Tag Archive | Gourmet

Duran New York: Unique European Open Faced Sandwiches!

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All Photos By Tom Szebeni

In NYC, event catering is a big deal business. Those in the position to hire caterers — from administrative assistants  to event planners to television production crews — are always on the lookout for reliable, hassle-free sources of delicious foods that can appeal to a variety of dietary requirements (vegan, vegetarian, gluten free) while coming in at a reasonable price. Having personally accumulated about 25 years of experience working as an office manager and administrative assistant, I know this much  to be true: when it comes to event planning, no matter if it’s for 5, 50 or 500 people, the food is everything.

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Recently, I was invited to join my friend Anne from the LuxeLifeNYC blog for a private tasting at Duran Sandwiches New York, located on Madison Avenue and 27th Street. Duran is a family owned business, originating in Vienna, Austria, and dating back about 50 years! Now, you can get their fine sandwiches in the States! This is cause to celebrate!

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Duran New York is owned and operated by the completely charming  and super friendly Tom Szebeni, a former line producer for European Reality TV who came to the states and missed the delicious, open-faced sandwiches he grew to love while living in his native Hungary. When Tom decided he was ready for a career change, his love of good food and talent for bespoke customer service led him to open Duran New York. Many of the sandwich recipes served at the Madison Avenue location are actually based on traditional Austrian and Hungarian recipes.

Roast Beef with Red Onion
Roast Beef with Sweet Red Onion

We had a lovely time sitting with Tom and being entertained by his engaging stories while sampling a variety Duran’s most poplar sandwiches.

Egg Salad Lobster Salad Sirloin
Image Above By Gail

Above is a photo I took of three of my favorites: Egg Salad, Lobster Salad (especially good with a squirt of fresh lemon juice), and thinly sliced Sirloin with Cranberry Marmalade and White Asparagus. Each one was excellent in its own way, and you can see and taste the quality!

Avocado Salad

We also tasted the Avocado Salad (above) and the Sundried Tomato Salad (below), made with both sundried and fresh tomatoes, pureed to a smooth and creamy consistency along with sweet imported dates – amazing and totally vegan-friendly!

Sundried Tomato Salad

Assortment of 9
I Got Yer Picnic Right Here

Sandwich toppings are served on the most complimentary bread variety, with a choice of White, Pumpernickel bread with sesame seeds, or Whole wheat with oat. All breads are baked exclusively by Tubito’s Brick Oven Bakery of Suffern, NY, and delivered fresh daily to the store.

Cucumber and Farmers Cheese
Cucumber and Farmers Cheese, Perfect for Tea Time

Party Catering Set Up
Duran Sandwiches Get The Party Started

The sandwiches are not only amazingly delicious, but — as you can see by these photos — each one looks like a work of art!

Camembert Cheese
Camembert Cheese

Not only should Admins and PAs be seriously considering Duran Sandwiches as a new option for corporate catering, but being able to choose from a seemingly endless variety of toppings also presents an ideal solution for passed hors d’oeuvres for home holiday entertaining — when you’d rather enjoy time with your guests than spend time in the kitchen.  They’re also terrific to take as a picnic to nearby Madison Square Park!

Duran Sandwiches is located at 62 Madison Avenue at 27th Street in NYC. Call 212-576-1000 (tell them The Worley Gig sent you!) or visit them online at Duran Sandwiches Dot Com!

Duran Smail to Go Box

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Cheese That Looks Like a Cake

Cheese Cake
Not a Cheesecake (All Photos By Gail)

The French Cheese Board opened its first US concept store in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood in Mid-May, and we attended the opening party; because, free cheese! At this boutique storefront, which is located at 41 Spring Street, Certified Cheese Masters will showcase their knowledge of flavor chemistry and cheese and beverage pairings. The flagship location will also serve as a customizable venue for cuisine, art, lifestyle, education, and more. The FCB plans to leverage its partnerships with industry and pop culture influencers to create private events in year-long programming.

Sweet Cheeses

They also try to make the cheese displays look like art, or sweets, which is fun. However, you can tell by the way it smells in there, that they are selling cheese. Just giving you a head’s up on that.

Cheese Art
Cheese Art

The mission of the FCB, the umbrella organization for French dairy products, is to create awareness about the variety of cheeses from France available on the U.S. market. The organization also provides a platform for information, communication and exchange of ideas between French cheesemakers, researchers of the French dairy sector, artists, designers and chefs.

Tasty Treat of The Day: Cucina Fresca Gourmet Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese Box Smoked Gruyere

Macaroni and Cheese: It is my thing. A couple of months ago I attended the Food Fete press event here in NYC, where I was lucky enough to meet Kristen, the PR representative for Cucina Fresca Gourmet Foods, which operates out of Seattle. I’m excited to report that Kristen hooked The Gig up with a couple of boxes of Cucina Fresca’s frozen Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese! I ate some of it last night for dinner, so I could tell you about it today.

