Saturday, April 26, 2008

Taco Taco

One day in ballet, Meg was raving about having brunch at Taco Taco with her boyfriend and the memory stuck with me. When we finally made it to brunch this weekend, I suggested we revisit Taco Taco as it was so convenient to our apartments.

While she suggested and ordered the coffee, which apparently has a hint of cinnamon, I passed. Coffee still has not grown on me. Plus, it tends to give me a stomachache. I did get the dish she raved about after her last time though. I can't remember the name of it, but imagine a breakfast version of a taco salad. Really good, right? And filling too. I could barely touch the side salad.

Taco Taco's complimentary chips and salsa aren't bad either. The chips are clearly fresh, very crispy but not greasy, as is the salsa. I'll definitely go back here eventually. The guacamole and chips looked good too.

Location: 1726 2nd Avenue (between 89th and 90th Streets)
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30a-11:00p, Fri 11:30a-12:00a, Sat 11:00a-12:00a, Sun 11:00a, 11:00p
Cost: $$

Thursday, April 24, 2008

pinkberry And I Are Breaking Up

Jaime just sent me this article from the NY Times. I kind of already knew pinkberry wasn't exactly what it claimed and obviously dealt with it, but the fact that they use corn-derived sweeteners rules it out (see below).

Now I have to find something else cold and sweet to like for the summer. I can guarantee it won't be Tasti D-lite, which just seems too airy and gave me a headache.

The ingredients list for Original Pinkberry has 23 items. Skim milk and nonfat yogurt are listed first, then three kinds of sugar: sucrose, fructose and dextrose. Fructose and maltodextrin, another ingredient, are both laboratory-produced ingredients extracted from corn syrup.
The list includes at least five additives defined by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as emulsifiers (propylene glycol esters, lactoglycerides, sodium acid pyrophosphate, mono- and diglycerides); four acidifiers (magnesium oxide, calcium fumarate, citric acid, sodium citrate); tocopherol, a natural preservative; and two ingredients — starch and maltodextrin — that were characterized as fillers by Dr. Gary A. Reineccius, a professor in the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota and an expert in food additives.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


As part of Lthug's bachelorette weekend, I made my second trip to Risotteria. (Does anyone else find it weird that bachelorette does not have real word status yet? First my cell phone thought it was gibberish and now Mozilla.) I was a bit reluctant to go back as my last experience left me feeling the risotto was only so-so. After this visit, I think the issue was actually my limited hunger in spite of the 8 hour gap between my half of a Carnegie Deli reuben and the risotto.

Given our party of six the wait was surprisingly short. Thank goodness as it was 3:00 p and we were starving. We started with two servings of complimentary bread sticks and a re-purposed wine bottle full of chilled water. Perfect. The wait staff was attentive and patient with our collective indecisiveness. They refreshed the jars of bread sticks without our having to ask.

I ended up ordering the Carnaroli Risotto with Roasted Leg of Lamb, Gorgonzola and Spinach ($15.50). It was creamy with an intense flavor courtesy of the Gorgonzola. I could barely taste the lamb or spinach, but both were tender and probably added subtle flavors. Vika had the Arborio Risotto with Shrimp, Mozzarella, and Tomato ($16.55). The cheese was much less overwhelming and you could taste the flavor of each ingredient. Both dishes were good.

This trip won me over and I definitely plan to go back to Risotteria. Also I'm in love with their pens; instead of business cards they have pens that say "Stolen from Risotteria" and their address on the side.

Location: 270 Bleecker Street (between Cornelia Street and Morton Street)
Hours: Sun-Sat 12:00p - 11:00p
Cost: $$

Friday, April 18, 2008

Yakiniku West

Yakiniku West was the first official stop on Lthug's bachelorette itinerary. I went in with some concerns. Will I have to sit on the floor? My dress is awfully mini for the up and down. Will I really have to take off my shoes? Did I forget my ID when rushing downtown after a brutal collision with a table in my apartment? The answers were all yes, obviously, and the only one that ended up problematic was my ID.

Jaime and I arrived on time or so we thought. Lauren, Vika, Jenn, and Jackie arrived a little later. Turns out Yakiniku pushed back Lauren's reservation 15-20 minutes without complaint, even with a bit of a wait forming outside. This was a sign of good service that would continue all night. Baskets of Dum Dum lollipops free for the taking also sweetened the impression.

Once our shoes were stored in plastic bags to carry or in cubbies we were led upstairs. While you do not sit on the ground, your table is on the ground with benches around it. Hard to explain. There were only three tables in the room we were seated it. One table had the perfect addition to our party - guys from West Point who were really into Sake bombs to the point of shaking the floor. Naturally Lauren ended up participating. Sake bomb? No, a Steve bomb. Right.

