Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel, Events, New York City Eats

2015 Year in Food Review

Food Collage 2015_3

“I’ll have the usual.” ¬†Maybe its a sign that I am getting old or as my friend tells me, I know what I want. 2015 marks my final year in my twenties. I’ve noticed my eating habit very often included the restaurants I have already been to and I would order my usual.¬† There’s the tonkatsu ramen at Ramen Setagaya, grilled chicken bowl of pho at Thai Son, brunch at Cafe Mogador and my guilty pleasure carnitas burrito at Chipotles. In a city like New York City with so many cuisine options, the convenience of ordering food at your finger tips and the constantly opening and closing of restaurants that keeps the dining scene exciting makes it difficult to limit to any one restaurant as a repeat.¬†2015 year in food certainly had some patterns. ¬†I found myself eating various interpretation of ramen, fried chicken sandwich, tacos, Middle Eastern food, the contemporary smoked salmon bagel or is it a lox bagel?¬† Here is my annual mouthwatering recap of restaurants and cafes I know I will return to soon:

:: MAMAN ::
Among the cute, cozy cafes, Maman in Soho opened in Fall 2014 is a new addition to that list and really hits the spot.  The interior of the cafe is rustic chic inspired by French boulangerie with blue and white floral tiles that is also used on their disposable cups which is too pretty to throw away.  During my visit last winter, I had their lavender hot chocolate which lavender anything in food may not be suitable for all taste buds but the floral taste and bitter sweet chocolate is surprisingly a nice balance. Maman also serves no fuss takeaway meals that includes salads, quiches, and rotisserie chicken and is perfect for the busy New Yorker on the go. Since their Soho location open, Maman has expanded and can now be found in Tribeca, Greenpoint and Toronto, including their offshoot rotisserie chicken takeaway place Papa Poule which is still on my list of places to visit.

:: BAR PRIMI ::
Chef Andrew Carmellini of NoHo Hospitality Group,¬†Bar Primi is the reincarnation of this corner Bowery restaurant, formerly the beloved restaurant Peels. With the rise of gluten intolerance and for some people who choose to be gluten-free¬†is missing out on one of the best squid ink pastas.¬† Bar Primi, squid ink campanelle is worth breaking the rules. With generous portions¬†of crab¬†meats blended into the pasta and with a subtle hint of fresh red chili pepper. ¬†It is a reminder of how delicious and complex the flavors are for a simple pasta dish when it is done well. ¬†It’s true when they say, “Once you go black you can’t go back.” I should also mention the baguette at Lafeyette¬†their sister restaurant is also exceptional.

:: RUSS & DAUGHTERS + BLACK SEED BAGEL + MAIDEN LANE ::
New York City classic breakfast, smoked salmon or lox cream cheese bagel has made a comeback in recent years and this year the bagel game is strong.¬† There is the legendary, family owned and operated for over 100 years, Russ & Daughters. Their deli remains a quintessential New York experience. Order the lox bagel with the works which includes tomato, onions, capers with thinly sliced choice of fresh wild salmon is truly the breakfast of champions.¬† There are the new kids on the block, Black Seed Bagel and Maiden Lane both open their second or third locations in Manhattan this year, also serves smoked salmon bagels.¬† Black Seed Bagel is a take on the Montreal bagel. The bagel is delicious on its own but by all means go all out on on their signature sandwiches, the smoked salmon is highly recommended.¬† Maiden Lane known for their tin fish and bar also serves an excellent smoked salmon bagel on a hip Baz Bagel.¬† The best thing about a bagel is it will last for at least¬†for two meals or of course sharing is an option with someone special.¬† Sadelle, you’re on my 2016 list.

:: KABAB KING ::
What I noticed in my recent visit to Jackson Heights is the format of the restaurants.¬† There is the cafeteria style for takeaways on the ground floor and above is a banquet hall version which is brilliant. It is a way to provide food accessible for all and for any occasion. I was invited to my sister’s friends dinner at Kabab King. From the name you guess it they’re known for their kababs.¬† The restaurant has an extensive menu of Middle Eastern style kababs, traditional Indian naan and biryani to Chinese haaka noodles. The customers range from families, seniors, men and then there was us.¬† Imagine children running around, while waiters carrying trays of lassi and men tearing up a stack of naan while a serious game of cricket was on television.¬†Platters of food are¬†served family style, beef, chicken, lamb kababs, goat biryani, lamb chops, curries and¬† stews. Every dish was bold in flavors and a feast meant for a king.

