As if the stars aligned, the Jacob Javits Center was home to simultaneous events that couldn’t have been more 2-Plus-2 appropriate. Taking place on the same weekend were the New York Wine Expo and the New York Times Travel Show. Two events that have been on the must-see list for quite some time. At first thought, having them on the same weekend seemed like a great idea, maybe even genius marketing. Who doesn’t want to dream about traveling and then go to dream some more while sipping vino from some of the best wine growing regions in the world. Our problem was being able to give each event the attention it needed (or that we thought it needed). What do four travel and wine lovers do?
In the end it was an easy decision. Do what we do best. Stretch the fun out over two days of over-the-top eating and drinking mixed in with some browsing. We wound up going to the New York Wine Expo on Friday night and the New York Times Travel Show on Saturday. This way we would have time to fully experience each event. Ok… so, we really just wanted to spend a lot of time at the Wine Expo on Friday drinking. Is that so bad?!
We had a bit of a late start on Friday, but our 9-5 jobs called, and we need to pay for all this fun somehow! As we arrived at the Javits Center, it seemed kind of dead outside. The convention center is immense and a even a large group of people outside can make it seem empty. However, as we entered the Wine Expo, we saw that it was packed! The organizers weren’t kidding when they said there would be over 760 wines! Most of the major wine making regions of the world were represented including Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, USA, Argentina and Chile. Noticeably absent from the attendees was France; it was kind of odd.
After a few hours of drinking ourselves silly on wine from around the world, we had worked up a serious appetite. Good thing A+K had set the crew up with a reservation at Bar Carrera, one of K’s favorite wine bars. Bar Carrera is a Spanish style tapas and wine bar located on Houston Street (see our review on its sister restaurant/bar, Custom American Wine Bar). We plopped ourselves down at the bar and proceeded to finish off the night by ordering almost everything on the menu including two rounds of blood sausage for M+L. We washed it all down by sipping on a few more glasses of wine, some excellent Spanish beer and Sherry. That’s right, Sherry, and it was awesome!
On Saturday it was off to the the New York Times Travel Show back at the Javits. In its 8th year of existence, the American Express sponsored event has all the info you need for that next big trip to Australia, Amsterdam or Anywhere. The displays ranged from a table with a few brochures on it, to full-on rainforest recreations (the Costa Rica setup was very impressive).
After a few hours of perusing kiosks from some of our favorite domestic and foreign locations, our appetites were worked into a frenzy. With no particular agenda (other than a craving for burgers), we walked out of the expo in search of an early Saturday dinner. We walked past the HK Cafe and quickly noticed the place was jumping. After being partially accosted by a group of enthusiastic locals exiting the establishment, we were convinced that HK was what we were looking for. We chowed down on some burgers and downed a few more adult beverages, completing a two-day extravaganza of food, drinking, walking, schmoozing, and browsing.
Like to give feedback? Wanna recommend your favorite restaurant, bar or New York activity? Complete our new 12 question survey!
New York Wine Expo625 West 34th Street, NYC 212-216-2000 www.wine-expos.com/Wine/NY www.JavitsCenter.com Annual Wine Tasting, Manhattan
Only in New York could you possibly sample over 760 wines from around the globe on one single evening. Whenever we hear about a wine event, it is a no brainer that we must attend. Wine tasting is an experience; we love sampling new wine and learning about the regions from which they came. Still in its infancy, the 4th Annual New York Wine Expo was a 3-day event held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. This was the first year we learned about its existence, and decided it was an essential event to attend.
We decided to attend the Friday night tasting, from 6-10pm. Knowing very well that four hours is a very long time to taste wine (well…), we arrived a little late hoping the crowds wouldn’t be too abundant and that there would still be quality wines left! Upon entering the Jacob Javits Center, we were instantly overwhelmed by the huge space, the hundreds of tables, and floods of people. We needed a game plan: travel around the room by country, and sample a few http://brooklynoenology.com/ wines from each region. We decided to begin with wines we know well… from Portugal. We tried some reds and whites from the Minho and Douro region (in the North) and the Alentejo region (in the South). Portuguese wines make delicious table wines to complement any meal. After chatting with many distributors (sadly, we couldn’t seem to find any winemakers), we hopped on over to the next region…. Brooklyn?!
Yes, that’s right. How did we not know A Vineyard Grows in Brooklyn? Well, the truth is that the grapes themselves are grown on Eastern Long Island and Finger Lakes, NY; however, the winemaking does happen in the Brooklyn premises. In addition to winemaking, Brooklyn Oenology offers a local tasting room and wine classes in Williamsburg for your enjoyment! We especially loved their peel-off labels featuring artwork from local artists. We love supporters of the arts, as well as creative winemakers. We look forward to visiting the winery in Williamsburg soon; we were so excited to have tried this innovative wine and chat with Jon and Josh from Brooklyn Oenology.
