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 /// Brunch is one of my most favorite meals because I don’t do brunch enough in New York City other than when I go on a road trip so I find it always a treat.  It’s my preferred meal to cook at home during the week when I have the time and besides the wait for brunch in New York City is too damn long.  Rarely, do I ever like to wait in a line for anything but Prune is definitely worth the wait, promise.  For my sister’s 31st birthday (wow!) I treated her and pampered myself and indulged in a 3 hour meal (this includes waiting time).  The place is small which is another reason for the wait.  Renowned chef Gabrielle Hamilton created a creative brunch menu with many methods to cook an egg and is very well done and exceptionally delicious,  all for a moderately budget friendly cost.  It’s not your only typical scramble or sunny side but on the Prune brunch menu, a fried egg in Monte Cristo and coddled egg baked in a ramekin with savory chickenI’m looking forward to my return soon to try the dutch style pancakes.  Perfect to fuel up for a Saturday afternoon walk from the East Village to Central Park to explore the New York City’s Autumn foliage.


Diner ///  Every well known poet, writer, artist has a spot where inspirations are drawn from, for my boss it might probably be Diner. I went to Diner twice this year and it has become one of my most favorite New American restaurants in New York City.  The first time with my friend Anneliese for dinner where I ordered a grass-fed beef burger and the second time lunch with my boss, Robert.  I’ve only learned about Diner through Robert since he had given the restaurant rave reviews as a pioneer in the food industry and I cannot agree more.  To order at Diner, you must listen very carefully as the waiters recites to you and as soon as I heard fried chicken sandwich, I had to have that.  I have a serious achilles heel for fried chicken and partially it runs in our family genes as I recalled my grandfather would always snuck in the back kitchen with fried chicken wings which my grandmother would prevent him in having due to health concerns.  The sandwich came with a pickled farm fresh egg, ramp mayo, lettuce, boneless fried chicken on a brioche roll and fries.  To finish off the meal, a seasonal bartlett pear tart.  A delightful, local, and amazing lunch was where Robert had drawn a sketch of the last market of the year on the table cloths of Diner.   Later that afternoon, we had a personalized tour at Mast Brothers Chocolate and that evening I attended a free book signing and talk by Michael Pollan at Barnes & Nobles !  It was the ultimate foodventure.

Brooklyn Bowl /// This year all my 86′ year born friends turned 25 and a making through a quarter of a life is rough which calls for a celebration!  Being born in January, I inaugurated the year of birthday celebration at Brooklyn Bowl since I love fried chicken and bowling, there are no place other than at Brooklyn Bowl that has both.  This fall I joined a bowling league that met once a week through NYC Social Sports Club which is not meant to be competitive at all but a great place to meet new people and throw a ball at pins at the end of a stressful work day which I have revisit Brooklyn Bowl multiple times since my birthday.

The Green CupParker Pie ///  In late March this year, my colleagues and I made a trip to Vermont and had one of the most memorable and well-fed supply of cheese, beer, and maple syrups.  It was important to make these behind the scenes food production tours to witness small food start ups are creating and are in the movement to change our food systems.  During our visit there we were recommended by our local friends in Vermont  to both restaurants: Parker Pie and The Green Cup.   I was amazed to find amazingly delicious pizza in Vermont.  Parker Pie had a wide selection of creative and appropriate topping like local maple syrup and local cheeses from Vermont dairy farms.  The weekend trip had concluded with a farewell brunch at The Green Cup which similarly to Prune is heavily focused on egg dishes.  I was sad to learn, The Green Cup was devastated by Hurricane Irene in August and are currently seeking for donation of help to get its feet back on.  To help please visit:

Mermaid Oyster Bar

Mermaid Oyster Bar /// Oysters are suppose to  be eaten in the months with “R” but heck with that, at Mermaid Oyster Bar it’s happy hour & half every day 7 days a week from 5:30pm -7pm and if you say “yelp” you get a free appetizer, though the limited time special offer is now over.  Regardless, this place is a lot of fun with a group of friends.  My friend Sandra had recommended and it was a nice Friday night dine out spotI especially like the touch, ending the meal with a surprise chocolate pudding and a conversation piece, fortune miracle fish.

Radegast Hall & Biergarten /// Besides oysters, this was the year in which I have consumed the most German food.  Of all the three restaurants: Loreley, Heidleburg, I really enjoyed Radegast Hall & Biergarten in Williamsburg, Brooklyn the most. The pretzel is my favorite, soft baked in house with a few condiments presented on a butcher block, made for sharing.  Bratwurst and sausages are grilled and topped over a paper boat of fries and slaw and the best spaetzle which is a German version of mac n’ cheese.  And what kind of beer garden would it be without good beer.  The decor transports you to Medieval times, with long communal tables and benches and truly qualifies to be called as a Hall.

