Levon's Obsessions

A gal whose obsessions lie within fat, sugar, carbs, caffeine, and beverages that could strengthen the heart or seal up a wound.

Robust Coffee Lounge – Chicago, IL

So at one point I firmly believed that Busy Bee in Brooklyn and that random drive through coffee shop in Portland were the only coffee spots who could perfectly concoct a white chocolate iced latte the way that they do.  Well.. It wasn’t until after a friend of mine suggested I drive a mile up to the President’s house since we were about a few blocks away in Woodlawn, which is the neighboring hood of Hyde Park where the President lives in Chicago.  Anyway, in doing so I passed a cute little wifi lounge/coffee shop and decided to drop in.  I went straight to the white chocolate section of the menu board at Robust Coffee Lounge.  Well not section exactly, but those were the key words I was looking for..

I then ordered their iced white chocolate latte.

I was in coffee lover’s heaven.  It was piping in white chocolate flavor yet #Robust.  Just the way I like it.  Creamy but packed with the intensity one needs from coffee.  A coffee diamond in the Chicago rough.  Thumbs up.

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Salt Creek Grille – El Segundo, CA

Recently writing about Pera made me think of a really wonderful restaurant in El Segundo.  Salt Creek Grille is a very calming restaurant to say the least.  From the inside to the outside it has a very tranquil setting, sort of like Koi, but with a non-Asian menu and theme.  The man-made creeks, mini waterfalls, firepits, etc in the outside area are stunning.  It’s very similar to what you’d expect at a spa or resort.  It’s refreshing, and even with the massive amount of filled tables and the jam-packed bar, it still managed to have a quietness about it.

Photo Source LA Ink / Discover Los Angeles Site

To go with the all natural ambience, Salt Creek Grille also offers a very organic menu.  Like a lot of restaurants in and near LA, they offer fresh ingredients from a local produce.

I went with the Coffee Encrusted New York Steak.  It was awesome.  It was garnished with baby wild arugula & blue cheese, and came with roasted Yukon gold potatoes & bourbon caramel.  It was cooked to perfection, it was tender, and the accompaniments were fitting.

My FPIC who recommended this amazing place, ordered the Spaghetti Squash and Ricotta Ravioli.  It had corn, slivered almonds, snow peas, capers, cherry tomatoes, and kale & sweet heirloom tomato marmalade.  I tried her dish and although it was quite eclectic in taste, it was light yet filling, and it offered made-to-order pasta which I constantly crave.

There’s nothing like fresh, healthy food in a relaxing environment with a charming decor.  Salt Creek Grille – El Segundo was a great experience indeed.  It would definitely warrant a revisit.

Molly Darcy’s Irish Pub – Danbury, CT

Molly Darcy’s Irish Pub and Grill is a traditional Irish favorite in Danbury, CT.  I found that out when I was sent there for a training class a week ago, and our trainers took us out for dinner one night.  First of all the food was great.  It has a great bar, a really fun atmosphere, perfectly balanced decor – not overly upscale and not too cheap, and again the food is great.

Photo Source Raw Photo Design Site

It took everything in my power not to order the Buffalo Burger, which is what I kept staring at on the menu, but I decided to go with something easier which was the Chicken Pot Pie.

It turned out to be the best decision I could’ve made.  Their Chicken Pot Pie consisted of chicken pieces, potatoes, carrots, peas & onions, and was cooked in a white wine cream sauce.  It was excellent.  Then they topped it with an extremely light, baked pastry.  It was absolutely amazing.  Funny how sometimes when you expect the least you get the most.  I got our trainers’ money’s worth and then some.  Great place.

Korean Chicken Factory – Hoboken, NJ

Driving down Washington Street in Hoboken is always a treat for foodies.  They have a great array of restaurants down this long strip, and as a result are typically bustling during lunchtime.  Well the day I was scheduled to work in the Hoboken area recently was no different.  Washington Street was packed and parking was scarce.  As my FPIC/co-worker and I parked, we noticed the big and colorful Chicken Factory awning and decided to pop in.  My FPIC ordered the Sweet and Spicy Wings, which were packed with flavor but tiny.  They were also way more spicy than sweet, which should definitely warrant a new name – Hot as Hell.  My FPIC couldn’t even finish them they were so hot.  I think if I were to go back I would try the Soy Garlic instead, but with the drumsticks and not the miniature wings.  They were also a tad bit overcooked, which isn’t surprising because of how little they were.

I on the other hand got the complete opposite – the Bibimbap with chicken, which turned out to be completely cold.

