July 24, 2011

Stories from Manhantan (and Brooklyn)

OK so story #1: I was determined to visit the famed Brooklyn Flea Market after reading about it on NY Mag (which has just about replaced Yelp at this point for restaurant recommendations), and in particular - the foodie bonanza known as Smorgasburg.

Last weekend, we hopped on the ACE train and headed out to Brooklyn. First we got lost, then we walked 15 blocks only to find out we ended up at the wrong flea market and that the one were looking for was only open on Sundays. Sigh. Oh but of course it turned out to be an amazing (foodie) experience and I wound up staying for 5 hours. Today, I went to go see the "official" flea market in Williamsburg and who knew? It was basically the exact same thing. ha-ha.

HomeMade Fizzy Juice: Grapefruit & Jalapenos.  Sounds weird but you're talking to someone who eats jalapenos as a condiment. It was delicious :)
Other eats that I still need to try.
Pork Sandwiches on Ciabatta bread. and a piggie toy. adorbs. 

Corn Tortillas, Fresh Salsa and Spicy Toppings. All fresh and beautifully prepared. Sigh. 
[Pork Tacos]  Reminded me of the AMAZING tacos from Cancun. I've never been a fan of tortilla until I realized on day it was just flour tortilla. Corn tortilla gets a gold star from me. 
YUM YUM YUM!!! Can you tell I was excited?

Story #2: I was majorly craving fried chicken one night so I went over to Kyochon on 31st and 5th Ave.  I asked for the spicy wings and holy cow it was SPICY....like inedible spicy, I didn't even know such a thing existed. Kind of disappointing. Scratch that - really disappointing.  At least the pickled veggies were yummy except they were spicy too! Which would of course normally be ok but not when you've already lost feeling in your tongue. And the kicker of the story is that BonChon was only 1 block away and would probably have been infinitely better. Sigh.

That chicken even looks spicy in the picture.

Story #3: On a much happier note, I have had the most amazing, life-changing and memorable macarons of my life. WOW.  Bouchon Bakery has instantly become a new love. Located in the Time Warner's Building which is conveniently "only" 10 blocks from my apartment, we stopped by after a filling brunch at Silhouette.   Everything about the macarons was perfect. The texture was very cake-like and the fillings were creamy and not overwhelmingly sweet. I could easily eat a whole box of them. Fortunately or unfortunately, $4/macaron kept me from ordering a whole box.

Blueberry Cheesecake, Salted Caramel.
Story #4 Lunch at Ciano's on the hottest day of the year. Thank goodness for AC and prix fixe lunches :) We were literally drenched from the 1.5 blocks it took to walk to the restaurant.  For once, I was grateful for the freezing AC that's always being blasted at work.

I personally can never turn down eggplant when I see it on the menu. I don't know what it is for other people but its eggplant for me; plus Italian cuisine just happens to be one of the ones that consistently serves up delicious eggplant.

Crespelle; Savory Crepes filled with Ricotta Spinach, Zucchini and Swiss Chard
Tre Formaggi Raviolo; Stracchino, Burrata and Parmigiano with Rosemary-Brown Butter
Shaved Vegetable Salad with Mixed Greens, Carrot, Fennel, Peppers and Ricotta Salata
Roasted Eggplant “Amatriciania”; Tomato, Guanciale and Pepperoncini
Strawberry Sorbet & Biscotti. Of course, there is no other dessert choice but sorbet when the weather outside is spiking to 105 degrees.
Story #5: Brunch at Esperanto in the Village. With my weekends in NYC sadly winding down, it meant it was time to get adventurous. Instead of the usual brunch in Hells Kitchen - we ventured to the East side (so East that numbers turned into letters...which I of course didn't even realize existed) . And a prix fixe brunch that includes coffee and a cocktail for $10.95? Who can say no to that? 

Confession time: we were actually trying to get brunch at the Sunburnt Cow (unlimited mimosas for $20...) but the wait was over 2 hours and it was 2:00pm already. So we settled on Esperanto but I am very tempted to actually experience the experience  the midday version of an open bar. 

Huevos Rancheros. Esperanda with its colorful table designs and plastic decor reminds me of a fancier food shack off a beaten road somewhere in a tropical island. The side potatoes had flavorful kick to them - reminded me of paprika.
Tropical French Toast.  Nothing fancy, no brioche, no creme fraiche, no fruite compote. This french toast tasted like the french toast I had when my dad made it for me for the first time.
Huevos Languas: poached egg, greens and potato shrimp cake. The food here was also really similar to RX at Penn in the sense that the food is on the simpler side but well-prepared and in a light-hearted ambiance.

