Sexy Decor and Delicious Thai Food at Samui Restaurant

It’s Friday night and it’s date night. Jack and I are feeling like something different, new and of course delicious so we venture to a newly opened restaurant named Samui located in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, NY. Not knowing what to expect because I normally order the wrong things when I go to Thai restaurants which leaves my experience less to be desired. So, I head into Samui with high hopes and wishing lady luck on my side tonight.

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First impression – the decor is slick. Exposed brick walls and Moroccan lanterns perfectly placed throughout. Three large light installations anchor the lighting above the center dining area. Off to the back of the room there is a show. I call it a show because at first glance it looks like the milky way being projected onto the back wall but I later find out its a projection of barnacles under water. Simply beautiful. We are escorted to our seats which are set off to the outside of the main dining area. The table is cozy and the color of the banquette is a soothing teal blue with steel gray leather seats. I immediately feel comfortable as I slide into my seat. I peruse the menu and see it’s broken up into appetizers, small plates, soups, salads, noodles, noodle soups, curries, fried rice and big plates. They also have a number of sides that range from Jasmine white and brown rices, sticky rice and green Chinese broccoli.

Samui Thai Restaurant Brooklyn NY

Samui Thai Restaurant Brooklyn NY

Samui Thai Restaurant Brooklyn NY

Where to start? I am a little scared because I tend to order things with an overpowering flavor of coconut, which I do not care for. Throwing caution to the wind, I decide to be adventurous and as my appetizer I order the Chili Naked Shrimp (which is raw shrimp treated with vodka and lime and topped with chilis and garlic). Jack, not one for raw plates plays it safe and orders the shrimp roll.While we wait for our appetizers to arrive we sip on a delicious Rioja which has a wonderful peppery finish and a hint of blackberry. In what feels like no time at all, our appetizers arrive at the table. Jack immediately goes for the Shrimp Roll. His eyes light up after the first bite and he says “this is so good, you have to try it.” I acknowledge and take a bite of my first raw shrimp. It’s juicy with a kick. You can taste the garlic and the chili but it’s not overpowering. It’s tangy, juicy and spicy – the perfect bite. I smile because it appears that I did right with my first course selection.

Jack is plowing through the shrimp rolls so I think to myself, better get one before its gone. I grab one of the last shrimp rolls, take a bite and immediately close my eyes. The rolls are light and crunchy. I can taste a hint of lemon but have no idea where it’s coming from. Either way it’s delightful. Unlike any other shrimp roll I’ve had before; they are so light. Jack looks at me and says “I think I’ll try the raw shrimp.” I do a double take and say “really?” He reaches over and takes one of the shrimps and says “here we go” and takes a bite. He smiles and says “this is amazing” and proceeds to eat the last of the naked shrimp. We are visited by the chef/owner who proceeds to tell us that everything is edible on the plate – including the flower. Now, I’ve never eaten an edible flower before and will confess I never knew Pansies were edible, so I go ahead and pop the first flower in my mouth. It’s hard to describe what a flower tastes like because I’m not in the habit of going around chomping on flowers but the best way to describe it? It that it tastes a little sweet and grassy at the same time. Determined not to leave anything left on our plates I pop the second flower in my mouth for good measure. Appetizer courses complete – plates are empty. Food delicious.

For the main course I didn’t want to order what I normally order at Thai restaurants so I passed over the Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles. Both of which I love and ordered many a times but this restaurant was different and I wanted to stay adventurous. So I ordered the Maksamum Curry Short Rib. Jack ordered the Chicken Pad Thai. Unbeknownst to me, the dish I ordered was made with coconut milk. We order a second glass of the Rioja and wait for the main course to arrive. We notice that the restaurant is pretty busy for a first opening which is a testament to the quality of food coming out of the kitchen. Perfectly timed, our main courses arrive. I can smell the sweetness of the coconut milk as the waiter places the plate in front of me. I am weary because as I said before I am not a big fan of coconut milk but that weariness fades quickly away after my first bite. It’s absolutely delicious. It’s a little sweet but creamy and savory at the same time. The short rib is succulent and tender easily falling off the bone.

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I am heads down in my plate I forget to ask Jack about his Pad Thai. Not to worry, Jack is oohing and aahing over his dish. He says “I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a lot of Pad Thai before, but this is by far the best that I’ve eaten. Hands down.” I wanted to respond but I was too busy stuffing my face with my short rib curry. Absolutely delicious. I take a moment from my deliciousness and look over at Jack’s plate, based on what’s left you can tell that this was one of those dishes you can look at and tell that its really light and healthy. Like he knew what I was thinking he says ” this dish is really light and I’m trying to figure out what is making it so light.” I reach over with my chopsticks and take a sample from his plate and the look he gave me I thought our relationship was going to end. Boy-oh-boy did he want to finish his plate. The small bite I was “allowed” to take of the Chicken Pad Thai was delicious. You could taste a little of the tamarind juice and the secret crunch of pickled turnip. The usual suspects of peanuts and bean sprouts were present as well, but the magic of the plate was that it was a light bite. Not the heaviness that usually accompanies a noodle dish like Pad Thai.

Samui Thai Restaurant Brooklyn NY

The waiter comes by to check in on us and I say pointing to empty plates “we didn’t like it.” The waiter smiles and with wide eyes says, “I can tell.” We laugh as he clears our plates and asks if we have room for dessert. I am a little full but not so full that I couldn’t try one of their desserts. We peruse the dessert menu and there is one dessert that jumps out because I’ve never eaten the sauce before – so we order the poached pear with pandan sauce. The waiter says its the best dessert on the menu. I’m feeling a little arrogant right about now because everything that I’ve picked has been absolutely plate licking delicious. I didn’t know what pandan was and when the dessert came to the table, the bright but light green sauce was striking against the white plate. Now was not the time to hesitate, so I dig right into the pear and pick up a nice helping of the pandan sauce. Throwing caution to the wind I take a bite. The pear has a wonderful silky consistency. The pandan sauce is outstanding. Its sweet, aromatic, creamy with just a perfect hint of coconut milk.

