Labor Day Weekend in NYC

November 22, 2009

Over Labor Day, I went to visit my friend, Linda (visit her food blog, here!), who lives in Manhattan.  We spent the weekend walking around…and eating.  A typical NYC trip for me.  My friend, Janice was in town for the weekend too, so the three of us spent Saturday afternoon together.  When I arrived, we took a short walk over to Chelsea Market and grabbed some sushi to go from The Lobster Place.  We took our food over to the High Line, a cute elevated walkway that runs north-south on the west side of the city.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures because I didn’t bring my camera with me.  We were renting bikes afterward so I didn’t bring a purse.  After lunch we walked north along the high line before renting bikes at Chelsea Bicycles.  We rode along Riverside park for a couple hours.  It was a gorgeous day to spend outside.

That evening, we didn’t have dinner anywhere, but ended up having wine and cheese with some of Linda’s friends.  Before everyone got to the apartment, Linda and I walked to Billy’s Bakery and picked up some cupcakes.  Billy’s is a cute little bakery less than 10 min. away from Linda’s apartment.  And it’s open till 10pm or later everyday.  How amazing is that.  You don’t find that kind of place in Baltimore.

I had half a red velvet, and half a carrot, both of which were pretty amazing.  Who doesn’t love cupcakes for dinner?

The next day, Linda and I met up with her friend Jon, who supposedly also writes for Very Foodie of You (though he has yet to post).  We had brunch at Poco on Avenue B.  For $20, you get your choice off the brunch menu, and unlimited sangria or mimosas.  Despite never getting any refills on our sangria, the food was still really good.  Linda got the lobster mac ‘n cheese, which was really good, but very rich.  I had the Poco Benedict, described on the website as, “crispy arepa, chorizo, manchego cheese and poached eggs, topped with pimentón hollandaise.”  I always gravitate towards eggs benedict when I go out for brunch, and this dish was a nice twist on traditional eggs Benedict.

Lobster Mac 'n Cheese

Poco Benedict

Afterwards we walked around a bit, and ended up at Momofuku Milk Bar.  We got pork buns, and tried the cereal milk.  I thought the cereal milk was way overrated.  Who wants to drink milk that tastes like he just ate a bowl of cereal….only he didn’t.  The pork buns were nice and fatty, but overpriced.

After more walking around, we found ourselves at Yogurt Land, a softserve frozen yogurt place similar to the phileoyogurt that I described in a previous post.  I got a little bit of each of a few of my favorite flavors: mango, lychee, green tea, and raspberry (which is not really a favorite…more like a random).

I think that just about concluded the afternoon.  We walked back to my friend’s apartment and sat around and kinda passed out a little before dinner at Socarrat Paella Bar, right across the street.  We got there not too long after it opened and it was already full.  Luckily we only had to wait a few minutes to sit down.  The restaurant is tiny, with one really long table that seats maybe 25.  I suppose one could call it “intimate,” especially with the mood lighting.  The three of us shared cannelones, and croquetas del dia for appetizers, and ordered the Paella de Pescado y Mariscos.  Honestly the best paella I’ve ever had, though I suppose I’ve only had it one or two times prior.  The crispiness of the rice at the bottom reminded me of dolsot bibimbap.  Though it was slightly oversalted, I still quite enjoyed it.  We left with really full stomachs, thankful that we only had to walk back across the street to get home.

On Labor Day, Linda and I ventured out into Brooklyn and had lunch at Motorino, a pizza place.  They have a cute little courtyard in the back, and since it was a nice day out we sat outside.  They have a $10 prix fixe lunch menu where you get a pizza and the soup of the day or a side salad, which was a really good deal.  I had salad with a soppressata piccante pizza.  Nice, thin and crispy crust.  Excellent.

After lunch, we walked towards Williamsburg to explore the area a bit.  We stopped in a couple of Jewish bakeries and picked up many chocolate-filled pastries, including babka…actually now that I’m wiki-ing it, it looks more like kokosh, since it wasn’t twisted and topped with streusel.  Regardless of the name, it was delicious.  I can’t really deny any pastry that incorporates chocolate.  Oneg Heimishe, one of the bakeries we stopped in, is known for their ‘babka.’  It was featured in the New York Times.

That just about wrapped up my latest visit to NYC.  I ended up confusing  my bus departure time and missing it, so I had to wait two hours for the next bus to Baltimore, but that wasn’t so bad.

