Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel, Events, New York City Eats

2015 Year in Food Review

Food Collage 2015_3

“I’ll have the usual.”  Maybe its a sign that I am getting old or as my friend tells me, I know what I want. 2015 marks my final year in my twenties. I’ve noticed my eating habit very often included the restaurants I have already been to and I would order my usual.  There’s the tonkatsu ramen at Ramen Setagaya, grilled chicken bowl of pho at Thai Son, brunch at Cafe Mogador and my guilty pleasure carnitas burrito at Chipotles. In a city like New York City with so many cuisine options, the convenience of ordering food at your finger tips and the constantly opening and closing of restaurants that keeps the dining scene exciting makes it difficult to limit to any one restaurant as a repeat. 2015 year in food certainly had some patterns.  I found myself eating various interpretation of ramen, fried chicken sandwich, tacos, Middle Eastern food, the contemporary smoked salmon bagel or is it a lox bagel?  Here is my annual mouthwatering recap of restaurants and cafes I know I will return to soon:

:: MAMAN ::
Among the cute, cozy cafes, Maman in Soho opened in Fall 2014 is a new addition to that list and really hits the spot.  The interior of the cafe is rustic chic inspired by French boulangerie with blue and white floral tiles that is also used on their disposable cups which is too pretty to throw away.  During my visit last winter, I had their lavender hot chocolate which lavender anything in food may not be suitable for all taste buds but the floral taste and bitter sweet chocolate is surprisingly a nice balance. Maman also serves no fuss takeaway meals that includes salads, quiches, and rotisserie chicken and is perfect for the busy New Yorker on the go. Since their Soho location open, Maman has expanded and can now be found in Tribeca, Greenpoint and Toronto, including their offshoot rotisserie chicken takeaway place Papa Poule which is still on my list of places to visit.

:: BAR PRIMI ::
Chef Andrew Carmellini of NoHo Hospitality Group, Bar Primi is the reincarnation of this corner Bowery restaurant, formerly the beloved restaurant Peels. With the rise of gluten intolerance and for some people who choose to be gluten-free is missing out on one of the best squid ink pastas.  Bar Primi, squid ink campanelle is worth breaking the rules. With generous portions of crab meats blended into the pasta and with a subtle hint of fresh red chili pepper.  It is a reminder of how delicious and complex the flavors are for a simple pasta dish when it is done well.  It’s true when they say, “Once you go black you can’t go back.” I should also mention the baguette at Lafeyette their sister restaurant is also exceptional.

:: RUSS & DAUGHTERS + BLACK SEED BAGEL + MAIDEN LANE ::
New York City classic breakfast, smoked salmon or lox cream cheese bagel has made a comeback in recent years and this year the bagel game is strong.  There is the legendary, family owned and operated for over 100 years, Russ & Daughters. Their deli remains a quintessential New York experience. Order the lox bagel with the works which includes tomato, onions, capers with thinly sliced choice of fresh wild salmon is truly the breakfast of champions.  There are the new kids on the block, Black Seed Bagel and Maiden Lane both open their second or third locations in Manhattan this year, also serves smoked salmon bagels.  Black Seed Bagel is a take on the Montreal bagel. The bagel is delicious on its own but by all means go all out on on their signature sandwiches, the smoked salmon is highly recommended.  Maiden Lane known for their tin fish and bar also serves an excellent smoked salmon bagel on a hip Baz Bagel.  The best thing about a bagel is it will last for at least for two meals or of course sharing is an option with someone special.  Sadelle, you’re on my 2016 list.

:: KABAB KING ::
What I noticed in my recent visit to Jackson Heights is the format of the restaurants.  There is the cafeteria style for takeaways on the ground floor and above is a banquet hall version which is brilliant. It is a way to provide food accessible for all and for any occasion. I was invited to my sister’s friends dinner at Kabab King. From the name you guess it they’re known for their kababs.  The restaurant has an extensive menu of Middle Eastern style kababs, traditional Indian naan and biryani to Chinese haaka noodles. The customers range from families, seniors, men and then there was us.  Imagine children running around, while waiters carrying trays of lassi and men tearing up a stack of naan while a serious game of cricket was on television. Platters of food are served family style, beef, chicken, lamb kababs, goat biryani, lamb chops, curries and  stews. Every dish was bold in flavors and a feast meant for a king.

:: HOT KITCHEN SICHUAN STYLE ::
Queens was named No. 1  tourist destination in U.S.A in Lonely Planet this past year.  It’s the borough of new immigrants where they bring their exotic flavors which is usually authentic and a lot more affordable.  Hot Kitchen Sichuan Style in Flushing is an example and is the new restaurant that has taken over formerly known as Little Pepper.  I came here recently after a day at Spa Castle and had hot and sour soup, mapo tofu, lamb cumin, stirred fried string beans and Sichuan chicken. Every dish was delicious, seasoned well and soulful.  If you can endure the heat and spiciness, a couple of sweat bullets wouldn’t hurt then Hot Kitchen Sichuan Style is worth the trip.

:: GOA TACO  + EMPELLON AL PASTOR ::
I was first introduced to authentic tacos served in soft tortilla oppose to the hard shell at Tehuitzingo , a hole in the wall deli in Hell’s Kitchen.  Fast forward to 2015, everyone with the desire to sell food seems to be selling tacos because it is a lucrative food business and very often translates to awful tacos.  Goa Taco is not one of those and has taken a traditional Mexican dish and reinvent it with an Indian twist.  Instead of a tortilla soft or hard shell, it is served on a flaky paratha flatbread.  The fillings are Indian inspired as well, stuffed with paneer, masala chickpeas and there are the more Westernized ingredients options like butternut squash and kale. There is also Empellon Al Pastor in Alphabet City, thanks to my friend who brought me here, I am now addicted.  Al Pastor is a  Mexican taco meets Lebanese shawarma, the best of both worlds. The pork is spit-roasted, a common technique for lamb shawarma and is delicately, thinly sliced onto a house made tortilla and is topped with some pineapples for an acidic kick. This technique was introduced by Lebanese immigrants to Mexicans and is a great example of why immigration and cultural diffusion is awesome when great food meets.