Bibimbap is a traditional Korean dish with rice, a bunch of vegetables and a meat.  What got me is that the vegetables are supposed to be sauteed and seasoned.  They were neither. They were raw vegetables with no seasoning.  Also, instead of brown rice they served it with white rice.  I was a bit baffled when it came out because of this.  Also, especially because of the portion difference with what was served to me and what was in the picture.  Granted I typically shoot my blog pics from a high angle so it gives off the impression that there is a lot more food than it is.  Take my word for it however, this was literally half the amount than what was pictured on the menu.  That or they foolishly served it to me in a huge bowl.

I think only because of our time constraints, did I not say a word to the woman at the register about any of it.  Although the sauteed dish that I expected to get turned out to in fact be nothing more than a $11 Korean salad, I can’t help but to wonder if I went to a different location would I have a much better experience.  I feel like their food is supposed to be great.  I really do.  I can’t help but to think I just went at the wrong time when the cook called in and the cashier was forced to play double role, and clearly shouldn’t have.  Ah well, better luck next time.  I guess.

Istanbul – Brooklyn, NY

I was working in the Bath Beach part of Brooklyn the other week and had been craving Turkish food for a while and decided to try Istanbul.  I had passed this place a few times and curiosity led me inside.  They have a sit down/dine-in restaurant and a separate take-out venue nearby on the same block.  It was relatively busy when I went into the take-out part of Istanbul, but busy generally means safe and popular.  From the looks of the exposed glass shelves of meat, I figured it was definitely authentic Turkish food.

The meat and the desserts were overwhelming as I went back in forth in my mind about what I was going to order, then not order, then go back to ordering again.  I’m referring to the infamous “I have no idea what I want because it all looks so good” game.

When the time finally did come for me to place my order I very randomly went from looking at the meats in front of me to opening the menu and choosing the first thing in front of me.  The Kubasili Pide for some reason was the first thing that stuck out.

About 15 minutes later, the pide filled with filet mignon, green and red Hollad peppers, and tomatoes & onions came out. It was tasty.  The bread was fresh, and I’d have to guess all the ingredients were also.  After that I decided I couldn’t leave without taking some Baklava.

The Baklava was extremely rich in taste and sweet enough to be packaged with just one.  It truly was a lot for one person. None-the-less, I was happy.  I had a serious sugar rush, but I’m convinced it was needed after that Kusbasili Pide.  I would certainly go back to Istanbul, but would definitely try out other parts of the menu.  Particularly the parts with eggplant.

Rice to Riches – NY NY

So Mott and Mulberry Street has this really bright and catchy, niche storefront that exclusively houses rice pudding.  They have drinks too but we weren’t feeling that adventurous, plus we had already come from dinner.  Rice to Riches is one of those spots that is easy to pass during the day but hard to miss at night.

With window front phrases like..

It’s hard not to be lured into this place.  Me anyway.  Alluring it is.  From the bright fixtures and the energetic staff, to the massive assortment of flavors..

And if there’s any type of guilt trip momentary revelation then.. Let them tell it..

So why not???

Asking for a sample at the least is inevitable when walking into this place.  I’m pretty sure I counted at least 21 flavors.  I tried the Fluent in French Toast and the Coast to Coast Cheesecake.  I believe my FPIC sampled the Hazelnut Chocolate Bear Hug.  It was quite a treat, given the fact that rice pudding isn’t exactly at the top of my “have to have” list.  I don’t think rice pudding will surpass the cupcake trend as of yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a few of these in LA.  It was a fun surprise for the evening, and I think next time I’m in Nolita I’ll stop in and try the Take Me to Tiramisu or Category 5 Caramel.

Happy Hour Obsession of The Week – Pera, Soho NY

So me and my closest NYC friends / crew did our quarterly meet-up and ventured off to a really awesome Mediterranean spot in Soho called Pera.  Pera has a really innovative happy hour menu with great pricing.  I mean with cocktails like Bicycle Thief and small plates like fried mussels, you know you’re in for a surprise.  Getting trapped in traffic caused me to miss the excellent happy hour deal, but thankfully my good friends still had some food left for me to nibble off of.

They ordered the Fried Mussels and the Smoked Eggplant with Garlic Yogurt (2 items for $6 = $6 total).  The dip was good.  Pera had a fairly decent selection of other tapas (or meze rather) choices for happy hour, but the lovely gridlock at the Lincoln Tunnel caused me to miss out on their discounted segment of the menu.  My crew mentioned the Pera Rickey cocktail being extremely good but since I was tardy for the happy hour party, I went with one of the regularly priced cocktail items.

The regularly priced agave-type drink that the bartender suggested was amazing.  Pricey but amazing enough for me to order a second.

So there you have it.  A great Mediterranean selection at great happy hour prices, and an ambience and outdoor garden that will make you keep coming back.  Just make sure you come before 7:30, cause they ain’t cheap..