After Brooklyn, we fled all over the world once again, tasting wines from South America, Spain, and Greece. None of us had ever tasted wines from Greece, so we were excited for this serendipitous find. Many of the Grecian whites we sampled made us wish we were beachside in Cyprus with our feet in white sand. The whites were fresh, crisp, and citrusy. We will certainly be adding some of the Vin de Crete from the Cyprus Trade Center to our collection. We enjoyed speaking with Klio about the Greek wines, which we realized has a great climate for both reds and whites, and we wondered why we hadn’t tried Greek wines sooner!
No wine tasting is complete without snacks, so we scoured the Expo space for some tasty bites…. we are big fans of foie gras, so we were excited to try a Hudson Valley foie gras mousse and foie gras bacon! We especially loved the samplings of spreads, olive oils, and balsamic vinegars from Mardona Specialty Foods. The White Truffle Honey was to die for (and A nearly died when she found congealed truffle honey on her iPhone hours later)! Other exhibitors at the Expo included Travelocity, Cabot Cheese, and even a company featuring a virtual “Running of the Bulls” game!
Although a bit overwhelming (we could have used a map of some sort to navigate the room), we did find some really tasty new varieties to add to our personal index of go-to wines. Though, we think we’d prefer a smaller, intimate tasting over a huge expo any day… but with the Wine Expo being only an annual affair, perhaps would attend again in the future if we knew that new exhibitors, wineries, and vineyards were to be featured.
What we ate…
- Reds from Brooklyn Oenology
- Vin de Crete from Cyprus Trade Center
- Marquès D’ó from Portugal
- Longitude West from Portugal
- La Mancha, Dominio de Gardel, Sauvignon Blanc from Navarra, Spain
- Foie Gras Mousse on Toast
- Foie Gras Bacon
- Avocado Gazpacho
- White Truffle Honey with Crackers
- Jalapeño Cheese
A: A great way to try new wines and see what you like. I had no idea that countries like Greece made wine! However, it was lacking a bit in terms of ambiance. A large blank conference center was really not the most inspiring tasting location.
K: This is a really great event to find some new wines, meet passionate wine lovers, and enjoy a night out with friends. It was a bit overwhelming, but we tried to taste a few wines from every country. I really enjoyed some of the white wine selections from the Greek Island, Cyprus. I would have liked to see Croatian wines at the event… they need more exposure!
L: The event was nicely put together and well run. I found a few wines I would drink outside of the event but not many considering there were almost 800.
M: Loved the Running of the Bulls virtual reality game in the Spain section (too bad I got rammed by a bull!). Thought it was a little overwhelming, but I did find some wines that were pretty good. Loved the Greek tables. They were very friendly and were not shy with the pours of wine. Keep it coming!
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Industry-like wine tasting event with distributors highlighting selections from around the globe.
- Food/Drinks- 2.75: A couple were awesome, a lot were just OK, and many went into the discard bin.
- Coordinates- 3: City- 10 minute ride to fun
- Return Rate- Yellow Light
Bar Carrera146 West Houston Street, NYC 212-253-9500 Additional Location: 175 2nd Avenue, NYC 212-375-1555 www.BarCarrera.com Tapas, Wine, Manhattan
With two NYC locations (one on Houston and one on 2nd Avenue), as well as similar sister restaurants Bar Veloce and Custom American Wine Bar, you have plenty of joints to chose from to witness this super chill, old school vibe. The feeling has been perfectly cultivated with ultra dim lights, Audrey Hepburn movies, an eclectic mix of tunes (from Marvin Gaye to Johnny Cash) and open air kitchen. Displayed throughout the room are vintage movie cameras, fedoras and a huge leg of meat! Fantastic!
Start off your experience with a glass of Sherry. Huh? This is super unique in itself! A young, hip bar featuring a selection of Sherry… pretty unusual. If you need any help, ask your handle-bar-mustache bearing bartender for a suggestion. He knows the options inside and out. There are also plenty of interesting, specialty beer selections, white and red vintages by the glass, bubbly (of course), and even several ports to sip for dessert. For those into the ultimate rarity, order up a Coca Cola in a glass bottle… real old school! The finishing touch to set the throwback tone.