:: FUKU + DELANEY CHICKEN SANDWICH ::
There is no shortage of fried chicken in New York City and the fried chicken sandwich seems to be the star of 2015 and it is only the beginning. Chef David Chang of Momofuku empire introduced his fried chicken sandwich with Fuku. Visually, the fried chicken and bun ratio is intended to be out of proportion and those on low carb diet may prefer it including myself.  There is the new fried chicken with Chef Daniel Delaney’s, Delaney Chicken.  The fried chicken and bun ratio is less or more equal with Delaney Chicken sandwich and it is a little slightly more seasoned with mayo, hot sauce and pickles which creates more substance. The fried chicken sandwich as I recalled was juicy and the bun was large enough to hold the grease.  A fried chicken sandwich is certainly not the everyday ordinary meal but for those who loves fried chicken like I do then it is the best item added to the fried chicken repertoire.

:: LOLO’S SEAFOOD SHACK ::
Labor Day weekend unofficially marks the end to Summer days. With the long weekend and on a tight budget, a staycation is ideal.  My friend and I decided to bike our way to High Bridge Park the aqueduct which reopened this year after being closed for the last 40 years.  After making our trip there, we cruised through Harlem and nothing shouts summer more than a seafood shack, at Lolo’s Seafood Shack.  Its perfect for a summer day with their outdoor backyard seating with a bucket of crabs and pitcher of beer.  I had their soft shell crab sandwich served on their signature in -house bread known as Johnnycakes which was a delightful treat to refuel my bike ride home.

:: AFTERNOON TEA a.k.a HIGH TEA at RITZ CARLTON ::
Every girl most likely played tea party as a child.  For my summer staycation my friends and I dressed up for the occasion and spent an afternoon indulging high tea like proper ladies at the Ritz Carlton by Central Park.  High tea occurs between anytime between 2pm – 4pm.  We each got a pot of tea and was presented with a three tier selection of tea sandwiches, scones and petit fours.  The whole experience was relaxing and extravagant.  A royal custom I can get used to.

:: RAFIQI’S ::
The one thing I’m most excited about working in Manhattan again is not only the convenience but Rafiqi’s food cart.  I’ve seen this Halal cart around town before but never really interest me until now. For $5 Rafiqi’s has on the menu options like falafel, gyro and my favorite is the chicken rice platter, covering all the food nutrition a person needs.  For $5 comes with an impressive assortment of vegetables that includes lettuce, tomato, black olives, corn, red onions, cilantro, the legumes from the black beans and the fluffy yellow long grain rice and protein from the chicken topped with the mysterious white sauce. A great meal to power through the work day on a friendly budget.

:: SENOR POLLO ::
Senor Pollo in the East Village specializes in Peruvian rotisserie chicken and on a lazy day or really any day is a great dish for takeaway to add a bit of oomph to any meal. The housemade green sauce or Peruvian Aji sauce is amazingly good. Its traditionally used as a dipping sauce for Peruvian rotisserie chicken and I use it on my cubano sandwiches.  Don’t forget to ask for extra green sauce!

:: LE JARDIN BISTRO ::
Aside from Buvette, there is a lack of good French restaurants in New York City. When my friend suggested Le Jardin Bistro because they had escargots on the menu, I had to go!  My friends and I went there in mid- June shortly before it permanently closed.  Le Jardin Bistro had all the classic French dishes, cassoulet, coq au vin, bouillabaisse, steak and frites it was like eating out of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook, a very home-style French cooking.  The restaurant located on Avenue C had a second level with a beautiful patio and during our meal there it was magically lit by natural sunset.  Dining at Le Jardin Bistro felt like miles away from the city and this gem will surely be missed.

2015 was off to a rather slow start.  I was motivated to find a new job and while I did, one of the biggest highlight was celebrating my big sister’s wedding day.  As the Maid of Honor I had the pleasure of hosting and cooking for a group of her friends with a pig themed bridal shower. With the help of another bridesmaid, we spent a month planning and a week shopping for the menu which included pork belly tacos, pulled pork sandwiches, pigs in a blanket, bacon pesto pasta salad, vegetable crudites, and charcuterie plate. I think it was the breakthrough moment for the food business I have envisioned for years that it could possibly become a reality.  The twenties was about exploring, educating myself through food, trial and error and more importantly having fun. Here’s to 2016 and to turning 30 – bring it on!  Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!  xo

 

 

 

 

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Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel, Events, New York City Eats

2014 Year in Review

2014 eats_text

photos taken with instagram @iluvpotato

“Nothing is achieved without effort.” 2014 has been a milestone. It was not easy, starting the year and on my birthday being unemployed. But it was an opportunity to take the time to rejuvenate, rethink, and rediscover the city I grew up in and reviewing my personal goals. A transition was exactly what I needed and ever since I have moved out living on my own in an exciting, evolving part of New York City I hardly knew. I also settled into a new job with healthcare and after 4 years it was the perfect timing for a trip to Japan. While I did all of the above, it was the first half of the year during my unemployment when I was able to slow down and leisurely enjoy a meal without the weekend crowds and without the urgency of going back to work or eating at my work desk. Dining out was therapy with the company of friends to help me get through what would have been a stagnant year. Here is my annual top 12 from 2014:

:: TASTE TALKS ::
I was unexpectedly invited to Brooklyn’s Taste Talks early this Fall via OpenTable. I have been fortunate through my previous work to have been to a number of food events but it was for the first time and hopefully not my last through my work as a foodblogger where I was invited to a food event. Taste Talks is a weekend festival celebrating New York City food culture and media. I was only able to attend the second portion, the All-star BBQ at the East River State Park. It was a nicely organized group of intriguing chefs and restaurants currently in New York City. Each chef participant exhibit their interpretation of barbeque. My favorites were from Chef Ivan Orkin from Ivan Ramen- grilled duck hearts, Chef Jonathan Wu from Fung Tu – Pig head salad and Chef Rob Newton from Nightingale 9 – barbeque duck which all had an Asian inspired touch to their dishes.

