Category Archives: Business Meal

The Nomad: Daniel Humm’s rich, carefully plated dishes in a gorgeous mahogany library

Photo from NYTimes

Photo from NYTimes

I finally checked The Nomad off my bucket list, thanks to hearing from many people this weekend that it’s their absolute favorite restaurant in New York. After a late night out Saturday the last thing I felt like doing was dressing up for a rich, semi-fancy meal, but I knew it would be a mistake to pass up the 7:30pm reservation I scored last minute.

Long story short is that the place is magical – absolutely stunning with the high ceilings and warm lighting. But I’m guessing the aura of importance this place exudes is what makes the prices are as high as they are, because while the food was definitely impressive in presentation, nothing I ate was as standout as what I had expected for such gorgeous, dramatic surroundings. If I were to return, it would primarily be to re-live the feeling of being in a setting that’s truly unique and regal, but takes care not to be overly stuffy.

Library dining room

Library dining room

The cocktail list is extensive but our sommelier recommended two delicious bottles of wine that paired with the copious amounts of food my friends and I ordered. My favorite part was hands-down the hot chick-pea crusted rosemary focaccia, which they generously give to every table. I would have paid a good $10 for this. I appreciated that they offered two sizes of the crab lemon tagliatelle, but while it was bright and refreshing, the amount of crab was seriously pathetic. Along with the simple lettuce salad (which was pretty boring), the tuna tartare, served skewered on actual tuna bones, was the lightest thing on the menu and a welcome starter for what was to come.

focaccia - this was from last season

focaccia – this was from last season

tagliatelle with crab and meyer lemon

tagliatelle with crab and meyer lemon

frothy poached egg that turned into a soupy mess

frothy poached egg that turned into a soupy mess

The theme of the rest of the meal was heavy, rich, and doused with butter. Eating everything from foie gras to fried sweetbread egg rolls, I felt like I was in Versailles. The egg poached in butter with quinoa actually tasted like a frothy butter soup. Then, because we pretty  much had to, we moved onto their special chicken for 2, which at $79 I expected to blow me away. Theoretically, it should have. The chicken, which is first presented whole and then carved and plated, is massaged with black truffle foie gras stuffing. The dark meat is carved and served in a separate cast iron pot of “jus”, which honestly tasted like rich, meat flavored butter. The stuffing on the breast meat was great, and the entire presentation was creative, but I’ve had better chicken in Korea town. The meat itself lacked flavor and could have really benefitted from some brining. A+ for creativity, but B- for actual taste and flavor.

chicken before carving

chicken before carving

chicken carved

chicken carved (photo from starchefs.com)

chocolate dessert

chocolate dessert

milk and honey

milk and honey

The desserts, as usual on this blog, saved the day – probably because we had little chance to fail since we ordered every item on the menu (and the waiter kindly brought us one on the house). Each was beautifully plated and incorporated lots of variation in texture – the chocolate dessert had little squares of rich fudge bites, crispy chocolate cookies, and malt ice cream. I loved their well known “milk and honey”, three scoops of subtly flavored honey ice cream with crispy shortbread and brittle. Others raved about the poached strawberries with angel food cake and ricotta, but I’m not usually a fan of fruit dessert. If I’m going to eat dessert, I want it to be as far away from healthy food as possible.

I’m very satisfied with my experience at Nomad because 1) I finally got to see what the hype was all about, 2) I proved to myself that the chicken was not worth $79, 3) I got to spend over two hours in one of the most striking, grandiose  real life version of Harry Potter’s library ever, and 4) Most importantly, it will tide me over from expensive, special-occasion meals for the next few months. Was it the best meal of my life? Definitely not. But I would recommend having the experience at least once to everyone.

Grade: B
Location: 1170 Broadway @ 28th
Website 

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Filed under Business Meal, Flatiron, French, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Romantic Date, Sex & The City Swank

The Palm Court at the Plaza: tea time, anyone?