All in all from the wine to the dessert – Samui was delicious, scrumptious, delightful and we will definitely be back. Would I recommend Samui? Yes, I would recommend Samui for a girl’s night out, dinner for a group and it makes the perfect second date spot.

Samui
15 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205
www.samuibrooklyn.com

samui entrance

International dynamic duo, Thai native and former globally acclaimed jewelry designer A Napadol and her celebrated music producer husband Hani, share their love of entertaining with the creation of Brooklyn’s newest hot spot – Samui. A southeast Asian restaurant with a focus on modern Thai cuisine inspired by the food so lovingly prepared by A’s grandmother in her tiny home-based eatery in northeast Thailand,  Samui is an exciting addition to Fort Greene’s massive Brooklyn Navy Yard area redevelopment.

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samui

Make your reservations now to experience a stellar romantic meal for two.  Open daily for dinner 5:30 PM –  11 PM Monday thru Thursday. 5PM – 1 AM on Friday and Saturday.  Reservations may be made by calling (917) 909-1032.

A Star Is Born At White Star On Warren

I never knew what it was like to have a “neighborhood place”. You know, the place where everyone knows your name. Well, that’s until now. I found “my spot”, or to put it another way, my spot found me. Maybe it’s because I live around the corner and I find myself at the restaurant 2-3 times a week most weeks. The White Star on Warren Street in Jersey City is everyone’s favorite place to be – food, cocktails, people, beer tastings to the plethora of craft beers on tap this is the place to be.

The White Star on Warren Street in Jersey City

It’s a Friday night. I went out with the girls for drinks on the waterfront (that’s another story) and we found ourselves back at the White Star for dinner. On a recent visit I tried one of the burgers which was absolutely delicious. To highlight one would be a crime because they are all good. There is a burger with “secret sauce” which leaves you breathless. Yes, breathless because your hands are moving so fast and you’re working so hard to shovel it into your mouth. I’ve also had the Half Chicken dinner which is just as delicious. The chicken is juicy and very moist but the skin, the skin is out of this world. It’s very flavorful and crispy. The chicken comes with smashed, crispy fried potatoes and root vegetables that are perfectly caramelized. If I could face plant and lick the plate I would but I have some restraint…some.

The White Star on Warren Street in Jersey City

So, not quite sure what to order I leave it up to the bartender (who is personable, bubbly, funny and knows how to pour a healthy drink). He says “You have to have the Pork Chop!” I say, “the Pork Chop it is.” It takes a little longer to cook, but that was fine because the girls and I were catching up and chit chatting about life and people watching as well. In no time the dish arrives and its massive. It’s a double chop that looks too beautiful to eat. It has the most perfect char on the outside. I suppose that char comes from the bourbon glaze that was used to bathe the chop while it was cooking. The pork chop comes with apples and caramelized Brussel sprouts and aged cheddar grits.

The White Star on Warren Street in Jersey City

The perfect bite? It’s a piece of pork chop, a schmear of apples and a caramelized Brussel sprout to top off the spear of the fork. Absolutely delicious. The meat was so moist. It made me think of all of the other pork chops that tried to come out of other restaurant kitchens and failed miserably. This pork chop was juicy, so juicy that when you cut into the chop juices seeped out so that each bite was marinated once again. The aged cheddar grits are not like the Southern grits that you may get from a diner they are a little more grainy – but just as good.

So, do I recommend White Star on Warren? Absolutely, its perfect for solo dining, groups, girls night out and dates.

The White Star on Warren Street in Jersey City

A Little Taste of Italy

Check out the lasted foodie adventure from Yvette Schmitter … A little taste of Italy.

taste of little italy

It’s a Monday night and I find myself in Nassau County, New York. Having been invited to a tasting event at Maggiano’s Little Italy for the Make A Wish Foundation – I was not sure what to expect. My standards for Italian food are quite high, partly because I am a foodie and the other part because I’ve honed my taste buds during my yearly trek to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I had some apprehension about the evening because if the food isn’t good it was going to make for a long and hungry night. 

Prepare to be transported to the 1930s when you enter Maggiano’s Little Italy. The classic color scheme of deep browns and beige coupled with crystal chandeliers hanging throughout make the relatively large restaurant a cozy and inviting space. The sounds of Frank Sinatra piped through the speakers cuddle your ears as you enter the building located at 600 Garden City Plaza, Garden City, NY 11530. 

The hostesses greet me with warm smiles and direct me to the dining area where we are scheduled to taste the “Eat A Dish For Make A Wish” menu. The menu consists of 2 appetizers (Strawberry Bruschetta, Asiago Crusted Shrimp), 2 entrees (Filet and Asparagus Risotto and Stuffed Chicken Florentine Risotto) and a dessert (Fresh Berry Tiramisu). One dollar from every meal benefits Make A Wish Foundation. I later found out that Maggiano’s Little Italy has raised $6 million dollars for Make A Wish since 2004. Wow!

The first appetizer served was the Strawberry Bruschetta. It had the perfect amount of mascarpone, ricotta cream and strawberry chutney, so that the prosciutto and fresh basil were still able to shine through. It was the sublime bite of salty sweet. Just delicious. The second dish served was Asiago Crusted Shrimp served with a tomato lemon aioli. Expertly coated, not buried in breading, one could still taste the sharpness of the Asiago cheese. And the tomato and lemon zest in the aioli rounded out the bite from the cheese. Very nicely done.

Filet_and_Asparagus_Risotto

The first entree served was the Filet and Asparagus Risotto. To be honest I was skeptical and a bit nervous when I saw this on the menu because I’ve had some of the best risotto of my life while in Italy. The kind that has been expertly stirred and stirred and stirred until you get this creamy concoction of pure deliciousness that makes you want to pick up the plate with both hands and lick it clean. But, I was pleasantly surprised. It was good. The filet was cooked medium rare. The stock used for this risotto was a veal stock and it was hearty as well as creamy. The risotto had shiitake mushrooms mixed in as well. Not bad. The second dish, Stuffed Chicken Florentine, was just as surprisingly good. The chicken and the stuffing were both moist. Bathed in a chicken stock the risotto was ultra creamy and had the right amount of crunch to the bite. Not bad, not bad at all. 

