BEHIND-THE-PLATE

FIRST COURSE
Spring Has Sprung at Ça Va Brasserie

With warmer weather upon us, many restaurants have begun rolling out their seasonal menus for spring. Peas and ramps and asparagus abound, and menus across the city are greener than we’ve seen in recent months. We had the opportunity to sample a limited time offering at Todd English’s New York outpost, Ça Va Brasserie, and per English’s usual standards it was nothing short of impressive.

The warm, welcoming atmosphere of Ça Va’s intimate space was a fantastic way to kick off the company’s Earth Week celebration, and the menu represented a lighter take on the traditionally French style of cooking Ça Va is well known for.

FIRST COURSE
Ponty Bistro

Long before the two hour waits at Dirty French, there lies a cozy, neighborhood gem in the heart of Gramercy that has been serving up French-African food for nearly a decade. Ponty Bistro, with its warm, cherry wood furniture, and authentic African art, makes you feel like you might possibly be in a French inspired bistro in Senegal, where owner and executive chef Cisse was born. (The bistro itself is named for one of the main thoroughfares in Senegal.) Cisse is warm and charming, and much of his success lies in the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere that he creates – helping to motivate neighborhood regulars to keep coming back. The restaurant has done so well that the owners – Cisse and his cousin Chekh - managed to open up a second, more spacious location in Harlem. Featuring live music and catering to the African immigrant population residing in Harlem, Ponty is bound to be as big of a hit uptown as it is downtown.

FIRST COURSE
Restaurant Review: Le Village

Executive chef Didier Pawlicki, who also runs the kitchen at sister restaurant La Sirene, prides himself on wholesome, homemade ingredients, and does an excellent job of catering to dietary restrictions of all sorts at this cozy East Village French restaurant.

The menu, teeming with information regarding whether or not each item is vegan or vegetarian or gluten free, can be a bit cluttered at first glance, but reading it more closely, each dish begins to resonate with the diner. When Chef Didier originally opened this location, he wanted to cater to what he thought to be the majority of the East Village population: those who adhere to a plant-based diet. But he came to realize that a purely vegetarian menu was unappealing to the remaining East Village carnivores, and that he needed to broaden the scope of his menu in order to attract both sects of diners. We're glad he did as both his foie gras and Brussel sprouts are some of the most creative we have ever sampled, making this a prime spot for veggie-lovers to bring their meat-loving friends.

FIRST COURSE
The 411 on Wylie Dufresne's and David Chang's Heavenly Cheeseburgers

What do cheeseburgers and famous NY chefs have in common? First, Wylie Dufresne unveiled his Alder burger, and now, David Chang has hinted that a Momofuku version of a cheeseburger is in the works. Two young and already iconic New York chef’s are garnering heaps of public interest with burgers — just good ol’ American burgers. Naturally leaving us wondering, what makes these burgers so special?

David Chang always has had an affinity for dressing up fast food classics, but Wylie Dufresne’s food tends to look like its back from the future, not the drive-thru. So perhaps most shocking is that Dufresne’s burger looks just like a cheeseburger. But don’t let looks deceive you --this seemingly simple burger is anything but average.

FIRST COURSE
PARM Is Not Just Another Italian Restaurant



The bright neon Parm sign twinkling in the rain signaled the long anticipated restaurant opening was underway. The first two nights of Parm’s Upper West Side opening were rainy ones, but that did not keep the patrons away. The second Manhattan location of the popular Noho eatery helmed by the Major Food Group gentlemen opened on the Upper West Side this week.

FIRST COURSE
A Taste of Bavaria at Paulaner



Earlier this week we had the opportunity to step into a Bavarian world and taste some of the most amazing food and drink around. Paulaner is a modern take on the traditional beer hall with great food and it's conveniently located at on Bowery.

Wolfgang Ban's (also of Michelin-starred Seäsonal) latest contemporary Bavarian restaurant is located directly inside an active microbrewery. Reclaimed wood provides a warm contrast to the industrial chic of imposing copper and steel fermentation tanks. Most impressively, everything from the beer to the bread, the sausage to the schnitzel, the pretzels to the stollen, is made in-house with locally sourced ingredients.

FIRST COURSE
Dopo East Debuts New Wine Room

Though this charming, classic Italian restaurant is off the beaten path, it is an inviting space, laden with “Grazi’s” and “Prego’s”, and encouraging smiles by the warm, efficient staff. It is upscale without being snooty or intimidating, a place you could easily bring your parents for a quieter, less intrusive New York City dining experience.

