Sunday, December 2, 2007

Apple Cheddar Yogurt Muffins

As I grated the apples for this recipe, I realized I could have just used natural applesauce. While Mom always says I should follow the recipe exactly the first time, my slightly grated fingertips have their doubts. Ouch. I left out the cardamon. I didn't think I would use it often enough to spend the $4.00 involved with buying each new spice.

The muffins tasted fine, but something didn't go right. They were very dense and squat. With the amount of effort involved and the mediocre results, I probably won't revisit this recipe.

Spicy Soba Noodles with Shitakes and Cabbage

I have been cooking and eating out. I just haven't felt inspired to write about it after work; I want to relax whenever I do get home. Everything is marked for writing a back entry. One day, perhaps, I will get to it. Our first snow was last night. It is finally here, the dreaded winter, but that does mean I can eat oatmeal and soup all the time!

Yesterday, for the first time in weeks, I made it to Union Square Greenmarket. I loooooove it, even when my fingers go numb from the cold air as I pick my vegetables. It has been a busy, social weekend. I also ended up not having to work today, which is divine.

Anyway, I bought everything to make Spicy Soba Noodles with Shitakes and Cabbage. The recipe is fairly simple and would have been quick, if I wasn't so OCD when chopping. I used Chinese Garlic-Chili paste as I wasn't in Korea-town. It turned out really well! I am looking forward to eating this all week and will definitely make it again. I will probably add a bit more chili paste next time. For amazing pictures and the recipe click the link above. Otherwise, as always, my picture is below.

One note... Shitake mushrooms do not last. If you make this plan to eat it within a day or two or bad things happen. :(

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Jap Chae

I just attempted to make Jap Chae at home using this recipe. I was so excited to make the attempt as I adore having Jap Chae when I go out.

It wasn't exactly like the Jap Chae I've had at Mondoo Bar or Bonjoo, but it was pretty close for a home version and surprisingly easy. I think my excessive use of carrot shreds caused the dish to be more orange than usual. Come to think of it, maybe that explains the difference in flavor. That and the noodles, I went ALL OVER trying to find glass noodles. Where do restaurants get them?!

Anyway, given Shitake mushrooms short lifespan, I would pare down the recipe if you are cooking and consuming solo. Somehow I never remember that is an option. Sigh.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Otto Enoteca and Pizzaria

Deb took me to Otto Pizzeria for my birthday. I arrived so late that we missed our reservation. Fortunately things improved from there and the wait wasn't too long. It emulates a warmer, more comfortable train station - the reservation sign flips just like Amtrak's in Penn Station.

The best word to describe Otto is inconsistent. The wait staff seemed on point, but then apologetically brought us a complimentary side dish of Brussel Sprouts and Vin Cotto ($4) for misplacing our order. The brussel sprouts were the best I have had to date - firm, full of flavor, and tangy sweet.

Eventually our main courses came out, we shared the Bsalmic Onion & Goat Cheese Pizza ($13) and the Pasta Alla Norma (Tomato, Roasted Eggplant, Basil and Bufala Ricotta - $9). The serving sizes were great; we couldn't finish either dish after the bread and brussel sprouts. The pizza was outstanding - the light, crispy crust and creative combination of complimentary ingredients won us over. The pasta was good, but we didn't feel like it was better than something we could concoct at home.

The gelato was amazing almost all around and at 3 scoops for $7 it is a good deal. I had Pumpkin, Ricotta, and Fig with Red Wine. Pumpkin and Ricotta were divine - smooth, creamy, and well flavored. The fig, however, tasted like kosher dill pickles. I'm serious. How is that possible? I love pickles, but that just isn't what you want for gelato.

Even with the inconsistencies, I hope to go back eventually. If not to the restaurant itself, I will at least visit the "Gelotto" cart by Washington Square Park when it warms up again.

Location: One Fifth Avenue
Hours: Mon-Sun 11:30a-12:00a
Cost: $$

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Blossom and Billy's Bakery

Karina and I met up tonight for my birthday dinner at Blossom. After finding the first three crosstown buses too full, I belatedly arrived at 7:30 pm. Luckily, Blossom wasn't packed and Karina had been able to sit while she waited. Blossom's is warm and inviting. The wait staff is attentive, for the most part, and they don't rush you.

I ordered the Seitan Scallopini with Basil Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Greens ($21). The Seitan was pretty convincing in representing lamb's texture and the sauce helped make the flavor seem closer. The basil mashed potatoes stole the show; I savored every single bite of their rich flavor. Karina's entree the Phyllo Roullade with Lentils and Root Vegetables ($17) trumped my choice. The mixture of vegetables, sauce, and phyllo melted in my mouth.

For dessert, we split a Banana Maple Tart with Strawberries ($9). I'm not going to lie, I ate most of it. The tart's crust was phyllo dough again and the center was appropriately creamy, however, it didn't have a strong maple or banana flavor. This was my first experience with vegan food. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised, although, for me, Candle 79 still takes the cake for veggie restaurants.

Location: 187 9th Avenue (between 21st and 22nd Streets)
Hours: Mon-Thurs 5:00p-10:00p, Fri-Sat 12:00p-2:45p and 5:00p-10:30p, 12:00p-2:45p and 5:00p-9:00p
Cost: $$$

Afterward the lure of refined sugar across the street at Billy's Bakery was too much for me, so I stood in the short line for a cupcake. Once inside, I attempted to order the classic Vanilla Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream, which at Billy's is called a Yellow Daisy Cake with Vanilla Buttercream ($2). I could not get the words out, but somehow I got what I wanted.
The decor at Billy's makes you think of a pastel, 1950s kitchen and they actually have seating (rare for a bakery up here!).

