Renaissance Interior
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Food Before Love was cordially invited to the Grand Opening party of Renaissance Harlem. As a VIP guest, we helped the restaurant, which opened its doors last year, toast to their official grand opening celebration.

The classy and suave styled restaurant is located in the heart of Harlem and absolutely stands out. The building was previously home to rapper Doug E. Fresh’s restaurant, Doug E.’s Chicken & Waffles. Once Chef Cisse and his co-founder and cousin Chef Cheikh Ali acquired the building, they made it their own. The interior is beautifully designed, lined with brick walls and topped with an uniquely designed ceiling. The intimate yet spacious setting provides a cozy modern eating experience.

Renaissance Interior
Photo by Renaissance Harlem.

Chef Cisse and Chef Cheikh are also the owners of Ponty Bistro, which is just a few doors down. Although born of the same minds the restaurants are polar opposites when it comes to cuisine. Chef Cisse says none of the African French cuisine of Ponty Bistro can be found in the New American menu of Renaissance Harlem. He says it was important to stay in the neighborhood because Harlem is home for him and his cousin. The Senegal born chef has called Harlem home for many years and felt it could use a place like Renaissance Harlem, which infuses the cultures and foods that make Harlem what it is.

The Food

We had the pleasure of sampling a few hors d’oeuvres and cocktails that were reflective of the local culture. To wash down the fish empanadas, Thai chicken wings, and stuffed mushrooms, the chefs served cocktails.

The cocktails were made with liquor from Tambour Original and Kaiso. Two liquor brands Renaissance highlighted during their grand opening. Tambour Original is an African Palm Liquor whose history dates back hundreds of years when West Africans were denied liquor during the European colonization. Kaiso is a potent blend of coconut water, premium vodka and tequila that brings in New York’s Caribbean culture. Renaissance is one of handful of places in NYC where both brands can be found.

Cocktail made with Kaiso.

I’m excited to head back to Renaissance Harlem to taste more of their Harlem-inspired menu. My taste buds got great vibes from this place and I think yours will too!

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Dinner Party Table Spread

With invitations to every after-work function and office soirée filling my inbox, it’s safe to say ’tis the season for dinner parties. I love a good dinner party. Even more so during the holidays and new year. The excitement of getting ready, figuring out what to wear and—if you’re hosting—planning a festive menu are just a few of the things I gush over. But as much fun as dinner parties are, there is still one aspect that hardly anyone ever prepares for: minding your dinner table manners.

You May Also Like: “8 Ways to Take Your Dining Experience to Another Level”

Etiquette is probably the furthest thing down on your list of priorities when you’re running like a chicken with its head cut off finalizing last minute details, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. Even when everything is seemingly in order, a few small missteps can change the course of your entire night. You’ll go from having a great time to feeling like you don’t belong because you keep clinking your forks on the fancy China or dropping your napkin on the floor.

So the next time you sit down for a meal with a colleague, friend or family member, be sure to keep these 5 fail-proof tips in mind:

1. Don’t start eating immediately.

We’ve all been there. You rush home from work to get dressed and head out, knowing you haven’t eaten anything since noon. Now your stomach is making the most disrespectful growls. You can’t wait to devour the first piece of food that is in front of you. Sound familiar? But not only will eating before everyone else has been served make the entire table uncomfortable, you’ll seem super impatient and impolite. Good rules of thumb to follow are:

  • Don’t start eating until everyone is seated,
  • Wait until everyone at the table is served,
  • Wait until the host picks up his or her fork.

Your food won’t get cold if you wait for others to receive their entrees. And everyone will be able to experience the food together instead of in waves. 

2. Don’t groom at the table.

This is a big one. You finish eating, you’re having an intriguing conversation with the other guests and suddenly feel the need to freshen up your lipstick, right? Wrong! If you must fix your hair, redo makeup or (fellas) comb through your beard, politely excuse yourself from the table and go to the restroom. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone pull out a mirror or comb while you’re still eating, almost as if to hurry the dinner along. And trust me, no one wants to eat with your hair strands flying around. 

