Rick’s Cafe

West End Road, Negril, Jamaica • (876) 957-0380 • www.rickscafejamaica.com
 
To some, it is a world-renown icon for being one of Conde Nast’s top ten bars in the world. To others, it might be considered a touristy, inebriated Hell on Earth. And to be fair, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, because on the one hand, they do have themselves quite the view, especially during sunset. They also make a pretty decent rum punch.

On the other hand, the place is swarming with a morass of tourists all donning swimsuits, drinking themselves sloppy and smoking the weed, which is a very strange concept when you consider that the other prime attraction here is cliff jumping. Yes, you read this correctly. A lawyer’s nightmare come true, you’ve got a queue fifty intoxicated people deep all clamoring for the chance to hurl themselves off the side of a 45-foot ledge into the aquamarine waters below. And while it may seem like an obviously horrendous idea to have cliff diving and booze in such close proximity to one another, my guess is that it somehow works, because the liquid courage helps shmucks like me muster up the cohones to risk their lives and conquer their fears.

But the real question is, am I glad I did it? No. My ass hurt for weeks.

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The Granola Bar

275 Post Rd EWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 349-5202
 

This place is too small for its own good, especially in light of the passing of Fliesher’s Kitchen and Neat (RIP). Now there’s no really great go-to breakfast option in the ‘Port. But if you’re willing to settle for good, look no further than yours truly, okay and Terrain, but mostly for the setting, let’s be honest.

Luckily granola bar is way more than granola. Especially since I think their granola is just eh. You can get far better at Le Pain Quotidien and even at the supermarket with Baked’s House Blend.

Where GB shines, however is in other places like the breakfast burrito, the bi bim bap, the burger and my personal fav, the blackened salmon wrap.

Regrettably, the very berry smoothie was also a bit of a letdown. But with the draught of b-fast options upon us, I’m willing to overlook the long wait, strip mall locale and the fact that they were out of the spicy Mexican hot chocolate. Tisk, tisk.

Joey’s By the Shore

64 Compo Beach SWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 227-5356
 

They kinda have you by the balls and they know it, so don’t expect anything above cafeteria-grade grub. But you’re on the beach with no other options within a mile, so just go with it. Unless you were smart enough to pack tastier options in your cooler or are willing to bite into a seagull.

Inside, it is a sweaty, under-dressed, over-merchandised, fast food hell with very few choices that are under 5,000 calories of deep-fried sin. From fries, to chicken fingers to fried oysters and onion rings. Burgers and hot dogs, grilled cheese, buttered lobster rolls. It’s definitely not the place to go if you want to look svelte in a bikini. That said, there are wraps and deli sandwiches and watermelon to help keep you from porking out too, too much.

Conversely, there’s a whole other side solely dedicated to sweets and ice cream. And while this does nothing to move the needle toward healthy options, there is Chloe’s Real Frozen Fruit, which is the lesser of evils and one of the better things you can get there in terms of both health and taste, with the exception of the watermelon, I suppose.

Oscar Wilde

45 W 27th StNew York, NY 10001 • (212) 213-3066 • oscarwildenyc.com

Ungapatchka might just be the only word strong enough to describe this bar. For those of you not up on your Yiddish, it means ridiculously over-decorated. But as ostentatious as it is, they actually make it work somehow, pushing things so far past gaudy that it becomes cool again. Almost like flying to Chicago and over-shooting it so far that you go all the way around the world and wind up back in Chicago. That’s Oscar Wilde, a $4 million-dollar tribute meets renovation meets booze.

From giant bronze statues to peacock feather chandeliers to ornate tchotchkes (also Yiddish for little miscellaneous trinkets and keepsakes) on every inch of every wall and surface, this place doesn’t miss an inch, also boasting the longest bar in Manhattan, wrapping around 90% of the perimeter. Mahogany, you ask? Please. That’s so two million dollars ago. We’re talkin’ white Italian marble.

