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 – 4pm.  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, Events, New York City Eats

2014 Year in Review

2014 eats_text

photos taken with instagram @iluvpotato

“Nothing is achieved without effort.” 2014 has been a milestone. It was not easy, starting the year and on my birthday being unemployed. But it was an opportunity to take the time to rejuvenate, rethink, and rediscover the city I grew up in and reviewing my personal goals. A transition was exactly what I needed and ever since I have moved out living on my own in an exciting, evolving part of New York City I hardly knew. I also settled into a new job with healthcare and after 4 years it was the perfect timing for a trip to Japan. While I did all of the above, it was the first half of the year during my unemployment when I was able to slow down and leisurely enjoy a meal without the weekend crowds and without the urgency of going back to work or eating at my work desk. Dining out was therapy with the company of friends to help me get through what would have been a stagnant year. Here is my annual top 12 from 2014:

:: TASTE TALKS ::
I was unexpectedly invited to Brooklyn’s Taste Talks early this Fall via OpenTable. I have been fortunate through my previous work to have been to a number of food events but it was for the first time and hopefully not my last through my work as a foodblogger where I was invited to a food event. Taste Talks is a weekend festival celebrating New York City food culture and media. I was only able to attend the second portion, the All-star BBQ at the East River State Park. It was a nicely organized group of intriguing chefs and restaurants currently in New York City. Each chef participant exhibit their interpretation of barbeque. My favorites were from Chef Ivan Orkin from Ivan Ramen- grilled duck hearts, Chef Jonathan Wu from Fung Tu – Pig head salad and Chef Rob Newton from Nightingale 9 – barbeque duck which all had an Asian inspired touch to their dishes.

:: MAIALINO ::
Moving out from my parents has been the biggest step. To celebrate this milestone, I took my parents to Maialino for a 3-course lunch during restaurant week. It was by far one of the best restaurant for restaurant week I have been to and a great spot to bring parents to. My dad being a retired chef / restuaurant owner and my mom, a vegetarian, homecook but somehow still manage to season meat dishes really well are both really hard to please when it comes to dining out. Maialino, nailed it. The ambiance of the restaurant was appropriate and service was exceptional. The food by executive chef Nick Anderer is rustic, refined Italian and the olive oil cake is a must. It is why Danny Meyer’s restaurants continues to have the reputation and the respect the food industry has for him as a restauranteur and his team’s craft.

:: BOBWHITE LUNCH & SUPPER COUNTER ::
Alphabet City remains to be a less known part of Manhattan or a part we recalled in the musical Rent. Tompkins Square Park for instance has transformed to a dog loving park and the neighborhood is home to many community gardens and the new St.Mark’s bookstore. It is also a neighborhood with a couple of awesome fried chicken options. I discovered Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter while on the elevator. The restaurant is very small with limited seating but the bar counter is my preferred spot, even with a group of friends. They have a fried chicken supper for four that includes sides and biscuits. A low key spot and has quickly become a favorite of mine in a new neighborhood I am excited to call home.

:: CONG LY ::
For cheap eats in New York City, you can always count on Chinatown. One of my favorite cuisine is Vietnamese for a bowl of pho, sandwiches, or spring rolls. For a very long time, Thai Son was my go to spot until I stepped foot into Cong Ly one day and since then haven’t been anywhere else. It is a family owned spot and a restaurant you can linger as long as desired over a bowl of pho. Other than their configuration of tables, which I am tempted to rearrange, the food is delicious, inexpensive and comforting.

:: BAKERI ::
I made a few visits to Bakeri this year. A small café in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with an assortment of cookies, freshly baked rustic breads, pastries and several savory options. The décor of the café and choices of ceramics and silverwares is one of many reasons why I keep going back but mainly because of their lavender shortbread paired with a cup of latte – every girl and gent treat. Bakeri has since expanded a second location in Greenpoint, which I have yet to visit. In the meantime, it is worth heading across the East River.

:: LOBSTER JOINT ::
This year marked my 10 years High School reunion, in addition to an impromptu mini middle school reunion at the Lobster Joint on the Lower East Side. After 14 years, it’s amazing to reunite with friends and to be able to casually catch up where we left off. The Lobster Joint on the Lower East Side sadly recently closed but their Greenpoint location remains open. It had a great happy hour with a wide selection of beer, wine, and affordable, pretty delicious fried oysters, shrimps and lobster rolls sliders. It will be missed.

