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Yield Wine Bar – A San Francisco Treat!

Yield Wine Bar – A San Francisco Treat!

Yield & Pause Wine Bar – 3rd Ave between 20th and 22nd

Wine 9/10

Food 10/10

Service 10/10

Since my last entry, over 2 years ago (gasp!!) there have been several updates in the life of WWF but none more significant than marrying my soul mate and best friend this past June (I couldn’t resist inserting at least one photo!)

Photo credits to Ron Soliman, our amazing wedding photographer!

As a newly engaged couple and now as newlyweds, we’ve dined, we’ve drank, and we’ve traveled (a LOT!) and sadly I did not find the time to write about it. Having temporarily relocated to San Francisco for a few weeks my inner writer has been revived so here goes….

Ryan and I have had the good fortunate of temporarily living in San Francisco in the Potrero Hill neighborhood. Getting a chance to be on the west coast for a few weeks is amazing (especially during the East coast winter!) and has afforded us time to explore the sites, culture, surrounding towns, and of course, the food and wine scene! In advance of our trip I did research on Yelp, Zagat, and Time Out to find spots to try and was particularly eager to find an excellent wine bar. Being so close to Napa and Sonoma already had me salivating….

First on the list, we ventured to Valencia Street (Mission neighborhood) to try out a wine bar called Etcetera. While the atmosphere was nice (dimly lit without being overly romantic – we saw several singles come in for a glass of wine) we were both disappointed in the wine and food selection and the service. I know this spot has strong reviews on Yelp but on the night we visited it was a miss for us.

Going back over my WWF notes I suggested that we try a wine bar closer to home (in the Dogpatch neighborhood) so a few nights later we headed to Yield. Upon walking in we were greeted by Nic, a charming and friendly bartender who quickly offered us water and menus. While browsing the menus we both noted a killer wine list and despite being small, a food menu filled with some mighty eats! Nic also informed us of their all day happy hour deal – a half bottle of wine for $12. While we hadn’t planned to eat and had dinner reservations I couldn’t help but want to sample one of their unique and delicious snacks! We settled on sharing a carafe of the Carmenere and an order of the brussel sprouts.

Brussel sprouts? At a wine bar?? On a date?? This may not sound romantic to you but Ryan and I love these little green babies almost as much as we love garlic (almost!) so to us it was the perfect bar food. And before you pass judgment I have to tell you that that Yield does something special to these veggies – they tasted like candy!! OK maybe not candy but they were incredibly delicious and FAR better than any brussel sprouts I’ve ordered or cooked before. Move over brown butter, pancetta, and bacon! Yield has a new “secret sauce” and it’s a far healthier alternative!

So what made these green veggies taste so delicious? The secret Nic told me was lime juice (lots and lots of it!) and red pepper flake. I was shocked that was really all there was to it so I made a knock off version a couple of nights later and have to say while it was good, it was not the same as Yield.

We thoroughly enjoyed our wine, food, the service, and the ambiance at Yield and hope to get back before our San Francisco tour is through. I find it challenging to find a wine bar with great food and wine that does not come across as pretentious (especially in NYC) and Yield does just that. They are a real gem for Dog Patch’s growing foodie neighborhood and I hope more locals take time out to check them out!

NOTES

Yield has a weekly trivia night on Tuesdays hosted by Nic that was voted one of the best trivia nights by Thrillist in November 2014. They also have a sister wine bar called Pause located on Market Street

If you like Paella you must try Socarrat Paella Bar!

Socarrat Paella Bar – Spanish Tapas
Chelsea – 19th between 7th and 8th Ave
Food – 9/10
Ambiance – 8/10
Service – 9/10
Price – $10 – 24
Best for – tapas, paella

Socarrat Paella Bar – Chelsea

Socarrat had been recommended to us by a friend of Ryan’s as her favorite restaurant in the city. When I’m given a restaurant suggestion I always look it up and when I saw the menu at Socarrat I made a mental note to go here the next time we wanted Spanish food, namely paella!

The layout inside Socarrat is somewhat unusual and wouldn’t have been what I’d expected if I hadn’t done my research!  The restaurant has two narrow rooms that each hold one long table with bar stools for diners to sit across from each other and next to other parties.  I usually wouldn’t like this type of set up (and I’m still not sure I really do) but the uniqueness added an appeal to the spot and after a few minutes I barely noticed the strangers on either side of us.  I’d also point out that from the moment we walked in until the moment we left the service was very good.  Our waters were kept filled, food order was prompt, and the waiters were friendly!