Upon arriving at the register, I was told my cupcake was on the house. I smiled at the cashier and awkwardly left, as he wouldn't give me change for a tip and I felt strange about it. I lead quite the charmed life sometimes. The cupcake made my subway ride home much sweeter. The cake was a little dry, but tasted like vanilla, not cornmeal. The frosting was sweet without being cloying and complimented the cake nicely. I'm sure I'll go here again, if I'm in the area. This was actually my second trip, so I am posting the original pictures from last year below.

Billy's Bakery
Location: 184 9th Avenue (between 21st and 22nd Streets)
Hours: Mon-Thurs 9:00a-11:00p, Fri-Sat 9:00a-12:00a, Sun 10:00a-11:00p
Cost: $

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pio Pio

I didn't have a voice tonight for the third day in a row, but I did eat very, very well in my own neighborhood. I ran into Megan at Cavatappo on Friday and we agreed to have dinner. She said if we could come up with 4 people, we could eat well for cheap at Pio Pio. Pio Pio came through on both fronts.

Megan, Mya, Leslie, and I met outside at 7:00 pm on Sunday. It took around 30 minutes to get a table, but it only took 5 minutes to get our food once inside. The service was attentive, but they never got around to bring us water... Good thing we ordered that pitcher of Sangria. It was sweet and the fruit was well saturated.

We ordered the Matador Combo, which consists of Chicken Pio, Rice & Beans, Avocado Salad, Salchipapas (roughly hot dogs and fries), and Tostones (flattened green plantains with a garlicky dipping sauce). I'm typically not a rotisserie chicken person, but this chicken was moist, full of flavor, and served with silverware, unlike other South American chicken places I have been to, so I'm in a love. The chicken actually ended up being my favorite part of the meal. The spicy green sauce compliments it perfectly, but thank God for the avocado to cool down your mouth afterward! My least favorite part of the meal was the Avocado Salad, but it was only disappointing aesthetically; the salad was more like a sliced veggie plate than anything else.

Receiving our check, a mere $50.00, confirmed my desire to go back. I'm so excited to take my family when they visit. Mom loves Sangria and we all like South American food.

Location: 1746 First Avenue (between 90th and 91st streets)
Hours: Sun-Sat 11:00a-11:00p
Cost: $

Thursday, October 4, 2007

$7.99 Pint Comparision

Feeling stressed out, over warm, and a little bit sickly? I figured a pint of ice cream was the perfect pick-me-up. I didn't realize until check-out that I, yet again, managed to pick out the most expensive pint! Laloo's Goat's Milk Ice Cream totally trumped Wine Cellar Sorbet.

The Wine Cellar Sorbet in Sangria Rojo Sorbet had a cute orange wedge on top. I don't know if it tasted like Sangria, but it did give me a tiny, tiny buzz like wine. However, it had a very strange aftertaste that you don't get with wine. So given a choice, I would just buy regular wine instead next time. Wine Sorbet is novel though!

Today I had the Black Mission Fig flavor of Laloo's Goat's Milk Ice Cream. This was divine and worth every penny of the $7.99. It was sweet, but not too sweet. It had cane sugar as a sweetener, which I seem to enjoy, and had a plentiful number of fig chunks throughout. It has less fat than regular ice cream and no lactose. You really can't go wrong with this choice.

Then again, I don't ever feel like ice cream is the wrong choice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Wednesday at the last minute my dinner companion changed, but, luckily, Jaime offered to serve as back-up. We already had the restaurant picked out, Oms/b a.k.a. Rice Ball Cafe, so it was easy to get together at the last minute. Oms/b met our needs - midtown for easy access to Port Authority, fairly inexpensive, and ethnic. Okay, so, we don't really make ethnic a priority. It just happens.

Oms/b is small. At first, it looks like you can only sit on one side of the tables lining the right-hand side of the restaurant. It turns out a little stool is tucked under the table. I guess, like everywhere else in NYC, they have figured out a way to make the most of their space. The staff was very friendly and the service fast.

We both ordered Set A: Any 3 Rice Balls + Miso Soup for $7.50. I ordered the Yukari-Plum, Spicy Tuna, and another pickled vegetable type one. (If I took this seriously, I guess I would take notes).
Jaime had seaweed, spicy tuna, and salmon, The rice balls are cute, hand-size triangles that remind me of sushi with more rice than filling. The Yukari-Plum was salty; I didn't expect that, am glad I tried it, and won't be trying it again. I really, really liked the pickled vegetable one. The rice was sticky and slightly sweet, just like it should have been. Jaime felt that the miso soup was quality - it had a thicker consistency than lots of places.

I'll definitely go back here. It would be a great place to wander by late afternoon when you are hungry and unable to go home. The hand rolls are at most $2.00 each and much better than a hot dog, dried out pretzel, or even the yummy almonds from the Nuts about Nuts carts.

Location: 156 East 45th Street (between Lexington & Third Avenues)
Hours: Mon-Fri 8:00a-7:30p; Sat 11:30a-5:00p
Price: $

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Ever since my move to the UES, I've been dying to split a bottle of wine with someone at Cavatappo. I went once, ages ago, with Jeff and wanted to go again, but for some reason it never worked out. Randomly enough, Jeff contacted me last night and suggested we catch up over wine at Cavatappo.