Justyn @ Plaza

Justyn @ Plaza

Scones, clotted cream, tea
Fancy forks and velvet chairs
Hellof expensive

I never thought I’d add high tea at the Plaza to my New York bucket list, but when my sister invited me to join her with her friend Nicole, it suddenly became a pre-move-to-SF priority. Plus, I grew up fantasizing about the Plaza as an avid Elouise fan. Before I could read, my sister would pretend that this said book was oddly written all about me, so imagining myself jumping around the hotel was often how I’d fall asleep. To be here today as an adult, sipping tea as a civilized New Yorker, happy and independent…well it just brought a warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia.

Until I was told we would be charged $20 per person to share any of the four assorted finger food selections. At $60 for an individual order, I should’ve assumed as much. Fortunately, my annoyance only slightly disrupted the beauty of the grand and uniquely ornate surroundings.  

We selected the afternoon tea and shared the New Yorker, which came with a selection of mini sandwiches, lemon scones with clotted cream, lemon and jam, and sweet treats, all a notch less fancy than the “Fitzgerald Tea for the Ages.” And while “they” call it “tea”, it soon became much more of a food test than a sipping tea fest. I sampled every sandwich (microscopic bites since we were sharing between 3), and the smoked salmon with endive was by far the best. The other two were delicious – roquefort with grapes, and a crispy prosciutto with mozzarella and pesto. The cucumber was not cold and crispy enough, and far too heavy on the whipped cream cheese.

Me & platter

Me & tower

Nicole & Justyn & platter

Nicole & Justyn & tower

The scone, a very important part of tea, was crumbly, buttery, lemony, and perfect with the clotted cream and sweet additions. It was enough dessert on its own, but that didn’t stop me from sampling each of the bite-sized desserts on plate 3 – the cream-filled profiterole was the best.

The best deal here, however, is the $30 Elouise tray for children. Nicole’s daughter lucked out with her own, 3-tiered tower filled with a PB&J, cucumber sandwich, strawberry sandwich, and a few others, a scone, and a ton of desserts that looked better than our adult ones (like a white chocolate dipped strawberry and a pink oreo…so unfair). I took a few bites here and there, and while the PB&J was a little on the stale side, I’ll say this much – if you can pass for an 11 year old, I would come here to order this and call it a day.

heaven for a child.

heaven for a child.

Will I be back? Not on my paycheck. Did I feel super sophisticated and rich eating there? Yes. Quintessentially New York? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Totally.

So America, here you have it. Tea at the Plaza Hotel.

a horrible photo of all of us.

a horrible photo of all of us.

Grade: B+ (food only)
Location: The Plaza. Do I even need to explain?
Website

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Filed under Brunch, Business Meal, Midtown East, Midtown West, Upper West Side

Lafayette: neck and neck with Balthazar as my favorite brasserie

dj-laf-blog480

Balthazar is one of the few restaurants that has remained one of my favorites since since moving to New York 5 years ago (I still can’t get over how long it’s been). I love it for the atmosphere – the hastiness of the waitstaff zooming by, the energy of the people in the room, the wide brasserie style seating, and I go back each time of course for the food and drink – the amazing bread and butter, the simple salads, the hot fudge covered profiteroles, and the shockingly strong French 75’s get me every time. Everything about this place screams New York brasserie, which Keith McNally seems to do so well.

Never did I ever imagine that a newcomer could one up such a longstanding New York staple, but after my epic experience at beautiful Lafayette last Tuesday, I think Balthazar may need to up its game to remain the king of the brasserie crop. Lafayette, which took over the massive Chinatown Brasserie space, is a beautifully spacious, well-lit and enchanting French brasserie that transports you from New York city to a fantasy land (think Great Gatsby) where there’s not a care in the world. I walked in and gasped – a delectable boulangerie with mounds of pastries welcomes you at the entrance, and with staircases and side-by-side booths to optimize the space, there really doesn’t seem to be a bad table in the house. And just like Balthazar, there’s this inescapable and addictive vibrancy – everyone is more alive than ever: happy, hungry and actively people watching.

lafayette bakery

grandiose bakery upfront

Service was humble and spot on. After a few slices of the rustic sourdough bread with salted butter and a delicious glass of champagne (cremant de Bourgogne), we were served Eggs Lafayette, essentially two stuffed hard boiled eggs with sable fish and trout caviar. Absolutely heaven on earth, and pretty much the best, most unique rendition of deviled eggs I’ve ever had. Next was the Pate Maison, which came with brown ceramic jars of unlimited cornichons (great touch) and brown mustard and grilled rustic bread. This paired well with the massive, lightly dressed butter lettuce salad with roquefort and country ham. RARELY am I impressed by a salad, but this was so fresh, light and stunning with the creamy blue cheese. I was dying for a pasta, but in an effort to eat lightly I went for the steamed trout, served with an utterly flavorful bean and tomato “mush” that I couldn’t get enough of.

