New York City Eats

REAL CHOCOLATE MADE IN BROOKLYN

Above is a photo of me and my family at the Hersey’s chocolate factory, when we visited in 1999 on our way to Washington, DC.  It was on the Chinatown travel agency tour itinerary that my mother had booked.  Hersey’s is a giant American corporation that produces chocolate and quite frankly an American icon and somehow related to the American history component to the itinerary.  Well, that’s my guess.  I was only 13 at the time and had  enjoyed Hersey’s cookies n’ cremes and occasionally a Hersey’s kisses.  I have vague memories of the educational chocolate factory tour ride but do recalled it was given by computer generated pre-recorded videos, giant talking pixie-glass models, with loud children soundtrack in the background and concluding with a photo op to take home, which we did end up purchasing.  Somehow looking back at the website, times have not changed at the Hersey’s Park.

Twelve years later, a different kind of American craft chocolate company is in motion,  known as the Mast Brothers Chocolate.  I was lucky enough to meet the owners recently, the brothers and chocolate makers Rick and Michael Mast.  They have recently expanded in Williamsburg, North 3rd their production facility and wanted to give us a personal tour.  I was rather star strucked, being fans of their work and chocolate already, I felt like Charlie in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory winning the golden ticket.   When I arrived, the staff was creating an assembly line of hand wrapped Almond and Sea Salt Chocolate.  This is not your perception of a sweatshop assembly line but made for efficiency.  The staff was laid back with soul music on the record player, after all we were in Brooklyn and everyone was hard at work with deadline orders to meet.   Each individually hand wrapped with a gold wrapping follow by beautiful textile patterns  paper designed by friends and family of the Mast Brothers.  It was remarkable to see production in action and I really admire how in a world so many occupations relies on advance technology and machinery for efficiency,  there is simply nothing better and more beauty than the personal touch of the human hands.

In the room, many burlap sacks of cacao beans from their recent sailing trip to Dominic Republic piled in the room and where the cacao beans were roasted surprisingly no larger than a home kitchen oven.  The latest holiday flavored chocolate bar with dried cranberries were in the making poured into their signature chocolate grid mold.  Throughout the tour Rick Mast described the process from bean to bar with  joy in his tone of voice, sharing his knowledge, the care, the thought process, of how direct trade cacao can make an impact in our environment.  For instance, the concept of using the skin of the cacao beans after it has been roasted becomes waste but turning that unwanted waste for the local community garden as compost.  It’s brilliant and more business models should be that way.

The next venture Mast Brothers Chocolate is looking into is expanding their line of chocolates with truffles and bon bons and their plans on the next sailing trip for more cacao.   In the meantime, pay a visit to the Mast Brothers Chocolate tasting room or a take a tour of their newly expanded production facility, it may not be given by the brothers themselves but it’s definitely worth it.

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ADDRESSES:

MAST BROTHERS CHOCOLATE /// 105A North 3rd Street  Brooklyn, NY 11249

text and images © iluvpotato 2011

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New York City Eats

Summer is fading…

I rarely make travel plans during the summer.  As much as I dread the heat, the rancid smell of city streets and dodging tourists, I like summer in New York City a lot.  It is an expensive city to live in, with high rent, fare hikes, and cost of food inflation.  Though, if you’re a savvy New Yorker, there are many freebies hidden treasure or cheap finds all over, especially during the summer months.

NYC Summer Streets

My latest obsession is biking and it all began when I became a second hand -used  Columbia bicycle owner where I bought on Craigslist.com last summer.  When my former colleague had described “biking will change your life!”  It certainly has.  Summer is a lot more fun with a bicycle and you will see New York City in a whole new perspective.  NYC Department of Transportation and Transportation Alternatives collaborate annually and for the 4th year organized NYC Summer Streets.  From 7am – 1pm for three consecutive Saturday weekends (Aug 6, Aug 13 and Aug 20) the streets along Lafeyette from downtown Brooklyn Bridge / City Hall to Upper East Side 72nd Street and Park Ave are closed off to cars driving and parking; where joggers, strollers, pedestrians and bikers rule the streets!   This year with food sponsors like: Wholefoods, Chipotle, illy espresso, Stonyfield Farm and Brooklyn Salsa Company.  The highlight of Summer Streets is the midpoint of the route.  Whether biking, walking or jogging through the closed ramps normally driven through by yellow taxi cabs  is the Grand Central Terminal.  There are many exquisite and breathtaking architecture in New York City and Grand Central Terminal is one of few that remains.

