Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Kwik Meal

While working at one of my favorite temporary jobs, I forgot my lunch one day and went in search of an inexpensive, yet tasty meal in Midtown. didn't find the mythical Cuban restaurant I meant to find, i.e. one whose address I did not write down and therefore couldn't find, but I stumbled across Kwik Meal.

Luckily, I had cash on me and ordered the feast to the right for a mere $7.00. The salmon was better than most I have ordered in restaurants, plastic fork tender and not at all dry. The veggies were well seasoned and the yogurt sauce was the perfect compliment. As I have a small appetite, or something, I was able to stretch this into lunch and dinner.

Two warnings. Like most cheap, tasty food I have found in NYC, you can't sit and eat at the cart. I suggest heading over to Bryant Park at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue to enjoy your meal. Know what you want by the time you get to the front of the line. Their quick service doesn't allow for, or appreciate, thoughtful consideration of what you want to eat. I speak from experience.

Location: 45th Street near 6th Avenue
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:00a-7:00p
Cost: $

Friday, November 10, 2006

City Bakery

During a rapidly cooling pre-Marathon afternoon, my favorite Marathon runner and fellow food admirer, Katie, and I were in Union Square finding the perfect running capris for the following day. Since we were so close, I suggested that we wander over to City Bakery to warm up and try the famed hot cocoa.

It was wonderful for warming us up, but the rich flavor and thick, creamy texture made it more like hot chocolate soup. We both agreed one cup with extra homemade marshmallows was the way to go on future trips. While at City Baker we also tried a chocolate chip cookie and the pretzel croissant. The cookie was slightly soft and very tasty, but the pretzel croissant was dry and somewhat flavorless.

I'll try City Bakery again eventually, but it wasn't love at first taste.

: 3 West 18th St (Between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue)
Hours: Mon-Fri 7:30a-7:00p, Sat 7:30a-6:00p, Sun 9:00a-5:30p
Cost: $$ ($11.50 for 2 hot cocoas with marshmallows and a cookie)

Fat Black Pussycat

I didn't find Fat Black Pussycat (FBPC) via Citysearch, although eventually I would have given its impeccable ratings, rather my friend Vika had her birthday outing there in August. I had so much fun that I insisted that all of my friends visiting from DC go there this past weekend; FBPC didn't disappoint. Word to the wise: go on the early side the line isn't any fun.

The DJ on the weekend is amazing and they play the videos along with the songs, even without being at the dance club portion it is hard to stay still upstairs. So much so that on my first trip we took over an alcove by the bar and had our own dance party. The staff doesn't approve of dancing on tabletops, by the way, but they don't scold you for cramming large parties in small spaces around tables, which more than makes up for it.

They also share secrets like you get more martini for your $ in the pint glass. Try the Absolut Sex tastes a sweet tart and costs $9.50. I definitely plan to go back here again (and again). Sometime I might even go dancing where I'm supposed to - downstairs in its sister dance club, Village Underground.

Oh and they have a half price happy hour from 4-8 pm on weeknights that might be worth checking out as well.

Location: 130 West 3rd Street (Between 6th Avenue and Macdougal Street)
Hours: Sun-Mon 1:30p-4:30a
Cost: $ (no cover, around $5 for a rum & coke, & $9.50 for a 10 ounce martini!)

Microfinance: A solution to poverty?

My good friend, Jaime, sent me an article on Microfinance today from The New Yorker. Millions for Millions by Connie Bruck is long, but definitely worth the read if you are interested a solution to poverty.

Microfinance is the practice of extending small, small loans to the (very) poor, who can't normally qualify for loans. It allows them to start a business or otherwise enrich their lives. I initially learned about it while working at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and I have been intrigued ever since and, trust me, I don't typically get too excited about economics. Here's a great excerpt about an organization called Jamii Bora from the article:

Munro started it in 1999, and today it is the fastest-growing microfinance institution in Kenya. Munro is from Sweden and her husband from Canada, but they have lived in Kenya for the past twenty-one years. In 1988, they adopted a boy from the streets. “It was a small seven-year-old boy who more or less adopted us,” she said, chuckling. “And then we later found his two brothers and adopted them. With a situation like that, like in all great love stories, in literature and in real life, you are a helpless victim, you know?” Through her sons, she got to know other street children, and their mothers, who were beggars. She was the head of the African Housing Fund, which works with the homeless. “When I retired from the African Housing Fund, the beggars kept coming to my house and banging on the door, and they said, ‘You can’t abandon us now, Mum, you are our mother.’ So they really challenged me, and I said, ‘O.K., if you want me to do something for you, now you have to do something for yourself.’ I challenged them to save a little bit of money. ‘For every shilling you save, I promise, I will find somebody who will give two shillings, and then you can borrow twice as much as you’ve saved.’ ”