:: HOT KITCHEN SICHUAN STYLE ::
Queens was¬†named No. 1 ¬†tourist destination in U.S.A in Lonely Planet this past year. ¬†It’s the borough of new immigrants where they bring their exotic¬†flavors which is usually authentic and a lot more affordable. ¬†Hot Kitchen Sichuan Style in Flushing is an example and is the new restaurant that has taken over formerly known as Little Pepper. ¬†I came here recently after a day at Spa Castle and had hot and sour soup, mapo tofu, lamb cumin, stirred fried string beans and Sichuan chicken. Every dish was delicious, seasoned well and soulful. ¬†If you can endure the heat and spiciness, a couple of sweat bullets wouldn’t hurt then Hot Kitchen Sichuan Style is worth the trip.

:: GOA TACO  + EMPELLON AL PASTOR ::
I was first introduced to authentic tacos served in soft tortilla oppose to the hard shell at Tehuitzingo¬†, a hole in the wall deli in Hell’s Kitchen.¬† Fast forward to 2015, everyone with the desire to sell food seems to be selling tacos because it is a lucrative food business and very often translates to awful tacos. ¬†Goa Taco¬†is not one of those and has taken a traditional Mexican dish and reinvent it with an Indian twist. ¬†Instead of a tortilla soft or hard shell, it is served on a flaky paratha flatbread. ¬†The fillings are Indian inspired as well, stuffed with paneer, masala chickpeas and there are the more Westernized ingredients options like butternut squash and kale. There is also¬†Empellon Al Pastor in Alphabet City, thanks to my friend who brought me here, I am now addicted. ¬†Al Pastor is a ¬†Mexican taco meets Lebanese shawarma, the best of both worlds. The pork is spit-roasted, a common technique for lamb shawarma and is delicately, thinly sliced onto a house made tortilla and is topped¬†with some pineapples for an acidic kick. This technique was introduced by Lebanese immigrants to¬†Mexicans and is a great example of why immigration and¬†cultural diffusion is awesome when great food meets.

:: FUKU + DELANEY CHICKEN SANDWICH ::
There is no shortage of fried chicken in New York City and the fried chicken sandwich seems to be the star of 2015 and it is only the beginning. Chef David Chang of Momofuku empire introduced his fried chicken sandwich with Fuku.¬†Visually, the fried chicken and bun ratio is intended to be out of proportion¬†and those on low carb diet may prefer it including myself.¬† There is the new fried chicken with Chef Daniel Delaney’s, Delaney Chicken. ¬†The fried chicken and bun ratio is less or more equal with Delaney Chicken sandwich and it is a little slightly¬†more seasoned¬†with mayo, hot sauce and pickles which creates¬†more substance. The fried chicken sandwich as I recalled¬†was juicy and the bun was large enough to hold the grease. ¬†A fried chicken sandwich is certainly not the everyday ordinary meal but for those who loves fried chicken like I do then it is the best item added to the fried chicken repertoire.

:: LOLO’S SEAFOOD SHACK ::
Labor Day weekend unofficially marks the end to Summer days. With the long weekend and on a tight budget, a staycation is ideal. ¬†My friend and I decided to bike our way to High Bridge Park¬†the aqueduct which reopened this year after being closed¬†for the last 40¬†years.¬† After making our trip there, we cruised through Harlem and nothing shouts summer more than a seafood shack, at Lolo’s Seafood Shack. ¬†Its perfect for a summer day with their outdoor backyard seating with a bucket of crabs and pitcher of beer. ¬†I had their¬†soft shell crab sandwich served on their signature in -house bread known as Johnnycakes which was a delightful treat to refuel my bike ride home.

:: AFTERNOON TEA a.k.a HIGH TEA at RITZ CARLTON ::
Every girl most likely played tea party as a child.  For my summer staycation my friends and I dressed up for the occasion and spent an afternoon indulging high tea like proper ladies at the Ritz Carlton by Central Park.  High tea occurs between anytime between 2pm Р4pm.  We each got a pot of tea and was presented with a three tier selection of tea sandwiches, scones and petit fours.  The whole experience was relaxing and extravagant.  A royal custom I can get used to.

:: RAFIQI’S¬†::
The one thing I’m most excited about working in Manhattan again is not only the convenience but Rafiqi’s food cart. ¬†I’ve seen this Halal cart around town before but never really interest me until now. For $5 Rafiqi’s has on the menu options like falafel, gyro and my favorite is the chicken rice platter, covering all the food nutrition a person needs. ¬†For $5 comes with an impressive assortment of vegetables that includes lettuce, tomato, black olives, corn, red onions, cilantro, the legumes from the black beans and¬†the fluffy yellow long grain rice and protein from the chicken topped¬†with the mysterious white sauce. A great meal to power through the work day on a friendly budget.

:: SENOR POLLO ::
Senor Pollo in the East Village specializes in Peruvian rotisserie chicken and on a lazy day or really any day is a great dish for takeaway to add a bit of oomph to any meal. The housemade green sauce or Peruvian Aji sauce is amazingly good. Its traditionally used as a dipping sauce for Peruvian rotisserie chicken and I use it on my cubano sandwiches.¬† Don’t forget to ask for extra green sauce!

