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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Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel, New York City Eats

Deep Impact

2012 food
Photos taken with Instagram by iLuvPotato

I am writing this on 12.21.2012 and the world was suppose to end according to the Mayan calendar.  If the world did end and my last meal was at Runner and Stone grand opening party with a 6 course meal then I feel pretty content.  Although, I am glad the predictions of the world ending was false rather it is a beginning to a new era, which sounds very hopeful.  One of my favorite quotes comes from the holy XIV Dalai Lama:

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to have woken up I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it I am going to use all my energies to develop myself to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry, or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

This quote reminds me to be thankful each and everyday at the best and worst of times and as I reflect back on 2012 it was a memorable, an eventful and because this is a foodblog, it was one delicious year!   So here is my annual top 12 of year 2012 eating adventures:

Parkway Bakery and Tavern /// I started my 2012 with a sister bonding trip to New Orleans.  It’s been a city I have long awaited to visit and with Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf coast oil spill it continuously put the city in the spot light in a negative way which caused the delay to journey down until now.  New Orleans is a unique city with multi-cultural and flavors and is highlighted through the origin of food.  I was recommended to several restaurants but the one I am still salivating over is Parkway Bakery and Tavern.  Known for their Po’Boy sandwiches and probably the best sandwiches I have ever eaten. We ordered the catfish po-boy and the grilled smoked hot sausage pork link po-boy and an order of chili cheese fries along with two vintage bottled of Barq root beer.  The decor, ceiling fans and the Parkway Bakery waitstaff were wonderful with their Southern hospitality making this place worth the trip visiting New Orleans.  Read more here: Fat Tuesday Indeed.

The Breslin /// There are very few women chefs in the culinary industry restaurant world and within that circle, the chefs I admire includes: Chef Gabrielle Hamilton, Chef Anita Lo and the goddess Chef April Bloomfield. I first had a dish by April Bloomfield at Le Grand Fooding in 2010. It was a Blue cheese inspired dish, a Beef, Bleu D’ Auvergne and Suet Pie…mm.  For my birthday this year, I had a birthday brunch at Essex Street with my friends and a post birthday lunch at a restaurant of my choice with my boss.  Thanks RLV!  I had chosen The Breslin because I have been dying to try the lamb burger.  It is probably one of the most photographed, yelped, twittered dish at The Breslin but photos and what you read will not do its justice, most things are better when you try them.  A rustic and beautifully presented burger on a butcher block along with a side of fries or chips as the British calls it was as expected mouth watering and incredible!  A good way to celebrate another year older.

Phayul Tibetan /// I received an impromptu invitation to a Tibetan community artists dinner gathering from my old friend, a Tibetan artist GG. I had to journey out to Jackson Heights, Queens which little did I know it was more than a little India but also resides a great population of Tibetans and Nepalese which means the food must be pretty darn good, authentic and budget friendly.  Phayul Tibetan is a small Tibetan family owned restaurant, hidden on the second floor.  Greeted with “tashi dele”, hello in Tibetan.  We were seated in a long communal table and ordered multiple dishes to share in family style.  Signature dishes included laphing made with mung bean into jelly noodles with chili sauce and parsley and momos – Tibetan dumplings.  We concluded our meal with Tibetan sweet butter tea – po cha which is misleading because it is actually salty and has an acquired taste – similarly to my mother’s DIY teeth whitening recipe: baking soda, hot water and salt.  Sipping teas and exchanging stories in a hidden gem in New York on a drizzly rainy evening into the midnight was poetic.

Roberta’s /// Located in a remote part of Bushwick, Brooklyn an industrial factory neighborhood, Roberta’s is packed on a daily basis.  My friends and I, a group of 4 people waited for over 2 hours to be seated.  Roberta’s is known for their seasonal pizza menu.  They would have their usual margherita, tomato, basil and mozzarella but every time you go, there is something different, innovative and delicious to offer.  The vibe of the restaurant is great too.  Roberta’s is beyond just a restaurant , there is also a radio station streaming from the restaurant, known as Heritage Radio, a station with all things food related including Saxelby Cheesemongers Cutting the Curd segment all about cheeses.  There is also a garden where Roberta’s grows their own basils, tomatoes, and produce when weather appropriate for their pizza.  The thoughtfulness and creativity of Roberta’s is what makes it more than another New York City slice and worth making the pilgrimage here.