Cucina Fresca Tangy Gorgonzola

I received two different varieties of Mac and Cheese in my shipment: Smoked Gruyere, made with aged Gruyere, Swiss, Fontina, and a touch of lightly smoked Spanish paprika; and Tangy Gorgonzola, made with a mellow Gorgonzola cheese blended with Fontina and a tangy blue cheese. Since I was grilling up a simple burger, I decided that Tangy Gorgonzola would be a complimentary accompaniment. I was so right! This dish has a very homemade taste but is also of the quality that you would get in a nice restaurant. Not only was the cheese sauce tangy, as promised, but it has a smooth and nutty  flavor that gives it a sophisticated edge, while keeping the 100% comfort food vibe. I wanted to eat the entire dish but stopped half way, because I was full and because it was so good I wanted to save some for another meal!

Because this dish is so rich and versatile, it lends itself well to being mixed with a vegetable (broccoli would be ideal) or perhaps some cubed ham left over from another meal or a few strips of crumbled, crispy bacon. Make it fancy! I enjoyed topping a bite of my burger with a spoonful of the tangy, cheesy pasta and pretending I was eating some kind of exotic gourmet burger. Fun!

According to the press materiel I received, Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese dishes are all natural and carefully handmade in small batches. All varieties feature eggless penne pasta accompanied with rich, creamy sauce made with rBST-free milk, fresh cheeses and a touch of whole creamery butter. The secret to the creamy delicious sauce is that it is a roux-based béchamel sauce which the cheese is then melted into. Also, the pasta is cooked al-dente pre-packaging, so that it can finish cooking in your oven and absorb the flavor of the sauce. I am not a fan of hard pasta and this was cooked perfectly: tender but not mushy.

If you are one of those convenience junkies that can’t even figure out how to turn on a conventional over, don’t freak out; you can cook this product in the microwave. It will turn out OK. But let me tell you something as a confessed Foodie who loves convenience but doesn’t even own a microwave (yes, I just typed that): it is so worth it to take a few extra minutes to heat this up the way Mac and Cheese was intended to be cooked, in the oven. Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese goes right from freezer to oven (all you have to do is take it out of the box and remove the plastic lid) and cooks to a bubbling, golden, uber yummy dish of molten cheesy goodness (with the much-desired crispy, browned edges, even) in less than 45 minutes. It is so easy! It is so good!

Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese Four Varieties

Cucina Fresca offers two additional varieties besides the two sent to me: Sharp Cheddar, made with 2 year aged white cheddar; and Creamy Fontina, made with a blend of Fontina, aged Asiago and imported Parmesan cheeses. So cheesy! Each variety of Cucina Fresca Gourmet Mac and Cheese sells for $9.99 for a 20 ounce box that feeds two as a meal, but can be also be served as a side dish (reality check: it says on the box that it serves four, but seriously, who eats 5 ounces of Mac and Cheese and then stops? Answer: no one. Be smart and plan on serving two people, max, with one box of this stuff). Bon Appétit!

Visit Cucina Fresca on the web at find out about their other delicious, natural packaged foods at Cucina Fresca Dot Com.

Andy Warhol Chocolate Bars!

Andy Warhol Chocolate Bars Packaging Display

I love chocolate, and apparently the late, great Andy Warhol was a lifelong fan of the sweet stuff as well. Now, in homage to the Pioneer of Pop Art, Praim Group – a food licensing, marketing and distribution company – has secured an agreement with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., to create and distribute a line of all-natural chocolate bars featuring the likeness of the globally famous Artist on its wrappers.

Andy Warhol Chocolate Bars Packaging Idea of Waiting Quote

With four different designs, each wrapper also boasts one of Warhol’s famous quotes including, “All I Ever Really Want is Sugar,” “Everybody Must Have a Fantasy,” “The Idea of Waiting for Something Makes it More Exciting” and the artist’s arguably best known and definitely most misquoted saying, “In the Future Everybody Will Be World Famous for 15 Minutes.” The 3.5 ounce, all-natural “Chocolate Andy Bars,” available in both dark and milk chocolate, are an ideal collectible and perfect gift for any art fan!

Andy Warhol Chocolate Bars Packaging Famous Quote
Distribution outlets are still being acquired, so I can’t say how soon this edible chocolate collectible will be available at your neighborhood supermarket or specialty shop, but in the meantime the Andy Bars can be purchased for $5 each directly from the Praim Group’s website at This Link. Andy Warhol!

Donatella Offers Gourmet Pizza and Fine Italian Dining in Chelsea!


