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)