Dessert was insane too. Hot fried beignets with chocolate mousse fulfilled my craving for something classic, and the Sweet Cheese Cremant with blueberry sorbet proved that there’s more than just traditional dishes at this place. By the end of the meal, I was reluctant to leave our cozy booth for two, but I have every intention of coming back next week for a bowl of the gorgeous black fettuccine that was served to my neighbor.

pate maison (photo from seriouseats)

pate maison (photo from SeriousEats)

blueberry cremant (photo from SeriousEats)

blueberry cremant (photo from SeriousEats)

Compared to Balthazar, I think the standout difference of Lafayette is its slightly more elegant setting and menu (and a few more pastas) – Balthazar is just a touch more core to its rustic French brasserie roots. Either way, it’s going to be a real toss up the next time I’m in the mood for French food.

Grade: A+
Location: 380 Lafayette Street at the corner of Great Jones and Lafayette
Website:

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Filed under Brunch, Business Meal, Erin's Favorites, French, Fun Group Dinner, New American, Noho

John Dory Oyster Bar: fish bowls & parker house rolls

oyster

I went to the original John Dory Oyster Bar when it opened right next to Del Posto for about a year. It was good, but I don’t recall it being mind-blowing. Unfortunately, I had a similar experience at the relatively new Gramercy location last week. The space is uniquely aquatic, bold with beautiful fish tanks high above the bar, an ornate oyster shucking station, black tiled walls, eclectic fish art and bright blue and green cushioned high stools. But while I usually love everything stamped with April Bloomfield’s approval, I was underwhelmed by the food and frustrated by the horribly inefficient service. And despite all the hype surrounding its opening, the space emptied out by 11pm – a shocker for any NYC restaurant on a Saturday night.

While our waiter was friendly, young, and passionate about his oysters, the wait time between placing our order and receiving the food was astoundingly long. Fortunately, early on in the meal I had devoured two warm, fluffy parker house rolls glistening with golden butter, which come 3 per $4 order.  The plates then came out at a snail’s pace, one at a time: oysters, razor clam ceviche (never again), an oddly textured semolina soup, chorizo stuffed squid, a lobster roll, and an odd dish called kedgeree, which is essentially a mixture of butter, rice and fish. While the chorizo stuffed squid, the shoestring fries and the oysters were expectingly tasty, everything else irked me for one reason or another. The lobster roll was smothered in mayonnaise, and I am still having nightmares about the razor clam ceviche. Slimy. Wet. Gross. Though, to be fair, I don’t think I would have enjoyed raw clams in any setting, so I don’t blame John Dory Oyster Bar for this.

JohnDory_Parkerhouse-Rolls

parker house rolls

chorizo stuffed squid

chorizo stuffed squid

nightmarish clams

nightmarish clams

mayo-roll

mayo-roll

So, given that the food wasn’t fabulous, I likely won’t head back uptown for my oyster fix – I’m quite content with Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village. But, if you’re in the market for the most delicious rolls you’ll ever taste, and want to be in a unique space away from the bustle of downtown, John Dory Oyster Bar has your name written all over it!

Grade: C+
Location: 1196 Broadway @ 29th
Website

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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Seafood

The Marrow: Herold’s take on elevated Eastern European

marrow

For some reason I’m turned off by words like “bratwurst” and “pickled herring” when I’m perusing a menu. It’s not that I don’t love German food (though never in my life will I eat herring again), I’m just a sucker for the standard mozzarella or crostini options that make my eyes light up when I find them. Fortunately, Herold Dieterle’s new restaurant in the West Village does a great job of marrying the best of both worlds – a little pasta or vitello tonato here, a little cold sausage and pretzel dumpling soup there. In fact, the menu is so diverse that some might interpret it as a restaurant identity crisis.  But if it’s ever difficult to understand the dominant cuisine of a place, just analyze the bread, and here, mini pretzel rolls with mustard make it clear that while there are a number of italian touches, German food reigns supreme.