:: HOMETOWN BARBEQUE & STEVE’S AUTHENTIC KEY LIME PIE ::
World Cup and barbeque at Red Hook’s Hometown doesn’t get any better on a hot summer day and is how we celebrate Father’s day. The place is only a ferry ride away from Lower Manhattan and a few blocks from Ikea. Hometown Barbeque is as good as any Southern, Texas barbeque and the food is presented on butcher paper, the authentic way. For dessert, save room and head over to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie. The graham cracker crust and the amount of citrus is a nice complement after a heavy barbeque meal.

:: FRENCH LOUIE + BUTTERMILK CHANNEL ::
Two is better than one. Some of the sister restaurants I went to this year included: Freeman’s + Isa and The Fat Radish + The East Pole. Rosemary also opened Claudette, which will be on my list for 2015. Read more on my review on some of the listed restaurants on Brunch. Buttermilk Channel has a cult following and it is likely to be busy even on a rainy, Monday evening which is when I went. On the contrary their sister restaurant, French Louie is far more mellow. The outdoor backyard dining space is probably the reason why I would go back. It is hard to believe it is Brooklyn because it’s damn pretty.

:: MAK’S NOODLE ::
It has been over twenty years since I have been to Hong Kong and the city is glowing and the food culture is astounding. Sorry New York City, but Hong Kong is the new city that never sleeps because its non-stop eating. Mak’s Noodle is an example of what a Michelin Star restaurant taste like without a need for reservation and without splurging. With only a few items on the menu, the wonton noodle soup is the signature dish. The wontons are silky with the perfect ratio of shrimp to pork filling and the handmade noodles are refined submerged in a tasty broth. The bowls are petite but ultimately satisfying.

:: NISHIKI MARKET ::
In the heart of Kyoto, Japan, Nishiki Market is a long strip of various food vendors or also known as food heaven. A taste of everything Kyoto has to offer and surprisingly the best pickles and fermented food I have ever had. There are specialty items to take home and small bites like tofu doughnuts, soymilk ice cream, onigiri, octopus on skewers, rice crackers, and all the samples you can indulge on. I miss the warm welcome of irasshaimase and the hospitality of the Japanese culture. More on Japan in a future post.

:: HONG KONG AIRPORT ::
The Hong Kong Airport food court is amazing. On our way back to New York City from Japan, we had a layover at the Hong Kong airport and enough time to eat some more delicious Cantonese Chinese food. The challenging part is narrowing down to which one. The Hainese chicken rice dish and Penang style rice noodles was unlike anything I had in an airport and frankly with the limited amount of days spent in Hong Kong, it was one of the best meals we had.

:: PICNIC ::
Summer went by far too quick this year. At one point I was juggling 4 projects and finalizing the apartment was very stressful. One fun activity I did manage to pull together with the help of my sister was an outdoor vegetarian friendly picnic. I made a mushroom, asparagus quiche, quinoa kale salad, a platter of crudités with garlic labneh and pita and homemade lemonade. I have a long way and a lot work to do to become a professional chef and have no means or interest in becoming a chef. What I find most satisfying and joy is creating the menus, preparation and organization aspect. The picnic was a preview of what I am sure will be more of in 2015 – potlucks, picnics, and gatherings. More news on that next Spring.

“Without effort nothing is achieved.”  Food keeps me going, it’s an endless discovery and I am excited to start a new chapter in my new home in this diverse city where you don’t have to travel far to get a bowl of ramen and a lox bagel.  As always, thanks to those who shared a meal, their positive energy, laughter, tears, words of wisdom and the kind support from readers, making 2014 a memorable year. Happy trails and to a fruitful New Year!