:: MAIALINO ::
Moving out from my parents has been the biggest step. To celebrate this milestone, I took my parents to Maialino for a 3-course lunch during restaurant week. It was by far one of the best restaurant for restaurant week I have been to and a great spot to bring parents to. My dad being a retired chef / restuaurant owner and my mom, a vegetarian, homecook but somehow still manage to season meat dishes really well are both really hard to please when it comes to dining out. Maialino, nailed it. The ambiance of the restaurant was appropriate and service was exceptional. The food by executive chef Nick Anderer is rustic, refined Italian and the olive oil cake is a must. It is why Danny Meyer’s restaurants continues to have the reputation and the respect the food industry has for him as a restauranteur and his team’s craft.

:: BOBWHITE LUNCH & SUPPER COUNTER ::
Alphabet City remains to be a less known part of Manhattan or a part we recalled in the musical Rent. Tompkins Square Park for instance has transformed to a dog loving park and the neighborhood is home to many community gardens and the new St.Mark’s bookstore. It is also a neighborhood with a couple of awesome fried chicken options. I discovered Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter while on the elevator. The restaurant is very small with limited seating but the bar counter is my preferred spot, even with a group of friends. They have a fried chicken supper for four that includes sides and biscuits. A low key spot and has quickly become a favorite of mine in a new neighborhood I am excited to call home.

:: CONG LY ::
For cheap eats in New York City, you can always count on Chinatown. One of my favorite cuisine is Vietnamese for a bowl of pho, sandwiches, or spring rolls. For a very long time, Thai Son was my go to spot until I stepped foot into Cong Ly one day and since then haven’t been anywhere else. It is a family owned spot and a restaurant you can linger as long as desired over a bowl of pho. Other than their configuration of tables, which I am tempted to rearrange, the food is delicious, inexpensive and comforting.

:: BAKERI ::
I made a few visits to Bakeri this year. A small café in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with an assortment of cookies, freshly baked rustic breads, pastries and several savory options. The décor of the café and choices of ceramics and silverwares is one of many reasons why I keep going back but mainly because of their lavender shortbread paired with a cup of latte – every girl and gent treat. Bakeri has since expanded a second location in Greenpoint, which I have yet to visit. In the meantime, it is worth heading across the East River.

:: LOBSTER JOINT ::
This year marked my 10 years High School reunion, in addition to an impromptu mini middle school reunion at the Lobster Joint on the Lower East Side. After 14 years, it’s amazing to reunite with friends and to be able to casually catch up where we left off. The Lobster Joint on the Lower East Side sadly recently closed but their Greenpoint location remains open. It had a great happy hour with a wide selection of beer, wine, and affordable, pretty delicious fried oysters, shrimps and lobster rolls sliders. It will be missed.

:: HOMETOWN BARBEQUE & STEVE’S AUTHENTIC KEY LIME PIE ::
World Cup and barbeque at Red Hook’s Hometown doesn’t get any better on a hot summer day and is how we celebrate Father’s day. The place is only a ferry ride away from Lower Manhattan and a few blocks from Ikea. Hometown Barbeque is as good as any Southern, Texas barbeque and the food is presented on butcher paper, the authentic way. For dessert, save room and head over to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie. The graham cracker crust and the amount of citrus is a nice complement after a heavy barbeque meal.

:: FRENCH LOUIE + BUTTERMILK CHANNEL ::
Two is better than one. Some of the sister restaurants I went to this year included: Freeman’s + Isa and The Fat Radish + The East Pole. Rosemary also opened Claudette, which will be on my list for 2015. Read more on my review on some of the listed restaurants on Brunch. Buttermilk Channel has a cult following and it is likely to be busy even on a rainy, Monday evening which is when I went. On the contrary their sister restaurant, French Louie is far more mellow. The outdoor backyard dining space is probably the reason why I would go back. It is hard to believe it is Brooklyn because it’s damn pretty.

:: MAK’S NOODLE ::
It has been over twenty years since I have been to Hong Kong and the city is glowing and the food culture is astounding. Sorry New York City, but Hong Kong is the new city that never sleeps because its non-stop eating. Mak’s Noodle is an example of what a Michelin Star restaurant taste like without a need for reservation and without splurging. With only a few items on the menu, the wonton noodle soup is the signature dish. The wontons are silky with the perfect ratio of shrimp to pork filling and the handmade noodles are refined submerged in a tasty broth. The bowls are petite but ultimately satisfying.

:: NISHIKI MARKET ::
In the heart of Kyoto, Japan, Nishiki Market is a long strip of various food vendors or also known as food heaven. A taste of everything Kyoto has to offer and surprisingly the best pickles and fermented food I have ever had. There are specialty items to take home and small bites like tofu doughnuts, soymilk ice cream, onigiri, octopus on skewers, rice crackers, and all the samples you can indulge on. I miss the warm welcome of irasshaimase and the hospitality of the Japanese culture. More on Japan in a future post.

:: HONG KONG AIRPORT ::
The Hong Kong Airport food court is amazing. On our way back to New York City from Japan, we had a layover at the Hong Kong airport and enough time to eat some more delicious Cantonese Chinese food. The challenging part is narrowing down to which one. The Hainese chicken rice dish and Penang style rice noodles was unlike anything I had in an airport and frankly with the limited amount of days spent in Hong Kong, it was one of the best meals we had.