July 17, 2011

Korean Eats

4 weeks later and I have finally discovered Korea town. How it took me so long to find the place I have no idea but thank goodness I did. Although K-town is awkwardly located between home and work with neither being walking distance, I have still managed to find enough excuses to frequent the street. Especially after eating at work and in Hells Kitchen for so long, I was starting to seriously crave my usual staples of noodles, gochijang, and soy.

After a friend from Penn got settled into the city, we journeyed to K-town where I finally got my first Korean BBQ adventure. Talk about a serious food experience! I don't think I have ever eaten that much since the Chinese New Year's. Long story short, easily one of the best meals of life if for no other reason that the food was good and there was so much of it :)

Look at this massive array of banchan (korean side dishes)! Our favorites were the dried tofu skin, cured radish and two selections of kimchi.
BBQ sampling of gal bi, pork belly and tenderloin (?) Not sure what the last one was but lets go with tenderloin. Funnily enough, the gas for the BBQ was broken that day so they created this makeshift grill on a portable gas stove.  Not the truly authentic BBQ experience but I wasn't complaining. 

I think my favorites were the two beef selections since they were both marinated nicely and seasoned. The pork belly was cooked well with some kimchi and garlic. 

Egg in hot pot, tofu, rice and snapshot of an (almost) empty plate. tehee. It always baffles me how closely so many Korean dishes resembles Chinese dishes (ok yea one would intuitively come to that conclusion) but still. Take the egg dish, gyeran jiim. I literally grew up on the exact same thing from the time I was maybe two to well...now. My grandmother still makes it for breakfast everyday. Custard like and piping hot, this was one good gyeran jiim.

To add to the this foodie joy, I was shown Marks Plaza 1 day later where I saw the mecca of ramen and I was seriously seriously in love.  An impromptu dinner at Ippudo where I had a dead phone and no camera meant yet another ramen meal with no pictures to share.  Oh well, at least Momofuku is still on the to-do list.

Dinner on a rainy Thursday at Soba-ya. Tempura in hot broth had never seemed like a culinary feasible idea and after finally trying it, I think I am still of the same opinion.  We had a sampling of dishes including some salmon (meh) and pork belly which was served with a poached egg in a slight broth (yum).  As the name of the restaurant indicates, Soba-ya is known for its buckwheat noodles but I found them to be rather unimpressive - maybe it was just the dish we ordered since soba is normally eaten cold. Or maybe I just don't like buckwheat. haha. 

Fried Rice Balls with Sesame Filling at Tkettle, Ja Ziang Mian at Shanghai Mong, Chocolate Soup Dumplings at Rickshaw's Dumpling Bar and Red Bean Smoothie Bubble Tea at Tkettle. 

Shanghai Mong, located in K-Town, calls itself a Chinese fusion restaurant... aka the Korean version of Chinese food.  I'm not sure what the exact sauce they used for the ja ziang mian was but it must be a common Korean ingredient since my friends have cooked with it before.  Of course, it tasted nothing like Chinese ja ziang mian but who is complaining as long as the food tastes good?

TKettle is also an adorable snack/bubble tea bar located at Saint Marks Plaza. They serve an interesting version of french toast, omelets as well with an assortment of dessert snacks. 

Dessert after work at Kyoto Tofu.Black Sesame Tofu with hoji-cha syrup and white sesame tuile.
Mango and Coconut Soymilk Soft Serve Sundae with fruit compote, matcha mochi, brownie topping and pocky.

Tofu? In a dessert? My friend promised me this was worth losing an hour of sleep over after I returned from work on a Tuesday night. Even though I had already changed into my pajamas, the foodie in me still ventured out (fortunately, the place was only around the corner) to try this famed tofu. I absolutely loved the soft serve but the smorgasborg of toppings  was a bit of an overkill. The black sesame tofu was light and refreshing, akin to a very subtle version of a panna cotta. I will admit it was worth the trip over :)

FINALLY I got to try the famous Bonchon Fired Chicken! And YES it was worth all of the hub bub because they were everything they promised to be: perfectly fried, crispy, juicy and flavored to the level of spicy that  makes me want to do a little dance (which yes, I did). The cold noodle dish of the day was also exactly what we needed after walking around the city for 4 hours. Apparently, some of the dishes at Boka are hit-or-miss but the fried chicken is a winner :D
Dinner at Grand Sichuan in Chinatown: Fei Pian, Spicy Lamb and Eggplants with Green Peppers.
The lamb was sadly nowhere near as spicy as a Sichuan restaurant should be serving but the fei pian was some of the best I have had. It was served with crushed peanuts, grounded garlic and just enough spicy pepper oil. 