Kings Crumb at Smorgasburg

I recently visited the latest or the trendiest outdoor street food market across in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the Smorgasburg.  I went to visit to see what all the hype was and the result was an over indulgent and guilty but not pleasurable biscuit fried chicken sandwich with ranch dressing from Kings Crumb.  Very hospitable and friendly service but I’m concern this dish will need to be accompany with a Pepto Bismol.  And not to pigeon hole Kings Crumb, many dishes I was able to observed may need a Tums beforehand. A lot of food trending was sliders, tacos, grassfed beef hot dogs, lobster rolls, and fried food, well, it’s American street food, except here is in moderation unlike what we see on Man vs. Food.   I recommend to share the biscuit, fried chicken sandwich and many other food with a friend but my greedy self ate it all in one sitting on the curb of a street sidewalk.   Smorgasburg or Williamsburg is a place to check out.  It’s not completely hipster-fy but many interesting and creative business are booming.   Walk down on  Bedford Ave., Berry Street or on North 3rd, and a few of my favorite shops where I can spend hour(s) at are:  The Brooklyn Art Library, Blue Bottle Coffee, Mast Brothers Chocolate, Sprout Home and Bedford Cheese Shop.  In many ways, Williamsburg is one of many parts of Brooklyn already gentrified but the feeling is still very industrial and creative.  It’s definitely worth a visit and it was not until last fall after living in New York City for my entire life that I had first walked across the Williamsburg Bridge and ever since it’s been one of my favorite bridge to take a stroll across, well second to Brooklyn Bridge.  One of many things I love other than eating, yes I have hobbies other than eating, is taking long distance walk and Williamsburg Bridge is safely divided from pedestrians and bicyclers, though what’s beautiful about Williamsburg Bridge is towards the center it merges, which is very unusual.  I have yet to ride by bicycle across the Williamsburg Bridge and it’s on my list of things to do before the Winter chills return.  Any takers on riding across the Billyburg Bridge for a burger at the Williamsburger?

For those who do not own a bicycle, take a free ferry ride for the free bicycle rentals on Friday at Governor’s Island.  The ferry departs from Lower Manhattan from the Battery Maritime Building.  To make your trip even more fulfilling, pack a banh mi sandwich from Chinatown for lunch.

Enjoy the remaining dog days of summer eating and biking.

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Events, New York City Eats

summer has only begun…

Summer of 2011 has been eventful so far and I admittedly love it!   It’s always been one of my most dreaded season of the year because I do not do well with heat, humidity and  did I mention summer in New York City rancid smell is unbearable.  This may sound depressing to some people but the only thing I ever looked forward to during summer is longer daylights and juicy watermelon.   Since working for a non-profit local, regional farmer’s market, New Amsterdam Market, I’ve been enlightened and introduced to many amazing food, from fresh seasonal produce to dining at restaurants who cooks and source ingredients mindfully.

Things I ate at the market today 7.10.2011 includes:

Maple Sugar on Pretzel Stick Cotton Candy from Liddabit Sweets 

Sour Cherry Soda from P& H Soda & Co.

Avocado Ice Cream from La Newyorkina

Mast Brothers Chocolate Chocolate Cookie from Blue Bottle Coffee

And a specially made a BOMB Mi (Chef Scott Bridi’s interpretation of a Vietnamese Bahn Mi with handmade pate and pork rilette, cilantro, sriracha mayo, and pickled garlic scape ) from Brooklyn Cured. – it’s da bomb!  yeah Breuklen

In addition the market highlights a lot of fresh, vibrant and seasonal produce.  Today was a  fruit day.  I end the day with  5 types of fruits to carry home and perfect for any fruit salad, jam, tart, yogurt, honey…  Or simply enjoy the fruit on its own with a gentle wash under running cold water.