Pies ‘n Thighs /// I have a pretty high standard for my fried chicken and especially after visiting New Orleans which made my standards even higher.  I didn’t think I would come across fried chicken as good and as reasonably priced as New Orleans but Pies ‘n Thighs proved me wrong.  Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this place is hillbillyburg good.  I recommend for the first timer to try the fried chicken box, it’s a million times better than KFC and Popeyes, with 3 pieces, a side and a biscuit.  What’s great about Pies ‘n Thighs is their sides and it goes above and beyond the overly processed mashed potatoes, mac n cheese.  The sides are refreshing with a take on what is in season at farmer’s market such as kale, string beans, berries, and currently a lot of squashes on the menu.

Ocakbasi Dürüm Ve Kebap Salonu /// It has been 4 years since I have taken an international trip and this past May I had the opportunity to travel with my friend (MN) to Istanbul, Turkey and Athens, Greece and Greek Islands.  Read more here: Along the Mediterranean Sea in Twelve Days.  One place that really strike me was Ocakbasi Dürüm Ve Kebap Salonu, it was hidden in an alley way near the Spice Market in a market place with only few tables indoor and outdoor seating.  Dürüm is a word seen in many Turkish menus and on signage.  And it will very likely have grilled meats and flat breads.  At Ocakbasi Dürüm Ve Kebap Salonu, it was a feast platter made for a sultan for a modest price.  The platters of grilled meats were seasoned and cooked to perfection.  We were lucky to stumble upon this great restaurant.

Nefeli /// Without knowing it was a hiking and eating tour, a 9 day guided tour with REI, this trip was the odyssey of a lifetime.  Greek cuisine is far more than the diners in New York City and spinach pies, it is full of flavors, nutrition and variety from beans to meats.  One of my favorites includes an authentic gyro pronounced yeer- oh, was from a restaurant in the Greek Islands of Tinos, called Nefeli.  The meal in it’s entirety was mouth watering but one dish in particular made its impression on me that I have since been inspired to use more parchment paper in my cooking. The dish at Nefeli was rather a simple dish, a baked parchment chicken with aromatic rice but the method created a crispy texture on the chicken skin and the flavors absorbed making it a well- balanced dish.  And since my travels, I have cooked and experimented with fish, sausages, and vegetables with parchment paper along with my handy convection toaster – oven.  It is what traveling is all about, being inspired.

Totto Ramen /// After watching Batman’s Dark Knight in late August, I found ourselves in Totto Ramen area between Hell’s Kitchen and Columbus Circle.  Japanese ramen is one of my favorite comfort foods and Totto Ramen really hits the spot.  With very few seating and the popularity of the restaurant, there was a long wait but totto worth it!  I always take the bar seats if the opportunity is given and luckily we did. Of course the reason is to get the full experience and to observe the cooking action, it’s so much more entertaining than a hibachi grill.  Surely, New York City have experienced a growing popularity and demand for Japanese ramen joints.  But what makes Totto Ramen stands out from the pack is their broth since it is a chicken broth instead of the common pork broth most ramen places serves with and the handmade ramen noodles cooked al dente is perfect.  What I appreciate even more is it is actually cooked by Japanese!

Toby’s Estate Coffee /// Among what makes up a New York City block and within less than a mile radius are: banks, drugstores, restaurants and coffee shops.  These are the quintessential of a New Yorker every day needs and if it is the beauty and quality of Toby’s Estate Coffee in their Williamsburg shop, then I would be in pure heaven and New York City would be a better place.  It was in April when I discovered the new coffee shop and ever since I have been addicted.  The interior decoration resembles my dream loft apartment living room and the coffee roasted freshly at the shop literally in a Probat coffee roastery fills the room with the scent and sound of a genius at work.  The coffee is consistent each time, which I recommend their espresso beverages: a macchiato, americano or a latte.  Also while at it, take home a bag of coffee beans for your loved ones.

