Brennivin is Here for Holiday Cheer

brennivinIt’s celebration season and Brennivin, the original Icelandic Spirit, marks the launch of its 80th Anniversary Cask Aged Aquavit. For the first time, this semisweet spirit is available in the United States.Only 1,200 out of 5,000 bottles may be purchased here for the holiday season.

The Aquavit is made from grain and infused with caraway seeds. Made from grain and infused with caraway seeds, the current batch was distilled in 2015, then matured for one year, aging within a combination of Islay Whiskey casks, bourbon barrels, and finished in New American White Oak. The result is a deliciously, smooth spirit which can be enjoyed on its own.

opalLicorice lovers have another reason to rejoice as Brennivin’s Opal Icelandic Liqueur recently made its première voyage to the U.S. The unique flavor profile is akin to Iceland’s beloved pasteille, a licorice-like candy. The unmistakable label echoes a groovy 1940s /1950s pop art bulls-eye design.


With such exclusivity to the Scandinavian sippers, there’s a handful of states which sell spirits (listed below). Howevery, if you are in or near New York City, you can head to the Up & Up Bar (116 Macdougal Street), the first U.S. bar to offer Brennivin. Imbibe on tipples such as the Icelandic Sense of Urgency crafted with honey, jalapeno and of course the 80th Anniversary Edition Brennivin or try the savory Visa Application made with both Brennivin exclusives, sherry and pear brandy. Cheers!


Brennivin 80th Anniversary Cask Aged Aquavit:

— 40% ABV
— Price: market to market

Opal Icelandic Liqueur:

— 40% ABV
—  Price: around $35, 750ml bottle

Where to find Brennivin 80th Anniversary Cask Aged Aquavit and Opal Icelandic Liqueur (listed by state and merchant):  

Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island—MS Walker
California—H. Mercer Imports, K&L Wines, Bar Keeper LA and Bitters & Bottles (SF)
Texas — Favorite Brands
Kentucky — River City Distributing
Colorado — European Wines & Spirits
Washington, DC — Sherry’s Wines
Washington State — Vinum Wines & Spirits
Alabama/Idaho/Montana/Oregon/Wyoming — State Special Order


Flying Purple Pisco Recipe


Lynnette Marrero, co-beverage director of Brooklyn’s Llama Inn, shares the inspiration of the Flying Purple Pisco – a play on the traditional Pisco Sour and named after the Flying Purple People Eater. This refreshing libation  features Peru’s infamous spirit, pisco, a grape brandy made in the country’s wine regions. It’s perfect for any season, celebration, and much needed happy-hour. Click here to learn how to make the Flying Purple Pisco.

Courtesy of Llama Inn.

Flying Purple Pisco Recipe

1 oz of Purple potato puree (with simple syrup mixed in*)

½ oz Lime juice

½ oz Lemon juice

2 oz Macchu Pichu Pisco

1 Egg white


Dry shake all ingredients together.

Add ice to ingredient mixture and shake again.

Strain into a low-ball glass

Top with a streak of Angostura bitters and grated nutmeg


*Simple Syrup Recipe

1 part water

1 part white granulated sugar

Simple syrup directions:


In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water.

Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved.

Adjust amount of sugar to desired taste.

Allow to cool.

Llama Inn: Not Your Average Barrio Bar

llama-innA truly international and rustic cuisine, Peruvian food deserves more acclaim than it receives. Serving up a melting pot of cultural influences including Spanish, African and Incan, yield iconic dishes like ceviche and Escabache de Pescado (fried fish with onion sauce). Peruvian dishes often have bold, complex and vibrant flavor, incorporating ingredients like aji chili and sweet lucuma (a native fruit).

Flavors such as these are proudly served at Brooklyn’s Llama Inn. Don’t let its hipster vibe fool you – the ‘Llama Drama’ (referring to the buzzing atmosphere) is serious about delicious authentic eats, reflecting Chef Erik Ramirez’ favorite nostalgic meals. Chef Ramirez and his staff have done a wonderful job turning a social haven into a full-scale, epicurean, must-visit. One of the stand-out dishes is the Beef Tenderloin Stir Fry. This visually stunning dish matches its aesthetics in taste as it is a beautiful mountain of sliced tenderloin topped with red onion, rocoto (hot chili pepper)  and French fries served with a side of avocado and scallion pancakes. The succulent beef is bathed in a luscious soy sauce, perfect for dipping fries or drizzled on a pancake burrito.

