The Riddler

Looking for a champagne with a difference in the West Village?  Stop on by at The Riddler.  Owned by Jen Pelka, with her brother Zach Pelka, Une Femme is now available.

Jen has wanted to create her own champagne for a long time but from a house run exclusively by women.  Enter Une Femme brand which features the Callie (a rosé California sparkler) and  the Juliette (cru brut).

Following the success of her first San Francisco branch, a year ago Jen opened the second champagne home in the West Village.

Along with the female orientation of the firm, the Riddler also insists on serving champagne exclusively in wineglasses, enabling customers to truly “experience all of the different aromatic notes.

Nolita: Up and Coming in 2020

The Nolita neighborhood (which got its name from being geographically North of Little Italy) is one of NYC’s trendier areas featuring a mod shopping area bustling with designer stores and home-design shops. With street cafes and new restaurants gracing the area, it’s a “must-watch” region constantly in flux.

While rustic, Italian wood-fired restaurant Peasant has been a beloved staple for two decades, at the end of last year ownership was transferred to restaurateur and celebrity chef, Marc Forgione.  Made famous by his creation of rustic, chic environments and farm-to-table cuisine, he seems to be just perfect for the Nolita neighborhood.  Supervising the wine program there is Matthew Conway who has – together with Forgione – been a regular at Peasant for many years.  They are going to be continuing the legacy which was set in place by the old owners – married couple Frank DeCarlo and Dulcinea Benson who are will be focusing on Barba Bianca, their Long Island eatery.

Zooba just opened up too in the area.  A Cairo-inspired fast-food chain is bringing its Middle Eastern street food to the hood in a large Kenmare Street location, offering mint-iced tea bubbles from its self-serve fountain.  Spectacular flashing blue, pink and purple geometric LED light fixtures top the open kitchen.  Menu items include aish baladi, hawawshi among other Egyptian culinary delights.  The attempt by co-founders Chris Khalifa and Moutstafa El Refaey (the latter who is also the chef) to steer clear of Westernizing the eatery seem to have been most successful.

The Revival of Murray Hill?

One of the neighborhoods Below 14th Street that often does not warrant much attention – apart from its easily forgettable nature – is Murray Hill. But Japanese-born chef Takafumi Hayashi might be able to revolutionize that perception or at least alter it on some level.

Hayashi is the chef at Tenho Ramen that opened its doors earlier this summer in Murray Hill.  at first glance, it doesn’t seem any different to many of the other local ramen-serving eateries but delving a bit deeper one finds quite the interesting tale…

For a start, Hayashi is the real deal.  not only is he Japanese but he hails from Kurume which is where the porkbone broth noodles Tonkotsu Ramen first originated in 1937 where the yobimodoshi method is used (the soup pot is never emptied, hence a much richer flavor is developed).

Locals: check out this spot.  Others: check out this spot too!

Creative Cupcakes

Visit the Little Cupcake Bakeshop in Soho for a taste of childhood.

The bakery, which is known for celebrity sightings, offers several unique cupcakes. Remember enjoying the Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars? Try the Good Humor Cake—it’s just like the ice cream, only in cake form.

If you’re craving chocolate, the Brooklyn Blackout’s for you. Named one of the best chocolate cakes in America by Food and Wine Magazine, this moist cake is frosted with two different kinds of chocolate icing.

Of course, what’s cake without coffee? Coffee lovers can enjoy espresso and other caffeinated drinks at the bakery.

Foot High Milkshakes in SoHo

You’ve probably never seen a milkshake like this before. Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer is offering some of the best milkshakes you’ll ever see – and for only $15. They launched the milkshake idea in November, as head chef and owner Joe Isidori  made one for his wife. As he explained, “One day my wife wanted me to make her a cotton candy milkshake, so I whipped something up, put it on Instagram and the rest is history.” Now, Black Tap is offering three main specialty milkshakes for only $15 at its two Manhattan locations. The milkshakes are a foot tall and divine.

Check out the pictures, and run to enjoy! The three choices here below are: Cotton Candy, Sweet and Salty and Cookie milkshakes.

Here are Black Tap's Cotton Candy, Sweet and Salty and Cookie milkshakes.