:: PICNIC ::
Summer went by far too quick this year. At one point I was juggling 4 projects and finalizing the apartment was very stressful. One fun activity I did manage to pull together with the help of my sister was an outdoor vegetarian friendly picnic. I made a mushroom, asparagus quiche, quinoa kale salad, a platter of crudités with garlic labneh and pita and homemade lemonade. I have a long way and a lot work to do to become a professional chef and have no means or interest in becoming a chef. What I find most satisfying and joy is creating the menus, preparation and organization aspect. The picnic was a preview of what I am sure will be more of in 2015 – potlucks, picnics, and gatherings. More news on that next Spring.

“Without effort nothing is achieved.”  Food keeps me going, it’s an endless discovery and I am excited to start a new chapter in my new home in this diverse city where you don’t have to travel far to get a bowl of ramen and a lox bagel.  As always, thanks to those who shared a meal, their positive energy, laughter, tears, words of wisdom and the kind support from readers, making 2014 a memorable year. Happy trails and to a fruitful New Year!

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Events, New York City Eats

summer has only begun…

Summer of 2011 has been eventful so far and I admittedly love it!   It’s always been one of my most dreaded season of the year because I do not do well with heat, humidity and  did I mention summer in New York City rancid smell is unbearable.  This may sound depressing to some people but the only thing I ever looked forward to during summer is longer daylights and juicy watermelon.   Since working for a non-profit local, regional farmer’s market, New Amsterdam Market, I’ve been enlightened and introduced to many amazing food, from fresh seasonal produce to dining at restaurants who cooks and source ingredients mindfully.

Things I ate at the market today 7.10.2011 includes:

Maple Sugar on Pretzel Stick Cotton Candy from Liddabit Sweets 

Sour Cherry Soda from P& H Soda & Co.

Avocado Ice Cream from La Newyorkina

Mast Brothers Chocolate Chocolate Cookie from Blue Bottle Coffee

And a specially made a BOMB Mi (Chef Scott Bridi’s interpretation of a Vietnamese Bahn Mi with handmade pate and pork rilette, cilantro, sriracha mayo, and pickled garlic scape ) from Brooklyn Cured. – it’s da bomb!  yeah Breuklen

In addition the market highlights a lot of fresh, vibrant and seasonal produce.  Today was a  fruit day.  I end the day with  5 types of fruits to carry home and perfect for any fruit salad, jam, tart, yogurt, honey…  Or simply enjoy the fruit on its own with a gentle wash under running cold water.

Blueberry from Flying Fox

Hand picked apricots and blueberries from Flying Fox

Peaches and sour cheeries from Toigo Orchards

And the smallest plums I have ever held and tasted from Do Re Me Farms

I am fascinated by the abundance of fruits and the variety that grows in the NY State and in the Northeast region.  The vastness and richness of what our region provide is a gem and we need to appreciate it more and it starts by supporting and eating local.  Come say hello at New Amsterdam Market.  Every Sunday 11am -4pm near the Old Fulton Fish Market.  South Street,  (Between Beekman St & Peck Slip)

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I apologize I have not been writing as diligently as I like to but all that will change soon or at least that is my goal.   As a recap of my summer thus far :

Rockaway Taco: Fish Taco and Chorizo with Guac Taco

7. 9. 2011 – Sunbathing at Far Rockaway Beach and a bite at Rockaway Taco with friends.  Far Rockaway is an example of gentrification as it continues to with new restaurants and food concession opens on the boardwalk.   The neighborhood feels less threatening, much safer and a lot more trendier than 2003.  And the beach is fairly clean comparably to any beach within New York City with waves suit for a surfer.

7. 2. 2011 – Hiking and foraging for mushrooms at Bear Mountain in the Hudson Valley region with family.  My mom has her eyes on fungi.  She spotted a number of different mushrooms which we only photographed and left it untouched in the wild. 2 years later the Appalachian trail which cuts through  here from Maine to Georgia have completed building steps along the trail making the hike extra leisure and easy but still mesmerizing to walk through with tranquil sounds of nature.

6. 29. 2011: Celebrated my awesome mom’s 55th birthday at a vegetarian Korean restaurant, Hangawi,  with an elaborate menu.  The decor of the restaurant transports you to Korea and the floor seating design will make anyone sitting in lotus position look like a master yogi.  What I enjoyed most was to eat barefooted as it is an dining etiquette.

6. 28. 2011:  Shake Shack  now closer to home.  Visited their newest outpost in Financial District.  Shroom burger is the best option for any vegetarians.  Wash it down with  a milkshake or concrete!

6. 24. 2011:  Used my novice oyster shucking skills at my friend Anneliese’s birthday home-cooked party.  On the birthday menu included East Coast Oysters, Seafood Paella, Greenmarket tossed salad, baguette with cheese and quince (YUM), and Adirondack ice cream affogato!

Radegast Hall & Biergarten: Pretzel, Grilled Sausages, Sauerkrauts and Fries

6. 23. 2011:  Took advantage of the free East River Ferry from Pier 11 to North 6 Williamsburg to celebrate first week of summer solstice with friends at Radegast Hall & Biergarten with draft beers and sausages and sauerkrauts.  Pretzel is freshly baked and soft with unique condiments on the side.  A great comfort dish is their Spatzel with gouda cheese, cabbage and Hunter’s bacon like a classic mac n’ cheese.

Bobo Lamb salad at Edible's Seven Ingredients Festival

6. 18. 2011:  Attended the Edible Local Seven Ingredients event during their Eat, Drink, Local Week.  7 ingredients: Rhubarb, Strawberry, Peas, Chives and Green Garlic,  Oyster, Lamb and Yogurt.   Appetizing appetizers all evening long.

