Rice-a-Roni, that San Francisco treat!

21 05 2007

This post is long overdue, and it’ll be more like a picture montage rather than anything resembling a written entry. Let’s get started.

I went to San Francisco about a month ago, originally to see if I wanted to live there, but since things have changed and I’m staying in NY, this turned into a brief, amazingly fun fooding trip. This picture makes me think of SF just as much as a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Their row houses or whatever they’re called are so colorful and beautiful. I wouldn’t mind living in one of these.

Treats from the famous Tartine Bakery:

The BEST pain au chocolat I have ever tasted. I’m tempted to say even better than in Paris, but I don’t really remember the ones I had there, so I could be unintentionally provoking the anger of Parisians everywhere.

At the Ferry Building Market, more scrumptious goodies. Had a really good mushroom leek tart from this stand.

A myriad of fancy mushrooms await you at the Ferry Market. I’ve never even heard of these varieties.

Gelato at the Ferry market: on top of both cups is pistachio, bottom of the left-hand one is pumpkin, on the right is mocha. I wouldn’t recommend the pumpkin, but the pistachio is YUMMY – creamy and smooth, with a great pistachio crunch.





Boredom & leftovers work wonders

8 04 2007

I didn’t feel like making the trek to Manhattan tonight, so I decided to stay in and cook for me and my brother. I had been craving pasta, and I knew we had some linguine in the cabinet. So I tossed it together with some leftover olives, among other things. I also wanted to make meatballs because I had made it once for my mother’s party. This time I put my own spin on it and took a little from different recipes. I don’t really have set measurements for the linguine since I just sort of tossed in things I thought would taste good and guesstimated the amounts.


linguine with olives

  • 1/2 box of linguine
  • olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer)
  • handful of olives
  • 2 plum tomatoes chopped up
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced thinly
  • 3 shallots (tiny onions)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes to sprinkle on top

Boil the pasta to the point before it becomes cooked because you’re going to cook it again in the pan. While boiling the pasta, start sauteing the garlic and shallots in olive oil. I usually add the salt here, so that the oil doesn’t jump out of the pan, little secret I learned from my momma. When they’ve browned nicely, add the pasta and 1/3 cup of the pasta water(maybe? I just poured some in, not drowning the pasta, but maybe about 1/2 inch from the bottom). It keeps the pasta from drying out and the water will eventually get soaked up by the pasta ( I learned that from Lydia Bastianach). Toss the pasta a bit, then add pepper and the olives. The last thing I added was the tomatoes so that they still retained their freshness and don’t become mushy, because I wasn’t making marinara sauce.

meatballs

  • 1 lb beef
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • handful of chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of flour
  • olive oil

Lightly mix all the ingredients, except for the olive oil and flour, together with your hands. Get all that stuff mixed together evenly as you can. Then start rolling small balls, about an inch or smaller, in a circular motion in your palm and then roll them in the flour. Tap off the excess flour. It’s a lot easier to roll them all first before you start cooking unless you have another person helping you to turn the meatballs in the pan, otherwise it’s like a juggling act.

In a pan, heat up the olive oil, about 3 tablespoons. Then, lower the heat to about medium low, spacing out the meatballs so that they can cook evenly, drop those babies in. Let each side brown deeply and continually rotate them. They take about 5-8 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on them because they can burn really quickly. Eat them while they’re hot, although they’re still tasty at room temperature.





A Family Affair

7 04 2007

Every Friday, my entire family (grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins) gets together and eats dinner. Needless to say, it’s fairly nosy with lots of shouting and laughter. These dinners used to be at my grandparents’ house, then when they moved, their apartment and every once in awhile, a Cantonese restaurant in Brooklyn Chinatown. The kids would congregate around the television, relishing TGIF (oh, how I miss the days of Family Matters, Step by Step, Perfect Strangers, Boy Meets World), while the adults would be around the dinner table discussing whatever it is grown-ups talk about.

Last summer, my uncle opened his own restaurant on Eighth Avenue (Bklyn Chinatown) and 52nd Street, called Lucky Eight (there was much debate on what the name should be, I suggested On Rice and Men, hehehe). Another of my relatives is the chef, previously he had been a four star chef in Asia. It’s much classier than most of the other places in the neighborhood and serves really great Cantonese food for a great price. The waiters speak English and the menus feature lots of pictures so you won’t have a mystery dinner. Below are some of the dishes we had this past Friday. I don’t know their names, since my uncle usually orders in Cantonese, so I will give my own interpretation of what the dish is.

