[NYC] Amélie Wine Bar - Simple Brunch in West Village

Categories: French, Brunch, Wine Bar
Date Visited: April 2018
Address: 22 West 8th Street, New York, NY 10011
Price:  $/$$  (Very affordable for Manhattan!)
Reservations: Not necessary for brunch for a smaller party. At least I had no problem getting a table at walk-in. For dinner, however, reservations are strongly recommended!

Thoughts: The menu here consists of quintessential French brunch dishes: burgers, omelets, salads, eggs benedicts, croque-monsieur, etc. For a medium to larger sized party, I would recommend ordering one of their charcuterie/cheese combo platters, which is great (I tried it for dinner on another visit). Service is friendly, although it could be faster and coffee quality definitely needs some upgrading. 

Otherwise, this is your solid friendly neighborhood brunch spot when you're too lazy or tired to line up for 1+ hours for brunch! They swapped out my potatoes for avocado without extra costs. Also, all the dishes are very price-friendly for what it's worth! Very affordable considering they're located in a high rental cost area in Manhattan.

  Amélie Burger / $12  Pat Lafrieda brisket meat - tomato - red onion - lettuce - served with French fries

Amélie Burger / $12
Pat Lafrieda brisket meat - tomato - red onion - lettuce - served with French fries

  Eggs Meurette / $13  red wine poached eggs - pearl onions - mushrooms - bacon - toasted brioche   My friend swapped out the bacon for avocado instead!

Eggs Meurette / $13
red wine poached eggs - pearl onions - mushrooms - bacon - toasted brioche

My friend swapped out the bacon for avocado instead!

 On the right:  French Toast with fresh berries / $10

On the right: French Toast with fresh berries / $10

 Amelie's Brunch Menu as of Nov 2017, but the menu was the same when I went in April 2018

Amelie's Brunch Menu as of Nov 2017, but the menu was the same when I went in April 2018

[NYC] Dos Toros - Fast Casual California-style Mexican Eats!

Categories: Fast Casual, Californian-Mexican
Date Visited:  Multiple times in 2017, 2018
Address: Multiple locations across NYC and Chicago! Check out locations here. 
Price:  ~$10-15/meal
Verdict: HECK YES! People who know me well know that I've been frequenting Dos Toros way too much. Similar to Chipotle... but fresher and tastier! 

The menu is very straightforward: burritos, bowls, tacos and quesadillas.
Create your own meal by picking your choice of protein(s): carnitas, grilled chicken, grilled steak, market veggies, +  rice and/or beans and/or salad + generous toppings of (optional) grilled fajita veggies, shredded cheese, tomato salsas and sour cream. And last but not least... just +$0.92 to top it all with guacamole! 

I find the ingredients simply more fresh and less watered down than Chipotle (esp. the sour cream and guacamole). Try it out!

Website: www.dostoros.com

 3 tacos - each with different customized protein/topping combos! The one in the front is the new market vegetable option (seasonal squash & greens, with cremini mushrooms & shishito peppers). Great as a vegetarian option!

3 tacos - each with different customized protein/topping combos! The one in the front is the new market vegetable option (seasonal squash & greens, with cremini mushrooms & shishito peppers). Great as a vegetarian option!

 Three diff types of tacos!

Three diff types of tacos!

 Healthy low-carb chicken salad - lettuce salad base, non-spicy tomato salsa, grilled chicken and guacamole! Low-carb friendly, healthy and delicious!

Healthy low-carb chicken salad - lettuce salad base, non-spicy tomato salsa, grilled chicken and guacamole! Low-carb friendly, healthy and delicious!

 Dos Toros' new vegetarian "protein" option - seasonal squash and greens, with cremini mushrooms and shishito peppers! Veggie up! #vegout

Dos Toros' new vegetarian "protein" option - seasonal squash and greens, with cremini mushrooms and shishito peppers! Veggie up! #vegout

[San Francisco] Fort Funston (ie. Dog's Disneyland)

Who: Humans who like to hike + dogs who love nature/play
What: They say Fort Funston is "Dog's Disneyland." IT'S TRUE.
Where: Fort Funston, San Francisco, California 94101. There is a huge parking lot off of Skyline Blvd. There is a sign that tells you where to go and where to park.
Why: If you love your dog, you must bring him/her here! Your dog will be super happy and therefore make you happy. What used to be a military fort has now become a popular off-leash dog park and beach with a ton of trails. You can stroll on the various trails, meander on the beach, and hike along the cliffs. It is the only park in the GGNRA (Golden Gate National Recreation area) that allows off-leash dogs.

There are typically HUNDREDS (yes I know) of friendly, well-behaved dogs for your dog to play and socialize with.

My dog is normally very happy. But never have I seen him THIS happy. If you love your dog, bring him/her here and he/she will have the best time!

Being next to the Pacific, it can get very windy and cold. Bring a jacket!

 Love at first sight with the Ocean!

Love at first sight with the Ocean!

[NYFW 2018] Marcel Ostertag Autumn/Winter Runway Show

What: New York Fashion Week
Who:  Marcel Ostertag
Where: Gallery II at Spring Studios , 50 Varick Street Floor 5 New York 10013 NY US
When:  February 14, 2018 (Wednesday) 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Why: Showcasing Autumn/Winter 2018 Collection

Marcel Ostertag is the name brand of German designer Marcel Ostertag. A graduate of the renowned Central St. Martins College in London, Marcel Ostertag started his own label in 2006 and claims to draw his inspiration from nature and travels to foreign countries – though he claims to never forget his roots. His pieces are all exclusively made in Germany, which is impressive given that we all know the reputation of German craftsmanship. 