3. Don’t check your cellphone.

It’s not uncommon to go out and see folks glued to their smartphones, checking their social media accounts and being completely disconnected from what’s happening in front of them. I hate having a conversation with someone and it’s going in one ear and out the other. Talk about frustrating. You’ll be much more present if you aren’t checking your text messages, tweeting, scrolling down Instagram or sending emails every other minute. Leave your phone in your car if you know you’ll be tempted. If there is an emergency and you must respond to something immediately, excuse yourself and do it away from the table. 

4. Don’t eat off of others plates.

Have you ever ordered a dish or put something on your plate only to taste it and find that it wasn’t as appetizing as it looked? Then you glance over at your friend’s plate and their meal looks ten times better. It happens to the best of us. But unless it’s a dinner party where it’s encouraged that you share items, you should never grab a piece of food from another guest’s dinner plate. Simply cue the waitstaff and order another entree or make another round to pick up more appealing items. 

5. Don’t be overly inquisitive.

“What is this?” A question that is so hard to ask without coming across as rude. If you don’t recognize what food your host is serving you, wait for them to explain what it is you are about to eat. In the same vein, also try to wait until your host or server explains what you’re eating before you reach for spices and seasonings. If you don’t know what the entree is or how it should taste, why douse it in salt? Sounds silly right? This will help not put the host in an embarrassing position. 

Foodies, are you hosting any dinner parties in the coming weeks? What are your go-to etiquette tips? Let me know in the comments!

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eataly-downtown-i-ravioli
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As a busy New Yorker, coming across a ravioli bar like I Ravioli at Eataly Downtown is ideal for my day-to-day. While I normally frequent their Flatiron location, I happily accepted an offer from the Eataly team to visit their second location. I had never been to Eataly Downtown so I was excited to see what was in store, literally.

Though I was guided to the bar upon arrival, I loved that there was a pathway on the floors that was leading the way. Now, you never have to worry about getting lost in the hustle and bustle of lunch since it takes you directly to where you need to go. Before approaching the bar, you get to see the chefs making the fresh pasta and the variety of options. Both chefs present on my visit seemed happy to chat about what they were making for the day, and knew plenty about each variation shown. They explained the process and how quickly it would be for me to get my meal. After the chef made a few suggestions on his favorites, I was ready to try them out for myself.

eataly-downtown-i-ravioli-station
Photo by Tanya Maithai

The menu was pretty easy to choose from and so was having a glass of Rosè while I waited. The ravioli comes stuffed and there are a number of sauces available as well so you can pick your favorite day (based by sauce) to come grab your bite to eat. It wasn’t even three sips later, when my order was already up for me to grab. It was really quicker than a New York Minute, which is perfect for someone always on the go. Should you have some time to spare, there was ample seating to enjoy.

I ordered the prosciutto stuffed ravioli with the sauce of the day which was a mushroom, arugula and beef sauce. To my surprise, I was also invited to try the Pesto Trapanese, as well as, the Carbonara sauce over a bed of ravioli. I was already enjoying the pasta I ordered but the Carbonara had come to steal the show. It was creamy, with the right amount of cheese and sauce to compliment it. I found myself digging my fork back and back again into the bowl.

eataly-downtown-i-ravioli
Photo by Tanya Maithai

The best part about the experience at I Ravioli at Eataly Downtown was that you could take ingredients home with you and recreate what you’ve had. From fresh pasta to the sauces, everything is suddenly available to you for the days you won’t have time to run in for lunch. Again, completely ideal for any ravioli lover, especially one who wants to bring the taste of Eataly, home.

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NYC Restaurant week 2017 summer
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Since its inception in 1992, NYC Restaurant Week has now expanded to four weeks of a financially friendly opportunity to explore and try restaurants you may otherwise feel out of your reach. With 390 restaurants participating, the options can seem a bit overwhelming. If you have no idea where to go, we want to help you make your choice during these last days. Note: NYC Restaurant Week ends tomorrow, Friday, August 18th. So make your reservations now!

So “how does this work?” you may be askingDuring NYC Restaurant Week, you can indulge in a 3-course prix-fixe meal, which will cost you $29 for lunch and $42 dinner (plus the cost of beverages, tax and gratuity). This menu is offered Monday – Friday and on Sundays at some locations. You can find out which restaurants are participating and explore the menus they are offering here.