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New York City Eats

New York City Brunch

text and photos by iLuvpotato © 2014

text and photos by iLuvpotato © 2014

We work for the weekends and brunch is one of the many more reasons to why.  It is the one meal that fanfare into the weekend and it is the one meal people seem willingly to queue up to a hour or more for a table in the city.  Perhaps it’s the bloody marys, the bottomless coffee, the egg benedicts or the chicken & waffles.  The dining culture and brunch menu has come quite a way since Denny’s, Ihop or your roadside diners and the current brunch scene is worth celebrating.  With tiny New York City apartments, brunch is a meal to sink into for an escape which the interior restaurant decor and ambiance seems to play an integral part as much as what’s on the menu.  Here are my most recent noteworthy, unobnoxious brunch dining in the New York City area:

Isa ///  For the last couple of years my girlfriends and I have celebrated each other birthdays over a shared meal.  For the third consecutive year, I chose brunch cause it’s my favorite meal of the week. Our past brunch includes: Essex Street and Cafe Mogador and I sure do have the greatest friends who would sacrifice in the frigid cold to the verge of frost bites for a table with me.  So this year I had picked a brunch spot that would take reservation and  Isa in Williamsburg, Brooklyn conveniently does via Opentable.com.  It was a luxury to be seated immediately to a table.  Isa, a cozy little restaurant infused with the perfume of bacon and a wall display of cut wood feels like dining in a cabin, it’s a treat for any city girl who is nature deprived like myself.  On the menu is their signature breakfast pizza – yep you read that right, pizza for breakfast topped with two sunny side up and bacon which you cannot go wrong.

Rose Water /// Located in Park Slopes on Union Street is Rose Water.  A nice neighborhood brunch spot that is more than the average salmon egg benedicts or omelette.  They have a prix fixe menu that includes a drink like a ginger pear or hibiscus juice. I had the smoked fish cake with poached eggs and salads which the batter of the fish cake was bread crumbed or panko dressed with chipotle salsa.  I think what really stood out was a side of fuji apple pancakes with walnuts.  I rarely see pancakes as a side dish on the menu which should probably appear more often as a side dish to devour without the guilt.

Freeman’s /// The same owners behind Isa owns this charming restaurant, Freeman’s tucked in the heart of Lower East Side, Freeman’s Alley.  We celebrated my good friend’s birthday at Freeman’s.  The decor similar to Isa has a heavy nature theme with taxidermy in every nook but somehow achieved tastefully without feeling like eating at the Museum of Natural History instead I can spend hours exploring each corner and admiring the decor.  The food was up to standards and I was quite frankly nauseous from eating eggs from all the brunches we’ve had that I had opted for a roast pork sandwich with fries instead which was delish!

Jack’s Wife Freda/// There is always a massive brunch crowd for Jack’s Wife Freda on the weekends.  Instead I recommend going either during the end of brunch service or thankfully they serve brunch during weekday too!  The menu at Jack’s Wife Freda is Mediterranean inspired and it was my first time I even heard and had a shakshuka which essentially are baked eggs and their version is with a salsa verde.  I love the Stumptown bottomless drip and the whimsical tiny touches to the restaurant from the menu, sugar packets and stationery.  A fun, casual spot for a meal to unwind with friends.

The Fat Radish/// There are many restaurants who claims that they are farm to table but The Fat Radish goes beyond the farm to table model and support local purveyors like Saxelby Cheesemongers not too far away from their restaurant for fine cheeses on the menu.  The chefs/ owners of The Fat Radish are from Great Britain, so naturally I had to have the seasonal celery root, gruyere cheese pot pie for one and pot pie for brunch? – Yes, please.  It’s hearty, soulful and comfort food at its best. With rustic table tops and natural sunlight through the skylight makes it one of my favorite neighborhood gems.  Their newest Upper East Side restaurant is worth checking out too, The East Pole.

Friend of a Farmer/// Irving Street is one of my many favorite streets in New York City, located below Gramercy Tavern and not too far from Union Square is home to Irving Coffee, Beford Cheese Shop and Friend of a Farmer.  They have quite a list for brunch with various filling combination for an omelette that you could imagine. The best dish however, was their special of the day, crab cake on English muffin which I was picking off from my cousin’s dish. The pros of dining at Friend of a Farmer it was surprisingly a pleasant family friendly dining spot with children under the age of 5.  A treat on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

The weekend is a time to unwind, relax and recharge from the work week and the last thing you want to do is wait for a table.  Make a reservation at Opentable NYC restaurants page for your next brunch date. I love to hear what your favorite brunch spots in New York City are or a brunch spot worth traveling out of state for, so don’t be shy and leave a comment. Cheers!

