the brunch files: hamilton pork, jersey city, nj

this review is long overdue! a few weeks ago, the hubby and i decided to venture from our home in brooklyn heights to hamilton pork, in jersey city, nj. there aren’t many restaurants we’d cross state lines for – but after hearing about their churro waffle ice cream sandwich, we knew we had to make a day of it specifically to try this blogworthy creation.

a play on jersey city’s hamilton park, hamilton pork (which borders hamilton park) is a casual, no-frills bbq spot with some tex-mex flair. it’s small size makes for small-batch rotisserie, which we loved because the food comes out of the spit and gets served on your plate instantly. because there’s only one little spit, there’s no opportunity for meats to be sitting there on rotation like they do at some of the larger ‘chain’ bbq restaurants. at hamilton pork, the freshness factor is amped all the way up. we started with some cocktails and the kung pow chicken wings which were really unique. this restaurant has it’s own kung pow bbq sauce, and as a person who would rather spicy buffalo over bbq any day, kung pow bbq was the ultimate middle ground and we devoured every last bite.

our main courses were so epic. we each got 3-meat samplers and a side (… kid you not), and in an effort to try a little bit of everything, we made sure we didn’t have any repeats. stephen ordered brisket, pork ribs and pulled chicken – plus texas toast – and a side of mac n’ cheese. i opted for the lamb belly, turkey and pulled pork. i also got texas toast, and for my side i chose the mexican street corn. everything was unbelievable. for me, the standouts were the mac n’ cheese, the turkey, and the lamb belly which is a super unique menu option for a bbq joint!

last but not least……. after all that, we still managed to save room for the dessert. ((cue rihanna’s “this is what you came for”)) it. was. everythingggggg!!!!! two churro waffles stuffed with salted caramel ice cream. it’s the sugar high you always strived for. shoutout to our waiter, mario, who chanted “chu-rro-waf-fles // chu-rro-waf-fles” as we placed our order.

overall, hamilton pork was an amazing weekend brunch experience. jersey city is on the come-up, and hamilton pork is definitely a spot that enhances the neighborhood. the food is delicious, the service is quality, and the vibe is fun. many thanks to hamilton pork for hosting us! check them out on instagram for drool worthy bbq pics, and don’t forget to follow me, too. i can’t promise a steady stream of rotisserie, but i can promise steady, fun everyday content!

the rainbow latte: galerie de café

i won’t lie: i recently noticed an instagram post featuring the ‘rainbow latte’ and i had to find out where i could get one. do i lose a few points for originality here? sure…. but this teeny, tiny tribeca café is worth every single deduction. with coffee beans sourced locally right here in nyc (via dallis bros), even the plain old lattes are to die for. the interior is shabby-chic, featuring artwork done by children displayed along the walls. it has a a cozy, european feel throughout and let me not forget to mention that the pastries come courtesy of balthazarand amy’s bread…. two top notch companies. who knew all you needed was a little food coloring and some top notch barista skills to create instagram gold?! my ‘rainbow’ latte was more like ‘purple perfection’ if you ask me. it was so pretty to look at i hardly wanted to drink it! many thanks to galerie de café for hosting me. i will definitely be back! check them out on instagram, and don’t forget to follow me as well!

d.i.y: top o’ the mornin lucky charms pancakes

in honor of my irish roots (25% represent!) i decided to share a fun d.i.y recipe that i followed from betty crocker! the hubby and i had a snow day this week and promised we wouldn’t order chinese food……. so i figured making green st. patty’s day pancakes was still technically following our rule. i even went a step further and replaced regular bisquick with 10 grain pancake & waffle mix by bob’s red mill to up the nutrition factor. see? i’m trying here….. check out my step by step and the (deliciously festive) finished product below!

these pancakes are super easy. they require one cup of mix, one egg, a tablespoon of oil, a cup of water (i used 1% milk for extra fluff), and green food coloring. of course, it also requires your desired amount of lucky charm marshmallows added at the end.

