August Laura: From Dreams to A Charming Reality

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So It Appears

Sure, New York City has lots of glitz and glam. Huge buildings and iconic attractions are among its characteristics, but NYC wouldn’t be what it is today, without its dreamers; those who take a chance to pursue their passions with reckless abandon – or those who live by ‘YOLO’ (You Only Live Once). For generations, New York has been built by go-getters and is full of those seeking their ultimate ‘American Dream.’

The same aspirations are true for Frankie Rodriguez and Alyssa Sartor, owners of August Laura, in Brooklyn. Bartending more than 20 years combined in New York City, the couple was blessed to open their ‘dream,’ befittingly located four blocks from where Alyssa’s grandfather (an Italian immigrant) grew up. Paying homage to her grandfather, the living room style bar has been named after him. The deep familial ties are undeniable at August Laura. Family pictures and home-goods are tastefully placed around the room, creating a cozy nightcap for all guests.

Tipples are elegant, intriguing, and satisfying, at the warm neighborhood cocktail bar. Each highlight the individual ingredients whether sweet, bitter, or savory and progress thoughtfully in spirit strength. The signature and nostalgic Amaretto Sour is seriously addictive. Alyssa’s recipe uses egg white and flavorful Nocino walnut liqueur, which adds sophistication and a seductive, creamy element to each sip. Shaved nutmeg heightens the senses and is the perfect garnish for the luscious drink.

The dedicated staff at August Laura pours sippers for patrons nightly, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, while listing to stellar playlists such as Sam Smith, 90s rap, and even a live jazz duo (every Wednesday night).

In its premier year, August Laura is making its imprint because Alyssa and Frankie dared to dream. Each time a customer enjoys their drink of choice, in essence, he or she raises a glass to couple’s surreal American Dream.

Want to know more about August Laura? Check the interview and how to make the buzz-worthy Amaretto Sour on POUR.

August Laura

387 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

Tidbits:

Jazz on Wednesday evenings

Pop-up Weekend Brunch: Dovecote at August Laura – Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 3 pm (featuring La Colombe coffee, coffee cocktails, and local bakery goods)

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Brooklyn’s Well Known Secret: Roberta’s

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Family Jewels Pizza

If you live in the vicinity of Brooklyn’s eclectic Bushwick neighborhood, or even voyage over the water from Manhattan (gasp!) you know ‘Roberta’s’ and heavenly ‘pizza’ are synonymous. This beloved Brooklyn pizza is as popular as New York City’s legendary bagels. So light and incredibly flavorful, the dough stands up to heavy-hitting ingredients.

Known for its relaxed, funky ambiance that serves up decadent ingredients like Italian caciocavallo cheese and delicious spek, Roberta’s is a favorite of locals and beyond. Surrounded  by refurbished, trendy warehouses, vintage clothing boutiques, and local watering holes, this hotspot contends with the most favored pizzerias in New York City.

The thoughtful selection of wine, cocktails and beer are well-rounded and have an emphasis on supporting local vendors. One such beverage, the Wölffer Rosé Cider from Long Island, is an exquisite cider made in the style of Rosé wine. Tip:this bubbly bev. beautifully complements the Duck Prosciutto appetizer.The unique prosciutto interpretation of using duck compared to traditional ham is brilliant and is deliciously paired with the cider.

Any cured meat begs for bread and Roberta’s perfectly baked bread – flaky outside while magically light and fluffy inside – doesn’t disappoint. Truly, all of the doughy treats: brunch sticky buns, biscuits, and croissants are equally as mouthwatering, lush and baked on the premises. No wonder guests visit in droves, waiting up to two hours for a table sometimes. Unfortunately, reservations are not taken, but calling ahead for the wait-time status doesn’t hurt.