 

Brooklyn Moon Cafe – Ft Greene, Brooklyn

A friend and I decided to branch outside of the Habana Outpost box for a change and explore the rest of Fulton Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  We dipped into a small cafe called Brooklyn Moon Cafe, and because Fort Greene has excellent places to eat we figured it wouldn’t be that much of a crap shoot.  Well spinning the Wheel of Foodie Fortune landed us on the “Spin Again” slice in the wheel.  Lucky for the open window front, excellent weather and the fact that my FPIC and I were in the midst of a socio-political debate while sipping on some insanely strong cocktails, it was easy to overlook the fact that the food was incredibly bland.  All of it.

 

I had the Fried Whiting with Mac n Cheese and what was supposed to be Sweet Corn as my side.  Although my company and the scene was great, the food was not.  The macaroni looked great in appearance with the color and all, but fell incredibly short on taste.  The fish had a very crumbly type breading and kept falling apart and had absolutely no seasoning, and the corn possibly was dumped directly from a Stop & Shop can without jazzing it up with at least butter or pepper of some sort.  Although not impressed with the  food, the very timid server was polite, and the open store front and the abstract art made for a relatively nice ambience.

All in all, if you want to be a part of the Fulton strip, Fort Greene mix and sip on something with a kick, here’s your spot.  Eat first though.

Damien Woody of NY Jets Eats 2,500 Wings

In the midst of the “Rex Ryan losing control of his NY Jets” rant today on ESPN Talk Radio, the conversation took an interesting turn when the topic of food came up. They were interviewing former offensive lineman Damien Woody, and somehow the conversation diverted from play politics to him and the entire offensive line once eating 2,500 wings. Wings as in the chicken wings at the bar that occasionally given the right day one can shamefully admit to orderering 12. Well try 250. 250 for yourself and not for the entire bachelor party later on that day. That’s exactly how many were portioned off for each of his teammates. So who has the ultimate chicken wing obsession??? The former NY Jets offensive tackle whose weekly grocery bill is probably over a thousand dollars. That’s who.

Photo Source nypost.com

With this Nephilim type appetite along with his wife and 7 kids, their local grocery store is officially declared recession-proof and will probably never go out of business. So next time you think you’re being a badass by upping your 8 piece order of chicken wings at your local BW3s, BBQs or Wing Stop (depending on where you live), know that you are not..

Photo Source Helmet2Helmet.com

I see why my dad used to joke about me having the appetite of a linebacker..

Chelsea Manor Martini Fest NYC

At the suggestion of Living Social, NY Cocktail Mixers will let you do as the Romans do… or did.   They have a $40 admission special to a 3hr Martini Fest  Mixer.  It’s weekly on Saturdays from 8 to 11 (pm obviously) at Chelsea Manor.  The special includes five martini tastings, two full cocktails, and appetizers (an $80 value). Watch as expert mixologists battle to create the best martini and sample five signature drinks, such as passion fruit, mango, or piña colada martinis. Then, sip down two full versions of your favorite concoction, and pair them with tasty apps. You can do all this in the Chelsea Manor – well Chelsea Manor’esque type ambience with a glass bar area and crystal chandelier with the dj doing what he does..

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Photo Source - Chelsea Manor website

So buy your ticket today while the deal lasts!!!

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Photo Source - Chelsea Manor website

Find out more: http://www.livingsocial.com/cities/3/deals/408202-martini-fest-admission? ref=NYCMDeal080112_3_2614email422877

Pizza Capri – Hyde Park, Chicago

Chicago has a portion of my heart and is truly one of my favorite cities to be sent to for work or play.  Hyde Park nostalgically reminds me of my circa 2000 Washington, DC moments.  The vibe is amazing.  I was led to a pasta jewel called Pizza Capri.  Apparently this place is known for its popular pizza choices, but due to my pasta obsessions that’s what I inevitably ordered.

 

I had the Pasta Shells with Salmon sautéed with crimini and portobello mushrooms, simmered in tomato cream sauce with garlic and shallots.  It was amazing.  Someone in the back did their heavy cream justice.  It was tasty, hearty, and included some of my favorite things – mushrooms, garlic, and salmon.  It’s always nice to see chefs play around with a vodka sauce.   My FPIC had the Creamy Garlic Chicken Fettuccine tossed with Italian parsley and parmesan cheese in a parmesan garlic cream sauce.  It was equally amazing.

I enjoyed it enough to actually go back a few days later for dinner again since..

..And because

This time the server convinced me to try something else.  I’m a stubborn foodie and oftentime habitually stick with what I know.  In this case I took the server’s suggestion and tried something that wasn’t even on the menu.

This dish had fettuccine in an alfredo sauce that was laced with nutmeg.  Borderline stroganofish but with an Italian twist.   It was significantly different than the last vodka dish but good.  It had mushrooms, spinach, parsley, certainly nutmeg, and chicken and noodles.  It was good.  And like the previous visit, generous portions with a very unpretentious vibe.  Great spot. Next time I’ll try to curb my pasta addiction and get the deep dish.