:: LE JARDIN BISTRO ::
Aside from Buvette, there is a lack of good French restaurants in New York City. When my friend suggested Le Jardin Bistro because they had escargots on the menu, I had to go! ¬†My friends and I went there in mid- June shortly before it permanently closed. ¬†Le Jardin Bistro had all the classic French dishes, cassoulet, coq au vin, bouillabaisse, steak and frites it was like eating out of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook, a very home-style French cooking.¬† The restaurant located on Avenue C had a second level with a beautiful patio and during our meal there it was magically lit by natural sunset. ¬†Dining at Le Jardin Bistro felt like miles away from the city and this gem will surely be missed.

2015 was off to a rather slow start.¬† I was motivated to find a new job and while I did, one of the biggest highlight was celebrating my big sister’s wedding day.¬† As the Maid of Honor I had the pleasure of hosting and cooking for a group of her friends with a pig themed bridal shower. With the help of another¬†bridesmaid, we¬†spent a month planning and a week shopping for the menu which included pork belly tacos, pulled pork sandwiches, pigs in a blanket, bacon pesto pasta salad, vegetable crudites, and charcuterie plate. I think it was the breakthrough moment for the food business I have envisioned for years that it could possibly become a reality. ¬†The twenties was about exploring, educating myself through food, trial and error and more importantly having fun. Here’s to 2016 and to turning 30 – bring it on! ¬†Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! ¬†xo

 

 

 

 

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Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel, New York City Eats

2013 Year in Review

FOOD_2013photos taken with instagram by iLuvpotato © 2013

It’s hard to believe another year has gone by and as I get older, “staying in” has a whole new feeling.¬† Maybe because I traveled more frequent than any other years.¬† I started 2013 with an annual sister bonding West coast trip from San Francisco, Seattle to Vancouver.¬† Went to Washington D.C with my family for the spring cherry blossom and visited my friend in Austin, Texas to soak up the summer sun on labor day weekend.¬† And joined a spontaneous, intense 6 days bus tour with my parents from Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, to Utah, which redefine my perception on how I see America and especially Chinese bus tours.

Or maybe because I will officially be in my “late-twenties” one month from now and in the latest Kinfolk issue covering the subject on Age in an article I can resonate with is David Coggins piece “Acquired Tastes: Only Time Will Tell.”¬† I’ve noticed my taste palette has changed, where some dishes have really grew on me with an appreciation. When I was a child I used to push aside soups, avoided hot pot and Chinese rice porridge aka congee or ‘jok’ but now I can devour an entire bowl.¬† Currently, I am passing the oatmeal with black sesame seeds and goji berries my mom prepares me on weekends, well, – only time will tell.

Sometimes it is necessary to “staying in.”¬† To catch up on personal emails, a book for leisure, or using kitchen tools.¬† It helps to recharge and rejuvenate from the work week whether in the comfort of my pjs or with a group of friends lounging where time feels endless.¬† The end of the year is a time for reflection and as we wrap up 2013 what I am most appreciative and find most satisfying is that one good meal.¬† The one good meal is define by the service, the quality, the environment and most importantly the people you share the meal with.¬† Here are my top 12 for the year 2013:

El Poblano Farm /// One of the highlights this year was joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with El Poblano Farm. A small one acre farm with varieties of produces to Mexican herbs like papalo, all grown in Staten Island.  By joining a CSA, it introduced and motivated me to cook something I would never have bought. Some of my favorites were, squash blossoms, papalo, acorn squash, and chamomile.  The experience of being part of a CSA that was most rewarding was being part of a community, a visit to the farm and a shared home cooked meal with CSA leftovers.  It also helps the organizers Erica, Ken and farmer Gudelio are all so friendly and such loving people. Thank you for a great season.

Cafe Mogador /// I rarely revisit a place for brunch twice in a year as there are too many choices in New York City but Cafe Mogador is an exception.¬† Primarily because I am obsessed with their harissa. It’s a condiment that comes on the side upon requested and it gives an extra kick to brunch. I especially love the hustle and bustle environment of the restaurant and the Moroccan inspired decor.¬† No wonder it’s a favorite for the locals and tourist alike since 1983 in the East Village and it’s certainly has become one of mine.

Dominique Ansel Cronut /// New York City is notorious for long lines for always something.¬† Since May 2013 when Dominque Ansel Bakery launched the cronut, there has been outrageous lines from 5am. These would be sold out from the moment the doors open, limiting 2 cronuts per person. I would have patiently waited but I’m not a early morning person.¬† My cousin however, crazily waited and hand delivered to my door and surprised me with a cronut – she is the best.¬† The flavors changes each month and I had the coconut. We both agreed it was not the best thing we ever ate but I must praise Chef Dominique Ansel for creating this hybrid dessert between croissant and doughnut where both two iconic pastries from France and America meets.¬† The idea is truly a masterpiece.