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Duck Prosciutto and Wölffer Rosé Cider

Every pizza is made to order and fired in a brick oven that greets guests upon arrival. Although it’s hard not to order one of each menu item, there are a few must-haves. I recommend the delectable Family Jewels pie  topped with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and prosciutto bread crumbs. If toppings are your jam, try the Spekenwolf with a whopping 14 toppings, including crimini mushrooms, eggplant and ricotta salata.

Roberta’s isn’t a one-trick pony, though. Other entrées like the zesty Sasso Chicken with salsa verde  or the addictive Dry-Aged Wagyu Carpaccio are also  showstoppers. With an enticing menu, regulars are always thrilled to try something different each visit or enjoy their ‘usual’ as if it was the first time. There are so many exceptional restaurants in unexpected places in Brooklyn – and Roberta’s is no exception to this truth. The quirky pizzeria is also a bakery and tiki bar in the middle of industrial and auto repair lots. It’s obvious Roberta’s doesn’t fit any molds but breaks them instead.

Roberta’s

261 Moore St.

Brooklyn, NY 11206

718-417-1118

Tidbits:

Manhattan outpost location: 230 Park in Midtown.

Roberta’s frozen pizza is available in select markets and online grocers.

Comfort Italiano – Ciao Bella Review

1310 Broadway

Hewlette, NY 11557 (Long Island)

Phone: 516-569-2654

You’ve heard of southern comfort but at Hewlett’s best kept secret, Ciao Bella in Long Island, comfort Italiano is served as rich as their marinara sauce. Steeped in a long  (and rather notable) history in the kitchen, Chef and owner Freddy Sammarone puts forth his best five days a week at his debut, laid-back haute. Raised in his father’s legendary restaurant, Ennio and Michael’s (previously in the West Village), Chef Freddy practically fulfilled every position in the family operation. Teamed with his wife Dina, his expertise is modestly, yet exquisitely displayed on every plate, seducing diners as they anxiously dig-in.

Antipasto Trio
Antipasto Trio

The antipasto trio, for starters, isn’t your traditional antipasto but stems from tradition. Showcasing his mother’s famous roasted artichoke, Chef  Sammarone dresses it in breadcrumbs and dried cranberries. The artichoke is roasted to “buttah” perfection and melts in the mouth. Cranberries balance the creamy artichoke as the crumbs added great texture to each bite. Savory baked eggplant and clams rounded out the trio – a great backdrop for the next course.

There’s something to be said about simple flavors and textures. When the right ingredients meet and spices mingle pure magic happens. Such is the case with the stunning squid ink linguini topped with a shrimp filled marinara sauce. Sounds simple, but this winning dish thoughtfully highlights each main ingredient. The al dente pasta with the garlic, ink sauce complements the kick of the spicy shrimp marinara. Good luck resisting the urge to lick the plate once done!

Squid Ink Linguini
Squid Ink Linguini

And of course, a meal isn’t complete without ending on a sweet note. Hands down, the Italian ricotta cheesecake is the best dessert offering. Mastered by Dina Sammarone and inspired by Chef’s father, this awe-inspiring slice of heaven is wonderfully moist, has a light cake consistency and manages to have a dark, golden crust. This cheesecake rivals the best of ‘em.

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

Although, considered a charming neighborhood spot, it’s definitely on the rise. Genuine, inviting people, scrumptious fare, and family influence equals comfort in my book. Ciao Bella is more than a phrase, more than a restaurant – it’s a way of life.

Tid-bits:

  • Open Wednesday evening – Sunday evening
  • Made to order meals
  • Mindful of food allergies and gluten free requests (with advance notice)
  • Can bring wine but there’s a corking fee
  • No website, just call or walk in!

The County Cork Wine Pub Review

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Dinning in a small town doesn’t mean a dull dining experience. Such is the case when it comes to The County Cork Wine Pub. Nestled in a modest area of Eldersburg, (a suburb of Baltimore) this chic family owned wine bar has truly made its mark with locals. With an impressive selection of wines ranging from sparkling to the favored J. Lohr Chardonnay, delicious ports, and flirty rosés, this pub is well stocked for a great time. And let’s not forget vino from around the world like the Austrian Grooner Grüner Veltliner (a white wine with citrus and green apple notes) and the Argentine Alamos Melbec (a full bodied red with dark cherry flavors) is on hand – no passport necessary. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what to choose; you can sample up to three wines for $10. No too shabby! The cocktails are great to boot, too!