{ Directory }
Isa
Rose Water
Freeman’s
Jack’s Wife Freda
The Fat Radish
Friend of a Farmer

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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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Events, New York City Eats

Just like Grandma’s, Grandmas

For those born in 1986, it’s the year  where we groan we’re a quarter of a century old.  Recently, I went to a movie screening with a demographic survey and I was already out of the age group range from 17 to 24 instead with the age group 25-49, seriously?!  To help us get through the lament of aging, celebrating with friends, family and food is the key.

There’s been a birthday celebration every two weeks.  With my dear friend, Jesse’s birthday this past Friday (March 5th) we celebrated at The Meatball Shop on Lower East Side and we ate meatballs of course!  The Lower East Side  was the neighborhood my parents quickly settled in when they had immigrated to New York City and as they recalled the streets on Orchard or Delancey it was never glamorous.  You can learn the  history of the Lower East Side at the Tenement Museum.  These days the Lower East Side still reminiscence the past through the present cooking of comfort food.  The Meatball Shop is just like your grandmother’s meatballs, though my grandmother is not Italian I can sense if I did have an Italian grandmother, The Meatball Shop will make my grandmother proud.  The restaurant sits probably no more than 50 people with a long communal table and you’re very likely to be seated with strangers next to you.  There was a set of washable pens and a laminated menu and everything on the menu you can customize with a selection of meatballs to go with your choice of sauce to your choice of sides.  I ordered the spicy pork meatballs with spicy meat sauce, yeah!  I was starving so, I ordered a side of risotto and my friend Cynthia highly recommended the mashed potatoes and I love potatoes!  I also went ahead and ordered an ice cream cookie sandwich.  Being that the special ice cream flavor was orange and orange is in it’s peak season I selected that flavor with my choice of cookie, meringue.  I mention the customize your menu but unfortunately not everything is customizable, the waitress thought I was weird, meringue with orange flavored ice cream…honestly I find that combination so much more appetizing than their default choice which was shortbread with orange.  Anyhow, we came for the meatballs and the meatballs we can all agree across the table that it was satisfying.  Each meatball bowl came with 4 meatballs and a foccacia breadstick, we traded each ball and I got a taste of Jesse’s chicken meatball with pesto and Cynthia’s and Michelle’s beef meatball.  It’s so great to have alternative meatballs to choose from.  They were all amazingly consistently sized meatballs and the texture of the meatballs tasted like high quality, healthy meat.  Ashley had a great looking meatball brioche sandwich with a side of delicious fresh arugula salad.  The mashed potatoes as Cynthia had quote and quote “THE BEST!” is THE BEST as far as I can recall.  It tasted like a  baked potato, except no fuss with the skin peeling.  Cleverly in the mashed potatoes were a little bits and pieces of the potato skin in the mashed potatoes and a dash of chive garnished.  It was incredibly light for a potato dish.  We ended with ice cream cookie sandwich dessert with a BYOC (Bring your own candle) and I had tried lighting the candle with the votive candle on the table but accidentally extinguished it.   GO ME!  The waiter kindly lit the candle for us but the cookie was too darn hard, he used a knife to poke a hole through it for the candle to stay put.  Happy Birthday Jesse!

Rewinding back two Fridays ago, February 18th, we celebrated Cynthia’s 25th also in the Lower East Side, revisiting my Pancake binge experience from last year’s pancake month at the Clinton Street Bakery. Somehow, I was not very hungry that day which was very unusual for me and my friends because I am always hungry.  I wanted to try their famous award winning fried chicken or the Maryland crabcakes but I was in the mood for soup and I had opted out on only the tomato-fennel soup with a goat cheese grilled cheese sandwich, which sounds amazing right about now on a rainy day.  I wanted to strategize and did not want to overstuffed myself with the blueberry pancakes and the sides of collard greens and sweet potato fries and biscuits.   My strategy managed to sort of worked, I was still stuffed despite my entree was a soup but my friends on the other hand were all diagnosed with food coma.