IMG_2021

pretzel roll – could have been slightly softer.

Marrow 75

Marrow 75 (photo from SeriousEats)

For such a new restaurant, the service was noticeably remarkable throughout – I couldn’t believe I was permitted to sit at the table before my boyfriend arrived and that I was able to taste so many wines before selecting.  I started out by sipping a stiff Marrow 75 cocktail with gin, sage, lemon, and sparkling wine, and was soon tipsy enough to order with absolutely no inhibitions – meaning, we got a lot of food. We started with an amazingly fresh, lightly acidic dungeness crab salad, baccala gnudi with pine nuts and raisins, and a skillet braised cuttlefish with guanciale and white wine. The refreshing crab salad balanced out the hearty buttery-ness of the cuttle fish and gnudi, but all three dishes were beautifully plated and well-seasoned. The soft, melt in your moth fish-ricotta dumplings were my favorite – and while I generally don’t like fruit in my savory food, the plump sweet raisins totally complemented the subtle seafood flavors in the dish.

Then came round 2. The stone bass “vitello tonato” was beautifully cooked – tender white fish, crisp white skin, and a luscious veal-tuna sauce on the base of the plate. We also made an adventurous choice of the $30 roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, which essentially looked like a massive shrub with a bounty of other vegetables, but tasted as good as a mass of hearty, crispy and juicy mushroom could. I think if I ate the entire thing I would have exploded – who knew mushrooms could be so rich? The cotechino with lentils
was meaty, salty and dense – an interesting take on sausage and lentils but apparently an italian tradition. We ended the meal with a decadent portion of chocolate budino, which was served with whipped mascarpone cream and a salty hazelnut brittle that I took it upon myself to use as a spoon.

baccala gnudi

baccala gnudi

cuttlefish

cuttlefish

cotechino - photo from SeriousEats

cotechino – photo from SeriousEats

The food had a few things in common: all very savory and flavorful (only 1 or 2 of the dishes were a tad too salty), never before seen (in my life time), and all very delicious. But while food is generally why we go out to restaurants, ambience is a huge factor in my love for a place as well. The space here fits the food – daring wall paper, bold colors, warm lighting – but let’s just say I wouldn’t be happy to be seated in the long narrow expanse that leads to the bathroom. Unfortunately the massive windows look onto a deserted street and add a coldness to an otherwise charming, intimate space. Either way, the food is enough to bring me back, but it’s easy to rack up a bill here so it’ll likely be for a special occasion.

Grade: A-
Location: 99 Bank Street @ Greenwich Street
Website 

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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, German, Italian, West Village

Isabella’s: hotel fare in an uptown setting

So after a few weeks of being absent due to hurricane-induced homelessness, I’m back in the game and feeling anxious about the dozens of restaurant experiences I have to report. The only remote “light” in the storm of Sandy was the fact that hiding out uptown for two weeks left me no choice but to try restaurants outside of my downtown-comfort zone, so here begins my attempt to cover my most memorable and atypical meals out in the last few weeks (in separate entries for search optimization, of course).

After two long, wine and snack food-heavy nights cooped up in my boyfriend’s apartment, I took the much needed walk to Isabella’s in the seventies, one of the few places open for dinner service. Like the other few restaurants operating, it was completely packed with people, who like me, were desperate to escape the house for human interaction and normalcy. Given my lengthy and ever-changing list of must-try spots, it pains me to stumble upon a corporate , evidently BR Guest restaurant that I never intended to try, but given the circumstances I had little chance of finding a better option.

Isabella’s is just what I’d imagine a classic upper west side restaurant to be – comforting and frills-free. A green fabric awning with the restaurant’s name in cursive covers an entryway that leads to a spacious, well-lit, two-story restaurant with white families eating bread rolls while perusing leather menus. With the straight-forward, pasta and chicken-covered menu, Isabella’s feels like a cross between a country club, a hotel, and the typical family-friendly Manhattan establishment.