Fresh_Berry_Tiramisu

For dessert, the menu boasts of a Berry Tiramisu which looked way too beautiful to eat. Sometimes tiramisu can be a sweet bite but this was spot on. The berries’ (strawberry, blueberry and blackberries) inherent sweetness were allowed to shine. The cream was light and airy – I could envision it being whipped to perfection back in the kitchen. The tiramisu was the ideal way to end the tasting.

So, would I recommend going to Maggiano’s Little Italy? Yes, I would. It’s perfect for large groups, date night or an evening out with the girls. From the service to the food you will feel like you are transported back to an Italian home where good food, community, big family style portions and hospitality are the driving force. Here is a link to their dinner menu /website

Only Better and the Best at David Burke’s Cafe

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Bloomingdales is known for having everything – every designer you can think of, a plethora of makeup counters that can boggle the mind, shoes…..and I do love shoes, and more. But today my friend and I aren’t coming to shop and get lost in racks of clothing we are here to have brunch at a quaint cafe nestled on the southwest side of the Bloomingdale’s building. Do not let the idea of a cafe into a shopping store fool you in thinking this is going to be “run of the mill fare” with mediocre service. Not by a long shot. I mean take a look at the thick cut double glazed maple bacon! More about that to come…

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My friend and I make our way around the busy corner of 59th street and what strikes me first are the sidewalk to rooftop windows that welcome you towards the cafe. It’s mesmerizing – reminiscent of a month being attracted to a flame. Muted silver grey luxurious curtains drape the windows; I immediately wanted to go inside. Just from the exterior alone I felt welcomed and drawn to come in. We enter the cafe and are quickly greeted by a bubbly hostess with a warm smile. Not to sound cliche but she really made us feel welcomed. The interior is quaint with silver grey driving the color palette with grey striped accents throughout. The hostess gave us a choice of sitting at the bar, sweetheart tables in front of the floor to ceiling windows with front-row people watching views looking onto 59th street, or tables in the back. Not one for wanting to be the “one in the window” we opted to sit at the bar which was relatively empty. Here’s the thing, sitting at the bar has it’s perks. First, when the bar is empty you have the sole attention of the bartender which means your drinks come fast, and second, some of the best girlfriend conversations I’ve had included dining and chatting with NYC bartenders. This of course was no different and going to be fun.

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We stroll past a few tables. Some surrounded by shopping bags – a sign of successful shopping sprees, a few people who clearly looked like tourists with their maps and “things to see in NYC” books, and a large group from France who were quite loud. Having taken notice of the crowd, we make it to our prime location – smack in the middle on the bar. We sit and immediately are greeted by the bartender with a mega-watt smile and matching personality. Fallon and I look at one another and giggle because we know we’re in for a good time. In unison we both say, “we’ll start with Mimosas.” The bartender smiled and said, “you girls look like you’re going to keep me busy back here.” We all laugh. The bar-back immediately pours us water and hands us the menus to peruse. I did some reconnaissance before coming to the cafe and knew that the Maple Bacon Burger was voted one of the best burgers in NYC and they have truffle fries to boot. So, I knew exactly what I was ordering.

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Our mimosas are served and we toast to friendship and finding yet another cool spot in NYC. As I begin to take a sip of my mimosa, the bubbles from the champagne tickle my nose and I immediately know the ratio between OJ and bubbly was spot on. I take a sip and smile. The bartender asks, “is it good?” and I respond, “girl, you outdid yourself with this one.”

Since I already knew what I was ordering Fallon studies the menu and says, “everything sounds so good, I don’t know what to order.” Overall the menu is more than brunch with eggs, salads, flatbreads, roast chicken, chili and other in the middle between brunch and dinner type fare. This is not your average diner or gastropub fare. It’s classy. And its from chef extraordinaire – David Burke. We summon the bartender and ask for suggestions. She suggests either the maple bacon burger (good choice!) or the seared tuna. Fallon goes for the seared tuna (sorry we don’t have a photo for this).

With our orders placed we sit back and chat about life, work and the world in general. The bartender makes her way over and chimes in. I think to myself what a way to spend a Sunday afternoon? Chitchat, great mimosas, a warm inviting cafe. The wait time between placing our orders and their arrival was not long, well to be honest I couldn’t tell because we were having such a great time talking. Time seemed to stand still for awhile. What I do recall is that we were on our second round of mimosas and our food order arrived – in style. The waiter placed down napkins before he “presents” our dishes. It wasn’t over the top but it was done in such a way you had to take notice.

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The burger. It’s tall. How could it not be? It was stacked high with lettuce, red onion, tomato, caramelized onions, maple bacon and of course, the meat patty. There is no way I could pick this up and eat it like a sandwich so I reverted to fork and knife. The bucket of truffle fries that accompanied it was even taller and was brimming over with hot crispy fries and just the right hint of truffle.

I cut into the burger and it’s perfectly cooked. After my first bite I understand why its named one of the best burgers in the city. The meat was flavorful but the combination of all of the ingredients is what takes it over the top. I’m not going to say that I am a burger expert, but trust me, if you are going to order a burger – order this one. It’s delicious.  Fallon raved about her tuna and thanked the bartender for the recommendation.  We cleared our plates…..I did however leave a lone truffle fry behind.

With our plates bare except for the lone fry, the waitstaff quickly removes them. The bartender asks “ladies do you have room for dessert?”  Fallon shakes her head no and I pout and say “they have a 10 layer chocolate cake.” Fallon says, “order it, but I have to say I’m stuffed”. Of course I order it; the bartender says “great choice.” As we sip our 3rd round of mimosas, I realize that this is a perfect place for a first date. Not too pricey, you wouldn’t be trying too hard to impress and you’d share great food. Lots in my thoughts I happen to glance over at Fallon – her eyes are wide like she’s seen an ghost. I turn around and it’s the waiter with the largest slice of cake I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s tall, of course because it’s a 10 layer cake, but it’s WIDE. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish this one. It was HUGE. Ginormous. Gargantuan.