“The unique thing is, then, that it started with trust,” she said—sounding like Pierre Omidyar, her doctrinal opposite. “Also, I thought it was just a small club, a group of women I thought were very special. But, really, it grew like a bushfire! After a few months, we had to formalize it. We decided to call it Jamii Bora—jamii bora means ‘good families’ in Swahili. And that’s what we say—you can be very poor but you’re still a good family, and you still have the talent to get out of poverty.”

Munro started with a group of fifty beggars from the slums of Nairobi, and over the past seven years Jamii Bora has expanded to sixty-one branches, serving about a hundred and thirty thousand members; Munro aims to reach at least five hundred thousand by 2009. She says that she has stuck to the original idea, “that you can borrow twice as much as you’ve saved—which means we have a very strong foundation, because we have a lot of savings, and our members take very small risks.” Jamii Bora has received some grants, but it largely pays for itself. About a third of its borrowers are men. And nearly all of its staff members are former borrowers or their relatives.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Cafe Habana

Ever since spending New Years in Ecuador a few years ago, I've been obsessed with finding choclos, not to be confused with cholos, here in the United States. It was the perfect (drunk) food over there. Roasted, cheese-covered corn on a stick served by street vendors on every other corner late at night for a $1.

The closest thing I've found is Cafe Habana's grilled corn coated with butter, cheese, & chili powder. It alone makes trips to this tiny restaurant worthwhile and has made me declare Cafe Habana my favorite venue for brunch (the only time I've been). They serve everything from Huevos Rancheros and Cuban Press sandwiches and all of the food I have tasted was delish. The omelet with plantains and salsa verde is my favorite.

Even better is the fact that the food is super affordable for NYC. The only downsides to Cafe Habana are the long lines to be seated and the often less than stellar service. I recommend going before 11:00a if you want a more reasonable wait or you can just grab take out from the counter next door.

Location: 229 Elizabeth Street (Near Prince Street)
: Daily 9:00a-12:00a
: $ ($3.50 for two ears of corn)

Friday, October 27, 2006


Every time my mom served beets, hot and pickled, while I was growing up I cringed. I'm sure that the fact my dad always put the ball of seasoning on my plate saying, "Look! Sarah a giant beet.," didn't help.

While in LA last March, my intense hunger forced me to try beets again when they arrived as a complimentary appetizer. I was surprised to find chilled, pickled beets sweet and tasty, and ever since then I've been hooked on buying cans of them.

Today in the NYTimes there was a cute article called A Good Year for Beets and Self-Reliance by Annie Raver. Here's an excerpt, which shares a way to pickle fresh beets. I might have to try it!

"I remembered the beet salad that I love to eat in New York: roasted diced beets, with arugula, goat cheese and walnuts. “Hmm, sounds good,” Mother said.

Then she showed me how to pickle beets the Eastern Shore way. Just trim the leaves off the washed beets, but leave an inch or so of the stems. Cutting into the root leads the beet to bleed Into the water, leaching out vitamins and flavor.

“Beets, you know, are full of iron,” said Mother, who was trained as a nutritionist.

Cook until just tender enough to stick easily with a sharp fork. Then drain, peel and slice as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Mix half a cup of sugar with half a cup of vinegar in a big bowl, stir in the warm beets, and salt to taste."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Making your own salad dressing Part II

Yet another NYTimes article on Salad, The Well-Dressed Salad Wears Only Homemade by Mark Bittman, has me thinking about Laura's salad making skills. Maybe one day I'll be able to master the art of making my own dressing too (as long as I continue reading the daily headlines via email and practicing).

Here's his recipe: "The simplest dressing, vinaigrette, is this: around three parts oil to one part vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper, and maybe some added flavor. This may be an herb (a pinch of dried tarragon is good, fresh chives better) or a condiment (Dijon mustard is classic, and a splash of soy sauce is amazing). There might be a bit of onion, garlic (easy on this), scallion or shallot. Combine them with a fork for a “broken” dressing, or with a whisk or a blender for a lovely, creamy emulsion. Presto."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I went bowling tonight for the first time since high school and it was surprisingly fun! As I grew up bowling at AMF's in Richmond, Virginia, Bowlmor lanes with its elevator up, cushy benches, and full bar was my swankiest bowling experience to date. Our 8:30 arrival was perfect for getting the last open lane.