Charlie Bird Opens in Soho

Charlie BirdCharlie Bird, the new Soho restaurant, from Robert Bohr and chef Ryan Hardy is ready to impress. It just opened a few days ago and shows an amazing food section that is split into five categories. These include Raw, Pasta, Small Plates, Vegetables and Large Plates. They focus on Italian flavors as they describe on their website, they have an “Italian influenced, American executed, and entirely New York.”

They are a very inexpensive place to enjoy, with only one dish over $30. Their win list includes a section called “Shameless Plug” which features wines made by sommeliers who are friends of the house. These include Aldo Sohm of Le Bernardin and Bobby Stuckey of Frasca Food & Wine, in Colorado.

As they describe on their own website,

“The menu comes from New York’s farmers markets, Long Island fishing boats, country fields and the wondrous meanderings of spirited travelers with passionate palates. We’ll be crushing seafood, roasted meats, crazy good wine and creamy espresso. We’ll present a wine list broad enough for you to come by and enjoy wine with us every night or, you can be a baller and order something you can’t get anywhere else in the world. We’re Italian influenced, American executed and entirely New York.”

Zarsha Leo Comes to Soho

Soho has many great restaurants, but up until now they really haven’t been a hot spot for sports bars. Enter Zarsha Leo. Located right in the heart of the district, Zarsha Leo has already shown itself to be quite popular in downtown Manhattan. Now, they are venturing well below that comfort zone.

As CEO Evan Burschkopf explained, “We figured that Soho residents like sports just like residents in any other area, and we wanted to bring a bit of our flavor to the Soho experience. We are eager to see the locals coming out and enjoying what we have to offer.”

And offer they do. They includes 10 enormous, flat screen television sets blaring the latest sports news and activities. They have great food from their ribs and chicken wings to their sweet potato fries. And they even have a dart board and pin ball machine for enjoyment!

Capsouto Freres : A Souffle Sanctuary

If you haven’t been to Capsouto Freres yet in TriBeCa – it’s time to get there. This French bistro that has been dubbed the “souffle sanctuary” of New York City offers amazing made-to-order soufflés.

The restaurant was founded in 1980 by three brothers including Jacques Capsouto. He won’t give away much of his secret recipe, but Capsouto will reveal that he starts his soufflés with crème patisserie, not with the bachamel sauce that many use.

The menu is filled with so many soufflés that you’ll never be bored on a return trip. There are five savory and four sweet soufflés that are hand delivered to your table by Jacques. He actually pours the hazelnut cream sauce into the middle of the crust right at the table, and tops it off with whipped cream for the drooling customers.

Capsouto Freres is well worth the experience. It’s located at 451 Washington Street between Watts and Desbrosses Street in Manhattan.

Chipotle Replacing McDonalds on Sixth Avenue

If you’ve been dying for a burrito, you’ll soon have a new place to get one. A new Chipotle is opening at 405 Sixth Avenue, replacing the McDonald’s that closed in that location in August.

Chipotle founder, chairman and CEO Steve Ells said, in a statement about the new store, “There aren’t a lot of moving parts to our menu, so we can focus on grilling the perfect chicken, steaming the perfect rice, slow-cooking the best beans and finding the freshest avocados to mash into guacamole.”

Called a “quick-gourmet” restaurant, Chipotle will include an assembly line of tacos, burritos, blows and salads. In addition, they have a liquor license pending, according to the State Liquor Authority records.

Certainly sounds like a bit of a step-up from the health standards of McDonalds!

(Picture taken from DNAinfo.com by Andrea Swalec)

Pera Mediterranean Brasserie Coming to SoHo

If you love the Pera Mediterranean Brasserie in midtown but hate having to get there from SoHo – good news is coming your way!  They are opening a sister site next month at 54 Thompson Street, serving the same delicious Eastern Mediterranean food.

Pera SoHo will occupy the location of a former hedge fund firm and is adjacent to the 60 Thompson hotel. It took owner Burak Karacam three years to finally get the location approved with the community board clearance and rezoning issues he faced.  Now, the new eatery will have a 50-seat outdoor garden (on space that was once a basketball court!)

The new location will offer a clientele that is more casual, rather than the corporate feel at the midtown location.  As Mr. Karacam explained, they will also have acess to a rooftop location for special events.

Obviously, this is great news for those of us in SoHo who love Eastern Mediterranean food, but can do without the commute to midtown!