George, who runs it, let us try the different reds to pick the best bottle. My favorite was the one Jeff didn't like, but eventually we found a mutually agreeable wine and headed out to get a table. It was the perfect night to sit outside, so I'm glad I was able to take advantage of it. I know the dreaded winter is only a matter of time now.

Our wine came and flowed as did our conversation; we shut Cavotappo down. I highly recommend Cavotappo for catching up, enjoying wine, and partaking in cheese (not that I had cheese this time).
I can't wait to go again!

Location: 1728 Second Avenue at 90th Street
Hours: Mon-Thurs 5:00p-12:00a, Fri-Sat 5:00p-1:00a, Sun 4:00p-11:00p
Price: $$

Heath Bar Cookies and Coconut Rice

After buying a bag of miniature Heath bars and eating them by the handful, I knew I need to do something with them. I discovered that I had all the ingredients for the Magnolia Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, except the chocolate chips, on hand. It was fate. They were easy to make and would have been quick, if I had remembered that softened butter didn't mean melted in microwave. Luckily that misstep didn't hurt their flavor in the least.

I also baked salmon this weekend and ate it with coconut rice and spinach. Try this recipe for the rice. It's perfect.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Milk & Cookies Bakery

When I mentioned to Kimberly that I needed a West Village location to meet my sort-of co-worker, Molly, she suggested Milk & Cookies Bakery. It was a great pick. The girl behind the counter was friendly and the cozy, quiet bakery had seats available for catching up.

The fare is simple, yet there are enough options that it took a few minutes for me to decide on an ice cream sandwich. I chose one composed of two sugar cookies and almond ice cream and ordered milk to go with it. Molly quickly chose hot tea and mint-chocolate cookies and mint ice cream for her ice cream sandwich. Neither of us shared, but her ice cream sandwich looked good and disappeared rapidly. I can attest that mine was good. My only complaint is that the ice cream didn't have an almond flavor? It just tasted like plain ice cream.

That said, the important thing at a bakery named Milk & Cookies is the cookies and they were rounded as if scooped with an ice cream scoop and slightly chewy i.e. perfect. On my way out, I contemplated buying an oatmeal scotchie cookie and the girl generously gave me one on the house. It tasted very oatmeal and had a great texture, but could've used a bit more butterscotch.

Overall, I would say that Milk & Cookies is slightly uneven but totally worth the trip.

Location: 19 Commerce Street (between Bedford & Seventh Avenue South)
Hours: Tues-Sun 12:00p-10:00p
Cost: $ ($1.00 per cookie and $4.50, I think, for ice cream sandwiches)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Baked Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Tofu, Dried Apricots, and Walnuts

This Saturday's cooking adventure was Baked Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Tofu, Dried Apricots, and Walnuts. I've been curious about it ever since reading Superfoods RX last Fall and Acorn Squash is finally coming into season again.

Much like beets, I only discovered I liked squash over the past few years. The key, for me, is roasting it and bringing out the sweetness. Prior to this discovery, I only knew squash as a slightly soggy dish created with butter, salt, and pepper. Doesn't that sound appetizing? Exactly.

The fact that this roasted squash wasn't honey-coated didn't make it any less appetizing though. My one complaint is the recipe didn't advise me about placing the squash halves face down or face up in the water. Maybe it doesn't make a difference? I won't know until next time I make this recipe, which will likely be sooner rather than later due to its great flavor and texture.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Divine Bar

I went to Divine Bar with my sorority's Junior Circle tonight. I arrived late and tried to join another group, as if I wasn't already flustered by working late. Luckily, the next group was mine. Our group was arranged on comfortable couches around a low table being looked after by an attentive and patient waiter. The background music was low, so Divine Bar was well suited for our purposes.

While the martini menu tempted me, I went with my original plan and ordered the Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffed Figs wrapped in Crispy Proscuitto and served warm with a Tawny Port Reduction ($9.50) and the appropriate Syrah wine pairing ($17.00). The figs were melt in my mouth good. I literally scraped every bit of the Port Reduction off the plate. What can I say? I'm a classy girl.

When the bill came and the martinis were a record high $15.50 each, I was even happier with my choice. That said I'm starting to think you get what you pay for... I would definitely go back to Divine Bar next time I'm feeling self-indulgent. I want to try a flight of wine and some other tapas to see if they are as well executed as my figs.

236 West 54th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue)
Hours: Mon-Fri 4:30p-1:30a, Sat 7:00p-3:00a, Sun 6:00p-1:00a
$$ to $$$

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


It is unlikely that Blockheads is the most authentic Mexican food out there, but it is affordable and tastes pretty good to me. It's dimly lit, a little small, and decorated with sock monkeys. Unfortunately, the webpage doesn't explain that connection and I didn't attempt to figure it out.

We started with the complimentary chips and salsa and two frozen Sauza margaritas ($3.00). I attempted to order the Cuban Rice and Beans plate, but discovered they were out of plantains. Does this mean they didn't order enough or was it a popular dish? I'll have to find out next time. Instead, I ordered their basic rice and bean burrito ($8.50). It tasted good, but was a little too similar in shape to my attempts to make burritos at home. I just can't fold the ends under. Jaime's Quesadilla Grande ($10.95) looked much tastier and she was able to take half home.

Overall, Blockheads was a pretty sweet deal and we agreed that we would go again. Can't beat $3.00 drinks!