To start off the night we ordered a glass of Albarino (for me) and Spanish Cabernet (for Ryan).  Both of which were very good and healthy pours of wine!  Later on in our meal we noticed the couple next to us had ordered a pitcher of Red Sangria so we decided to share a glass and it was quite likely the best Sangria I’ve had at a restaurant (Ryan makes a mean Sangria so I’d say he has my top spot!).  Next time I would definitely go with that as it was not sugary at all and was very refreshing.

Now on to the food!!!

The menu at Socarrat features a variety of tapas (i.e. Spanish potatoes, bacon wrapped dates, garlic shrimp, and octopus) and at its core, a selection of eight different paellas.  The paella is cooked to order so expect to eat no earlier than 30-35 minutes from the time you order and they may only be prepared for a minimum of 2 people.  So go hungry or go with a group!

After some debate (there were 8 options!) we settled on ordering the Black Rice paella – squid ink rice served with shrimp, scallops, calamari, and fish.  We had taken note of the size of the paella portions upon walking into the restaurant and decided to skip appetizers in favor of stuffing ourselves with the house specialty.  And boy I’m glad that we did!  We managed to eat almost the entire paella but we were STUFFED.  The food was AWESOME!  The seafood was incredibly fresh and tasty and the rice was extremely flavorful without being too oily or creamy.

Me with our delicious paella dish!

Socarrat has two locations in the city, one in Nolita and one in Chelsea.  If you’re ever in the mood for paella I suggest checking them out.  You will not be disappointed.  I think this is a great spot to go as a couple, with a friend, or as a group.  Although I’d suggest making a reservation…the room filled up very quickly and stayed that way for our entire meal and space is somewhat limited.

Do you have a favorite place for paella in the city?

I Don’t Know What I Want to Eat – Let’s go to Virage!

Virage – Mediterranean
East Village – 2nd Ave at 7th Street
Food – 7/10
Ambiance – 8/10
Service – 7/10
Price – $7-18
Best For – when you don’t know what you want to eat!

It’s Friday night in New York.  I know I want to dine out and try somewhere new with my boyfriend but we can’t decide on what we’d like to eat.  How about Indian?  Nah.  Do you want sushi?  Not really.  How about Italian?  We just ate pizza.  Yes I know high quality problems!  During a quick glance on MenuPages a spot catches my eye that has a little bit of everything in a reasonably cute atmosphere.  So we make out way to the East Village to Virage.

Virage calls itself a Mediterranean restaurant and while this does encompass the majority of their dishes, their menu offers an extensive range of entrees and appetizers beyond just traditional Mediterranean.  The entrees range from salads, pastas, kabobs, and mussels to several tapas and crostini options.  This seemed like the magic spot for our indecisive foodie selves!

The restaurant was spacious with high ceilings and had several intimate tables inside as well as on the street dining along the front and side.  Since September weather confuses me I wasn’t keen on the idea of sitting outdoors so we took a table inside but next to windows that were open to the sidewalk dining.  Best of both worlds!

The waiter quickly greeted us and brought our menus.  He was polite for the remainder of the meal but I didn’t find their service to be as attentive as I’d like.  This was likely in part due to the fact that there were 2-3 waiters servicing both the tables inside and outside the restaurant (I spent 1 summer as a waitress but I still seem to notice these things!).

To eat we started with the fried artichokes and ordered the mussels with white wine and garlic (for me) and the chicken kabob (for him) as entrees.  The fried artichokes weren’t breaded and tasted as though they had been quickly pan fried.  A large portion of them (enough for 2!) were served over a bit of arugula with manchego cheese on top.  I thought the flavors went well together and like that there was a bit of salad to accompany a traditionally stand-alone fried appetizer.  Unfortunately my mussels and fries did not fare as strongly.  I found the fries to be soggy and not at all what I’d classify as the type of “frites” that should accompany my “moules”.  I tried to explain this to Ryan and while he seemed to pacify my complaints deep down I think he thought I was a little critical!  While the mussels were just OK as the broth was more buttery than I’d like.  On the plus side Ryan really liked his chicken kabob and the accompanying basmati rice.  The chicken was flavorful and served over a traditional Mediterranean salad of lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

To drink we shared a carafe of Cotes du Rhone red wine which was really yummy!  I really liked that they had the carafe size as an option.  More restaurants should do this!