My favorite fancy feature was that after each frame the bowling pins changed colors, something I made sure to point out to my "date." Sadly, he was not as enchanted with this feature as I was. He was, however, a much better bowler than I after he remembered his technique (basically he ended each roll kneeling).

The staff was friendly overall, but our waitress stopped being attentive after it became apparent that we weren't planning to booze it up. But, seriously, it was Wednesday and we already were paying plenty to bowl. I hope to go again, but on a Monday which seems to be the best deal: $20 for unlimited bowling on a first come, first serve basis.

Location: 110 University Place (Between 12th Street and 13th Street)
Hours: Mon 11:00a-3:00a, Tues-Wed 11:00a-1:00a, Thurs 11:00a-2:00a, Fri-Sat 11:00a-3:30a, Sun 11:00a-12:00a (after 5 you have to be 21)
Cost: $$ ($5 shoe rental and anywhere from $8.95 to $9.45 per person per game, depending on the day and time)

Thursday, October 5, 2006


While a little complicated to get to from my location in Queens, like all things not off of the NW, I enjoyed Vintage tonight. As soon as I walked in the waiter, John, decided he liked me and encouraged me to definitely go for it as my date "was cute!" He also later told my escort he was lucky to have me with him as I was more attractive than him, which was just wrong, amusing, and confidence boosting all at once.

Vintage has a HUGE drink menu, which was perfect since I love drink menus. Unfortunately, this slowed my decision making to a halt along with the getting to know you conversation. Don't worry me made up for it later and shared a drink "Lady and the Tramp" style. I ended up with Nadia's Perfect Ten as my first drink (a girlie martini of course). It was sweet without being too sweet; I highly recommend it. My other drinks weren't quite as good, but they still were interesting.

Vintage was very relaxed with comfy couches in the back, quiet yet good music, and sports on TV. It is a great location for meeting people that you actually want to hear, and I definitely would consider going back, especially if John was working. He even made sure I got home dry by giving me an umbrella!

Location: 753 9th Avenue (Between 50th Street and 51st Street)
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 5:00p-1:00a, Fri: 5:00p-2:00a, Sat 12:00p-2:00a, Sun 12:00p-12:00p
Cost: $$ (but I only had drinks)

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Last night I had cupcakes at Crumbs to celebrate my 25th birthday. Crumbs has a wider variety of cupcakes than Magnolia; they had everything from Caramel Apple (mmm) to Carrot Cake to your basic Buttercream. With all of the choices most of us couldn't choose just one cupcake. Between the 5 of us, we tried 10!

Crumbs' light, whipped buttercream frosting wasn't as sweet as Magnolia's but still is generously spread and tasty, especially the raspberry. The big disappointment with Crumbs was the dryness of their cake. The chocolate was more moist than the vanilla, but it still wasn't what I expect from (a cup) cake. Specifically, I would avoid the Boston Cream Pie cupcake, which was surprisingly skimpy on the cream and overwhelmed by the fudge-y frosting.

I would return to Crumbs again if craving a cupcake and in the area (or at Dylan's Candy Bar), but I won't go out of my way to get there. Crumbs also serves giant muffins, cupcakes, tea, milk, coffee, et cetera, and is a kosher eatery.

Location visited: 1371 Third Avenue @ 78th Street
: Mon-Tue: 7:30 a-9:00 p, Wed-Fri: 7:30a-10:00p, Sat 8:30a-10:00p, Sun 8:30a-9:00p
: $ ($3.50 for regular cupcakes & $1.99 for minis)

Orchid Lounge

As I'm still clueless about NYC, I used Citysearch, which I've found very reliable for finding good event venues in unfamiliar cities, to find my 25th birthday celebration destination -- Orchid Lounge. Our 10:00 p arrival was perfect; we were just in time to snag the one unreserved bench. Orchid was filled with birthday parties, which I managed to poach some nice boys from!