Má Pêche /// One of the perks in working in the food industry is being invited to forums revolved around the subjects on food.  In late August, my boss was a speaker for a forum, a food series created by Má Pêche in collaboration with NYPL, pretty cool combo.  The subject was on street food vendors, from pedlars to the current popularity of gourmet food trucks.  Inspired by the subject, the theme for the lunch was street food but done in Má Pêche style.  This is my second David Chang’s restaurant empire experience – adding to the list with Momofuku Ssams Bar.  It was an informal cafeteria style and coming back from a trip recently to the Middle East and the Greek Islands, Má Pêche’s take on lamb with tzatziki was a rather nice interpretation and hinting for a visit soon for a real meal.

Lan Zhou Handmade Noodle /// Disgracefully, I was introduced to Lan Zhou Handmade Noodle by none other than my white friend, thanks WG!  Located on East Broadway, Chinatown and owned by Fujianese – which is probably the reason why I always shy away from because I speak the lingo and its often very sketchy looking.  But this place is different, there is a secret weapon and that is a non-Fujianese noodle master who really makes hand pulled noodles.  The menu is no more than 20 items: bowls of noodle soups, dumplings, and glutinous rice balls (sweet and savory) all range from $2 – $5.50 per dish.  The handmade pulled noodle is impressive. The texture is quite the way I like it, fresh, al dente unlike the doughy hand pulled noodles and the combination of soup noodles range from lamb to vegetables.  My favorite is the fried dumplings and dry noodle with minced pork sauce, a meal under $10.

Le Diner en Blanc ///  It never crossed my mind that I would participate in a flash mob but of course if any it would be food related.  Le Diner en Blanc started originally in Paris, France as a garden party with guests dressed in white for a picnic and quickly grew into the size meant for iconic locations like the Eiffel Towel, the Louvre and Nortre Dame which is kept secret until the last minute.  New York City adapted this concept and now is a global celebration.  My sister and I participated in this year’s second annual Le Diner en Blanc and planning for it was stressful because less than a week prior I received an unexpected invitation and was ecstatic!  The event is BYO: table, chairs, food, table clothes, utensils, decorations, etc.  The rules was to dress elegantly in white and it had applied to white table with a certain dimension, white chairs, and plates.  Sounds crazy right?  We spent a whole weekend planning and scouting for the table and chairs but eventually came to a solution.  How it worked was we picked a group to meet and there was a team leader for each group and this was happening all over Manhattan who then takes us to our secret location and the only method according to the rules is to take the subway.  It was during rush hour where we mobbed the trains with everyone dressed in white and carrying bulky tables, chairs, and picnic baskets to a secret location and this year was at the Lincoln Center.  When everyone finally settled down with tables and decorations set up, everyone was in awe.  It was visually spectacular.  To witness and experience a gathering of 3,000 strangers from all over the city for a giant picnic at Lincoln Center is one of many things that makes New York City so special.

I must say I ate really well this past year and when I step onto the scale it reflects that. But as the saying goes, life is short and if it looks good, eat it!  Part of growing up is through exploring and doing things that is out of our comfort zone and experiencing changes and events.  This past year, our family welcomed a new addition to the Yeung family, Allyson Nora Yeung, I jet set to the South and across the sea and have also experienced and witnessed how fragile humanity can be when Hurricane Sandy hitted and attending to two funerals.  But I also witnessed how resilient humanity can be, when tragedy hits people come together to support each other and give each other condolences that creates a ripple effect.  That is what food does, it is beyond the trend, the popularity and perfecting the craft but the impact food has to bring people together because frankly, everyone needs to eat whether in good or bad times.   Thank you to everyone who shared a meal with me in 2012.  Happy holidays and to a healthy happy new year! Cheers!

