A paradise of Greek food? Have a little wine, and you’ll feel transported somewhere away—even if it’s not Heaven, it’s lovely.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an event at a restaurant in Chelsea that I'd passed many times, but never made it into. The event was a ham and wine tasting, but not like the kind of ham you get at your local deli, unless that local deli happens to be in Spain. No, we were treated to some of the finest Jamon Iberico (Iberian Ham) that you can find, from Cinco Juntas. Paired with some really lovely wines.
The beautiful Albariño from Bodegas del Palacio was the perfect summer white, which on the hot muggy day was what I spent most of the evening drinking. But I couldn't leave without tasting the red, which I almost regretted not having more of during the event. The 2008 Rioja was a Cerro Añón Gran Reserva from Bodegas Olarra that was a perfect complement to the richness of the ham, while remaining perfectly drinkable on its own, a classic Rioja wine.
Along with the luscious wines and award-winning ham, Chef Luis Bollo, of Salinas took his inspiration from the salty, melt-in-your-mouth swine and created some very tasty passed bites. We were treated to Croquetas Fundientes de Hiberico y Maiz (Roasted Corn & Ham Croquettes); Tosta de Bonito con Dulce de Tomate, Hiberico y Caviar de Trufa (Crustini with sweet tomato, bonito tuna, ham and truffle caviar); and my personal favorite, that I had about 4 or 5 of, the Chupito de Salmorejo (Cordoba-style gazpacho shoot with ham, hard-boiled egg, croutons & olive oil). And while I did munch on a good deal of these treats, they did a good job in leaving me wanting for more.
The event itself was done very well. I think that it lasted just long enough, where we got to enjoy the food, drinks and beautiful venue and the company that was there. The representatives from both 5J and Salinas were all very engaging and seemed genuinely interested to be there. And did I mention how lovely the space is? It's an enclosed garden room, taking you off into a fantasy land that just happens to be in the middle of Manhattan. After the intimate event my friends and I had whetted our appetites just enough to seek out some of their larger tapas plates, and perhaps get something other than jamon inside of our bellies!
Unfortunately I didn't get any shots of our dishes when we went back into the restaurant, BUT I can tell you that it was all beautiful and absolutely delicious. The patatas bravas was, in fact, so good that my friend refused to share hers with me so I had to get an order of my own. One of the quintessential Spanish tapas, this dish was so beautifully done, from the perfect cut on the potatoes that were treated with the perfect balance of their spicy "brava sauce" a tomato based sauce & a drizzle of creamy aioli to cool it down, I was happy to not have to share with her in the end! I also ordered the alcachofas fritas (fried artichokes), which were very good, but in comparison to the patatas and then the Negros y Curjientes (Catalan crispy vermicelli, shaved sepia, watercress squid ink broth, aioli), it was a little bit lost, but I was just trying to get some veggies in. We sipped our wine and indulged in the food before us until we just couldn't anymore. And I know a lot of people can't "get full" from tapas, but they just aren't doing it right and filling their bellies with pork eats beforehand! I would also like to mention that before I went into the event I had a drink at the bar, which was expertly crafted by a very talented bartender, whose name is escaping me now. And although I don't know that I would order the Romero y Limon again, it was a very nice summer cocktail to start off the evening. I shall certainly return to Salinas, now that I know what I've been missing. And I look forward to more events from Boucher & Co, thanks for the invite!
This year, in 2015, I wanted to start a new Blog Segment, called SPOTLIGHT ON--real original I know, where I focus on a food/drink venue to highlight the things that I think make them special. And for the first one, I'm starting it off with a little something special in the East Village: Korilla BBQ.
If you don't know about Korilla, please read this and then go to their restaurant immediately and eat some of their damn good food! Like many of the coolest new restos today, Korilla started out on the streets of this cruel city, as a food truck back in 2010. And way back then they were the only ones in NYC to be slinging Korean-Mexican BBQ, which is now it's own genre of food [truck]!
Korilla made waves in the food truck scene, not only for their unique style of food, but also with their crazy bright and unmissable colors! And did I mention their family secret kimchi added a tantalizing taste to their tacos and burritos?! My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. Actually, I'm now recalling that theirs was the very first kimchi I'd ever tried! Aw, now I'm getting all foodstalgic.
Anyway, the truck became successful rather quickly and with a huge following in NYC already, they decided to try broadening their scope to a more national audience when they appeared on Season 2 of Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race (You know, back when they still cast already established trucks). They actually left the season a midst a controversy as they were accused of putting their own money into the show earnings, although they were the front-runners of the competition anyway.
Luckily, for us New Yorkers, their TV stint didn't take them out of the food-producing game, AND they returned to their home to sling some of that delicious kimchi bacon fried rice (YES) goodness! Back when I spent a summer helping my friend--owner of the Feed Your Hole truck, I enjoyed the spoils of working next to them on several occasions. In the food truck world you often trade food with the trucks parked near you!
After a little hiatus from the truck in 2013, to travel to Korea and work on their already solid kimchi game, they came back with a new gameplan that included sites on a brick and mortar shop, which finally opened in October of last year on 3rd Ave, just north of St. Mark's Place.
I had seen it a few times and I finally had an opportunity to have a late lunch there just a few weeks back and was SO HAPPY I did! First, because of the time, there was barely anyone there, so I got full-service by their eager and super-friendly staff. The space is small but comfortable and while the bathroom is tiny, it does exist, which is good enough for me! And while the front of the restaurant is mostly taken up by the food--it's a build your own type spot, the back of the space is painted by a local artist with historic East Village scenes, which warms my tiny little NY heart!
Of course, by the time I was there I was starving so the number of options, which really isn't too many on a normal day, was daunting in those first moments. But fortunately the nice guys working behind the counter informed me they were offering a limited special menu that day as they had paired up with another bomb ass team, Kimchi Smoke, who are based out of New Jersey where they conjure up their Fat Boy sauce, which you know I threw into my everything!
The guys suggested I get a bowl so I could get the most bang for my buck and I obliged. For my protein I picked the special smoked pork and for my rice I went with the B.K.F.R. or bacon kimchi fried rice. I also said that YES I would definitely take the special kimchi fries, and so by this point the boys knew I was serious, so with appropriate assumption they asked: you want everything on top? UM yes. And although I said--I don't think I need meat on the fries, they're smarter than me and so they gave it to me anyway!
Behold: what fat girl dreams are made of!
With the food in front of me, I inhaled a few whiffs of deliciousness and took the mandatory photos of the feast before a very unpromising Tinder date just hours later. All of the food groups were there and I was a happy camper. There was nothing between me and my food. And so I just enjoyed with a few groans and moans about how spoiled my tastebuds were. "Tell the boss!" Yelled the boys, and I did!
That's what I call BEASTed.
As I sat and drank some water, and digested the food, I had a thought. If the owner's here, perhaps I can talk to him--not only to gush about my amazing lunch, but also to see if perhaps he'd be interested in participating in my new show, The Food Funny. So I introduced myself to Edward "3D" Song, who's a fellow native to these boroughs and lucky for me, interested in joining in on the Fun on the UWS! When I sent him the deets of the show he asked if he could participate in the Stand-up competition and I was happy to oblige, as I knew I'd pair him up with my good friend and hilarious funny lady Adriane Hamilton.
So, to wrap up, I want you to eat at Korilla, because it's the smart thing to do. And tell you that if you're already a fan of theirs then you should come check out a show where the owner gets to try out his funny-man chops! Lastly, I don't have public tours of the East Village, however I am happy to bring a group to the area for a private group, and if you want to do an Asian-Fusion tour, I couldn't think of a better neighborhood to do it in!