Porchetta /// I rarely eat alone and when I do I am either at work or at home and under the sun by the waterfront when possible.  Meals are meant to be shared with someone but at Porchetta because of limited stool seating and meant to be a carry away restaurant, I was happily satisfy to be eating alone.  Named after the sandwich, I rebelled and went with their special of the day and order a lasagna and a mushroom soup instead which was perfect on a frigid snowy day to make a lunch pit stop.

Hakata Tonton ///  I had to roundup my annual recap with at least one Asian cuisine and that is Hakata Tonton which is Japanese soul food and pork (tonton).  They’re best known for their hot pot dish but frankly I was really disappointed with how shallow the pot was and salty it tasted.  Rather, the appetizers are the real highlights to the meal reminding anyone who has traveled to Asia of late night street food bites. 

Iris Cafe ///  I should have included Iris Cafe on last year’s list when I was introduced to their cheddar bacon biscuit from Iris Cafe by a dear friend, thanks Makalé!  Their plain biscuit with jam is delicious too.  For many who knows me well, one of my aspiration is to own a cafe, well, if I ever do it would very much be similar to Iris Cafe.  The decor, the vibe, the neighborhood, oh the food especially.  Though, I’ve only had their biscuits and the best Americano in the city, I absolutely adore this cafe and lucky it’s occasionally on my errand route.

Cowgirl Seahorse ///  Sometimes  you yearn for bad food and Cowgirl Seahorse near the South Street Seaport might probably be it.  I’ve been there in a record 3x this year.  The draw of returning as a customer is groupon and amazon had good deals and it’s close to work. The beer battered onion rings are scrumptious and cocktail in a mason jar!  Every now and then there are some derogatory themed nights, like “White Trashed Christmas” with whimsical surf, mermaid, fishnet decor.

Oasis ///  I was always curious about this little Middle Eastern carry away/ dine- in restaurant near the L train on the Bedford stop.  Oasis indeed, it reminded me of a Middle Eastern neighborhood in London where I had the best Middle Eastern food ever.  Oasis is good but not quite the best.  Like most, there are the usual falafel and shawarma sandwiches and platters. The highlight was oddly the soup or lately I’ve been very fascinated with soup which is one thing I have grown to love more and more as I get older. The soup tasted like puree lentils or a harissa soup and was tasteful with subtle spices.

2011 has been a rewarding and a busy year. With many experiences, majority work related have broaden my perspective and knowledge on food on many levels.   Many through conversations shared through meals and people I’ve met.  Everyday has been filled with wisdom, thoughtfulness, and creativity in which I am humbly appreciative, thankful for and truly inspired by.

Looking ahead,  I hope to document in my 3rd year of food journal with more food travels (New Orleans, backpacking through Istanbul, Greece Islands and elsewhere) reviews, shared home cooked meals, and in what I am most passionate is to share my latest food finds.  In pursuit of eating,  let the adventure continue.  Wishing everyone a happy new year!  


text and images © iluvpotato 2011

Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel

A Gastronomic haven in Vermont

I do not make six figures a year but I get compensated with so many wonderful experiences through the people I meet in my food career.  Last weekend, my colleagues and I made a 3 day trip to Vermont, making a visit to a cheese cellar, in time for maple syrup sapping season, beer tasting and to burn it all, well partially off the calories with cross country skiing.

March 18, 2011 (Day 1 Saint Johnsbury & Greensboro, Vermont)

Our weekend getaway started with us meeting at 5:30am on the Upper East Side.  The 6 of us included Lisa and Orion (who drove us), Ava, Alen, Avery and me.  After 6 hours drive from New York City, we made a stop in St. Johnsbury for lunch at Dylan’s Cafe, which recently reopened in an old US Post Office building.  It was a typical lunch spot with sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads on the menu selection.  As soon as we had replenished we made our way to Greensboro, Vermont to visit Cellars at Jasper Hill which was how the trip to Vermont had conceived.  Through the scenic drive in the mud terrain where most of Vermont was still coated with snow and a hint of Spring in the air and passing through barns to farms, we arrived to Cellars of Jasper Hill Farm.  This is where their award winning Cabot Clothbound Cheddar was created, along with my personal favorites the Landaff and Constant Bliss cheese are made.  We started with the tour given by cheese resident expert Vince Razionale, with the “Man Cave” where the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar ages.  This is the pride and soul of Cellars of Jasper Hill and it is an incredible space with giant wheels of cheese after wheels stacked neatly in rows. The cheesemongers at Cellars of Jasper Hill takes a lot of care into a fine aged cheese with precise graphic charts that measures its acidity, ph, temperature and all that mad science.  What is delicious and admirable about Cellars of Jasper Hill is the Jasper Hill Farm works with many local creamery and farms in Vermont to collaborate in making the cheese, such as the Cabot Clothbound Chedder with Cabot Creamery or provide the cellars as a space to age the Landaff with Landaff Creamery and the Oma with Von Trapp Creamery.   The idea of small businesses working with small businesses and the collaborative efforts is truly inspiring.