With full glasses of something new and unique, it’s time for some tantalizing tapas. The dishes are inexpensive (about 5 bucks) and thank goodness, because when you read the descriptions you will want to order them all. And that is essentially what we did… look at the list below. It’s a bit ridiculous (hey, we were hungry!). Dishes are small, in most cases only a few bites, but wow, those bites are complex, flavorful and delicious. So many ‘favorites’! The Jamon Wrapped Dates stuffed with Almonds were little flavor explosions. The Egg in a Blanket was absurdly good. Runny egg yolk dripping over a buttery brioche with cheese, ham and TRUFFLE OIL! What! Did someone enter our dreams and then cook up this simple, yet mind blowing dish. The Pork Belly was perfectly cooked, falling apart, and caramelized with Juniper Sugar. So different. The cake topper on our night of nights was dessert of course. Accompanied with a glass of sherry, we devoured fresh strawberries atop a layer of mascarpone cheese on a mini brioche bun, finished with a fantastically sweet drizzle of honey. It was a fabulous as it sounded.
What we ate…
- Cava Sparkling White Wine [Spain] (A+K)
- Coke in a Glass Bottle (L)
- Asunción Oloroso Sherry [Dry, caramel colored, vanilla bean, peach pit and fig] (L)
- Estrella Damn Amber Pilsner from Barcelona (M)
- Alhambra Negra Dark Lager from Granada (M)
- Los Arcos Amontillado Sherry [Nutty style, Smoked Wood, Raisin] (2+2)
Food (2+2 Shared Everything!)
- Manzanilla Olives
- Jamon Wrapped Dates stuffed with Marcona Almonds
- Tiger Shrimp and Chorizo
- Goat Cheese, Olive Oil, Smoked Paprika & Mini Baguette
- Patatas Bravas Potatoes with Smoked Paprika Aioli
- Smoked Salmon, Mascarpone & Black Caviar on Toasted Mini Brioche drizzled with Honey
- Pan con Tomate on a Toasted Mini Brioche topped with Powdered Olive Oil
- Gambas Wild Shrimp sauteed in Garlic, Onions and White Wine
- Egg in a Blanket, Truffled, Mini Brioche, Serrano Ham, Melted Manchego Cheese
- Pork Belly Caramelized with Juniper Sugar and Chick Pea Puree
- Morcilla Bocadillo served in a Mini Baguette with Yellow-Pepper Mustard
- Fresas- Strawberries with Mascarpone on Mini Brioche, Hazelnuts, Drizzle of Honey
A: An awesome hangout. I never get tired of a dark, inviting bar and small plates. The decor, the drink selections and the fabulous snacks were spot on. I can’t wait to come back, as well as visit the other locations!
K: I prefer the Houston Bar Carrera to the East Village location. No particular reason other than I generally go out more on the West Side and the location couldn’t be more centrally located… just on the border of Soho and the West Village. Nonetheless, I love this circuit of sister wine bars…. always a great reliable go-to spot for quality wines and tapas.
L: Oh baby this place is awesome! Loved sitting here for hours drinking and eating. The bartender was funny, the food was great and the music was awesome. Not a traditional Spanish tapas bar which gives them the opportunity to expand the menu with some non traditional flavors.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Low Lit, Throwback… Sherry, Old Movies and Johnny Cash
- Food/Drinks- 4: Stellar! Wouldn’t change a thing!
- Tip Worthy- 4: Double the tax and then some.
- Coordinates- 4: Neighborhood- Centrally located
- Restaurant Return Rate- Green Light!
New York Times Travel Show625 West 34th Street, NYC 212-216-2000 www.NYTTravelShow.com www.JavitsCenter.com Annual Travel Expo, Manhattan
For the eighth year, the New York Times, together with presenting sponsor American Express, have hosted a giant travel themed expo in New York City. Considered the premier show in the states, there are hundreds of booths, both large and small, providing lots of interesting information on destinations around the world. Ask questions, plot your journey or even book on site with special deals offered only at the Expo. Besides the plethora of handouts, travel videos and knowledgeable representatives from over 150 countries, there are also live cultural performances taking place on the global stages. Performances include Salsa from Puerto Rico, Hula from Hawaii and unique dances from Egypt, Indonesia and Turkey.
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, which happens to coincide with the travel expo, a collaboration was born with cooking demonstrations from several renowned Florida chefs and mixologists, like Tom Parlo of the Biltmore Hotel. Feel like learning something? There are lots of great seminars from today’s top travel experts and TV personalities. Determine when to scrimp and when to save when it comes to booking your next vacation from the world famous travel book family, the Frommer’s. Hear about adventures from around the world with National Geographic’s TV host, Julia Dimon. You can also get advice on improving your travel writing skills with Travel Writing 201. But our favorite, is the RICK! Rick Steves that is. Famous for traveling like a temporary local around Europe, he offered his stories and lessons during his presentation on Europe. Overall, a terrific resource for information.
A: Although not a super exciting expo, if you are a traveler, this is a great resource to be able to chat with those in the know and gather ideas for new trips. Definitely worth an hour walk through. Plus we got to meet THE RICK!
K: Rick Steves is always my go-to travel guide whenever I am going to Europe. I have had incredible experiences thanks to The Rick’s wonderful travel tips. He is inspirational! I was so excited to finally meet the man behind the guide. Ok, I was ridiculously giddy!
