Tag Archives: New York City

Gastronomie 491 Food Market and Cafe Opens on Upper West Side

I missed yesterday’s press preview for the opening of the new Upper West Side specialty food store and cafe, Gastronomie 491. But you can get some idea of what the  place is all about  from these photos, supplied by the market’s  publicist.

If you can’t live without items like Sant’ Eustachio coffee or Maisie Jane’s organic almonds and almond butters, you can find them at the 2,200 square foot market and eatery.

The prices don’t seem totally over-the-top  (A dinner menu charcuterie plate goes for $15.00; Sicilian style seared yellow fin tuna, $22.00).

Owner Nicole Ahronee seems to have put together an attractive, welcoming spot. How does the food taste? I’ll get back to you on that.

Gastronomie 491

491 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10024

Photos: Michael Tulipan 



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Wafa’s in Forest Hills: Go for the Terrific Middle Eastern Home Style Cooking


Wafa Chami, chef at Wafa's, Forest Hills, Queens. Photo: Laura B. Weiss

There’s been quite a lot of buzz about Wafa’s lately, the homey Middle-Eastern eatery on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills. Mostly, the talk’s been about Wafa’s baba ghanoush, but there’s a lot more to this modest establishment than its savory eggplant dip.

There’s nothing fancy about Wafa’s.  The room is small and plain and it’s mostly families and locals who frequent the place. Wafa Chami, a Lebanese native who came to the US in 1975 when she was 17, presides over the kitchen. And it’s a wondrous kitchen at that.  Covering her blond hair with a baseball cap, Chami hunches over the stove preparing kibbe, falafel and a parade of other dishes.  In fact, out of the small space, more compact than many home kitchens, comes some of the best Middle-Eastern food in the city.

If it feels like you’re eating at someone’s kitchen table, that’s because you are, indeed, eating Chami’s home cooking.

“I grew up in Lebanon, and these are all family recipes from my mother,” Chami told me one night when we decided to stop by Wafi’s for dinner after a stroll through lovely Forest Hills Gardens. “They’re old family recipes, from my mother, from my grandmother, from one generation to the next.”

Not only is the food sensational at Wafa’s, it’s an incredible deal.  Four of us ate a multi-course dinner for under $100. The kibbe, moist and delicately spiced, was a steal at $8.00.  I fell hard for the grape leaves—not your typical dry-as-sawdust cylinders, but moist and so flavorful that at $6.00 for a half-dozen of the succulent morsels, I didn’t hesitate to get two more orders.  Piggy, yes. But they were simply the best gape leaves I’ve ever eaten.

Other dishes that scored high among our group were the fattoush ($8), and the chicken ($12.95) and lamb ($13.95) schawerma. The meats come with two sides.  You can choose from any two of the following: green salad, okra, mujadarah, tabouleh, mousakaha, baba ganoush, French fries, and cauliflower.

The word has spread about Wafa’s.  We got there at 6 pm to beat the mob.  By 630, there was already a scrum of hungry fans waiting for a table to open up.

100-05 Metropolitan Ave Map.6e70ca7
New York, NY 11375
718 880 2055


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Cupcakes: Baked by Melissa Lands on the Upper West Side

Cupcakes by Baked by Melissa.


I’m all for mini-sweets. I like the fact that you’re ingesting fewer calories. I like the way you can pop one in your mouth on the run.

Baked by Melissa, a mini-sweets pioneer with her one-bite cupcakes, opened last week on the Upper West Side at 2325 Broadway between 84th and 85th. The place is all sleekness—floor-to-ceiling glass windows adorn the storefront, and inside, a long modish counter displays cupcakes like precious works of art.

Behind the counter are ranged chirpy teens who volunteer their favorite flavors. “Peanut butter,” said one. The other pushed the flavor of the day, Chocolate Caramel Cone.

I chose Red Velvet. The cake was moist and tender, just about perfect. The icing, however, was super sweet.  Magnolia Bakery, housed just a few blocks away on Columbus Avenue, is tops on the sugar scale when it comes to overly-sweet cupcakes.  Still, Melissa’s weren’t far behind.

Baked by Melissa

Various branches citywide


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Ice Cream: Coolhaus vs Shake Shack

Guinness Chip Ice Cream + Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie

In an ice cream face-off, how do Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches and Shake Shack Concretes fare?

OK, the two ice cream products differ in several key ways. For one, Coolhaus sandwiches are filled with ice cream; Shake Shack’s products are made from frozen custard. Yet they’re both vying for the New York artisanal ice cream dollar. (I happened to gorge on both Coolhaus and Shake Shack frozen goodies in the same day so that pig-out begged for comparison.)


Sandwiching ice cream between cookies is not new. But Coolhaus, which operates a band of food trucks, takes the process one step further. The hugely popular ice cream purveyor serves up a rotating menu of flavors, like Blueberry Ginger and Red Velvet Cake. And they sandwich the frozen filling between flavor-filled cookies–from chocolate chip to gluten-free peanut butter.

Plus, you’re encouraged to mix and match. Feel like a maple waffle white chocolate cookie on one side and a chocolate one on the other? Coolhaus is happy to oblige.

It’s very fun, and the cookies, at least the double chocolate fudge ones I chose, are dense and intensely chocolaty.

But there’s a problem. And it’s the ice cream.

If you like yours with a thinnish consistency, you’ll enjoy the Coolhaus variety. I happen to prefer my ice cream dense and heavy. What’s more the chocolate cookies overwhelmed the salted caramel ice cream I chose as the filling. Next time I’ll order a less fully-flavored cookie and maybe the combo will work better.

Shake Shack

A few hours after my Coolhaus sandwich, I sauntered over to the Upper West Side Shake Shack, the one across the street from the Museum of Natural History. My hubby and I shared a Concrete with the awful name of Natural History Crunch-stellation. Monstrously studded with chocolate bits and chunks of chocolate covered toffee, it was way over the top on the mix-in scale. Maybe it’s a guy’s ice cream treat. My hubby loved it.

But the frozen custard, as Shake Shack faithful will agree, is delicious. Our concrete was made with vanilla which boasted a striking vanilla bean taste.  Plus the texture was silky and the custard boasted a substantial yet delicate mouth feel.


The trucks are at various locations. Check @coolhausny.


Shake Shack

New York, Miami, Washington DC, Westport CT, Saratoga Springs NY.





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