Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Alex and Lauren Newsday Feature!

College friendship turns into food blog
Saturday June 2, 2012 10:03 AM By Erin Geismar 

Lauren Brookmeyer had just finished her workday and Alex Dollin would begin his overnight shift in a few hours. But in the meantime, the two college friends shared a meal at Venere in Westbury on Tuesday night for just a handful of hours they’d get to spend together that week — eating good food, catching up on each other’s lives and breaking up the workweek. They were both admittedly hungry and agreed the appetizer took too long to come to their table, but when it did, neither of them touched it. “That’s the first rule,” explained Dollin. “You can’t touch the food before we take a picture of it.” That picture, along with many others, and their well-thought out review of the restaurant, would appear a few days later on the pair’s blog, “Alex and Lauren Eat Long Island,” which has steadily gained a following since they launched it last year. Dollin and Brookmeyer commit one night a week to dining at a different restaurant on Long Island and reviewing it on their blog. They’ve been everywhere from Garden City to Mattituck and reviewed the full gamut of what the Island has to offer from burger joints to upscale dining. “We try to judge places by what they are trying to be,” said Brookmeyer, so the burgers at Jake’s Wayback Burger, in East Meadow, aren’t up against the filet mignon at Blackwell’s, a steakhouse in Wading River. Their ratings range from 1 to 5 dinner mints, the latter meaning exceptional. At dinner on Tuesday, they played by the rules. They photographed each dish before touching it, and talked casually about the presentation, the restaurant decor, the service and their meals as Dollin took notes. Brookmeyer commented that the bread basket could have been a little more substantial, Dollin pointed out that it included garlic knots. “He’s always a little more positive and I’m always a little more . . .” Brookmeyer began, defining their reviewing tendencies and sharing a laugh with her partner. They’re not trained or experienced food critics. Dollin is a producer at News 12 Long Island and Brookmeyer works in governmental relations for Long Island Power Authority, but after losing touch after college and reconnecting over “a huge Italian meal” one day last spring, they made the commitment to simply dine together and share their experience. “People get busy,” Brookmeyer said. “But you have to make a commitment to the things you love to do and the people you care about.”


Friday, June 22, 2012

SNAPS – Wantagh

With Alex catching up on some much needed rest, I decided to venture out to eat with my friend Jenna on the south shore. We headed to Snaps - a small neighborhood eatery in Wantagh serving up a HUGE selection of American bistro style fare with a twist. The atmosphere certainly didn’t wow me and the tables are a bit too close together for my liking. However, when the menu was presented to us, we were both blown away by the longggg list of options and the diverse variety of selections!

We each started off with a glass of wine. Jenna was excited to order the MOMA, Umberto Cesari. Of course, they were out! Certainly not a stellar start, which Jenna would like noted. However, we moved on to our appetizers and things began looking up. I ordered the Crispy Chicken Teriyaki Wontons served in a Thai vinaigrette with soba noodles. The chicken was crisp and seasoned well, but the overall dish lacked pizazz. Jenna ordered one of the special salads which included grilled peaches and goat cheese. She said it was delicious!

For my entrée, I selected the Pumpkin Seed Crusted Tilapia served over a bed of cranberry wild rice and roasted butternut squash sauce. The dish was nicely presented and the pumpkin seed crusted tilapia was pretty tasty. Jenna really enjoyed her salmon, which was one of the specials of the night.

The best part of the meal at Snaps? The dessert! My piping hot, Crunchy Cinnamon Churros drizzled with chocolate were absolutely scrumptious! Meanwhile, across the table, Jenna was ALL smiles as she dived into her Cannolis. If I ventured back to Snaps, I would definitely sample the Pumpkin Donut Bread Pudding… sounds amazing!

So what’s the overall review on Snaps?! While they get points for their large selection and wide variety of dishes, nothing about my meal really “WOW-ed” me. If you are in the Wantagh area and not sure where to go, it’s a solid choice. However, I wouldn’t be driving out of my way to check it out. I was tempted to give it 3.5 mints initially due to my obsession over the churros, but after further reflection and review (and keeping the prices in mind as well – not exactly cheap), Snaps receives 3 out of 5 Mints on the Dinner Mint Scale. Snaps on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sacramone's - East Meadow

Friendly, efficient service and delicious Italian cuisine makes this dining duo hopeful that Sacramone’s in East Meadow is here to stay. Almost lost amongst the traffic and crowded real estate on Hempstead Turnpike, this little Italian restaurant is worth the effort to find.

Alex and I started our meal off with Mama’s Old Fashion Pie – a delicious 10 inch thin crust pizza with hand cut mozzarella, virgin olive oil, basil and fresh homemade tomato sauce. I recently ventured into lower Manhattan to experience some serious slices of pizza on the NYC Pizza Tour. Let me tell ya, Sacramone’s pizza tastes like it came from Brooklyn or downtown NYC. Superb!

For his entrée, Alex ordered the Piccolo Vongole con Broccoli de Rape e Salsicci – small pasta shells served with sausage, garlic and oil. Alex said the dish was delicious! Not overly oily and the sausage was excellent. However, Alex noted that while his dish was excellent, it wasn’t quite worthy of being called “exceptional” on our rating scale. I agreed with his sentiment. I ordered one of their specials - a Sautéed Chicken Cutlet with sliced apples in apple Brandy. While very tasty and certainly satisfying, it was missing that “x” factor creating the mentality of “OMG, everyone MUST try this!” I think you’ve experienced the “x” factor before, right? Nevertheless, the entire meal was very enjoyable.

The atmosphere of Sacramone’s is plain and simple, but very clean and pleasant. One of the owners, Domenico, warmly greeted us and asked us about our dining experience, which was very much appreciated. Alex and I cannot say enough nice things about Domenico and his hardworking, friendly staff.

