friendly, are not vegan, due to having whole eggs or egg whites as an ingredient.

Cheddar Broccoli Bake Cooked

Here it is, just out of the oven, and you can see that the cheese has browned nicely!

Cheddar Broccoli Bake Serving Suggestion

It looks amazing, doesn’t it?

Cheddar Broccoli Bake Ready to Eat

Broccoli Cheddar Bake is a delicious and nutritious dish that is loaded with healthy, superfood ingredients like broccoli, onions, brown rice, and select spices, topped off with cheddar cheese.  Like all of the Vegetable Bakes, it is gluten free, Non-GMO and kosher, as well as being free of peanuts, tree nuts and soy. The full portion clocks in at just 210 calories and 7 Weight Watcher Smart Points. If you wanted to serve this as a side dish, it could easily feed two people.

Roasted Vegetable Bake Packaging

About a week after enjoying the Cheddar Broccoli Bake, I tried the Roasted Vegetable Bake. This dish is filled with tender carrots, broccoli, onion, red bell pepper, zucchini and potato, seasoned with assorted spices including black pepper and garlic salt. The Roasted Vegetable Bake is just 150 calories (wow!) and will set you back 5 Weight Watchers Smart Points. Check out all of those veggies!

Roasted Vegetable Bake Over Rice

I put some cheese on it as well!

Roasted Vegetable Bake With Cheese

There is no such thing as too much cheese.

Zucchini Bake Packaging

Last, but not least, I tried the Zucchini Bake. Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables and it makes everything that it touches taste better: this Vegetable Bake being no exception to that rule. Here, everyone’s favorite summer squash is combined with cauliflower, onions and  potatoes, as well as eggs, and a select seasoning mix for a farm-to-table dining experience.

Zucchini Bake over Rice

Here it is served over rice with a generous grating of sharp cheddar cheese, for just 150 calories and 5 Weight Watchers Points. A satisfying, delicious and low calorie meal that’s healthy and convenient: Win Win Win!

Find a store near you that sells Garden Lites products and get a money-saving coupon to use on your next purchase at This Link!

Product Review: Fruit Bliss Fruit & Nut Bites!

Fruit Bliss Snacks
All Photos By Gail

Naturally sweet dried fruit paired with crunchy nuts is a popular, healthy snack combination that really cannot be improved on; but that doesn’t mean there aren’t innovative ways to change-up the presentation! Fruit Bliss Fruit & Nut Bites combine sweet, fiber-rich fruit and toasted nut pieces into bite-size squares that taste far more indulgent than you’d expect from a snack with zero artificial ingredients.

Tart Cherry Cacao
Don’t These Look Like Tiny, Nut-Studded, Chewy Brownies? Wait Until You Taste Them

Fruit Bliss Fruit Bites start out with only the the best organic fruits, sourced from global regions such as the Eastern Anatolian region of Turkey, or the Agen area of France — locales known for their high quality produce.

Fruit Bliss Apricot Bites

In the simplest way possible, Fruit Bliss has reinvented dried fruit snacking. While most dried fruit can be tough and hard to chew, Fruit Bliss snacks have a soft bite thanks to a steaming and rehydration process that adds water back into the fruit. The only three ingredients you’ll find in these Fruit Bites are fruit, nuts and water — no added sugars are needed because the fruit is naturally sweet from the sun-drying process!

Fruit Bliss Apricot Bites

Because they are dried by the sun, Fruit Bliss snacks are naturally darker in color than your typical dried fruit snack. Fruit Bliss skips the preservatives and chemicals that restore dried fruit to a bright color, and leave you with what matters most – pure and simple organic fruit.

Fruit Bliss Fig Bites

Fruit Bliss Fruit Bites come in three varieties, Apricot with Dates and Hazelnuts, Fig with Dates and Hazelnuts (think: elevated Fig Newton), and Tart Cherry with Dates, Hazelnuts, and Cacao Nibs. The tiny bits of toasted hazelnuts also add a fresh crunch to the soft, chewy texture of the fruit, for a pleasing mouth feel.

Tart Cherry Cacao Presentation

The Tart Cherry and  Cacao Nibs combination is my favorite, as it tastes like little tart cherry-infused chocolate brownies! Amazing! Chocolate lovers take note! All Fruit Bliss Fruit Bites snacks are packaged in environmentally sustainable, resealable pouches, so you can toss them in your purse or backpack for delicious, healthy snacking on-the-go!

Get more information about the full line of Fruit Bliss dried fruit products, and order online, at Fruit Bliss Dot Com!

Tart Cherry Cacao Packaging

Tasty Holiday Treat: Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle!

Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle Bag
All Photos By Gail

With the Holiday season fast approaching, the time is now for guilty pleasures and dietary indulgences. Fans of this blog know well my love of the decadent sweet treat called Brownie Brittle — an oven-baked brownie-thin with a crisp cookie crunch. OMG, this stuff is delicious. In honor of what I like to call the Holidaze, Brownie Brittle reintroduces flavors that are available only during theses chilly months, and tarts-up their packaging with snow flakes and bows so that you can grab a few bags for last minute gift giving! Convenient!

Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle Close Up
Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle is Ready For its Close Up

With a narrow window of availability to purchase Brownie Brittle’s holiday varieties, I want to make sure you try what is not only my favorite flavor, but the favorite of Brownie Brittle originator herself, Shelia GSalted Carmel Brownie Brittle! The salted caramel chocolate treat remains very much on-trend, and Brownie Brittle leads the charge this Holiday season with its Brownie Brittle that is liberally studded with velvety Caramel Chips, and topped with a Dark Chocolate Drizzle — for added festiveness! Something I learned from watching too many baking shows is that adding salt to chocolate does not make the treat taste saltier. Rather, salt enhances the flavor of the chocolate, and makes it taste like the most delicious thing on earth.

Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle

Warning: Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle is highly addictive! I recommend that you take a few pieces out of the bag, put them on plate, and then take that to the TV room or wherever you are going to have your snack, leaving the sealed bag behind you in the kitchen. so that you don’t lose control. Shop for all varieties of Brownie Brittle at your local supermarket, or online at This Link!

Dining at Uskudar, NYC’s Best Turkish Restaurant!

Uskudar Interior Shot
All Photos By Gail

Heavyweight Champion Mohammed Ali once said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” Promoting itself as a Taste of Istanbul in the Heart of New York City, Uskudar Turkish restaurant’s 30-year dedication to authentic and delicious dishes has earned them a reputation for serving the very best Turkish cuisine in the City. Stop in for a visit and you will soon discover that the food speaks for itself.

Olives

Uskudar’s Chef/Owner Ibrahim Ozdemir began his 40-year career in the restaurant industry baking bread in one of Istanbul’s biggest hotels. When he opened Uskudar on the upper East side in 1987, his objective was to serve dishes whose flavors could transport diners to his homeland, if only for a few hours.

Turkish Bread

Ozdemir still bakes the fluffy, chewy bread that arrives at your table hot from the oven, and he takes care that every dish he serves is as fresh and authentic as possible. Even the lamb they serve is butchered on site. Uskudar’s extensive menu offers something for every palate,  including chicken, seafood, lamb and an array of vegetarian dishes. The narrow space is warm and cosy, with exposed brick, and back & white photographs of Istanbul landmarks adorning the walls. With the attentive, friendly service, you will feel at home right away.

I dined at Uskudar with a friend who had been there many times before, and she had been talking to me about the restaurant for weeks before we were able to finally a make date. There were so many dishes that she wanted me to try that we ended up ordering way more food than two people could possibly eat, but it was worth it.

Mucver and Borek

Two must-try appetizers are the Mucver — shredded zucchini fritters fried to a golden brown crispiness on the outside, but moist on the inside —  and Borek — crispy pan-fried phyllo rolls, stuffed with crumbled feta and spinach. Both taste great topped with a little dollop of tangy homemade yogurt.

Meze Platter
Mediterranen Meze Platter

An excellent way to sample many different tastes is to opt for the Mediterranean Meze Platter, featuring generous portions of assorted vegetarian appetizers including Yalanci Dolma (Grape leaves stuffed with rice, black currants, onions, pine nuts), Spinach Tarator (Spinach dip made with  labne — a strained-yogurt cheese — with garlic, and minced walnuts), Hummus (traditional Chickpea dip with tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice), Fasulye Pilaki (White Kidney Beans with scallions, tomato, garlic), Ezme (Tomato, onion, parsley, and walnut spread), and Patlican (Smoky eggplant dip with garlic, yogurt, herbs). Two hungry diners could easily make a satisfying meal from this selection of exotic and flavorful dips, accompanied by a basket (or two) of fresh bread and a generous pour from the wine list. If you are dining with a group, the Meze Platter can easily serve as an appetizer for three to four people. It’s huge!

Chicken Yogurt and Rice
Chicken Yogurt and Rice Pilaf

For an entree, I wanted to try a dish that I had not tasted before, but which had familiar ingredients, so I chose the Chicken Yogurt, which is chunks of chicken breast baked with sautéed pita and yogurt in a little casserole dish. Like all entrees, it comes with a side of your choice of rice or vegetables, and I chose the fluffy rice pilaf.

Chicken Yogurt Close Up

Here’s a close-up shot, where you see that a few colorful peppers and tomatoes have been added for flavor and texture. The chicken in this dish is absolutely succulent, and perfectly season. The sautéed pita maintained the consistency of a firm noodle, and the yogurt blended with the natural juice of the chicken to create a light sauce. This dish was excellent, and it would also be a good choice for a non-adventurous diner (we all know them) who had not tried Turkish food before.