 

 

Wasabi Fusion, Minneapolis

With flavorful tuna, crab and shrimp rolls and enticing tempura cheesecake, Wasabi Fusion is one of Minneapolis’s Japanese hidden treasures.  Wasabi Fusion is the sushi, hibachi and bar part of the dual Japanese restaurant of Wasabi, that consists of Izakaya and Wasabi Fusion.  They are located at S. Washington Ave downtown Minneapolis and are conveniently located across the street from the aLoft Hotel that I always stay at for work.  I haven’t tried the Japanese hot pot items at Izakaya but will say that the sushi at Wasabi is very good.  It’s vibrant, colorful, and rich in taste as you would expect with authentic sushi.  Most importantly, it’s fresh and has good texture.

The 9 piece sushi combination of the JC Roll with the spicy tuna, king crab, shrimp tempura and avocado was pretty filling, and made it impossible for me to try anything else.  One thing is definite though, the fried cheesecake tempura is a must next time I’m there.

Photo Source Eatjackson.com Blog

That is if I’m not in the mood for something a little more exotic.  Then naturally I’ll switch gears and head over to the sister restaurant Izakaya..

BusyBites Food & Fashion NYC

Union Square’s Wix Lounge housed a food fanatic’s dreamspace not to be confused with what is usually their workspace, last night.  The Brooklyn Bakery hosted event consisted of multiple vendors showcasing their latest menu items.  The food and beverage sponsors were from Kumquat CupcakesOaxaca TacosGreensquare TavernAlchemy CreameryBK WineryHerb N Zest, and Brooklyn Brewery.

My first stop was at Greensquare Tavern which had some of the most amazing tuna tartare in addition to some other really wonderful treats.
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The server was quite approachable, easy to talk to, and quite passionate about the business.

Next stop was Herb N Zest’s table.
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Then I migrated over to the Oaxaca section where they had three various tacos – chicken, beef and potato. Since my food ticket only allowed one taco, I decided not to crapshoot it on the potato and therefore stuck with the chicken.
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For sweets, Kumqwaat provided the nicest little cupcake treasures. They were perfect. That’s pretty much all I can say. The salted caramels were pure joy.
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Busy Bee Bagel Cafe Brooklyn

This busy bee decided to stop at the hive for a quick swig of honey on her lunch break yesterday, and she did so in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.  Politiced with the owners of the newest cafe on Fulton St and Classon Ave, Georgie and Jewels guided me through their crafty menu.  My eyes were fixated on the coffee flavors though.

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They had a white chocolate iced coco that was to die for. Topped off with a shot of espresso, I was in queenbee heaven. This was all after devouring my tuna salad wrap.

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Good lunchtime snacks, perfect coffee, great convo, and quite fitting ambience for the Clinton Hill crowd. Busy Bee Bagel Cafe was a nice find.

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This busy bee will definitely be back.

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New Brazilian Obsession – Bossa Nova LA

I saw an online banner on the hottest restaurants in LA the other day and immediately thought of my late night Sunday Greystone Manor excursion that immediately led to Bossa Nova in Hollywood a while back.  After a typical long night that one would expect of promoter etiquette, table service politics, and several bottles of adult juice at this extremely selective supperclub, quite predictably a post club food run was inevitable.  Berri’s is normally my first choice when running the streets late night in the city of cherubs.  However a new love was found that night thanks to one of my friends and her recommendation of what is now one of my favorite Brazilian spots in W. Hollywood.  I have frequented both the Sunset and W. Pico locations several times since, and am consistently satisfied.  I can always rely on a refreshing conversation with the hostess staff while waiting on my carryout order to take back to the hotel, and the food itself is absolutely incredible.  Depending on when you go, it’s not at all surprising to run into several noticeable celebrities, artists and industry types.  For the most part though, it’s a very family and couples friendly environment.  Food-wise I always gravitate towards the pasta due to my first incredible virgin Nova experience.

This was the Sunset Pasta w. Asparagus, boneless Chicken Breast, Onions and Mushrooms in a Cream Sauce.  It was very generous in portion, and it was exceptionally good.  I’ve also had their Tiriri Pasta..

Although a quite tasty dish and very popular according to my new hostess friend, it doesn’t pack as much flavor as the Sunset pasta.  The Sunset has a little bit more zest.  Their menu is amazing so you really can’t go wrong with any choice.  This I promise.  There’s nothing like fresh pasta made with fresh ingredients after a night of  **clearing throat** organized industry chaos.  So next time you’re in W. LA or any part of Hollywood, try it out.  Be careful though, you just may have a new Brazilian obsession in LA.

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