Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hester Street Fair

One of my friends has a stand at the Hester Street Fair for her baked goods company which features cookies and cupcakes with Asian-inspired flavors (think green tea, jasmine, black sugar). On her first day selling, JP and I paid a visit to say hi and to fill ourselves with everything the fair has to offer. He didn't really know that we were eating there until we got there and I asked him to get in line for tacos at the Brooklyn Taco Company. Poor kid stood in the blazing hot sun for 10 minutes for those tacos! But they were good - particularly the chilorio brisket taco.  

The elote, which we actually got because the tamales would have taken too long, was also good - every square inch was covered in cheese. What wasn't good was the agua de sandia. I supposed I can't fault them if the watermelon wasn't ripe but don't use it if it doesn't taste good!

I also polished off a whole shaved ice with condensed milk mochi, kiwi and mango, and a scoop of green tea ice cream from The Shaved Ice Shop

I was a little upset that JP didn't like it, but I think it was because there was a LOT of condensed milk - even I found it a little too sweet and cloying. He did like the paletas from La Newyorkquina enough to get two of them. I have La Newyorkquina's book which I keep bringing to places I think she might be at so I can get it signed but no luck so far. Maybe next time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Anniversary dinner at L'Atelier

August 17th equaled 4 years. Although JP likes to say it's been only 3 years since I was in Paris all of 2010. No, it's been 4 years. So I grilled some skirt steak*. Made some corn and bacon. And an heirloom tomato salad with basil, balsamic and Arbequina olive oil. We finally opened up our Clos du Val cabernet that we got when we were in Napa a few years ago.

For dessert I had picked up some Italian plums (prunes?) at the Rockefeller farmer's market during lunch and turned them into a crumble.

It was a good dinner. But our "going-out" dinner was Saturday at L'Atelier de Joel Robouchon

Verdict? It was fun but the food was MEH for the most part. JP ranked it dead-last out of the four anniversary dinner's we've had. I ranked it second-to last only because I don't remember how much I liked Perry Street (the other two are Daniel at #1 and Alex at the Wynn in Vegas at #2).

We didn't get the tasting menu (I'm deathly allergic to sturgeon and have an aversion to foie gras) so we went a la carte.  A couple small plates - sauteed amadai in yuzu broth with lotus root, sauteed squid with chorizio and violet artichokes in tomato water, asparagus macaroni gratin and seared scallop with ginger and chive crust (yes, singular scallop for $28) followed by our mains. I had the hanger steak with roasted shallots and shishito peppers which failed in comparison to the hanger steak I had at craftsteak two years ago. JP had seared sea bass with a lemongrass foam and stewed baby leeks where the overwhelming flavor was lemongrass and I was reminded about those spicy cashews I have in my pantry that I need to return to TJs because I don't find them palatable.

Granted, the presentation of everything was top notch. Not all dishes fell flat. I quite liked the squid with chorizo and the crispy crust on the amadai, as well at the shallots on top of my steak. My strawberry-rhubarb-gin cocktail was stupendous and my dessert was pretty good - cheesecake mousse with Tahitian vanilla and seasonal berries.

JP's sauteed peaches with peach sorbet and meringue came on dry ice which was pretty cool.

But there was something off about the service (didn't help that obnoxious girl that sat next to me started elbowing me sometime during our dessert course). Maybe it was because I had chosen counter seating but it didn't feel like it was worth it. There, maybe that's what I mean. The food is good but overall the price just isn't worth it. I proposed that we stick to Daniel from now on since nothing else has quite measured up. We can be one of those couples that goes back every year once a year on their anniversary.

*Note: Whole Foods Chelsea - please carry non-grass fed beef. I like it better. And its not $14/lb. I think I'll be going to Whole Foods Union Square for meat from now on.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


JP and I finally ventured over to Smorgasburg - the food-centric offshoot of the Brooklyn Flee, just one stop into Brooklyn on the L (if it was more, we might not have made it over...). It was the perfect day with the breeze from the water providing some welcome respite from the blazing sun. My plan? Sample as much as I can and hit up some spots that I'd read about and wanted to try. We succeeded for the most part - mostly because we came a little after noon while the market was still fairly slow.

