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Eat Kobe in a Former Ice House in Park Slope

If you happen to be in the Slope for dinner, you certainly won’t be at a dearth of food options. And truth be told, most will be quite satisfactory. So let me point you in the right direction. Peeking around the corner onto 5th Avenue from 2nd Street, Benchmark (a former ice house from the 1920s) is fairly small: think 40 people in a cozy shoe box with exposed brick walls and dim lighting. Couples are awkwardly grazing their converse against one another under the tables, candles lit between them. And here I am, entourage of 10, gallivanting in for my birthday dinner. You’d think we’d get dragged out by our lapels, but no. The chatty waitress was more than happy to describe her favorites and play along with Continue reading

in Around Brooklyn & Travel, Home & Lifestyle

Holsteins at The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Las Vegas

Located in the year old Cosmopolitan hotel, restaurateurs Billy Richardson and Chef Anthony Meidenbauer of Block 16 Hospitality bring us Holsteins,  a “new burger concept.” This burger bar and restaurant puts emphasis on fresh, natural and organic ingredients custom crafted in-house. With a live DJ spinning on weekends, Holsteins’ party-like atmosphere fits nicely with the overall concept of the edgy and glamorous Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Over the course of my week long stay in Las Vegas, I managed to eat at Holsteins twice and take out once. Admittedly, this may have been, at least in part, due to Holsteins being the most price friendly of all the restaurants at The Cosmopolitan, even with $15 burgers. The first time, I went with a large group and although our entire party was not there, the staff was very accommodating, seating us when most, but not all of the party arrived. After being seated, we were greeted with cheesy, crunchy and salty popcorn in metal pails. Waters arrived soon after with multicolored neon straws, small touches being a constant throughout the meal. We started with calamari, artichoke ‘guac’, fried pickles and buffalo wings. The artichoke ‘gauc’ was delicious, with a hummus like taste and consistency and served alongside spiced pita chips. The Calamari was standard but good, and I heard the buffalo wings were as well. During another Holsteins dinner we also tried the pizza twinkies, which were basically pizza croquettes in twinkies shape. These were okay but also somewhat standard compared to other favorites. The highlight of all of the appetizers we tried was most definitely the fried pickle chips. Served alongside olives, fried caper berries, proscuitto, salami and with a herb-caper mayo, everyone in our party was surprised by the unexpected favorite. With a perfectly fried exterior and a matching crunchy pickle inside, these were amazing. Snookie is definitely onto something.Continue reading

in Around Brooklyn & Travel, Home & Lifestyle

48 Hours in… Albany, NY

Photo by Zach Copley

Albany, NY is not a booming metropolis but don’t worry; New York’s Capitol City has plenty to offer both cultural and culinary.

Friday Night:

Arrive in Albany (Megabus, Amtrak, Greyhound, plane or driving) and check in wherever you’ll be laying your head. Let’s face it; you’re either there on business or to visit friends. If you’re staying in the Center Square district, give yourself plenty of time to find parking. The narrow and cobblestone streets fill up right after 5pm and no one budges till Monday morning’s commute.

7-9pm

While considerably North of the border, Albany is home to some authentic and some not so traditional Mexican restaurants worthy of a try. Choose between the authentic El Mariachi’s Cantina and the hip and casual Bomber’s Burrito Bar, or take the recommended Goldilocks approach—El Loco. With a menu full of delicious specialties and enough tequila choices to make your head spin, you won’t be disappointed.

Nightlife

The great thing about Albany is that most of the dining and nightlife is within walking distance of each other. So after enjoying yourself at El Loco, walk some of your dinner off on the way to Elda’s on Lark for a cocktail. Italian restaurant by day and undoubtedly one of the nicest lounges and bars in the area, Elda’s also has a very warm atmosphere. Owned and operated by the establishment’s namesake and family, after a few drinks you’ll feel like family.

Saturday

10am-Noon

After a full night of partying, Iron Gate is your go-to destination to swap stories and nurse a hangover with a full meal in the Capital region. Enjoy eggs Florentine, wild omelets, daily eclectic specials and the highly recommended and indulgent John Denver Breakfast (Eggs over butter grilled corn bread drenched in a Pepper Jack Hollandaise.)  The waitstaff is friendly, the food is to die for and in the summer months the garden patio area is the best to sip Mimosa’s.

Noon-2pm

After all the eating and drinking, take a break and head to the New York State Museum located at the State Plaza. Walk through the Empire State’s historical journey, both political and geographical, that includes Sesame Street, a giant mastodon found in an Albany suburb and ends in a moving exhibit dedicated to 9/11 First Responders. Take a few minutes and head upstairs to a fully functional carousel for some extra fun.

2pm-4pm

Not gotten your fill of New York State history? A short walk across the Empire State Plaza will bring you to the state Capitol building. Extravagant and unique, the Capitol has free tours that bring you up The Million Dollar Staircase, down the hall of Governors and into the Senate Chamber lined with gold. It is one of the most expensive and gorgeous buildings you’ll ever see and the seat of power—just don’t let it rub off on you!

4pm-6pm

Head on downtown to McGeary’s Irish bar for happy hour to relax and clear your mind from the day’s history and back into partying. This local pub has some of the best bartenders and staff you’ll find anywhere and a jukebox full of all your favorite songs.

6pm-9pm

Hop in a cab and head out of the heart of downtown to the Capitol City Gastropub on New Scotland Avenue. Though newly opened, the chef and owners have already established themselves with the Lark Street Wine Bar. Grab a bottle of wine or try one of their large selections of Belgian beers and microbrews, and decide whether you want innovative street food, vegetarian delicacies, or French cuisine. Also available are a wide selection of “Frites” and charcuterie plates that would whet any palate.

Nightlife

Saturday nights are home to one of the coolest weekly dance parties in Albany– 80’s Night at The Fuze Box (an old converted diner). Depeche Mode doesn’t strike your fancy? Head to the Pearl Street area for a more typical club scene. DJ’s, live bands and in the case of Savannah’s, an abundant selection of beers will greet you.

Sunday

Noon-2pm

Lets face it, after last night you won’t be out of bed till noon. When you do wake up, New World Bistro Brunch is the only option. Only available Sundays, New World will blow your mind with their selection of local and creative items. Clam hash, blackened steak and eggs, ropa vieja benedict and Bloody Mary’s with cucumber vodka are only a small sampling of what they have to offer.

2pm-4pm

Finish out your visit with an Albany AquaDuck tour that will drive you around in an amphibious WWII style vehicle and then splash into the Hudson River. A little bit history, a little bit comedy and a lot of fun!

If you time your trip just right, you may be able to enjoy some of these monthly events:

  • Laughs on Lark- The coolest and best monthly comedy showcase of local and New York City talent. The second Wednesday of every month at Elda’s on lark, 9pm $5
  • Bing Bamboo Room Burlesque- The perfect blend of traditional Albanian burlesque, comedy, drag queens, singers and side show performers. The third Monday of every month, 8pm $10
  • Karaoke- Get your rock on at any of these weekly locations: Elda’s On Lark every Monday and Thursday, Bombers Burrito Bar every Wednesday and Pinto and Hobb’s Tavern every Wednesday.
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