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!


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


“Do you speak Food?”

January of 2010 thus far has been devastating with 10 days now since the earthquake in Haiti and tonight being the last airing of Tonight Show with Conan’O Brien.  On a personal level, January thus far has been an uneventful start to the year.  Thankfully, Lunar New Year (February 14th, 2010) will allow us all for a second chance, so double check your resolutions and start implementing them.

Three years ago when I started making a list of things to do for the year, among the things to do on the list for every year was to spend time with my dad to understand him better.  My dad is a retired chef/ owner of  a fast food Chinese restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey since 2004. He has been working 7 days for 12-15 hours per day for the last 15 years and obviously with the time spent at work to support the family, he missed  my siblings and I growing up.  Between my dad and I, I am Chinese / Fujianese born in New York City who listens to UK pop/rock music and worships filmmakers, visual artists and spend over 8 hours on the internet (work + spare time) we obviously have cultural differences and language barrier.  I take pride that I can speak Chinese (cantonese + fujianese) and I am able to communicate through the dialects with my dad but somehow very frequently there is still misunderstanding.

When I became interested in culinary cooking shortly after my dad retired and sold his restaurant, we began to connect through our love for food.  Two weeks ago we watched Iron Chef America the White House challenge on Food Network and last week, I made pizza after my dad subliminally made the request since returning from his trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It was my second attempt in making a traditional pizza and with a slight help from my dad in kneading the pizza crust, a $10 fresh mozzarella cheese from Whole food, and a bottle of pasta sauce (cheated a bit), with shaved pecorino and parmasean-reggiano, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and to top it off with fresh cut basil, it was a Di Fara Pizzeria inspired and it was successfully delicious!  My dad was all smiles leading to my mom’s comment, she said “You’re dad is a very simple person to please, all you have to do is cook something.”

That’s easy!

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.


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. 


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

New York City Eats

A Steamy Weekend: All for Under $25

FEBRUARY 27th, 2009

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

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

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

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


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


FEBRUARY 28th, 2009

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

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


Gutter Bar/// 200 N. 14th street

Fornino Pizzeria/// 187 Bedford Ave 

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

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