The atmosphere was great, relaxed and elegant with an Asian aesthetic, and their drink list was very inventive and reasonably priced. Every time they ring the gong behind the bar you get free shots (in little glasses that look suspiciously like communion cups). After all the shots and drinks, I can't remember the names of my drinks, but I highly recommend the pineapple/vanilla vodka and coconut vodka/basil seed "sunscreen" martinis.

The DJ seemed to be playing a decent mix of music, however, I couldn't hear it often so this definitely isn't a venue for dancing. In spite of missing dancing, I really enjoyed Orchid Lounge and hope to go back for drinks again sometime soon.

: 500 E 11th St at Avenue A
Hours: Mon-Tue: 7:00p-3:00a, Wed-Fri: 5:00p-4:00a, Sat 7:00p-4:00a, Sun 8:00p-4:00a
Cost: $ ($8-10 for a martini)


Saturday, September 23, 2006


While wandering around the West Village with my faux roommates, Lauren & Vika, we had to stop by their favorite ice cream shop, Cones. It is tiny with hardly any seating, but perfect for getting a sweet treat while walking around the area.

They have around 30 ridiculously tempting flavors of ice cream and sorbet. Luckily, the staff will give you up to two samples to help you make your decision. I had the amazing pear sorbet and also sampled my friends' tasty selections of raspberry and watermelon. If you aren't a fan of sweet ice cream, then you won't like it, but who doesn't like their ice cream sweet?

The only downside is that a small cup of ice cream is around $3.00. Then again I guess that isn't that much given the quality and inventive flavors. You definitely can't buy anything quite like it at the grocery store.

Location: 272 Bleecker St (Between Morton Street & Jones Street)
Hours: Sun-Thurs 1:00p-11:00p, Fri-Sat 1:00p-1:00a
Cost: $ ($3 for a small cup)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Salad Inspiration

Recently I read a NY Times article, Vegetable Love, Requited, which caused me to crave a good salad. I love restaurant salads, but I never enjoy my own salads nearly as much. This probably has to do with my ingredient list consisting of lettuce, carrots, cottage cheese, and perhaps tuna fish, but I digress.

The author, Celia Barbour, obviously finds making salads intuitive. If only I were so lucky... Her best piece of advice was to simply turn your favorite recipe into a salad for a satisfying result. This idea may not be novel to you, but it was a revelation to me that needed to be immortalized here along with a few other ideas:
  • a simple salad dressed with a made to taste concoction of oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. (This made me miss summer and one of my best friends Laura, who had this recipe mastered.)
  • butter lettuce mixed with craisins, sliced apples, & goat cheese (I made this immediately after reading the article using romaine lettuce and it is amazing. You have to try it).

Thursday, September 7, 2006


Following dinner at Mogador Cafe, we went to KeyBar for a few drinks. As a birthday isn't a birthday without a shot, we all tried their signature Rolo shot. It's a unique idea, but I must admit that I prefer eating regular Rolo's.

KeyBar is small and reminds me of a dive bar. It's casual, has unique art on the walls, and plays good, non-pop music. While I wouldn't go for the atmosphere alone, I would go for the sweet happy hour deal. It is 2 for 1 drinks from opening until 10:00p.

Location: 432 East 13th Street (Between 1st Avenue and Avenue A)
Hours: Sun-Thurs 6p-4a; Fri & Sat 5p-4a
Cost: $

Mogador Cafe

I enjoyed dinner at Mogador Cafe for Jaime's birthday tonight. We had a bit of trouble getting there from Union Square, but once we arrived everything was gravy. Our group was seated in a cute outside area and luckily they weren't upset that half of us showed up late.

The food was reasonably priced and the entrees were big enough for two (girls at least), so we had lots of leftovers to take home. I managed to eat every entree I wanted to try on the menu by convincing two of my friends to get the Couscous with Lamb and the Couscous with Chicken and ordering the Bastilla myself. Bastilla is a chicken, almond, and cinnamon filled pastry, which I highly recommend. As for the other dishes, everything was cooked perfectly...oh so tender meat and delicious seasoning.

Your biggest problem at Mogador will probably be deciding what to order. Since I broke out in hives after eating my meal and the leftovers I probably won't go back. :(

Location: 101 Saint Marks Place (Between First Avenue and Avenue A)
: Sun-Thurs 9:00a-12:30a, Fri-Sat 9:00 am-1:30a

Cost: $$

Friday, August 18, 2006


After attending two birthday celebrations within a month at Cuba, I determined that it was a great venue for group outings. On both occasions the staff knew exactly where to direct everyone, made sure we had room, and were pleasant when we pulled out cards to split the bill. They also gave the birthday girls a complimentary custard dessert with a giant sparkler.

