New York City Eats

In Pursuit of Eating

2011 can be summarized as the year of the oysters.  I even learned to shuck a few, all under the influence from work in planning for an oyster saloon and also the trend in seeing bivalves on the menu and oyster bars opening across New York City.  Sure, they’re great finger food but  oysters was once a New York City delicacy.  It dates back to the 1800s when New York City was once an oyster bed, hence the street names such as Pearl Street and was once commonly eaten by everyone at a very affordable cost and for these reasons it is great oysters are back.  Food connects us to our history and more importantly it connects us with people.  As we come to a close for 2011, below is my annual recap of my favorite finds this year and with the special people I shared a meal with:

Prune

Prune /// Brunch is one of my most favorite meals because I don’t do brunch enough in New York City other than when I go on a road trip so I find it always a treat.  It’s my preferred meal to cook at home during the week when I have the time and besides the wait for brunch in New York City is too damn long.  Rarely, do I ever like to wait in a line for anything but Prune is definitely worth the wait, promise.  For my sister’s 31st birthday (wow!) I treated her and pampered myself and indulged in a 3 hour meal (this includes waiting time).  The place is small which is another reason for the wait.  Renowned chef Gabrielle Hamilton created a creative brunch menu with many methods to cook an egg and is very well done and exceptionally delicious,  all for a moderately budget friendly cost.  It’s not your only typical scramble or sunny side but on the Prune brunch menu, a fried egg in Monte Cristo and coddled egg baked in a ramekin with savory chickenI’m looking forward to my return soon to try the dutch style pancakes.  Perfect to fuel up for a Saturday afternoon walk from the East Village to Central Park to explore the New York City’s Autumn foliage.

Diner

Diner ///  Every well known poet, writer, artist has a spot where inspirations are drawn from, for my boss it might probably be Diner. I went to Diner twice this year and it has become one of my most favorite New American restaurants in New York City.  The first time with my friend Anneliese for dinner where I ordered a grass-fed beef burger and the second time lunch with my boss, Robert.  I’ve only learned about Diner through Robert since he had given the restaurant rave reviews as a pioneer in the food industry and I cannot agree more.  To order at Diner, you must listen very carefully as the waiters recites to you and as soon as I heard fried chicken sandwich, I had to have that.  I have a serious achilles heel for fried chicken and partially it runs in our family genes as I recalled my grandfather would always snuck in the back kitchen with fried chicken wings which my grandmother would prevent him in having due to health concerns.  The sandwich came with a pickled farm fresh egg, ramp mayo, lettuce, boneless fried chicken on a brioche roll and fries.  To finish off the meal, a seasonal bartlett pear tart.  A delightful, local, and amazing lunch was where Robert had drawn a sketch of the last market of the year on the table cloths of Diner.   Later that afternoon, we had a personalized tour at Mast Brothers Chocolate and that evening I attended a free book signing and talk by Michael Pollan at Barnes & Nobles !  It was the ultimate foodventure.

Brooklyn Bowl /// This year all my 86′ year born friends turned 25 and a making through a quarter of a life is rough which calls for a celebration!  Being born in January, I inaugurated the year of birthday celebration at Brooklyn Bowl since I love fried chicken and bowling, there are no place other than at Brooklyn Bowl that has both.  This fall I joined a bowling league that met once a week through NYC Social Sports Club which is not meant to be competitive at all but a great place to meet new people and throw a ball at pins at the end of a stressful work day which I have revisit Brooklyn Bowl multiple times since my birthday.

The Green CupParker Pie ///  In late March this year, my colleagues and I made a trip to Vermont and had one of the most memorable and well-fed supply of cheese, beer, and maple syrups.  It was important to make these behind the scenes food production tours to witness small food start ups are creating and are in the movement to change our food systems.  During our visit there we were recommended by our local friends in Vermont  to both restaurants: Parker Pie and The Green Cup.   I was amazed to find amazingly delicious pizza in Vermont.  Parker Pie had a wide selection of creative and appropriate topping like local maple syrup and local cheeses from Vermont dairy farms.  The weekend trip had concluded with a farewell brunch at The Green Cup which similarly to Prune is heavily focused on egg dishes.  I was sad to learn, The Green Cup was devastated by Hurricane Irene in August and are currently seeking for donation of help to get its feet back on.  To help please visit: http://www.greencupvt.com/

Mermaid Oyster Bar

Mermaid Oyster Bar /// Oysters are suppose to  be eaten in the months with “R” but heck with that, at Mermaid Oyster Bar it’s happy hour & half every day 7 days a week from 5:30pm -7pm and if you say “yelp” you get a free appetizer, though the limited time special offer is now over.  Regardless, this place is a lot of fun with a group of friends.  My friend Sandra had recommended and it was a nice Friday night dine out spotI especially like the touch, ending the meal with a surprise chocolate pudding and a conversation piece, fortune miracle fish.