Location: 954 Second Avenue (between 51st and 52nd Street)

Hours: ??
Price: $

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Tonight was another adventure in catching up. Ankush arrived in NYC back in August for more professional schooling, but we just now had a chance to get together. I was nervous, but I had nothing to worry about our conversation flowed smoothly throughout the evening and I didn't think twice about hugging him hello. Yes, it is surprising that I didn't think about it as I'm a bit of a touch me not.

Initially we were going to Holy Basil, but the gorgeous weather enticed us into walking around to find somewhere with outdoor seating. We finally settled on Cremcaffe: outdoor seating and reasonably priced Italian. We started with a glass of wine each and the complimentary bread served with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The bread was soft and fresh, always a plus. This diversion dulled my hunger and relaxed me enough that I could choose a main course and stop manically checking my cell phone for work-related phone calls.

I ordered the Chicken Parmesan and Ankush ordered the Chicken Marsala. Both dishes came with pasta or veggies on the side. We chose pasta. The portions were very generous, especially for the price (around $12.00 each). The quality wasn't the best ever had, but it was very good and they didn't overload the pasta with garlic. (Sorry, Jaime, it definitely beat your attempt at Chicken Parmesan from college. Ha!).

I somehow managed to clean up my whole plate while talking a mile a minute about all of our mutual acquaintances in college, our opinions on NY life, and best of all about food. I suspect/hope we will have several more outings of this nature due to that common interest. Anyway, I would definitely return to Cremcaffe in the future.

Location: 65 Second Avenue (between 3rd & 4th Streets)
Hours: Mon-Thurs 3:00p-11:00p; Fri 3:00p-12:00a, Sat 12:00p-12:00a, Sun 12:00p-11:00p
Price: $$

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Nectarine Cobbler

After getting home from work tonight around 8:00 pm and finding something to eat, I made this Nectarine Cobbler from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook (Thank you, Kathryn!). I didn't really want to cook so late, but I wasn't sure how long the ripe nectarine's would last. Thus my belly is now full of sweet goodness.

Cobbler wasn't my first choice. I really wanted to make free form nectarine tarts or nectarine crisp, but somehow didn't have the right ingredients in spite of so much grocery shopping on Monday.
It doesn't matter. The cobbler is way too tasty. This blog is a not-so-secret an attempt to refrain from eating more. Brushing my teeth will be the next step, followed by blissful sleep.

In spite of the deliciousness of homemade cobbler, I probably will not make this recipe again. I would prefer a crispy topping. Without further ado, here are the pictures!

Our other roommate, Kaitlin, came home tonight after traveling. As soon as she walked in, she was back out to get drinks with a potential crush. Tracy's been telling me about her dates from Thank goodness for living vicariously through them...only, really, I'm perfectly content baking not dating. It's rather shocking.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance

This is totally off topic, but the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance just ended. I've never been so caught up in a show (well, sort of). The result was almost what I wanted.
Every time I have watched it, it makes me want to get stronger, better, and faster and most of all I wanted to start dancing again. I'm sad it is over, even if it was kind of ridiculous to arrange my life around it THREE nights this week.
I believe these two pieces were my favorites of the season (and neither features who I wanted to win surprisingly). This one was pretty amazing too.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bran Muffins from Scratch

Last winter I thrived on bran muffins or oatmeal with raisins for breakfast. The idea came from my mother and All-Bran's super simple recipe. They were slightly sweet, filling, reasonable, and quick. A few batches in, I discovered that All-Bran contains the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup. So, just like that, bran muffins were off of the menu.

You would be amazed how hard it is to avoid high fructose corn syrup. It is everywhere: canned tomatoes, salad dressings, All-Bran, bread, candy corn - you name it. It doesn't add nutritional value and, shortly, it may make grocery shopping more expensive since the increased ethanol demand may cause the cost of corn to rise (go here for a related article). Anyway, back to the muffins...

Months later I discovered this recipe for bran muffins from scratch online. I put off making it for months as I knew it would be a pain to find all the ingredients, which it was, but it was worth the effort. The muffins are slightly sweet and moist. They manage to taste buttery without a drop of butter. They don't even require processed sugar, which makes them the antithesis of All-Bran's high fructose corn syrup containing ways. I highly recommend them.

P.S. I didn't use molasses and my honey was buckwheat.
P.P.S. I think my cupcake/muffin pan is a bit shallow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Meg and I finally caught up again over dinner at Tamarind in our neighborhood. It still feels a little weird that this is my neighborhood, but I love it. Who cares that my rent doubled? First things first, we started by splitting a bottle of Chianti. Work has been very intense lately, to say the least, so wine was essential. Their cocktail menu was very creative, but we resisted deviating from the wine plan.

We started with an order of Samosas ($4.95). I only recently discovered that I like love these. The flaky, butter shell with spiced veggies inside is irresistible. Plus they come with a selection of dipping sauces. I ordered my usual entree, Saag Paneer ($10.95). I will be forever a little indebted to Jim for teaching me to like Indian. I was with him when I discovered the pleasure of cheese cubes, spicy creamed spinach, rice, and Naan. Tamarind's version was good, but not outstanding. The cheese cubes didn't enough flavor. I can't recall what Meg ordered...

In the end, we were both to full for anything else and requested our check. Out came a little complimentary dessert to share - it was frozen, slightly sweet, and creamy. I have no idea what it was, but it did firm up my opinion that Tamarind has great service. The waitstaff didn't hover yet our water glasses were full the entire meal, our check came promptly, and they treated us to dessert.

While I'm not desparate to go back, as there are so many other options, I will go back.

