Eat Global, Dine Local: Enjoy an International Christmas in New York

International Christmas in New YorkYears past, if you found yourself stuck in the city, dinner out on Christmas typically used to be the province of sad hotel buffets, the odd greasy diner, and, of course, the traditional holiday destination for Jewish New Yorkers: the local Chinese restaurant.

Times have changed and the city is never a ghost town, not even on Christmas. Some of the city’s finest restaurants have seized the challenge of making holiday meals worthy of their stellar reputations. So whether you’re avoiding your extended family, keeping it local with a staycation, or your dreams to make it to St. Bart’s this year didn’t quite pan out, you can still travel virtually and enjoy a great meal while you’re at it. Bonus points for not having to hear about politics while your Uncle Lou talks with his mouth full.

Here where to enjoy an international Christmas in New York City:

Kurt Gutenbrunner’s flagship temple to the art of Austrian cuisine serves an elegant, visually vibrant $145 Christmas day tasting menu that’s true to its roots featuring Goose and Venison loin as the evening’s headliners. After sampling his dessert of Gingerbread Soufflé crowned in Egg Nog, good luck finding room for the Christmas cookies that follow. Somehow, you’ll manage.

International Christmas in New York

Skip the long flight to Stockholm and dive into Aquavit’s annual Julboard smorgasbord table. This over the top $95 Christmas Even menu includes three types of cured Salmon, nine types of herring (pictured below) and, yes, plenty of Swedish meatballs. If, for some reason, that’s that’s not your cup of tea, you can just gorge on the assortment of 16 desserts including Kladdkaka, a rich, gooey traditional chocolate cake. [Photo courtesy of @AquavitNYC]

International Christmas in New York

Mario Batali’s packed to the, ahem, gills West Village pizzeria, Otto, serves up an bargain-priced Feast of the Seven Fishes through Christmas Eve for a mere $45 per person for the whole shebang or $9 for individual samplings. The menu ranges from creamy Baccala (Cod) to a feisty Shrimp & Ceci spiked with ginger and chiles, pictured. You can wash all the deliciousness down with a quartino from Otto’s massive wine list.

International Christmas in New York

Russian Tea Room
Equal parts kitsch and opulence collide here at to celebrate decadence with the Russian Tea Room’s $125 three-course holiday menu ($50 version for kids). On Christmas Day, kick off with Borscht or Blinchicki (mushroom and goat cheese stuffed crepes) followed by a classic selection of artery-clogging entrées including Beef à la Stroganoff and melted butter-spewing Chicken Kiev. You can finish with a relatively restrained Chocolate Mousse cake or just go for broke by requesting a Czarist-inspired Nougat cream parfait topped with, what else, edible gold. A caviar course is extra; fur is optional.

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Gingerbread Dishes and Drinks: Sip + Savor the Spiced Seasonal Treat

Molasses and spice put the merry in this classic treat that’s had a starring role at Christmas as an all-too-often inedible house with shredded wheat-thatched roofs and gumdrop shrubs. It’s a holiday favorite, for sure, especially in New England. In recent years, gingerbread has gained respect all over the country — not just in desserts but martinis and ‘nogs, too. Check out these restaurants serving gingerbread cocktails and desserts that even the most traditional of gingerbread gentlemen and ladies would approve with frosted icing smiles.

Gracie’s, Providence, Rhode Island
Baby, it’s cold outside. High fives for the Hand Warmer, a hot gingerbread-inspired cocktail that’s made with Frangelico Art of the Age ‘Snap’, steamed cinnamon-honey milk, and chai bitters. [Photo by  JWessel Photography]

Gingerbread dishes and drinks

3800 Ocean, Palm Beach, Florida
Fudge and gingerbread go together like Rudolph and Santa — sweet shout-outs to Christmas. The Gingerbread Fudge dessert from pastry chef Brittani Szczecin is a fantasy of white chocolate chips, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pecans.

Gingerbread dishes and drinks

Bar 54, New York, New York
During the holidays, the highest rooftop bar in Manhattan serves a non-alcoholic Spiced Spritzer, a gingerbread mocktail combo of ginger, cinnabark syrup, lemon juice, cranberry relish, and old-fashioned bitters (glycerin-based and non-alcoholic). The icing on the cocktail: It’s garnished with candied ginger and a cinnamon stick.

Gingerbread dishes and drinks

Sbraga, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Gingerbread Macaron is pastry chef Marquessa Gesualdi’s answer to “when a gingerbread house doesn’t want to sit at the kids table anymore.” It’s made with white chocolate, amaretto cream, lemon gum drops, nutmeg dulce de leche, and blood orange curd — and it behaves quite nicely if you’re seated at the chef’s counter, too.

Gingerbread dishes and drinks

Level 25 at Atrio, Miami, Florida
Sip a Gingerbread Martini (Boodles Gin, simple syrup, Chambord and Canton Ginger Liqueur) in the hotel’s signature bar—views of Miami and Biscayne Bay sweeten the deal. You can also order the festive martini in the Atrio restaurant here.