Radegast Hall & Biergarten /// Besides oysters, this was the year in which I have consumed the most German food.  Of all the three restaurants: Loreley, Heidleburg, I really enjoyed Radegast Hall & Biergarten in Williamsburg, Brooklyn the most. The pretzel is my favorite, soft baked in house with a few condiments presented on a butcher block, made for sharing.  Bratwurst and sausages are grilled and topped over a paper boat of fries and slaw and the best spaetzle which is a German version of mac n’ cheese.  And what kind of beer garden would it be without good beer.  The decor transports you to Medieval times, with long communal tables and benches and truly qualifies to be called as a Hall.

Porchetta /// I rarely eat alone and when I do I am either at work or at home and under the sun by the waterfront when possible.  Meals are meant to be shared with someone but at Porchetta because of limited stool seating and meant to be a carry away restaurant, I was happily satisfy to be eating alone.  Named after the sandwich, I rebelled and went with their special of the day and order a lasagna and a mushroom soup instead which was perfect on a frigid snowy day to make a lunch pit stop.

Hakata Tonton ///  I had to roundup my annual recap with at least one Asian cuisine and that is Hakata Tonton which is Japanese soul food and pork (tonton).  They’re best known for their hot pot dish but frankly I was really disappointed with how shallow the pot was and salty it tasted.  Rather, the appetizers are the real highlights to the meal reminding anyone who has traveled to Asia of late night street food bites. 

Iris Cafe ///  I should have included Iris Cafe on last year’s list when I was introduced to their cheddar bacon biscuit from Iris Cafe by a dear friend, thanks Makalé!  Their plain biscuit with jam is delicious too.  For many who knows me well, one of my aspiration is to own a cafe, well, if I ever do it would very much be similar to Iris Cafe.  The decor, the vibe, the neighborhood, oh the food especially.  Though, I’ve only had their biscuits and the best Americano in the city, I absolutely adore this cafe and lucky it’s occasionally on my errand route.

Cowgirl Seahorse ///  Sometimes  you yearn for bad food and Cowgirl Seahorse near the South Street Seaport might probably be it.  I’ve been there in a record 3x this year.  The draw of returning as a customer is groupon and amazon had good deals and it’s close to work. The beer battered onion rings are scrumptious and cocktail in a mason jar!  Every now and then there are some derogatory themed nights, like “White Trashed Christmas” with whimsical surf, mermaid, fishnet decor.

Oasis ///  I was always curious about this little Middle Eastern carry away/ dine- in restaurant near the L train on the Bedford stop.  Oasis indeed, it reminded me of a Middle Eastern neighborhood in London where I had the best Middle Eastern food ever.  Oasis is good but not quite the best.  Like most, there are the usual falafel and shawarma sandwiches and platters. The highlight was oddly the soup or lately I’ve been very fascinated with soup which is one thing I have grown to love more and more as I get older. The soup tasted like puree lentils or a harissa soup and was tasteful with subtle spices.

2011 has been a rewarding and a busy year. With many experiences, majority work related have broaden my perspective and knowledge on food on many levels.   Many through conversations shared through meals and people I’ve met.  Everyday has been filled with wisdom, thoughtfulness, and creativity in which I am humbly appreciative, thankful for and truly inspired by.

Looking ahead,  I hope to document in my 3rd year of food journal with more food travels (New Orleans, backpacking through Istanbul, Greece Islands and elsewhere) reviews, shared home cooked meals, and in what I am most passionate is to share my latest food finds.  In pursuit of eating,  let the adventure continue.  Wishing everyone a happy new year!  