For the weekend, our friends from Jasper Hill Farm generously accommodated us with lodging at a nearby inn.  That evening we were given the recommendation for dinner at a local popular hangout pizza bar, Parker Pie Co. in West Glover.  It was essentially the only place still lively at 7pm or really the only place in town.  With a little general store in the front which the selection was very scattered and felt like a popup shop, though their trail mix of peanuts and raisins are pretty good.  We ordered three medium pies: a Pizza Margherita, a Buffalo Chicken Pizza and a Green Mountain Special.  So, what is the Green Mountain Special you may ask?  Well, it’s a cleverly well executed Vermont Maple syrup pizza.  By maple syrup it’s not drowned in maple syrup like pancakes would but more of a drizzle and everything is better with Bacon!  And of course some green spinach, cheddar, and red onions.  The pizza crust was thin and outstanding.  Parker Pie definitely have a chance to compete with the big boys in New York City.  Who would have known something so delicious exist in such a rural suburbia Vermont?!

March 19, 2011 (Day 2 Craftsbury Common, West Glover, & Hardwick, Vermont)

We woke up to a fresh coat of thinly layered snow!  Which was perfect for cross country skiing at the Craftsbury Common and the amazing deal is with rentals and entry only came to $15 per person.  It’s so nice to ski in real snow and in Vermont!  We later made our way to a family owned farmed with sugar maple trees in time for maple syrup tapping season at Ledgenear Farm. Located in the woods where all the trees had thin blue tubes through every tree and where the maple syrup gradually drips into a center port that collects the syrup.  This is the twenty-first century method and “supposedly” a much more efficient method in comparison to the drill and pail.  Once the syrup is collected it gets boiled in an impressive massive boiler in a boiling hut.  This was where the commencement of maple syrup sapping tapping boiling with family, friends and four legged friends party was held.  Beer, plain donuts to be dipped with maple syrup, maple candy, and more cheese this included the winter special Cellars of Jasper Hill, Winnimere.  With 30 minutes to spare we made a quick stop at an up and coming beer craft brewery, Hill FarmStead Brewery and best known for the American Pale Ale or aka Edward after the owner’s grandfather.  – Isn’t that sweet!  Sniffles.   That evening, Vince from Cellars of Jasper Hill invited us all over to their house party, a communal gathering of food makers and food lovers for an awesome Landaff cheese (OMG) fondue.  Beer, more cheese and more maple something.  I can get use to this lifestyle.

March 20, 2011 ( Farewell Vermont )

With a 7 hours drive back to New York City ahead of us, we packed and made one last stop at Waitsfield, Vermont for brunch at a spot our friend, Taylor had recommended to us, The Green Cup. For brunch, this place loves their eggs.  Baked eggs in ramekins?!  I went for the more traditional sunny side up but it was a beautiful presentation and it was freshly made with potato hash, chorizo with vibrant colored green slices of avocados and diced tomatoes.  With a side of fresh fruits and slice of Red Hen Baking Co. butter bread toast.  I also ordered an americano with coffee beans roasted by Vermont Bean Company. The cost was comparably the same to New York City but the ingredients are amazingly farm fresh or maybe I am just delusional because I am surrounded by the nature’s beauty of Vermont.

A lovely weekend indeed.  Thank you to our friends in Vermont.

Here is a visual recap of our 3 day trip to Vermont with selected photos courtesy of Alen Agaronov.  For a full album, please visit iluvpotato’s facebook page!  ~ yes now on facebook too.

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Dylan’s Cafe/// 139 Eastern Avenue, St Johnsbury, VT 05819

Cellars at Jasper Hill /// Greensboro, VT 05841

Parker Pie Co. /// 161 County Rd., West Glover, VT 05875

Ledgenear Farm /// 2342 Andersonville Road West Glover, Vermont 05875

Hill Farmstead Brewery ///403 Hill Road, Greensboro Bend, VT 05842

The Green Cup/// 40 Bridge Street, Waitsfield, VT 05673

text and images © iluvpotato