Location: 1679 3rd Avenue at 94th Street
Hours: Sun-Thurs: 11:30a-11:00p; Fri-Sat 11:30a-12:00a
Price: $$

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Candle 79

Last night I had dinner with one of my old roommates, K. Belatedly, I treated her to Candle 79 for her birthday. It was a slightly selfish gift as I had been dying to go, but she didn't mind as she felt the same way. Candle 79 has inviting, warm atmosphere and floor length windows in the front of the restaurant.

While deciding on our entrées, the wait staff brought us a complimentary, tasty amuse-bouche: new potato with a yummy herb, tofu cream. I stuck by my pre-selected menu choice of the Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Cake ($19) and K ordered the Rosemary-Walnut Crusted Seitan ($22). That would have been it, but one of the special appetizers was a divine sounding mushroom, truffle risotto with cashew cream and fresh corn ($15). I decided to splurge and we split it. The risotto was totally worth it as was the rest of the meal. The flavors in the food popped and the food was so fresh. Who needs meat?

To top the amazing meal off, the service was some of the best I have experienced in New York. We didn't have to prompt the staff to do anything and I can't stress how rare that is. I resisted the terribly tempting drink menus and stuck to food. Maybe next time?

I also want to try the less expensive, sister restaurant Candle Cafe.

Location: 154 East 79th Street (between Lexington & 3rd Avenues)
Hours: Mon-Sat 12:00p-3:30p, 5:30p-10:30p; Sun 12:00p-4:00p, 5:00p-10:00p
Cost: $$$

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Thai Milano, pinkberry, and Best Friends

This past Thursday, Vika and Jaime came to see my apartment and to have dinner. As always their company was sublime. There is always comfort to be found when in free-flowing conversations and time with best friends. Plus! They thought my apartment was cute. Sadly, our dining experience at Thai Milano wasn't comparable to the rest of the evening.

I admit that Thai food is not my favorite, but I can recognize good Thai! My Pad Thai had sticky noodles and was missing the normal punchy tang involved in the seasoning. It also featured a piece of hair, which I swear was too wavy to be mine.

Vika's Pineapple/Shrimp Fied Rice faired better, but she thought it was dry. She also had to ask for the correct dish to be brought out as initially they brought the chicken version. Jaime's dish was okay, but clear noodles are so much better in K-town. Needless to say, I don't plan to return to the restaurant. Did I mention we also had to intervene to get the check? Don't bother.

At least our post-dinner trip to pinkberry made up for the trouble. :)

Location: 1742 2nd Avenue (between 90th & 91st Street)
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30a-10:45p; Fri-Sat 11:30a-11:45p; Sun 12:00 pm-10:45p
Cost: $$

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mesa Grill

Tonight I went to Mesa Grill for Renee's birthday. She's an amazing cook, so it made perfect sense to celebrate her birthday with great food and company. I walked by twice before I identified the entrance, which is subtle, to say the least. Inside the decor wasn't to my taste, except in the very cute bathroom. The main restaurant had a little too much going on with the bright colors, pillars, and the metallic flames (?!) above the bar. However, our reservation was promptly honored and that always starts the evening off on a high note. Throughout the evening our service continued to be pretty efficient.

I ordered the Tomato-Tortilla Soup with White Cheddar Cheese, Avocado, and Cilantro ($10) to start. It had a great flavor; the avocado was very essential as it was also quite spicy. I also tried Renee's Shrimp and Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale with Fresh Corn and Cilantro Sauce ($15). It was unique and tasty, but the fresh corn tasted just like canned cream corn and that was a little confusing. What I really wanted to order to start were the Crispy Squash Blossoms stuffed with Ricotta Cheese, but I heard they were a very small serving for $13, so I passed.

For my entree, I had trouble deciding between the Grilled Mahi-Mahi
with Roasted Pineapple-Cascabel Chile Sauce and Caramelized Pineapple-Green Onion Salsa ($29) and a few sides ($7 each). I ended up ordering the Cauliflower-Green Chile Gratin and the Mashed Potatoes with Cilantro Pesto ($7 each). The mashed potatoes were good, but the cauliflower gratin was outstanding: cheesy, spicy, delicious, and nothing I could create at home. Of the other main courses I tasted the highlight was the New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin - oh so tender and full of flavor.

While I am not anxious to return for dinner as I felt like the food didn't live up to the prices, I am anxious to go for dessert!
Everyone was way too full to indulge, but the dessert menu looked awesome!

Location: 102 Fifth Avenue (between 15th and 16th Streets)
Hours: Mon-Thurs 12:00p-2:30p 5:30p-10:30p, Fri 12:00p-2:30p, 5:30p-11:00p, Sat 11:30a-2:30p, 5:30p-11p, Sun 11:30a-3:00p, 5:30p-10:30p
Cost: $$$

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


After promising to do so since February, I finally hung out with Malik sans Vika and/or Lauren. It wasn't that I was avoiding it so much as once I had a job and the income to go out, I lacked time. I am just now finding a balance, although I still rarely make happy hours or dinner specials, like those at Bonjoo where we caught up. I got there at 7:05 pm when the specials stopped at 7:00 pm!

Bonjoo has a great feel t- sleek and soothing. Our service was prompt, which Malik's being a regular might have helped. He ordered the BiBimBop with extra vegetables; it looked right, but I didn't try it as I wanted to eat my whole dinner. I ordered the only other item I have been brave enough to order at Korean restaurants: Jap Chae. You can never go wrong with clear sweet potato noodles. They just sound cool!