July 16, 2011

World Tour: Europe

Brunch at Marseilles [a less exciting {and shorter version} of Midnight in Paris]

Love, love, loved Midnight in Paris. If there was a ever a feel good movie that made you all warm and fuzzy inside - this would have to be the movie of choice. Although I've never been a big fan of Owen Wilson, Mr. Allen wrote the perfect role where Wilson could exhibit his usual wide-eyed confused look with ease.

Ironically, we also had brunch only the day before in nearby Hells Kitchen locale called Marseilles. I have no idea how closely the restaurant resembles an authentic Parisian eatery but who knows how accurately Midnight in Paris actually reflected reality as well?

[Toast, Muffins with fixings, Coffee] An adorable complimentary platter of pumpkin flavored mini-muffins, raisin bread and rye bread served with a very small side of jam and very big heap of butter. 
[Poached Eggs and Ratatouille, Scrambled Eggs] Now I finally know what ratatouille is. You would think that after watching the movie countless times on HBO, I would have figured it out by now. They really weren't kidding when they say its literally just a bunch of vegetables in a bowl. Why is it that the moment you make a dish French, it automatically sounds fancier? 

[Banana French Toast, Applewood Bacon] Cooking with bananas is like trying to find good sushi in a land -locked city, very hit or miss.  I know of people who absolutely hate the pungent and recognizable smell of over-ripe bananas but then they love the taste of banana bread. I like a mildly ripe banana once in a while but never in a dish as heavy as banana pudding. But that's just me.

Manzo at Eataly [Eataly is Italy! Thanks Mr. Batali] 

Yup, that man is an Iron Chef for a reason. Amazing olive oil, amazing pasta and of course as Italian as you could possibly get.  Dubbed the start of a new wave of high-end European food markets, Eataly is the classy New York version of Reading Terminal Market and somewhat akin to Chelsea Market although much much much more Italian.

[Bread, EVOO, Crispy Zucchini Flower] Talk about Italian. My friend who spent a summer in Italy last summer instantly recognized the Zucchini Flower on the menu. I personally don't understand the appeal besides the fact that something battered and fried is obviously going to taste good. The anchovies on the bottom were a nice accompaniment, not too fishy and appropriately salty. The olive oil was also divine - it has got to be one of the fruttiest and purest tasting olive oils I have ever sampled.
[Lamb Loin, Pork Sausage with Broccoli Rabe and Pork Belly]. Delicious pork belly that was cooked and seasoned very nicely.  The sausage was good too but not life-changing. Can sausage be life-changing? I always viewed sausage as a comfort food that will taste good regardless of if you are buying it from a street vendor or ordering it in a five-star restaurant. Always comforting but never life-changing.
[Orchiette with garlic scrape pesto, Tortteloni with braised beef and mushroom butter] Pasta on the other hand can very life-changing. This was one of those dishes were you every bite was just a burst of pure happiness. 

The Green Table at the Chelsea Market 

Another trend, farm-to-table cuisine, is making a big splash all over the city and naturally we had to get in on the fun. Everything at The Green Table from the wooden park tables to the fresh flowers decorating the wooden park tables reflected the theme of the cuisine.

The best aspects of the menu and the restaurant itself were appropriately the simplest: filtered water in green bottles, candied figs and big cups of organic coffee. Of course, me acting like the usual impatient person I am rushed off and bought a cappuccino while we were waiting for a table and missed out on the life-changing coffee. Yup, a lot of life-changing food in the past two weeks.

[Flowers, Water ]

[Candied Figs, Butter, Syrup, Milk]
[Bah Minh Sandwich with Duck Pate] Naturally as soon as I saw the word duck, I was sold. Tasty sandwich but nothing spectacular. There's a place in Chinatown I read about from NY Mag recommended by Ann Bushnell which has $3.75 Bah Minh sandwiches. NOM.