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The waiter sets the most beautiful piece of artwork in front of me. It’s truly a wonder to marvel. You can easily see each layer of cake. I want to say it stood proudly in front of me daring me to eat it.  I happily picked up my fork and Fallon says, “girl, that’s all on you.”  I gingerly take a piece from the side and slowly bite into it. What happens next is pure heaven. I am overwhelmed with the taste of chocolate but in a good way. I say “ummmmmm” and the bartender comes over and smiles and says, “you are going to love it.” I go in for a second bite and Fallon picks up her fork. I look at her as if she has three heads and ask “and what are you about to do?” She says, “that looks too good not to try a bite.” For a split second I had to control myself because I was torn between my friendship with her and this glorious piece of cake. I didn’t want to stab her with my fork but the thought crossed my mind – quickly. Fallon digs in. For someone who didn’t want to share this with me she did take a sizable piece. Her lips close in on her “large” bite and her eyes sparkle and a smile immediately comes across her face. She says, “OMG this is so freaking good.” I just look at her with the hopes that she doesn’t come back for a second helping. We make it a third of a way through the cake when a chocolate daze settles in and we couldn’t indulge in another bite.

So, do I recommend the David Burke Cafe? Absolutely. It’s perfect for a first date, a girls only brunch or as a go-to spot after shopping on the Upper Eastside. Great food, some of the best mimosas in the city, impeccable service and outstanding desserts.

Le Pif – The (Good) Nose

If you walk too fast and are not paying attention you will miss this wonderful, little wine bar called Le Pif. Le Pif, which means “the nose” in French is a welcomed addition to the Upper Westside. It was a beautiful summer day in NYC – not too humid and not too hot. I found myself out of the office a little before 5 PM on a Friday night. As I headed out of the subway station I decided to walk along the Broadway side of the street. As this is not my usual route home I was looking up, not watching where I was going and I stumbled, more like I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk. After composing myself I look up and find myself standing in front of a glass door that reads “Authentic Le Pif.” Hmm, I think to myself. Le Pif. I walk closer to the front door and I discover a wooden plank bar and a wall filled from floor to ceiling with wine bottles. Definitely my kinda place.

Seductin Meals Le Pif wines

I walk in and immediately I think “quaint.”  Old fashioned lights hang from the copper tiled ceiling. Wood bar stools stand at attention at the wood L shaped bar. There’s also a window bar with 4 high chairs for those who want to sip wine while Broadway people watching. I have my choice of open seats at the bar and cozy up to a seat in the corner. I am immediately greeted by one of the bar staff and presented with a menu displayed on a piece of plywood held by a binder clip. Rustic. He proceeds to explain the menu options and has a hint of a French accent. Nice. First things are in order, a glass of wine. I quickly see that they have a Sancerre 2014 from the Loire Valley which happens to be my favorite white wine and I order it.  To my surprise he brings 2 glasses. I immediately think to myself he’s going to pour himself a glass. And then he proceeds to explain that there is a rose Sancerre and that I should taste that just in case I wanted to order that instead.  Well, I am not going to turn down a taste of wine. I try the rose. It’s nice.  He proceeds to pour the white version of the Sancerre. I swirl it in my glass. I raise the tip of the glass to my nose and I take in the aroma, a lightly honeyed, fruity floral garden – and it’s cold. The crispness got me and the white beat the rose. I let him know and he pours me a full glass.

Seductin Meals Le Pif drinks

The food selection is on the light side, think small plates, not surprising given it’s a wine bar.

 

Seductin Meals Le Pif

However, I learned they have a wicked brunch special on Saturday and Sunday where you can choose from French Toast to Soft Boiled Eggs & Mouilettes Maison, Quiche Lorraine, French Onion Soup, Ratatouille, Escargot Beurre a L’Ail to name a few. The special? You can select two choices from the breakfast list for $19.99. I’ll be back.

Seductin Meals Le Pif brunch

Back to the menu to decide what I am going to order. They have an enticing selection of cheese and charcuterie which you can mix and match. There’s salads and cold soup. And there’s authentic French cuisine ranging from a Parisian Croque Monsieur to Grilled Cheese Brie, Truffle and Honey.

Seductin Meals Le Pif pizza

Their highlighted specials are their “French Pizzas”; seven to select from. Naturally I choose the Parisienne which is a flatbread pizza with béchamel, Jambon de Paris topped with Gruyere.

 

I savor my Sancerre while I wait for my French Pizza to arrive. As I take in the atmosphere the quainter, cuter and more unique my new discovery becomes; like a wine barrel that doubles as a table with 3 stools around it and a chalkboard with “Je’ suis Charlie” written on it. My French Pizza arrives – it looks delicious. The cheese melted on top is so inviting. The pizza is served on a small cheese board affixed with a handle. Nice touch. The cheese that was so inviting when the pizza arrived was just as good with the fist bite taken. The jambon (ham) added just the right amount of saltiness, the flatbread crust the right amount of crunch, and the béchamel sauce brought it all together. All in all it was very, very good.

There is more to the menu outside of the small plates, pizzas and wine. They also have dessert – which I was promptly offered after I polished off my pizza. And, would a wine bar be without a Happy Hour? Le Pif’s happy hour is more than most. 4-7 PM Monday-Friday and 11 AM – 7 PM Saturday and Sunday. How about that for a happy hour?

My Recommendation?
I have to say, practically falling down on a NYC sidewalk was worth it. Le Pif is a find. Head to Le Pif for a romantic outing or for drinks with the girls before a night on the town, or just going solo for a glass of wine and good conversation. Bonne Pif!

Le Pif

UPPER WEST SIDE
2058 Broadway
New York, NY 10023
http://www.lepifnyc.com/

Coming Soon
Le Pif
CHELSEA
465 W 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

Il Ritrovo – The BEST Place to Eat!

Il Ritrovo Italy Il Ritrovo, which means a place to meet, was recommended by Gabriella – my guide along the hike up the mountain from Positano to Montepertuso. The hike comprised of a 5 mile walk before finishing it off with 850 steps UPHILL. Needless to say when we finally arrived at IlRitrovo I was relieved and in need of a respite.

