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.