Flashback to two weeks earlier, we party out for Jane’s 25th in Koreatown at Pocha 32.  It’s a 2nd floor level restaurant with fish netting and beer bottle caps and random polaroid photos of customers as decor.  Street food is an integral part of the Asian cuisine culture and Pocha 32 brings that scene from Korea to indoor Ktown, NYC.  I’ve been here 3 years ago and was impressed with their squid sizzling platters and the watermelon soju was what really lured me in trying the place out but is not really worth it.  3 years later, the food had disappointingly degraded.  We had ordered a total of 6 distinctive dishes off the menu but somehow it did not appear or taste anything the menu had described it.  If not all at least most of the dishes were slathered with the red sauce, gochujang.  The combination for most dishes were bok choy, squid, and rice cake.  It was not bland for sure and Korean food is ever hardly bland but for most it was over poweringly spicy.  The best dish was the seafood pancake and to help wear off the spiciness that lingered in my mouth, for dessert Ashley bought an awesome box of generously sized macaroons I have ever seen, the size of a burger.

photo taken by: Angela Chen, thanks Angela!

Finally, skipping back two more weeks, a total of six weeks ago, January 28th I had celebrated my 25th with my friends at Brooklyn Bowl. Boy, I’m the most senior in my group.  Oddly, we didn’t bowl since we were too busy eating.  Aside from potatoes, I love fried chicken and bowling and I heard Blue Ribbon is one of the best fried chicken and one of the best it is.  The batter was light, crispy and it was not greasy- which is catered to be bowling friendly. We also ordered the rock n’ roll cheese fries, fried calamari, a greek salad,  an artichoke mac n’ cheese along with the basket of fried chicken.  The food was firework spectacular for a bowling alley/ bar but I was really disappointed with the cover charge fee and the hospitality with the audacity of wanting to charge $2 per person for bringing our own cake (Thanks for the strawberry shortcake Jesse!), plates and forks which I found was outrageous and upsetting,  I almost exploded but eventually the waitress waived it, yeah that’s right!  Thanks to Amy, Angela + Will, Anita, Anneliese, Ashley, Cassandra, Cynthia, Eno+ Tom,  Jane, Jesse, Lauren, Michelle, and Sandra  who came out to Brooklyn on a frigid, snowpocalypse evening.

Aging is not all that depressing, right?  Sort of, well, birthdays is a time to reflect our growth as a person and a celebration of people who surrounds us that has established into sincere friendship.  It’s also a great excuse to dine out.  Next week, we get a taste of  brunch, one of my favorite meals of the week and Ashley’s too.  To being 25 young, cheers.

The Meatball Shop /// 84 Stanton Street New York, NY 10002

Clinton Street Bakery /// 4 Clinton Street New York, NY 10002

Pocha 32 /// 5 W 32nd St # 2 New York, NY 10001

Brooklyn Bowl & Blue Ribbon ///61 Wythe Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11211

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Events, New York City Eats

A Ferry, A Bus, a subway ride for a cup of coffee

The latest best adaption from the West Coast is not just any cup of coffee but Blue Bottle coffee in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Blue Bottle Coffee Bar & Roaster opened a New York City location in Spring 2010.  Originated from San Francisco and established their business from the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s market.  I had revolved our day trip with the mission of getting a cup of drip brewed from Blue Bottle Coffee with the company of my hot yoga and food enthusiast friend, Cynthia Wang.

10.16.2010 (11:00am) : Cynthia and I met at the the Hester Street Fair for the New York Magazine Grub Street Food Festival. Located in the Lower East Side, this very jam packed event celebrated local New York City chefs, restaurants and small food business around the 5 boroughs.  With over 30 food vendors from Brooklyn, Kickstand Coffee & Pies n’ Thighs to Lower East Side, Pain D’ Avignon & An Choi.  So many mouth watering choices.  What caught our eyes and appetite was first Nijiya Market presenting The Rook, a Japanese gourmet catering serving taiyaki, a Japanese pancake traditionally with red bean paste ($3).  The Rook was serving unusual fillings this included: cheese & olive oil and red bean & cream cheese.  They were pouring the pancake batter over a beautiful cast iron fish mold and in few minutes added fillings to a batch with sausage & cheese in which is what we had.  It’s definitely a children’s favorite and a nostalgic treat for adults.

