If only updating the food blog was as easy as eating, I would have 6 posts a day. It’s been a month since I last wrote and over the last month I encountered some good grubs.
August 1, 2009: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Somehow, Philadelphia intrigued me as a worthy, budget conscience summer visit. Only 2 + 1/2 hours from New York City, the brotherly love city, Philadelphia was better than how I recalled through faded memories with photographs when I barely knew how to speak. It is surprisingly more than a historical visit to brush up on the U.S history and a city that worships Benjamin Franklin but it is filled with art and culture and a city that appreciates and preserves mural art!
Exploring the city by foot causes for a hungry person. First stop, The Reading Terminal Market. People who knows me well knows I love markets: flea markets, supermarkets, farmers markets, etc. Here in Philadelphia not too far from Philadelphia, Chinatown, is an amazing indoor market. With over 100 fresh produce from fruits, vegetables and local homemade bread and jam. On top of that The Reading Terminal Market is electrified with neon signs pointing down to eat here and there. The options is like the United Nations of food court. From Mexican to Mediterranean and Thailand to Middle Eastern, it’s got it all. And the Dutch, Amish! Being in Philadelphia it is no brainer to have the Philly delicacy that is the Philly Cheesesteak. A little overwhelm by the choices, I manage to settle for Carmen’s Famous Hoagies. I think I should have tried harder in search of a better Philly Cheesesteak. I don’t eat beef so on the menu there was the option of Chicken Mushroom Cheesesteak and the Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak are the two I ordered for the family to share. If you think the service in New York City is bad, you’re going to hate this one. The server was twice my size and she practically mumbled the order to me and when asking for the receipt, she gave me a snare ( the total came to $19.10 for 2 cheesesteaks of course I am asking for a receipt). While sitting on the stool for my order to go, there was a sense of cockiness from who I hint is the owner. A man before me ordered two Philly Cheesesteak and had request for salt and pepper to sprinkle on but the owner refused to give him the salt and pepper and the customer refused to leave without his salt and pepper. I guess there’s two sides to this: from the owner/ chef perspective is to have the customers try the food the way it is, a compliment to the chef and he may be looking out for the guy’s health to cut down on the sodium. From the customers point of view I paid for and should get what I want and he did get his salt and pepper he asked for eventually. I got my cheesesteaks wrapped to go. Less than 5 minutes, the chicken cheesesteaks appeared disappointingly soggy already. The mushrooms in the chicken mushroom cheesesteak tasted from can which is ironic since there are all the fresh produce available at the market and there seemed to be a lack of cheese which really defeats the cheese part in the cheesesteak and the lady charged me .75 cents extra for lettuce, tomatoes which did not even appear to be in the cheesesteak. Of the two, the buffalo chicken cheesesteak stood out more with the blue cheese flavor. The chicken for both was way too chopped up for my taste but apparently I think that is how the Philadelphians prefer their meats. This leads to our Vietnamese dinner. Strange to be having Vietnamese in Philadelphia but a pleasant surprise. I was with my parents and my mom is a very difficult person to please when it comes to eating out. We ordered, two shrimp summer rolls that was stuffed with rice vermicelli, basel, and shrimps with a side peanut sauce. Nice appetizer for a hot summer day. My sister and I both ordered the Grilled pork with Vietnamese spring rolls vermicelli where the grilled pork unlike in New York City Chinatown Vietnamese restaurant serves sliced pork, in Philly is chopped into almost shredded pork. Though it was still good, not the best. My dad and mom both ordered a seafood vermicelli pho (soup) with a side of bean sprouts, fresh mints and limes. I think it was my mom’s very first Vietnamese meal and like I mentioned earlier she is a very difficult person to please when it comes to eating out, this bowl of seafood vermicelli pho was a winner! She loved it and I repeat it is very very rare. She loved how flavorful the seafood broth was but very light which Vietnamese cuisine generally is. My mom loved the meal at this corner Vietnamese restaurant in Philadelphia so much that week she had attempted to replicate the Vietnamese meal at home, I think we ought to leave it to the Vietnamese chefs.
August 8, 2009: Woodstock, New York
It’s 40th Anniversary for Woodstock which I was not aware of until we hit traffic for the first time on our way to KTD, a Tibetan monastery in Woodstock and the media coverage this week. I did not have my camera that day but somedays are better by memories. Though, I have been to Woodstock a few times now, once for the Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary and few times to KTD, it was my first time I actually got to explore the small town made famous by the music concert in 1969. Before we went to KTD for an empowerment, my brother Jimmy, sister-in-law Betty and our friend, Harry made a stop at the Garden Cafe for a late lunch. It’s a cute little restaurant with the interior decorations similar to Tea & Sympathy but less claustrophobic with mismatched vintage furniture. On the table top was a mini vase of fresh picked flowers and porcelain figurine (bunny for our table) salt and pepper shaker that kind of resembles tea time in Alice in Wonderland. Garden Cafe is entirely vegan friendly though the menu options was very limited which I like sometimes how straightforward it is. Somehow the Southwestern Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger with a side of roasted Russet potatoes appeal to all four of us, so we ordered four of the same dish. The dish came presented in a porcelain skillet as an open faced burger: the black bean burger which was compressed with black bean, brown rice and sweet potatoes, a dollop of guacamole and salsa on top. The whole wheat bun was nice and overall we all thought the burger was good but needed an hint of spicy kick, so my sister-in-law requested for hot sauce which had an unusual ingredient in hot sauce: carrots…interesting. Later that night, after the empowerment we had made a reservation for a Middle Eastern cuisine restaurant Joshua’s, vegetarian friendly catered to the Buddhist + Hippies in the area. The restaurant was unexpectedly pretty upscale with superfluous utensils for each person. Everything in the menu looked really appetizing especially the pasta dishes but instead I settled down with a spinach and three cheese strudel over brown rice and my brother had a similar dish, creamy potato leek strudel over brown rice which the descriptions for the dish was mouth watering. Harry and Betty both had a Middern Eastern Pasta with spring vegetables. The entrees came with first course of a basket of hot pita breads with individual servings for everyone of baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, and a sweet and hot pepper, great way to start off dinner. The second course was a salad with a generous amount of fresh ingredients. Finally came my spinach and three cheese strudel over rice. I like spinach and I love cheese can’t go wrong and it was really good, though I wish the strudel was more flaky and the dish was a bit dry. Nonetheless, if you are in Woodstock for a visit, I highly recommend to stop by a Joshua’s for lunch or dinner, good food and friendly staff.