Surprisingly, good old New York was just what I craved after a few days in disarray, so in going against my normal grain, I ordered Isabella’s Chopped Salad, Maryland Crab Cakes, Hay & Straw Linguine with chicken, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs, and of course, a Warm Brownie Sundae with salted caramel ice cream that I obviously couldn’t resist. An overdressed salad and buttery pasta were fortunately redeemed by the rest of the meal. While in my normal state of mind I would have never ordered such a boring sequence of food, something about a good old crispy crab cake and a creamy pasta made me feel like I was young again with my grandparents at their Jewish Country Club, where all I had to worry about was looking pretty and keeping my elbows off the table. Oh how times have changed, but that’s a story for an entirely different blog.

chopped salad

linguine

Is Isabella’s memorable? Aside from having comfy boothes, warm bread rolls, large scoops of ice cream and overly friendly service, Isabella’s doesn’t at all stand out in my mind. That said, there’s always a purpose for reliable, uninventive, family-friendly fare, and when that need arises this place is a solid option for those in the area.

Grade: B
Location359 Columbus Ave at 77th St

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Mediterranean, Parents in Town, Upper West Side

Marc Forgione

Yesterday I decided to incorporate a walk around Tribeca during my morning exercise to check out the new All Good Things market in the area. The place looks like a very tiny version of Grand Central Market with good lighting, display cases, and signs of vendors catching the attention of customers strolling down the walk-way. But after a thorough review of the few prepared foods available, I knew I needed to go elsewhere to fill my Sunday mid morning belly. I wanted something delicious but low key. So, my companion suggested Forgione – a restaurant he claimed was casual, but that I always remembered as super duper fancy. We walked in, and despite the bright sun shining outside, it felt like it was 8pm on a Saturday night. We sat at the bar and had a cherry mimosa (a little too sweet but tasty), complimentary warm, honey-chive biscuits served with some kind of delicious whipped butter, and a roasted vegetable omelette with goat cheese. Now, I came to this place looking for something simple so maybe I had false expectations, but how inventive can you imagine getting with an omelette? This “omelette” came out as a flat pancake-shaped egg resting on a pile of small chopped up roasted vegetables and goat cheese. What happened to egg and filling integration?

glistening honey biscuit

I think my expectations of casual and straight-forward were incorrect, but I should have known given what I’ve heard about the dinners at this place. Still, I confidently profess that in no scenario is an “elevated” omelette better than a standard one. An omelette is an omelette, so please give me what I ordered. That said, I know there is real skill in the kitchen because damn those biscuits were crispy and delightful! I might return for dinner…but considering I’m typically looking for brightly-lit, happy-go-lucky, stick to your bones brunch spots, this did not win a spot on my Sunday morning grub list.

Grade: B
Location: 134 Reade Street
Website

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Tribeca

Featured City Post: St. Regis Lobby Bar in San Francisco

St. Regis Bar: swanky, sceney, overpriced but incredibly juicy pork buns from Ame restaurant. And that is all.

pulled pork bun – so delicious (pic from Yelp)

Grade: B (ridiculously overpriced)
Location: 3rd and Mission
Website

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Featured City Post: Bar Agricole in San Francisco

With my travel sked. in the next few weeks, my featured city posts will soon have a different meaning – New York city will need to be my “tourist destination.” Tears. But for now, I shall talk about SF as if I am a foreigner until my bouncing around lifestyle really sinks in.

My local (and childhood) girlfriend Gillian would never classify herself as a “foodie.” Despite crossing town for Gordo’s burritos, she seems repulsed by the foodie label. But every now and then she’ll get hooked on a place – so hooked that she visits week after week until the bartenders wink at her as she walks in and the host waves like Gillian’s the mayor of SF. She’ll eat every dish on the menu and email me with passionate encouragement to try it out. Finally, we decided to try her current obsession together – Bar Agricole – and I was totally impressed with our  fantabulous meal.