One of the best things eaten at the Grub Street Food Festival, Cynthia and I agree is Il Buco’s Panna Cotta with aged balsamic vinegarette (for only $1)  Panna cotta is essentially a pudding in Italian with cream, milk, sugar and gelatin.  Il Buco’s panna cotta was creamy in texture and the balsamic vinegarette, the tart and tangy contrast nicely with the semi-sweetness of the panna cotta.  I can eat several of these.  There were plenty of samples  around like  bacon marmalade from literally they stand by their name and call themselves Bacon Marmalade to An Choi’s pickled pigs ears which was deliciously seasoned.  While coming in we spotted these beautiful handmade twisted pretzel from Sigmund Pretzelshop.   Cynthia and I shared a truffle oil cheddar cheese pretzel ($3) with homemade mustard seed and beet sauce on the side.  As beautiful as the pretzels looked, the pretzels were absolutely fresh, the mustard sauce out shined the pretzel.

Finally, we settled for Purple Yam for lunch.  Long lines for this particular food vendor is always a sign of good food.  Purple Yam a Filipino  restaurant in Brooklyn was serving a Filipino kind of soul food, chicken and ribs in a signature apple vinegar marinade and sauce over what more appropriate than purple rice ($5).  The Philippines known for their roasted pig, Lechon without a doubt the ribs was juicy and tender and the chicken meat both deboned nicely without any mess.  Purple Yam was also serving a pork belly in steamed bun ($4) which the pork again is equally as delicious as David Chang’s pork buns from Momofuku Ssams Bar.

12:30pm: With our tummy filled we made our way to Pier 11 to catch a ferry ride to Red Hook, Brooklyn.  Free, courtesy of Ikea.  Before the ferry ride, we made a beverage detour at a Chinese cafe on Allen Street.  Cynthia was struck by the idea of boiled Coca Cola with ginger and lemon she decided to have one.  Apparently, hot Coca Cola with ginger and lemon is a remedy for preventing a cold or to fight a cold, FYI.

We caught the 1pm ferry and arrived to Added-Value, a Redhook Farm for their Halloween Harvest with fresh produce for sale all locally grown in Redhook,  apples from Red Jacket Orchard, pumpkin picking, and a live band of blues.

2:00pm: We then took the free shuttle bus (courtesy of Ikea) to Smith & 9th Street to take the G train to make our way to Fort Greene, Brooklyn to do a little vintage goods browsing at the Brooklyn Flea. This outdoor flea market is one of the best in the city with many inspirational objects dated back to early 1900s.  It’s a treasure for anyone who is looking to remodel their apartment to artist who needs some inspirational references or if you’re a little nostalgic a  gift for someone to a treat for yourself.

4:45 pm: Our final destination, Blue Bottle Coffee Bar & Roaster in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Located on 160 Berry Street, you can smell the coffee beans roast from a block away and this is a fact!  The space used to be a garage and probably a warehouse of some sort but the interior space with only three bar seats and a standing counter top is elegant and edgy.  Blue Bottle is not your typical coffee shop with big arm chairs and puffy couches, it is meant for a quick and snappy experience but you are of course more than welcome to stay to relax, most likely standing or if you’re lucky sit by the bar and be mesmerized as the barista pulls an espresso shot.  There is a beautiful Siphon coffee brewed method on display and further back is an amazing space where Blue Bottle roast their own coffee on-site!  The menu is very straightforward and as much as I wanted a latte or everything, I can only tolerate one cup of coffee during late afternoon.  I chose the drip brewed coffee house blend ($2.75).  The coffee is prepared individually from precise and accurate measurement in grams of coffee beans to grind and ratio to temperature of hot boiling water and is poured over the coffee grind and patiently drips through a Blue Bottle filter.   An individually cup of brewed coffee roughly took less than 60 seconds.  The aroma was fresh and the first sip was intensely bold and an instant awakening.  Making Blue Bottle a worth while outer borough coffee destination.

See my slide show, an adventurous day trip  from Lower East Side to Red Hook to Fort Greene to Williamsburg and back to Lower East Side in all in 8 hours.  Take this itinerary, just wear comfortable shoes.

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Addresses:

Added- Value/// 370 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Blue Bottle Coffee /// 160 Berry Street Brooklyn NY

Brooklyn Flea/// 176 Lafayette Ave (btw. Clermont + Vanderbilt Ave.) Brooklyn, NY 11238

Hester Street Fair /// Hester St New York, NY 10002

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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.

Addresses:

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

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