Giant crab with chow fun – this was my favorite dish of the night. It’s really flavorful, and the first time I’ve ever had crab sitting in noodles. We normally get crab with steamed egg which is also heavenly and really rich.


Steamed fish topped with scallions, parsley and ginger in soy sauce. I think the fish is probably sea bass, but don’t quote me on that. It’s a really great way of cooking fish, because it keeps it tender and delectable. I like especially like eating it with the scallions and ginger, adds extra punch. My grandmother loves the sauce and spoons gallons of it over her rice.


Eggplant with squid and a myriad of other goodies like snow peas and mushrooms. It’s sort of like a hot pot dish, but keeps the eggplant intact and not overly mushy like other eggplant dishes. I love eggplant, so I like this dish a lot with it’s smoky flavor and chunky eggplant pieces. Really good with rice.

Sauteed chicken with Chinese broccoli. I usually don’t like chicken cooked this way because it’s dry and tasteless. But here, it’s really moist and flavorful.

This is my grandmother’s favorite dish and we’ve ordered it at basically every restaurant we go to. It’s green beans sauteed with minced pork. It’s pretty salty, but it’s really great when the green beans are fresh and not overcooked.

So yes, it may seem like I’m biased, but I really wouldn’t lie about food of all things. I’ve eaten lots of Cantonese food, to the point of being sick of it sometimes, and this is truly the best Cantonese place in New York. If you ever want to go, just let me know, and I’ll be there. I would recommend going with at least 3 other people so you can share a good number of dishes, family style. Don’t be intimidated by the trek to Brooklyn, it’s really easy to get there, just take the N train to 8th Avenue and walk down to 52nd Street.

Lucky Eight
Eighth Avenue and 52nd street





i appear to have misplaced my vowels

7 04 2007

I finally tried one of those new burger joints, brgr. It’s a nicer version of the higher end burger places like Burger Heaven, for instance. You order at the counter, and pick up your own drink, but they bring you your food and the decor is nicer than your average Burger King. It has meaty red color tones and dim lighting to make your eating partners more attractive.
As for drinks, they offer a wide array of milkshakes – including a blueberry pomegranate flavor, none of which I tried because I wouldn’t be able to also eat my burger without turning comatose. But I did try their good white (versus their good red, better red and better white) and for $4, it wasn’t bad, not in the least.

On to the burgers!
My all natural turkey burger with – pay attention now – gruyere cheese, a fried egg, fried onions, brgr sauce and horseradish cream. AND of course, each bite I drenched in ketchup, mustard, and my new favorite sauce, smoky chipotle tabasco sauce. Yes I suppose all of that could mask the taste of the meat, but that’s why I love burgers, for the toppings that mesh perfectly with the meatiness and I loveeeeeee sauces. The pickles were also quite good, not the super briny deep green kind you find in Micky D’s, but a freshier, not so tart version. So I would say that in terms of sauciness and flavor, it was pretty successful. The only thing lacking was the bun, which could have been a little crispier.

Next up:

This doesn’t depict the actual burger very good, but it was the famed Montana Legend Angus beef along with brie and bacon. Apparently, the beef wasn’t that good but everything else was. Onion hay seemed unremarkable from everyone else’s reactions, asI didn’t try it.

And finally…Number 14 which consisted of a veggie patty, brie, and sweet onion marmalade (as an aside the sweet onion sauce at subway’s has the awe-inspiring ability to make even a plain turkey sandwich incredibly tasty). Karen found it really yummy and gobbled that baby down.

All in all, it was a good burger place that I would probably revisit if I felt a craving for burgers. But if you’re a big beefy burger person, I wouldn’t recommend coming here, since it’s all about the toppings. It also gets pricey whenever you add another extra goody. My burger was around $9 and I built it myself. Karen’s #14 was also about the same price, so I don’t see how ordering one of their previously compiled burgers would be any cheaper.

brgr
287 Seventh Avenue nr. 26th Street (right next to Chipotle)





Pork Butt All Day Every Day

10 03 2007

This post is for all us fatties. Eleven of us committed to what could well be the ultimate feast of feasts: the bo ssam at Momofuku Ssam Bar. You have to make reservations in advance so they can prepare this oversized meal for you and your crew. In addition to a WHOLE butt, you get oysters, endless piles of rice and kimchi, and bowls of bibb lettuce. It’s very similar to eating kalbi in a Korean restaurant, in which you pile all those goodies into the lettuce leaves (although in Korean places, they usually give you red leaf lettuce – I think) and stuff into your mouth as fast as you can.