There are two parts to the restaurant, the main part and the terrace. We enter the main part first and it’s the equivalent to receiving a big hug. Exposed wood and very rustic tabletops with wine and water glasses and a white dinner napkin gently tied with twine. A small silver bucket of thyme with a small chalkboard marking the table number rounds out the tablescape.  Another thing that is immediately noticeable is the view of the kitchen. Situated behind paned glass it’s expansive and busting with activity. Near the entrance I passed a farmers table resplendent with six different types of cookies and small sweets in tall glass jars which I later learn were all made by the restaurant.

Gabriella, speaking in Italian, starts to talk about our “little walk” up the hill and orders us Prosecco. I really like her. Prosecco and a large bottle of water is presented to us and we are urged to take a seat. First, I go for the water to quench my thirst. After chugging down 2 glasses, I was hydrated enough to go for the Prosecco. Prosecco is to be savored not chugged. And I am glad that I did because this Prosecco was delicious; aromatic, crisp with a hint of pear. Just what I needed after a long trek up the mountain.

We slowly finish our drinks and enjoy the chatter and the delicious aromas wafting by as the dishes are escorted from the kitchen. My stomach starts to rumble. The food looks and smells amazing. As each dish is brought out of the kitchen I follow it with my eyes and instinctively lick my lips. It’s time to eat.

It appears that all of the guests are eating on the terrace, the view was breathtaking and made me realize how far we really walked. I’m now thinking that it’s over 850 steps from the look of it. We sit and are presented with our menus. Gabriella has recommendations having been here before. I take in the atmosphere of the terrace before I start perusing the menu . Interesting white light fixtures hang purposefully from the ceiling and there is a painted mural on the wall opposite the wrap around glass that provides a view of the ocean, that is dark outside with twinkling lights aglow from the yachts spread out below.

seaside dining at Il Ritrovo

Back to the menu. There are several dishes of fresh fish (in crazy water), fresh homemade pasta and steak. Well, one thing I know for sure I did not come all this way for steak so I settle on my favorite dish by the sea, the grilled polpo (octopus) as my appetizer, and ravioli with truffle sauce for my main entree. Gabriella did not order an appetizer – she was going to share mine, which was dangerous because I love polpo/ For her entree she ordered the Brazilian steak which, as she explains, is special cut beef. Orders placed and menus taken we go back to discussing all things about life, New York City and the winter season in Positano.

The appetizer arrives and its huge and looks absolutely delicious. The polpo is grilled with the perfect amount of char distributed along each piece. The dish is served with caper berries, olives, tomatoes, radicchio and fennel. The caper berries have the taste of capers but with a hint of sweetness that plays well off of the saltiness. The tomatoes are fresh and although heated through they still hold their shape and just burst with flavor. The one thing I realize is that everything in Italy is so fresh, right off the vine, out of the ground fresh which transforms dishes. There was so much of the appetizer we had to stop eating in order to leave room for our entrees. As I take my last piece of polpo from the plate, the waiters arrive with the entrees. My order is comprised of 3 ravioli that are the size of large grapefruits. Gabriella’s steak entree literally looked like 3 individual NY Strip steaks on a plate. Just like the appetizer, the portion sizes are huge.

Ravioli at Il Ritrovo

The truffle sauce looks delightfully delicious and creamy. The pasta is perfectly prepared al dente and the cheese filling is savory, ultra creamy and smooth. Each bite was an experience for my taste buds. The dish was simple but with complex flavors. The hint of truffle, the perfect amount of bite to the pasta, the creaminess of the filling. Just delicious.

My recommendation?
When in Positano, go to Il Ritrovo for a delightful dining experience. Your taste buds will dance with pleasure and your stomach will forever be grateful. It’s good for groups and even better for a romantic dinner for two. The atmosphere leans more towards the romantic side so if you have a date and want to guarantee another – bring them here.

Il Ritrovo
Via Montepertuso, 84017 Positano SA
http://www.ilritrovo.com/web/index.php

Everything About Next2

I’m walking along the main road in Positano and come across an interesting restaurant. It seems attractive and welcoming so I walk over and inquire about a table for one. Well, don’t even think of asking for outside seating without a reservation. Not. Gonna. Happen. Not only is getting a table outside impossible, the entire restaurant was completely booked – its 10 PM. Luckily, I am resourceful and was able to persuade the host that (1) I eat fast and (2) I am only a table for one.

I was seated, inside, at a lovely table adorned in white. White plates, white napkin, white table cloth. Everything was white outside as well – racks and racks of wine cases that lined the white walls. As I continued to span my surroundings I came across the following sign “life is too short for bad wines.” Right then and there I knew I was in the right place – I’m going to like Next2.

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After being seated I was presented with their signature drink – a bellini served in a champagne glass. First sip, bubbly. Second sip…I was in heaven. As I enjoy my cocktail the waiter comes back with the wine list and the menu. Service is good and attentive.  I peruse the menu. It’s light and fresh. I decided to start with the grilled octopus and for my entree I ordered grilled shrimp.  Hey, one can’t be by the sea and not order seafood!

Next2 1

After placing my order I was presented with a gift from the chef which was diced tomatoes on crostini (bruschetta). The tomatoes were not the typical salsa consistency one may get at other restaurants. This was fresh. The tomatoes were diced finely but not to the point where they loose their form. There were minced pieces of basil and a hint on garlic and onion. Not sure if it was because I was hungry or of this was that good, but I scarfed it down in 2 bites. So tasty.

The wine list is extensive, good and not too expensive. From Amarones to Barolos to Chianti; you have your pick of the best Italian reds. The white wine list looked good as well but I’m really partial to red.

Next2

 

My appetizer arrives and the grilled polpo (octopus) is absolutely delightful and plate licking delicious. The polpo is cleaned correctly and is succulent with just the right amount of char. It’s served with a green bean parsley mashed potato that adds the right amount of balance to the creaminess of the polpo. Normally, I am one who reaches for the salt shaker, but I find myself satiated and noting to myself that this dish is close to being perfect. Just the right amount of seasoning – no extra salting needed here. The green beans are dressed in a cold tomato “sauce” that is not heavy but adds a nice tangy freshness to the dish. You get the extra greenery and freshness from the springs of chive used to dress the plate.