The basic portions of the bbq stuff, packaged with soup, salad, and a scoop of ice cream for dessert, are for one person. We ordered three, two with bi bim bop for $5.00 extra, edamame, shochu and sake and had just enough food. The burners are way too small to cook a plateful of food for each person simultaneously making eating a slow process. At least with Shabu Shabu, which I rapidly decided I prefer, you can prepare food for a whole group at the pace you want to eat. Alternatively you can order sushi, teriyaki, or regular bi bim bop but that isn't the point of Yakiniku.

The food we cooked on our own was good, but the edamame was barely salted and the ice cream flavors didn't pop. So if I come back it will be about the service and atmosphere not the food.

As for the ID, I ended up heading home after dinner rather than continuing on to go out. NYC never lets those slide for normal people...

Location: 218 East 9th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, closer to 3rd)
Hours: Don't know...We went for dinner! So that is a safe bet.
Cost: $$

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Garlic Soba Noodles

I made these Garlic Soba Noodles last week. The recipe seemed promising as I have appreciated the individual ingredients in other experiments and it just looked good. But yeah, I'm unhappily eating leftovers now.

There is something about the recipe that just didn't hit the spot. Maybe it the sliminess of the soba noodles makes me think the leftovers have gone bad when they haven't? Or the inexplicable gritty texture is off putting? Or could it be the radishes turn like apples when exposes to air and gooey brown-ish soba noodles?

Regardless, I think I'll stick to the last soba noodle recipe that I enjoyed late last year, which is incidentally is much easier to make, and I think you should too unless you just loooove garlic too much to not try this one.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Once I saw the divine pictures of Whole Wheat Apple Muffins by Smitten Kitten, I knew I had to make them. They would help use my spontaneously purchased buttermilk and would integrate more healthy whole wheat into my life.

Since I actually had roughly all the ingredients on hand, I was able to get started right away. My only substitution was light brown sugar in place of dark brown sugar. I assembled the muffins and had them baking in under an hour. Not bad. They smelled great by the time Rock of Love 2 was ending. Nothing like a sweet treat to offset the ending of an awesome yet awful TV show.

These muffins have a very moist texture and flavor reminiscent of a lighter pound cake. I enjoyed them all week for breakfast; next time I am going to try decreasing the sugar used as they were too decadent a breakfast food for my taste. Seriously, I eat things like plain oatmeal for breakfast on a regular basis.

My big stumble with these was putting them in a gallon storage bag before they had cooled enough. As a result, my crunchy brown sugar topping just melted into a sticky mess. If only I could learn to start cooking before 9:00 pm.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage

Saturday after my post route-marking plans fell through, I was wasting time online (as usual). I didn't know what to do with the night; since moving to NYC I seem to have forgotten how to sit and do nothing. When I stumbled across this recipe for Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage, I knew I had hit the jackpot.

Growing up my grandparents, mom, brother, and I would make galumpkies. It was an half day project with lots of trays for freezing extra batches. I remembered liking them, but forgot how much labor was involved. Things that might have sped up the process include following the directions to core the cabbage and having a food processor. Oh well! I also advise against starting the process at 9:00 pm.

Anyway, all that matters though is the end result, which was good. As I'm not a vegetarian, I think I'll stick to a meat filling next time and starting cooking earlier. Next time also will probably be in the winter as cooking all this really heats up the kitchen.

P.S.Don't skip the raisins in the sauce. They really add that extra something special.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Stir Fried Burdock with Sesame & Soy

I spontaneously purchased Burdock Root at Green market after reading on a sign it was good for your skin. I doubt the one large piece I purchased was enough to have an affect, but I was apprehensive and unsure of what to do with it. As usual searching online led me to a recipe (scroll halfway down the page to: Hiroko's Kimpira Gobo).

While the idea of preparing and julienning the burdock and carrot wasn't appealing, I couldn't resist the sesame based seasoning. I added parsnip to the mix and substituted olive oil for vegetable oil. I didn't see the changes mentioned in the burdock root, but felt it was reasonably cooked based on the increased flexibility of the carrots. The extended cooking time really brought out the natural sweetness in the carrots and the burdock root had a unique, slighly nutty flavor.

I meant to eat the amount below over two meals. That didn't happen. Next time, hopefully soon, I will make a double batch.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hill Country

Adrienne says Brother Jimmys is not real barbecue. I suppose that for a Texan it wouldn't be... In light of this I tried her favorite place: Hill Country. As a first time visitor the large, cafeteria-style set-up is overwhelming. You go from station to station selecting your food while they complete your card. Thank goodness it wasn't busy on Monday at 7:00 pm.