Okay let’s skip the small talk and get right down to business. When A made reservations, Momofuku’s people told her to start with a few small dishes before the monster emerged.

The three terrine bahn mi, in the offal section of the menu, was, if not the best, among the best, I have ever tasted. It’s too bad each of us only took a few nibbles each so that it would last around the table. I would definitely come back for this, and it’s not even their specialty.

Next up, the sea urchin with whipped tofu and tapioca. It was, visually and texturally, an interesting dish. But not incredibly tasty. I’m not a big fan of foamy tasteless matter, which was how the tofu was prepared. We also ordered the grilled sweetbreads, which made up for the sea urchin. They weren’t overly chewy, and had a great rich flavor.

Our last mini goody was what the menu called Tello’s Chawan Mushi, which consisted of an egg custard – steam cooked for that particular egg fluffiness that many Asian cultures have in their egg dishes – with snails (although the menu said oysters, I didn’t see any), scallions and truffles. A good reworking of the dish.

The main course, the reason for our special trip, was crazy, both in size and flavor. The exterior was a bit tough and chewy, but when we dived into the center, tenderness abounded.

Puddles of happy oil lay at the bottom of this dish for gluttons. Due to the high salt content, it was a bit overwhelming to eat alone. But, piled high in a leaf of bibb lettuce with rice and a good amount of regular kimchi or pureed kimchi, it was just right. The dish also came with this ginger scallion sauce which I wasn’t too hot on, but others enjoyed it in great dollops on their pork. The hospitable and knowledgable waiters told us to eat the oysters with the pork, and boy, were they right. It was like heaven in a shell.

All in all, a night of pants-busting adventure, a celebration of all that is great about New York. Also, if your stomach can handle it, walk the couple of blocks to Veniero’s for some superb cannoli to gobble down later, once the pork settles.

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 Second Ave. @ 13th St.

Veniero’s
342 East 11th Street @ First Ave.





become friends with a chef

22 01 2007

Last night was a reunion of sorts. My old suitemates, plus honorary ones such as boyfriends, headed over to Sapa, Patricia Yeo’s Southeast Asian-French restaurant, in Chelsea. The front is a bit nondescript, to the point where you would just keep on walking by the entrance and not even notice you had passed it. But inside, candles and globes of light add a warmth to the high ceilings and a sexy vibe to the whole place.

We went to Sapa because one of our good friends just started his externship there (yay!), so we thought we’d surprise him at work. Starting off with a Riesling Auslese, thanks to a timely Eric Asimov piece, which was nice and sweet, but not cloying at all. A bit on the expensive side ($49), but split among 5 people, not so bad at all. Then here is when the perks started kicking in. M sent us over glasses of champagne! Not sure what kind, but very tasty and bubbly.

On to the food. Instead of regular bread and butter, Sapa offers a basket of toasted pita bread with two types of dip, white bean and eggplant. Both spreads were really great, although I prefer the eggplant, which was very similar to babaganoush.
The rice paper rolls were well-made, nothing that special, except for the roll du jour, which was a ceviche piled on top of a round of the rice paper. Slightly spicy mouthful of jam-packed flavor. The lettuce wrapped beef satay were pretty good, although there was a little too much peanut butter sauce inside. Teensy bit gooey. C and I ordered the smoked swordfish carpaccio with seaweed salad. It was very meaty (as swordfish normally is) and hearty, not fishy at all. Very good, in fact. The seaweed, cucumber and orange slices went seamlessly together with the swordfish. I would order it again.

Thanks to M, we also had three other starters, steamed mussels and clams with a lemongrass-coconut broth, cocoa and peanut-glazed spareribs, and halibut baked in a banana leaf. The flavor in the spareribs reminded me of the Chinese dish, the thousand year egg, which has a gingery spiciness and lots of soy sauce.The mussels were decent, but I wasn’t big on the clams, which were too salty for me. The corn salad on top of the halibut was really flavorful and complimented the soft, subtle white fish.

As if that wasn’t enough, we still had main courses coming up. Sapa has this great $15 deal on Sundays, where you can get lobster, steak, chicken or fish. Most people had the lobster which was monster-sized. It was so soft and buttery, they must have injected it with several bars of butter before cooking it. It was served whole, which is always yummier, but a lobster bib would have been very helpful.
I had the steak frites, which was topped with a huge chunk of garlicky butter and came with this delicious dark(wine reduction?) sauce. The fries were thin and crispy, just how I like ’em.