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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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New York City Eats

Pitas, Sandwiches, and Banh Mi

Paris Baguette

I discovered Menupage to be a pretty unreliable source or at least for Istanbul Grill.  The reviews on menupage was better than it actually is. It is located on 14th street between 8th and 9th avenue and it is divided as half takeout and half dine-in.  I have past by it a few times on my way to West 14th street but have never eaten there nor have I ever eaten Turkish food.  What intrigued me in Turkish food was New York Times recent travel section article on Top 30 places to visit in 2010.  Turkey was not listed though users named Istanbul, Turkey as No. 1.  In addition this past Monday’s episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation was taken place in Istanbul, Turkey and the intern from work had returned from her one week winter study abroad where else but in Istanbul, Turkey.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I was in good company Ashley, Cynthia, Jane and I venture out from our comfort zone of Asian cuisines and trekked from Union Square over to Istanbul Grill after the free performance of Vampire Weekend at Barnes & Nobles.  When we arrived, I hesitated to walk in as it looked different than during the day time.  It was candle lit and emptied…hmm, perhaps it was early since it is a 24hr.  On the menu was a list of kebabs in sandwich or platter dishes.  We all ordered sandwiches since it was more budget friendly.  Cynthia and Jane got the Adana Kebab Sandwich (lamb), Ashley got the Chicken Shish Kebab Sandwich (?) and I went ahead indecisively, the Chicken Gyro Doner Sandwich with Turkish Coffee.  When our sandwiches came it was wrapped in the restaurant Chickpea paper bags.  The waitress brought three giant bottle of sauces, ketchup, hot sauce, and yogurt.  My Chicken Gyro Doner came semi-cold.  It had shredded grilled chicken, with lettuce, tomatoes, if I recalled correctly cucumbers too in a pita.  It is a pretty hefty portion of chicken and tasted rather bland so I added a lot of yogurt sauce bite after bite but still did not enhance the taste.  I ordered a Turkish coffee as well since I have never had one and was always curious what Turkish coffee is other than a coffee grind option button back in my Starbucks barista days.  If what I had was an authentic Turkish coffee, I do not ever want it again.  It was in an espresso size cup and with one sip the texture was thick and bitter as if I had chugged mud.  So I still prefer Mamoun’s Falafel / Shawarma on St.Mark’s Place or MacDougal Street or thanks to Cynthia for reminding me how delicious Taim is  I am now dreaming of going back to Taim.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Continuing with sandwiches, my sister decided to initiate a gathering with my cousins Lily and Nancy for brunch and bowling on Saturday.  I wanted to try Clinton Street Bakery since walking by on a snow day rather than our usual Dim Sum brunch.  When we arrived to Clinton Street Bakery at 12:30pm the wait for a table of 4 was going to be for 1 hour and a 1/2 or more.  Since we had further plans in the day, we decided to explore Lower East Side some more and by random we settled for a less crowded restaurant for lunch, Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop. The decor of the sandwich shop is painted in black with a giant tenement house mural growing from a corner, the table tops were black and so were the chairs.  The only in color was the wait staff and the diners and thankfully the food.  The menu was limit to and pretty simple just sandwiches and salads. I ordered a Spicy Rizzak which was turkey, bacon, cheddar cheese, onions, chipotle mayo on a semolina sesame hero.  It came with a side of wavy chips in a basket, kind of like a local college hangout or style.  I split my sandwich with my sister’s Southwestern chicken which is pretty much the same except her is breaded and sweet.  The sandwiches were pretty homemade and nothing special but overall quite satisfying.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I walked by last weekend  the grand opening of Paris Baguette on Grand Street, a sister branch from the original Mott Street location. The Chinatown Paris Baguette is different than the Flushing, Queens location where it serves pastries and desserts.  Je’ Taime Chinatown Paris Baguette!  I love Vietnamese Banh Mi’s and Paris Baquette is one of my favorites.  It is amazingly inexpensive and amazingly delicious!  Everything even the baguettes are made fresh to order.  At this new location the menu remains the same with various Vietnamese deli cold cuts with the exception of the French inspired baked goods corner as soon as you walk in.  The new location introduces a new system with a loud speaker with numbers on the flat screen in reference to your order number.  My sister and I ordered the No. 1 Baguette to share which is the traditional Banh Mi with Vietnamese pate cold cuts with shredded carrots, cucumber and cilantro with a thin spread of Vietnamese mayo.  We also order a Vietnamese coffee which tasted like regular coffee.  For 2, we spent only $5.70, amazing deal!   This new location also introduces a combo meal that includes a Grilled Chicken Banh Mi, a green tea waffle and a coffee for only $5.00!  — now this is what I call a recession special.  Paris Baguette has done it again.