Vegetable Casserole

My dining companion wanted to try the Vegetable Casserole, because although she eats meat, it was one of the few dishes she had not tried before. This dish is very simple,  comprised of a variety of vegetables such as carrots zucchini, potatoes and onions stewed in a tomato sauce, and served with a side of rice or vegetables. My friend asked if she could have a bit of both rice and vegetables as her side, and they were happy to accommodate her.

I will admit that after enjoying so many delicious appetizers, I purposely ate only about half my entree (taking the leftovers home), because I knew what was coming up next: Dessert!

Uskudar Dessert Menu

Uskudar makes all of their authentic Turkish desserts on premises, and while they may have unfamiliar names, you will surely recognize Baklava, a pastry made with many layers of flakey filo dough, baked with nuts and honey syrup. There are also Turkish versions of Flan, Chocolate Pudding, and Rice Pudding on the menu.

Turkish Dessert Trio
Trio of Desserts

Since my friend is a regular customer, she asked our server if the kitchen could put together smaller servings of three of her favorite desserts for us to share. Again, they were happy to do so. Here’s what we ate.

Baklava

This is the Baklava, which is studded with chopped pistachio nuts, gooey with honey, and very rich. One tiny piece was plenty after such a large meal.

Kadayif

This dessert is called Kadayif, which is a pastry that’s very similar to Baklava, except is it make with shredded wheat.

Kayisi 2

Last but not least, you must try the Kayisi: Pouched Apricots stuffed with a whole Almond, and topped with sweet Whipped Cream and finely chopped Pistachios. This sweet treat is simply divine, and I will order it every time I come back to Uskudar. Amazing.

While menu prices are very reasonable, Uskudar also offers a three-course price fixe lunch for just $19, and a three-course ‘early bird’ dinner (served 4 – 7 PM) for a mere $27 — which are unbelievable bargain prices for Manhattan restaurant dining. Whether Turkish cuisine is your favorite, or you’re just in the mood for trying something new, be sure to put Uskudar on your radar to enjoy an unforgettable culinary experience.

Uskudar is Located at 1405 2nd Avenue (Between 73rd & 74th Streets), Just One Block from the 72nd Street Q Stop, In NYC. Uskudar also offers outside catering, and they can host private parties, or small corporate events. Visit Their Website at This Link for More Information!

Vatan Indian Restaurant Offers All You Can Eat Vegetarian Feast in an Authentic Setting!

Table and Menu
All Photos By Gail

One of the most enjoyable parts of dining in an Indian restaurant, especially if you possess an adventurous palate, is the experience of being able to taste many different dishes as part of one meal. If I am looking for an incentive to step beyond the comfort zone of my ‘stand by’ favorites, and the quality of the food is still reputably high, I might check out a place that has unique decor, or that features the dishes of a region or state whose food I haven’t yet tasted — because all Indian cuisine is definitely not the same.

Entry Hall

I was recently offered the opportunity to visit Vatan, a Vegetarian Indian Restaurant in Kips Bay which specializes in Gujarati cuisine. A little bit of Googling told me that Gujarat is a state on the western coastline of India, with a strong influence of Jain culture and philosophy, which explains why Vatan favors purely vegetarian dishes.  Vatan is also distinct for its  prix fixe dinner, which includes a thali-style arrangement (many servings of various foods all served together on a large silver platter) of appetizers and condiments, followed by a thali-style main course array, including bread, followed by dessert. The price is $34 per person and it includes all you can eat of any featured dish from any of the three courses. Exciting!

Left Side of Dining Room with Tree

As soon as you enter Vatan, it is clear that you will be dining in an immersive atmosphere unlike other Indian establishments in Manhattan. Vatan’s cozy main dining area emulates the look of a beautiful open courtyard, so you will almost feel that you are dining outside. There is even a tall, leafy tree in the center of the room, whose branches spread out across the ceiling. If you look closely, up high you will see a couple of monkeys perched among the leaves, ready to playfully pelt you with an orange! Just kidding, of course, but it does look that way!

Monkey in Tree
“Hi, There!”

Interior Courtyard Shot

Interior View with Ganesha

Two seating options are offered for your optimal comfort: you can either remove your shoes and sit cross-legged, or sit western style.

Ganesha

The focal point of the dining room has to be this glowing red monumental figure of Ganesha, the Elephant-headed God who is the Remover of Obstacles. It is really captivating!

Mural Indian Lady

The walls also feature may colorful murals like the one above, which is just outside the kitchen, and the mural  below, which was adjacent to our table.