Bar-b-cue /// If it’s one cuisine that defines America, it’s barbecue and it’s hard to narrow down to only one when I had so many good barbecue this year.¬† Mighty Quinn’s who started at outdoor markets opened their brick and mortar shop in the East Village earlier this year. They’re known for their briskets but when I think of barbecue I think of finger food. Ribs is the way to go and their less traditional but creative side dishes like the edamame & sweet peas salads.¬† I visited my friend on the last days of summer, a native Texan with New York City at heart who drove to the outskirt of Austin, Texas where I witnessed and tasted how it’s really done at Salt Lick BBQ.¬† It is an impressive estate, there is bocce, a vineyard, a wine tasting room but the main attraction was of course the pit where the meats are smoked.¬† One of the best barbecue experiences. My friend even tied the knot at a barbecue joint this summer at Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem, one of the married couples favorite spot and how barbecue and weddings is meant to be, pure fun.

Fried Chicken /// If barbecue is the cuisine that defines America, the one dish that defines America has to be the iconic fried chicken – sorry burgers and hot dogs.¬† Everyone who knows me by now, knows that I Love Fried Chicken and I’m not the only Asian or person who is fascinated with this fried bird.¬† Foodblogger Donny Tsang started a fried chicken project where he chronicles all the fried chicken he has eaten in New York City. For really beautiful fried chicken photos see his blog.¬† Chefs across New York City has taken this classic dish and elevated it with their interpretation including renowned chefs David Chang and April Bloomfield with their advanced reservation group fried chicken dining experience.¬† [Read my Momofuku Fried Chicken Dinner here]¬† There’s also Chef Robert Newton’s version on a boneless fried chicken at Seersuckers, although the biscuits with three way jams was what really stood out in the meal.¬† Then there is the Blue Ribbon empire where they finally opened a fast food style or 2013 update on KFC, Popeyes or Hill Country Chicken with Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken.¬† The wings are outstanding and spices on the fried chicken are flavorful with numerous honey options on the side to experiment with and where playing with food is encourage here.

Mission Chinese /// What’s great about New York City restaurants is, what is authentic when it is common to find a Mexican cooking a bibimbap and a Chinese cooking an enchilada, or who cares as long as it tastes good.¬† This goes for Mission Chinese, Chef Danny Bowien who is frequently spotted on Lower East Side or Chinatown with his striking long blond hair is Korean descent from Oklahoma and makes kick-ass interpretation on Chinese food including spicy sizzling cumin lamb platter and don’t be too surprise to find kale on the menu.¬† It’s ashamed the New York City Department of Health closed the location but a block away, visit Mission Cantina where he takes on Mexican food in which I have yet to try.

Lafeyette /// Formerly the Chinatown Brasserie, the location of what is currently Lafeyette has gone through multiple reincarnation and from the two experiences I had, I hope it stays in the years to come. Without having to travel to Paris, Lafeyette has one of New York City’s best croissants that consists the perfect amount of butter and flakey texture, let’s not forget the crumbs. I was lucky to get invited to one of the most lavish and delicious cookbook launch of The Way We Ate.¬† Where platters of cheeses, charcuteries, olives, mixed greens paraded out and was a preview to what Lafeyette had to offer in which I know I will be back in the nearest future.

Best of Gowanus: Four and Twenty Blackbird /// Lavender Lake /// Runner & Stone
My work office had temporarily relocated to Gowanus, Brooklyn from late April through October and boy did I eat well within the seven months. Gowanus, is sandwiched between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens and it is transforming with the new Wholefoods Market open.¬† A once industrialized neighborhood and the ever so infamous highly polluted Gowanus Canal is gaining momentum as a food destination.¬† While working in Gowanus, I got to explore the neighborhood and some of my favorites includes a humble pie shop, Four and Twenty Blackbird.¬† Where pie by the slice or a whole pie can be ordered and flavors changes according to season. Right on Carroll Street near the Carroll bridge is one of the best bars in Brooklyn, Lavender Lake.¬† Named after what used to be the color of the Gowanus Canal and formerly a horse carriage house, the structure of the bar has excellent indoor and outdoor seating, with a terrific bar snack menu and the must try roasted brussel sprouts with aioli and beer on tap, although they need to bring the Lefthand stout back on tap!¬† Last but not least, Runner & Stone.¬† I’ve always been a fan of their pastries and brioche that they sell at New Amsterdam Market but the baguette is exclusively available at the shop and is incredible.

Egg /// Breakfast is probably the most commonly skipped meal, as I am guilty in being one of those people. We’re always on a hurry in the morning with the extra 20/30 minutes sleep or simply have no appetite.¬† Egg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn however, if you by chance have a weekday off is a nice trade for the daily bagel or toast.¬† There’s a set of crayons and white paper as table covering where your inner child or artist is encouraged.¬† The menu also reflects the contemporary fine art, with dishes like the Egg Rothko, probably inspired by the artist Mark Rothko, in which the tomato resembles that iconic Rothko “red.”

