New Nordic Cuisine in Williamsburg – A Night at Aska

I had a wonderful dinner the other night at Aska in celebration of a friend’s birthday. The restaurant was covered by every major food publication since it earned two Michelin stars in November and rightfully so. Under the direction of Chef Frederik Berselius, Aska gives diners a sampling of “New Nordic” cuisine at its finest joining the ranks of Aquavit and Agern. The restaurant is located on South 5th, almost directly underneath the Williamsburg bridge. They offer 10 and 19 course tasting menus with wine pairings and a beautiful cocktail program. Be prepared to spend several hours there if you do the full menu. We started around 8:45 PM and didn’t leave until 1:45 AM! The meal is most definitely a marathon, not a sprint.

Some tasting menus have these over the top crescendos and one or two dishes that are designed to keep food bloggers on a leash. In contrast, Aska is incredibly understated. It’s the dining equivalent of the Artistotle quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” There wasn’t a single dish that I felt was trying too hard to impress even though many of the ingredients are avant-garde (think bladderwrack, lamb heart, lichen). Each dish parlayed into the next to create a beautiful dining experience, one that’s clean, approachable, and harmonious.

Aska Tasting Menu

A Healthier Start to the New Year

I’ve suffered from headaches most of my life. It’s something I assumed would always be part of me. Earlier last year, the frequency of headaches picked up and I began my quest to figure out why. I went to the eye doctor, really cut back on alcohol, and did my best to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. When the headaches persisted, I looked into whether my sinuses or allergies might be a factor and finally, my stress. I began meditating, taking walks in the morning, and weaned myself off of 5-6 servings of caffeine a day (2-3 cups of coffee and diet cokes).

Although my headaches were less frequent, I still wasn’t feeling great. Something was off in my body; my energy levels and sleeping patterns were all over the place. I hired a nutritionist who worked with my friend Laurie and came highly recommended. He put me on a “healing plan” of sorts, an elimination diet that involves no alcohol, dairy, grains, soy, and sugar for 90 days.  It’s very similar to Paleo or what seems to be all the rage on Instagram these days – #whole30.

Walked into Whole Foods hungry after my dance class one night. Went in for a salad and walked out with all of these goodies.

I’m often asked, “If you can’t eat all of those things, what *can* you eat?” The answer is a lot. Unlike other diets I’ve tried, I’m not calorie counting, I’m not hungry, and I’m not even really cooking a lot. For the most part, I’m just eating proteins, fruits, and vegetables and avoiding a lot of condiments, dressings, and sauces that have tons of sugar and processed ingredients. I recommend books like Practical Paleo, which offer a lot of easy to follow recipes and a clear explanation of why certain foods are good and bad.
For breakfast I  make omelettes with different vegetables, bacon, and sweet potato hash (so yummy).  Lunch is usually a salad, sometimes with repurposed ingredients from breakfast (e.g. leftover avocado, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables). And dinner is a protein with a vegetable.

Here I am 45 days into the program and I can honestly say I feel incredible. I sleep through the night and wake up feeling well-rested. I have more energy throughout the day, clearer skin, and a smaller waist. I was already working out before I started the program, but it wasn’t really until I changed my diet that I started to have more productive sessions with my trainer. In fact, I graduated this week to real push ups (no knees!) and I managed to dead lift 125 lbs. Things that I never thought I was capable of doing all of a sudden feel within the realm of possible.

What’s been the most profound impact is actually my PMS or lack thereof. No more mood swings, headaches, cramps, fatigue, and insomnia. This alone makes this lifestyle change worth it. I’m literally getting 4 to 5 days of my life back a month, which adds up to as many as 60 days each year! Why didn’t I do this sooner?