6. 9. 2011:  Volunteered at Tasting Table Lobster Rumble (General admission: $130; VIP admission: $250; Volunteered: FREE)  17 different lobster rolls to sample from and all  intrinsically different.  Some lighter than other, other more mayo, more butter, more bun…mmm  I helped two chefs from Boston, MA,  B & G Oysters & Menton to griddle countless numbers of hot dog buns and ate countless of lobster rolls.   The team I helped out B & G Oysters were of course the best!

6. 7. 2011:  Grand Opening restaurant, Casa Nonna Party.   American food meets American Italian food.  Cute petite cup sized milkshakes.

And summer in New York City has only begun…

Addresses:

Casa Nonna ///310 West 38th Street (between 8th & 9th Avenue) New York, NY 10018

Radegast Hall & Biergarten /// 113 N. 3rd Street Brooklyn, NY 11211

Shake Shack /// Multiple locations: 215 Murray Street New York, NY 10282

Hangawai /// 12 East 32nd Street New York, NY 10016

Rockaway Taco /// 95-19 Rockaway Boulevald, New York NY 11693

New Amsterdam Market /// South Street Between Beekman Street & Peck Slip, New York NY 10038

text and images © iluvpotato 2011

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Events, New York City Eats

Just like Grandma’s, Grandmas

For those born in 1986, it’s the year  where we groan we’re a quarter of a century old.  Recently, I went to a movie screening with a demographic survey and I was already out of the age group range from 17 to 24 instead with the age group 25-49, seriously?!  To help us get through the lament of aging, celebrating with friends, family and food is the key.

There’s been a birthday celebration every two weeks.  With my dear friend, Jesse’s birthday this past Friday (March 5th) we celebrated at The Meatball Shop on Lower East Side and we ate meatballs of course!  The Lower East Side  was the neighborhood my parents quickly settled in when they had immigrated to New York City and as they recalled the streets on Orchard or Delancey it was never glamorous.  You can learn the  history of the Lower East Side at the Tenement Museum.  These days the Lower East Side still reminiscence the past through the present cooking of comfort food.  The Meatball Shop is just like your grandmother’s meatballs, though my grandmother is not Italian I can sense if I did have an Italian grandmother, The Meatball Shop will make my grandmother proud.  The restaurant sits probably no more than 50 people with a long communal table and you’re very likely to be seated with strangers next to you.  There was a set of washable pens and a laminated menu and everything on the menu you can customize with a selection of meatballs to go with your choice of sauce to your choice of sides.  I ordered the spicy pork meatballs with spicy meat sauce, yeah!  I was starving so, I ordered a side of risotto and my friend Cynthia highly recommended the mashed potatoes and I love potatoes!  I also went ahead and ordered an ice cream cookie sandwich.  Being that the special ice cream flavor was orange and orange is in it’s peak season I selected that flavor with my choice of cookie, meringue.  I mention the customize your menu but unfortunately not everything is customizable, the waitress thought I was weird, meringue with orange flavored ice cream…honestly I find that combination so much more appetizing than their default choice which was shortbread with orange.  Anyhow, we came for the meatballs and the meatballs we can all agree across the table that it was satisfying.  Each meatball bowl came with 4 meatballs and a foccacia breadstick, we traded each ball and I got a taste of Jesse’s chicken meatball with pesto and Cynthia’s and Michelle’s beef meatball.  It’s so great to have alternative meatballs to choose from.  They were all amazingly consistently sized meatballs and the texture of the meatballs tasted like high quality, healthy meat.  Ashley had a great looking meatball brioche sandwich with a side of delicious fresh arugula salad.  The mashed potatoes as Cynthia had quote and quote “THE BEST!” is THE BEST as far as I can recall.  It tasted like a  baked potato, except no fuss with the skin peeling.  Cleverly in the mashed potatoes were a little bits and pieces of the potato skin in the mashed potatoes and a dash of chive garnished.  It was incredibly light for a potato dish.  We ended with ice cream cookie sandwich dessert with a BYOC (Bring your own candle) and I had tried lighting the candle with the votive candle on the table but accidentally extinguished it.   GO ME!  The waiter kindly lit the candle for us but the cookie was too darn hard, he used a knife to poke a hole through it for the candle to stay put.  Happy Birthday Jesse!

Rewinding back two Fridays ago, February 18th, we celebrated Cynthia’s 25th also in the Lower East Side, revisiting my Pancake binge experience from last year’s pancake month at the Clinton Street Bakery. Somehow, I was not very hungry that day which was very unusual for me and my friends because I am always hungry.  I wanted to try their famous award winning fried chicken or the Maryland crabcakes but I was in the mood for soup and I had opted out on only the tomato-fennel soup with a goat cheese grilled cheese sandwich, which sounds amazing right about now on a rainy day.  I wanted to strategize and did not want to overstuffed myself with the blueberry pancakes and the sides of collard greens and sweet potato fries and biscuits.   My strategy managed to sort of worked, I was still stuffed despite my entree was a soup but my friends on the other hand were all diagnosed with food coma.

Flashback to two weeks earlier, we party out for Jane’s 25th in Koreatown at Pocha 32.  It’s a 2nd floor level restaurant with fish netting and beer bottle caps and random polaroid photos of customers as decor.  Street food is an integral part of the Asian cuisine culture and Pocha 32 brings that scene from Korea to indoor Ktown, NYC.  I’ve been here 3 years ago and was impressed with their squid sizzling platters and the watermelon soju was what really lured me in trying the place out but is not really worth it.  3 years later, the food had disappointingly degraded.  We had ordered a total of 6 distinctive dishes off the menu but somehow it did not appear or taste anything the menu had described it.  If not all at least most of the dishes were slathered with the red sauce, gochujang.  The combination for most dishes were bok choy, squid, and rice cake.  It was not bland for sure and Korean food is ever hardly bland but for most it was over poweringly spicy.  The best dish was the seafood pancake and to help wear off the spiciness that lingered in my mouth, for dessert Ashley bought an awesome box of generously sized macaroons I have ever seen, the size of a burger.

photo taken by: Angela Chen, thanks Angela!