Blueberry from Flying Fox

Hand picked apricots and blueberries from Flying Fox

Peaches and sour cheeries from Toigo Orchards

And the smallest plums I have ever held and tasted from Do Re Me Farms

I am fascinated by the abundance of fruits and the variety that grows in the NY State and in the Northeast region.  The vastness and richness of what our region provide is a gem and we need to appreciate it more and it starts by supporting and eating local.  Come say hello at New Amsterdam Market.  Every Sunday 11am -4pm near the Old Fulton Fish Market.  South Street,  (Between Beekman St & Peck Slip)

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I apologize I have not been writing as diligently as I like to but all that will change soon or at least that is my goal.   As a recap of my summer thus far :

Rockaway Taco: Fish Taco and Chorizo with Guac Taco

7. 9. 2011 – Sunbathing at Far Rockaway Beach and a bite at Rockaway Taco with friends.  Far Rockaway is an example of gentrification as it continues to with new restaurants and food concession opens on the boardwalk.   The neighborhood feels less threatening, much safer and a lot more trendier than 2003.  And the beach is fairly clean comparably to any beach within New York City with waves suit for a surfer.

7. 2. 2011 – Hiking and foraging for mushrooms at Bear Mountain in the Hudson Valley region with family.  My mom has her eyes on fungi.  She spotted a number of different mushrooms which we only photographed and left it untouched in the wild. 2 years later the Appalachian trail which cuts through  here from Maine to Georgia have completed building steps along the trail making the hike extra leisure and easy but still mesmerizing to walk through with tranquil sounds of nature.

6. 29. 2011: Celebrated my awesome mom’s 55th birthday at a vegetarian Korean restaurant, Hangawi,  with an elaborate menu.  The decor of the restaurant transports you to Korea and the floor seating design will make anyone sitting in lotus position look like a master yogi.  What I enjoyed most was to eat barefooted as it is an dining etiquette.

6. 28. 2011:  Shake Shack  now closer to home.  Visited their newest outpost in Financial District.  Shroom burger is the best option for any vegetarians.  Wash it down with  a milkshake or concrete!

6. 24. 2011:  Used my novice oyster shucking skills at my friend Anneliese’s birthday home-cooked party.  On the birthday menu included East Coast Oysters, Seafood Paella, Greenmarket tossed salad, baguette with cheese and quince (YUM), and Adirondack ice cream affogato!

Radegast Hall & Biergarten: Pretzel, Grilled Sausages, Sauerkrauts and Fries

6. 23. 2011:  Took advantage of the free East River Ferry from Pier 11 to North 6 Williamsburg to celebrate first week of summer solstice with friends at Radegast Hall & Biergarten with draft beers and sausages and sauerkrauts.  Pretzel is freshly baked and soft with unique condiments on the side.  A great comfort dish is their Spatzel with gouda cheese, cabbage and Hunter’s bacon like a classic mac n’ cheese.

Bobo Lamb salad at Edible's Seven Ingredients Festival

6. 18. 2011:  Attended the Edible Local Seven Ingredients event during their Eat, Drink, Local Week.  7 ingredients: Rhubarb, Strawberry, Peas, Chives and Green Garlic,  Oyster, Lamb and Yogurt.   Appetizing appetizers all evening long.

6. 9. 2011:  Volunteered at Tasting Table Lobster Rumble (General admission: $130; VIP admission: $250; Volunteered: FREE)  17 different lobster rolls to sample from and all  intrinsically different.  Some lighter than other, other more mayo, more butter, more bun…mmm  I helped two chefs from Boston, MA,  B & G Oysters & Menton to griddle countless numbers of hot dog buns and ate countless of lobster rolls.   The team I helped out B & G Oysters were of course the best!

6. 7. 2011:  Grand Opening restaurant, Casa Nonna Party.   American food meets American Italian food.  Cute petite cup sized milkshakes.

And summer in New York City has only begun…

Addresses:

Casa Nonna ///310 West 38th Street (between 8th & 9th Avenue) New York, NY 10018

Radegast Hall & Biergarten /// 113 N. 3rd Street Brooklyn, NY 11211

Shake Shack /// Multiple locations: 215 Murray Street New York, NY 10282

Hangawai /// 12 East 32nd Street New York, NY 10016

Rockaway Taco /// 95-19 Rockaway Boulevald, New York NY 11693

New Amsterdam Market /// South Street Between Beekman Street & Peck Slip, New York NY 10038

text and images © iluvpotato 2011

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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

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! 

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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.   

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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


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