August 12, 2009: Long Island City
Long Island City, Socrates Sculpture Park is a nice oasis from the city and mid-workweek. The Socrates Sculpture Park has been having one of the best outdoor film screening all summer long and it is entirely free. On August 12, the film screening was a film from Kazakhstan, Tulpan by Sergei Dvorsetvoy which will be available in dvd by mid-September. There is a miraculous birth scene of a sheep that will either gross you out or blow you away. On our way to Socrates Sculpture Park, my sister Linda, my friend Vaughn, and I grabbed some local Mexican food from Los Portales to go from not your usual Manhattan Mexican restaurant (Rosa Mexicana and Chipotle…o pehlease). Los Portales is the real stuff! My sister wanted a Tinga spicy chicken quesadilla and I ordered a Cajun Chicken, Roasted Peppers, Onions, tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese & Chipotle mayo on Portuguese bread which essentially is a burrito wrap. And 2 sides: a fried plantain and Carnitas Fried Pork Tostadas. The 2 sides were decent though the fried plantain may be slight burnt and the Fried pork Tostadas which is cubes of pork on shredded iceberg lettuce over a saucer size tortilla chip was pretty bland or tasted exactly like the ingredients. The Spicy Chicken Quesadilla and the Portugese bread were really good, I liked how the dishes instead of cube chickens were shredded chicken which gives a sense of authenticity.
August 14, 2009: At last: Caracas Arepas Bar
Continuing with the Latin, Spanish, Mexican cuisine theme from Wednesday. I met up with six of my friends from High school for a dog days of summer gathering. I had Caracas Arepas Bar on my mind for quite some time now but have not had the chance to try it. The reason maybe since it is way out of my way??? Being that I organize this gathering but was unable to find the restaurant myself after making circles in East Village is pretty ironic. I will now forever remember E. 7th st between 1st ave and Ave A, near 1st ave and the address is worth implanting into my brain and to everyone’s because Caracas Arepas Bar is damn good! The restaurant is pretty tiny and on a Friday night during recession it is without doubt this place was packed. Not the best place for a group of 7 people but thankfully my brilliant friend Jane Tam had a backup plan to have it to go and enjoy our arepas in Tompkins Square Park which is only an avenue away. Cynthia, Jane (Mango Lover), Jesse ordered La Pernil, roasted pork shoulder, tomato slices and mango spicy sauce. Anita, Christina, and Sandra ordered Reina Pepiada, chicken with avocado mix salad that looked like guacamole but chunkier. I had difficulty in deciding between La Jardinera, grilled eggplants, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and guayanese cheese or La Surena grilled chicken and chorizo, avocado slices and the spicy chimi-churri sauce. I decided to splurge a bit and went for the La Surena Arepas. It was my first arepas ever and I’m liking it. It’s a great street food not too messy though a little olive oil kind of greasy. Arepas are essentially corn flat breads which Caracas Arepa Bar’s arepas does not get soggy like my chicken cheesesteak from Carmen’s Famous Hoagies or an overly baked like my experience with one Vietnamese bahn mi that rips the rooftop of your mouth. Caracas Arepas Bar’s arepas is nice corn flat bread pocket and the fillings makes it better. Every ingredient as listed in the menu description exists though I think there was only one or two chorizos. The avocado slices are seasoned in a taste like pesto, garlic and herbal like basil and cilantro. The grilled chicken is cooked well though obviously not recommended for my grandma with dentures. Caracas Arepas Bar unpretentious and kicks butt! Afterwards we head over to Sundaes & Cones…dangerous!
Carmen’s Famous Hoagies/// The Reading Terminal Market 12th & Arch Streets, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Vietnamese Restaurant /// Philadelphia Pennsylvania –TBA ( my mom’s epiphany on Vietnamese cuisine and I do not remember the name of the restaurant or the address)
Garden Cafe /// 6 Old Forge Rd Woodstock, NY 12498
Joshua’s /// 51 Tinker Street Woodstock, NY 12498
Los Portales /// 25-08 Broadway, Long Island City, NY 11106
Caracas Arepas Bar /// 7 East street between 1st Avenue + Avenue A (near 1st Avenue), New York, NY 10009
Sundaes & Cones /// 95 East 10th Street (between 3rd +4th avenue) New York, NY 10003
Non-Food Related Must Visits:
Elfreth Alley /// 126 Elfreth’s Alley | Philadelphia, PA 19106
Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD) /// 335 Meads Mountain Road • Woodstock, New York 12498
Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary /// PO Box 1329 Woodstock, New York 12498
Socrates Sculpture Park /// 32-01 Vernon Boulevard at Broadway Long Island City, NY 11106
Tompkins Square Park /// Avenue A to Avenue B East 7 to East 10th Street New York, NY 10009