Now here’s the trick. You’d think that all of this pomp and circumstance is purposefully perpetrated to mask its inadequacies, but I am compelled to tell you that it also delivers on the drinks. I personally only had the Bee’s Knees which is vodka based with honey infusions and lemon bitters. It is damn good. Others around me also seemed happy as they ordered seconds and thirds of their respective cocktails. Granted they could also just be alcoholics.Whatever the reason, find one to come here. It’s a one of a kind joint, that’s for sure, taking very much to heart Oscar’s sage wisdom, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Till & Sprocket

140 W 30th StNew York, NY 10001 • (212) 239-0570 • tillandsprocket.com

At first I thought I had found a diamond in the rough. No, not Aladdin. I quaint little charmer tucked away on the Flatiron-Chelsea fringe. And while the décor is cute as a button, the service is not so cute. Infuriatingly slow actually. As in the food is probably grown and harvested in less time than it takes to make its way from the kitchen to your table.

Once it does come, it’s a bit all over the map. For example the faro salad is so bland you would probably enjoy acting like a mime and chewing on air about the same. Marginally better are the meatballs. But then there are the deviled eggs with horseradish, which are very good and start to give you hope. I also found the caprese salad to be pretty decent as well.

And that’s just what this place does, it gets your hopes up one second and then drops you like a White House Press Secretary the next. For example, the burger. Granted it’s not a complete letdown, it’s not exactly a let up either. It merely passes as sustenance.

You probably already know what’s coming next, don’t you? You guessed it, more hope. In the form of a chocolate chip cookie this time. Yes, dessert managed keep the mixed messages going.

So I guess it comes down to this, if you feel like gambling with your mouth, be my guest. However, if you want a sure thing, the only thing this place is sure to do is piss you off.

Bagel Maven

538 Post Rd EWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 293-4168

 

Let’s face it, outside of New York City bagels are always just varying degrees of a let down, but in many cases it can at least be a pleasant surprise as to how little that let down actually is. This is the case with Bagel Maven, a mighty fine bagel for those with lowered expectations. It’s a little on the doughy side, but the outer crust has good texture to it. Unfortunately they are a touch stingy on the seed count when it comes to bagels of such standing, but that’s a mild ding comparatively. There are also very few options when it comes to “toppings.” So if you’re looking for sable, lox, nova, whitefish salad and an array of schmears, it’s gonna take you two stops, because you’ll also need to head on over to Gold’s Delicatessen. But at least the bagels are better here.

The only other thing I would note before I leave you to fend for yourself,  is that this place is not, I repeat NOT the kind of place you want to sit and dine. It’s strictly a grab n’ go.

La Casa di Nonna

41 rue Hoche 06400 CannesFrance • +33 4 97 06 33 51 • lacasadinonna.fr

Welcome to Grandma’s House, my newest Cannes crush. Yes, I suppose I have a thing for older women. Shhh! Don’t tell my wife. Actually, she has crush on Nonna too, because this place is just so damn charming. You just want to squeeze the bejesus out of its cheeks. From the servers to what they are serving, brace yourself for a healthy dose of amoré.

Whether it’s just a quick, afternoon snack over a frothy cappuccino and a wonderfully fresh-squeezed juice or a fully-fledged three-course dinner you are in for a treat, because they don’t miss. Particularly if you incorporate their chocolate ganache cake into whatever meal occasion it is. That alone is like a panacea for all of life’s troubles. Ultimate alert!

The other thing they nail eight ways ‘til Sunday is parma. I don’t know where they get it from, but oh lordy is it pigilicious! We had the melon and prosciutto starter and I think it might just be the best I’ve ever had. The melon was perfectly ripe and sweet. And that ham! I’m not even sure how to describe it, and I’ve even had the acorn-fed, quattro-legged stuff before and this is better.

The other dish the shined on the shoulders of this porky perfection was the carbonara, an Ultimate and only bested by the one at Blanca in Brooklyn, NY, mainly because of it’s superior pepperiness. But Nonna knows her shit, keeping the eggy coating just light enough to allow the pig and basil pop from the dish. And while I know basil is no-no to you purists out there, I say Nonna beats a no-no and you should try it before you deny it.

On the mortal side, I found the artichoke salad, the gnocci with tomato sauce and the spaghetti to all be, well, mortal. But nothing is bad and with THREE Ultimates, I’d put this tops on your list for your next visit to the Cote ‘d Azur. Plus, as I said before, if you end with that ganache cake, you’ll be crooning like old Dino… “When you walk down the street and you have this to eat, that’s amore!”