[Chicken Pot Pie] If you are going to eat chicken, then it should be fried. If you are going to eat peas, then it shouldn't be with carrots (seriously, its not a good combination!). If you're going to have some pastry dough, then let it be an actual pastry.  I am sure if I actually gave chicken pot pies a real chance, I would fall in love with it like everything else but for now, I'm just going to keep being stubborn.
[French Toast]  The way french toast should be: a modest slice, perfectly golden with some really good maple syrup. 
I can't believe it is the half-way point already. Speaking of which, I think the one year anniversary of my blog is coming up! ...unless its passed already. haha, I'll have to go back to my first blog post and see. Anyways, I got one more big post to put up on Korean eats and then I'll see if I can think of or find something special to do for the 1 year anniversary post. :)

July 3, 2011

Doing the New York Thing

1. Bagels 
[French toast bagels with butter] Who knew semi-burnt sugar + powdered sugar + butter + carbs could taste so good? Well duh, why am I even asking that question? I don't think adding brown sugar to a bagel qualifies it as "french toast" but I'm not complaining when the sugar is all but caramelized perfectly.
2. Knish
I have never heard of a knish before. I didn't even know how to pronounce knish. I thought the "k" was silent. I also thought that I was ordering a sandwich haha. At least, I really liked it.
3. Shake Shack
What is the deal with this place? Every time I get off of work, I see the line stretching all across Madison Square Park. I mean yea its a good burger but its not that good. I personally think In n Out is way better and a lot less greasy.  Shake Shack describes themselves as the "modern roadside burger", whatever that means. For the wait you have to go through, it'd be easier and tastier to just get a real burger from an actual restaurant. 
4) (Mini) Cupcakes - Baked by Melissa
When I first saw these mini concoctions (and when they say mini...its actually quite mini), I thought it was the most adorable creation ever - especially with the plethora of diverse flavor combinations...then I learned that Baked by Melissa's is actually a chain of cupcake stores. And we know how I feel about chains/franchisees. Oh well, the flavor combos were still fun. Shown above: peanut butter & jelly, chocolate peanut butter and chocolate chip pancake. 
5. Truffle Fries & Black and White Photos 
My roommates went to Delicatessen in Soho for dinner the other night that I was at Giorgios. After they came back and raved..literally raved...about the truffle fries - I all but demanded that they go again with me. The fries were indeed quite fabulous and came in a well-received extra large portion. Unfortunately,  the rest of the menu was severely lacking - not enough to go back for another full-fledge meal, but I wouldn't mind returning and getting another order (or two) of those fries.  Speaking of which, Elle's latest issue features the actress Emma Stone and there is an entire section of the interview paying homage to truffle fries.  You can find some shots from the issue here .  A girl who can't live without truffle fries is my kind of girl :)

July 2, 2011

Prequel to the Fourth of July!

Got a backlog of pictures and stories to share after not blogging for a whole two weeks! Usually what happens is I'll start editing and collaging the pictures at night after I get home from my work but by the time I get through a handful of pictures, I realize it is already bedtime. I've also gotten a little lazy about taking pictures since some of the eats have become a little repetitive and I want to keep these posts exciting :)

Anyways, first up on deck is brunch! Yes this is my 50 millionth post about brunch and yes, every time I post about brunch, I rave about how it is the best brunch I have ever had. Well, this is the official one (for now anyways). It is better than Sabrina's, better than RX and better than TapHouse. The brunch menu at La Silhouette is somewhat limited and the staff is a little too lean for good service but they have the most amazing eggs benedict I have ever ever ever eaten. It's not just the poached egg and smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce that makes the dish the best of the best, its also the side of perfectly crispy caesar salad and seasoned herbed potatoes and the fact that they give you two poached eggs that makes the dish one of the most perfectly scrumptous packages I have ever encountered. To make matters even better, the lighting in the dining room, akin to a Hamptons sun-room decked out with white linens, was ideal for some picture-taking.

The week before, my roommates and I had tried to grab dinner at the famed Italian restaurant Scarpetta but of course, being newbies to the NY scene - we couldn't snag a reservation and the only dinner opening they had left for walk-ins was 11pm. After wafting in all of the savory aromas of good Italian cooking, I was craving some pasta.

So last week, I had a mini reunion with 3 of my friends from Governor's School which gave me the perfect excuse to seek out a yummy Italian place. A quick yelp search and I dug up Georgios of Gramercy. The scene was surprisingly idle despite it being 8pm on a Saturday night: with a modestly priced and well crafted menu - I was even more surprised that there weren't more people in the quaint dining area.  The menu offers had the option of ordering "appetizer" size or entree size for the pasta dishes although my "appetizer" size was enough to seriously fill me up for the rest of the night.

Last Wednesday, I got to meet my work mentor for the summer and was lucky enough to get to try out Tamarind: an absolutely delightful restaurant with an array of Indian cuisine from various different regions. The pictures from my phone are a little off since we were impatient to eat but fortunately, the food speaks for itself. 

Too much time blogging and not enough time to get ready for dinner. GR! Ok, will have some real stories (as opposed to food stories) and 2 more posts by weekend end!