Overall I’d say Virage is a good spot to grab a bite if you want a decent ambiance and a range of food options.  I’d go here again if I was in the neighborhood but I don’t see it becoming a staple in my NYC dining rotation.  There are just too many other fabulous places in the city!

Do you have a favorite spot in the East Village? Since I’m new to downtown I’d love to hear your picks!

Special Thanks and Update from WWF

My boyfriend has been giving me a hard time about my lack of blogging in correlation to the amount of eating, drinking and exploring I’ve been doing. And sadly I have to admit he is right!  This weekend alone I had my first culinary visit to Brooklyn, tried a Mediterranean spot in the East Village, had the best paella I’ve ever had, and found a solid neighborhood wine bar.  Not to mention that this Friday I leave for my first trip to San Francisco and Napa where I’m sure there will be plenty of wine and food to be blogged about!!

Special thanks are in order to my friends, family, and other followers who have remained supportive and patient as I learn how to manage my blog writing to keep pace with my eating, drinking, and exploring.  Stay tuned for some delicious posts to follow later on this week.  I always love to hear your comments online or in person so keep them coming!  Now it looks like I better get writing to get my readers and most importantly, my #1 fan ;), caught up!

XOXO,

Erika

Upper West Side Greats!

I promised myself that before I moved I would post a foodie review of my top Upper West Side neighborhood spots.  Although it’s been well over two months since I moved to Union Square (where the eating has just begun!) finally here are my top UWS picks:

Wandering Wino Foodie Top Picks

Places I’ll Miss the Most – Alachi MasalaJosie’sCitrusPomodoroLevain Bakery

Top Date Picks – ShalelAmberPomodoro

Group Dinners – CitrusCalle OchoGabriela’s

Sushi – Amber

Amber has several locations throughout New York City.  During my time living on the Upper West I ate here likely over 15 times and ordered takeout far too many times to count!  They don’t skimp on fish in their rolls and I’ve always had timely delivery and good service.  My favorite roll is their Pink Lady – salmon, avocado, mango and asparagus wrapped in pink soy paper…its delicious and if you dine in the restaurant the presentation is really cute!  I also really enjoy their spicy rolls and know Ryan loves their eel and yellowtail.  While Amber’s sushi and sushi rolls are delicious they also have a great selection of Thai dishes and appetizers that are quite tasty and rival other Thai spots in the city.  Favorites of mine include the chicken pineapple fried rice and steamed vegetable dumplings.

runners-up: Fusha, Tenzan, Haru

 Italian – Pomodoro

Pomodoro was the first Italian restaurant I tried on the Upper West when I moved to the neighborhood and it did not disappoint!  I liked it so much that I brought my family there when they first visited my new apartment and suggested it as a dinner spot with Ryan’s family when we had just started dating (now there’s a risk!).  Although their food is delicious (classic red sauces, various pasta dishes, and quality seafood), their atmosphere is comforting (brick walls, darkly candle lit tables) I think it’s these memories with loved ones that make it such a long time favorite of mine and a place I will always remember.

runners-up:  La Vela, Coppola’s West

 American / New American – Josie’s

Josie’s Shrimp Unfried Rice. A Wino Foodie Fav!!

Yes this place might be advertised as specializing in organic and healthy food but don’t let that fool you into thinking the food is boring or tasteless.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth!  Josie’s menu choices range from turkey meatloaf, burgers (tuna, turkey, or beef!), and roasted chicken to ginger calamari, shrimp UNfried rice, and chicken fajitas.  This food here is unique, flavorful, and made with healthy ingredients so you don’t feel bad eating it!  My personal favorites are the shrimp unfried rice, ancho rubbed grilled salmon, and ginger grilled calamari.  They offer a wide variety of unique cocktails and desserts as well and I believe they used to have a prix fixe menu on a nightly basis as well although I don’t see that advertised on their website.  There are locations on the Upper West Side and Midtown East.  I would HIGHLY recommend giving this place a try if you’ve never been.

runners-up: Citrus

Indian – Alachi Masala 

Pretty sure I have covered all the goodness that is Alachi Masala in my WWF blog post here.

runners-up: Swagat, Indigo

Chinese – China Fun

Believe it or not, it was tough to find good Chinese takeout in this neighborhood!  I have mixed feelings on this place but it was a standby when I lived here.  The chicken dishes are pretty good and the chicken fried rice was a favorite of mine and likely ordered on several times after a late night out!

runners-up: Ivy’s Cafe, The Cottage (only for the dine in free box wine!)