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Too Cool: 10 Peppermint Desserts to Pep Up Your Holiday

Move over pumpkin spice, peppermint is having a moment. Even though the weather may not indicate it just yet, winter is coming, and as fall wanes, we say goodbye to the familiar tastes of the season. While we’ll miss creamy butternut squash soups, hot apple cider donuts, and pumpkin…everything, their departure makes way for all the festive flavors of the colder months. Popping up on menus once again are cranberry, gingerbread, eggnog, and — perhaps winter’s most iconic flavor — peppermint. Peppermint evokes a sense of nostalgia for holiday traditions — trimming the tree to Christmas tunes, wrapping presents by a fragrant fire, and our favorite, sitting down to a deliciously restorative meal in the midst of the holiday madness. Book a table and order one of these invigoratingly delicious peppermint desserts. From the beloved classics to the distinctly imaginative, each one will put you in the holiday spirit.

Péché, Austin, Texas
Péché translates to “sin” in French, and while you could opt for a lighter dish like Kale and Roasted Vegetable salad, why not let the restaurant live up to its name by indulging in sinfully rich Housemade Pappardelle with Texas Wild Boar or a Braised Short Ribs with Duck Fat Mashed Potatoes? Either way, save room for pastry chef Yolanda Diaz’s impressive Bûche de Noël. Made from scratch, her traditional French dessert is a Swiss chocolate roll plated with peppermint bark, (almost) too-adorable-to-eat mushroom meringues, chocolate soil, and a scoop of housemade chocolate chip peppermint ice cream. It would be a sin not to order this heavenly dessert.

Peppermint Desserts

Siena Tavern, Chicago, Illinois
Gelato in the winter doesn’t sound crazy when it’s of the Peppermint Brownie variety. Fabio Viviani’s urbane Italian eatery, which features housemade pastas, crispy pizzas, and a mozzarella bar, offers the seasonally apropos dessert this December. The brainchild of Siena Tavern’s pastry chef Amy Arnold, crushed candy canes, Rumplemintz, and double chocolate brownie bites are swirled into a peppermint gelato base for a bracing brownie sundae in a scoop. Order a post-pizza dish, or opt for a flight of three, paired with cannoli and pumpkin pecan flavors.

Peppermint Desserts

10 Arts Bistro, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Enjoy the flavor of the season in one (or more!) of many forms at the Ritz Carlton’s predictably elegant restaurant. For a whimsical treat, Hot Chocolate service is on offer with enhancements such as marshmallows and crushed candy canes. Add a “cookie jar” for a sample of assorted holiday cookies, including pastry chef Stephen Wilson’s handmade peppermint meringues. Wilson is also whipping up Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream and Yule Logs for their festive holiday brunch, starting at 11AM on Christmas Day.

Peppermint Desserts

Presidio Social Club, San Francisco, California
Comfort foods have a place at the table any time of the year, but herb-roasted chicken, mac and cheese, and meatloaf at this San Francisco “club without the dues” are particularly perfect on winter’s dark, chilly evenings. The comforting options extend to bar director Maureen Donegan’s Hot Cocktail List, featuring warming quaffs like Hot Buttered Rum, Caffè Sambuca, or — for a true dose of holiday spirit — a Hot Mint Chocolate. Mixed with housemade hot cocoa and Bracamenta then topped with fresh whipped cream, this boozy version of a childhood favorite will inject the meal with a little extra good cheer. (If you prefer your dessert in cake form, order one of pastry chef Rene Cruz’s Chocolate Peppermint Cakes to go. The only downside is that you’ll probably be expected to share.)

Peppermint Desserts

Bestia, Los Angeles, California
Genevieve Gergis is one half of the husband and wife team behind LA’s Bestia. (Her husband, chef Ori Menashe, dishes out rustic Italian fare in the form of house-cured charcuterie and made-from-scratch pizza and pasta.) A self-taught pastry chef, Gergis’s own sweet tooth inspired her to learn to bake, and the fruits (and cakes, chocolates, and donuts!) of her labor are showcased with desserts like Pink Lady Apple & Candied Quince Crostata and Chocolate Budino Tart. This season, sample her handiwork and bring a touch of holiday whimsy to the table with the housemade Candy Cane Ice Cream with a “Cinna’man” and Whole Wheat Butter Cookie.

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Hau’oli Lanui: 7 Top Hawaii Restaurants to Dine at During Winter Break

There’s no reason every meal shouldn’t be outstanding during your winter getaway to the Hawaiian Islands. In recent years, Hawaii’s food scene has mushroomed. Local chefs are continually inspired by the Island’s diverse ethnic cooking styles and rich cultural history, and it shows in their menus. Even better, restaurants are cultivating stronger bonds with the Islands’ farmers, ranchers, and fishers to source local ingredients.