Dining Room Mural

All of the staff are dressed in beautifully-detailed, traditional costumes, which gives the experience an even more immersive and authentic feel.

Merlot

Our server arrived promptly to take our drink order (beverages are not included the fixed price), and they do have both beer and wine on offer. I ordered a glass of this lovely, full-bodied Merlot, which provided a nice complement to the spicy food. Menus are not really necessary, since Vatan serves a fixed fare (though you can choose a vegan, or gluten-free option), but they do have a few specialty sides, which are available for an additional charge. With the Entree Thali, you also have the choice of your preferred degree of spiciness. I opted for mild (which trust me, was still quite spicy) while my dining companion went with medium spiciness.

Appetizer Thali
Appetizer Thali and Condiments

When our appetizer course arrived, our server took a few moments to describe the ingredients in each dish, as well as brief details of how each was prepared (boiled, fried etc). She even offered suggestions as to which condiments went best with which appetizers, or main course dishes. The service was truly impeccable throughout the meal. Here’s a description of everything on the Appetizer Thali:

Chana Masala (Chickpeas With Onions And Coriander)

Khaman (Puffed Cream Of Wheat Flour Cakes)

Muthia (Steamed Flour With Spinach)

Mirchi Bhajia (Fried Hot Peppers With Garam Masala)

Batatavada (Fried Potato Balls In A Chickpea Flour Batter)

Ragda Patis (Potato Cutlet In A White Bean Sauce)

Sev Puri (Potatoes, Garbanzo Beans, Yogurt, And Chutney Filled In A Crispy Bread)

Samosa (Triangular Savory Pastries Filled With Spicy Potatoes And Green Peas)

Despite what you may be “used to” when dining out, I encourage you to just surrender to this unique experience. You may be tempted to ask for bread and raita (popular cucumber yogurt dip), since many Indian restaurants serve those items with the appetizer course, but sit tight, because that’s coming up.

Appetizer Thali

Detail shot of the Chana Masala (foreground), Muthia (right rear), Khaman (left front ) and Batatavada (left rear).

I enjoyed every dish on my tray, though I did offer my hot pepper to my friend, since I did not want to tempt fate. We were asked if we would like seconds of anything, but not knowing how much food was still coming, we declined.

Entree Thali 1

The Entree Thali arrived next, and it was just as beautiful as the previous tray. Here’s what we ate, as seen in the photo above:

Toor Dal (Boiled Lentils Cooked With Indian Spices)

Bhaji (Sautéed Spinach And Corn)

Ful-Cobi (Cauliflower And Green Peas Sautéed In A Savory Sauce)

Batakanu Sak (Potatoes Cooked In A Mild Red Gravy)

Chole (Chickpeas Cooked With Garam Masala)

Puri/Roti (Puffed Whole Wheat Bread/Whole Wheat Flatbread)

Papadam (Thin Lentil Wafers)

Kheer (Rice Pudding With Dry Fruits)

Aam Rus (Mango Soup)

It is not uncommon in Gujarati cuisine to have both savory and sweet dishes in the same course, such as the entree dishes of Rice Pudding and Mango Soup, which I enjoyed mixing together in a single bite.

Entree Thali 2

The little puffed Puri breads are ideal for holding small bites of food and making little tacos with them. Super tasty, and also, fun!

Rice and Yogurt Soup

Because you are not quite exploding just yet, they also bring you delicious Entree Complements (Seen Above):

Pulao (Boiled White Rice With Peas)

Khichdi (Lentils Mixed With Rice And Assorted Vegetables)

Kadhi (Soup With Yogurt And Chickpea Flour In Authentic Spices), which is similar to Raita, and which we shared for use as a sauce to cool the fire of the spicier dishes.

Roti Plus Two Dishes
Roti Flat Bread

Everything was delicious.

Indian Ice Cream

After a short break to let our food ‘settle’ a bit, it was time for the final Dessert And Chai course, consisting of mango and one other flavor of Homemade Indian Ice Cream, which we split evenly.

Gulub Jamun

There is also Gulab Jamun , a warm Donut Ball in a Sugar and Rose Syrup, which I just added to my ice cream because I thought would be more fun, and it was.

Masala Chai

Masala Chai is a sweet Indian Tea with Cardamom, Ginger and Milk; the perfect ending to a perfect meal. While we were advised that we could have as much as we wanted of everything, frankly, the cumulative portions served were very generous. The fixed price menu is an excellent value and I could not possibly have eaten one more bite. .We really enjoyed our evening at Vatan, and I am looking forward to returning for future visits with new friends!

Indian Lady Artwork

Vatan is Located at 409 3rd Avenue (Between 28th and 29th Streets), in the Kips Bay Neighborhood, New York City. Visit Vatan NY Dot Com for more Information and to Make a Reservation.

Vatan Signage Elephant