It’s difficult to go wrong at the Inn with so many exceptional selections including the refined octopus or spicy pork belly anticuchos (skewered meat). Whether a novice to Peru’s succulent fare or a native, Llama Inn is an unforgettable experience transporting diners’ taste buds to the motherland itself.
Hungry for more? Click here to watch the ‘Llama Drama’ in action on POUR featuring Llama Inn’s iconic Flying Purple Pisco cocktail.

Llama Inn

50 Withers Street

Brooklyn, NY 11211



Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 3:30 pm

Rooftop bar and dining space

Brooklyn’s Well Known Secret: Roberta’s

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.


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.


261 Moore St.

Brooklyn, NY 11206



Manhattan outpost location: 230 Park in Midtown.

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

Vandal: A Gourmet Graffiti Hotspot Honors Local and International Street Art

Most would agree that food and art go hand-in-hand. The same goes for bad boy chef, Chris Santos, who uses the pair to inspire his newly opened restaurant, Vandal. He may be a no-nonsense judge on the Food Network’s hit show ‘Chopped,’ but this restaurateur/chef has a soft side for global street food and the artistic influence of cultures.

Located on the historic Bowery in New York’s lower east side (LES), the bi-level urban, chic space houses two bars and lounges including one in the cellar, a garden dining area,  and private dining room. Chef Chris is a vet when it comes to the LES dining scene. With two successful and trendy dines, The Stanton Social and Beauty & Essex, Vandal is a welcomed new kid on the block.

The restaurant offers diners a world class experience of diverse small plates and tantalizing drinks while praising neighborhood and global art and architecture. When forming the concept, Chef says he wanted the “menu to be a culmination of inspiration from [his] life travels and includes nods to street fare from locations as varied as New York, Rome, Peru and Hong Kong.” As a result, dishes like snapper tostadas, lobster and sweet potato soup dumplings, Argentinian beef empanada and Chicken Katsu & Hong Kong egg waffles are served very evening to guests.

There’s a surge of buzz surrounding Vandal’s opening. No doubt the restaurant will see great success and yet, Chef Santos has more up his sleeves. Plans are slated for more restaurant project openings in Los Angeles and Las Vegas summer 2016.


199 Bowery, New York, NY 100002


Comfort “Phó”d Season

Grilled Pork Chop Phó

‘Tis the season for comfort food. As always, it conjures up fond memories, awakens the taste buds and is super satisfying. We all have our go-to favs, but I’ve added different dish to my all-star list – phó – and Shanghi Shack serves up the real deal.

This shack is a local favorite among the NYU, Greenwhich Village crowds and phó lovers alike. No passport or long flight necessary to indulge in this pool of brothy love straight from the orient. Cozy up to a deep dish filled with noodles and grilled pork chop (or your choice of topping). Pick and choose from a spread of fresh lime, basil leaves and beansprouts to enhance the rich flavor of the phó. Or, settle down to the classic, plentiful báhn mì sandwich with Vietnamese ham, house bacon and paté. If you’re more of a vermicelli purist, pair it with tender grilled lemongrass chicken or seasoned soy. There’s a great selection of choices including vibrant salads and fresh juices, but don’t overlook the perfectly fried sweet potato fries with the addictive house mayo sauce – I promise you’ll want it sauce on everything!

As we turn to stews, casseroles, and roasted veggies this time of year, venture out and try a new type of home cooking. It may not be momma’s kind of fare but as long as it’s tasty and brings you to a happy place, she’ll approve.


114 MacDougle St.


Open for dining, pick up and take out orders

**cash only**

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.


  • 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!

Don’t Doubt Downtown

No longer is the World Trade Center area considered NYCs ghost town, but instead a revival of life, gourmand presence and promise. There has been a huge increase in residents due to an influx of new eateries, mega-foodie markets and notable chef restaurants flocking to the scene. Not to mention, major media power house Condé Nast, set up shop at 1 World Trade Center.

A prominent example of revitalization is Le District – a bustling French cuisine centered marketplace offering coveted pastries, charcuterie, indigenous ingredients, and other provincial gems from the city of lights. Housed in Brookfield Place, guests can plan an all-inclusive visit by tasting Parisian delicacies, or try bites from the Blue Ribbon sushi and Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque outposts (among others) in Hudson Eats. Then treat his or herself to retail treats at Saks or better yet, DVF.

But this is just the beginning. Veterans such as the Odeon and North End Grill, are the catalysts since they have claimed stake in the area far ahead of the curve. Now names such as Mario Batali, Starr Restaurant group, April Bloomfield, and beloved Wylie Dufresne plan to get in on the action within the next 12 months. And the list keeps growing!

