Sunday, August 29, 2010

Best Ever Dinner Value in NYC

The family went to the "Big Apple" last weekend to see, and taste, the sights and sounds.   Somehow NYC has become the candy capital of the US, we came back with bags filled with M&M's (compliments of the new M&M store in Times Square), gummy's of all varieties (thanks to Dylan's Candy Bar on 59th and Lexington).   And oh, we did hit the new Pop Tart store as well, and pimp'd out some Pop Tarts.

In between our sugar sessions, we did manage to see some attractions, and eat at a few good restaurants.  One in particular is worth writing about.

Where:  Lower East Side, 83 1st Street @ Fifth Ave, New York, NY  10003.  We were in this part of town to see Stomp, which is playing nearby at the Orpheum theatre.  A great show, we highly recommend it, but go on a Friday and Sunday to get discounted tickets.  

Why It's the Best: Sometimes finding a good meal for the money can be just as exciting as a great dining experience.   In this case, we found great food and a great deal.   Dinner for four for just over $115 (not including tip), a good value in any town, but in Manhattan, this is a real winner.   

A few things made this such a find.  Let's start with the drinks, a martini was $9, a vodka tonic an amazing $6 and a good glass of chardonnay for $7.  Take advantage of the specials and the deals are even better.  Happy hour offers $4 wine, beer and rail drinks during 5-8pm, and 8-10 pm in the lounge.  The early bird special (5-6:30 pm) on Sun-Thursday nets you 20% off your meal.   Additionally, our server and the rest of the staff, was very friendly and attentive.

They have a wood-burning oven and offer a daily special calzone.  The menu also contained a couple of traditional Italian favorites (at least around our house) not commonly found in Italian restaurants, including Arancia (rice balls) and Penne alla Cuccuzzi (sauteed zucchini in olive oil). 

How We Know:  Martinis at our hotel (and most hotels/restaurants in NYC) ranged from $14-17.   Jen's family is Italian, and are very good cooks, making many authentic recipes not always found in local Italian restaurants -- the two I mentioned above.  We were both surprised to see them on the menu, and even more surprised at how delicious they tasted.   

Review and Directions: Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Sunday, August 15, 2010

DC Restaurant Week August 16-22

Tomorrow is the start of the annual DC Restaurant Week, your opportunity to dine at some of the area's best restaurants on the cheap.  A three course, fixed menu lunch for $20.10, and $35.10 for a three course, fixed menu dinner at participating restaurants.   Visit the website below to see which restaurants will participate in this event so you can make your reservations.

How to Make it the Best: Although $35.10 for a three course dinner sounds like a good deal, there is a better way to make it pay off.   The trick is the "fixed course" lunch or dinner.   What we learned over the years is that some of the restaurants participating aren't really offering you much of a discount.   They pick the courses you have to choose from, which limits your savings.   

To get the most out the promotion, pick restaurants that are premium priced, like steakhouses, and avoid lower priced restaurants like tapas.  Also, pick a night of the the week that's typically slow like a Monday or Tuesday.   Restaurants typically feature other promotions on those nights that you can also take advantage of, like half price bottles of wine.

Enjoy the week!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Best Ever Secret Sauce

Looking for that special something that can be added to your grilled food that will be sure to impress friends/neighbors at the next cook-out?   This receipe from Williams-Sonoma Complete Grilling Cookbook is just what the chef ordered to get them talking.  Originally intended as a finishing sauce for swordfish, we find it has worked equally well on chicken, shrimp, and other firm textured fish, such as tuna.

What:  Lime and Cilantro Sauce (click on the recipe to enlarge)
Why It's the Best:   For starters, it has cilantro, and, if you're one of our regular readers, you know we're big fans of cilantro.  The subtle kick of the jalapeno brings the sauce to life.  Another wonderful thing about the sauce is that it's so versatile.  We mentioned that it works well with chicken and shrimp, and even though we haven't tried it on skirt or hanger steak, we think it would be delicious on those cuts of meat, as well (think fajitas).  And, we're fairly certain that, like us, you'll enjoy the taste so much, that you will set some aside to use as a dipping sauce for your finished product.  Lastly, it's quick and easy to make, and only needs to be refrigerated for 2 hours. That said, the longer it can be chilled, the better, and you can keep it for days.

How We Know:  This receipe has been a family favorite, and has been passed around for years now.  It's just a no-brainer to add a "zip" to the same old grilled fish/chicken.

Craving Level:  Bi-monthly, when grilling season slows down with the cold, but definitely weekly during the summer months.