Addresses:

Istanbul Grill /// 210 W. 14th St. New York, NY 10014

Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop /// 129 Rivington St. New York, NY 10002

Paris Baguette///  113 Mott St. New York, NY 10013 ( original) & Grand St. Between Mott street and Elizabeth Street (Grand Open)

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New York City Eats

Unicorn, Bao, Truck and Di Fara Pizzeria!!!!

img_1659  Photo taken by my 7 yrs old cousin Clara Wong

What a productive week it has been…well, in terms of EATING OUT!  Starting with Monday, my family and I attended a relative’s wedding banquet with Fujianese traditional customs at the Golden Unicorn restaurant.  A Fujianese custom wedding or generally Chinese wedding is literally an evening of binge eating.   A total of 10 dishes family style presented one after the next in a round table of 10 guests of the bride and the groom.  Wedding food are usually as expected to be awful and because wedding banquets in Chinatown in grand restaurants are very frequent, food and services over the years have become lackluster, however, I have to say Golden Unicorn remains to impress it’s guests.  The 10 dishes are predictable as it is the 10 must have for a Fujianese weddings though with a few twists:  1.) Lobster salad – I’m not huge fan of mayonnaise over fruit salad (cantaloupe, honeydew, + apples) with lobster but the iced cold plate over a steamed hot plate created a nice wow effect and extra points for the presentation. 2.) Ping Poon (cantonese pronunciation) the Fujianese has taken this cantonese traditional starter dish in weddings to another level.  Traditionally there would be cold jelly fish in the center of the dish over shredded daikon and carrots, and a various parts of a pig: crispy pork belly, pig tongues, slices of ham and some salty ducks but the Fujianese have transformed this dish into a high cholesterol feast with dungeon crabs in the center and a side of mini fried fish, sweet and sour pork ribs with taro, Japanese seaweed, salty ducks, and the cold jelly fish with daikon lives!  3.) Shrimps -swimming shrimps to be exact.  4.) Stir-fried Geoduck with sugar snap peas  5.) Stir-fried Scallops over asparagus with panko fried crabmeat + shrimp balls  6.) Shark Fin Soup –  a must in Chinese weddings.  7.) Abalone over shitake mushrooms and bok choys.  8.) Crispy fried skin Chicken with shrimp chips -my favorite. 9.) Two steamed fish  10.) Yee meen + Ba bo fan (cantonese pronunciation) noodles and sweet sticky rice to end the banquet.

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To end the work week, I met with two foodies: Tina and Helen since Tina will be traveling abroad soon and I have not seen her since we last had a group outing at Co. Pizzeria.  We made advanced engagement at Baoguette.  The original location is on Murray Hill with a third shop opening this week in Christopher Street. Tina, Helen and I decided to check out the Baoguette on St.Mark’s Place at the location in what used to be the Japanese vending machine kitschy, Bamn (R.I.P).  Baoguette is the first banh mi chain restaurant introduced outside of Chinatown NYC and it is  expanding as fast as Pink Berry from last summer.  I ordered a Spicy Cat Fish Banh mi ($7) and Tina ordered the original Banh mi ($5) with both of us sharing half of each and vietnamese iced coffee for the hot weather.  I’m used to my banh mi in a paper bag so I was surprised to have my Cat Fish Banh Mi in a fancy pint sized brown takeout box.  The cat fish was like fish sticks and the fillings consist of what seem to be relish and sauerkraut so it reminded me more of a hot dog and a banh mi would not be a banh mi without the cilantro and carrots and daikons.  The bread/ baguette / baoguettte was really the star of the banh mi.   The bread is baked nicely soft and crunchy.  I then tried half of Tina’s original Bahn mi with pork terrine and pate and of course with cilantro and carrots and daikons.  To be honest I was a little disappointed.  The pork terrine was too salty for my taste which was unfortunate and where is the awesome vietnamese mayonnaise I know banh mi with?  By the time we have finished eating, Baoguette was packed but I think for the future banh mi I will stick to Chinatown, whether it is catered more to my taste or it is as close I can get to for a taste of Vietnam.  Afterwards, when dining with Tina, when there is a beginning there is an end, so  to end the meal we headed over one block away  where Dessert Truck parked.  I was really really stuffed prior to Dessert Truck from Baoguette and a big lunch that afternoon on upper west side Cafe Con Leche but I got pressured into ordering a Molten Chocolate Cake since Tina was super shocked that I have never had Dessert Truck.  Tina ordered her usual Goat Cheese Cake which I do agree the Goat Chesse Cake is amazing.  The taste of goat cheese is subtly nice and it is very light for a cheese cake.  The Molten Chocolate Cake on the other hand is opposite of light, it was intense with innards of thick dripping hot chocolate.   The concept of upscale dessert in a truck is ironic and people are lining up like we all do when we hear Mister Softee as a child, regardless of who we are, we all occasionally have a sweet tooth.

