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

New York City Eats

Hungover from Pancakes

Blueberry Pancakes  from Clinton Street Bakery – start to somewhat finished

February 19th, 2010

“February is Pancake Month!”  At Clinton Street Bakery that is.  Clinton Street Bakery is celebrating all month long this February in this official national Pancake week (February 14th -20th, 2010).  Whoever comes up with food holidays are a genius!  It encourages someone like me who doesn’t eat pancake often to be pressure to order pancakes.  I must admit I don’t really like pancakes that much to begin with.  Perhaps the reason is I have only had pancakes from franchise restaurants such as Denny’s, Ihop or McDonald (Hot Cakes) while growing up and have never really had authentic pancakes on American soil before …(?)  I think pancakes are fun to make at home and to eat it is rather bland but for me it is all about the topping.

“Voted for the best Pancakes in New York City Since 2008″ —  Clinton Street Bakery is a hot spot for brunch in New York City.  The wait for a table for 4 on a weekend brunch hours could last to one and a half hour or more, even on a snow day.  Anyone crazy for a pancake for a Friday night dinner? Apparently everyone.  The wait was a hour long for 5 : me,  Jesse, Hayley, Lauren, and Peter.  While we waited we watched the table before us indulge in their stacks of pancakes but what seem to be in utter pain towards half of the pancakes they have eaten which I had second thoughts about ordering pancakes and was debating whether to order the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with a Jalapeno cornbread with coleslaw instead or to stick with our purpose ” pancakes.”  In honor of pancake week: blueberry pancakes it is.  Hayley, Lauren and Jesse all ordered the Chocolate Chunk pancake special (2/18, 2/19, 2/22).  On top of the Chocolate Chunk Pancakes, Jesse ordered a split pea soup and Peter apart from the pancakes ordered fish tacos.  Watching the last table struggle through their pancakes, we were determined even if it meant stuffing our face.  Our stack of fluffy pancakes came in three with a side of warm butter maple syrup which the syrup is the definite star.  I think I can chug a jar of this heaven.  The density of the the syrup is perfect, not too liquidity nor too thick and the sweetness is just right.  If anything the warm butter maple syrup is really what enhanced the pancakes.  Halfway into our pancakes we were all punch, drunk, love.  Feeling a bit nauseated,  I do not want to see or eat another pancake for a very long time.

Fried Turnip Cake – Courtesy of Jane’s Ma Ma

February 18, 2010

Jane and Cynthia made a visit to Chelsea for lunch at La Grainne Cafe on Thursday.  Jane delivered her mama’s homemade turnip cake they had remaining over the Chinese New Year but when Jane’s mama realized Jane was giving her turnip cakes to a friend, Jane’s mama made a fresh batch that morning, so sweet!  I had the royal treatment.  Turnip cake (Cantonese pronunciation: Law Bock Gow) is a common dish found on the push carts at dim sum and is commonly eaten during Chinese New Year at particular regions in China, Hong Kong.  The sound of turnip cake in Chinese is “growth” which is a positive connotation for children “growth in education or height,” and for adults “growth in career, etc”  Same for New Year’s Cake (Cantonese pronunciation: Neen Gow) though the taste differ with it’s sweetness.  The turnip cake is made of freshly shredded turnip radish with fillings of Chinese sausages, dried shrimps, and scallions / green onions.  You can have turnip cake both ways steamed or pan fried.  Which is exactly how I enjoyed mine.  Thank you Mrs. Tam!

That evening, I met with my friend Jervilyn for Bon Chon – A up and rising gourmet Korean fried chicken franchise opened nationwide and soon worldwide, Dubai…wow!  Jervilyn is obsessed with Bon Chon and the CEO of Bon Chon should endorse this girl as the official spokesperson or model.  After our first Bon Chon dinner at Boka’s in St.Mark’s Place, I was not blown away.  Though the stainless steal canister which I thought was hoping for to be used for a complimentary bottle of champagne was will you believe this, it is used to discard your chicken bones. Over the top fancy indeed.  Jervilyn suggested we have Bon Chon again, so I decided to give Bon Chon a second chance by trying their newest 38th street and 7th avenue location.  The new location in a corporate district had a sports bar essence.  With the first floor as a full bar and the second level as a dine in.  Bon Chon’s fried chicken is covered in sauce with  two flavors to select from is soy sauce garlic or spicy soy sauce garlic.  What was exciting was this location came with sides!  Unlike the Southern fried chicken complement with mac n cheese or mashed potates, sides at Bon Chon includes coleslaw, french fries, and it is a Korean franchise so going with the Asian flair there is rice and kim chi coleslaw.  I ordered the spicy route with spicy soy sauce garlic chicken wings and kim chi coleslaw and all platters comes with a side of cold radish salad with Asahi beer.  The kim chi coleslaw was pretty much ordinary coleslaw.  The radish complement with spicy soy sauce garlic fried chicken wings is really smart.  It lessens the heat level.  I think I got sucked into the Bon Chon paradigm.


Clinton Street Bakery /// 4 Clinton Street (btw. East Houston & Stanton), New York, NY 10002

La Grainne Cafe /// 183  9th Avenue, 21st street  New York, NY 10010

Bon Chon /// 207 38th Street, New York, NY 10018