Walrus and The Carpenter /// I’m still Seattle dreaming from my visit to Walrus and the Carpenter in February. Those fried oysters, holy sh** [Read more here]¬† The team behind Walrus and the Carpenter had open this past year with The Whale Wins which by no surprise has already received critically acclaimed reviews. Walrus and the Carpenter has my dream kitchen and everything about it is spot on, even if you do not like oysters you will likely be converted, I promise.

Buvette /// One of my favorite neighborhoods in New York City is the West Village.¬† It’s one of the parts in Manhattan that is not a grid and every street corner has it’s own character. Buvette is one of the reasons why I love the West Village even more so than ever.¬† Voted by Village Voice, “the best cassoulet” and I cannot agree more¬†[Read here]¬† In my recent visit, I had the opportunity to meet the man behind the design for Buvette, Max Poglia. over croissants and coffee.¬† It’s rare to find a restaurant that put so much thought into the food that also complements the visual aesthetic.¬† If you are still figuring out New Year’s Eve plans, why not ring in with their annual Nuit Blanche.

Chez Panisse /// “What is the best meal you’ve had this year?”¬† Well, it’s hard to pick that one place after eating at so many but the most epic, would have to be at the legendary Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. [Read more here]¬† The concept of the menu changing daily according to what is available on the day of the market is so simple yet brilliant.¬† That is how our grandmothers and mothers shopped for their daily cooking and luckily with walking distance to fresh produce, butcher shops and fish market is how I was raised to cook too. My impression I left at Chez Panisse is the definition of success.¬† Alice Waters has created an institution where like Chef David Tanis and David Lebovitz have all started their career in food.¬† When you measure success, it is more than your very own but those surrounds you and Chez Panisse has achieved that, in fostering these talents in today’s food industry.

Thanks to the dreary, grey weather we are having in New York City today has allowed me to “staying in” in writing this.¬† The blinking blank cursor can sometimes be intimidating and distractions from the outside world can get me sidetracked.¬† So a little encouragement from the rain goddess really helps.¬† I started writing my annual recaps in 2010 and have continued since.¬† [Read them here: 2010. 2011. 2012.]¬† It has always been one of my favorite pieces, as I get to highlight and share these listings.¬† Rather than one long end of the year post, I will do my best effort to write shorter but more frequent posts in the new year. Until then, it’s good to go out, explore, get a breath of fresh air, travel, get inspired, meet new friends, develop deeper friendships and reunite with old ones over a shared meal.

happy new year and best wishes in 2014!

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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 chicken.¬† I’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 Cup & Parker 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 spot.¬† I 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 Makal√©!¬† 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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New York City Eats

Impulsive Artichoke

I was in the neighborhood a little before noon and jay walked across 14th street between 1st and 2nd ave when I spotted Artichoke! -NO LINE!

Artichoke is a tiny pizzeria with a limited menu selection.  With only four options: maguerita, sicilian, crab and artichoke & spinach.  Being the pizzeria is named Artichoke and very rare do I find a slice of spinach & artichoke ($4.50) I thought it would be most appropriate to order a slice of just that.  The slice of artichoke & spinach required more than one paper plate to hold the slice as the portion is rather generous and larger than a typical slice of cheese pizza in New York City.  It is a heavy duty slice and well worth the price.

I got my piping hot slice of artichoke & spinach pizza and took my first bite while sitting on the nice L shaped wooden benches outside of the pizzeria, it was instant gratification!  The slice of artichoke & spinach was unusual but also had a familiar taste.  The taste of cream with broccoli soup -well in this case artichoke & spinach soup with melted stringy cheese over on a nice loaf of buttery garlicky bread.  The thickness of the crust is moderately in between a deep dish and a thin slice.  What is unusual is instead of the classic tomato pizza sauce is a creamy white sauce.  Few minutes later the bench was packed with fellow Artichokes savoring every bite and every moment and very likely with a stranger.

Artichoke offers their signature artichoke & spinach slice throughout the year but I think it’s most perfect for the upcoming Fall season .¬† It is very hearty but beware, food coma alert!¬† As I am still recovering from one as I am writing while my eyes are drooping.

Sorry no photo.  You have to taste it to believe it!  Go!

Address:

Artichoke ///328 E. 14th St. East Village, NYC 10003

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New York City Eats

Ippudo, At Last

Ippudo Shiromaru Hakata Classic

Who said third times the charm?   My fifth and final attempt at Ippudo, Japanese Ramen restaurant on the East Village called success!