The newest additions architecturally enhance the already cozy environment, and it makes Dopo East that much more approachable. The back garden is enclosed in a glass ceiling and is temperature controlled, providing guests with the fantastic option of dining under the moonlight (without freezing) all winter.

FIRST COURSE
What Do Those Buzzwords On Your Menu Even Mean?

You want to eat responsibly, but reducing your carbon footprint isn't always so easy when the food industry has a revolving door of buzzwords that confuse and elude diners. While nutritional facts and purveyor lists are a welcomed sight on menus, even the most experienced diner and self-proclaimed foodie might find themselves wondering what exactly all these words really mean.

Before you find yourself tangled in a word jumble of heritage breeds, heirloom varietals, sustainably sourced and foraged foods, take a minute to brush up on some prime vocabulary.

This simple guide will explain some of the common food industry buzzwords so restaurant patrons will know what they are paying for or are not paying for when they dine out.

  1. Organic: Of course, organic brings about that warm and fuzzy feeling. If it is organic it must be good, right? Really, something is organic if it complies with government sanctioned regulations. In the U.S., this means no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, no hormones or antibiotics, no GMO and absolutely no irradiation have touched your food. But, it does mean other fertilizers and pesticides may have been in contact with your favorite after work snack.
  2. Local: How local is local you ask? Well, that depends. According to Greenopedia, strict locavores only consider food grown within 100 miles of its final resting place on a plate to be “local." However, 400 miles is the more generous and common maximum distance food can travel from farm to table to still be considered locally grown or raised.
  3. Sustainable: In order for a food item to be sustainable, it must have the ability to maintain and reproduce without without damaging the surrounding ecology, economy, political environment or cultures. In the food world this means, that sustainable fish you chose for dinner last night may be or may not have been raised on a fish farm, but it will not be responsible for the collapse of world fish stocks.
  4. Heritage: According to The Livestock Conservancy, heritage breeds are a relic of the pre- industrial agriculture days. What exactly makes a particular breed of cow, chicken or pig heritage today is still being defined, but we do know that heritage breeds are animals with unique genetics that are helping to keep the biodiversity of the livestock industry growing.
  5. Heirloom: Much like your family heirlooms, heirloom varietals come from seed species that are very old. These are not your fruits and vegetables grown on large-scale industrial farms. Instead these plants often produce food that looks less uniform than the conventional, but are sought out for their flavor and uniqueness.
  6. Foraged: While the general population does not scavenge for food, the foraged food trend just might convince you to start (or leave the hard work up to the professionals who supply the trendiest restaurants with these highly sought after finds). Simply put the foraged dandelion greens on your $30 entree were plucked from their naturally occurring ground, not cultivated.
  7. GMO/Non-GMO: If it says non-GMO then zero genetically modified crops were used in its creation. If the uncertainty of what these so-called “franken foods” might cause later, best bet is to avoid them. It is important to note that GMO seeds are not the same as hybrid seeds, which were bred overtime through cross-pollination and not formed in a laboratory.
  8. Free-Range: This typically conjures up images of happy chicken freely wandering as they please, but according to The Humane Society, there are no enforced regulations required to make the claim in the U.S. The free-range birds are generally uncaged with some roaming freedom. What they eat and general animal welfare treatment is left up to the farmer.

FIRST COURSE
NoBread NYC is a Game Changer for the Gfree Community

Whether you have Celiac, food allergens, or have made a personal decision to go gluten free, wheat-free options in modern dining have really seemed to catch on. And while rice flour and tapioca starch abound in our grocery aisles, it can still be a task to know exactly what is and isn’t gluten free when dining out. Enter Nicole Cogan, the founder of NoBreadNYC.com. The former financial analyst left her job half a year ago to work on what has truly been a labor of love. Her food allergens and sensitivities combined with her work in an industry that often called for carb-packed power dinners with industry elites inspired the creation of her website, which has amassed a more than impressive following in a short amount of time.

FIRST COURSE
World Renowned Chef Richard Sandoval Finally Shares his Culinary Secrets

This past Thursday, November 20th, the man who does it all, Chef Richard Sandoval, named Bon Appétit Restaurateur of the Year, celebrated the release of his newest cookbook, New Latin Flavors. Loyal fans and admirers of his gathered at one of his NYC restaurants Zengo, a sleek and spacious restaurant with a blend of Latin American and Asian cuisine, for an unforgettable night. The event featured unlimited appetizers and specialty cocktails selected by the chef, from his New Latin Flavors cookbook. Each attendee was given the chance to meet with the legend himself, Chef Sandoval, and received a signed copy of his cookbook as well as a generous $25 gift card to use at any of his restaurants.