Pizza – Freddie and Pepper’s

OK this place may seem a little dingy from the outside (OK and from the inside as well!) but they have a great “by the slice” selection and are open until 2:00am on Friday and Saturday nights.  The always have 2-3 selections with wheat crust and always have a couple unique slices on hand. Buffalo chicken is a daily choice and sooo good!  I think they have salads and heroes on their menu as well but this place really is good for by the slice and that’s it. Even when I’ve ordered full pies from here they don’t seem as good…

runners-up: Francesco’s Pizza, Pizza by La Grolla

Mexican – The Great Burrito

Again I’ll let the WWF blog do the talking….:)

Something Sweet – Levain Bakery

The BEST cookie you will EVER eat.

The cookies here are amazing! And enormous! Honestly if you have a favorite bakery for your cookies and this isn’t it I’m pretty sure you’ve never tried their cookies! Every person I’ve brought here has fallen in love with their deliciousness as much as I have! They only have 2 locations (one on the UWS and the other in the Hamptons) and 4 flavors of cookies: Chocolate Chip Walnut (my personal favorite and their top seller), Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip. If you go on the weekend be ready to wait in line since the bakery is small and downstairs the space is tight so you need to take your cookies to go. You can order these cookies online.

runners-up: 16 Handles, Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream

I’m Thirsty!  For Wine! – Shalel

This spot was unknown to me for several years because of its location. Its located on the north side of 70th street close to the corner of Columbus. The only marker for the wine bar is a small stand with the Shalel menu at the top of a metal staircase covered with rose petals. Follow the stairs down and you’re welcomed by a dark intimate space with several nooks and rooms for couples or groups to privately dine and enjoy their drinks. There is also a bar if you want to stop in just for a drink and not order food (the private tables all require ordering food, given the size of the restaurant I guess they have to do this to make money).  I LOVE the uniqueness and intimacy of this place and their wine list is great! I do wish they had a more extensive food menu though since it is a bit limited to eat a full dinner here.

runner-up: Wine and Roses

I’m Thirsty!  For Beer! – St. James Gate

While many of my friends would argue Dive 75 should be my pick here, given St. James Gate is where I met the love of my life there was no chance this place wouldn’t make this list 🙂  Beyond bringing me my current boyfriend, this is a solid bar and unlike other bars on this main strip it attracts a mid 20’s to early 30’s crowd.  They also offer a decent variety of food on their menu….appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and pizza.

runners-up: Dive 75, Dead Poet

This post merely scratches the surface of all the wonderful dining spots I’ve tried and should have tried in my old neighborhood.  There are really too many for one post to do it justice!  I’d love to hear if you think I missed any of your Upper West Side hot spots.  If they sound good enough maybe it will be enough to drag me to visit my old neighborhood.  Although pretty sure whatever Levain bakery puts in those cookies is enough to do that! 😉

Mizu Sushi NYC

Mizu Sushi – 20th Street between Broadway & Park
Food – 10/10 (!!)
Service – 9/10
Price – $5 – $15
Best For – Sushi rolls dine in or take out, Thai entrees
 
 
After living in the Union Square neighborhood for close to 2 months I had yet to find a solid sushi spot to replace my stand bys on the Upper West Side. Now that Ryan is back living in the city this was a must! Although Sushi Samba, Haru, and Blue Water Grill are all in the area and their food is wonderful we both were eager to find a casual sushi spot where we could stop in for a bite or pickup takeout to eat at home. Enter Mizu!
 
While the ambiance at Mizu isn’t overly unique the restaurant is spacious with several tables and a sushi bar in the back. And the amazing service and quality of the food certainly make up for anything that the ambiance might be lacking.  To start we had the steamed vegetable dumplings which were quite good and filled with cabbage, carrots, and other veggies. For rolls we ordered spicy crunchy tuna, eel mango, yellowtail scallion jalapeño, and the Alaska (salmon, avocado, and cucumber). The fish was extremely fresh and tasty! The rolls were the perfect size and had far more fish than rice which made this place stand out among the hundreds of sushi spots in NYC.  Both Ryan and I loved our meals and found the quality of the sushi among the best in the city! 
 
