Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RIP Big Nick's

While walking by Big Nick's the other day, I was astonished to see the lights turned off and a sign indicating that this Upper West Side establishment had lost its lease. Big Nick's' has been a staple on the corner of 77th and Broadway, serving Upper West Siders and New Yorkers pizza and other indulgent food for over 50 years.

Many of you are probably shocked that I'm writing a post dedicated to the recent closing of a greasy burger joint, but this place was different. Big Nick's was solely responsible for serving as my entree to the world of pizza--one of my favorite foods ever. 

My parents used to take me Big Nick's where I would play under the table while waiting for the pizza to arrive and pick at the dried gum mounds. (I promise I don't do that any more.) We would feast on plain pizza until I eventually matured to mushroom. (I'd like to think that this made up for my dried gum touching.) My mom even remembers that they'd cut the huge slice into smaller pieces so it was easier for me to eat. Big Nick's was a staple at my birthday parties, evenings with babysitters, lunches, and simple dinners out.

Fast forward twenty years, where my husband and I live several blocks from Big Nick's. Occasionally we'd  grab a slice of plain 'za on our way home. The slice was made with a crisp crust, sweet sauce, and mediocre mozzarella. We always swore that we'd never get a greasy burger and sadly we will never have the chance to break our promise because the joint has shuttered due to skyrocketing lease rates. Well, Big Nick's, thanks for the pizza.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Restaurant Review: Cafe Frida

Cafe Frida, the old Mexican restaurant haunt on the Upper West Side, has a new location on Amsterdam Avenue and 98th Street; and guess what? I think it's better than the original for several reasons. First of all, the space is beautiful. 

There is a romantic garden in the back decorated with twinkle lights that surround cafe tables, which is reminiscent of a European cafe. Second of all, the food is really good with wallet-friendly prices. And did I mention the Happy Hour at the bar? I think these reasons alone are worth the few extra blocks.

I started with a house white wine during Happy Hour for $6 and then switched to a Don Julio margarita at the table for $11. The margarita had the gentle balance of salty and slightly sweet, with a citrus finish. 

For food, we started with Guacamole (obviously) for $11. It arrived in a huge molcajete filled with soft chunks of ripe avocado, tomato, and jalapeno, and served with crispy corn chips. It was one of the best guacamole I've had recently. 

Next up were the Tacos de Tinga Poblana (4 for $16.50), shredded pulled pork with bursts of tangy flavor and hints of salt.  If you have any leftover guacamole, this dish tastes even better with a dollop on top. 
We also ordered the Steak Quesadilla ($16), which was delicious.  It arrived in a delicately folded corn tortilla with an array of sautéed mushrooms and tender grilled steak served on a plush bed of melted cotija cheese. The meat and vegetables were perfectly flavored, but of course, a little hot sauce is always appreciated.  
The entrees were also served with a big blue-speckled pail of rice and beans--a very welcome addition to the tasteful Mexican plates. 

Overall, I had zero complaints about my first experience at the new Cafe Frida. The service was prompt and lovely, the setting felt like I was out of the City, and the menu boasted an authentic and flavorful Mexican cuisine. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Smoothie Series: Berry Blast

Summer is a great time to buy fresh berries, which contain a ton of antioxidants. I added a touch of greens for color and protein powder, which will help you stay satiated in the morning. The mint gives this smoothie a bit of an exotic touch.

Berry Blast

Serves One

1 cup of almond milk
1 handful of blueberries
1 handful of blackberries
1 handful of arugula or other leafy green 
1 scoop of whey protein
1 tablespoon of coconut water
1 sprig of mint
ice cubes optional

Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend until desired consistency. Enjoy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Popcorn with Sage and Coconut Oil

Popcorn is one of my favorite snacks. I usually air pop the kernels and drizzle with olive oil and maldon salt. I also love adding Braggs Amino Acids and nutritional yeast (it sounds weird, but so delicious). However, after falling in love with raw coconut oil I decided to ditch the olive oil for a bit. 
Popcorn with Sage and Coconut Oil

Serves 1 (or 2 depending on how generous you want to be)

1/2 cup of popcorn kernels

1/2 tablespoon of raw coconut oil
1-2 sage leaves loosely chopped

Plug in popcorn maker, add kernels, and turn on. 

While the popcorn is popping, heat a pot with the coconut oil. 

Once the oil is heated, add the sage leaves and let them sizzle for one to two minutes.  The sage should become nice and crispy. 

Turn off heat and set aside. 

Once the popcorn is ready, pour the coconut oil, sage mixture over the popcorn.  Toss with salt and pepper. Enjoy.