I am writing this on 12.21.2012 and the world was suppose to end according to the Mayan calendar. If the world did end and my last meal was at Runner and Stone grand opening party with a 6 course meal then I feel pretty content. Although, I am glad the predictions of the world ending was false rather it is a beginning to a new era, which sounds very hopeful. One of my favorite quotes comes from the holy XIV Dalai Lama:
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to have woken up I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it I am going to use all my energies to develop myself to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry, or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
This quote reminds me to be thankful each and everyday at the best and worst of times and as I reflect back on 2012 it was a memorable, an eventful and because this is a foodblog, it was one delicious year! So here is my annual top 12 of year 2012 eating adventures:
Parkway Bakery and Tavern /// I started my 2012 with a sister bonding trip to New Orleans. It’s been a city I have long awaited to visit and with Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf coast oil spill it continuously put the city in the spot light in a negative way which caused the delay to journey down until now. New Orleans is a unique city with multi-cultural and flavors and is highlighted through the origin of food. I was recommended to several restaurants but the one I am still salivating over is Parkway Bakery and Tavern. Known for their Po’Boy sandwiches and probably the best sandwiches I have ever eaten. We ordered the catfish po-boy and the grilled smoked hot sausage pork link po-boy and an order of chili cheese fries along with two vintage bottled of Barq root beer. The decor, ceiling fans and the Parkway Bakery waitstaff were wonderful with their Southern hospitality making this place worth the trip visiting New Orleans. Read more here: Fat Tuesday Indeed.
The Breslin /// There are very few women chefs in the culinary industry restaurant world and within that circle, the chefs I admire includes: Chef Gabrielle Hamilton, Chef Anita Lo and the goddess Chef April Bloomfield. I first had a dish by April Bloomfield at Le Grand Fooding in 2010. It was a Blue cheese inspired dish, a Beef, Bleu D’ Auvergne and Suet Pie…mm. For my birthday this year, I had a birthday brunch at Essex Street with my friends and a post birthday lunch at a restaurant of my choice with my boss. Thanks RLV! I had chosen The Breslin because I have been dying to try the lamb burger. It is probably one of the most photographed, yelped, twittered dish at The Breslin but photos and what you read will not do its justice, most things are better when you try them. A rustic and beautifully presented burger on a butcher block along with a side of fries or chips as the British calls it was as expected mouth watering and incredible! A good way to celebrate another year older.
Phayul Tibetan /// I received an impromptu invitation to a Tibetan community artists dinner gathering from my old friend, a Tibetan artist GG. I had to journey out to Jackson Heights, Queens which little did I know it was more than a little India but also resides a great population of Tibetans and Nepalese which means the food must be pretty darn good, authentic and budget friendly. Phayul Tibetan is a small Tibetan family owned restaurant, hidden on the second floor. Greeted with “tashi dele”, hello in Tibetan. We were seated in a long communal table and ordered multiple dishes to share in family style. Signature dishes included laphing made with mung bean into jelly noodles with chili sauce and parsley and momos – Tibetan dumplings. We concluded our meal with Tibetan sweet butter tea – po cha which is misleading because it is actually salty and has an acquired taste – similarly to my mother’s DIY teeth whitening recipe: baking soda, hot water and salt. Sipping teas and exchanging stories in a hidden gem in New York on a drizzly rainy evening into the midnight was poetic.
Roberta’s /// Located in a remote part of Bushwick, Brooklyn an industrial factory neighborhood, Roberta’s is packed on a daily basis. My friends and I, a group of 4 people waited for over 2 hours to be seated. Roberta’s is known for their seasonal pizza menu. They would have their usual margherita, tomato, basil and mozzarella but every time you go, there is something different, innovative and delicious to offer. The vibe of the restaurant is great too. Roberta’s is beyond just a restaurant , there is also a radio station streaming from the restaurant, known as Heritage Radio, a station with all things food related including Saxelby Cheesemongers Cutting the Curd segment all about cheeses. There is also a garden where Roberta’s grows their own basils, tomatoes, and produce when weather appropriate for their pizza. The thoughtfulness and creativity of Roberta’s is what makes it more than another New York City slice and worth making the pilgrimage here.