If you’re considering switching to Paleo or giving a Whole 30 a try, here are some things that have helped me cope along the way:

  • If you’re hungry, eat. The worst thing you can do is make your body think you’re starving it. Never let yourself feel deprived.
  • Instead of thinking that you’re taking something away by not having it, think of all of the nutritious and healthful things you’re *giving” your body instead.
  • If you’re at a party and are feeling pressure to drink, order a seltzer and lime and tell everyone you’re drinking a gin and tonic if they ask.
  • Pick up snacks before getting to the airport.
  • Know what you’re going to order before you go out to eat.
  • When ordering at a restaurant, tell the waiter or waitress what your restrictions are so they know how to modify your order if necessary.
  • Cook in bulk so you have leftovers to eat throughout the week.
  • Get used to eating the same foods over and over again. Meal time is less of an experience and more of a utility.
  • Tell everyone in your life what you’re doing and why. Ask them for their support if they encourage you to cheat. (Thanks to all my friends and family for not being assholes about this!)

This whole process so far has taught me how to rethink my entire relationship with food – from what I eat, how its made, where it comes from – and how that really can affect almost every aspect of my life (sleep, energy, stress).  The next challenge will be my month in Mexico City where I’ll be resisting the urge to consume queso, corn tortillas, and other delicious things on a regular basis. It’ll be a challenge for sure, but I’m committed to the path that I’m on.  Although I love experiencing all different types of food, I’m loving the way I’m feeling even more.

The Beatrice Inn – A Meat Lover’s Paradise

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I’ve had too many wonderful meals to recount in New York, but tonight’s Beatrice Inn dinner just might be one of my favorites. It’s certainly one of the few meals in recent history that I actually feel inspired to write about.

What did I love so much about the experience? Just about everything. 

It’s a meat lover’s paradise. In all seriousness, if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or not a fan of delicious proteins, don’t even bother. Once you step foot into this basement-level den of indulgence, you will lose all ability to self-regulate.

The restaurant has a storied history as a speak easy, celebrity hangout spot, and in recent years, a somewhat lackluster chophouse. When I heard Angie Mar, former sous-chef at the Spotted Pig, was taking over, I had high hopes for what she’d do. Take a look at her Instagram.

The woman is a mistress of meat and my new favorite lady boss (she’s Executive Chef AND owner).

The space is basement level and everything you’d expect out of a West Village dining experience – fireplaces, low lighting, and a New Yorker’s definition of the word cozy, a narrow bar in the entrance where late twenty somethings accidentally dry hump each other over post-work drinks.

When you read through the menu, the chef’s voice comes through loud and clear. “I’m a raging carnivore who loves dead animals and by the end of this meal you will too.” As a foodie who usually eyes the 2-3 “must-haves” almost instantaneously, I was dazed and confused. Do I order the 60 day dry-aged cote de boeuf with prawn butter, the braised oxtail, game pie, milk braised pork shoulder, duck flambe, 45 day dry aged burger, or perhaps lose my mind and go for the 127 DAY WHISKY AGED TOMAHAWK RIBEYE?!  The menu is audacious, the most indulgent in your face menu I’ve looked at in a long time.

We actually did go crazy and attempted to order the ribeye and then the waitress said, “Tonight’s market price is $679”. LOL. Here’s the deal. I’m actually one of those people who would order this, but I have to mentally prep myself first. I’ve spent obscene amounts of money on food and drink, but it always feels like this internal battle with myself to rationalize the decision. You can book a direct nonstop flight to Hawaii for $679! You could also go to McDonald’s and get a delicious box of 20 chicken nuggets with the most perfect sweet and sour sauce ever created for $5!  One whiskey aged tomahawk ribeye = 2,716 chicken nuggets!

We bailed on the ribeye and opted for the roast duck flambe instead.

New life goal: become a badass in the kitchen like @angiekmar and host dinner parties with duck flambé 🔥

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You can go through all the photos below where I captured every magical mouthful.

I’m full. I’m inspired. I’m in love with Angie Mar’s West Village meat den and I can’t wait to go back with a group and devour that ribeye.