We started with a pork cemita. What's a cemita? It's a sandwich originating in Puebla, Mexico. It's kinda like a regional version of a torta.

Unfortunately, we both found the bread to be too dry and neither the black bean spread nor the cheese made up for it. I wouldn't really recommend this to anyone. Plus, JP wasn't a fan of the papalo. We washed it down with some jalapeno limeaide from Tenpenny which I found to be a rip-off after I saw them pouring in Minute-Maid Limeaid and mixing it with other stuff (probably jalapeno-infused simple syrup). It wasn't that good either.

It started getting hot so we moved right along to the frozen desserts - Sweet Fusion which served small-batch ice cream enveloped in homemade mochi. We tried the watermelon one which was really good and refreshing, but a tad on the pricey side for what it was. I just remember thinking "if this was $1 less, I'd enjoy it more". But thats alright, we're supporting small producers and $1 for me isn't as much as $1 for them.

Still craving something to beat the heat, we hit up Rob & Anna's (hehe, say their name fast) for their soft-serve frozen bananas. I got it with some raw raspberry coulis which provided just the right amount of tang. This was one of the stands I wanted to try. I don't like bananas in smoothies but I do like other kinds of bananas. It was an interesting taste/texture combination and I'm glad I shared it with JP - I don't think I would've been able to finish this by myself. It's not that I didn't like it (I did), it was just...strange. 

We didn't try Nana's which sells frozen bananas dipped in chocolate that you customize with various toppings; in the hour or so after we first arrived at Smorgasburg, a ferry unloaded boat-load (ferry-load?) of passengers and huge lines formed. In other related news, I recently started freezing halves of baby bananas and coating them in chocolate. These are delicious.

While all those ferry people were waiting in lines, we sat around and enjoyed the views before making rounds for more edibles again. Round #2 started with JP getting a banh-mi style hot dog from AsiaDog, which I've written about before, topped with aioli, pate, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro and jalapeno. 

We then moved on to the shave ice from People's Pops. I tried People's Pops once. I didn't like them. but their shave ice (yes, shave, not shaved) is SO RIDICULOUSLY GOOD AND REFRESHING. JP won this one - he got the sour cherry flavor, while I got the red plum version (they just pour homemade syrup on top of your ice). I could've eaten both of these. Note to self - get an ice shaver next time we're down in Mexico (the one the guy was using was Victoria, which is a Mexican brand).

And lastly, I couldn't pass up a doughnut from Dough. I'd heard a lot about them recently and having finally tried doughnuts from The Doughnut Plant, I couldn't pass these up to compare (took me a while even though the new location at the Chelsea Hotel is only a few blocks from my apartment...and I didn't even buy them, they were an apartment warming present/edible!). 

JP resisted. Why did I want a huge doughnut after already being a glutton and eating so much food? Plus it was pretty hot outside by then. But I just wanted it. We were debating between the blood orange and the hibiscus but finally went with the latter. I won this round. JP loved it. The doughnuts are light and fluffy and they're yeast doughnuts! That's my favorite kind - it reminds me of my childhood when I was in Communist Russia (we had surprisingly good baked goods over there!). I can't say I tasted much of the hibiscus, just a slight tang in the sweet glaze but whatever. This was a delicious way to end a delicious day. 

I'll definitely be back before summer is over - I missed out on some things I wanted to try, particularly Shorty Tang's cold sesame noodles, a delicious-looking chocolate crinkle cookie from Commerce Bakery and biscuits from King's Crumb. Next time. And another doughnut, or two.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Long overdue apartment warming

We had our apartment warming a few weeks ago. For the most part I was unambitious, preferring to buy snacks from Trader Joe's (which, by the way, was a great way for me to taste some products that I've wanted to try out, specifically their Pita Puffs). I had promised to make some pao de queijo, which I did and they were, again, delicious. Von and I also attempted to make boozy watermelon using Absolut's Wild Tea vodka. Kinda didn't work out too well so I don't think I'll be revisiting that anytime soon. I also had five or six over ripe bananas which turned into banana bread using Flour Bakery's recipe (don't judge the hole in the middle...I was taste testing)...