Pies ‘n Thighs /// I have a pretty high standard for my fried chicken and especially after visiting New Orleans which made my standards even higher. I didn’t think I would come across fried chicken as good and as reasonably priced as New Orleans but Pies ‘n Thighs proved me wrong. Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this place is hillbillyburg good. I recommend for the first timer to try the fried chicken box, it’s a million times better than KFC and Popeyes, with 3 pieces, a side and a biscuit. What’s great about Pies ‘n Thighs is their sides and it goes above and beyond the overly processed mashed potatoes, mac n cheese. The sides are refreshing with a take on what is in season at farmer’s market such as kale, string beans, berries, and currently a lot of squashes on the menu.
Ocakbasi Dürüm Ve Kebap Salonu /// It has been 4 years since I have taken an international trip and this past May I had the opportunity to travel with my friend (MN) to Istanbul, Turkey and Athens, Greece and Greek Islands. Read more here: Along the Mediterranean Sea in Twelve Days. One place that really strike me was Ocakbasi Dürüm Ve Kebap Salonu, it was hidden in an alley way near the Spice Market in a market place with only few tables indoor and outdoor seating. Dürüm is a word seen in many Turkish menus and on signage. And it will very likely have grilled meats and flat breads. At Ocakbasi Dürüm Ve Kebap Salonu, it was a feast platter made for a sultan for a modest price. The platters of grilled meats were seasoned and cooked to perfection. We were lucky to stumble upon this great restaurant.
Nefeli /// Without knowing it was a hiking and eating tour, a 9 day guided tour with REI, this trip was the odyssey of a lifetime. Greek cuisine is far more than the diners in New York City and spinach pies, it is full of flavors, nutrition and variety from beans to meats. One of my favorites includes an authentic gyro pronounced yeer- oh, was from a restaurant in the Greek Islands of Tinos, called Nefeli. The meal in it’s entirety was mouth watering but one dish in particular made its impression on me that I have since been inspired to use more parchment paper in my cooking. The dish at Nefeli was rather a simple dish, a baked parchment chicken with aromatic rice but the method created a crispy texture on the chicken skin and the flavors absorbed making it a well- balanced dish. And since my travels, I have cooked and experimented with fish, sausages, and vegetables with parchment paper along with my handy convection toaster – oven. It is what traveling is all about, being inspired.
Totto Ramen /// After watching Batman’s Dark Knight in late August, I found ourselves in Totto Ramen area between Hell’s Kitchen and Columbus Circle. Japanese ramen is one of my favorite comfort foods and Totto Ramen really hits the spot. With very few seating and the popularity of the restaurant, there was a long wait but totto worth it! I always take the bar seats if the opportunity is given and luckily we did. Of course the reason is to get the full experience and to observe the cooking action, it’s so much more entertaining than a hibachi grill. Surely, New York City have experienced a growing popularity and demand for Japanese ramen joints. But what makes Totto Ramen stands out from the pack is their broth since it is a chicken broth instead of the common pork broth most ramen places serves with and the handmade ramen noodles cooked al dente is perfect. What I appreciate even more is it is actually cooked by Japanese!
Toby’s Estate Coffee /// Among what makes up a New York City block and within less than a mile radius are: banks, drugstores, restaurants and coffee shops. These are the quintessential of a New Yorker every day needs and if it is the beauty and quality of Toby’s Estate Coffee in their Williamsburg shop, then I would be in pure heaven and New York City would be a better place. It was in April when I discovered the new coffee shop and ever since I have been addicted. The interior decoration resembles my dream loft apartment living room and the coffee roasted freshly at the shop literally in a Probat coffee roastery fills the room with the scent and sound of a genius at work. The coffee is consistent each time, which I recommend their espresso beverages: a macchiato, americano or a latte. Also while at it, take home a bag of coffee beans for your loved ones.