 

text and images © iluvpotato 2011



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New York City Eats

REAL CHOCOLATE MADE IN BROOKLYN

Above is a photo of me and my family at the Hersey’s chocolate factory, when we visited in 1999 on our way to Washington, DC.  It was on the Chinatown travel agency tour itinerary that my mother had booked.  Hersey’s is a giant American corporation that produces chocolate and quite frankly an American icon and somehow related to the American history component to the itinerary.  Well, that’s my guess.  I was only 13 at the time and had  enjoyed Hersey’s cookies n’ cremes and occasionally a Hersey’s kisses.  I have vague memories of the educational chocolate factory tour ride but do recalled it was given by computer generated pre-recorded videos, giant talking pixie-glass models, with loud children soundtrack in the background and concluding with a photo op to take home, which we did end up purchasing.  Somehow looking back at the website, times have not changed at the Hersey’s Park.

Twelve years later, a different kind of American craft chocolate company is in motion,  known as the Mast Brothers Chocolate.  I was lucky enough to meet the owners recently, the brothers and chocolate makers Rick and Michael Mast.  They have recently expanded in Williamsburg, North 3rd their production facility and wanted to give us a personal tour.  I was rather star strucked, being fans of their work and chocolate already, I felt like Charlie in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory winning the golden ticket.   When I arrived, the staff was creating an assembly line of hand wrapped Almond and Sea Salt Chocolate.  This is not your perception of a sweatshop assembly line but made for efficiency.  The staff was laid back with soul music on the record player, after all we were in Brooklyn and everyone was hard at work with deadline orders to meet.   Each individually hand wrapped with a gold wrapping follow by beautiful textile patterns  paper designed by friends and family of the Mast Brothers.  It was remarkable to see production in action and I really admire how in a world so many occupations relies on advance technology and machinery for efficiency,  there is simply nothing better and more beauty than the personal touch of the human hands.

In the room, many burlap sacks of cacao beans from their recent sailing trip to Dominic Republic piled in the room and where the cacao beans were roasted surprisingly no larger than a home kitchen oven.  The latest holiday flavored chocolate bar with dried cranberries were in the making poured into their signature chocolate grid mold.  Throughout the tour Rick Mast described the process from bean to bar with  joy in his tone of voice, sharing his knowledge, the care, the thought process, of how direct trade cacao can make an impact in our environment.  For instance, the concept of using the skin of the cacao beans after it has been roasted becomes waste but turning that unwanted waste for the local community garden as compost.  It’s brilliant and more business models should be that way.

The next venture Mast Brothers Chocolate is looking into is expanding their line of chocolates with truffles and bon bons and their plans on the next sailing trip for more cacao.   In the meantime, pay a visit to the Mast Brothers Chocolate tasting room or a take a tour of their newly expanded production facility, it may not be given by the brothers themselves but it’s definitely worth it.

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ADDRESSES:

MAST BROTHERS CHOCOLATE /// 105A North 3rd Street  Brooklyn, NY 11249

text and images © iluvpotato 2011

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New York City Eats

Fall is the season to learn something new

What I like about the first day of a new season is the opportunity to start fresh.  The fall season in particular is a good time to reflect but more importantly take those to-do list and put them into action before another year creeps up to you.  Few months ago, I met a Japanese woman and she was writing a guide book on specific neighborhoods in New York City.  She had asked me for some suggestions on places that I would recommend and so I did.  Few weeks later she had took my suggestion and did a coverage at the location and was very pleased.   She had then asked me for more recommendations in which I did not mind and quite frankly I was rather flattered that my opinion mattered and I enjoyed sharing the places I find that are uniquely New York.

This week I finally checked out The Brooklyn Kitchen with a modern day hip butcher shop in the back The Meat Hook.  I went to an afternoon of hard cider making and tasting and history crash course at The Brooklyn Kitchen. Where we were treated with several sips from Farnum Hill and Eve Cider.  My first hard apple cider ever was from Finger Lakes, Bellwether Cider.  Hard apple cider is very much like sparkling apple cider but for the grown ups with the alcohol content.   It was only recently, I’ve begun to notice hard apple cider on the shelves and even at the corner of the bodega store for a less classy version, Woodchuck produced in Middlebury, Vermont.  I bought a bottle for $1.75 and it’s a great Sunday pre-dinner kickback drink with reruns of a television sitcom and a nap is the formula to satisfaction.

The Brooklyn Kitchen, located near the Brooklyn, Queens Expressway is one amazing place.   With a general store atmosphere in the front and upstairs where you can find modern kitchen ware from authentic Le Creuset pots and pans (Made in France not Thailand!), pasta maker, to coffee pour overs.  Another section is a cute touch, their limited quantity of produce, cheeses, and fill your own olive oils.  Right in the back is a butcher shop The Meat Hook with a variety of meats, sausages and charcuteries from local farms.  What makes The Brooklyn Kitchen so well known is their well-designed workshops.  There is a class for just about anything and for anyone as long as you love food.   Upcoming scheduled classes includes pasta making, knife skills, pie making, cheese making, you name it!   Prices for each class ranges from $35 – $150 per class and it is taken place in their test kitchen, which is a dream kitchen with all the tools and gadgets provided.  I know I’ll be back very soon.