Finally, skipping back two more weeks, a total of six weeks ago, January 28th I had celebrated my 25th with my friends at Brooklyn Bowl. Boy, I’m the most senior in my group.  Oddly, we didn’t bowl since we were too busy eating.  Aside from potatoes, I love fried chicken and bowling and I heard Blue Ribbon is one of the best fried chicken and one of the best it is.  The batter was light, crispy and it was not greasy- which is catered to be bowling friendly. We also ordered the rock n’ roll cheese fries, fried calamari, a greek salad,  an artichoke mac n’ cheese along with the basket of fried chicken.  The food was firework spectacular for a bowling alley/ bar but I was really disappointed with the cover charge fee and the hospitality with the audacity of wanting to charge $2 per person for bringing our own cake (Thanks for the strawberry shortcake Jesse!), plates and forks which I found was outrageous and upsetting,  I almost exploded but eventually the waitress waived it, yeah that’s right!  Thanks to Amy, Angela + Will, Anita, Anneliese, Ashley, Cassandra, Cynthia, Eno+ Tom,  Jane, Jesse, Lauren, Michelle, and Sandra  who came out to Brooklyn on a frigid, snowpocalypse evening.

Aging is not all that depressing, right?  Sort of, well, birthdays is a time to reflect our growth as a person and a celebration of people who surrounds us that has established into sincere friendship.  It’s also a great excuse to dine out.  Next week, we get a taste of  brunch, one of my favorite meals of the week and Ashley’s too.  To being 25 young, cheers.

The Meatball Shop /// 84 Stanton Street New York, NY 10002

Clinton Street Bakery /// 4 Clinton Street New York, NY 10002

Pocha 32 /// 5 W 32nd St # 2 New York, NY 10001

Brooklyn Bowl & Blue Ribbon ///61 Wythe Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11211

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Events, New York City Eats

A Ferry, A Bus, a subway ride for a cup of coffee

The latest best adaption from the West Coast is not just any cup of coffee but Blue Bottle coffee in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Blue Bottle Coffee Bar & Roaster opened a New York City location in Spring 2010.  Originated from San Francisco and established their business from the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s market.  I had revolved our day trip with the mission of getting a cup of drip brewed from Blue Bottle Coffee with the company of my hot yoga and food enthusiast friend, Cynthia Wang.

10.16.2010 (11:00am) : Cynthia and I met at the the Hester Street Fair for the New York Magazine Grub Street Food Festival. Located in the Lower East Side, this very jam packed event celebrated local New York City chefs, restaurants and small food business around the 5 boroughs.  With over 30 food vendors from Brooklyn, Kickstand Coffee & Pies n’ Thighs to Lower East Side, Pain D’ Avignon & An Choi.  So many mouth watering choices.  What caught our eyes and appetite was first Nijiya Market presenting The Rook, a Japanese gourmet catering serving taiyaki, a Japanese pancake traditionally with red bean paste ($3).  The Rook was serving unusual fillings this included: cheese & olive oil and red bean & cream cheese.  They were pouring the pancake batter over a beautiful cast iron fish mold and in few minutes added fillings to a batch with sausage & cheese in which is what we had.  It’s definitely a children’s favorite and a nostalgic treat for adults.

One of the best things eaten at the Grub Street Food Festival, Cynthia and I agree is Il Buco’s Panna Cotta with aged balsamic vinegarette (for only $1)  Panna cotta is essentially a pudding in Italian with cream, milk, sugar and gelatin.  Il Buco’s panna cotta was creamy in texture and the balsamic vinegarette, the tart and tangy contrast nicely with the semi-sweetness of the panna cotta.  I can eat several of these.  There were plenty of samples  around like  bacon marmalade from literally they stand by their name and call themselves Bacon Marmalade to An Choi’s pickled pigs ears which was deliciously seasoned.  While coming in we spotted these beautiful handmade twisted pretzel from Sigmund Pretzelshop.   Cynthia and I shared a truffle oil cheddar cheese pretzel ($3) with homemade mustard seed and beet sauce on the side.  As beautiful as the pretzels looked, the pretzels were absolutely fresh, the mustard sauce out shined the pretzel.

Finally, we settled for Purple Yam for lunch.  Long lines for this particular food vendor is always a sign of good food.  Purple Yam a Filipino  restaurant in Brooklyn was serving a Filipino kind of soul food, chicken and ribs in a signature apple vinegar marinade and sauce over what more appropriate than purple rice ($5).  The Philippines known for their roasted pig, Lechon without a doubt the ribs was juicy and tender and the chicken meat both deboned nicely without any mess.  Purple Yam was also serving a pork belly in steamed bun ($4) which the pork again is equally as delicious as David Chang’s pork buns from Momofuku Ssams Bar.

12:30pm: With our tummy filled we made our way to Pier 11 to catch a ferry ride to Red Hook, Brooklyn.  Free, courtesy of Ikea.  Before the ferry ride, we made a beverage detour at a Chinese cafe on Allen Street.  Cynthia was struck by the idea of boiled Coca Cola with ginger and lemon she decided to have one.  Apparently, hot Coca Cola with ginger and lemon is a remedy for preventing a cold or to fight a cold, FYI.

We caught the 1pm ferry and arrived to Added-Value, a Redhook Farm for their Halloween Harvest with fresh produce for sale all locally grown in Redhook,  apples from Red Jacket Orchard, pumpkin picking, and a live band of blues.

