Five Favorites: New York City Eateries

AmandaD lists the best places to eat that she discovered on her recent trip to New York City.

1. Molly’s Cupcakes, located on Bleeker Street in Manhattan, won the season finale of “Cupcake Wars.” After eating one of their cupcakes, I can tell why. The décor in the store is modern and fun  — they have swings!

2. Lombardi’s Pizza in Manhattan’s Little Italy claims to be the first pizzeria in the U.S.A. They serve a traditional Italian-style pizza … and it’s AWESOME!

Ryan, Kim and I enjoyed the signature margherita pizza at Lombardi's Pizza.

3. Bare Burger in Astoria, Queens, serves fresh burgers made from locally farmed grass-fed meat. They have everything from veggie burgers to ostrich burgers! You pick the type of burger you want, then choose the toppings.

The Western grass-fed beef burger at Bare Burger.

4. Big Gay Ice Cream, located off East 7thAvenue in Manhattan, is totally fun and DELICIOUS! There’s a sparkly rainbow painted on the wall when you walk in and the ice creams are listed on a chalkboard to your right. I had the Salty Pimp and it ROCKED!

Big Gay Ice Cream's Salty Pimp has caramel, nuts and chocolate.

5. S’MAC in Manhattan’s East Village is a macaroni and cheese restaurant = OMG!!!!

The buffalo chicken mac 'n' cheese with blue cheese crumbles was my favorite dish at S'MAC.

Road Food: Un-Belize-Able Food is Found in Belize

In February, I was in desperate need of a vacation so I convinced my Mom, Dad, and boyfriend, Ryan, to buy a Living Social deal to Belize. We spent a week in Hopkins, Belize, and loved it! Belize is the perfect combination of adventure, tropics and relaxation. Plus (this was a key part in convincing my Mom and Dad), the people speak English. Unlike its surrounding countries, Belize has a Caribbean flair, which makes the food AWESOME!

Hopkins, where we stayed, is a small, remote fishing village, so it didn’t take us long to find the good places to eat. Note: The food prices in Belize are higher than what I had expected. On average, it cost us $15 a person per meal. So if you are traveling on a strict budget, plan ahead and do your research to find the lower-priced restaurants.

Hopkins is a Garifuna village on the east coast of Belize.

The following are a few of the best and unique places we ate at in Hopkins, Belize.

You have to travel all the way to the north end of Hopkins until you feel like there is nothing left to find, and there you will find Driftwood Pizza. You’ll park your car as close to the beach as possible, then walk through the sand to the restaurant. You will then be greeted with warm smiles and Caribbean music. We had the most amazing fresh conch fritters as an appetizer, with pizza to follow. The small kitchen is open, so you can see the cooks making your food. It took a while to make, but it’s well worth it! The ingredients are all fresh and the dough is delicious. With this being said, if you could see how much of a trek it is to get to Hopkins, you would truly appreciate the freshness of this pizza. Driftwood is a fun place for delicious, casual, fair-priced food.

Driftwood Pizza serves great slices.

Chef Rob’s is located right on the water, so you can see and hear the ocean as you eat an amazing four-course meal. Chef Rob, a trained French chef, prints a new menu each day based on what is caught that day. We had the four-course meal (you can order items separately if you want) for about $30 a person, which included appetizer, soup or salad, entrée and dessert. Aside from the food being delicious and beautiful, Chef Rob came out to every table and made sure the guests were pleased — something I have NEVER experienced.

Love on the Rocks also is owned by Chef Rob. The concept is one I’ve never seen. It’s based on the Mayan technique of using hot lava rocks to cook food. At Love on the Rocks, you sit outside and wait for your lava rock to heat up. The food is brought out to you raw, then you cook it on your lava rock and apply sauces as desired. I had chicken with a peanut sauce; it was great and a lot of fun!

A fun meal at Love on the Rocks.

Innie’s Restaurant offers traditional Garifuna food in a homey atmosphere. The prices are really reasonable and the food is outstanding. I had the grouper fingers. The grouper was caught that day, and it was out of this world. Not one ounce of grease and so fresh. The prices at Innie’s are very reasonable compared to surrounding restaurants. If you are in Belize on a budget and want a great place to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Innie’s is the place!

Grouper fingers at Innie's Restaurant.

Innie's is a great place to grab an inexpensive meal.

Lastly, for my fellow food lovers, when you go to Belize you must have Marie Sharp’s hot sauce. It’s made only in Belize, and it’s awesome! It comes in many levels of heat, with warnings like “do not use to play tricks on the weak or elderly” — hah!

Everything from the food, people, and natural beauty make Belize a place worth visiting. If you ever get the chance to go, let me know. I’d love to hear about your great finds — food and adventure!

Nosh News: The Best of Everything Edition

Anthony Bourdain vs. Paula Deen: Two celebrity chefs enter, one leaves (possibly slathered in butter).

