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20 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012

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One of the great things about what I do is getting to meet new people at cool places where I often enjoy crisp cocktails, delicious food, and more often than not, pleasant conversation. This past week I had the privilege of checking out the new colonial French-inspired Nolita basement bar, 1534.

I spent the afternoon with some fine people – all of us sampling the bar’s varieties of small plates including succulent lamb meatballs, plump shrimp with coconut curry dipping sauce, mini croque monsieur’s, a take on tuna ceviche with won ton chips, a pizza-like tart, and more.

The food was accompanied by a number of specialty cocktails – most of which are not currently served at the bar, but very well may be in time.

We started out with a Hot Apple Xante – a hot toddy of sorts made with 1 ½ oz. apple juice, 1 ½ oz Xanté Pear Liqueur, and a Cinnamon Stick. It was the perfect start as I was just coming in out of the frigid weather. It warmed the soul and my body – which needed it – seriously, it was cold last week!

After this cocktail and a little nibble, I was handed a glass of Black Tower Dry Riesling. It was a refreshing way to cleanser the palate and prepare for the next cocktail and food choices. Rieslings tend to be thought of as strictly sweeter wines. This one, however was more on the dry side – crisp and refreshing.

Our next cocktail selection was called the BLT. It was an interesting take on a Bloody Mary, but made with rum, and garnished rather interestingly. The ingredients are 1.5 oz of Bacon-infused Flor de Caña 7 yr rum, 2 oz Sacramento tomato juice, Dash Worcestershire sauce, Pinch celery salt, Pinch black pepper, Squeeze of lemon juice, Dollop of horseradish, and Fresh Cilantro to taste. It is then garnished with – ready for this? – One piece of bib lettuce wrapped around a thick piece of crispy apple wood smoked bacon and an avocado slice skewered with a toothpick, and topped with a cherry tomato. They could have stopped at the bacon and I would have been satisfied. The Flor de Caña 7 yr rum is a very nice rum, though I may be hesitant to make this cocktail again. The flavors were a bit too sharp for my taste. I’d rather sup this rum on its own, and throw bourbon into the BLT recipe, but that’s just me.

For dessert famed pastry chef Martin Howard baked and served up some tasty treats that feature Lucid absinthe, launched in 2007 as the first absinthe to be legally available in America. We started with a clever cupcake called The Eyes Have It – A devil’s food cupcake filled with Lucid buttercream, topped with a rich ganache and white chocolate eyes. Each cupcake was just bigger than bite-size, but packed the punch of a full dessert.

As if that wasn’t enough, we then tried an apple treat called Lucid Apple Pan Dowdy made with Apples, Lucid soaked raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon baked in a casserole dish covered with a flaky pastry crust, and served with a Lucid whipped cream. The best way to describe this would be to call it an apple pie on crack. Good stuff, man!

We were given a cocktail called the Lucid Legend – a thick, creamy cocktail made with Lucid Absinthe that was surprisingly bright despite its creamy texture.

Before we said our goodbyes, we were treated to a glass of Borderies XO 70 Cognac. Normally I do not drink cognac, but this was really smooth – the perfect warmer before heading back out into the cold.

The afternoon was an absolute delight. I enjoyed good food, great drinks, and made some new friends. I will be returning to 1534. Hopefully by then these drinks will be mainstays on their menu. If not, there’s plenty more to choose from.

We’ve been covering Shake Shack for some time now on, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that for me, it hit so close to home. On a brisk afternoon, I stood at the steps of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall as Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz introduced Danny Meyer to a crowd of (mostly) reporters, and announced the November 2011 opening of Shake Shack Brooklyn.

Marty kicked off the press conference with a mix of his usual wit and enthusiasm for the Brooklyn food scene (which he, himself has been very instrumental in helping to move forward), as well as his utmost respect for Danny Meyer and his team, and privilege to be welcoming them into his borough referring to Shake Shack as “The gold standard for burgers, flat-top hot dogs, & frozen custard.”

According to Marty Markowitz, “Brooklyn has become one of the culinary capitals of the country.” The last decade has brought about an influx of Michelin rated chefs, clever eateries, and national chains, some of the time to the chagrin of local business owners. Tony’s Famous Pizza has held ground at 409 Fulton Street for the past 20 years, and is an established neighborhood institution. Many worry that the addition of larger, corporate backed stores & restaurants like Shake Shack are pushing out the mom & pop shops. But according to Joe Chan, President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership they have “worked very aggressively to help (Tony) to find another location” in the neighborhood where he will be reopening “in a very short period of time.”

Regardless of opposition, Marty declared that “Brooklyn is sizzling over our new Shake Shack.” If the lines at the existing locations in Madison Square Park and Citi Field (to name just two) are any indication of the truth, then Marty was spot on! Personally, I liked the challenge of getting a burger – trekking into Manhattan or torturing myself through a Mets game (I am a lifelong fan, but the last few years have been rough), and will have to practice restraint with the new restaurant looming less than a subway stop away.

Danny Meyer has always been a fan of Brooklyn, coming to the borough in the 80’s when he’d first moved to New York to eat lunch at Popeye’s Chicken or to take cooking classes at Abraham & Strauss (now Macy’s.) Many who have worked in one of more of Danny’s restaurants in the past now own, operate, or cook in local restaurants, another reason he was so excited to set up shop downtown.