I have been wanting to try Ippudo for the longest and the wait would always be outrageously long during evening hours.¬† The strategy to getting a table at Ippudo is to dine during lunch on weekdays or go solo during evenings. Part of the fun is to eat with a friend of course, so I met up with my friend Hiroko who is happily 4 months pregnant for lunch at Ippudo. According to Hiroko Ippudo is New York City’s best ramen! As a native and pure blood Japanese, I trusted her and I cannot agree more.

Consecutive day in a row with temperature in New York City in the upper 90s to 100 F was the perfect weather to slurp on a bowl of ramen, I promise.¬† The air conditioner was blasting and making pass the reservation desk without waiting at all was exciting.¬† It was a moment of victory.¬† The lunch hours are much more slow in comparison to dinner but the servers were energized greeting „ĀĄ„āČ„Ā£„Āó„āÉ„ĀĄ„Āĺ„Āõ (irasshaimase) meaning welcome!¬† The decor of Ippudo is modern Japanese elegance.¬† From lighting to the layout of the tables Ippudo imports the Japanese comfort food to comfortable atmosphere to relax for a lunch or dinner meal.

The menu and description all read delicious.¬† Being it was my first time at Ippudo, I ordered the Shiromaru Hakata Classic bowl ramen ($13).¬† With $3 more I pigged out on the lunch set which I selected the Fried chicken over rice with salad.¬† Hiroko had the same ramen with the choice of Mentaiko (Spicy Cod Roe) over rice.¬† In the Shiromaru Hakata Classic Bowl ramen was slices of simmered berkshire pork, kikurage (wood ear mushroom), red pickled ginger, menma (bamboo shoots), 1/2 hard boiled egg, sesame & scallions submerged in a savory pork broth.¬† The texture of the noodle is definitely very distinctive and unusual.¬† Thin and al dente. The condiments of kikurage, menma, ginger, etc. are quite commonly used in even Chinese bowl of noodles and is frequently used in my dad’s homemade noodle soups but the way the condiments are cut and the presentation at Ippudo absolutely knocks your socks off!

„ĀĄ„Āü„Ā†„Āć„Āĺ„Āô!¬† Slurp, Slurp

The meal ended with a cup of roasted genmai cha (brown rice tea).  The desire to try Ippudo since its opening in 2007  has finally come true.  With the last 4 failed attempts in getting a table at Ippudo, my expectations have constantly built and Ippudo did not disappoint one bit and has met my highest expectations.

Address:

Ippudo /// 65 4th Avenue New York, NY 10003

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Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel, New York City Eats

Dog Days of Summer

 

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If only updating the food blog was as easy as eating, I would have 6 posts a day. ¬†It’s been a month since I last wrote and over the last month I encountered some good grubs.

August 1, 2009: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Somehow, Philadelphia intrigued me as a worthy, budget conscience summer visit.  Only 2 + 1/2 hours from New York City, the brotherly love city, Philadelphia was better than how I recalled through faded memories with photographs when I barely knew how to speak.  It is surprisingly more than a historical visit to brush up on the U.S history and a city that worships Benjamin Franklin but it is filled with art and culture and a city that appreciates and preserves mural art!