The Jap Chae was good, but not quite as good as what I've had in Koreatown. That said I would go back to Bonjoo again as the food was good, the prices were reasonable, and the atmosphere was much better than Koreatown. I also tasted Malik's apple martini, which had a very balanced, not too sweet flavor. The fact that it was made with sake was the only thing that discouraged me from getting one of my own.

Location: 107 1st Avenue (between 6th & 7th Streets)
Sun-Thu 4:00p-1:30a, Fri-Sat 4:00p-2:30a
Cost: $

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Simple Stir Fry, Plantains, & Beets

I learned a valuable lesson about going to the Green Market yesterday. I should be careful not to overbuy with our not-so-full-sized fridge. Luckily, only one of my two roommates is in town and the other one doesn't cook, so everything fits barely.

Today I was determined to cook the beets I purchased, paint my toenails, and do my laundry. I have accomplished everything! While the beets boiled, I cooked the plantains I accidentally purchased yesterday. I planned to throw them away, but Mom had a better idea, as usual.

She suggested that I slowly cook them in butter and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar. I was hesitant to try cooking plantains as I thought you deep frying was necessary for them to taste good, but apparently that isn't the case. (Deep frying food kind of scares me as it just can't be healthy. Of course, sugar isn't healthy either and I'm not phased by that. Oh, how I love sugar!) Anyway, they turned out really well! Now with patience, I can make myself a sweet treat that on several occasions I have gone out of my way to order at restaurants.

Once the beets were drained and cool enough, I trimmed and peeled them prior to cutting. They turned out to have this great striped appearance, which I doubt you can see in this picture. Keeping things simple I just crumbled some goat cheese on top...a lazy version of a fancy salad I enjoy. After my unfortunately experience with a large, delicious beet salad's after effects last weekend, I am attributing any pink tinges to the beets NOT possible G.I. problems.

In spite of my belly full of plantains, I knew I needed a real dinner too, so I used sesame oil, garlic, and minced ginger to sauté some chicken, snow peas, summer squash, and zucchini to go with the beet salad. If this looks like a small portion of food for dinner just consider that I can't cook without snacking as I go (and by snacking I mean eating). It explains a lot.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Lemonade, Banana Bread with Chocolate, Cinnamon, & Sugar, and Salad

One of my favorite activities in NYC is wandering around Green Market tasting the fresh fruit and when finally hot enough buying an ice cold peppermint tea, apple cider, or today raspberry apple cider to enjoy with a sun-warmed piece of bread. It feels so luxurious.

Today I felt inspired and actually bought fresh veggies while sauntering. Orange, purple, and yellow carrots, which surprisingly all taste the same. Red romaine lettuce. Fresh beets. Apricots. Zucchini and summer squash. I couldn't wait to come home and eat.

I even had a new peeler, purchased from the infamous carrot man, to peel the vegetables. Unfortunately, I peeled my finger a little bit too, but that will heal with time. It did a great job and my salad, as you can see, was the prettiest salad I have ever made. I even made the dressing myself using the proportions described here. Not bad.

I also made homemade lemonade with a mint-lemon simple syrup. The lemonade was more labor intensive than I expected. I probably won't make it again, unless I am having a few people over and it can be served all at once. That said I think the syrup will be divine in a glass of tea, so I plan to try that sometime this week while scrambling to consume it before its untimely demise.

My other treat was making banana bread! The grocery store across the street always has the overripe bananas on sale for a $1.00 for 8 or something, so I walked over the buy a bundle. I came home to discover that I purchased plantains. I'm not sure what I am going to do with those...

Luckily, I had frozen a previous batch and was still able to move forward. I find it interesting that this recipe doesn't call for any liquid, really, butter, or oil. As you would expect, this bread isn't the sticky sweet, moist version of banana bread. It is much lighter, but still completely addictive. I can't wait to try it frozen as described in the blog entry. I also think it would be an excellent gift, if I bought cute little loaf pans to bake it in.

How is it that the result of every baking and other adventure results in my wanting to purchase something new that I don't have space to store in my apartment! Damn consumer culture!

P.S. The bread is amazing frozen! We'll see if I can make it last for a week.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


A very, very long time ago a charming boy attempted to take me to Serendipity around Christmas. The three hour wait foiled that plan and we ended up at Patsy's across the street. It took another two years and better planning, but I finally went this past Christmas with my parents. The decor at Christmas is worth the wait, but on a normal day it isn't quite as pretty and I'm not so sure. It won't look anything like the movie at least, and, let's face it that is probably what you are expecting.

Today's trip was the first time I tried the food and while it was decent, I suggest that you simply do dessert. The Haight-Ashbury sandwich and the Catcher in the Rye BLT and fries were perfectly decent, but the portions were small for their price ($13.50) and fries were a la carte ($3.50). That is what you get for going to a "tourist trap." One that Tyra Banks frequents, but nonetheless a place for tourists.

The dessert options make the wait worth it, at least once, though. The Frrrozen Hot Chocolate ($8.50) with real, not sweet, whipped cream is delicious. It actually tastes like chocolate; you can almost imagine falling into love movie-style over it. I can't decide if it tastes better when eaten with a spoon or with the straw. I suppose that is why they give you both. While there with my family we ordered the Strawberry Fields Sundae ($13.50) and it was delish as well. Both desserts were generous enough to share, so remember to do so.