Anticipating more patrons, surrounding dines have changed their menus, entrées, and hours to meet the interests of the people: the Odeon added a breakfast service, newcomer Racines NY (Chambers St.) incorporated a refined lunch selection, highlighting flavorful yet light selections to attract local Condé Nast editors, and Warren 77 has recently noticed more customers during happy hour.

With a child-like hope and excitement for the near future, chefs, restaurateurs, and epicureans salivate for what’s to come. At such potential, Battery Park City explodes with life and culinary wonder. At such a time as this, it’s worth the journey and discovery to be downtown bound.

U.ndeniably W.onderful S.pots in the U.W.S.

Many people know the Upper West Side, U.W.S. for short, for it’s exquisite museums – MOMA, The Museum of Natural History, the Planetarium and of course Central Park. But remember, this is New York City, one of the world’s food mecca’s and so ANY NEIGHBORHOOD in this city is known for it’s food – The Upper West Side included. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling some new dines and known favorites in this neighborhood.

New to me, but well established to locals is Canteen 82. This superb sushi and Shanghai-centric joint offers fresh, organic ingredients. So many imaginative sushi rolls in this eatery – there’s the Mango Fly Roll filled with spicy tuna and yellowtail fish topped with mango and also the Green Dragon Roll stuffed with sweet potato, shitake mushrooms and cucumber draped with avocado.

Green Dragon and Mango Fly Rolls, Canteen82
Green Dragon and Mango Fly Rolls, Canteen82

I cannot say enough about their succulent pork soup dumplings. These babies are similar to traditional dumplings but include a helping of pork broth inside, so your bite bursts with flavor to seduce your taste buds! You must try it at least once in your life. Unforgettable!

Address: 467 Columbus Ave. (bet. 82nd and 83rd )

Another popular place is Gabriela’s Restaurant & Tequila Bar. No passport necessary, but once your walk under the front trellis your are instantly transported to Gabriel’s back patio in Mexico. Authenticity is taken very seriously here. Especially in the coveted moles served – Poblano (pepper and chocolate based sauce) and Pipian(pumpkin seed and almond sauce). I recommend notable dishes: Empanada de Pollo Organico, a turnover filled with organic chicken, sautéed tomatoes and onions and the Pork Al Pastor tacos.

Empanadas de Pollo Organico, Al Pastor Tacos, Shrimp Chimichanga, and Suizas
Empanadas de Pollo Organico, Al Pastor Tacos, Shrimp Chimichanga, and Suizas

And you cannot miss the shrimp chimichanga filled with beans, cheese and tomato sauce (pictured) nor the Suizas enchilada packed with chicken topped with Pico de Gallo, sour cream and Green Salsa or you can opted for a mole sauce instead (pictured). No matter what you order you won’t be disappointed. Be adventurous and accompany your option with their delicious sangria or a fantastic margarita. Looking for a brunch option? Gabriela’s offers an unbeatable $13 spread of dishes every weekend and holiday!

Address: 688 Columbus Ave. (at 93rd st.)

One of my favorite places, The Meatball Shop, is one of the new kids on the block (literally). Recently making their claim to the UWS, Owners, Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow have opened their fifth location in Manhattan (sixth overall) which is all the buzz in town. This time, I tried the mysterious yet legendary Kitchen Sink Salad with a quinoas, turkey meatball topped with homemade pesto and vinaigrette dressing. The salad is made up of the chef’s choice of

Kitchen Sink Salad with Quinoas Turkey meatballs and pesto sauce
Kitchen Sink Salad with Quinoas Turkey meatballs and pesto sauce

greens and veggies. Mine included sliced apples, shredded carrots with raisins, sautéed cauliflower, mushrooms, and beets. All topped with extra mozzarella cheese. Absolutely tantalizing! I’ve reviewed The Meatball Shop in a previous post… if you’re hungry for more, read the full review here.

Address: 477 Amsterdam Ave.

Shakeshak, a glorious burger joint to New Yorkers. Known for it’s heavenly milkshakes, juicy burgers, dogs and addictive fries, this shack is a grill-grub home for museum tourists and natives alike. Cannot miss the DogMeister- a dog topped with Shack cheddar and American cheese sauce and crispy ShackMeister Ale-marinated shallots. Umm-hmm, sounds great, right? Wash it down with a Caramel shake or a featured beer. P.S. Congrats to ShakeShak for it’s newest location in Flatbush, Brooklyn!

Address: 366 Columbus Ave. ( at 77th st.)