There are so many great reasons to come visit with friends or to end a work day. On Tuesdays bottles of wine are half price and Wednesdays are free apps! My favorite appetizer is the bountiful Crab and Brie fondue- a cheesy pool of fresh, lump crab meat adorned with diced tomato and scallions. You can’t go wrong with the Shaved Lamb French Dip with swiss and caramelized onions along with a velvety au jus. Or even the glorious Grilled Eggplant Flatbread decorated with tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese.

The County Cork Pub has so much to offer; it’s not just another wine bar. The Cork’s library of wine, specialty cocktails, and craft beer paired with no-nonsense dishes provides a top shelf experience for guests. Throw in its superb service, warm atmosphere and affordable prices, there’s no wonder why this pub is an up-and-coming neighborhood favorite.

Location: 1716 Liberty Road, Eldersburg, MD

Tid- bits:
OpenTable Diner’s Choice 2014 Winner, Happy Hours, Monthly Wine Events, and fantastic weekly specials
Hours: Tue- Sat 11am -1 am
Sunday brunch: 10am -3pm
Closed Mondays

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Redwood Review

7121 Bethesda Lane

(301) 656-5515

 www.redwoodbethesda.com

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Chicken Sliders

You’re probably like me. I love being surprised, especially when it comes to a restaurant like Redwood in Bethesda, Maryland. Located in an upscale area near DC, it’s highly touted and was chosen as the venue for Bravo’s Top Chef season 7 “restaurant wars” – a legendary event and honor in itself. Needless to say, I was slightly intimidated by its score card. Yet, when I was invited to dine there, I jumped at the opportunity. Surprisingly, my nerves were quickly eased. The food and exceptional service lives up to the reputation but it is unpretentious. Although chic and modern, Redwood focuses on wholesome comfort food and doesn’t take itself too seriously. With delicious appetizers like whimsy fried chicken sliders with a chipotle aioli and lightly fried macaroni balls, I knew I was in good hands. This local favorite renewed my faith in fried calamari as well. In the past, I’ve been highly disappointed by calamari if I order it anywhere else other than an Italian eatery.  But I was more than pleased here. The flavorful, plump “O’s” are crispy and well-seasoned with the perfect thickness – it didn’t stand a chance for survival!

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Shrimp and Grits with braised greens

Known for its commitment to serving the best of traditional and contemporary dishes with local ingredients, the kitchen takes homey favorites such as chicken pot pie or shrimp and grits and refines them while evoking memories of  our first bites of these classic entrées. Executive Sous Chef, Sedrick Crawley’s take on custom and modern American cuisine is the perfect balance between familiar and new tastes while leaving diners wanting more. And with an ever-changing menu, it excites me to see what else he has up his sleeve. Chef Sed’s passion for his craft radiates from each plate. Such is the case with the steamed muscle with chorizo and roasted garlic and even the bucatini (a thick pasta dressed with a pork and beef meat sauce finished with the Italian grana padano cheese); both appropriately served in a rustic “mama’s favorite” skillet.

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Bucatini
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Steamed Muscles

Now, when indulging in such great fare, the occasion begs for a 21+ libation. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the impressive, hand crafted drinks and wine list. (A comfort to know.)  I’m a gin girl and my favorite drink was the brilliant Chartreusian 75 which includes yellow chartreuse, simple syrup, and sparkling wine. A tantalizing mixture of sweet and tart…basically it was seduction in a glass.

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Chartreusian 75

With delicious happy hours, weekly live entertainment and a menu that’ll thrill your taste buds, Redwood is more than a restaurant… it’s an experience for all senses.