2:00pm: We then took the free shuttle bus (courtesy of Ikea) to Smith & 9th Street to take the G train to make our way to Fort Greene, Brooklyn to do a little vintage goods browsing at the Brooklyn Flea. This outdoor flea market is one of the best in the city with many inspirational objects dated back to early 1900s.  It’s a treasure for anyone who is looking to remodel their apartment to artist who needs some inspirational references or if you’re a little nostalgic a  gift for someone to a treat for yourself.

4:45 pm: Our final destination, Blue Bottle Coffee Bar & Roaster in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Located on 160 Berry Street, you can smell the coffee beans roast from a block away and this is a fact!  The space used to be a garage and probably a warehouse of some sort but the interior space with only three bar seats and a standing counter top is elegant and edgy.  Blue Bottle is not your typical coffee shop with big arm chairs and puffy couches, it is meant for a quick and snappy experience but you are of course more than welcome to stay to relax, most likely standing or if you’re lucky sit by the bar and be mesmerized as the barista pulls an espresso shot.  There is a beautiful Siphon coffee brewed method on display and further back is an amazing space where Blue Bottle roast their own coffee on-site!  The menu is very straightforward and as much as I wanted a latte or everything, I can only tolerate one cup of coffee during late afternoon.  I chose the drip brewed coffee house blend ($2.75).  The coffee is prepared individually from precise and accurate measurement in grams of coffee beans to grind and ratio to temperature of hot boiling water and is poured over the coffee grind and patiently drips through a Blue Bottle filter.   An individually cup of brewed coffee roughly took less than 60 seconds.  The aroma was fresh and the first sip was intensely bold and an instant awakening.  Making Blue Bottle a worth while outer borough coffee destination.

See my slide show, an adventurous day trip  from Lower East Side to Red Hook to Fort Greene to Williamsburg and back to Lower East Side in all in 8 hours.  Take this itinerary, just wear comfortable shoes.

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Addresses:

Added- Value/// 370 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Blue Bottle Coffee /// 160 Berry Street Brooklyn NY

Brooklyn Flea/// 176 Lafayette Ave (btw. Clermont + Vanderbilt Ave.) Brooklyn, NY 11238

Hester Street Fair /// Hester St New York, NY 10002

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Events, New York City Eats

Le Grand Fooding & Weekly Eats at the New Amsterdam Market: Home/Made, Early Bird Cookery & Do Re Me Farm

April Bloomfield The Spotted Pig, Le Grand Fooding

STUFFED.  On Friday Sept 24, my sister and I went to the 2nd annual Le Grand Fooding at PS.1 MoMA.  This year with a thematic theme: throw down San Francisco vs. New York City chefs / West coast vs. East coast.  With chefs including from New York City David Chang from Momofuku, April Bloomfield from The Spotted Pig and chefs from San Francisco Laurence Jossel from Nopa, James Syhabout from Commis.  This theme derived from David Chang’s comment earlier  ” $#*! every restaurant in San Francisco is just serving figs on a plate with nothing on it.  Do something with our food.” – Look who’s talking?  Unfortunately, I did not get around to taste Chang’s Beets, goat cheese, walnuts dish so who am I to judge, but the combination of Beets, goat cheese, and walnuts… how innovative (sarcastically).

Food was spectacular at the Le Grand Fooding though waiting on lines after lines with the cost of our admission was absolutely annoying and disappointing.  I suppose the wait is considerably reasonable in comparison to how some of these participating chefs requires advance reservations for their restaurants up to 6 months to 1 year? -whoo   I was really excited to finally try April Bloomfield’s The Spotted Pig cooking.  The only female chef of the evening.  She created an exclusive dish for the event, cheese inspired a Beef, Bleu D’ Auvergne and Suet Pie.  I mentioned earlier that I don’t eat beef but I’m not a strict no beef diet person and it’s April Bloomfield!  To the fashionista she’s a Diane Von Furtensburg and to the graphic designers she’s a Paula Scherr.  April Bloomfield reinvented the British gastropub cuisine with a sophisticated modern comfort food twist and the Beef, Bleu D’ Auvergne and Suet Pie was amazing!  The Beef, Bleu D’ Auvergne and Suet Pie were served pipping hot from the oven in a average muffin sized tin.  The pie had a quiche and pot pie essence.  With the exterior similar to a quiche topping off with grated  Bleu D’ Auvergne cheese with a swift of Bleu Cheese aroma in the air.  A bite into the Beef, Bleu D’ Auvergne and Suet Pie the braised beef brisket was cooked to tenderness.  The proportion of cheese, crust and beef filling was cooked to perfection with layers of excitement and the taste was flavorful.

Events like Le Grand Fooding needs to be strategized.  We enjoyed April Bloomfield’s pie while on line for Laurence Jossel from Nopa (SF), Wood-grilled Pork ribeye, smoked tomato jam on artisinal bread.  The choice of tomato is very clever as it is one of the most seasonal fruits or vegetable however you like to classify it.  The dish was served bruschetta style on a nicely glazed extra virgin olive oil toasty artisinal bread with a generous  couple of  quarter inched sliced wood-grilled pork ribeye topping with tomato jam.  The tomato jam was excellent and overall it was fresh and every component and every flavored shined.

Next we waited on line in anticipation for the wine and pizza pairing from Pizza Moto (NY) and Pizzaiolo (SF) .  Unsure which was by whom. There was a seasonal heirloom tomato pizza and a calamari pizza.  Both pizza were delicious though I prefer my pizza cheesy and both lacked the cheesiness.  To end the evening, we finished off with James Syhabout from Commis (SF) Scallops with smoked stone fruit emulsion licorice herbs.  The line was the least longest but looks can be deceiving.  Chef Jams Syhabout has the execution all planned out and the scallops were very fresh and meaty.