...which I then cut up to make chocolate and pistachio-covered banana bread bites! Much more party friendly. 

But the star of the party were the watermelon jello shots. Not my idea. I saw it on a few days prior and thought it was the cutest idea ever. I ran around New York trying to find powdered jello since I my usual stops (TJ's and Whole Foods) and apparently bodegas and Duane Reade don't carry it. I didn't want to go out of my way to a "regular" grocery store but I succumbed and went to Food Emporium by work. Task #1 completed.

Task #2 was juicing limes and removing all the insides which made my hands raw. I really need to buy some disposable gloves for times like that. And for chopping jalapenos. By the way, removing the insides of the limes wasn't as easy as it sounds - you have to carefully run a pairing knife between the pulp and the pith. I had some trouble because my limes were super thin-skinned. But, I prevailed.

Task #3 was choosing the right alcohol. I went with cachaca but I don't think I'd do that again. Maybe rum next time. And don't believe the 1-to-1 water-to-alcohol ratio. I'd cut down on the alcohol a bit and do 5-to-3 (ie 1.25 cups water and 0.75 cups alcohol). It'll taste better.

So after I set the halved-out lime rinds into mini-muffin tins, poured in the liquid, let it set overnight, quartered the resulting "jello cups" and sprinkled mini chocolate chips over them (don't try to shove them into the jello, it doesn't work), the result:

A little too bitter for me from the cachaca but the chocolate chips evened that out ok. Super cute, aren't they?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

'wichcraft's BLT

Except in rare instances, I generally buy my lunch rather than bringing it to work. I try to spend no more than $8 but this summer, 'wichcraft's BLT sandwich  has been my guilty pleasure. I've had 5 of them since they came back on the menu at the end of July. And at $10.75 post-tax this isn't a cheap meal, but boy is it delicious. Fresh tomatoes from the Greenmarket (the reason why this sandwich is seasonal), heritage bacon, mixed baby lettuces and a house-made aioli (I get mine sans aioli) on country bread.

And I'll keep coming back to 'wichcraft until they take it off the menu. And then I won't step foot in there until next summer because they are a ridiculously overpriced eatery serving mediocre sandwiches at best, which, by the way, have absurd calorie counts. Save for the BLT.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Midtown food trucks that parked near my work before the ban

I wrote this post before all the food trucks were banned from Midtown. Hopefully they're allowed to come back soon...I used to have a list of trucks that rotated daily. Nowadays you'd be lucky to find one in the area. Although some trucks have started setting up carts - I can still get waffels on Friday. So here's a run-down of what used to park near work.

Mexicue I've only gone once and ordered the chili bowl and a beet taco. The chili bowls was disappointing - it was a hollowed out bun (a little stale at that) with beans and meat ant toppings, but not enough of them. Maybe 4 forkfuls of filling. The roasted beet taco on the other hand was really good.

Kimchi Taco This is probably my favorite truck that used to come by. The first time I tried this truck, it was parked in front of Le Bernardin (which isn't all that if you ask me) and a cop came by and made them move (the poor guy was actually really nice, and they tried to bribe him with food but he made a good point that the building will just call them again). Anyhow, their rice bowls are ridiculously good and super filling (enough for two meals but since I am a goldfish, I eat it all at once).