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My dad had just returned from his 3 months stay at home in Fuzhou, China so I had decided to plan a day in rediscovering Brooklyn with my dad, my sister and my friend Jesse who is practically like family on Saturday. We went to Brooklyn Botanical Garden for Hanami which is Japanese for cherry blossom viewing.  Since we were in Brooklyn, it was the opportunity to trek to Di Fara Pizzeria, one of the five places I wanted to eat for a very long time now.  We took a bus through Flatbush Avenue to Avenue J which was a bit of a culture shock and walked along on Avenue J which was even more shocking with pleasantly beautiful houses in the neighborhood.  Di Fara is on a corner after a trestle and is conveniently located near the Q train.  As seen on Time Out New York on demand 2 years ago, the owner and chef, now probably at the age of 70 of Di Fara Pizzeria is a one man pizzeria and really makes every pie ordered at the moment first hand, from molding the pizza dough to grating fresh cheese to the very  last touch of snipping fresh basil, it was absolutely mesmerizing to watch him at work and to watch him work with passion for his art in making the pizza was truly inspiring and magical.   He asked me with a crowd of people waiting behind me “is this pie your’s?  as I watched the chef put finishing touches to our regular pie we ordered with freshly grated parmeggiano – reggiano cheese, fresh snips of basil, and dressing with olive oil.  More than an hour long wait or almost 2 hours for a pie, my dad, my sister, Jesse and I can conclude that it is worth the trip and the wait.  The secret of Di Fara is they starve you then eat.  The crust was at perfection and the ingredients are extremely freshly tasty. Di Fara Pizzeria is definitely on my list for 1,000 places you should visit before you die and I can now die happy. 

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iLuvpotato, Family and Friends ate at:

Golden Unicorn Restaurant /// 18 East Broadway New York NY 10002

Baoguette ///  37 St Mark’s Place (between 2nd & 3rd Avenue) New York NY 10003

Dessert Truck ///  St. Mark’s Place (8th St & 3rd Avenue) New York NY 10003

Di Fara’s Pizzeria /// 1424 Avenue J Brooklyn NY 11230

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New York City Eats

A Steamy Weekend: All for Under $25

FEBRUARY 27th, 2009

Beford Ave, Brooklyn is quickly becoming the prime area to be on a Friday night scene.  For bowling and dinner all together for a total of under $25, I am in love with the neighborhood.  

It took me three weeks, 3 emails and a total of 161 messages on facebook to organize a St.John’s/ NeVAS gathering at the Gutter Bar.  Located conveniently three stops away from Union Square L train line and a ten minutes walk from the Beford Ave L train station to the bowling alley, it’s worth the out of Manhattan borough trek.  

It was my very first time at the Gutter Bar and as it was for the 14 of us: Eno, Helen, Sandy, Maria, Dave,  John, Kim, Matt, Karen, Shirley, Justin, Vaughn, and Obden. We all arrived roughly between 6:30-7:00pm.  While waiting for a pair of lanes there was a full bar, pool table, and hockey foosball to let the time pass by.  Finally, our pair of lanes were available by 8pm but we didn’t settle in until almost 8:30pm.  Let the bowling begin!  

