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
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

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!


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


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


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


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


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gabriela Garcia

Choice Streets- NYC Finest Food Trucks Feature

Hello Readers;

Check out my feature, “Choice Streets- NYC’s Finest Food Trucks” on Mobile Food News!

New York, NY

Village Voice hosted their first year of Choice Streets, a food truck version of Choice Eats at the Intrepid Museum on Pier 86 last Tuesday. This event highlighted some of NYC’s finest gourmet trucks from savory to sweet……”

To read more, check out the link……http://www.mobilefoodnews.com/?p=25721


Isaiah Kelsey

Fried + Pizza = Best Of Both Worlds

New York, NY —

If you are a fan of thin crusted pizzas that you can fold into fourths and eat like a small Lego, then you will be sorely disappointed. But perhaps not. Because eating a pizza from La Montanara is unlike anything you’ve ever had before. Be wary of the fact that you can’t indulge like this every night unless going up a size in jeans every two weeks is your type of thing.

The menu is straight forward and small. There are basically four types of pizzas you can order with some various side dishes and appetizers. I tried the Salame Piccante and Tartufo (which is strangely not listed as a pizza on their website menu but as a pizza sandwich.) However if you go into the shop you can get this as a pie. As I’m a sucker for anything mozzarella doused in truffle oil, I bit the bullet and paid the $12 for this indulgence personal pizza. Topped with their specialty-made mozzarella and ham without any marinara sauce, it’s a very rich flavor to try and finish. But my will of an appetite drove me to complete the task and in a few minutes somehow all I was left with was a greasy plate that now only held the memory of some delicious fried bread. You may be a little put off by how much grease gets soaked into the plate, but you can perhaps rest easier knowing that it’s in the plate, not in the pizza. The pizza dough itself is not at all greasy but in fact just light and crispy especially at the crust. I could have made a perfectly satisfying meal out of just eating the crust. If you’re more of a fan for the classic marinara flavor the Piccante should do the trick, however it seemed that the whole pie was a lot floppier and flimsier than the Tartufo. Not sure if that was because of the sauce or “weight” of the salame, but the toppings tended to slide right off the dough like a water park slide. All the same, once you get to the crust, well, you remember why came to see what the fuss is about.

The dining room is a little small and you’ll almost be eating in a narrow hallway. But everything is clean and bright and has that new car smell. They’re just starting out and while I was there the inspection team came in and from what I could tell they got their A rating. Both the owner and main chef are quite nice and friendly, eager to accommodate and answer your questions.

Make sure to bring your dollar bills because it’s cash only.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

La Montanara
168 Ludlow St.
Diana Tsuchida                                                                                                                        U.F.P Contributor

Meatball Obsession: Get Your Fix On!

New York, NY

If you’re searching for a Italian fix on the go Meatball Obsession has what you’re looking for. I discovered this small meatball shop right off the NJ Path Train as the savory aromas drew me up the steps quickly.

Meatball Obsession offers large grandma-style meatballs with the option of pork, beef, or turkey in a homestyle marinara sauce. You can order these meatballs in 1-3 quantities with prices ($4, $7, $10) , which comes with toasted focaccia breadsticks that you can dip into your hearty sauce. For a small additional fee you can add toppings such as mozzeralla pearls, crispy pasta, or shredded cheese.

These meatballs can be served as not only just a quick bite but a meal as well. If you don’t have time to stop pass they will deliver for free starting April 30th with a minimum $10 order. Delivery zones range between 5th Avenue to 7th Avenue and 18th Street to 8th Street. You can place an order at http://meatballobsession.com/or call at 212-260-8646. Meatball Obsession is open daily 7am-11pm, located at 510 Sixth Ave. [at the corner of 14th St].

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Get Your Taste Of Italy On The Go!

Isaiah Kelsey                                                                                                                                                    

Hello Doggy! Japanese Dogs in the East Village

New York, NY –

And I don’t mean Shiba Inus walking down St. Marks. Japadog is definitely all the rage and the concept is simple: taking Japanese ingredients and traditional flavors and smothering it all over the classic American hot dog. The result is an indulgent fusion of everything a down-to-earth foodie would love, especially if your taste buds are fond of the many standard meats, sauces and condiments that hail from Japan.

Their menu provides an array of choices for the hungry and adventurous New Yorker, and you can choose from any level of plain dogs to fully loaded buns with extra meat and cheese. If you order a combo meal, you get fries and choice of drink. I ordered the okonomi which is covered with so many toppings and sauce you would hardly know if you were about to eat an open-faced sandwich or a stuffed hot dog buried in a bun. Okonomi is inspired by the seasonings of okonomiyaki, an earthy Japanese street food that translates to “what you want,” and consists of making a savory yam and flour pancake stuffed with whatever your heart desires like shrimp, mochi or beef. The defining moment of every pancake is the mayonnaise and bonito flakes that top off the comfort food and thus commences your indulgence. Now take that and put it in hot dog form. Oyishii! (Delicious.) A great little foresight in the construction of Japadog’s buns is that they’re slightly closed at the bottom to catch the drippings and droppings of sauce, juice and overall messiness to spare your hands from wasting more napkins.

Their fries are shaken up in a bag with seasoning and generously placed on your tray next to your boxed up dog (which, I might add is made of styrofoam, definitely knocking a star off their green efforts. But I digress.) You can choose from a variety of seasonings when it comes to the fries like butter and shoyu (soy sauce), aonori (dried seaweed), teriyaki, wasabi and shichimi-garlic (hot pepper). I ordered the curry seasoning was fantastic and had just the right hint of sweetness that always characterizes Japanese curry. The fries are a little limp yet perfect for spearing with a fork and eating it like a fried potato salad, minus the mayo. Unless of course you dip it in some of their wasabi mayo which I highly recommend. In fact, make sure you check out all their free sauces (a rarity it seems in some fast food restaurants) like sriracha, honey mustard and bbq.

With a bright, clean dining room and very friendly service, these dogs will satisfy a hunger that always seems to surface during aimless walks in the heart of St. Marks.

Check out Japadog today, its located 30 St. Marks Place. For more information and menu selections check out www.japadog.com

 Diana Tsuchida                                                                                                                               U.F.P Contributor