Salsamenteria di Parma

86 Rue Meynadier, 06400 Cannes, France • +33 4 93 99 66 67 • salsamenteriadiparma.com
 

At the bottom of the hill just before you officially enter “Old Cannes” there is wonderful new Italian restaurant that specializes in transcendent charcuterie (pictured). In fact, that’s kind of their big thing. In fact, there’s not much else on the menu with the exception of salads and bruschetta. And cheeses, of course.

But in its simplicity lies its genius. To quote the great four-legged philosopher Baloo, “Look for the bare necessities. The simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife. I mean the bare necessities. Old Mother Nature’s recipes. That brings the bare necessities of life.” That there is some sage wisdom from a bear, because their parma bruschetta with honey is a thing of beauty. The tomato and pesto bruschetta is also quite nice, but challenging to keep those little grape tomato slices on the bread and not in your lap.

The charcuterie was also quite impressive, so I’m guessing they know how to source their hog. Which shouldn’t come as a shock, I suppose, considering a bifurcated pig is their logo and themed décor.

Salads, however, do not appear to be their thing, serving it undressed and underwhelming. Luckily they made up for it handsomely with a crazy chocolate sausage dessert. What?! Yes. Chocolate sausage. For desert. It is stupid good. Almost like a cookie, but with the consistency of helva. It’s kinda hard to describe, but trust me, it’s VERY easy to wolf down.

Not sure I would ever choose this place for a full-up dinner, but for lunch or a snack or a light dinner with a bottle of wine and lots of goodies- it’s hard to beat it.

Simit Sarayi

435 5th AveNew York, NY 10016 • (929) 374-3237 • simitsarayi.com

For all intensive purpose the name basically translates to Bagel Palace. And a palace it is not. In Turkey it is essentially a Panera, a local chain of decent baked goods and other dishes. And if I was in Turkey I’d probably only give this place 3 knives, but that’s in Turkey. To have this in New York City on my walk to work, it is a godsend!

About once a month I go butt-wild and buy a double Noah’s Ark- four of everything. The spinach rose borek might just be my favorite thing of all. Warm it up with a dollop of plain yogurt and sliced tomatoes on the side and you’ve got yourself one of the easiest, bestest meals you could wish for.

I also loves me some su boregi, which is sort of like a savory kugel or sauceless, meatless lasagna. It sounds awful the way I’m describing it, but I promise it’s delish. Granted it’s even better at Gulluoglu on the East Side, but since Gulluoglu isn’t on my walk to work, this one is plenty good enough.

Their dill and feta buns are terrific too, which are pseudo pogaça-like. For those of you who don’t find the poaça analogy helpful, it’s a small, savory pastry filled with herbs and cheese.

Ironically the top billing, the simit, can be a bit of a wild card. Sometimes it’s true to the motherland, thin and dense and seeded galore. Other times it tries to masquerade as a wannabe sesame bagel. I prefer the former.

On the sweet side, they also kick some serious ay çöreği, a crescent-shaped, semi-sweet dessert filled with ground hazelnuts that are so dense they almost taste like chocolate. Then, they top it off with sliced almonds.

All of the little cookies are money too. Perfect for çay sati (tea time). They have chocolate chip, Nutella filled, hazelnut and fig. You really can’t go wrong. And that’s what I love about this place. You could throw a dart anywhere in the joint and still be happy with what you got to eat, unless you hit the cashier, of course.

The Ultimate Yogurt (Packaged)

Noosa – If you have ever been to Greece or Turkey then you know what I mean when I say that the yogurt in America is crap. Well, I mean it was crap until now. Thank you noosa with a lower case “n,” for delivering an ALL CAPS YOGURT!!! the likes of which this continent has never seen. Creamy, silky and no bitter or chalky aftertaste like Fage or Siggis, who try to convince you that that’s how Greek yogurt is supposed to taste. I assure you it isn’t. No yogurt is supposed to taste like sweaty feet. And while all of you Chobani-lovers out there may beg to differ, I challenge you to a blind taste test, after which I am certain you will see the light. But don’t take it too hard. Chobani was the best of what we had to work with for a while there, but the horse was also pretty good until the car came along.