I always get really excited about Restaurant Week because it’s an opportunity to check out restaurants that normally might not fit into my budget.  After checking out all the menus, I finally narrowed down the number of places I wanted to try to three.  First on the list was Brass Elephant in Mt. Vernon, which actually closed its doors not too long after Restaurant Week.  Another one bites the dust in this economy, I guess.  I’d heard good things about Brass Elephant, but my experience there was not that great.  For a Friday night, the restaurant was not crowded at all.  The service was also subpar.  Our server was slow, and she broke the cork when opening the wine bottle my friend ordered.  Not impressive.  To start, everyone got–I suppose it could have been considered an amuse bouche–of foie gras on a piece of crusty bread.  This was my first taste of foie gras, and I have to say I’m not a fan.  For my first course, I had the smoked rockfish with cold smoked salmon, which was garnished with whipped horseradish cream, pickled radish, and hearts of palm.  The salmon was okay, but the rockfish didn’t taste very fresh.  For my second course, I had a filo-wrapped cod with hazelnuts, sage polenta, and a parsley and sage pesto.  I remember enjoying that.  The fish was cooked well.  For dessert, I went with the creme brulee, because I feel like that’s something that a restaurant shouldn’t mess up.  It wasn’t really anything to write home about.

 

Courses shown counterclockwise from top left.

2009_08_07 - Brass Elephant

Another note about the poor service:  my friend, Stephanie had to leave dinner early and when she realized this, we tried to flag down our server to request that her dessert get packed up ahead of time so that she wouldn’t have to wait for it.  Our server was nowhere to be found for at least 10 minutes.  And then when she explained her situation, the server said she would pack up the dessert, but it came out at the same time as the rest of ours, so Steph had to wait around even though she was pressed for time.  Needless to say, Brass Elephant didn’t really meet my expectations.

 

The next restaurant I tried was Meli in Fell’s Point.  I really enjoyed dinner here.  Despite having reservations for 8:30 or 9pm for 8 people, we still ended up waiting quite awhile for our table, and this wasn’t the fault of the staff per se, as the party that was occupying our would-be table took longer than expected to get up and leave.  Our host said he would try to comp us something, but either he wasn’t able to, or he didn’t even bother to try.  That was okay, though, because the food was outstanding. I started with a lobster mac and cheese, followed by a duck dish that was really well prepared, and finished with some sort of mediterranean dessert whose name I can’t remember, let alone spell.  There was an option to pair the restaurant week menu with a wine flight.  I chose to do that, and each of the wines went very well with the courses.

2009_08_11 - Meli

 

Finally, the last visit for this go around was Jack’s Bistro in Canton.  Jack’s has a tiny dining room, with maybe 6 or 8 tables tops.  And of course we had a large group for this excursion.  We were lucky enough that they were able to seat us all together.  The appetizer that piqued my curiosity the most on their restaurant week menu was the chocolate macaroni and cheese.  Sounds potentially disgusting, but it worked out really well.  The second course was basically a big slab of beef with shoestring fries on the side.  The meat was cooked well, but it wasn’t super special; and I think it would have gone better with some sort of green vegetable on the side.  Then at least I could say I was making some attempt at being healthy.  And lastly the dessert.  omgoodness nom nom.  Deep-fried s’mores.  Yes, you read correctly.  They were so good, I had to include two pictures.  Unfortunately the ice cream in the middle melted rather quickly, but the whole thing was sinful.

2009_08_15 - Jack's Bistro

 

All in all, a successful restaurant week.  Can’t wait till the next one!

Over the summer, Ed and I went to Philadelphia for a Philly Cheesesteak tour.  We met up with a couple of Ed’s friends who drove down from New York, and we spent the afternoon waiting in line, and indulging ourselves.  As many times as I’ve visited Philly, I’ve never actually had an authentic Philly Cheesesteak.

We hit some traffic on the way up there so by the time we arrived we only had a few hours.  Of course our first stop(s) had to be Pat’s and Geno’s, which are located right across from each other.  Since we were four people, we got two steaks from each location and went halfsies so as not to overexert our stomachs right off the bat.

2009_07_25 - Philly Cheesesteak Tour

A little history on Pat’s…

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Be sure to use the proper ordering etiquette at Pat’s!!

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A side by side comparison, (both with whiz, of course).

2009_07_25 - Philly Cheesesteak Tour1

I didn’t like that the meat on Geno’s steak wasn’t chopped up; and there was definitely less flavor.  Both were equally greasy.

Next stop was Jim’s Steaks on South Street.  It’s a favorite of my friend, Kate.  The line for Jim’s went around the corner, so we stopped by phileoyogurt for some froyo.  Phileoyogurt is pinkberry/yogiberry-esque frozen yogurt, but there’s like 20 different flavors all the time.  And it’s self-serve (toppings too!), and you pay by the ounce.  There’s so many flavors to choose from, and each set of two flavors can be “twisted,” too.  Unfortunately there’s only one sample per customer.  I ended up getting a mango/lychee twist without toppings, since I figured that was a pretty safe choice.

