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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New York City Eats

Ten Under a Buck

text and photos by iLuvpotato © 2014

text and photos by iLuvpotato © 2014

With high cost in rent, food, transportation in most cities these days, it can get depressing living in a big city like New York City where on a daily basis where most of us are watching our budget.  I am probably the worst Chinese when it comes to crunching numbers but what I did inherit is a tolerance for cheese (my god, I love cheese!) and being economically savvy.  I went on a mission to find what is available for a dollar and still eat well, without the usual greasy fried dumplings or 2 Bros Pizza – which I have never tried before and still hesitant to.  Here are 10 items under $1 or less in New York City metro area and no, it’s not an April Fools’ joke:

1. Sullivan Street Bakery
Pizza Bianca:  Sullivan Street Bakery is celebrating their 20th Anniversary and for a limited time only they are offering their signature pizza bianca for only $1. Until April 17, so get there fast.

2. Hong Kong Hot Cakes
Hong Kong Hot Cakes: These are similar to the French madeleines, Southern hot cakes or Belgium waffles. There used to be a popular red kiosk selling Hong Kong Hot Cakes on Mosco Street in Chinatown.  The lines would be as long as the lines for cronuts.  It closed in the early/ mid-90s and now are sold in street carts in various locations in Chinatown.  The way it is made is on a cast iron waffle-like pan with no more than few ingredients of egg, sugar and flour.  A treat for all ages. $1 for 15 pieces.

3. Fried Dumpling
Hot and Sour Soup: Located in one of my favorite streets in Chinatown on Mosco Street, Fried Dumpling is a hole in the wall shop and has a variety of items for $1 including fried dumplings of course.  Although, I recommend having their hot and sour soup instead.  It’s served piping hot and perfect for a frigid day or to fight a cold. There are generous amount of ingredients in the soup that includes tofu and mushrooms. Though avoid going on weekdays after 3pm as the place will get very crowded with school kids.

4.  Fong Inn Too
Herbal Tea: I have been going to Fong Inn Too since I was a child.  My mom would buy their turnip cakes or soy pudding dessert. Since then I have become a regular myself but for their $1 herbal tea.  It comes in black and unlike many herbal tea, it is not bitter and naturally sweeten.  It is also said to get rid of toxins or inflammations. Its purpose, although not proven should have similar affect as juice cleansing if not greater and much friendlier on the wallet.  If you’re lucky sometimes they bottle the chrysanthemum tea for $1 too.

5. Bakeri
Assortment of cookies $1 each (lavender shortbread, earl grey tea, peanut magic bar):  I’m obsessed with Bakeri in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and their $1 assortment of cookies have me return consistently.  My favorite is Bakeri’s lavender shortbread cookie.  I usually dislike lavender baked goods because of the perfume taste but this version is fresh and subtle that I could eat a jar of it.  Its a charming little cafe, bakery and I guarantee it will be hard  to resist not to spend more than a dollar.

6. Golden Manna Bakery
Egg Tart:  A variety of baked goods in Chinatown are still $1 or less but if you must choose wisely on how to spend the dollar, I recommend the egg tart from Golden Manna Bakery. The inner egg has the texture of a flan or a custard on a flaky miniature pie crust. It’s a favorite among many during dim sum or for dessert.

7. Bagel Bob’s
Assortment of bagels: New York City hands down has the best bagels and is an iconic food item.  It’s cheap and satisfying.  Bagel Bob’s in Greenwich Village has probably one of the best hand made boiled bagels and on Mondays from 4-7pm they sell their freshly baked bagels for only $.45 cents! It’s so cheap it almost feels wrong. There is usually a mini line but moves efficiently with friendly counter staff, armed and ready.

8. Kossar’s Bialys
Bialy (onion, garlic, or poppy seeds):  Kossar’s Bialys on Lower East Side is an old school bakery making their signature bialys for over 65 years. The recipe and craft is based on traditional methods past down through generations and truly defines the meaning of artisans. For $.90 cents each, there are 3 kinds of bialys, traditional- onion, garlic and poppy seeds.

9. Tea Eggs
Tea Eggs: I got the idea of writing $1 food when my local dry good store on the corner of Catherine and Division street introduced selling tea eggs, 3 for $1.  The aroma of the marinated tea, soy sauce and spices could be smelled from a distance and it’s a great replacement as a hand warmer in the winter months. Since then they have raised it to $1.25 but it’s worth the extra quarter.

10. 83 Elizabeth Street Chinese Sausage ( lap cheong)
Chinese Sausage (lap cheong):  Chinese sausage is cured meat and is similar to chartcuterie.  There are various grades of Chinese sausages but my favorite is their house cured one which you can get it loosely, 2 for $1.  It’s one of my favorite ingredients and a better alternative to Spam meat.  In fact during Hurricane Sandy, it was one of my survival gourmet food items.  All you will need  is a butane gas stove, clay pot, rice, water and Chinese Sausage and you have yourself a clay pot rice or an inexpensive version of paella.

{ Directory }
Sullivan Street Bakery (both locations)

Hong Kong Hot Cakes (various Chinatown locations)
a. Corner of Canal St and Mulberry St
b. Corner of Bowery St and Pell St

Fried Dumpling

Fong Inn Too

Bakeri

Golden Manna Bakery (various Chinatown locations)

Bagel Bob’s

Kossar’s Bialys

Tea Eggs (various Chinatown locations)
a. Corner of Catherine St. and Division St.
b. Corner of Rutger Slip and East Broadway
c. Corner of Hester St. and Elizabeth St.

Chinese Sausages or Lap Cheong
83 Elizabeth St.

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