Marea

240 Central Park SNew York, NY 10019 • (212) 582-5100 • marea-nyc.com

Poetry comes in many forms and at Marea, that form is fish, named after the stunning Tahitian island and for good reason, this place is stunning. Not so much from a décor perspective, although it is clean and elegant. The food, however, handily solidifies this as one of the top places to get your fish on in the city.

And oh boy is it on. Starting with the seared yellowtail, blistered carrots and potatoes. It is so ridic, I can’t even remember how to spell the other half of that word.

Also swoon-worthy is the lobster caprese, which is essentially as it sounds, in other words, really friggin’ good.

The octopus starter is also very good, but I did find it to be the least inventive of the three and not quite at the same caliber.

For entrees, I only had my one, but one is all it took. So good I’m glad I didn’t share. Perfection on a plate, although when I tell you the accompaniments you’re going to think I lost my marbles. Lettuce and pistachio. Yah! That’s it. How it could be so good can only be described in a word, magic. AKA butter.

Come dessert, this is my only caution, because there is a miss in the midst. The affagato is made with WAY too much coffee to the point where it throws the who thing off balance and basically tastes like a cup of coffee with cream in it. For true affagreatness, I recommend Fortina in Westchester and Stamford, CT. But fret not, dessert is not a total bust. Case in point, the donuts, warm, deep fried proof dipped in lemon crème and chocolate. Oh daddy!

Now for my only real gripes. The wine list, while decent is a bit pricey. And although I sincerely appreciate the wait staff’s sensitivity to hovering by letting us have our space, it is at the peril of attentiveness, because if you don’t ask for things your meal can easily turn into a seven-hour time vortex. Which brings up a very real dilemma, because as you know, I HUGE pet peeve of mine is being rushed out of a restaurant for turnover sake. But I guess my frustration lies somewhere in the middle. Can’t we find a happy medium?

That’s really it though. Marea is pretty perfect. No need to come off as one of those people who is so bored with life, they have to find shit to bitch about. So I’ll shut up now and you go to Marea.

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Buttermilk Bakery

1198 Orange AveWinter Park, FL 32789 • (321) 422-4015 • buttermilk-bakery.com
 

The Battle of the Brunch is over! No more must you endure the challenges of getting a table at The Briar Patch (albeit very worthy). There is finally another game in town with a pretty killer breakfast. But like Solla Sollew, it’s not entirely without its problems, so don’t get your hopes too, too high.

First of all, you’re gonna have to drive ( a few minutes) because it’s not on Park Avenue. Second, the menu for prepared food is VERY small. And worse still, they are militant about when they start to serve it, promptly at 11am. So, if you get there prior, grab a table and wait. Or you can feel free to gorge yourself on the plentiful baked goods that are readily available from the moment they open their doors.

Once the clock strikes eleven, this charming little place fills up like a clown car (hence why you want to get there beforehand to earmark a table), and for good reason, the food, for the most part, is quite good. The best of which are the cloud-like, fluffy apple pancakes. Best thing we had. Also decent is the veggie frittata, although it was a little over-salted if you ask me.

And as I mentioned, from the baked goods, we had the cinnamon donut holes, which were just okay, but to be fair I don’t think are truly representative of the other things in the case.

Underwest Donuts

2 Pennsylvania Plz New York, NY 10121 • (347) 952-0079 • underwestdonuts.com

 

Brace yourselves Underwest fans, because things are about to go South. I know it’s bad form to bitch about a donut, after all, it’s sugary bread, what’s to bitch about? Well, hype for one. I mean, I haven’t fallen this far from the hype tree in a while. What am I missing? Is it because it has West in the name that somehow people think there’s an affiliation with Westworld and therefore must be brilliant?

Regrettably, about the only thing these donuts have in common with the hit HBO series is that when you’re done, it’s not quite as satisfying as you would’ve hoped.

I tried several different flavors too, strawberry, helva and brown butter, but it pains me to say that they were imperceptibly different from one another, each tasting like a bag of sugar with food coloring. I honestly think Dunkin’, Krispy Kreme and even Entenmann’s are better options. And cheaper.

But if it’s fancy dough you crave, try Peter Pan in Brooklyn or The Doughnut Plant in multiple Manhattan locations. Both are amazeballs and make Underwest seem underwhelming by comparison.