NYC Restaurant week 2017 summer

To give you a taste of what to expect and to help you narrow your options, here is what a few of our hungry friends had to say:

Danielle, @DaniDares (Food Before Love Insider)

Where to go:

The Clocktower (Flatiron) (lunch)

What to order:

Appetizer: Shellfish linguini, lemongrass, king crab, lobster bisque

Entree: 36 Hour braised Pork Belly, crispy polenta, roasted apricots, golden thyme

Dessert: Peach Eton mess, almond whipped cream, vanilla meringue

Beverage: Gruner Ventliner

Favorite details of the experience: The entire experience was decadent. The walls are adorned with images of classic icons. It felt as if we were in someone’s home that was hosting us for lunch or the perfect setting for a game of clue. The bisque was fulfilling yet not heavy, and the pork belly melted in my mouth with such a succulent flavor.

Branzino

Name: Jessica, @Jessbcause721

Where to go:

Schilling Restaurant and Bar (FiDi) (lunch)

What to order:

Appetizer: Chicken liver crostini with shallot marmalade, house pickles and dijon

Entree: Branzino w/ a black garlic broth, root vegetable fricasse and charred broccoli florets

Dessert: Tiramisu

Beverage: Traditional Austrian beer Hefeweizen

Favorite details of the experience:

I absolutely loved the chicken liver crostini! It was super rich and the sweetness of the shallot marmalade just literally melted in your mouth. I would go back just to have that. I also loved that the broth with the branzino was spicy. The branzino was tender and flaky, there is so much you can do with fish so I enjoyed that they kept the broth light and flavorful and kept the branzino as the star.I would give the food a 4, that tiramisu was heaven in a shot glass.

Ambiance of the restaurant is very farm to table as the location is an industrial converted garage with wooded accents, glowing string lights and plush pillow lined benches.  The door was pulled all the way up so we had a nice floating breeze. I adore restaurants like this that kind of invite the hum of the city in while you dine. You can always feel connected to the world around you..

Great for dates or just catching up with friends. The waitstaff was extremely friendly and were more than accommodating when my boyfriend and I wanted to sample a few of the beers before deciding. Service is definitely a 5. All in all I would love to go back, as I said before its cozy, I had a great time and the food was AMAZING!

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Haley & Sarah, @twotastebuds_nyc

Where to go:

Sant Ambroeus (West Village)

What to order:

Appetizer: Battuta Di Manzo (Steak tartare)

Entree: Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Dessert: Gelato & Sorbet

Beverage(s): Bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon “La Contessa” 2015

Favorite details of the experience: The tagliatelle alla Bolognese was one of the best pasta dishes I have had in NYC and our waitress let us have a wine tasting while deciding which we wanted!

Where have you gone for NYC Restaurant Week? Let us know all about it in the comments below or tag us @FoodBeforeLove on instagram!

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National Mojito Day
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Attention all you Mojito lovers! National Mojito Day is Today, Tuesday,  July 11th and we’ve got you covered on where to celebrate and enjoy some of the best mojitos in NYC!

This popular cocktail originating from Cuba, is a delicious way to beat the heat with its mix of refreshing flavors. Traditionally, a mojito consists of five ingredients: white rum, sugar (typically sugar cane juice), lime, soda water and mint.

Here are our picks of where to sip on your favorite drink or if you’re a mojito newbie – try for the first time.

Havana Central

In the heart of Times Square is a bustling restaurant featuring Cuban cuisine, cocktails and live music in a retro Havana style atmosphere. Their mojitos are stellar and offered in a wide range of flavors – each served with a sugar cane stick. Stop in on National Mojito Day for $6 mojitos all day ($1 extra for flavors) and food specials featuring $1 empanadas. 151 West 46th Street, New York, NY

National Mojito Day
Photo By Neha Deshmukh

Guantanamera 

This friendly, fun and vibrant with magnificent mojitos and complimentary hand-rolled cigars (Friday – Saturday only after 7pm) and live Cuban music. Come enjoy $6 mojitos all day on Mojito Tuesdays and during happy hour Sunday – Thursday from 4pm – 7pm.  939 8th Avenue, New York, NY

Corner Social 

Harlem’s hotspot offers killer cocktails which never disappoint. Check out their version of your favorite mojito on their rotating daily specials menu. The last time I visited I had an amazing coconut one as I took in the bustling happy hour scene inside this cozy, brick exposed bar. If weather permits, enjoy the lively sidewalk seating and all the action in the center of Harlem on National Mojito Day.  321 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY

Habana Outpost

National Mojito Day
Photographed by N. Salter

Located in the fashionably cultural Fort Greene section of Brooklyn is a diverse, cool hangout spot offering up Mexican-Cuban food and refreshing frozen drinks such as the Morita, a great mojito/margarita combo and individual fruit flavored mojitos.  Place your food and drink order at the counter upon entering and then wander on out to the outdoor patio area complete with picnic style tables and umbrellas.  Do strike up a convo with someone at the next table or just enjoy people watching as you sip on your mojito. Don’t forgot to try some of the yummy food options like the popular grilled Mexican street corn with cotija cheese and fish tacos. 757 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY (between South Oxford Street and Portland Avenue) 

Havana Alma de Cuba

Courtesy Havana Alma de Cuba
Courtesy Havana Alma de Cuba

Known for Cuban comfort food, great mojitos and outdoor garden seating. On National Mojito Day classic mojitos are $6 during happy hour Monday – Wednesday from 4pm – 7pm and customers can receive complimentary cigars Tuesday – Wednesday, 7pm – 11pm  94 Christopher Street, New York, NY

Amor Cubano

Located in East Harlem offers a large selection of mojitos – at least ten! – to choose from including peach, passion fruit and even a champagne topped mojito!  Try out a few flavors during daily happy hour from 4pm – 7pm and late nights on the weekend from 11pm – closing.  2018 3rd Avenue, New York, NY

Brooklyn Beso

National Mojito Day BK BEso
Courtesy of Brooklyn Beso

Located in the heart of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, where you can enjoy delicious mojitos by the glass or pitcher in flavors such as guavo and ginger to complement their Latin-inspired menu.  Even better, stop by during happy hour, Tuesday-Friday from 3pm – 8pm and all day Monday for the 2 for 1 special and $2 off all frozen drinks. 370 Lewis Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Mad  Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina

Mad Dog will offer half off all mojitos all day on National Mojito Day. Stop by either of their two locations and toast the day away! Even more special, on National Mojito Day, the Financial District location  is also participating in the Stone Street Streetfest along with other restaurants in the area for a night of celebration and networking to support Self Help Africa. 20% of all purchases will go to supporting Self Help Africa’s work in empowering rural entrepreneurs in Africa. 83 Pearl Street, New York, NY and 5 East 38th Street, New York, NY

Blend on the Water 

National Mojito Day Blend on the Water
Courtesy of Blend on the Water

In Long Island City in Queens, Blend on the Water offers modern Latin fusion cuisine with a beautiful waterfront view and tasty cocktails and sharable drinks. The coconut mojitos are a favorite. Get one during happy hour Monday – Friday, 11am – 7pm 4540 Center Boulevard, Long Island City, NY 
 

 

 

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Common Foods Video with Danielle Fontus
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If certain words such as chipotle, espresso and acai make you nervous, you are not alone. Some foods are admittedly easier to pronounce than others. And some make you pause every time you read them. But we are here to tell you that there is no shame in needing to take a minute and sound a word out before ordering. You shouldn’t let anything, let alone pronunciation, stop you from enjoying what otherwise could be an unforgettable dining experience filled with good food and laughter.

Have you ever decided to be fancy and hit up a restaurant you’ve never been to? You dress up, fully willing to broaden your food horizons. But the minute you get the menu and eyeball a few of the dishes, you regret it all. You don’t know how to say any of the selections or if you even want to eat any of them. All of a sudden you’re back in elementary school with beads of sweat on your forehead as you sound out syllables at the table. It’s not a good look, but it is a common dilemma we’ve all faced. However, it doesn’t have to be. Ordering delicious meals should truly be the time of your life.

And that’s why we’re here: to help guide you through those awkward restaurant encounters. There’s no better time than the present to improve your food vocabulary by learning the real way to pronounce common dishes. We continue our handy guide with the help of our friend Danielle, Creator of the She Dares community. The next time you see one of these items on a menu, you’ll impress your friends and bae by sounding like an expert.

  • Edamame – A boiled soy bean, which can be a snack or appetizer before the main dish

  • Lychee – A white fleshy fruit

  • Chipotle – A smoke-dried jalapeño

  • Espresso – A coffee brewed by boiling water under pressure

  • Acai – A reddish-purple fruit.

     

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