The multigrain rice is definitely the way to go. Not sure what's in it but it looks like lots of other legumes that make the rice almost purple (it's way better than the purple rice+beans they have at Korean restaurants). I got this with spicy pork and scarfed it down. Problem is, leftover bits of kimchee start smelling after a while and I think I scared away several coworkers during the course of the afternoon. But I'm shameless and the next time I got tacos (one bulgogi, one spicy pork and one chicken). I'm not a fan of the bulgogi they serve - it was extra heavy on the cumin I think (or was it corinader? I forget). I think the bowl is a much better value and better tasting. So I'll be sticking to the spicy pork from now on. And, I have to add that their kimchi arancini were really good - even JP enjoyed them (he got a kimcheesesteak minus the kimchi). Oh, and one more thing - their mild sauce is very mild so stick to their hot sauce

Taim The vegetarian option. I've had falafel from here four times so far. One regular falafel sandwich, one special tomato and basil falafel sandwich which turned out to be dry, one hummus sandwich which I will get next time with extra cabbage salad and no quinoa salad (is it bad of me to admit that I don't think I'm a huge fan of quinoa?), and one Sabich. Secretly (maybe because I love cabbage so much), I still think L'as du Falafel in Paris was the best falafel sandwich I've had. But my go-to here is now the Sabich (it's a special so they don't always have it). Deep fried eggplant slices (not breaded) stuffed into the same pita with tahini and hummus and salad as the regular falafel sandwich. It comes with a sliced hardboiled egg inside for those of you who like it. I don't. Next time I will ask for it without. The guy taking the order steered me away from the whole wheat pita for the Sabbich and he pretty much knows what he's talking about. The regular pita soaks up the greasy eggplant juices better but I didn't find the sandwich to be too greasy overall. Don't forget to ask for the spicy sauce (S'rug) inside the pita - it makes a big difference. One thing I wasn't a fan of was their Date-Lime-Banana smoothie. But their fries are really good - on the thinner side and nicely crispy.

Joyride  A froyo/coffee truck. I got their original and topped it with blackberries and croquantes (chocolate covered rice krispie ball type things). It reminded me of Pinkberry although a tiny bit icier and with a richer mouthfeel. Too bad no trucks in midtown anymore as I would've become a regular customer for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up during the summer as there is no Pinkberry within a 5-minute walking distance from here. Although I'm scared to ask about the calorie count

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

ABC Kitchen - my favorite spot-of-the-moment

I'm a little bit late on the bandwagon for this one, but ABC Kitchen is now one of my favorite restaurants in NYC (ok maybe my ENTRY is late - I went for the first time back in the Spring). You see, I never know when JP gets out of work so I've started making reservations at restaurants several weeks in advance just in case he's free in the evening (or weekend for that matter). I'd canceled and rescheduled reservations numerous times already (Dell'Anima, Untitled at the Whitney) but this was one reservation I was not going to let go of, even if it meant going without him. Granted the restaurant has been getting a ton of buzz for a while now but I booked before it won the James Beard for Best New Restaurant earlier this year, and now it'll probably be even more difficult (I am still bitter about how I kept nagging him to go to Locanda Verde with me until one day early in their existence, NYTimes did a review and I still haven't gone there for dinner). On the plus side, ABC Kitchen has a fairly spacious bar area for walk-ins and some seating at the cafe in the back, where the same menu is served.

We went on a Sunday night. I went again the following Tuesday for lunch. That's how good it was. Since then, we've had brunch there twice. Their cocktails are bright and fresh. Their veggies are ridiculously delicious, especially the beets which I got twice, as well as the roasted carrot and avocado salad. For me the dinner was more memorable than the lunch but that's because the pasta I had at lunch (bowties with kasha and veal meatballs, below) didn't impress me much. 

What did impress me was the other pasta we had - cavateppi with spring peas, guanciale and parmesan. I gave half of a half of a half sized portion ( following that? we got the smaller portion, which they split into two, and I gave him half of mine) since he didn't want to touch the beets after having a tiny bite. But I didn't care, more for me!

This is just really good, simple market-based cooking done well, with very reasonable portions (perhaps one of a handful of times when I didn't feel like I was pregnant with a food baby after dinner). Oh, and their cream-filled doughnuts with a rich dark chocolate sauce aren't too bad either. More dinners and brunches here await!