Back Forty

70 Prince St. New York, NY 10012(212) 219-8570backfortynyc.com

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My experience here was somewhat atypical considering I’ve only been for a private event. That said, most everything they served was off of their menu, so my review should be somewhat accurate.

Starting with the drinks, Back Forty served up some perfect tens. Just awesome, inventive twists on classics. Some margarita inspired, some mojito inspired and others just really-ass-good inspired. Pulling in a host of tricks using ginger beer, muddled strawberries and dare I say love.

As for the food, it was solid good. Nothing exceedingly memorable however, with the one exception being the pork belly fritters- I popped so many of these in my mouth hole it was like I was channeling my inner Harvey Weinstein.

And then there’s dessert. Which are all very good and everything, but let’s cut to the chase. It’s not all about that bass. It’s about the DONUTS!!! (to be read with Homer Simpson inflection). Had I not gone all Jabba on the pork fritters I would’ve easily pounded a half dozen of these suckers.

In other news, staff is friendly, decor is quaint and intimate and I probably should go back under normal circumstances before considering this an accurate review, but since I have no idea when that might be…

3 teeth

Highball & Harvest

4012 Central Florida Pkwy. Orlando, FL32837 • (407) 393-4422highballandharvest.com

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The JW Marriott and the Ritz Carlton are both so massive on their own that when you connect them it creates a structural morass the likes of an MC Escher drawing. And while you might wish you had Google maps to find your way through the Shining-like halls of this behemoth, there’s gold in them, thar hills! The treasure I speak of is Highball & Harvest a contemporary Southern restaurant located somewhere in the belly of the Ritz.

The décor is a little all over the place, but ultimately passes as nice and the service is suspiciously friendly, perhaps I think that because I’m from New York City where most people that jolly are heavily medicated.

But our waiter’s chipper demeanor aside, he was also spot on with the recommendations, the first of which being the Parker House rolls . They are so good I actually recommend NOT ordering them, because the temptation to fill up on bread will be immense. Which means you’ll need to dig deep, mustering up some serious willpower so that you can enjoy the things to come. Things like the crab cakes with fried green tomatoes and remoulade. An ultimate worthy dish to the second power, proving tops in both the crab cake category as well as the fried green tomato.

Another dish I highly recommend is the blackened grouper. Cooked perfectly and placed over a bed of hominy ragu, adouille sausage and pickled okra.

On the mortal end of the spectrum I would place the kale salad the sticky toffee pudding and the donuts. None of them were bad or even mediocre, but they just didn’t wow like their predecessors.

I do, however, feel the need to expound upon the donuts as I applaud the presentation. Dusted cinnamon sugar donut bites served warm in a paper bag next to a tube of Nutella which you use to inject the donuts full of chocolaty wonder. It’s definitely good, but just shy of great.

But I don’t want to end things on a blah note, because I really did love this place. So, I have saved one of my favorite things for last, the cocktail. Called the Doc Holiday it comes in a copper mug filled to the brim with Tito’s vodka (not something I believe was around during Doc’s existence, but I’ll let it slide), ginger beer, grapefruit and blueberry jam. Plus hand-cut ice. Now I’m not exactly sure how hand-cut ice actually influences the flavor of the drink, but they seem to be very proud of it at H&H. And while I kid the things I love, I can’t say enough about this drink. In fact, it’s not just a drink, it’s an experience. As is Highball & Harvest in its entirely. Run. Don’t walk. Assuming you can actually find it.

4 teeth

Boon Fly Café

The Carneros Inn • 4048 Sonoma Hwy. Napa, CA 94559 • (707) 299-4870boonflycafe.com

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This is my favorite breakfast spot on the planet. I mean, just grab some darts, hang the menu on a wall and let ‘er rip. Nothing is short of phenomenal.

The eggs benny with jalapeno hollandaise is the best eggs benny I’ve ever had in my life. The breakfast pizza with eggs over-easy and carmalized onions is the best breakfast pizza I’ve ever had, and almost every bit as good as the benny. And the donuts– well, there’s a hotlink, isn’t there? Which means only one thing, they’re friggin’ awesome. You really can’t go wrong here.

And the decor/vibe is perfect. Set in a bright red barn with a contemporary roadside diner feel. But not greasy or dirty. This is no dive. It soars!

5 teeth