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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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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