A Taste of NICO Kitchen + Bar

Newark, NJ

NICO Kitchen & Bar is an hidden Italian gem nestled in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ. The restaurant is owned and operated by Culinaire and its acclaimed Executive Chef is Ryan DePersio.

Once you enter NICO Kitchen & Bar, you instantly feel a shift in the atmosphere as the decor exudes a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. Although the restaurant is spacious with many tables and a tall ceiling, you still get an intimate feel from the dim lights and warm colors that bounce off the walls.

A friend and I were sat in a comfy, leather bonded booth with a spacious table just ready to be filled with delectable plates of food. The waitress explained the menu to us, as she was very knowledgeable about the menu and made several suggestions.

We ordered an array of several dishes coursed throughout our meal experience. For the first course, we ordered Pomegranate Chili Wings, Lamb Meatballs, and Polenta Fries.

The flavors of the wings with creamy gorgonzola fonduta served my palette well with the  tartness of gorgonzola, light sweetness of pomegranate, and a hint of chili spice. The succulent lamb meatballs was served in a savory tomato sauce with roasted red peppers and crumbled feta cheese. Lastly, the toasted polenta fries was golden and crisp with a creamy interior.

NICO Kitchen & Bar has a brick oven and as noted by the server that the pizza dough was a family recipe often tested and perfected so I had to try to it. So we ordered the Magherita, a classic favorite with fresh ingredients.

For our third course we ordered PEI Mussels, Grilled Lamb Chops, and Buttermilk Baked Chicken. As the entrees arrived, the aromas were so inviting. The mussels were pan roasted in spicy shellfish broth with Sardinian fregola, fresh herbs, and served with a char grilled bread to dredge up the rest. The chicken was sous-vided then baked with a black truffle pesto, accompanied with broccolini and whipped potatoes. The grilled soy-paprika lamb chops were my absolute favorite, the textures of eggplant puree, wilted spinach, and sauteed turnips served as mouthwatering adventure.

Lastly, after eating all of this delicious food I was determined to make room for dessert. We ordered the chocolate sour cream cake and sundae. I must say that I’ve been to several restaurants and pretty much always have an idea of what the dessert is going to look like but not this time. The plate presentation was both surprising and appealing. Pure genius!

Come check out NICO Kitchen & Bar for both lunch and dinner. It is ideal for large functions, after-work cocktails, or an intimate date. Great food for fair prices.

NICO Kitchen + Bar
New Jersey Performing Arts Center
One Center St., Newark, NJ
973-642-1226
nicokitchenbar.com
Reservations accepted  by-phone or opentable.com  
Free Parking with Validation
Lunch Hours: Mon.-Fri.: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Bar Menu available 3-5 p.m.
Dinner Hours: Mon.-Thurs.: 5-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 5-11 p.m.

– Isaiah Kelsey


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Mother’s Day Out With Three Special Brunches

New York, NY —

Because let’s face it–you owe her. Everything. Why not start this Sunday morning off right by dining in style with my top picks for elegant brunches that range from the relatively affordable to a little splurge.

Isabella’s
http://www.isabellas.com/menus-and-food
359 Columbus Ave
(between 76th St & 77th St)
Price Range: $11-30

If you’re looking for a brunching gem in the Upper West Side, Isabella’s by the Natural History Museum is offering a special menu dedicated to the lovely ladies. Pair a glass of rose with an appetizer of grilled jumbo shrimp or strawberry salad. For the main course choose between pan-roasted sea bass or chicken “milanese,” and top it all off with a decadent chocolate raspberry velvet tart. Besides being in a beautiful atmosphere, this is one of the more affordable brunch/lunch options in the city this coming Sunday.

Jane
http://janerestaurant.com/menus/
100 W Houston St
(between Laguardia Pl & Thompson)
Price Range: $11-30

Make sure you get a reservation but even if your wait is over an hour long, it really might be worth it. Seeing as you can get a free cocktail with your order–how could you go wrong? Your delectable meal begins right away with their free bread and creamy strawberry butter. The definite classic standards here are the vanilla french toast and the Benedict Johnny, an amazing egg dish that is sweet yet incredibly savory with their tender corn fritters, excellent maple sausage patties and poached eggs covered in roasted tomato hollandaise.