Má Pêche /// One of the perks in working in the food industry is being invited to forums revolved around the subjects on food. In late August, my boss was a speaker for a forum, a food series created by Má Pêche in collaboration with NYPL, pretty cool combo. The subject was on street food vendors, from pedlars to the current popularity of gourmet food trucks. Inspired by the subject, the theme for the lunch was street food but done in Má Pêche style. This is my second David Chang’s restaurant empire experience – adding to the list with Momofuku Ssams Bar. It was an informal cafeteria style and coming back from a trip recently to the Middle East and the Greek Islands, Má Pêche’s take on lamb with tzatziki was a rather nice interpretation and hinting for a visit soon for a real meal.
Lan Zhou Handmade Noodle /// Disgracefully, I was introduced to Lan Zhou Handmade Noodle by none other than my white friend, thanks WG! Located on East Broadway, Chinatown and owned by Fujianese – which is probably the reason why I always shy away from because I speak the lingo and its often very sketchy looking. But this place is different, there is a secret weapon and that is a non-Fujianese noodle master who really makes hand pulled noodles. The menu is no more than 20 items: bowls of noodle soups, dumplings, and glutinous rice balls (sweet and savory) all range from $2 – $5.50 per dish. The handmade pulled noodle is impressive. The texture is quite the way I like it, fresh, al dente unlike the doughy hand pulled noodles and the combination of soup noodles range from lamb to vegetables. My favorite is the fried dumplings and dry noodle with minced pork sauce, a meal under $10.
Le Diner en Blanc /// It never crossed my mind that I would participate in a flash mob but of course if any it would be food related. Le Diner en Blanc started originally in Paris, France as a garden party with guests dressed in white for a picnic and quickly grew into the size meant for iconic locations like the Eiffel Towel, the Louvre and Nortre Dame which is kept secret until the last minute. New York City adapted this concept and now is a global celebration. My sister and I participated in this year’s second annual Le Diner en Blanc and planning for it was stressful because less than a week prior I received an unexpected invitation and was ecstatic! The event is BYO: table, chairs, food, table clothes, utensils, decorations, etc. The rules was to dress elegantly in white and it had applied to white table with a certain dimension, white chairs, and plates. Sounds crazy right? We spent a whole weekend planning and scouting for the table and chairs but eventually came to a solution. How it worked was we picked a group to meet and there was a team leader for each group and this was happening all over Manhattan who then takes us to our secret location and the only method according to the rules is to take the subway. It was during rush hour where we mobbed the trains with everyone dressed in white and carrying bulky tables, chairs, and picnic baskets to a secret location and this year was at the Lincoln Center. When everyone finally settled down with tables and decorations set up, everyone was in awe. It was visually spectacular. To witness and experience a gathering of 3,000 strangers from all over the city for a giant picnic at Lincoln Center is one of many things that makes New York City so special.
I must say I ate really well this past year and when I step onto the scale it reflects that. But as the saying goes, life is short and if it looks good, eat it! Part of growing up is through exploring and doing things that is out of our comfort zone and experiencing changes and events. This past year, our family welcomed a new addition to the Yeung family, Allyson Nora Yeung, I jet set to the South and across the sea and have also experienced and witnessed how fragile humanity can be when Hurricane Sandy hitted and attending to two funerals. But I also witnessed how resilient humanity can be, when tragedy hits people come together to support each other and give each other condolences that creates a ripple effect. That is what food does, it is beyond the trend, the popularity and perfecting the craft but the impact food has to bring people together because frankly, everyone needs to eat whether in good or bad times. Thank you to everyone who shared a meal with me in 2012. Happy holidays and to a healthy happy new year! Cheers!