Guy Fieri’s SNL Appearance

Did you see the Guy Fieri SNL spoof?  No? Probably because it never made it to the airwaves.  The segment was cut before it aired.  However, it’s pretty darn funny and is making the rounds on the internet.  If you’ve ever tried to find a good restaurant in Times Square you’ll get a kick out of it.

Rigatoni with Bolognese Sauce

rigatoni with bolognese sauce

rigatoni with bolognese sauce

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Last week my husband and I had the pleasure of shopping at Bario Batali’s store, Eataly, while we were in New York City.   Not only do they have great ready-to-eat treats and drinks, they’ve got a fabulous marketplace stocked with gourmet foods.  I would have preferred to have picked up some of their delicious-looking meats and cheeses, but I doubt they would have fared well in my luggage on the trip back home to Minnesota.  Instead, we picked up a bag of rigatoni.

I’ve made rigatoni with bolognese sauce before, but it had been a long time (I usually make my parents’ spaghetti recipe when craving a red sauce).  These wide noodles are great for hearty sauces like this bolognese.   Veggies are the heart of the dish.  Traditional bolognese is typically a bit thinner, but I like my veggies a little chunkier (as you can see in the photo on the right).   For the “traditional” bolognese sauce, you can chop them in your food processor or blender for the right consistency.  When it comes to cooking, I don’t like to follow the rules!  You can also add Italian sausage if you’re not a fan of meatless dishes.

Frugal Tip:  Mascarpone cheese can be expensive.  An acceptable alternative would be to use Neufchatel or cream cheese instead.   Look for great prices on fresh produce like onions, carrots, mushrooms, peppers and garlic at ALDI food stores (see what’s on sale at ALDI in the Mommysavers Grocery Bargains Forum).


Rigatoni with Bolognese Sauce
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Fresh veggies and wine lend an earthy flavor to this rich bolognese sauce
  • 1½ C. hot water
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped finely
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ¼ C. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pkg. white mushrooms, chopped coarsely
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • ⅔ C. red wine
  • ½ cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta, cooked
  • ⅔ cup Parmesan cheese
  • One ring Italian sausage (optional) sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, red pepper, and garlic. Saute until tender. Add the thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, mushrooms, sliced sausage (optional), tomato paste and tomato sauce. Stir until sauce begins to thicken (about 5-6 minutes) and mushrooms are soft. Add the wine, and reduce heat. Cover. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese.
  2. Pour your bolognese sauce over cooked rigatoni in a large casserole baking dish. Top with grated Parmesan and bake until cheese bubbles.

New York City Bites: Minetta Tavern, The Halal Guys and Casellula

When I go to New York City, I’m like a kid in a candy store.   There are so many mouth-watering restaurant choices right under my nose that I get excited and confused all at the same time, not sure where to head first.  Since I was in town for BlogHer 2012 last week, I seized the opportunity to leave the conference behind and cross a few items off my culinary bucket list.  This time around, my husband and I splurged a little and ate a lot.   I was happy with our picks, and wanted to give you all a recap of our foodie adventures:

black angus burger at minetta tavern

Black Angus Burger at Minetta Tavern

bone marrow at minetta tavern

Bone Marrow at Minetta Tavern

Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern
It goes without saying I believe you don’t have to spend a lot to get a good meal. Good, cheap food is pretty easy to find in the city; but there are also plenty of splurges worth the cost. It’s all about value and getting the biggest bang for your buck.   The Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern is one of them.  At $26, it’s the priciest burger I’ve ever ordered.  With the quality of the meat comparable to a steak where I live, it also puts it in the range of great value.  It was definitely tasty, and as one of my friends described it, “The best burger in NYC.”   However, I think the best thing we ordered was the Bone Marrow.  Rich, salty goodness spread on top of a crispy baguette and shallot coulis (which, surprisingly, reminded me a little bit of cranberry preserves).  The entrees at Minetta Tavern are in the $17-$34 range, which is certainly affordable for a New York City landmark restaurant.

Frugal Tip:  We’ve been wanting to eat at Minetta Tavern for years, but are too short-sighted to place a reservation before we go and can never get in. This time around, we rolled the dice and headed down to the West Village to see if there was room for us at the bar.   With about a ten-minute wait, we sat down.  Often times, you’ll find the hard-to-get-into establishments offer the same menu options at the bar, with little-to-no waiting time. This is also how we got into The Girl and the Goat in Chicago.  Many times, the service you get at the bar is more attentive than the tables.  Not only that, their recommendations are often more honest.  Plus, watching good bartenders mix drinks is a fun performance.

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal St. (Betw. Bleecker & W. 3rd Street)
New York, NY 10012

Chicken and Rice from The Halal Guys

Chicken and Rice from The Halal Guys

Chicken and Rice from The Halal Guys
You really can’t go to New York City without trying some street food. It’s easy, cheap, perfect for on-the-go eating and in most cases pretty tasty.  The Halal Guys food cart is the cream of the crop. They’re located in Midtown but move around during the day (see The Halal Guys locations and times), and often the line to get their middle-Eastern fare wraps around the block. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.   You can’t go wrong with the chicken and rice with white sauce:  Basmati rice topped with perfectly-seasoned tender chicken and a delicious white sauce (ask for extra sauce).  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  If anyone knows of a copycat recipe circulating in the blogosphere,  please let me know.  I know I’ll be craving this again sometime very soon.

The Halal Guys
6th Ave & W 53rd St.
New York, NY 10019

pig's ass sandwich at casellula nyc

Pig’s Ass Sandwich at Casellula

casellula wine and cheese bar

Cheese Sampler at Casellula

Pig’s Ass Sandwich at Casellula Wine and Cheese Bar
We chose to sit at the bar here as well, although there were tables available.  Since food preparation took place behind the bar, we didn’t want to miss out on the action.You can hardly go to a restaurant with a Pig’s Ass Sandwich on the menu without giving it a try.  Everything at Casellula Wine and Cheese bar was fabulous, and yes – it was a great piece of ass.  I’d recommend starting with the cheese sampler plate.  The choices were foreign to us, even though we’ve tried many “exotic” cheeses.  We told our server what types of cheese we like most, and she brought out five selections suited to our palate. All of them were delicious, and the presentation was gorgeous (isn’t the starfruit pretty?).  I had never tried pickled quail eggs, so with that I added another notch to my foodie belt.

Frugal Tip:  Hell’s Kitchen is one of our favorite foodie neighborhoods in New York City. Yelp has lead us to some of our favorite places there, including Kashkaval.  Sort by price to find great places to fit your budget.

Casellula Cheese and Wine Bar
401 W. 52nd St.
New York, NY

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