After I lovingly devoured my appetizer, I struck up a conversation with the table next to me, a couple from Australia. They too were reveling about their meal thus far and had many positive things to say about their experience.

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The entree arrives and it’s too beautiful to eat. I take a few minutes just to look at it. The plating here is artistry in motion. I turn the plate to the left to get a look at it from that angle. I turn the plate to the right to get another look at it. Everything looked to be perfectly aligned by height. It was a wonder to look at but I was getting hungry so I took my fork and with a deep breath pulled one shrimp from the side and tasted it. Delicious. Just delicious. The shrimp was tender and perfectly cooked. As if the first shrimp gave me permission to finish the rest of the meal I worked my way through the plate thoroughly enjoying myself. This dish was delightful by sight and taste.

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Seduction Meals Next2 Positano Italy

Do I recommend Next2? Yes, this is the perfect place for a romantic date, girls night out or if you want a really nice place to take a group of people. If you find yourself in Positano or have friends traveling to the Amalfi coast, send them to Next2 – they will not be disappointed. Just make sure to make a reservation.

Next2
Viale Pasitea, 242, Positano SA
http://www.next2.it/

Crazy for Hotel Buca di Bacco

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So here I am, traveling in Italy and entering Buca di Bacco for dinner. Situated right on the beach in Positano, the restaurant is open and quaintly decorated and exceptionally clean. I was greeted with smiles and buonasera all around before being quickly seated upstairs on the terrace.  The views are breathtaking; from the beach-goers down below to the city nestled between mountains and the expansive ocean ahead. Just a beautiful sight to see.

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There was much to choose from on the menu from zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella to grilled octopus on burrata cheese to gurnard fish in “crazy water.” I hadn’t heard of gurnard fish before so I googled it. Apparently it’s an ugly looking bottom dweller and a bland tasting fish at that. Not the greatest description but I was feeling daring as the gurnard dish was noted as one of their specialties. They also had a trofie pasta in a pesto sauce that caught my eye so I was torn as to what to order. I immediately made a decision – since I’m on vacation I could have both.  So, I started with a half order of the trofie pasta as a starter and the gurnard in crazy water as my main course. So, about this “crazy water.” It’s the literal translation for “Acqua Pazza”. Big in this region of Italy, it refers to a fish dish that is poached in lightly herbed broth with tomatoes and garlic. This is going to be delicious…crazy water and all.

SeductionMeals_Pesto_Pasta

The pasta arrives and not only is it perfectly plated, it smells so outstanding that my senses to dance. I dig in. The homemade pasta is cooked perfectly, or should I say al dente. The pesto is bright and fresh, and the dish is topped with sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts. I take note of the sun dried tomatoes because they added the perfect amount of saltiness, crunch and complexity.  I find out that these are not “pre-packaged” sun dried tomatoes soaked in olive oil. No, not in Italy! Rather, they are fresh and made by the restaurant – literally sun-dried tomatoes. Pesto is one of the simplest but most flavorful sauces – if done right. And this one is. Fresh basil and not too much cheese. I taste two cheese flavors, a pecorino and parmesan, both of which play off one another and add just the right amount of bite to the dish. Needless to say I polished it off.

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For wine I ordered a half bottle of the Fidelis 2011 which is made from the Aglianico grape, native to the Amalfi region. Full bodied and resembles a good cabernet without all of the hefty tannins.

The gurnard dish comes out and it looks good. Really good. There are large chunks of gurnard surrounded by wedges of potatoes and a diaspora of shell fish ranging from mussels to cherrystone clams. The dish is plate licking delicious. Seriously…. the crazy water sauce had me tempted to pick up the dish, put it to my mouth and slurp out the remaining sauce.

SeductionMeals_Acqua_Pazza

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Do I recommend Hotel Buca di Bacco? Absolutely. If you happen to find yourself in Positano, its great for groups, solo travelers and the perfect spot for a romantic dinner because the views are that outstanding.

Hotel Buca di Bacco / http://www.bucadibacco.it/

Via Rampateglia, 4, 84017 Positano SA

 

Primetime at BLT Prime

It’s Friday night and I find myself on the Eastside of NYC at BLT Prime. Tonight I’m meeting a friend for drinks and dinner for some girl time. When I enter the restaurant I actually say “wow.” The ambiance rocks. Neatly nestled tables perfectly set under beautiful soft lights (talk about mood lighting), appropriate music plays in the background, an open dining room boasts a hint of romance. This would be a perfect place for a first date.

I find my friend and we are immediately seated. No need to request a table change here; we are pleased as the hostess seats us in a corner table with full view of the entire restaurant. Priceless. We say “awesome” at the same time. As we nestle into our corner table we are handed dinner menus, drink menus and the wine bible. I call it the wine bible because it’s huge and what you will learn later the Sommelier, who has the patience of a saint, really knows his wines. . .well, sorta.

My friend and I immediately jump into girl chat and she asks me if I like bread. “Of course I like bread” I say flippantly in response. She then says “you are going to love the bread here.”  I’m thinking to myself how many different ways can you slice a piece a bread? And really, is the bread going to be that good? We continue with our chitchat. Our waiter, Jason, comes over and asks us if we had a chance to review the menu. We say in unison “no” and giggle like schoolgirls. He then asks if we would like a drink. Again, in unison we say “heck yes.” We order what I am going to call a salsa dance for your mouth. It’s a mojito with jalapeno, cilantro, rum and a simple syrup. DELICIOUS. This drink is not one note. You get a little bit a heat from the jalapeno, a dash of sweetness from the rum and simple syrup, and a blast of citrus from the cilantro.

Jason comes back a second time to the table to take our order and we’re still talking about “life” and all of the things in between, so I say “OK, let’s get our order in.” I order the waygu beef strip steak with a chimichurri sauce. My friend orders the filet with a béarnaise sauce. We order truffle mashed potatoes to share. With the submission of our order, I think that was the queue for the bread monster to be released. The next thing I know 2 ginormous popovers are brought to the table. From the onset, I thought they were going to be heavy just from the sheer size of them. The waiter places them on the table and my friend says “You are going to lose your mind when you eat this.”  I grab one with one hand and realize that I probably need to use both. Just from the touch of the popover you realize it’s very light and flaky. I pull a piece off and the inside is hollow but with a perfectly cooked dough. I slather a little bit of butter on the small piece that I’ve torn off and my mouth starts to salivate. I pop the piece into my mouth and it’s unbelievably delicious. Flaky with a nice crust on the outside and moist but not chewy on the inside. I polish off my popover in a few minutes wanting another but I know better. If I indulged by desires I would not be able to finish my meal.

