Celebrity dining in New York City

Visiting New York City has never been the same experience twice. This past December, I went for the filming of The Marriage Ref. While a full day was occupied at NBC studios, I had an agenda for the rest of my time there. As a die-hard foodie, I researched all the celebrity owned restaurants in the city and narrowed down to a few.

The first place I called, Rao’s did not even take my call! Their automated answering system said that they were fully booked and to call back in 2012. After being turned down by Rao’s, I decided to give Mario Batali and Bobby Flay a chance to feed me. Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill was very obliging in giving reservations only a day in advance.

My husband and I arrived at the (address) restaurant at 8pm and were seated only after 5 minutes. The place was bustling with locals and regulars. It had a nice vibrant atmosphere with an open hall, two-story ceilings, dim lights and the right level of noise. There were black and white blown up pictures of Hollywood actresses including, Bobby’s wife. Our check for two people was about $100.

The meal was one to remember. The tuna nachos made with sushi grade ahi-tune melted in my mouth. For my entrée I tried the cornmeal crusted chile relleno, a vegetarian dish. It was a whole chile filled with roasted eggplant and manchego cheese drizzled with a peppery balsamic vinegar sauce that made it look like artwork! The toasted coconut layer cake had the most perfect combination of moist cake, toasted coconut flakes and coconut cream.             

The following day I felt like I died and went to Italian heaven! Only I was at Eataly, a 50,000 Sq. Ft. Italian gourmet market by Mario Batali located at Fifth Avenue. This place had everything I ever wanted in life and I had no reason to leave. From made-to-order Paninis, Gelatos prepared with milk from local dairies, imported fine Italian wines, Illy coffee bar, to a wide selection of fresh produce (pasta, seafood, veggies, cheese, etc.) to take home.  There was even a wine bar and a sit down informal Italian restaurant where one could gather with friends after work to worship food. It was reasonably priced and so not uptight that you will forget you are in New York City. I didn’t make reservations, but sampled a number of items including the fungi Panini, cappuccino, cakes and gelato. Finally, my husband had to drag me out of there…


GO Airlink NYC

Bollywood in Persia

I celebrated a dear friend’s birthday this past weekend at a Persian restaurant called Fanoos located in Sandy Springs, a suburb of Atlanta. I have been to this place a few times before and over time, have come to know its owner Jalal.

Jalal moved from Northern Iran to the US over 30 years ago. He took over Persian Tea House couple of years ago. He renamed the place, added a bar but kept the menu and started offering a scrumptious lunch buffet. The restaurant is a typical family arrangement with an open hall and a water fountain in the centre. There are several booths with Persian carpets and cushions, where large families of 10-15 people can sit comfortably on the floor. In the corner, there is a glass booth with a tandoor (round clay oven) where the chef makes fresh bread as soon as you order.

Our group of friends started with a round of pomegranate martinis to celebrate the occasion. These were very different than what I have had at other bars before. Instead of the typical sweetness in the cocktail, there was a spicy flavor (from anise or cinnamon) but it was delicious and smooth!

Baskets of fresh bread was served with a small plate of starters (feta cheese, mint leaves, walnuts olives) even before we had our menus. We ordered some appetizers to share – Must O’ Kheiar, Must O’ Mousir,  Salad Shirazi, Dolmeh, Kashke Bademjon, Hummus, and Must O’ Kheia. If you have tried Lebanese or Turkish food before, some of these may sounds familiar.

For main course, I usually stick to one of their Polo’s, as that’s something I can’t find elsewhere. The Shirin Polo (sweet rice mixed with barberries, orange peels, sliced almonds, and pistachios) is my favorite. I ask them to pair it with Salmon, which is always grilled to perfection. When I am not in mood for sweet, I order the Zereshik  Polo (Rice mixed with barberry and saffron). My friends who ordered the lamb kebabs seemed to have loved it as well.

After dinner, we helped ourselves to the dance floor. Usually, there are belly dancers after 8pm on weekend. But since we were there on a Sunday, we asked Jalal to play some Bollywood music for us. Even the non-Indian patrons joined in for some Bhangra moves.




Interview with Howard’s

I am now writing for the Smyrna Patch, a hyper-local online magazine. My first assignment was to interview Bobby Martin, owner of Howard’s restaurant in Smyrna about the filming that took place at his restaurant for the movie “A Joyful Noise“. Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton were here in our neighborhood filming the movie!

You can read the article by visiting the Smyrna Patch page.


Consulting to Every Woman Works

Some Background – I am currently volunteering with an organization called Community Consulting Teams (CCT), based in Atlanta. Each year, local non profits apply to CCT asking for pro bono consultants to help them with short term projects. My client this year is Every Woman Works (EWW), a non profit learning center based in Roswell, GA.

Today, I went to visit the EWW office and meet their staff members. What an energetic group of women they were! Miss Tillie, who comes from a corporate training background, started this organization to help destitute women (such as those who are homeless, have been abused or are coming out of prison) to help them get back in the workforce. She has created a wonderful 4-weeks long program where the women get to learn about everything from customer service, work ethics, corporate etiquettes, to self empowerment and most of all, having hope.

Like a lot of small non profits that are struggling right now, EWW also has its own challenges. They have a very small budget, but high aspirations of helping others. Their staff is limited. They are crammed into a tiny facility. It sure doesn’t help when you have one bathroom and 20 female students!

My team through CCT is working on creating much deserved brand awareness for EWW which will allow them to have a further reach in the community. They are doing some wonderful work here, changing people’s lives, but very few people know about it. We will create a marketing plan focusing on their donors, sponsors, partners, and media. My hope is they will be able to use this to secure more funding, get tie ups with corporate sponsor, expand their physical location and be able to serve more needy women.

Graduation is tomorrow. Most women are found a job by the time they graduate, so that they can start providing for their families and take care of themselves.

Very excited to be working on this project!