Several dishes I did not get around to or were disappointingly out of:  David Chang’s Beets, goat cheese, walnuts (NY) ; Rich Torrisi Pickle salad (NY); Jeremy Fox’s Vegetables on a plate (SF) and Robert Newton’s Tennessee-style fried chicken. (NY)

San Francisco or New York City?  Hmm… I was born and raised in New York City and have lived here for over twenty-two years of my life but I also love San Francisco, the one and only west coast city I have gone back more than once and had considered in moving to.  The food in San Francisco is incredible.  San Francisco being closer to the Mexico border and to South America and to the Asian countries, the multicultural flavors are bold and are generally authentic.  Whereas New York City is a greater population of melting pot of multicultural and with the influence of the old inspiring the new creativeness.  Thanks to April Bloomfield’s Beef, Bleu D’ Auvergne and Suet Pie, I would give the title to New York City.  Her dish was awe-inspiring and I always appreciate chefs who cooks their food rather only having their name under their dish.

Goat Cheese on Foccacia Home/Made

To end the week and the final weekend of September 2010 is my weekly eats at the New Amsterdam Market. For this week of Sept 26, I had to try the weekly vendor Brooklyn, Home/Made‘s signature goat cheese on foccacia and at Home/made served coffee brewed by Brooklyn’s Kitten Coffee. The goat cheese spread on foccacia is highly recommended and by far the best chevre cheese I have had or perhaps ever.  The goat cheese is not overly pungent but with the fresh goat cheese taste still in existence and pairing with the freshly baked foccacia bread with the right amount of consistency and thickness is absolutely heavenly delicious.

I sampled the remainder ice cream flavors at the Early Bird Cookery from Cocheton, NY which was Blueberry and the oddly unusual but favorable beer & pretzel.  It was towards the end of the day so the ice cream were not as frozen.  The beer & pretzel flavor an obvious adult ice cream is surprisingly good and will definitely stir up a conversation with the process of developing the beer & pretzel flavor with the vendor just like in those black and white western cowboy films at the saloon with a draft beer and a friendly conversation with the bartender.

At it’s seasonal peak, I bought a bundle of fresh beets from the farmer John Pahucki  Do Re Me Farm located New Hamptons, NY.   I am very excited to attempt in cooking raw beets for the first time.  I usually buy the packaged beets from Trader Joe’s which are convenient, healthy and delicious.  With some advice from local experts I am confident to attempt a better version of David Chang’s beets, goat cheese and walnuts. HA.

Addresses:

New Amsterdam Market/// South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip, New York NY 10271 – near the old Fulton Fish Market.  (Every Sunday 11-4pm, next market is Sunday Oct 3, 2010)

Home/Made /// 293 Van Brunt Street Brooklyn NY 11231

Early Bird Cookery /// Cochecton, NY

Do Re Me Farm/// 342 Maple Avenue New Hampton, NY 10958

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Events, Homemade

Summer Entertaining the Asian Way

How Summer should be…

Asian cuisine is such a broad topic as Asia is one of the largest seven continents.  It is a popular choice of cuisine and widely eaten by Americans.  Just count how many fast food Chinese restaurants there are in the country or how many Spice Thai there are in Manhattan alone.  Yet I feel Asian cuisine is not given enough credit when it comes to educating readers and viewers.  Food Network even cut out the only Asian cuisine show with Ming Tsai.  In many food publications  Asian-American families are not featured enough or even ever featured in sharing how we celebrate seasonal gatherings.

If anyone who knows how to entertain on a hot summer day in July is my Uncle Tim.  His barbques are more than your average burgers and hot dogs but to recognize our American-ess there is pre-brought burgers from Bubba’s and Nathan’s beef frank hot dogs, in which I am not too wild about.  Nonetheless Uncle Tim emphasizes our Chinese heritage and throws in plenty of Asian flavors into his grill.  Uncle Tim is a successful entrepreneur in the restaurant business and has multiple restaurants in the Tri-state area.  If you happen to be in town, stop by at his first born, House of Yeung in Flemington, NJ, the white rice is delicious as it is glazed in vegetable oil.  His family gatherings starts from the minute you enter his house in suburban Flemington, New Jersey.  It starts off with cocktail hour,  with chilled Corona and lime.  More than ordinary hors d’eouvres there are dishes of home cooked fried rice, chow fun, store brought sushi, salad and corn on the cob.  The amount of food feels like it was the actual party when the party really just had started.  Sunset came along and the fire on the grill heated.  Other than burgers and hot dogs,  if any proteins Chinese loves is seafood!  There was grilled tilapia, and what really stood out for the evening was Uncle Tim’s marinated coconut curry shrimps with green peppers and onions, delicious!

From suburban Flemington, New Jersey to the metropolis New York City.  Aunt Yi Mei hosts the most extravagant summer gatherings.  The location is spectacular with Battery Park and Hudson River as the playground, there are plenty of sports activities to do and much  needed to burn off all the calories gained.  Aunt Yi Mei was a former head chef in a Long Island Chinese restaurant and is best known for her marinated cuttlefish.  For the gathering she used Taipan Bakery as a caterer.  Taipan Bakery is better known for their baked goods and cakes.  As of the catering it is Asian fusion with enormous portions of fried rice, beef bolognese pasta, fingered size sandwiches, ham wrapped asparagus, corn in mayonnaise, sushi, and fruit tarts.  In addition, Aunt Yi Mei prepared a few home cooked dishes this included surf and turf ( Tbone steak and lobsters) and shrimps.  She always out does it.

The Asian culture is one of the most family oriented and it is important to continue that tradition regardless how time consumed our society has become with all things plugged habits. Summer is probably my least favorite season of the year with the sticky, humidity and hot weather but cook something refreshing and gather family and/ or friends and you’ll be in good company in life.

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