Cuba welcomes you right as you walk in with its romantic, dim lighting and live Latin music. On the left there is a gentleman rolling complimentary cigars, if you smoke or know someone who does be sure to say "hi" and get one. The menu features numerous options including, appetizers of Empanadas and Meatballs with Saffron that could suffice as a meal, entrees with almost every kind of meat, and desserts. I had the fork tender Salmon Rio Miel glazed in sugar cane, which was excellent and much sweeter than I expected (I'm not sure how sugar glazed didn't give me the impression of super sweet, but whatever). On the other hand the mashed plantains, ordered a la carte, were surprisingly bland and not sweet; stick to the regular plantains.

So, basically, to reiterate if you need to dine in a group or want a mid-priced Cuban meal with a fairly romantic atmosphere go here. And, if you are in a group, be sure to investigate the pitchers of sangria and mojitos.

: 224 Thompson Street @ Bleecker Street
: Mon-Wed: 12:00p-12:00a, Thurs-Sat: 12:00p-12:30a
: $$

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Roxy NYC

As part of Vika's birthday celebration, I had relived elementary and middle school (in much better clothing) at Roxy's Skate Night. The rink seemed much smaller than it did back then and there weren't nearly enough glow in the dark accessories visible on the skaters, myself included.

Skating was still fun, although more tiring than I remembered, and we stayed until midnight. The music had just started heating up, perhaps they played limbo after I left, but between sore ankles and the floor being too packed
to skate smoothly in a circle it was time to go. One of the coolest things to do at Roxy's Skate Night is watching the regulars show their stuff. These people can move on skates better than I can without them!

The bad thing about Roxy is they know they are THE roller skating venue in the city. You pay $15 to get in, $5 for skates, and another $3 to check your bags and shoes. In my opinion this makes going there prohibitively expensive, so I'm not likely to go there again for skating.

Location: 515 West 18th Street (Cross Street: Between 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue)
Hours: Wed 8:00p-2:00a, Fri-Sat 11:00p-4:00a
Cost: $$ (and I didn't even have a drink)

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Luca Restaurant

I've been to Luca Restaurant twice (once for New Years!) and I have always had a good meal. The restaurant's very cozy, the staff is friendly, and the owner always comes around to check in with diners. I've also heard that Luca's is very open to hosting for groups, so keep it in mind for any special occasions you have coming up.

You receive fried olives to enjoy, if you like that sort of thing, as you make the challenging decision of what to order. As everything is made fresh sometimes you have to wait a little while for your meal, but the food is totally worth it. So far my favorite entree, which sadly appears to have rotated off of the menu, was a risotto featuring artichokes and scallops. As this dish unexpectedly combined several of my favorite foods how could I resist? It was divine, and if it reappears, snap it up. The butternut squash ravioli was also well made and tasty; I just wish you received more than 6-8 pieces of ravioli at a time.

Also, if you go to Luca's be sure to get some of the caramelized grapefruit rind beside the register on your way out. It's a perfect finish to your meal. :)

Location: 1712 1st Avenue (Between 88th Street & 89th Street)
Hours: Mon-Sat: 12:00p-3:00p, 5:00p-11:00p, Sun 5:00p-11:00p
Cost: $$$

Other Awesomeness I Read

Arts and Crafts with Rachel
Brooklyn Arrondissement.
Busy That Day
Courtney's Google Buzz
Fanciful Freckles
F*ck Yeah Lady Writers
Grey Moggie Greetings
Hate's a strong word - that's why I used it 
How About Orange
The Improvised Life
Married to the Sea
My Superfluities
My Vintage Vogue
New York Times' Health Feed
Oh Happy Day!
The One In Pink
Peace Love and Noticing the Details
Ralph Marston's Twitter Feed
Sand in the Gears
Tiny Buddha 
Uh oh...looks like somebody learned how to blog!

Inspiring Food-Related Links

101 Cookbooks
All Our Fingers In The Pie
Always Order Dessert
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Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit
Cupcake Project
David Lebovitz
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Doc April's Delicious Dishes
Eat Make Read
Everybody Likes Sandwiches
Food News Journal
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Fresh 365
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How To Eat A Cupcake
Kalyn's Kitchen
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My Tartlette 
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