I stalked his Twitter account and his bio says: "Crystals, Diamonds, Studs, Pearls and blossoming flowers explode like fireworks in your mind. Fragile seduction, sensual explosion." Bizarre, right? I guess his colorful personality translates into his interesting designs!

P.S. He was an ex-ballet dancer!

[Shanghai] Qimin Organic Hotpot & Market 齐民市集

Categories: Hotpot, Organic, Chinese
Date Visited:  Multiple times in December 2017 & January 2018
Address: 4/F, Reel Mall, 1601 Nanjing Xi Lu  | 南京西路1601号芮欧百货4层 (常德路) -- but they have multiple locations!
Price:  ~120-160RMB per person
Verdict: YES! Qimin Organic Hotpot is the first organic hotpot in Shanghai. Founded by the same people behind Green & Safe, Qimin Organic Hotpot is a clean & pleasant hotpot experience. It's perfect for dates and small groups (though I did have a dinner here once with 8 people which worked fine). Casual and fun, I LOVE this place!

Reservations: Recommended although not necessary. 
Hours: Mon-Sun (11am-10pm)

 Restaurant Interior of JingAn (Reel Department Store) Location 

Restaurant Interior of JingAn (Reel Department Store) Location 

 Customize your own condiments and sauces

Customize your own condiments and sauces

 Combo meat platter!

Combo meat platter!

 Qimin's Organic Yunnan Mushrooms

Qimin's Organic Yunnan Mushrooms

 Black truffle dumplings

Black truffle dumplings

 Deep fried shrimp cakes

Deep fried shrimp cakes

 Shrimp platter

Shrimp platter

 Qimin's Organic Produce & Products Market inside the Restaurant (lots of products from Green & Safe) 

Qimin's Organic Produce & Products Market inside the Restaurant (lots of products from Green & Safe) 

[NYC] Tori Shin - One Michelin Star Yakitori Restaurant 

Categories: Japanese, Yakitori, Omakase
Address: 362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
Date Visited: Nov 2017
Price: ~$100-140/per person ($70 for chef's choice omakase set)
Hours: Thurs-Sat 5:30pm-12:30am, Sun-Wed 5:30pm-11:30pm
Reservations Needed?: Yes

Summary: A sophisticated Tokyo-style yakitori restaurant. Owner Chef Shu Ikeda uses Kishu “Binchotan” charcoal to grill all its organically-sourced meats and vegetables to make them crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. The restaurant has earned one Michelin Star for 7 consecutive years (2012-2017)! Definitely recommended!

Tori Shin is perfect for chicken-lovers and for those who want something other than sushi for a special occasion or to splurge a little on a decadent Japanese meal. You have the option to order a la carte, but omakase is generally the way to go. There are a few omakase options, though the whole table has to order the same thing. I recommend the Chef's Omakase Set ($70), which is the best deal for value and allows you to try all their delicious varieties. The Chef's Omakase Set comes with pickled vegetables, daikon radish, two types of seasonal dishes, 6 meat skewers (chef's pick), 2 vegetable skewers, a rice dish (a choice between oyako don, soboro don, or chazuke), and a dessert (ice cream or seasonal dessert). 

Appetizers (NOT Omakase):

  • Sea urchin with gold flakes: This was NOT part of the omakase course. Must be ordered separately. I'm usually a huge sea urchin fan, but I thought this was just okay. The uni came out cold and not too sweet.   

Omakase

  1. Cabbage wrapped turkey and duck on daikon radish with white miso/fish broth
  2. Chawanmushi with Burgundy Truffle, gingko nuts and chicken breast
  3. Chicken heart & ribs skewers
  4. Chicken heart skewers
  5. Chicken rib skewers
  6. Pork belly skewers
  7. Chicken tendon skewers
  8. Chicken breast skewers
  9. Chicken meatball skewers
  10. Oyakodon 
  11. Dessert (Ice cream & crème brûlée in 3 flavors) 
 Non-Omakase appetizer:  Sea urchin with gold flakes

Non-Omakase appetizer: Sea urchin with gold flakes

 (1) Cabbage wrapped turkey and duck on daikon radish with white miso/fish broth

(1) Cabbage wrapped turkey and duck on daikon radish with white miso/fish broth

 (2) Chawanmushi with Burgundy Truffle, gingko nuts and chicken breast

(2) Chawanmushi with Burgundy Truffle, gingko nuts and chicken breast

 (3) Chicken heart skewers

(3) Chicken heart skewers

 Chicken rib skewers

Chicken rib skewers

 Chicken tendon skewers! One of my favorites!

Chicken tendon skewers! One of my favorites!

 Pork Belly Skewer - SO SO GOOD. Fatty and delicious. One of my all-time favorites!

Pork Belly Skewer - SO SO GOOD. Fatty and delicious. One of my all-time favorites!

 Chicken meatball skewers!

Chicken meatball skewers!

 Chicken Breast Skewers

Chicken Breast Skewers

 Oyakodon (chicken & egg over rice!)

Oyakodon (chicken & egg over rice!)

 Torishin Omakase Dessert Menu

Torishin Omakase Dessert Menu

 Hojicha (roasted green tea) ice cream

Hojicha (roasted green tea) ice cream

 Crème brûlée in 3 flavors: Green Tea - Black Sesame - Roasted Hojicha Tea 

Crème brûlée in 3 flavors: Green Tea - Black Sesame - Roasted Hojicha Tea