Location: 225 East 60th Street (between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)
Hours: Sun-Thurs 11:30a-12:00a; Fri 11:30a-1:00a; Sat 11:30a-2:00a (be prepared to wait ~2.5-3 hours regardless of when you go; if you are lucky you can call for limited reservations during certain times of the year)
Cost: $$

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My Most Favorite Food

After seeing Deuce, we needed a place close to Times Square for coffee and dessert. Wandering led us down 45th Street where I suggested we try My Most Favorite Food. I saw it while temping in the area and found the name and desserts in the window tempting at the time.

Laura and her Mom ordered decaffeinated tea, which took two discussions to arrive. For some reason decaf meant black tea? Yeah, right. Anyway, I ordered a cupcake, of course, Gary ordered the carrot cake, and Laura ordered the cherry cheesecake. Their cakes trumped my cupcake - both were moist and not overly sweet. My cupcake had a whipped frosting that looked lovely, but didn't have much flavor and the cake was slightly dry. After eating it, I realized it probably came from the Cupcake Cafe. I should have known because of the decorative flower on top.

All was well UNTIL we asked the waiter to take a picture of the four of us. He was seriously not capable. The camera was held at an angle that captured two of four people... This was funny. Then we had to chase someone down to get our check. As if we aren't anxious to go by the time it arrived, the waiter basically urged us to leave faster. Based on the service, I do not plan to go back and sample the regular food, which is a shame as I'm a sucker for packaging and this place certainly had that.

Location: 120 West 45th Street (between Broadway & Sixth Avenue)
Hours: Mon-Thurs 8:30a-10:00p; Fri 8:30a-3:00p; Sat 9:00a-1:00p; 11:30a-10:30p
Cost: $$


Tonight I had the pleasure of joining most of Laura's family for an outing. Our starting point was dinner at 'inoteca on the Lower East Side. I knew the evening was off to a good start when walking directly from the 6 train stop took a lot less time than expected. Unfortunately, the slow bringing of the check after a mixed-up order plus traffic caused us to sprint to the theater later. There was bound to be some rushing though...this is New York.

That isn't to say that the service was all bad at 'inoteca. When I arrived the sommelier had already set-up our table with wine. According to the B's he was quite knowledgeable and had great taste. I'm not even going to claim to understand wine, so I'll just add that I enjoyed what was presented to me. The next challenge was interpreting the menu, which is basically in Italian. The staff was helpful here too as they didn't mind explaining everything more than once.

I started with a beet salad with orange, mint, and hazelnuts ($8) so good that I hardly wanted to share. It was worth it to taste Laura's salad with baby strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and greens and Gary's salad. Laura and I had paninis for dinner. While good the roasted vegetable and ricotta fresca panini ($9) did not live up to the inventive, flavorful salad. Laura's prosciutto, pesto, and tomato panini ($9) fared better, but still didn't excite me as much as our introductory food. That said, 'inoteca is definitely worth a try. Just be aware that when you eat beets, they will affect you for a few days afterward...

Location: 98 Rivington Street @ Ludlow Street
Hours: Mon-Sun 12:00p-3:00a, Brunch Sat-Sun 10a-4p
Cost: $$

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Black Bean (Pasta) Salad

After discovering that Sunday's Green Market on my street doesn't really close at 5:00 pm, I was stumped about what to eat this week without going broke. I spontaneously came up with the salad below; however, it might not be spontaneous as it is entirely like that I stole the mixture of ingredients from one of the numerous recipes I have read. Either way, I thought it went well and have recorded it below for posterity.

Black Bean Salad

One 15 ounce can of Black Beans
1/2 small white onion
1 bunch Italian flat parsley
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1 large cucumber
1 block of organic feta cheese
2 cups of Gemelli Pasta
1 large bowl with a lid

1. Put the 2 cups of pasta on to boil following the boxes instructions.
2. Open the black beans and put them in a colander. Rinse and drain them.
3. Cut the onion, 5 of the sun dried tomatoes, and the cucumber into cubes (or whatever you want - I'm way to anal and thus a very slow cook). Place the chopped ingredients in the bowl.
4. Add a little bit of olive oil from the jar of tomatoes to the mix.
5. Add the black beans and stir everything.
6. Drain the pasta and rinse with cool water. Add it to the mix.
7. Cut 1/4 of the cheese block into cubes and toss into the salad.
8. Enjoy.

In retrospect, I would add the feta cheese as desired whenever you plan to eat the salad. It loses it's flavor if you let it sit overnight. I just added more cheese when I ate it on subsequent nights.

Obviously, you can omit the pasta. I just enjoy it and can "afford" to eat it since my parents suggested I force feed myself a little. They feel I'm too thin; Vika just says I'm NY thin. It's all a matter of opinion.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Luna Park

As with most outdoor venues, Luna Park's distinguishing factor is its location: outside. Being located in Union Square is also very convenient. Luna Park also has other pluses: the staff is friendly and offers prompt service. Best of all, you can talk without yelling. It was the perfect spot to meet up with Britt and his friends to catch up on life while drinking a little. Thank goodness they got there early though or we would have been without a table.

The crowd is attractive and dressier than typical for the area, but still fairly casual. I suppose when you are seated in plastic chairs under umbrellas, it wouldn't make sense to wear your Sunday best. The biggest downside to Luna Park would have to be the bathrooms, which are public park bathrooms. If you were interested in stealing the roll of toilet paper, forget about it, it is Masterlocked into place.