step one is to combine your mix, egg, oil, and milk in a large bowl.

onto the fun part: once everything is mixed together, add between 1/2 to a 1 full tablespoon of green food coloring, and be careful not to stain your fingers like i did!

lightly grease your pan and you’re ready to fry these up! i like to do three “silver dollar” size pancakes at once. this was a super easy recipe, and they come out so cute! this would be great to do with kids – or if you’re hosting a st. patrick’s day brunch. garnish with marshmallows and some (sugar free!) maple syrup and voilà! let the festivities commence!

will you be trying these on st. patty’s day? don’t forget to follow me on instagram and facebook to stay in the loop!

the brunch files: mezetto, nyc

i recently helped one of my best friends lindsay find the ideal spot for her 30th birthday brunch. we wound up choosing mezetto, which is a mediterranean corner cafe on the lower east side of manhattan co-owned by bahr rapaport and alon moskovitch. normally (for the sake of the blog) i like to try places i’ve yet to eat – but mezetto is so good that i gave it an exception. i dined here back in 2016 for a dinner with my girlfriends, but this was my first time trying brunch. we were drawn to this place because they have bottomless sangria every evening…. so when linsday requested a delicious, well-priced ‘bottomless’ birthday brunch, i knew i had just the spot.

in addition to their sangria special, of course mezetto does bottomless brunch too. what sets them apart from the ever-growing gang of nyc restaurants that provide this is the fact that mezetto offers $17 bottomless mimosa brunch daily. yes, every day. monday through sunday. ‘weekend brunches’ are a thing of the past when you’re doing it meze-style!

mezetto is tiny, with a cozy and intimate feel – something i value, because i love feeling like my food isn’t being churned out — but rather made with intention and care. rustic tile floors and metallic middle-eastern inspired wallpaper set the tone of the restaurant – casual yet exotic. that ‘famous’ sangria sits visible on the bar top, enticing everyone who glances that way. moroccan lanterns and light fixtures complete what is, visually, a really cute homestyle restaurant. it reminded me very much of the types of places my husband and i would dine in on our honeymoon to turkey. nothing too frilly… mezetto saves that for the food!

it was essential that we begin our meal with some spreads – – so my husband stephen and i opted for the spicy feta and the hummus, both of which came with perfectly seasoned and sliced pitas served on a warm stone slab. they were delicious, and got major points for presentation! we also tried the boneless chicken wings (not pictured) which were outrageously good. i had to remember i was sharing!

when it came to our main courses, a friend of mine got the avocado toast and it was so pretty i just had to take a photo! this dish is served with a poached egg on top, garnished with romesco sauce (nut and red pepper based) and chickpea salsa to give it that mediterranean flair. i, on the other hand, was wild for the shawarma steak hash skillet. the steak is accompanied by fried egg, potatoes, roasted pepper, feta, and harissa sauce, which is a north african hot chili pepper paste. it had just the right amount of substance and spice, and was served in a piping griddle.

no mezetto review would be complete without mentioning the star of the show (in my humble opinion): the falafel buns. everyone who knows me knows that asian food is my weakness, and bao steamed buns are one of my favorite appetizers in existence. mezetto has successfully fused traditional falafel with asian-style steamed buns…. creating a small plate (‘meze’) similar to an order of sliders. the harissa aioli on top offsets the grainy texture of the falafel. the bun is soft, pillowy perfection. i could have had five orders of this and been done.

overall, mezetto is a fantastic place for a group brunch. the staff is accommodating, reservations are easy to make for large groups provided you call in advance. you never get bored with the bottomless mimosas since they come in four flavors (peach, pomegranate, orange and passionfruit). if you’re looking for a casual brunch with an affordable bottomless option, mezetto is the perfect vibe with quality food! follow mezetto on instagram – and follow me, too!

the brunch files: wynwood diner – miami, fl

while visiting the wynwood arts district, my mom and i stopped for a meal at the wynwood diner. what we thought would be a quick omelette to refuel turned into a really snazzy brunch at a secretly cool spot, so i had to write a little blurb to give the wynwood diner a shoutout.