Maialino
http://www.maialinonyc.com/#/menus/
2 Lexington Ave
(between 22nd St & N Gramercy Park)
Price Range: $31-60

For a beautiful and fine dining experience, Mom will be floored with the Maialino experience. With exotic and whimsical twists on classic egg dishes like the frittata bianca, coppa romana and trippa they also offer an array of beautifully baked goods that range from chocolate croissants to toffee glazed brioche. If you do a dinner instead, you can indulge in their $55 pasta tasting menu only offered on Sunday nights.

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Diana Tsuchida

Happy Mother’s Day All!

Free Ice Cream On Haagen Dazs Anniversary!

Photo: activediner.com

New York, NY —

52 year ago, Haagen Dazs Ice Cream company was created and today they are celebrating! Participating locations will be giving away your favorite scoop of ice cream between 4pm-8pm. Every year their flavor creativity expands further. My latest favorite is coconut macaroon. So stop by today and sing Happy Birthday!

Thanks,

Isaiah Kelsey

Comedian Ralph Harris Dishes Up A Preview of “My Momma Throws Down” Premiere

Photo Credit: Praise 98FM

New York, NY

From the producers of the popular cooking show, Iron Chef America brings us “My Momma Throws Down”. The show is about two mothers going head and head for the title of Queen of Cuisine. The show is hosted by Actor and Comedian, Ralph Harris (Dreamgirls, Last Comic Standing, etc.) where he draws us in minute by minute of this competition with a bit of comic relief to add more entertainment. Tonight’s judges include actresses Malinda Williams, Nicole Ari Parker, and Vanessa A. Williams of the past beloved tv show series, Soul Food.

Photo Credit: Rolling Out

I got the opportunity to chat with Ralph Harris a bit about the the show and what we can look forward to this season.

Isaiah Kelsey: What qualifies you to host this cooking show?

RH: I’m an amateur (home kitchen) chef and I enjoy cooking when I have a chance. Sometime road food can get boring so, I can’t wait to have some off time to cook a meal from a recipe I’ve found somewhere or something I picked up from a tv show.

As a food lover, I can appreciate the care that the “mommas” put into their cooking and I do my best to help the audience taste the food through the screen.

IK: How does this show differ from so many other cooking competitions? 

RH: “My Momma Throws Down” celebrates the love that these mothers put into their food. It’s not about who has perfect knife skills or the craziest flavor combinations, but about the pride that the moms take in creating delicious food for their families.

Other cooking shows tend to have a bunch of very experienced chefs, who have had major time in front of a camera, but these mom’s don’t try to be anything but themselves.

IK: How can other “mommas” become apart of this show as well as audience members? 

RH: Interested “mommas” should check out TVOne.TV for casting updates for the next season. There’s also a page on facebook that was created for the show [http://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Momma-Throws-Down/283601711700423 ] , and any questions regarding the show, typically get answered in a day or so.

IK: What does your “momma” cook best? 

RH: My mom used to make the baddest sweet potato pie in Philly [Philadelphia, PA]. Then after years of trying to figure out how to get four grown kids out her house, she just stopped like Forrest Gump. Now, my siblings and I are always checking on her to make sure she’s eating.

I think she has a private food stash somewhere!

IK: Where is this show filmed? 

RH:We shot the show in Atlanta, at Turner Studios.

Check out “My Momma Throws Down” tonight on the  TVOne Channel at 8pm EST. Check your cable provider for additional times and channels. Follow Ralph Harris on Twitter @RalphHarris to chat with him about the show!

Momma Let’s Get Cooking!
Isaiah Kelsey

Cinco de Mayo, The Affordable Way

Photo Credit: Lauren Chattman

New York, NY —

The commemoration of the Battle of Puebla this year could not be more fortuitous: it lands on a Saturday, which needs no further explanation in the world of liquors and good times to be had. Whatever your celebratory craving, make sure it’s wholly Mexican and consists of many strong margaritas and Coronas without breaking the bank.

Cinco de Mayo Pub Crawl, May 4th & 5th

http://iadventure.com/show.cfm?id=148020

Perhaps teetering on the debauchery of a college spring break, an NYC Cinco de Mayo pub crawl extravaganza is being hosted by the producers of the largest pub crawls in the country. For $10 you can get an all access pass to each bar (but you still have to buy the booze.) But for anything between $2-5 dollars you can get you cheap Dos Equis, tequila and margaritas. Optional sombreros and pub crawl shirts are available for purchase.