I ordered a quarter pound of lean brisket, Adrienne's favorite, with a slice of very thick, white bread, a small side of longhorn cheddar mac'n'cheese, and the sweet tea (it just isn't barbecue without sweet tea). The fork tender meat was sliced into 1" wide strips thin like ribbon. The sauce, while made in Virginia Beach with high fructose corn syrup, was delicious. The mac'n'cheese was good, but didn't have enough of a cheese flavor for me. The sweet tea was very good, but not your traditional Southern-style as it had just a (perfect) hint of sweetness. Each item was roughly $5.00.

Realistically after all that, I was too full for ice cream, but Hill Country serves Blue Bell. I had it once before, in July 2006 visiting Britt in Mooresville, NC. Ever since then I have raved about it. I even have a picture on my cell phone. Bliss. It was a one time thing, because they only sell it where it can be shipped overnight. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to see it on the menu. I got a generous hand-scooped portion to go for $4.00. It was melt in my mouth mint chocolate chip. So good although a bit fierce with the green food-coloring.

Hill Country is really good, but I can't help but like best what I know - places like Lancaster's with hush puppys, pulled pork, and lots of great sauce. I still want to go back to Hill Country though to try some other sides, the ribs, and have more ice cream. Eating locally be darned, in this case, as Blue Bell ice cream is the best.

Location: 30 West 26th Street (Between Broadway and 7th Avenue)
Hours: Sun-Wed 12:00p-10:00p, Thurs-Sat 12:00p-11:00p (Kitchen hours...The bar is open later)
Cost: $ to $$ (depends on your appetite and extras)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

German Pancake with Buttermilk Syrup

I ask my Mom to make this almost every time I go home. I'm obsessed with the syrup, which my roommates compared to cake batter. I knew it was good, but suddenly it all made sense. My favorite scent? Vanilla Cake baking. My favorite lotion? Vanilla Bean Noel. My favorite Coldstone ice cream? Cake batter.

While not the healthiest, this is really easy to make, done in 20 minutes, and, in case I was unclear, delicious. My Mom's recipe for the cake and syrup is below followed by my picture.

German Pancake with Butter milk syrup! Yum
Yields about 8 servings and 2 cups of syrup (if you aren't gluttonous)

German Pancake
In blender mix until smooth:
*6 eggs or equivalent egg beaters
*1 cup milk
*1 cup all purpose flour
*1/2 teaspoon salt.

Pour into 9X13X2 baking dish greased with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. (I didn't say this was healthy). I melt the butter in the dish to save dishes! Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

While baking make the syrup. The original recipe suggests in a sauce pan but it does well in a oversized glass bowl in the microwave be sure to serve hot!
*1 1/2 cups sugar *3/4 cups buttermilk (milk with 2 tablespoons of vinegar is the substitute let stand till sours about 1 minute) *1/2 cup real butter (this is the flavor) *1 teaspoon of baking soda

Bring to boil and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat add 2 teaspoons of vanilla, stir. Serve over hot pancake, dusted with confectioners sugar if desired (I never add the confectioners sugar since I use so much syrup).

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Today I impulsively purchased buttermilk at Green Market. As I don't like to drink it I had to find things to make with it. I saved this southern-style buttermilk biscuit recipe a while ago, but was out of all-purpose flour. I found a whole-wheat biscuit recipe, but did not have enough butter on hand.

I ended using the first recipe substituting whole-wheat flour and a 1/2 cup of almond meal for the white flour. It worked out pretty well. The biscuits are fluffy, filling, and have a nutty flavor. I've been enjoying them plain as they have enough flavor that I don't need to add anything, which makes them great for rushing out the door in the morning (I'm always late).

The recipes both noted the need for something with a sharp metal edge to cut the biscuits or you would interfere with the biscuits ability to rise. Turns out we only have a star cookie cutter, so I present to you my finished product.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini

I made Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini once before and after all the work involved hardly had a chance to enjoy the results as the pre-mixedTahini expired!! I found that out the hard way with an unpleasant stomachache leading to a label check and discarding virtually all of the salad.

A dish involving butternut squash isn't exactly seasonally appropriate, but just before the fridge disaster I had purchased most of the ingredients for making this again and I could not wait until Fall. While I didn't make buy pre-mixed Tahini, I had trouble believing the unopened Tahini would make it through a hot NYC summer in an uncooled kitchen.

I'm glad I tried the recipe again. It was great to confirm that the tahini was the issue not something else... The salad's flavors blend together well; it is slightly sweet, mostly savory, and very filling! I managed to get 4+ meals out of it as I used a 5 pound butternut squash. Needless to say I'm glad I can't have it again until winter. ;)