As we enter a new season here’s a preview on my to- do list this Fall:

TO DINE AT:

April Bloomfield’s The Breslin, Marcus Samuelson’s Red Rooster, Brunch at Roberta’s

TO MASTER IN MAKING:

Ravioli, Pie Crust, Chocolate croissant

KITCHEN TOOL I WANT MY HANDS ON:

Le Creuset Dutch Oven, Pasta maker, Hario hand milled coffee grinder

MISCELLANEOUS WISH LIST:

Leica Digital Camera

PROJECTS ON THE HORIZON:

To embark on a coffee column.

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New York City Eats

Summer is fading…

I rarely make travel plans during the summer.  As much as I dread the heat, the rancid smell of city streets and dodging tourists, I like summer in New York City a lot.  It is an expensive city to live in, with high rent, fare hikes, and cost of food inflation.  Though, if you’re a savvy New Yorker, there are many freebies hidden treasure or cheap finds all over, especially during the summer months.

NYC Summer Streets

My latest obsession is biking and it all began when I became a second hand -used  Columbia bicycle owner where I bought on Craigslist.com last summer.  When my former colleague had described “biking will change your life!”  It certainly has.  Summer is a lot more fun with a bicycle and you will see New York City in a whole new perspective.  NYC Department of Transportation and Transportation Alternatives collaborate annually and for the 4th year organized NYC Summer Streets.  From 7am – 1pm for three consecutive Saturday weekends (Aug 6, Aug 13 and Aug 20) the streets along Lafeyette from downtown Brooklyn Bridge / City Hall to Upper East Side 72nd Street and Park Ave are closed off to cars driving and parking; where joggers, strollers, pedestrians and bikers rule the streets!   This year with food sponsors like: Wholefoods, Chipotle, illy espresso, Stonyfield Farm and Brooklyn Salsa Company.  The highlight of Summer Streets is the midpoint of the route.  Whether biking, walking or jogging through the closed ramps normally driven through by yellow taxi cabs  is the Grand Central Terminal.  There are many exquisite and breathtaking architecture in New York City and Grand Central Terminal is one of few that remains.

Kings Crumb at Smorgasburg

I recently visited the latest or the trendiest outdoor street food market across in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the Smorgasburg.  I went to visit to see what all the hype was and the result was an over indulgent and guilty but not pleasurable biscuit fried chicken sandwich with ranch dressing from Kings Crumb.  Very hospitable and friendly service but I’m concern this dish will need to be accompany with a Pepto Bismol.  And not to pigeon hole Kings Crumb, many dishes I was able to observed may need a Tums beforehand. A lot of food trending was sliders, tacos, grassfed beef hot dogs, lobster rolls, and fried food, well, it’s American street food, except here is in moderation unlike what we see on Man vs. Food.   I recommend to share the biscuit, fried chicken sandwich and many other food with a friend but my greedy self ate it all in one sitting on the curb of a street sidewalk.   Smorgasburg or Williamsburg is a place to check out.  It’s not completely hipster-fy but many interesting and creative business are booming.   Walk down on  Bedford Ave., Berry Street or on North 3rd, and a few of my favorite shops where I can spend hour(s) at are:  The Brooklyn Art Library, Blue Bottle Coffee, Mast Brothers Chocolate, Sprout Home and Bedford Cheese Shop.  In many ways, Williamsburg is one of many parts of Brooklyn already gentrified but the feeling is still very industrial and creative.  It’s definitely worth a visit and it was not until last fall after living in New York City for my entire life that I had first walked across the Williamsburg Bridge and ever since it’s been one of my favorite bridge to take a stroll across, well second to Brooklyn Bridge.  One of many things I love other than eating, yes I have hobbies other than eating, is taking long distance walk and Williamsburg Bridge is safely divided from pedestrians and bicyclers, though what’s beautiful about Williamsburg Bridge is towards the center it merges, which is very unusual.  I have yet to ride by bicycle across the Williamsburg Bridge and it’s on my list of things to do before the Winter chills return.  Any takers on riding across the Billyburg Bridge for a burger at the Williamsburger?