Only one dessert was had by all, due to the unexpectedly overwhelming amounts of food. The chocolate lava cake, which was very thick and rich with a good dollop of cream on top. I wish I had enough room to savor the banana toffee bread pudding that came with sour ice cream, but I think my stomach shrunk from jetlag, so I wasn’t able to uphold my honor.

The service at Sapa was impeccable; all the waiters were incredibly nice to us and humored us when we were slow to order (or unable to pronounce Auslese). It also helped that it wasn’t all that busy that night and we were friends of the roll bar chef! The manager came over and asked us personally if everything was okay, it was just awesome how hospitable they were. Better than Gramercy Tavern in their own way. They also get brownie points for a pretty bathroom with a reflecting pool.

Bottom line – Go to Sapa! It’s a good date place (not that I’m an expert).

Location:
Sapa
43 W24th St (at 6th Ave)

*pictures courtesy of WS*





Tea Time & Cous-Cous

21 01 2007

After a stately jaunt through the Neue Galerie, which has an enjoyable exhibit on Josef Hoffmann, the Austrian architect (his textiles are cute, a more upscale version of Ikea), I went for tea at Alice’s Tea Cup #2 (the first one is on the UWS). It is very similar to Alice No. 1 decor-wise. Cutesy Alice in Wonderland theme everywhere, including the bathroom, where flowers a la “we’re painting the roses red” cover the ceiling, half white, half red, and one in the middle half painted. There’s also a large looking glass hanging from a large ribbon that allow bathroom patrons to examine the miniature pictures of various scenes from Lewis Carroll’s book.

I was starving at this point, so I decided to go all out and try numerous nibblies. The butternut squash soup had a great texture, not all the squash was completely pureed, which lent itself to the lovely warm taste. A little nutty, not too rich (sometimes squash soups are too thick and creamy, and I’d like to see anyone finish a bowl of mouth-coating soup like that), and served with a rosemary foccaccia. I also had half of a curried chicken salad sandwich that included tiny chopped up pieces of apple and sprinkled with raisins, which I’ve tried before, so I knew it would be satisfying.

Alice’s scones are clearly the centerpiece around which this all revolves, which makes sense, since tea time in England is famous for its scones. They offer a myriad of different flavors every day. I ordered the eggnog chocolate chip, which had an interesting spicy kick that I’ve never encountered in a scone. It was a little drier than the other two scones K ordered. I would recommend going with the pumpkin or banana creme flavored ones which both had a glaze on top and were much more moist. All were served with a tiny pot of jam and creme; the jam was great, a little on the chunky side with lots of seeds and bursting with flavor.

I wish I could say more about the actual tea I drank, but I don’t know enough about tea to properly appreciate it. They have a several page list of all the different teas they offer, but I would say to choose your tea according to what you order to eat, since you want them to complement each other.

The service was very attentive and considerate. Our waitress was really thoughtful, asking if we wanted the last bite of scone before she whisked the plate away. But if you go at the wrong time, Alice’s is incredibly busy and I’m sure the wait is long. It’s worth it to go once, just to try tea time like the English, and marvel at the tea list, bathroom and scones.

A couple of hours later, I was all ready for dinner at Cafe Mogador, a cozy Moroccan restaurant in the West Village. It’s a dark, haphazard looking place, with a bar crowded to the nth degree. We had to wait about 45 minutes to be seated. Fortunately, there’s this really cool little used bookstore next store, East Village Books. So we perused the shelves for awhile before attempting our next charge at the door (I found a $4 copy of Esquire’s collection of fiction, a steal!).

Although the hostess was unfriendly and not particularly helpful, our waiter was genuinely nice and didn’t bother us too much when it was clear we had been talking and not looking at the menu at all. I had a ginger martini was quite tasty and refreshing, really strong too.

I had the Moroccan fish tagine which was a meaty, filling dish of white fish, potatoes and carrots. Quite tasty and they give you a surprisingly spicy hot sauce on the side. The potatoes were perfectly cooked, not too hard and not too soft, scrumptious with the chili sauce. Now, I was never a fan of cous-cous, having had a bad run-in with a cold version that was gross and pebbly. But I see the problem now, cous-cous only tastes good to me when it’s served hot and has sauce spooned over it.

I see why Mogador is so crowded, although after shelling over money for Alice’s Tea Cup in the same day, I was reluctant to part with $17 for my tagine, good as it was. It’s a fun place, though, and the bartender’s pretty cute, so I would go back, preparing myself for the long wait first.

Locations:
Alice’s Tea Cup #2
156 E64th St (btw Lex & 3rd)

Cafe Mogador
101 St. Mark’s Place (at 1st Ave)