Since we both ordered steak, we decided to order a bottle of wine. They send over the sommelier even though we didn’t request him. The sommelier arrives and we find out that the wine my friend ordered when she was here two weeks ago was no longer available. Needless to say she was not happy and he now had to find a replacement wine that was just as good. Here’s the thing. We’re both red wine drinkers and have a discerning palate. Immediately he comes out with “what’s your price point.” Which I know he needs to ask but it’s a little bit of a turnoff. We share with him our price point of no more than $220 for the bottle. What he does next amazes me. He recommends a full body red that is well under our max. I kinda like this kid. He recommends a bottle called Maze. It’s from Napa, it’s a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. For those who may or may not know 2010 was a banner year for Napa wines. He pours a taste, I swirl it. “I’ve been at this restaurant for awhile and I’ve never seen anyone aerate the wine correctly as you do” he says. Not sure if he’s trying to disarm me before I take a sip of his recommendation or if he’s really impressed with my wine swirling capabilities. Either way, I take a sip, acknowledging it needs to breath, but I do taste a full bodied, earthy wine with subtle hints of blackberry and bittersweet chocolate. I share with him my tasting notes. He’s impressed. We let the wine breath for 20 minutes. While we wait for the wine to open up we continue our chitchat and revel over the popovers. 30 minutes past and we pour our first glass of wine and realize that our meal had not arrived. Another 20 minutes past. Nothing. We are now working on our second glass of wine and still no meal. It was another 30 minutes before our entrees arrived. At least we were satiated with wine while we waited over an hour for the entrees to arrive. Not the best impression. At least the plates were hot.

I dig into my waygu skirt steak. At first I see it’s cooked perfectly and the chimichurri sauce was fresh and had just the right amount of heat. My dinner partner’s filet was also cooked perfectly. As silence befell the table we took the time to thoroughly enjoy the meal. My crankiness about the long wait dissipated with each bite of my steak. The truffle mashed potatoes were divine. Not too much truffle but just the right amount that accompanied every bite. Nice. If you can believe it, we did have room for dessert. Jason strongly recommended the Chocolate Molten cake. He had me at chocolate. We agreed to share it. I was in the mood for dessert wine so they sent the sommelier back over to our table. Since he did a nice job on the entrée wine I let him pick the wine. Problem number one. What he recommended basically would pull every filling out of our mouth. It was metallic and extremely dry. Strike 1. He saw the face I made and made another suggestion. I can’t even explain how bad the second bottle was. Strike 2. Needless to say, we passed on the dessert wine.

So here’s my recommendation:

Romantic Restaurant for Two? Definitely

In General: Yes and No. The service was good, the food was prepared well (even though it took an hour to get it) and the wine selection is notable. The wait for the entrees and the mishap with the sommelier didn’t make it an outstanding experience but it wasn’t so bad in that I wouldn’t go back.

BLT Prime / 111 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

http://www.e2hospitality.com/blt-prime-new-york/

From Turkey with Love

From Manhattan, the drive to The Bosphorus in Nutley, NJ is quick and easy, but actually finding the restaurant isn’t as smooth. The address posted on the website guides you to a Chinese restaurant on Franklin Avenue. Confused and thinking the place may have closed, we call and are directed to go to the parking lot behind the Chinese restaurant. After a short walk from Franklin Avenue we come across a well-lit and welcoming establishment with park benches and white string lights ablaze out front.  We walk in. It’s quaint and bustling with diners. The hostess greets us with a big smile followed by a kiss on the cheek and a big hug. Jack immediately looked at me with wide eyes and amazement and asked, “do you know her?” I say “No! I never knew this place existed until we googled them 15 minutes ago.”  Needless to say, they are very, very welcoming, especially to a hardened New Yorker.

We are shown to our seats and are quickly handed our menus. Everything looks so good but I am going to stick with the choice I made earlier when perusing the menu – the Adana. Adana is a minced meat (lamb) kebab mounted on a wide iron skewer and grilled.  Jack decides to order the Chicken Adana. We are hungry so we order an appetizer of hummus and a small Shepherd Salad as well.

kebab

The hummus quickly arrives and it is absolutely delicious. It’s served with fresh, warm bread and comes adorned with carrots, black olives and another vegetable that Jack and I couldn’t identify. Regardless, we ate it, and it was very good. Jack is a hummus aficionado and raved about how this was better than any hummus he’s eaten – ever. I would have to concur. It was smooth, creamy and hands down more delicious than any store bought brand. Excellent.

Shepherd Salad

The Shepherd salad arrives next and Jack says, “it is too pretty to eat”. Sitting on top of the salad is a radish that is carved into a flower. The salad is made of chopped cucumbers, red onion and tomato with a romaine lettuce spear that sticks out from the side and the salad is covered with just the right amount of shaved feta cheese. It was a delicious sight, but we were hungry and dug right in. Basically it’s a Mediterranean salad, and a fine one at that. Jack cleans his plate and heaps up a second serving. I wait because I want to save room for my Lamb Adana, which based on the two starters already served, I anticipate is going to be outstanding.

While we wait for our entrees, a gentleman comes over to our table and introduces himself as the host and asks if either of us play the piano. I play a little but was not going to say anything. Not that I had to because Jack says loudly “Yvette plays the piano.” Thank you Jack! After about 5 minutes of wrangling out of playing in front of a packed restaurant our host takes his leave and starts strumming on the piano. Needless to say, I gave Jack the death star stare that he just laughed off.