Only 11 of us end up bowling and I was on the team with Sandy, Helen, Kim, Eno and John.  With a personal score of 95 which was obviously not my best score (letting you on a secret or not so much of a secret now I was in the girls bowling league in my high school).  Gutter Bar has amazing atmosphere if you are willing to scream amongst one another in order to communicate over the pumping indie music the Gutter Bar plays.  Unlike most of the 21st century bowling alleys in New York City with an overhead t.v monitor to keep scores and with selections of themes when you hit a strike or a spare or even a gutter ball, the Gutter Bar bowling alley keeps it sweet and simple and old school with only scores on the monitor.   The cons of Gutter Bar is if you are a serious bowler, there are only 8 lanes and you do not have the option to choose your bowling balls and the lanes are not as waxed and you may have difficulty concentrating over the loud music.  Though I was on a bowling team and have bowled at quite a few amount of bowling alleys, bowling is bowling and is pure fun! 

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During bowling, Dave ordered two large pies from Fornino Pizzeria for delivery in which he turned the night at the bowling alley into a pizza dealing business charging each of us $2 per slice.  Afterwards we stroll through Beford Ave scavenging for a real meal.  Suddenly, a eureka moment hit me and I thought of Sea the Thai restaurant.  When we had arrived, it was unexpectedly a disco/ club night.  We’re a young group but I think we’re all grannies at heart so we opted out for a more mellow Southeast Asian Cuisine restaurant down the block, Tacu Tacu.  Amazingly, there was a large table destined to compensate our large group without prior reservation.  The restaurant though call themselves Southeast Asian Cuisine, it had a very broad menu with Malaysian, Thai, and Spanish cuisines alike.  I ordered a rather American Asian dish Java Coconut flavored Tofu Fried Rice.  Perhaps it was after 10pm and my taste buds have a time limit, the flavor of the fried rice was rather bland.  I would suggest the complimentary plantain chips they serve before the meal, I think we asked for refills for at least 3-4 times, they we’re addicting.  Half-way through dinner, unexpectedly I had waiters approaching me with a fried ice cream with a birthday candle and a special effect flamed plate singing Happy Birthday.  The whole time I was reacting to the bizarre singing as a mistake that it must be the next table since my birthday has been a month ago.  I know it’s you Dave, so thank you!

 

FEBRUARY 28th, 2009

img_1153img_11592Personally, I am not a huge fan of hot pot but with the persuasion and enthusiasm of Jesse a.k.a Queen of Hot Pot, my perception of hot pot has changed or at least I’m digging the Sichuan style.  As a belated birthday celebration for Cynthia and a celebratory of the end of my vegetarian month (admittedly cheated),  Jesse, Cynthia, Michelle, Anita and I dined at the Grand Sichuan known for their hot pot on Canal Street, right by the Fung Wah NYC to Boston bus.  Thank goodness, Jesse made reservations because this place was in popular demand by locals and by Fung Wah passengers judging by the luggage as people we’re making their way out.  

Hot Pot consist a choice of broth of spicy or non-spicy or both and an endless selection of anything and everything that can be boiled, cooked and eaten and is excellent for the winter months.  Our selection with all individually priced consist of a plate of prawns, fried tofu, frozen tofu, mushrooms, clear glass noodles, chive meat dumplings, thinly sliced beef and pork, and a bowl of spinach and bok choy.  On the side we order sa cha dipping sauce.  With hot pot it requires self-cooked but that is the purpose and is fun especially with a group of friends and with at least one hot pot connoisseur.  As expected the Sichuan province known for their spicy flavors, the spicy broth with countless amount of chili peppers floating on the broth is authentically delicious and an excellent cold remedy, where throughout the meal caused occasional sniffles.  The regular, non-spicy broth which I believe is a simple chicken broth for those who may not be able to handle the heat is equally delicious.  A combination of some clear glass noodles, mushrooms, spinach and chive meat dumplings in the spicy chili broth with a dollop of sa cha sauce has made my stomach a very happy one.   

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Gutter Bar/// 200 N. 14th street

Fornino Pizzeria/// 187 Bedford Ave 

Tacu Tacu Southeast Asian/// 136 N. 6th

Grand Sichuan/// 125 Canal Street N.Y, N.Y 10002


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