’Tis the season for Top 10 lists. Here’s a rundown of 10 of the most entertaining best-of-the-year roundups I’ve found around the Web, in no particular order:

1. Top 10 Food Trends of 2011 by TIME. A wide-ranging overview of the year’s highs and lows. Thumbs up to #3: The New Vegetarians and #10: Regional Food, thumbs down to #9: Texting at the Table.

2. Top 10 New Foods at the 2011 State Fairs by Endless Simmer. Check out which state nabs the dubious honor of #1 fair-food innovation.

3. Top 10 Food-Related Lawsuits of 2011 by LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog. A big thank you to the plaintiff behind lawsuit #3 for ruining late-night Taco Bell runs for the rest of us.

4. Travelers’ Choice 2011 Top 10 Food & Wine Destinations in the United States by TripAdvisor. I visited four of the 10 cities on this list in 2011 (and, in previous years, I’ve dined in three more). While #3 Chicago, will always be my favorite place on the planet to eat because it’s my hometown, my introduction this year to the dining scene in #1 New Orleans landed that city high on my own list of the most enticing food destinations.

5. The Best Cocktails of 2011 by Tasting Table. Blame it on Mad Men. In 2011, classic cocktails edged out other alcoholic beverages, prompting home mixologists to begin experimenting with bitters, shakers and garnishes. If you’ve already perfected your take on the French 75, this list offers 10 fresh recipes to test-drive.

6. Top 10 Food-World Spats of 2011 by CHOW. My personal favorite smackdown? Anthony Bourdain, who seems to despise everyone in the culinary world but himself (and his dudebro David Chang, of course), vs. the equally unctuous Paula Deen.

7. Ten Best Vegan Cookbooks of 2011 by VegNews. A great resource for everyone who wants to add more meatless dishes to their cooking and baking repertoires. As a lifelong diner devotee, I need to add a copy of “Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body & Soul” by Portland, Ore., chef Julie Hasson to my cookbook collection.

8. Top 10 Food-Related Apps by the Washington Post. Perfect for foodies who received a shiny new iPad or smartphone for the holidays. I’m eager to explore Chefs Feed, which features prominent chefs’ picks for great dining experiences in a handful of U.S. cities, with more locales to be added in 2012.

9. Top 10 Food Trends for 2012 by Epicurious (via Yahoo! Shine). An intriguing look ahead at the forces that will shape how we eat in 2012. I’ll be watching to see how these trends play out in Tallahassee in the coming year. We’re already got several excellent artisan cheesemakers in the area, and I hear that there’s a new churro purveyor in town, but I have yet to spot fennel pollen on a local menu.

10. Top 10 Simpsons Food Episodes by LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog. OK, so this list isn’t limited to 2011 episodes, but it’s way too much fun to miss. Whether you’re fantasizing about a colossal donut or a mug filled with Skittlebrau — or perhaps something slightly less Homeric — here’s hoping that 2012 serves up an array of edible delights.

Road Food: Sluggo’s in Pensacola, Fla.

Cajun carrot cakes with soy remoulade at Sluggo’s in Pensacola, Fla.

Since I perpetually find myself en route from Point A to Point B, I’m always on the lookout for great places to stop for a bite to eat while I’m on the road. As a persnickety consumer of meat, the top spots on my list tend to have a knack for meatless dishes.

There’s Soccer Taco, a sports-themed Mexican bar and grill in Knoxville, Tenn., that serves a near-perfect plate of veggie fajitas. Kavarna Coffeehouse in Green Bay, Wis., which I can always count on for a spot-on latte and a top-notch walnut burger. And Good Dog in Chattanooga, Tenn., where I can get a vegan Chicago-style hot dog that’s truly better than the real thing.

On a recent drive from Tallahassee to New Orleans with The Professor, I discovered my new favorite place for road food, thanks to a suggestion from a very cool vegan couple we know. Sluggo’s, a café in downtown Pensacola that doubles as an all-ages music venue, possesses that rough-and-tumble, punk-kids-threw-this-together vibe that never fails to charm me, but the dishes we ordered revealed just how much thought has gone into the all-vegetarian menu.

We plowed through a notably hearty vegan chili with cornbread, sides of collard greens and mashed potatoes topped with the best mushroom gravy I’ve ever eaten, and a plate of excellent pot stickers with three sauces. Then we turned our attention to the dish I still can’t stop thinking about, something I’d never encountered before.

The grilled Cajun carrot cakes were sprinkled with candied pecans and accompanied by a soy remoulade, which all together on my fork created the ideal balance of spicy, sweet and creamy. I need to figure out how to recreate that unforgettable dish in my own kitchen, or just concoct an excuse to drive through Pensacola again soon.

Just the facts
Sluggo’s
101 S. Jefferson St., Pensacola, Fla.
(850) 791-6501