Photo Credit: Closet Cooking

Cinco de Mayo Festival 116th St, May 6th

http://www.yelp.com/events/new-york-cinco-de-mayo-festival-116th-street

El Barrio on 116th is hosting a Mexican food fair for those craving a bit of the Southwestern flavor so far away and often missed from NYC. It’s a free event and by supporting local businesses in Spanish Harlem you can feel fantastic about chowing down a ten pound burrito stuffed with crispy shredded pork.

Mex Fest at South Street Seaport, May 5th

http://iadventure.com/show.cfm?id=147739

Here several famous NYC food trucks show off their culinary adaptations by infusing their menus with a Mexican twist. For only $8 you can get a voucher good for any sort of beer or margarita on site to pair with your favorite street eats like Luke’s Lobster, Kimchi Tacos, the Treats Truck, Gorilla Cheese and Wafels and Dinges.

Photo Credit: BHG

Flushing Meadows Cinco de Mayo celebration, May 13th

http://www.nydailynews.com/latino/double-fiesta-cinco-de-mayo-article-1.1070883

This huge annual event is providing a more flexible date (or extending the revelry) to May 13th, where the Battle of Puebla and Mother’s Day will be commemorated together at Flushing Meadows in Queens. It’s a welcome change of scene outside Manhattan and a truly family-friendly event.

Diana Tsuchida                                                                                                                        U.F.P Contributor

Sakuras in Springtime

 

Brooklyn, NY

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was the ideal spot for the spring Japanese festival or Sakura Matsuri. The beautiful cherry blossoms are in full bloom and no event marks the occasion better than the two days of festivities that celebrate Japanese dance, music, food and cultural rituals. It was quite overwhelming trying to bounce from activity to activity in the Gardens, but if you can immerse yourself in a few interests and watch some key performances, it’s a wonderful exposure to a plethora of Japanese culture. Even if you weren’t able to make it out to Brooklyn for the event, you can still admire the sakura blossoms overflowing from the trees all around the city.

If you’re ever craving the infectious beats of (literal) drum and bass, the Taiko drummers of Soh Daiko were an incredible display of athleticism, musical talent and entertainment as their team of talented drummers awed audiences and brought the house down. Following up the drumming feat was a haunting display of traditional Japanese forms of dance called Nihon Buyo and Ryukyu Buyo–both from mainland Japan and the island of Okinawa. The dances embody and symbolize the history of Japan that can still find its forms in kabuki theater and other various performance settings. Truly a special art that requires dedication, intense practice and understanding of the historical practices that came before, these dances are special treats that highlight the unique gifts from Japan.

For those who excel in their arts and crafts and wish to get some hands on experience, there were several booths dedicated to Ikebana (flower arranging), creating intricate hair ornaments and watching woodblock printing demonstrations. If you brought (or will bring next year) the little ones, this is an extremely family-friendly event with plenty of activities for kids like making an origami samurai helmet, a matchbox haiku workshop and even a magician.

An event to be experienced at least once in the city, make sure to stop and smell the flowers to mark this burgeoning spring.

Diana Tsuchida                                                                                                                           U.F.P Contributor

Ethiopian Treasure In The Village

West Village, NY

Have you ever had Ethiopian food? Well Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant resides on Macdougal St. between West 3rd Ave and Bleecker St, though it’s pretty hard to notice due its location one flight below the sidewalk. This restaurant serves as a great getaway for a cozy date for two or intimate party. A hole in the wall as it would be considered ,but as you enter Meskerem it has a typical restaurant atmosphere with no cultural or traditional decor signifying its Ethiopian theme. That is, until you order the food.

In the Ethiopian culture, food is served without any eating utensils. Instead, a spongy and addictive flatbread called Injera is used to dip and pick up a variety of mixed chicken, lamb, and vegetable mixtures that are typically creamy and often include lentils as a key ingredient. The bread fills you up quickly when combined with the entrees, so don’t order too much.

For lunch, Meskerem also serves as a small haven for one that transcends the business and loudness that can sometimes overwhelm city life. Many single diners order the Vegetarian Combo for themselves, which gives you great value for it’s price, while groups often order about three entrees to split, because Ethiopian food is also good for sharing.Each entree at Meskerem averages about $11, although you can get some delicious Sambosa appetizers (try the beef ones) for under $10.

Get ready for lots of strong flavor combinations, as garlic is a favorite. I recommend that you order a mixture of spicy and mild dishes to balance out the fresh, yet distinctive flavors. Meskerem is a hidden treasure that anyone would enjoy and experience that you won’t forget.

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Gabriela Garcia