In addition to a wide variety of standard and special sushi rolls, Mizu Sushi had an extensive list of Thai and Japanese appetizers and entrees, including noodles, fried rice, and several chicken and fish dishes.  We will definitely be back again soon!  I should also point out that since Mizu has only been in business for a few months they are still waiting for their liquor license. So if you do stop in be sure to bring your own beer or wine.  Although they may not be BYO for long so we plan to enjoy it while it lasts!
 
So where’s your favorite sushi spot? I’d love to hear about the places you’ve tried in and out of New York City!

Ember Room – Thai Comfort Food

Ember Room – Thai Comfort Food (9th Avenue between 45th and 46th)
Food – 8/10
Service – 9/10
Price – $16 – $24
Best For – Small Plates, Grabbing Drinks, Group Dinner
 
Yay it’s restaurant week!  What better reason to make a reservation at a new spot with an old friend? 🙂  I did just that on Wednesday night.  I met my friend Kira for dinner at one of the restaurants on the restaurant week participating list.  With a few ideas in mind we finally agreed to meet at Ember Room.  We both enjoy Thai and Asian fusion food and have eaten at several of the other Thai restaurants in this neighborhood.  Upon first comparison I would say the ambiance here was a bit nicer and more trendy than other restaurants offering similar cuisine in the area.  The space is dimly lit with candles on the tables and interesting light fixtures on the ceiling and walls. 
 
The menu selection at Ember Room is quite unique!  Not your typical Thai at all!  They offer everything from Shrimp Pad Thai, to Chocolate Ribs, Lobster Rolls, and Mac and Cheese (?!).  There was also a great deal for $5 sangria all night, not sure if this is something they offer every week night but it was definitely something we took part in.  The red sangria was delicious!  We both agreed that it did not taste too sugary or watered down….although I might have liked a bit more fruit pieces in mine but the perfect glass of sangria is tough to find so I’d give this a 8/10. 
 
For dinner we opted to order off of the regular menu instead of the restaurant week prix fix menu given our desire to have drinks more than dessert.  I’ve said on more than one occasion how restaurant week should really consider having a glass of wine as a dessert option but they haven’t seemed to pick up on it yet 🙂  To start with we ordered two small plates, the Thai Tacos (shredded chicken, coconut, smoked tofu, bean sprouts, chives, and peanuts) and Crispy Calamari.  I really liked the wide variety of small plates on Ember’s menu and let me just clarify that they are NOT that small!  There were 3 overstuffed medium sized tacos and a large helping of calamari for us to share.  The tacos were really yummy and unlike anything I’ve eaten before!  Also Kira doesn’t even like tofu but really enjoyed them as well since the smokey flavor masked that you were even eating tofu.  It was a great flavor and texture combination!  The calamari was also very good…probably the most tender calamari I’ve ever had but I would have liked a bit more spice or seasoning.  That being said the sauce it was served with did make up for that since it was a sweet soy sauce with a punch of heat that really livened up the dish!  
 
For an entree I ordered the Volcano Chicken, while Kira ordered the Ember Original Lobster Roll (as in Maine Lobster Roll, not sushi).  Unfortunately the Volcano Chicken was BIG let down.  The presentation was cool as they light the chicken on fire at your table but the flavor was a bit strange (too salty and the side sauce seemed to just be chicken juices) and the plate was literally almost an entire rotissierrie chicken over 3 tiny pieces of bok choy.  I would have liked a bit more variety in my dinner choice and definitely more vegetables or grains.  Kira’s Lobster Roll favored a bit better.  The Lobster Roll is actually one of the small plate options but definitely is a large enough portion for dinner and is served along with fries.  The flavors of the roll were great but the lobster was a bit chewy though. 
 
My verdict on Ember Room is that it is a cool place to grab a drink and share a couple of unique small plates but not a place I’d recommend for a full dinner as the entrees we chose seemed far less flavorful than the small plates.  While the entrees might have been a slight let down, the delicious drinks, trendy ambiance, great service, and wonderful company were more than enough to make up for it!  When you’re in midtown if you want a place away from the pre theatre crowd and with unique eats definitely stop in to Ember Room.