Exploring the city by foot causes for a hungry person. ¬†First stop, The Reading Terminal Market. People who knows me well knows I love markets: flea markets, supermarkets, farmers markets, etc. ¬†Here in Philadelphia not too far from Philadelphia, Chinatown, is an amazing indoor market. ¬†With over 100 fresh produce from fruits, vegetables and local homemade bread and jam. ¬†On top of that The Reading Terminal Market is electrified with neon signs pointing down to eat here and there. ¬†The options is like the United Nations of food court. ¬†From Mexican to Mediterranean and Thailand to Middle Eastern, ¬†it’s got it all. ¬†And the Dutch, Amish! ¬†Being in Philadelphia it is no brainer to have the Philly delicacy that is the Philly Cheesesteak. ¬†A little overwhelm by the choices, I manage to settle for Carmen’s Famous Hoagies. ¬†I think I should have tried harder in search of a better Philly Cheesesteak. ¬†I don’t eat beef so on the menu there was the option of Chicken Mushroom Cheesesteak and the Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak are the two I ordered for the family to share. ¬†If you think the service in New York City is bad, you’re going to hate this one. ¬†The server was twice my size and she practically mumbled the order to me and when asking for the receipt, she gave me a snare ( the total came to $19.10 for 2 cheesesteaks of course I am asking for a receipt). ¬†While sitting on the stool for my order to go, there was a sense of cockiness from who I hint is the owner. ¬†A man before me ordered two Philly Cheesesteak and had request for salt and pepper to sprinkle on but the owner refused to give him the salt and pepper and the customer refused to leave without his salt and pepper. I guess there’s two sides to this: from the owner/ chef perspective is to have the customers try the food the way it is, a compliment to the chef and he may be looking out for the guy’s health to cut down on the sodium. ¬†From the customers point of view I paid for and should get what I want and he did get his salt and pepper he asked for eventually. ¬†I got my cheesesteaks wrapped to go. ¬†Less than 5 minutes, the chicken cheesesteaks appeared disappointingly soggy already. ¬†The mushrooms in the chicken mushroom cheesesteak tasted from can which is ironic since there are all the fresh produce available at the market and ¬†there seemed to be a lack of cheese which really defeats the cheese part in the cheesesteak and the lady charged me .75 cents extra for lettuce, tomatoes which did not even appear to be in the cheesesteak. ¬†Of the two, the buffalo chicken cheesesteak stood out more with the blue cheese flavor. ¬†The chicken for both was way too chopped up for my taste but apparently I think that is how the Philadelphians prefer their meats. ¬†This leads to our Vietnamese dinner. ¬†Strange to be having Vietnamese in Philadelphia but a pleasant surprise. I was with my parents and my mom is a very difficult person to please when it comes to eating out. ¬†We ordered, two shrimp summer rolls that was stuffed with rice vermicelli, basel, and shrimps with a side peanut sauce. ¬†Nice appetizer for a hot summer day. ¬†My sister and I both ordered the Grilled pork with Vietnamese spring rolls vermicelli where the grilled pork unlike in New York City Chinatown Vietnamese restaurant serves sliced pork, in Philly is chopped into almost shredded pork. ¬†Though it was still good, not the best. ¬†My dad and mom both ordered a seafood vermicelli pho (soup) with a side of bean sprouts, fresh mints and limes. ¬†I think it was my mom’s very first Vietnamese meal and like I mentioned earlier she is a very difficult person to please when it comes to eating out, this bowl of seafood vermicelli pho was a winner! ¬†She loved it and I repeat it is very very rare. ¬†She loved how flavorful the seafood broth was but very light which Vietnamese cuisine generally is. ¬†My mom loved the meal at this corner Vietnamese restaurant in Philadelphia so much that week she had attempted to replicate the Vietnamese meal at home, ¬†I think we ought to leave it to the Vietnamese chefs.

August 8, 2009: Woodstock, New York

It’s 40th Anniversary for Woodstock which I was not aware of until we hit traffic for the first time on our way to KTD, a Tibetan monastery in Woodstock and the media coverage this week. ¬†I did not have my camera that day but somedays are better by memories. ¬†Though, I have been to Woodstock a few times now, once for the Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary and few times to KTD, it was my first time I actually got to explore the small town made famous by the music concert in 1969. ¬†Before we went to KTD for an empowerment, my brother Jimmy, sister-in-law Betty and our friend, Harry made a stop at the Garden Cafe for a late lunch. It’s a cute little restaurant with the interior decorations similar to Tea & Sympathy but less claustrophobic with mismatched vintage furniture. ¬† On the table ¬†top was a mini vase of fresh picked flowers and porcelain figurine (bunny for our table) salt and pepper shaker that kind of resembles tea time in Alice in Wonderland. ¬†Garden Cafe is entirely vegan friendly though the menu options was very limited which I like sometimes how straightforward it is. ¬†Somehow the Southwestern Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger with a side of roasted Russet potatoes appeal to all four of us, so we ordered four of the same dish. ¬†The dish came presented in a porcelain skillet as an open faced burger: the black bean burger which was compressed with black bean, brown rice and sweet potatoes, a dollop of guacamole and salsa on top. ¬†The whole wheat bun was nice and overall we all thought the burger was good but needed an hint of spicy kick, so my sister-in-law requested for hot sauce which had an unusual ingredient in hot sauce: carrots…interesting. ¬† Later that night, after the empowerment we ¬†had made a reservation for a Middle Eastern cuisine restaurant Joshua’s, vegetarian friendly catered to the Buddhist + Hippies in the area. ¬†The restaurant was unexpectedly pretty upscale with superfluous utensils for each person. ¬†Everything in the menu looked really appetizing especially the pasta dishes but instead I settled down with a spinach and three cheese strudel over brown rice and my brother had a similar dish, creamy potato leek strudel over brown rice which the descriptions for the dish was mouth watering. ¬†Harry and Betty both had a Middern Eastern Pasta with spring vegetables. ¬†The entrees came with first course of a basket of hot pita breads with individual servings for everyone of baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, and a sweet and hot pepper, great way to start off dinner. ¬†The second course was a salad with a generous amount of fresh ingredients. ¬†Finally came my spinach and three cheese strudel over rice. ¬†I like spinach and I love cheese can’t go wrong and it was really good, though I wish ¬†the strudel was more flaky and the dish was a bit dry. ¬†Nonetheless, if you are in Woodstock for a visit, I highly recommend to stop by a Joshua’s for lunch or dinner, good food and friendly staff.