L: I am not sure how many times I passed a destination and said “ooohh I want to go there”.
M: Thought it was a good thing to do to pass the time and to get some ideas. Don’t plan on being here more than an hour. The best part was talking and finally meeting the man behind every travel book we have MR. Backpack himself, Rick Steves.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- A collection of informational booths showcasing everywhere you’ve every wanted to go
- Coordinates- 3: City- 10 minute ride to fun
- Return Rate- Blinking Red Light- Proceed with caution. Know that you are going there to collect pamphlets from travel agents.
HK (Hells Kitchen) Cafe523 9th Avenue, Between 39th-40th Street, NYC 212-947-4248 www.HKHellsKitchen.com American with Greek Inspiration, Cocktails, Manhattan
In search (and in dire need) of a burger, we stumbled upon HK in, lo and behold, the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Midtown West. It had exactly what we hoped for: an array of burger selections, salads, beer, and cocktails. The boisterous energy and dark, alluring ambiance also drew us in; it was not your typical burger joint, but we were hungry and it looked busy enough, and the patrons looked happy enough for it to be good. We were seated immediately and were only moments away from sinking our teeth into a succulent burger.
Since we can never turn down warm pita bread and delectable Mediterranean spreads, it was imperative that we start our meal with the hummus platter. There never seems to be enough pita to hummus ratio, so we inevitably had to order a second round of pita to scoop up the remaining red pepper hummus, baba ganoush, and tzatziki. Mmm. To follow, K+M shared a mesclun salad to nourish ourselves with some leafy greens before ingesting a gigantic burger. Sometimes it’s necessary to begin a meal with a bite of something that comes from the earth!
Once we settled in, we all enjoyed a round of drinks as we waited for our burgers to arrive… M stood alone with his beef burger selection (slathered with bleu cheese), as A+K+L selected the turkey burger with all of the same accoutrements. It is astounding how we’re always on the same wavelength! K tried to spice it up a little by ordering some of the spicy fries on the side (for a couple of extra bucks), instead of regular fries. Sadly, this was a mistake, as the fries were loaded up with paprika, were only midly spicy, and were super dry. Bummer! The regular fries were much tastier; needless to say, K had fry envy.
The burgers were gigantic! Their irregular shapes made it clear they were freshly kneaded from scratch. They had lots of good flavor and they were piled high with attractive vegetables. Who can resist caramelized onions and avocado on their burger?! Our burgers were relatively satisfying, though not the best burger we’ve ever had, nor one that would lure us to this particular neighborhood out of the ordinary.
To our surprise, the dessert (which is obviously always necessary) was really great! The Apple Tart, with crisp chunks of apples nestled in a crumbly shell, was surprisingly delicious! There’s nothing better than a scoop of a warm apple tart followed by a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Just delish! M ordered the Crème Brûlée, which was pretty tasty, but L’s Apple Tart was the top choice by far!
Though not overwhelmed by the fare at HK, it did the trick in this particular moment in time. Though we probably wouldn’t find ourselves venturing to this midtown spot on any given day, if we were in the area, we might consider stopping in for some apps and cocktails, and maybe even an Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream!
What we ate…
- Persephone Martini [Stoli Orange, Peach Schnapps, Grapefruit Juice, Pomegranate Juice] (A)
- Stella Beer (K+L+M)
- Heiferweisen Beer (M)
- Hummus and Baba Ganoush with Marinated Olives and Flat Bread (2+2)
- Tossed Mesclun Field Green Salad with Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinaigrette (K)
- Homemade Turkey Burger, Thick Cut Tomato, Onions, Field Greens, Avocado (A+K+L)
- Spicy French Fries (K)
- HK Charbroiled Sirloin Hamburger with Fries (M)
- Coffee (L)
- Cappuccino (M)
- Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream (L)
- Creme Brulee (M)
A: The patrons are high energy, especially after a ridiculously long happy hour! Wow. But everyone is super fun loving, the burger yummy and the service great.
K: I love random finds! This place had an energetic atmosphere…and the food hit the spot. Not sure it dazzled me, but I might return if I was in the area. There are so many other great Hell’s Kitchen restaurants to choose from, though.
M: Like the look and feel of this place, very open, and the food was just what I was looking for on that night. Might stop in for happy hour next time.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Diner meets cocktail lounge, with open air seating in the summer time with retractable garage door walls
- Food/Drinks- 3: Pleasantly surprised (Not everyone loved it, but drinks and desserts averaged it to a 3)
- Tip Worthy- 3: Gratuity included
- Coordinates- 3.5: City- 5 minute ride to fun
- Restaurant Return Rate- Yellow light- If we were in town and hungry, we would definitely stop in