contrary to it’s name, this restaurant is much more than a diner. set in the heart of miami’s most artsy neighborhood, it has three ‘scenes’ to choose from. the front is your traditional diner-vibe. the middle is considered the ‘cafe’ – patterned floors, mix-matched furnishings, a fully stocked bar, lots of natural light and even a fireplace with love seats…. the cafe is much more swanky than any ‘diner’ i’ve ever seen. the third and final section is an outdoor patio, which is necessary for a great floridian warm-weather dining experience. it has a laid back, almost tiki-hut vibe. another thing that sets this ‘diner’ apart from most is that, in addition to their interior design, the ingredients are also high-quality. with menu options ranging from your basic scrambled eggs & milkshakes to fried green potatoes, duck hash and even steak frites… the wynwood diner brings sophistication to your brunch and i was not mad about it.

we chose to sit in the ‘cafe’ and i had a major #cheatmeal by splurging on the buttermilk pancakes, which were totally worth it. mom had the ‘mean bean burger’ – a favorite of hers – and something that’s not often featured on standard menus, so she was super happy she found it and even changed her order once she realized it was an option!

overall, we loved this hidden gem in the heart of the wynwood arts district. i could totally see this being the hangout spot for local creatives, and as an artsy person myself, i was diggin’ the vibes! thanks to wynwood diner for a fabulous meal, top notch ingredients and a hip aesthetic. follow me on instagram to stay in the loop!

byblos: global fare for the senses in the heart of miami

mid-february, my mom and i took a long weekend in miami which is one of our favorite cities. we try to get away together once a year for some quality bonding time. during our stay i spent my days relaxing poolside at the delano, working on some spring looks using miami’s art deco district as my backdrop, and eating many amazing meals: which is why i couldn’t return to new york without adding something to the ‘food’ tab. i’m a creature of habit, so two out of our four dinners were at places i’d consider ‘old favorites’ – but for the sake of the blog, and my taste buds, i made sure to try two new restaurants. today, the spotlight is on byblos miami.

byblos is situated in the shorecrest building, a part of the royal palm hotel. the minute you enter, you feel like you’ve left south beach behind as your senses tour the most luxurious corners of the middle east, northern africa and the mediterranean. bold, mix-matched ikat prints adorn the chairs, cushions, drapes and pillows. lanterns line the stairways. pops of mosaic catch your eye. every now and then you’ll spot a bit of patterned wallpaper that blends so well you almost didn’t notice it was there. this space was designed with expert perfection, sans kitschiness – without feeling gimmicky – and all the while paying homage to the eclectic mix of cultures that comprise the menu.

we were greeted by a staff that was passionate about educating their guests on the different types of foods offered at byblos. the menu hosts a wide variety of options that are out-of-the-box in comparison to what you’d see at any of my ‘old favorite’ spots. to drink, byblos offers ultra-purified vero water, an eco-friendly bottled water system that produces super filtered, crisp-tasting water in both still and sparkling options. it sounds ridiculous, but this water actually was incredibly delicious. the glass bottles are reusable, and at only $3 per person for an unlimited supply, a restaurant providing vero offers an affordable alternative to pricey bottled water. off the cocktail list, i tried the classic byblos margarita. the mediterranean salt rim was a nice touch, adding subtle flair to an otherwise consistent, traditional marg.

on to the appetizers: mom and i were thrilled with our choices – the lamb ribs basically melted off the bone, and the falafel salad was light and refreshing. at the suggestion of our server and manager georgio, we also tried the spanish octopus which was spiced with a gentle chili vinaigrette and garnished with fingerling potato. in full disclosure, i am not too much of a fish eater…. but wow, wow, wow. for a dish that i would have never ordered on my own, this octopus was to die for.