August 12, 2009:  Long Island City

Long Island City, Socrates Sculpture Park is a nice oasis from the city and mid-workweek. ¬†The Socrates Sculpture Park has been having one of the best outdoor film screening all summer long and it is entirely free. ¬†On August 12, the film screening was a film from Kazakhstan, Tulpan by Sergei Dvorsetvoy which will be available in dvd by mid-September. ¬† There is a miraculous birth scene of a sheep that will either gross you out or blow you away. ¬†On our way to Socrates Sculpture Park, my sister Linda, my friend Vaughn, and I grabbed some local Mexican food from Los Portales to go from not your usual Manhattan Mexican restaurant (Rosa Mexicana and Chipotle…o pehlease). ¬†Los Portales is the real stuff! ¬† My sister wanted a Tinga spicy chicken quesadilla and I ordered a Cajun Chicken, Roasted Peppers, Onions, tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese & Chipotle mayo on Portuguese bread which essentially is a burrito wrap. ¬†And 2 sides: a fried plantain and Carnitas Fried Pork Tostadas. ¬†The 2 sides were decent though the fried plantain may be slight burnt and the Fried pork Tostadas which is cubes of pork on shredded iceberg lettuce over a saucer size tortilla chip was pretty bland or tasted exactly like the ingredients. ¬†The Spicy Chicken Quesadilla and the Portugese bread were really good, I liked how the dishes instead of cube chickens were shredded chicken which gives a sense of authenticity.

August 14, 2009: At last: Caracas Arepas Bar

Continuing with the Latin, Spanish, Mexican cuisine theme from Wednesday. ¬†I met up with six of my friends from High school for a dog days of summer gathering. ¬†I had Caracas Arepas Bar on my mind for quite some time now but have not had the chance to try it. ¬†The reason maybe since it is way out of my way??? ¬†Being that I organize this gathering but was unable to find the restaurant myself after making circles in East Village is pretty ironic. ¬†I will now forever remember E. 7th st between 1st ave and Ave A, near 1st ave and the address is worth implanting into my brain and to everyone’s because Caracas Arepas Bar is damn good! ¬†The restaurant is pretty tiny and on a Friday night during recession it is without doubt this place was packed. ¬†Not the best place for a group of 7 people but thankfully my brilliant friend Jane Tam had a backup plan to have it to go and enjoy our arepas in Tompkins Square Park which is only an avenue away. ¬†Cynthia, Jane (Mango Lover), Jesse ordered La Pernil, roasted pork shoulder, tomato slices and mango spicy sauce. ¬†Anita, Christina, and Sandra ordered Reina Pepiada, chicken with avocado mix salad that looked like guacamole but chunkier. ¬†I had difficulty in deciding between La Jardinera, grilled eggplants, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and guayanese cheese or La Surena grilled chicken and chorizo, avocado slices and the spicy chimi-churri sauce. ¬†I decided to splurge a bit and went for the La Surena Arepas. ¬†It was my first arepas ever and I’m liking it. ¬†It’s a great street food not too messy though a little olive oil kind of greasy. ¬†Arepas are essentially corn flat breads which Caracas Arepa Bar’s arepas does not get soggy like my chicken cheesesteak from Carmen’s Famous Hoagies or an overly baked like my experience with one Vietnamese bahn mi that rips the rooftop of your mouth. ¬†Caracas Arepas Bar’s arepas is nice corn flat bread pocket and the fillings makes it better. ¬†Every ingredient as listed in the menu description exists though I think there was only one or two chorizos. ¬†The avocado slices are seasoned in a taste like pesto, garlic and herbal like basil and cilantro. ¬†The grilled chicken is cooked well though obviously not recommended for my grandma with dentures. Caracas Arepas Bar unpretentious and kicks butt! ¬†Afterwards we head over to Sundaes & Cones…dangerous!

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Carmen’s Famous Hoagies/// The Reading Terminal Market 12th & Arch Streets, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Vietnamese Restaurant /// Philadelphia Pennsylvania –TBA ( my mom’s epiphany on Vietnamese cuisine and I do not remember the name of the restaurant or the address)

Garden Cafe /// 6 Old Forge Rd Woodstock, NY 12498

Joshua’s /// 51 Tinker Street Woodstock, NY 12498

Los Portales /// 25-08 Broadway, Long Island City, NY 11106

Caracas Arepas Bar /// 7 East street between 1st Avenue + Avenue A (near 1st Avenue), New York, NY 10009

Sundaes & Cones /// 95 East 10th Street (between 3rd +4th avenue) New York, NY 10003

Non-Food Related Must Visits:

Elfreth Alley /// 126 Elfreth’s Alley | Philadelphia, PA 19106

Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD) /// 335 Meads Mountain Road ‚Äʬ† Woodstock, New York 12498

Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary /// PO Box 1329 Woodstock, New York 12498

Socrates Sculpture Park /// 32-01 Vernon Boulevard at Broadway Long Island City, NY 11106

Tompkins Square Park /// Avenue A to Avenue B East 7 to East 10th Street  New York, NY 10009


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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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