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Meanwhile, Ed was holding our place in line for steaks, and the line moved pretty slowly.  It was like waiting in a roller coaster line in an amusement park.  Once inside the establishment, the line wove back and forth.  Good times.  really.  But eventually we made it to the front.  And though the service at Jim’s was not nearly as efficient as that of Pat’s or Geno’s, I think it was well worth the wait.  Definitely my favorite cheesesteak of the day.

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Unfortunately, Ed and I had to leave after that…I was going to the Jason Mraz concert that evening, but it was still a fun way to spend an afternoon.  I’ve decided cheese whiz is the way to go for sure.  I’ll have to find a new cheesesteak place to try next time I’m in the city

My after school babysitter until I was in the 4th or 5th grade was my Italian next door neighbor.  She’s an awesome cook, and always made yummy after-school treats for me.  One of my favorites was her fried-zucchini flowers.  She kept her own vegetable garden and during the summer, she’d send me home with plates of them.  Stuffed with mozzarella, breaded, and deep fried.  yummy =).  When I found out the Baltimore Farmer’s Market had zucchini flowers, I got really excited.  But apparently you have to get there early because they sell out fast.  My roommate, Ramzi is awesome and picked some up for me one Sunday morning.  I stuffed the flowers with mozzarella and basil, breaded them in a flour mixture with a little soda water, and deep fried them.  They weren’t exactly like my babysitter’s, but they still tasted pretty good.
Ramzi’s sister was in town for a couple weeks, and the first night she was here, he made a Lebanese stuffed squash dish.  Squash were from the farmer’s market, and they were stuffed with ground beef, rice, and tomatoes (if I remember correctly).
I took some zucchinis and made a chocolate zucchini cake, using a recipe (appropriately) from the food blog Chocolate and Zucchini.  It came out really dense and a bit dried out.  Perhaps there wasn’t enough moisture in the zucchini I used, and the recipe doesn’t call for eggs either.

Leek Quiche – 7.13.09

October 18, 2009

Man, it’s so hard to catch up on blog posts when it’s been so long since I ate the food I’m going to talk about.  Ramzi made this leek and bacon quiche awhile back.  He says he used a recipe from “some French website.”  Well regardless of where he got the recipe, it was amazing.  Way better than my attempt at Julia Child’s leek quiche recipe (that’s a future blog post).  Look at the pretty golden brown color!
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Okay…time to try to resurrect this blog. Had to take a hiatus, but my friend, Greg over at foodandwineblog inspired me start writing again. Definitely have a lot to catch up on. This past July, I attended my college’s Pi Reunion. Yes…MIT has a reunion 3.14 years after graduating. I spent the weekend eating, drinking, and catching up with friends.

The first day I was there, based on one of my friend’s recommendations, we gorged ourselves at the buffet at the Wynn. The possibilities were endless at this buffet…I can only imagine what it would have been like on the weekend (we went on Friday). There were selections from all different cuisines, and the dessert–couldn’t just choose one! Had to try them all. My friend, Linda and I assembled a dessert platter sampler and shared with the table.

before…

after…

Despite feeling the need to loosen my belt a notch, I had some coffee gelato to finish off my meal.

That evening, we got a bit of a late start so we didn’t have a chance to eat before catching Cirque du Soleil’s, “O” at the Bellagio, so we ended up grabbing McDonald’s after the show and before heading out to the clubs for the night. I know it sounds horrible, eating McDonald’s while in Vegas, but sometimes you gotta make sacrifices, I suppose.

The next day, the reunion sponsored lunch at Kahunaville, one of the restaurants in Treasure Island, where we were staying. It was not that impressive, thus there are no pictures. But afterwards we walked down the Strip over to Jean-Phillipe Patisserie at the Bellagio, home of the world’s largest chocolate fountain.

Although we couldn’t drink directly from the fountain, I did try the mango gelato and it was nom nom good.

That evening, we went to Delmonico Steakhouse, Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant in the Venetian. I shared a jumbo lump crabcake appetizer, and a bone-in rib steak with a creamed spinach side with my friend Lucy.

The meal was excellent, and even though it was slightly out of my budget, it’s kinda nice to go out and be fancy once in awhile. Besides, we were in Vegas…may as well live it up =)

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The night before I headed off to Vegas for my college Pi Reunion, I had dinner and caught a movie with a few friends. We went to Pizzazz, Tuscan Grille, a new place that opened up where My Panini used to be. Part of the Pier V hotel, it over looks the water, but you mostly get a view of the aquarium if you choose to sit outside. Good people watching spot, I suppose.

Most of the entrees are under $15. I ordered the Charm City calzone, which was stuffed with crab meat, shrimp, ricotta, and mozzarella. It was pretty good, and very filling.

Service was so-so. Kind of slow, considering there were maybe only three other parties there besides us. It’s an alright option if you’re in the harbor area looking for food, but if you can stand to walk a little further, go to Harbor East or Little Italy.

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