our main courses were equally delicious. one thing i’d like to say about byblos is that while they use many spices that go against the grain, their food never feels overpowering. my mom, for example, has a more traditional palette – she’s not a big fan of thai or indian cuisine, because there’s just ‘too much going on’…. yet she loved her byblos experience and felt that every dish was flavored just enough, a high praise coming from her! speaking of, she ordered the yogurt baked fluke with a side of roasted brussel sprouts and i opted for the a5 japanese wagyu beef with shaved truffle and a side of hand-rolled couscous flavored with brown butter and saffron. it all felt hearty, authentic, and each dish was really memorable. i sit here writing this nearly two weeks later, and i can almost taste it as i describe everything we ate that night.

as though we needed anything more, we topped off our meal with some coffee and dessert. the strawberry cheesecake qatayef was lovely, but for me the star of the show was the baklava ice cream sandwich, accented by two pizelles that have been smothered in a salted-caramel-couscous praline. yes, you heard that correctly. this dessert is an innovative and culturally relevant twist on a staple that we all know and love, and it did not disappoint.

overall, we loved byblos miami. it’s an outpost of the original toronto location, and is branching out further – with another opening in dubai. if you’re looking for a unique culinary experience with an aesthetic to match, byblos is a top notch option in the miami beach area. many thanks to georgio and the byblos team for hosting us so graciously. i have a feeling i’ll be adding byblos to my list of ‘old favorites’.

follow byblos miami on instagram, and don’t forget to follow @indigoheightsblog if you haven’t already!

worth the weight: dō – cookie dough confections, nyc

if you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve surely heard about …. new york city’s first ‘ice cream parlor’ style sweetshop dedicated solely to cookie dough. founded by kristen tomlan, this cookie dough is made with pasteurized egg product – eliminating all chance of salmonella, and making it completely safe to consume in large (ungodly) quantities. aside from the fact that i needed to try this immediately, i wanted to support (and blog about) this business because it’s the brainchild of a female entrepreneur who is a shining example of someone who is building an empire doing what she loves, while leaving her corporate ‘desk job’ in the dust.

this post is coming at you way later than i would have wanted. i had planned to check out dō during the opening weekend of it’s brick & mortar shop in greenwich village on sunday january 29th…. but was devastated when i found out that it was such a hit in their first few days of operation that they needed to close up shop until they re-stocked their dough! so i was set back by a week and wound up going on saturday, february 4th. i thought perhaps by then the hype would have died down, but it seems this is the ‘cronut’ all over again. my husband and i arrived at 2:20pm and the line was hundreds of people long…. spanning down the entire block to the opposite corner. i wasn’t about to have another setback. i prepared myself mentally and emotionally for this. i was leaving with cookie dough, whether he liked it or not. so we waited……. and waited…….. (and waited)

i kid you  not…. it was 4:45pm when we made it to the front entrance of the shop. tack on another 15 minutes indoors, and by 5 o’clock we had our dough in-hand! i opted for chocolate chip in a cake batter cone. stephen had 1/2 oatmeal 1/2 chocolate chip in a cake batter cone, and then (of course) we got some to-go containers: more oatmeal, and ‘salty & sweet’. my intention is to try baking these…………. but we’ll see if that actually happens! (update: i baked the oatmeal and dominated the ‘salty & sweet’ before it even had a chance. the ‘salty & sweet’ wound up being my favorite of all the flavors i tried.)

i was loving the interior design, and i wasn’t surprised at all when i learned that kristen’s degree is in just that! the aesthetic is modern, clean but colorful, with floral accents throughout. and my favorite: a giant neon sign at the entryway… a talking piece that every patron feels the need to take a photo of. i make no exception.

we had an awesome experience at dō and will definitely be going back… when the lines are shorter! if you’re looking for a fantastic alternative to ice cream (with gluten free and vegan options!) this place is a winner. in fact, i can’t believe someone hasn’t thought of this sooner. major props to kristen and the whole dō team as they ride a rocket ship straight to the top of the (junk)food chain. your creation is dōlicious!!! follow dō on facebook and instagram for some major #dessertgoals and comment below with the next cookie dough creation you’d like to see featured at this boutique shop!