The BlogHer 2012 Foodie Bucket List: Frugal Bites

This is the weekend when thousands of female bloggers will converge on the country’s mecca for foodies:  New York City.   The BlogHer 2012 Conference is a huge draw for web-savvy women (and a handful of brave men) from all over the country.  Unfortunately, many will miss out on the opportunity to sample the city’s finest fare because they’ll be too busy party-hopping and swag-grabbing at the Hilton.

I’ll be at BlogHer myself, but I am avoiding the food there as much as I possibly can (gasp!).  It may sound counterintuitive for a blogger from a site called Frugal Bites to turn down FREE food.  But when I’m in New York, I never miss an opportunity to cross a few items off my culinary bucket list.  Although I’m hardly a NYC food expert, I’ve been there enough to be able to give my fellow bloggers a few spot-on recommendations within walking distance if they dare to branch out.

Let me know what you enjoy eating in the Big Apple!

carnegie deli woody allen

The Woody Allen at Carnegie Deli

The Woody Allen at Carnegie Deli
Yes, it’s expensive.  $19.95 is a CRAZY amount for a sandwich, and I’m a bit put off that you have to pay an extra $3 to split it. However, the melt-in-your-mouth pastrami is foodgasmic, especially after a night out partying. You will NOT be disappointed, and just may find yourself daydreaming about it in the dead of winter (not that I’ve (ahem) done that myself).   Frugal Tip:  If you get it to go, you can avoid the split charge and share it with a friend.

Carnegie Deli
854 7th Ave. at 55th Street
New York, NY

magnolia baker

Red Velvet Cupcakes at NYC’s Magnolia Bakery

The Red Velvet Cupcake at Magnolia Bakery
In your neck of the woods, $3.25 is probably a lot to spend on a cupcake.  When in New York City, it’s a steal considering that for under $5 you’ll get to taste one of the city’s most-talked about desserts.  If there’s a line, don’t shy away.  It moves pretty quickly and is worth the wait.
Frugal Tip:  Learn to make the Copycat Red Velvet Cupcakes at home when you get back!

Magnolia Bakery
1240 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020


Fondue at Kashkaval NYC

Fondue at Kashkaval NYC

Fondue at Kashkaval
Kashkaval is a cute little wine and cheese shop about a 15-minute walk from the Hilton in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.   From the front and outside it looks like a simple little cheese shop (they sell gourmet cheeses in front) but in the back you’ll find a dimly lit, intimate restaurant in which to enjoy fondue and small plate dishes.  Frugal Tip:  Go later on in the evening (after 9:00 p.m.), or expect to wait for a table.

856 9th Avenue between 55th and 56th
New York, NY


soup man

Soup from Soup Man (A.K.A. The Seinfeld “Soup Nazi”)

Soup from Soupman
Although the soup at Soupman is not as memorable as the Seinfeld episode that made it famous, they come with a Lindt truffle and baguette as a consolation prize.  Soups are a little on the pricey side, but die-hard fans will thoroughly enjoy the “No Soup for You!” Soup Nazi experience .

The Original Soupman
259A W. 55th Street
New York, NY 10019


juniors cheesecake

Cheesecake and Drinks at Junior’s


Junior’s for Cheesecake or Drinks
To foodies, New York is as famous for their cheesecake as they are for the Statue of Liberty or Times Square.  Junior’s is a New York institution, and has been around since the 1950s.  Since you’re probably going to be in Times Square anyway, stop in at Junior’s for a little slice of the city.  If you prefer to drink your calories, their drinks are as delicious as their desserts.  The Brandy Alexander was my personal favorite.

Junior’s Cheesecake
1515 Broadway #1
New York, NY 10036

papaya dog

Papaya Dog

Hotdog and Smoothie at Papaya Dog
Let’s face it.  Unlike the sign says, hot dogs are not gourmet fare.  But Papaya Dog dishes them out frugally and in New York fashion with a cold papaya smoothie (among Papaya King, Gray’s Papaya, Mike’s Papaya, etc.) Perfect for an on-the-go snack or a late-night nosh after drinking.

Papaya Dog
333 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10014

Denver’s Rioja: Fabulous Mediterranean Bistro Fare

rioja artichoke tortelloni

Half Portion Artichoke Tortelloni, Rioja’s Signature Dish

Since I often travel for work, I am fortunate to be able to sample wonderful restaurants all over the country.  Last week I traveled to Denver for the School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference and was able to stop in again at Rioja, easily my favorite restaurant in the Mile-High City.  I stumbled upon it a couple years ago thanks to Yelp (I don’t know what I did before that app) and have been back every chance I’ve had.

Rioja situated on quaint, artsy Laramie street among other trendy shops and restaurants.   It’s dimly lit, and packed with a young, successful, upwardly mobile young crowd.  Jennifer Jasinksi, Executive Chef at Rioja, has the credentials and experience to back up her creative menu and adventurous flavors.  Before creating Rioja, she worked in notable restaurants from California to New York City to Paris, under culinary all-stars like Wolfgang Puck.  In 2012, she was a James Beard Foundation “Best Chef Southwest” finalist.

Rioja is known for incorporating Mediterranean flavors with local meats and produce.  Flavors are earthy and rich.   They’ve got a fantastic array of cheese and meats and is a charcuterie lovers’ dream.   But carb lovers won’t be left out.  Rioja’s free bread basket alone is reason to visit, with choices such as goat cheese biscuits and rosemary rolls.  Simply delicious.

Order small plates and half portions if you’re interested in creating your own sampling menu.  Don’t miss their signature dish, Artichoke and Goat Cheese Tortelloni: Little delicate pillows of handcrafted pasta filled with goat cheese nestled in a warm bath of artichoke broth and truffle essence.  Mmmmmm.  The half portion shown above is just $11.50, a true culinary bargain.  I was able to sample the pork belly, tortelloni, bread, and salad along with a beer for well under $30.  You won’t leave stuffed (this isn’t Old Country Buffet), but you’ll definitely be satisfied.

Frugal Tips: If you can’t book a table, ask if they have room near the kitchen in the back.  You’ll get a glimpse of the sous-chefs in action, and may get some special treatment (read: free samples).  I was treated to a bite of the blood orange and goat cheese salad pictured below.  A tiny bite packed with fresh local flavor.

blood orange with goat cheese

Blood Orange and Goat Cheese


rioja denver

Bread Basket Goodies


rioja denver

Cardamom-Crusted Pork Belly on Garbanzo Bean Pureee (a.k.a “Fancy”Bacon)