Other speakers included Shake Shack CEO David Swinghammer, Shake Shack COO Randy Garutti, Commissioner of the Dept of Small Business Services of NYC, Rob Walsh, and Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President, Joe Chan. I even got a minute of face to face time with Danny and asked him if he planned on expanding his Shake Shack empire beyond the east coast. He replied that at this time they do not, that having restaurants located in “The Eastern Standard Timezone is working quite well for us.”
Click For Slide Show

Shake Shack is currently located across Manhattan including in its original Madison Square Park location, Citi Field in Queens, Westport, CT, Miami Beach, FL, and Saratoga Springs, New York. A Washington DC location is also in the works. Shake Shack will open in Fulton Mall in November 2011. For more information visit and

Choza Taqueria
66 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10016

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Choza Taqueria‘s Madison Avenue location is a spin-off, of sorts from its original location in the new Open Air Cafe – a family of restaurants located at 1 Centre Street in Foley Square (within feet of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Municipal Building), offering classic American (Lucky Buns), Italian (Sauced), Mexican (Choza) and specialty delights (The Pantry) with a gourmet twist.

I think open air, and I think warm weather. Moving into the cooler months, I’m happy that I will be able to continue to get the classic, authentic Mexican food served at Choza Taqueria, but indoors. Choza offers classic Mexican favorites like tacos, and salads with burritos on hand for a little Americanization. The menu, and the way it works is similar to the Chipotle model, but with better food – MUCH better food.

They offer the same meats – chicken, pork, and steak (or veggie) in the same mediums – taco, burrito, bowl, or salad, but also have daily specials including a daily tamale, and the toppings are much more creative. Last week, I tried one of each taco – chicken, steak, pork, & veggie, plus their special chicken taco of the day, grilled corn, Mexican style (with mayo, cheese, and hot pepper), a tamale, and chips with some of their homemade guacamole. Never before have I had sliced carrots in salsa fresca, but on my chicken taco it worked – wonderfully. The tortillas are made fresh, the cilantro chopped fresh. The biggest difference between Choza and a place like Chipotle was the freshness. I always feel dirty and a bad fullness after eating Chipotle. But after my meal at Choza I felt fine – satisfied, and full in a good way…a very good way.

For more information about Choza and the rest of the Open Air Cafe, visit

And for more photos, click the slide show below. Expand for full captions.

Yesterday, I enjoyed probably one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever had. It was thick and juicy, perfectly (under)cooked, and made from some of the tastiest beef. Upon asking about the spice content, I was informed that my burger was actually a combination of top sirloin, shell, chuck, and other beef butchered on site, and ground up with fat and all to make what had been sitting on my plate (and at that point in my stomach) so delicious. There is, in fact no special spice mixture used – only a little salt & pepper.

It’s meals like those that make you happy to live at a time when restaurants put so much thought into creating perfection. It’s meals like these that you wish would never end; that you could package them and take them home with you to pull out of the cabinet and enjoy at any time. But this burger didn’t make it past my table – and the time it would have even lasted in my refrigerator had I not been able to finish it in one sitting is questionable.

You’re wondering where this burger is from, aren’t you? Another time, I promise…

People have often confused beef jerky with the beef sticks often known as Slim Jim – a fine product, indeed but not jerky in the traditional sense. Real beef jerky is made with meat that has been cut into strips, trimmed of fat, marinated in a spicy, salty, sweet rub, or liquid, and dried or smoked with low heat or is occasionally just salted and sun-dried. The result is a salty, savory, or semisweet snack that can be eaten fresh, or be stored for a long time without refrigeration. Huey’s Chewies is a company that has taken this basic recipe, kicked it up a notch by expanding the marinading period (from the usual few hours to over a week) resulting in some of the best tasting jerky I’ve ever eaten.

The key for me is the meat. Like the restaurant where I got that awesome burger, Huey’s Chewies uses the best cuts of USDA choice beef in their recipe – not meat byproducts that may be found in other, inferior brands. “Our goal is to hear each customer say, I want more!” says Hugh “Huey” Mura, who along with his brother Glen started the company in Monmouth County, NJ. “That’s why our slogan is Gonna Want More!” He certainly said it! I first tried Huey’s Chewies at the Bear Mountain State Park Oktoberfest just a few weeks ago. I’ve since ordered a couple more pouches of the delicious jerky, both of which are almost gone – a testament not only to my love of beef, but to the recipe used in making Huey’s Chewies.

Huey’s Chewies debuted at the Bear Mountain Oktoberfest on Oct. 9th, and launched their homepage with only a live email for inquiries. They will be launching an order page soon. In the meantime, anyone interested in ordering Huey’s Chewies can do so by hitting the email link at the bottom of the homepage. The prices range from $7.50 for a quarter pound to $13.50 for a half pound, and finally $24.50 for a full pound plus First Class shipping, unless Priority Shipping is desired. In the coming months, Huey’s Chewies will be testing new flavors of meat and vegetable jerky. The process will remain the same: hand craft small batches, allowing time to blend the flavors of our all-natural ingredients, resulting in a taste sensation “not yet seen in the world of jerky lovers!”

For more information, or to order your own batch of Huey’s Chewies visit

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