From The Golden Oven Comes What Could Be NYC’s Best Pizza  (All Photos By Anne Raso – Click on Any Image to Enlarge)

Italian food is a cuisine for which New York City is deservedly famous. From the upper west side to Little Italy, there is certainly no shortage of Italian dining establishments to frequent. But if you’re looking for one restaurant offering an updated take on tradition that can also satisfy the diverse cravings of every member of your party – whether it be for pizza, pasta, meat or fish you might want to check out Donatella, located right in the heart of Chelsea, because this place is really something special.  Proprietor Donatella Arpaia (formerly of David Burke & Donatella fame) has created a down-to-earth yet classy culinary experience where the wood-fired pizzas are joined by more-formal fare, all served in a modern, well-lit and highly inviting space.

The menu at Donatella is pleasantly varied without becoming overwhelming. You can exquisitely customize your meal by choosing what piques your interest from a broad selection of courses ranging from Bruschette ($4, $10, or a trio for $12), Meats & Cheeses ($8-10), Salads ($10–13), Fried Appetizers ($8, $9 and $12), Antipasti ($12, $13 and $15) plus Pizzas ($10 – $21), Pasta ($15 – 18), Meat  or Fish ($25/MP), Sides ($4, $7) and Desserts ($9). No matter how you choose to build your feast, you will not leave hungry!

Having brought along our heartiest appetites, we started our evening with the Chopped Vegetable Salad (above, $13.00) – generously portioned for sharing – featuring a selection of seasonal vegetables  such as crisp red cabbage, slivers of endive, crunchy snap peas, carrots, cauliflower (parboiled to a tender crispness) red and golden beets and halved cherry tomatoes in a light but slightly creamy  vinaigrette dressing. We also enjoyed the Mesclun Salad with Candied Walnuts and Pecorino ($10).

Next up was the super tasty Arancini ($9): a trio of deep-fried rice balls stuffed with fresh mozzarella, sausage and peas – crispy on the outside with no trace of greasiness, and so tempting we wolfed it down before it even had the chance to pose for a photograph!

 Pizza Polpette  – So Good!

You only need to get one look at the gilt-tiled, wood burning pizza oven which dominates the open kitchen at the rear  of the restaurant to understand that Donatella’s specialty is their pizza: cooked at 700 degrees to create a pizza baked in the authentic Neapolitan tradition. Our selection for the evening was the Pizza Polpette ($17), topped with caciocavallo cheese (a southern Italian cheese similar to provolone), fresh basil, tomato and Donatella’s famous veal meatballs. After only several bites, my dining companion and I both agreed that this thin crust pie was arguably the most delicious pizza we had ever eaten. As promised, the crust was slightly charred and chewy-crisp and the meatballs were light, succulent and mouthwatering. If you chose to forgo meatballs on your pizza in favor of another topping, I’d suggest ordering the Antipasti of Polpette Di Vitello ($18) because you really should not leave without having tried them. They are so good!

For our pasta course, it was no contest to decide on the day’s special: Homemade Cavatelli in a pea pesto sauce (no basil!) with tiny chunks of crispy, thick-cut pancetta, sweet peas, and Parmesan cheese. Pea pesto was definitely something new for me and I enjoyed its lighter, creamier texture  (easy on the olive oil) while the pancetta added a delightful saltiness to the dish. The cavatelli is served al dente, so if you prefer your pasta softer, mention that when placing your order.

Pronounced “Swag-a-tell”

Unwisely, we had left no room in our tummies for dessert, but that does not mean we didn’t engorge ourselves further with two of the menu’s sweet selections. My dining companion had spotted one of her favorite Italian pastry dishes, which she identified as Sfogliatelle Riccia, at a neighboring table and insisted we order one to share. To our great delight the Sfog, as she called it, arrived warm from the oven. This classic Italian dessert consists of multiple layers of flakey pastry stuffed with fresh, orange-infused ricotta cheese filling. It was unlike anything I’ve tasted and absolutely delicious. Highly  recommended!

The Bittersweet Chocolate Parfait: a layered dessert consisting of bittersweet Valrhona chocolate pudding resting atop fresh raspberries in gelee, then topped with a mascarpone cream and thin layer of  burnt sugar, similar to that found on a crème brulee, was very rich but not overly sweet.

Bittersweet Chocolate Parfait

While Donatella is a great “Date Spot” and a fun place for just catching up over dinner with a friend, I’d recommend you try to go with a group of three or more so you can order many different dishes and then share, because here the rule seems to be “If Some is Good, More is Better!”

Donatella is Located at 184 Eighth Ave. (Between 19th & 20th Streets), New York, NY. Phone (212) 493-5150 for Reservations!