Overall, Sacramone’s receives 4 out of 5 Mints on the Dinner Mint Scale. DEFINITELY order the pizza! Well done!
Sacramone's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chop Shop Bar and Grill - Smithtown

Located on Main Street in the heart of Smithtown, Chop Shop is a casual, yet professional and classy ‘Bar and Grill’ providing EXCEPTIONAL service and cuisine to match!

You will definitely want to order an appetizer to start your meal. Unique, intriguing selections range from a Hand Rolled Cuban - crispy, pulled pork, alpine swiss, smoked ham, and dill pickle served with a mustard dipping sauce, to the Steamed PEI Mussels Casino sautéed with bacon, peppers, onion, and garlic. Alex and I opted for the Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls - spicy pulled chicken, celery curls and blue cheese. In one word “PHENOMNEAL.” Major kudos to the chef! In fact, the spring rolls were so tasty it made me want to order another appetizer!

We opted for the fixed price menu (always a plus) and also took advantage of the Chop Shop’s Tuesday “Wine and Dime” night…. Purchase one glass of wine and get another other glass for just 10 cents! What a deal! Alex and I both ordered the White Sangria, which was delicious! They clearly allowed the fruit to soak for a proper amount of time.

I started with their Soup du Jour; a delightful New England Clam Chowder. Alex raved about his Chopped Garden Salad tossed with chickpeas, cucumbers, tomato and aged balsamic, virgin olive oil.

For his main course, Alex selected the Skirt Steak, which was marinated and grilled, and served with shiitake mushrooms, asparagus potato hash and topped with crispy shoestring onions. We both agreed this solid cut of meat was flavorfully prepared well. The crispy shoestring onions certainly didn’t hurt either! I ordered the grilled Free Range Chicken served with sautéed spinach, cioppolini onions and pan fried gnocchi served in a light marsala tasting type of sauce. It was superb!...Wonderful presentation all around to boot!

For dessert, we both ordered the Brownie Sundae (how could we not). The brownie was warm, soft and deliciously paired with black cherry ice cream (I opted for vanilla with mine – I’m boring, I know) and whipped cream too! Alex said the black cherry ice cream coupled with the brownie was simply magnificent.

Our waitress, Lisa, could not have been more friendly and efficient…. Truly specular service! Not to mention the manager thanked us for visiting on the way out and asked us about our experience. Alex and I HIGHLY recommend this Smithtown gem. The Chop Shop solidified a spot on our “favorites list” and is without a doubt worth 5 out of 5 Dinner Mints on our Dinner Mint Rating Scale. Chop Shop on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ristorante Venere - Westbury

Lauren and I changed it up and met on a Tuesday this past week. We selected Ristorante Venere in a shopping center off of Carman Avenue in Westbury. It's not a giant restaurant but the place was considerably busy for a Tuesday night. You can tell it's the type of neighborhood restaurant that has regulars.
We were seated almost immediately against a wall with a beautiful painted mural. This was really one of the highlights of the decor, as the place could really use a little sprucing up. It looks VERY 1990. But, everything was neat and clean, just perhaps a bit out of date. It seems to be the type of place that is so focused on the food that less attention is given to surroundings.
So, onto the food. Our friendly waiter came over after a few minutes of waiting with bread and water. The bread was typical Italian bread but it did some with some fresh, piping hot garlic knots in the basket which Lauren and I always find to be a plus. There is really nothing quite like reaching into what you think will be a normal bread basket, and finding a surprise additional food item. At this point, we decided to place an appetizer. There is a sign that hangs on the front of the restaurant that says "Voted Best Pizza" (by who is really to be determined)so we figured we ought to start out with the Margherita pizza as an appetizer.
After what seemed like a little too long, the pizza finally arrived at our table, nice and hot. The word fresh really came to mind for both Lauren and me the second we bit into it. The cheese was great and the sauce had a very delicious and distinct home-style taste. I don't have an Italian grandmother but if I did, I imagine her sauce would taste similar. While I really enjoyed it, Lauren said she found it to be crisp, but that she has had better.
For main course, Lauren selected the Eggplant Rollatini. She describes it as EXCEPTIONAL! It came smothered in delicious,hot oozy mozzarella cheese. The eggplant was fresh and stuffed with ricotta, salami, and provolone cheese. She said: "The sauce reminded me one a tomato sauce you would get from a pizza parlor in Brooklyn... homemade just like Mama meant for it to be!"
I went with the Paglia Fieno Pomodoro, which is Green and white pasta covered in a fresh tomato, onion and basil sauce. The soft pasta went very well with their home-style sauce. It was filling and enjoyable. My only criticism, is that there could have been a little less sauce. But that's really a personal preference thing. I should note that the dish also comes in a cream and bacon sauce (called Carbonara) but after the pizza, I was really into their tomato sauces and felt like ordering it that way. We decided to order dessert but we were a little hesitant since the service had been a little slow. To be fair, there was a party going in the back of their dining room, but that really shouldn't present too much of a problem on a Tuesday night.
Nevertheless we ordered a Tartuffo dessert. (Ice cream inside a hard chocolate shell) But Ristorante Venere also has a Pistachio Tartuffo option, so we selected that. It came covered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce. It also had some kind of a cinnamon or nutmeg on the bottom of the place so you got a hint of extra taste as you dragged your ice cream through. Nice touch! It was great! And as Lauren said: "A delightful ending to a delicious meal." Ristorante Venere gets a hearty 3.5 on the dinner mint scale.
Ristorante Venere is open 7 days for lunch and dinner. 841 Carman Avenue Westbury,NY 516 333 2332 Venere Restaurant on Urbanspoon