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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Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel

The Wild Wild Southwest

The idea of going to Texas happened while walking across the Williamsburg Bridge  after having dinner with my friend Anneliese at Diner recently.  And by the way Diner is delicious and where I had my first grass-fed beef burger or a beef burger in a very very long time.  I was blown away with the quality of the food, the use of local, seasonal ingredients and the way how the menu was presented to us.  It is not your average roadside diner you pull up in your car.  Diner, Williamsburg Brooklyn is fresh, simple, sophisticated new American cuisine.  The dining experience transports you to how I felt a blissful destination.

The next day I booked my flight and packed my bags.  A week later I found myself in San Antonio, Texas (5/7 – 5/10).  In San Antonio, Texas I stayed with my friend Anneliese at her family’s vacation rental home in which if you ever fancy in the need to get away you can book your stay there too at the  Lake House Dunlap.   It was Vince’s (Anneliese’s husband) graduation from graduate school weekend party and there I met and spent time with her family and friends who flew in from elsewhere in Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota and even as far as from Taiwan.

GUADALUPE RIVER

May 7 & May 8, 2011 ( Day 1 & Day 2 : New Braunsfel, Texas Lake House Dunlap)

I arrived in Downtown San Antonio, Texas where it’s known for the River Walk,  the Alamo and apparently I learned of this the basketball team Spurs and only 3 hours away from the Mexico borders, hence the derived Tex-Mex cuisine.   It is a vibrant and a friendly city.  The weather was drastically different from New York City as it already was in the upper 90s being it is only early May.  I instantly gravitated towards the snow cones stands all over downtown.  Shaved ice with multiple flavored syrups.  I was curious what chamoyflavor was in what the Colombian lady selling these shaved ice had responded, “it tastes like Chinese candy”…hmm.  It certainly did not taste anything like Chinese candy and it definitely was not a thirst quencher.  I took a sip and it was really hard taste to digest.  It was thick and sour and the most disgusting beverage I had ever had.  I think by Chinese candy she was referring to the medicinal herbal teas my mom frequently makes for me.  One hour into my first food experience in Texas and I found myself disappointed.  I was soon picked up by Anneliese and Vince and made our way to the lake house.  The lake house is located along the gorgeous Guadalupe River that flows into the Gulf of Mexico.  It is a beautiful teal blue calm river where many swims, jet ski, canoe, tube to keep themselves cool from the Texas heat.  Thank goodness for the SPF 100 sunscreen, I did not even know that existed.

HOMECOOKED TEXAN BBQ

That evening we celebrated Vince’s graduation with a traditional Texan BBQ with ribs, chicken drumsticks, wings, briskets, cocktail shrimps and homemade side dishes that included: potato salad, coleslaw, three beans.  The highlight was of course the old fashion homemade churned ice cream a vanilla flavored recipe from the Ben & Jerry recipe book.  It required a lot of churning and everyone took their turn to give it a churn and the result was pure magic.

The next morning Anneliese prepared various bagels and types of cream cheese and lox for breakfast while sipping on High Mountain Coffee from a Taiwan grower and roaster brought by a friend returning from Taiwan.   We later took a plunge off of a 15 feet tall platform into the Guadalupe River which was brisk but perfect.  Later that afternoon we went to the next town, Gruene pronounced “green” to visit an old country saloon, Greune Hall where German working class use to spend time to listen to country music and have a few beers after work and that’s exactly what we did.  In town was a cute little pecan candy shop owned by a little elderly man with a cowboy hat on, Great Texas Pecan Shop.  The pecan are addicting especially the Beer Nuts which is sweet and nutty.  Thank goodness for mail orders.

SALT & PEPPER

May 9, 2011 (Day 3: Downtown, San Antonio, Texas)

I woke up to the sound of chicken clucking and it came from Anneliese’s backyard.  She owns two chicken named Salt & Pepper and they’re cage free chicken  and the happiest I have ever seen.   Thanks to Salt & Pepper, we have fresh eggs for breakfast,  perfect for an out on the porch breakfast for breakfast tacos!  Yes Tacos not Burritos.   The Texans are really serious about their tacos that Anneliese has a heat retaining pouch to keep the tortillas warm throughout the meal.  We later did some sightseeing and shopping in Downtown, San Antonio at the market square where all the vendors sold hand craft Mexican goods.  Nearby the market is a Mexican bakery, Mi Tierra.  I purchased a pound of their Mexican coffee Arabica beans and discovered the story of Mi Tierra.  It is a common story but ultimately what all immigrants who arrives to America to achieve, the American dream.  A Mexican named Pete came to San Antonio, Texas and met his wife, Cruz and they both opened Mi Tierra to share their heritage and baked goods in which they have accomplished their success.  At Mi Tierra, we ordered some pasteles (cookies), a leche quemada (a caramel candy bar), empanada de calabaza (pumpkin filled sweet empanada) and a pan de heuvo pink color (egg bread).   Anneliese and I share a pan de heuvo on location and thought it was tasty and moist and amazingly only 75 cents.  After our light snack we visited The Alamo.  What I was most excited was where Anneliese was about to take me next was San Antonio’s best margharita at La Fogata and I concur!

LA FOGATA MARGARITA DELCIOSO

If you only had a margarita at Dallas BBQ the size of a person’s face is probably the what entices people but the authenticity and presentation La Fogata is the real deal.  Since my gluttony kicked in I ordered one of their popular dishes which is a sampler of a little bit of everything, this included: a drunken beans soup, a quesedilla, a chicken taco, tostadoes, some rice, a salad with guacomole and more…and this is by far the cleanest Mexican food I have eaten by that I mean the ingredients are fresh.

After a long lunch, back at the house we were preparing shrimp tacos for dinner and I had the opportunity to learn to make fresh and healthy whole wheat tortillas with a tortilla press.  It’s a nice simple recipe from La Cocina Alegra, The Happy Kitchen, an Austin, Texas sustainable food community center.  There’s no hassle and no wait for the dough to rise and using the tortilla press is a lot of fun!  Anneliese marinated the shrimps, while we let the flavor sit, Anneliese, Vince and I took an outback scenery bike ride.  Along the way, I spotted some deer, horses and lots of cactus as the sun set.  To end the day we sat  on the outdoor porch with friends and family for my last Texan home cooked meal:  grilled shrimps to go with the tortillas I had contributed with multiple flavor toppings equals Tacos!  For dessert the sweets from Mi Tierra and coffee.

The three days in Texas felt like the lazy dog days of summer.  San Antonio, Texas was not what I had imagined, it’s modernized.  I didn’t spot any swinging doors at saloons or tumbleweeds across the hot sand dunes as I hoped for.  Though, my experience felt like a culture exchange, or woofing  which I have never done either.   With the wonderful generous five star hospitality from the Tanner – Miller family, I sense that my experience was better.  The do-it-yourself attitude without all the fuss is really admirable as it’s a way of life.  Or it could be I was just very lucky to be adopted by the right family for a 3 day weekend.  Go compost, backyard chickens, home pressed tortillas, hand churned ice cream and Guadalupe River!

For a visual recap visit my Facebook page.  I hope you like it!

Addresses:

Gruene Hall ///  1281 Gruene Rd.  New Braunfels, TX 78130

Great Texan Pecan Candy Co.  ///  1633 Hunter Rd. Suite B New Braunfels, TX. 78130

Mi Tierra /// 218 Produce Row San Antonio, TX 78207

La Fogata /// 2427 Vance Jackson Rd San Antonio, TX 78213

text and images © iluvpotato 2011

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