If you’re headed to the Aloha State for winter break, we’ve rounded up seven top Hawaii restaurants worth visiting, from Mud Hen Water, the east Honolulu neighborhood gem serving up eclectic Hawaiian fusion dishes and Italian comfort foods at Mi’s Italian Bistro in Kealakekua on Hawaii Island to fulfilling all your noodles cravings at Star Noodle in Lahaina, Maui.

MW Restaurant, Honolulu, Oahu
A lunch or dinner at MW Restaurant, just off Kapiolani Boulevard in downtown Honolulu, is a culinary triumph from start to finish. The Hawaii Regional Cuisine menu boasts dishes from locally sourced product from husband and wife team Michelle Karr Ueoka and Wade Ueoka—the “M” and “W”, respectively. The pair is renowned for inventive dishes inspired by Hawaii’s culinary history. This is polished, local comfort food. Plus, pastry chef Karr Ueoka was nominated as a 2015 James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef semifinalist and was nominated last year—as was MW for best new restaurant.) Order the ahi poke appetizer, served with uni, ikura, and crispy rice crackers followed by the mochi-crusted opakapaka, served on a bed of somen noodles. Be sure to save room for dessert! There’s the MW Candy Bar, crunch with macadamia nut praline, or the Tropical Fruit Creamsicle Brulée made with lilikoi sorbet and custard, tapioca pearls, tropical fruits, and guava chiffon. You’ll never be so happy you didn’t skip the sweets

Top Hawaii Restaurants

Mi’s Italian Bistro, Kealakekua, Hawaii Island
If you’re looking to shake up your dinner routine during your holiday on Hawaii Island, head to Mi’s Italian Bistro in the quaint town of Kealakekua, along the Big Island’s south Kona coast. The bistro is tucked in a small shopping area, but the restaurant is welcoming with its homey decor and tables with red and maroon linens.

Chef Morgan Star started Mi’s Italian Bistro with his wife Ingrid Chan. The eatery sources from local farmers, as well as Big Island cattle ranchers. But it’s perhaps best known for it’s freshly made pasta, and it’s no wonder some of its most popular dishes are the spaghetti Bolognese made with Big Island beef or the gnocchi topped with porcini-crusted pork tenderloin.

Top Hawaii Restaurants

Merriman’s Waimea,Waimea, Hawaii Island
Chef Peter Merriman’s namesake restaurant in Waimea has become synonymous for a quality, fresh Big Island dining experience. Merriman, a Hawaii Regional Cuisine chef, is known for cultivating farm-to-table menus by working directly with Hawaii’s growers, ranchers, and fishers – and his efforts are evident in his fare. For example, the butcher’s cut of Kahua Ranch lamb is incredibly tender and comes with a side of rainbow chard, jalapeño whipped potatoes, and Maui onion-mint chimichurri. Another Merriman’s favorite is the steak, sourced from Hawaii’s Lowline Cattle Company and served with potatoes, grilled Waimea asparagus, and churned Waimea herb butter. Still not convinced? The restaurant is known for its top-notch service.

Top Hawaii Restaurants

JO2 Restaurant, Kapaa, Kauai
Fall in love with Kauai’s fresh produce and its fresh fish with a meal at JO2 Restaurant in Kapaa on the east side of Kauai. Don’t let JO2’s shopping-center location throw you — you’re in for an ultra-fine dining experience at this modern restaurant. Chef Jean-Marie Josselin French heritage comes through in each dish, as well as his love for Hawaii’s melting pot of culinary traditions and inspirations. (Josselin is one of the original chefs that spearheaded the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, and has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award six times.)

Kick things off with JO2’s seared Korean short rib, under which is nestled a Vietnamese crepe with organic tomatoes. Then tuck into lemongrass sesame-crusted mahi-mahi with Thai coconut curry basil sauce or the roasted Hawaiian butterfish miso with sake and cilantro.

Top Hawaii Restaurants

Star Noodle, Lahaina, Maui
If you’re craving noodles — saimin, ramen, udon — look no further than Star Noodle. This small restaurant, which opened in the Lahaina Business Park (aka the Lahaina Light Industrial) is known for housemade noodles. The menu also features creative Asian-inspired small plates, such as the miso salmon, chicken yakitori, and steamed pork buns. (The restaurant was also the former home of Maui celebrity chef Sheldon Simeon, who competed and won fan favorite by viewers during season 10 of Bravo’s “Top Chef;” Simeon was the executive chef.)

The noodle joint is fitted with a communal table in its center, surrounded by smaller tables around the perimeter, as well as bar seating. Make reservations ahead of time, or go for lunch; wait times for tables can be long. In addition to its noodle dishes, the Lahaina fried soup (fat chow fun, pork, and bean sprouts), the garlic noodles, and the steamed pork buns are must-orders. Star Noodle also has a solid cocktail list sure to satisfy mixology fans.

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