: Union Square West (between 16th Street & 17th Street)
: Mon 12a-1a, 11:45a-12a; Tue-Wed 11:45a-12a; Thu-Sat 11:45a-1a; Sun 12p-12a and only during the summer!
Cost: $$ (not entirely sure as for once I didn't pay for my drinks, but numerous websites say this)


A few weeks ago I made the mistake of going to pinkberry. I wanted to know what the big deal was... I'm still not entirely sure, but I find myself craving it pretty much all the time.

It could be the fresh fruit toppings generously layered on the cool, slightly tangy yogurt. It could be the novelty of it. It could be that it doesn't leave that gross I had too much sugar (and liked it!) taste that other ice cream leaves. Whatever the reason, it needs to stop or my social, discretionary spending funds will be depleted from my private, pinkberry outings.

I recommend that you avoid trying it or you might end up like me, but if you must I would get the matcha green tea flavor with rice cakes or the original with a fruit of your choice (I'm partial to raspberries). Whatever you choose it'll be gone before you know it.

Location and Hours: For location and hours visit their website. I was visiting the one on 32nd Street, but now I know about a closer one at 82nd Street.
Cost: $$

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Dumpling House

This past weekend my parents came up to help me move into my new apartment on the Upper East Side. My dad seemed a little worried about all the expenses involved, so I went through my long, long list of places I wanted to try in New York for the inexpensive ones. Dumpling House fit the bill perfectly.

For $10.50, the three of us had more food than we could eat. We sampled the boiled pork and chive dumplings (10), sesame noodles, a small hot and sour soup, and two "sandwiches." Most disappointing was the Hot and Sour soup, which wasn't sour so much as slightly sweet and low tasting. The highlight of the meal were the "sandwiches" served on fresh, fried sesame buns stuffed with fresh veggies or a tuna salad involving peas, carrots, and cilantro. They were to die for. I actually tried replicating the tuna salad the next night for my lunch. It was passable, but if the Dumpling House was beside my workplace, I would never pack a lunch again!

One caveat, there isn't really seating beyond a few metal stools in the back. I suggest carrying your food over the few blocks and sitting in Sara Roosevelt park. My parents have warned me that this spot would be hard to beat on future trips and I have to agree. I think even Magnolia Bakery came up short afterward...

Location: 118 Eldridge Street (Between Broome Street and Grand Street)
Hours: Daily 7:30a-9:30p
Cost: $

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Brother Jimmy's Bait Shack

Have you ever craved sweet tea and southern BBQ in NYC? Brother Jimmy's is a good place to go. I've been to the original location and the Bait Shack; both locations did not disappoint.

The first trip I enjoyed the punch bowl drink, as I can't resist beverages that come with lots of florescent straws and an alligator full of grenadine, while my roommate and her boyfriend had dinner. My tastes of their dinner told me that my dad would love it.

I was right as our post-move dinner confirmed. Since we were too tired to decide on a simple meal, my parents and I shared the BBQ sampler platter and a sampler of the sides. It was so hard to pick 4 sides that our waitress kindly gave us a bonus one (a sadly too smoky biscuits and gravy). Everything else was divine though: creamy macaroni and cheese, North Carolina-style BBQ, spicy and savory collard greens, etc.

I guarantee I'll be taking guests to this restaurant again in the future as it is tasty and convenient to my new place.

Location and Hours: Various (see the website)
Cost: $-$$

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I've been to Patsy's three times now... Twice while waiting for Serendipity and a third because I genuinely like it.

While I've seen tables around me order various entrees and appetizers, I always stick to the pizza. It can get a little pricey with toppings, but luckily, I like a classic pizza or one with fresh mozzarella - simple and satisfying. Patsy's pizza is never an oil slick and has a great thin, slightly crispy NOT chewy crust. Occasionally there is some charring, a risk of a coal oven pizza. I have also split the basil, mozzarella, and tomato appetizer three ways with a great deal of pleasure.

The service is slow but once your order is in the food comes promptly, servings are generous, and I have never had to wait for a table. In my mind these qualities make Patsy's a reliable meal choice.

Location: 206 East 60th Street (near 3rd Avenue)
Hours: Sun-Thurs 11:30a-11:00pm, Fri-Sat 11:30a-12:00a
Cost: $$

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Mom was in town this past weekend and as she is always up for food adventures, I thought Momofuku Noodle Bar was the perfect place to go. The rave reviews from critices, the chef's credentials, and the relatively affordable prices had placed it on my list.* Actually, all the listings online put it in the $ category, but I am placing it in $$ category since it is only that cheap if you eat an appetizer as a meal.

We arrived at 3:30 pm and there was still a wait for lunch. Momofuku's decor is minimal, think a single bar with a row of wooden stools, and the restaurant is tiny. That said the service is efficient and from most of the seats you can see the kitchen at work, which is always fascinating to me.

Mom and I split the steamed buns with Berkshire pork, the sauteed sugar snap peas with fresh grated horseradish, and the tsukemen (dipping broth, chilled noodles, shredded berkshire pork, and poached egg). The sauteed sugar snap peas outshone everything else we consumed; I would go again just for their simple, buttery goodness. In fact, that might be the only thing I would repeat order from our meal as nothing else left a strong impression.

Location: 163 1st Avenue at 10th Street
: Sun-Thurs 12:00p-4:00p, 5:30p-11:00p; Fri-Sat 12:00p-4:00p, 5:30p-12:00a
Cost: $$

*It actually doesn't take much to get on the list of places I want to try; I'm discriminating and yet the list is so very long.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Cloning Meat...Seriously?

Amen. It isn't like we're running short on meat in the first place and/or don't have alternatives.