For those who do not own a bicycle, take a free ferry ride for the free bicycle rentals on Friday at Governor’s Island.  The ferry departs from Lower Manhattan from the Battery Maritime Building.  To make your trip even more fulfilling, pack a banh mi sandwich from Chinatown for lunch.

Enjoy the remaining dog days of summer eating and biking.

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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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New York City Eats

The Beat Goes On

Hop Shing Chatham Square Restaurant

Earlier in the year I feared Chinatown will be over shadow by modern restauranteur and wipe out all the Chinatown, New York City classics.  Very often these are family owned business and do not have heir to pass on to and very often due to the increasing high rent.  Two dim sum restaurants made a comeback and I am delighted for their return.

Dim sum 點心 literally translates to “touch the heart” and is originated from Guangzhou, China. Do not under estimate these cute bite size dishes but dim sum takes many years of training to become a skillful dim sum chef and in Guangzhou and Hong Kong both have continuously to push the boundaries of dim sum.

Last month, January 14th was the grand reopening of one of the remaining old schooled Dim Sum parlor in New York City, Chinatown, known as Hop Shing. When it closed in early June last year, rumors spread it was shut by the Department of Health or they lost the lease and it was closed for good.   Thankfully, it was only closed temporarily for renovation and it is now back in business.  The interior remains the same and everything looked brand new, all except for the chairs.  Hop Shing is a push cart style dim sum restaurant and is generally packed with  senior citizens.  It is one of the few dim sum restaurant that still offers dine-in and take-out options.   Though dim sum is meant to be served in a bamboo steamer and for dine-in at Hop Shing is one of the more delightful treat.  It is a place to people watch, the senior citizens carrying on their conversations and chefs with a tray of glistening freshly baked steamed golden brown pork buns parading out from the kitchen.  Hop Shing Dim Sum is very rustic unlike what is served at the slightly upscale with the dragon and phoenix back drop.  They’re most famous for the Big Bun which is a steamed white bun, the size of two fist with assorted meats stuffed.  It’s a little too frightening for me and I’ve always avoid it when my grandmother used to offer it to me when I was little.  We ordered our usual dim sum dished, ha gow (shrimp dumplings), shumai (pork dumplings), chicken feet, shrimp roll, shrimp and chives dumplings, turnip cake, and egg custards.  After being closed for 6 months, Hop Shing still remains to be a hit.  It’s as delicious as I recalled and I can say for the Chinatown community alike, we are all glad to have Hop Shing back!

 

Dim Sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Few weeks later, around the corner on Doyer Street, a little archway in Chinatown grand reopened the very first Dim Sum parlor in New York City, Nom Wah Tea Parlor. I walk through Doyer Street quite frequently and the exterior of Nom Wah Tea Parlor have always intrigued me, so I was pretty excited for it’s reopening to the public.  My mom’s friend from Hong Kong with her daughter from Texas was in town so we made a visit the first weekend Nom Wah Tea Parlor opened its door which was the weekend of Chinese New Year.  The interior is preserved with vintage Chinese decoration  during the chop suey Chinese food era essence. With communal tables and booths covered in red and white checkers like a fancy pizzeria.  The decor has a set made for a film like Shanghai Tang.  Nom Wah service was not push cart style dim sum which I found that to be a disappointment.   The purpose of dim sum is where women are shouting in Cantonese what is fresh in their cart and where patrons aggressively haunts the carts down and then stamp on your tab, that is quintessentially the whole authentic and fun experience of dim sum.  Instead, Nom Wah Tea Parlor which is catered more towards the westerners, and is ordered through a check off list from a paper menu and each dim sum dish is made to order.   Nonetheless, I was  hungry and we ordered a feast, fried rice, stir fried soy sauce noodles and all the staple of dim sum of course.  The best dishes is the steamed Chinese Broccoli, which was seasonally sweet.   If you noticed  Nom Wah is called a Tea Parlor and not a dim sum parlor. There was a place card on the table with assorted tea offerings with nice  descriptions of the flavors.  The blends offered are traditional with Tie Guan Ying from the Fujian province and Chrysanthemum, the quality was pretty good that we had asked for several pots of refills.  It was unlike most dim sum restaurants bustling with noise but rather as a calm nice alternative dim sum spot to carry on a conversation.

Hop Shing /// 9 Chatham Sq New York, NY 10038

Nom Wah Tea Parlor /// 13 Doyers Street New York, NY 10013

 

 

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