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Our entrees arrive and they look like plates from an upscale restaurant. Everything with its specific place on the plate, clean lines and crisp presentation.  We both take note before we dig in.  The lamb Adana is delicious and moist. The char from the grill brings the right amount of crunch to the bite. The Adana dish is served with a small side of white rice and lentils. I am normally not a fan of lentils but these were so good that I polished those off before the Adana. Jack nods and motions with his hands that his food as he savors his first bite. Needless to say, I think he likes it.  We both clean our plates. Not a morsel left, not even a lonely piece of rice. The hostess comes back to our table and asks how we liked the meal. We rave about it. She begins to mention she has a special dessert for all of us. Being full we decline. I felt bad because she was visibly disappointed that we wouldn’t partake in the free desert that “she made especially for us.”  We paid our bill and were offered small candies as we left. But, before we could make it out the door the hostess wanted another round of hugs and kisses. What a sweet way to end a dinner.

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Do, I recommend The Bosphorus? Absolutely.  From warm and welcoming hugs to the artistically presented and very delicious food to the musical tunes playing in the background, you won’t be disappointed.

Romantic Date Night? Yes, the live music coupled with the outstanding food makes it the perfect place for date night. Also, this is a very friendly place; please note you will be hugged and kissed on the cheek coming and going.

The Bosphorus
226 Franklin Ave (located in a parking lot)
Nutley, NJ 07110
Phone: 973-542-8440
http://thebosphorus.us/default.asp

NOTE: All photos taken from The Bosphorus Web Site

Date Night at Noche Mexicana

“I’m in the mood for Mexican, he said…basic, classic Mexican food.” So how hard is that to find on the Upper West Side? As it turns out, quite. There are plenty of Mexican restaurants but they all tend to have extensive menus with creative culinary takes on Mexican cuisine, and that was just not going cut it. My Jack didn’t want “upscale” or “creative”, he wanted the basics: tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas… no mole, no “designer” creations concocted by the chef de cuisine.

So, the search began. I did what most people do. I checked Zagat’s and Yelp.com for restaurants with 3+ stars and, after much mulling and culling, came across Noche Mexicana. It had an average rating of 4 stars and was reviewed in Zagat’s (albeit 2009) so I thought, why not? The menu is simple – no unexpected creativity here, seems like a winner. Perfect for a man with simple tastes.

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Located on the southwest corner of 101st and Amsterdam Avenue, Noche Mexicana isn’t much to look at from the outside. On a cold rainy evening like tonight, its floor to ceiling windows don’t afford much protection, although I suspect it would be nice in the summer. On the other hand, hanging on the walls were an impressive array of depictions of Mexican culture and some very interesting-looking religious masks, so I give them an “A” for interior decor. Yet, apart from the chill, the other thing that is most immediately apparent is the sound of the cheesiest Mexican Mariachi style music I’ve ever heard. By the end of this meal this will either prove to be over-the-top annoying or I’ll be over-the-top dancing on the table… either way, the result of one too many margaritas!

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The waitress quickly whisks us to our table and returns with menus and water. I look around and say to myself “Jack wanted basic and this sure is it.” As I peruse the menu nothing really grabs me so I place the menu down. Our waitress arrives to ask for our drink order and if we’d like an order of guacamole. She had me at drinks, so and I ordered a lime Margarita – on the rocks with salt. Given Jack’s desire for basic Mexican fare we decide its best to order the mild guacamole; something I’d regret since I was in the mood for spicy. I was both disappointed and startled when the waitress slid a small white bowl of guacamole across the table. No table-side freshly made guacamole I thought to myself? We dig in. I knew it wouldn’t be spicy but this is downright bland and the nacho chips were less to be desired. This was not a good start.

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Our main course arrives. For my entree I ordered Steak Enchiladas which came with rice, re-fried black beans, lettuce and tomato. And what did Jack order? Tacos…of course. By this time I’m really hungry, so imagine my disappointment looking down on a plate of pale yellow rice that is clumpy and beans that looked as if they were sitting out for awhile. I take a sip of my margarita and build up the nerve to take a bite – there is no flavor. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad – it was just unseasoned. Reluctantly, I try to doctor it up with salt, pepper and hot sauce. On a good note, the meat was tender and cooked to a perfect medium rare (even though I was not asked how I wanted my steak). I look up from my plate and I see that Jack is having a lackluster experience with his beef tacos as well.

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So, do I recommend Noche Mexicana? No, not for the food. But, if you want to surround yourself with a bit of Mexican culture and like to sway to the sounds of classic Mariachi music while munching on Mexican fare, then by all means, go.

Let’s just hope Jack was happy.

There’s nothing as special as a good friend, except perhaps a good friend with a good bottle of wine . . .
Always strive to create temptation – a glimpse of the pleasure to come – SeductionMeals.com . . .
Seduction is always more singular and sublime than sex and it commands the higher price – Jean Baudrillard . . .
Age and glasses of wine should never be counted . . .
He was a bold man that first ate an oyster – Jonathan Swift . . .
A gentleman seduces his lady’s mind before he even touches her body . . .
First we eat. Then we do everything else – M.F.K Fisher . . .
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away . . .

Yvette Schmitter


Join Yvette on a culinary exploration as she eats and drinks her way through the US and Italy, and gain the discerning diner's experience through her sassy, no-holds barred restaurant reviews. Follow her on her escapades throughout NYC as she shares her take on relationships, dating and more. Yvette Schmitter is a former Big 6 management consultant, seasoned entrepreneur, writer, performer and speaker who has made it her passion to help women redefine what it truly means to "Be Your Own Boss." Women across the country are turning to her for business advice, lessons in leadership and the secrets of bringing balance to dating and relationships.  In the business world, Yvette focused her talents on creating high performing technology teams. She has adapted her acclaimed business management style and translated it into "life-onomics" - a foolproof plan for having it all by taking the leadership role in every aspect of life. She will share these strategies in her forthcoming book, Boss Lady Basics: Lessons on Life, Love and Leadership.


About Seduction Meals

Seduction Meals is about Food + Romance, and everything in-between. . . a sumptuous menu, alluring presentation, sensuous music, luscious cocktails and the right ambiance. Like a precious gift, preparing a romantic meal for two is about making that certain someone feel extra special. With just the right combination of ambience and culinary delights, you too can create a memorable, delicious experience for your loved one. Seduction Meals. Everyone has one - what's YOURS?

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Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.