Gillie in front

bartender

happy with my medicine

I died the second I got out of the car (valet thankfully). The place is gorgeous. It’s a gem in a horrible neighborhood containing Slim’s and Costco. Among the sea of drab buildings, Bar Agricole shines with a beautiful charcoal gray exterior, sleek wood, high ceilings, clean lines, and modern elegant light fixtures. You feel the dedication to consistent design when you walk in here, and the essence remains in every sip of a drink and bite of food you take. The menu is a sturdy white booklet that details in succinct lines just the most important elements of each dish, which are made up of 3-4 key local ingredients. Feeling compelled to celebrate the end of the week and a relative reunion, we went to town on the ordering. I chugged an amazing fruit cup cocktail with gin and ginger, and recited the list to our waiter: speckled romaine salad with breakfast radishes and soft boiled egg, raw albacore tuna with cucumber, avocado, and beets, chopped liver on toast, spaghetti with tuna confit, capers, tomato, black olives, and parsley, and roasted duck breast and leg (Sonia next time) with squash blossoms and white corn.

delish Fruit Cup

romaine salad

tuna salad

Gillie with liver

duck breast and leg

tuna pasta

Every dish that came out was better than the last. The liver on toast, which we ordered only to taste, was devoured in seconds. The romaine salad had just the right cheese and acid to make the salad feel light and interesting at the same time. The spaghetti was my favorite – salty, earthy, and hearty with a thick slab of delicately cooked tuna. We were seriously in heaven as we trekked through each dish, and just when I thought I couldn’t handle anymore, we dove right into a lemon ricotta tart with lavender meringue and a tiny white chocolate cremeux with almond crumble and grilled peaches. We told the waiter it was his responsibility to take it away after we had a few bites, but of course we guarded those plates like they were our own children until we pretty much ate every last drop.

last of the Gillie photoshoot

Bar Agricole reminds me of the value prop of SF restaurants. Yes New York has a plethora of wonderful restaurants, but no where can you find such high quality fresh food in a beautiful setting at these prices. I would say the food and setting of Bar Agricole is along the same lines as ABC Kitchen, but no layman in New York city could dream of getting a reservation at a decent time at Jean George’s hot spot. San Francisco is a city of the people for the people – no need to call 30 days in advance for this place, which is just as awesome.

Next on my list – State Bird Provisions – a restaurant where you can hand pick your dishes as they stroll by in dim sum style carts – and this year’s best new restaurant according to Bon Appetit. Until next time!

Grade: A+
Location: 355 11th Street
Website

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Californian Cuisine, Erin's Favorites, Featured U.S. City Posts, Mediterranean

Cafe Blossom

Sometimes when the day ends and I’m laying my bed, I come to realize that I haven’t eaten one item of protein all day. I used to pretend I was a meat lover, but now I can admit that I’d rather stick to grazing on cheese than a hunk of steak. There’s a time and a place, but in the midst of a New York heat wave, it just doesn’t sound appealing…so when Maharlika owner Nicole suggested Blossom for dinner last night, I was 100% down for the vegetarian journey. The Cafe opened recently on Carmine, and it has a much more sophisticated menu and feeling than its name implies. It’s dark, romantic, intimate – the perfect place for a date if you’re ok-cupiding with a vegan. And a few yards away is new goat’s-milk ice cream store Victory Garden that has an addictive salted caramel ice cream that could be a follow up to the date (don’t knock it ’til you try it).

Cafe Blossom’s tangy, chunky pickled-onion and tomato guacamole with corn chips wowed me. It had so much more flavor and richness than the over-blended versions at most conventional restaurants. I loved the slow roasted rutabaga and quinoa served with grilled asparagus, sautéed kale and a large slice of fresh roasted tomato. I’m constantly on the hunt for restaurants with a clean menu rather than over-buttered food that can weight down the body if you eat out as frequently as I do. Along with S’nice, Westville, and Meme Mediterranean, Cafe Blossom is a great choice for food that’s well thought out and health-focused…and they have booze for those who want to counter balance the health factor. Definitely a new top choice for a low key weekday meal.

quinoa & roasted rutabaga

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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Vegetarian / Vegan, West Village