Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Baba & Chaat

I've "discovered" two new lovely treats. I put the word discovered in quotes because apparently I was just really slow in learning about these delish delights.

BABA GANOUSH
I'd been too blinded by my admiration for hummus to ever notice it's cousin Mr. Baba. Gloriously smokey and smooth this dish is so creamy and yummy. The best version I've had(although, truth be told it's also the only version I've had) is at Akdeniz, a Turkish restaurant that Kitchenette and I have been to twice. Nicely warmed and pooled into a large bowl/dish it's topped with a tomato-based stew of either chicken or beef. To me though, the stew is merely a distraction. It's Mr. Baba I come to see. But he's an expensive date. For that gustatory pleasure, it's about $15-16 dollars. So does anyone know of any good baba ganoushes I can purchase at the grocery store? And is it traditional that they serve it warm? Because I have to tell you, I don't know if I would like Mr. Baba nearly as much if he were chilled.

CHAAT
Being cheap and adverse to risk, I usually order from a limited selection of my favorites whenever I'm at an Indian restaurant (chicken tikka masala, chicken vindaloo, saag paneer, vegetable korma, etc). But BUFFETS are a whole different story. They rock! This one restaurant near my apartment has an amazing weekend brunch spread. Luis and I go to this brunch at least once a month. Each time, I've noticed this appetizer of crunchy potato chip look-a-likes that get doused with yogurt sauce, chick peas and potatoes and a green sauce. It was never really compelling enough for me to try until one day when after my third plate of chicken vindaloo I decided to branch out. This stuff is TERRIFIC!!! It's crazily crunchy, both sweet and sour, and just this huge party of flavors. It's bold, brash and unique. Apparently there are also a wide variety of chaats in existence with restaurants putting their own spins on the dish?

Anyway, if you haven't ever tried either of these. I highly recommend them. Although I really do think the baba ganoush must be better warm rather than cold.

(photo from www.channelm.ca)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Chez Henri, Boston

In the spirit of taking advantage of a work-related jaunt to Cambridge, MA, I had "dinner" in February with two friends at Chez Henri, a restaurant that had long been on my list of Places I'd Like To Go but which somehow never made it to the number one spot. Chez Henri is a cute little restaurant parked on a sidestreet just off the main drag of Massachussetts Avenue, between Harvard and Porter Squares. Upon entry, you realize that the cute little space is further divided into two separate but not entirely equal spaces - to the left, the bar room and to the right, the dining room. I had lured my friends to CH on the basis of its famously fancy (and comparatively well-priced) bar food and as we walked through the cold evening, our hunger built.

When we arrived, the bar room was probably 75% full - most of the seats at the bar were occupied and there were diners at most of the small tables. But we found a seat and settled in with the menu [http://www.chezhenri.com/menu.php?menu_category=Bar%20Menu]. I had read very promising things about the Pressed Cuban Sandwich and now that Kitchenette has finally convinced me that pork isn't the evil meat that I was raised to believe it is, I decided to order that. J had Cuban Style Empanadas and F the Warm Spinach Salad with Duck Tamales. We also shared an order of calamari. Everything was delicious - my Cuban was cheesy and oozy and warm on thick toasted bread. YUM!! The food came out quickly, the service was good and the environment was warm and cosy. It could have been a less enjoyable experience if we had been stuck at a table near the door or squeezed into some corner of the small room but we were lucky and had a lovely time.

If you find yourself in Boston - or live there - and are looking for a classy restaurant experience without spending a lot of money, I'd highly recommend Chez Henri. And get the Cuban - while J and F enjoyed their food they were both jealous of mine!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

duck duck duck


every once in a while...i get an intense craving for roast duck (other cravings are for Indian food and Vietnamese food and a burrito)...

Recently i had two opportunities to eat Peking Duck, which i think I never tried before.

The first place I tried it was at Sang Kee (one of my favorite Chinatown restaurants)....I really enjoyed it there, as I got to roll my own little pancakes. Because I was SO hungry, I also enjoyed the extra rice and accompanying dish, which was the remaining duck meat, stir-fried with snow/snap peas and veggies in a rich brown sauce.

The second place I tried it was at Cin Cin, a Chinese restaurant in Chestnut Hill. This is a pretty nice, semi-fancy Chinese restaurant. I enjoyed the Mongolian Lamb the last time I went there. Anyways, I ordered the Peking Duck here and the waiter made the rolls for us by request. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this experience as much because he put too much hoisin sauce in the rolls! Also, there was no rice or side dish to accompany this meal. I guess it was okay since the crispy spring rolls I had as an appetizer was pretty filling. But the duck was still good and I enjoyed the green tea ice cream for dessert.

does anyone know what hoisin sauce is made of? i don't know if i really like it...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Trader Joes Update

People on chowhound say the new Union Square store should be open March 16 or March 17! I dread the mobs of people I'll have to fight my way through, but I can't wait to have access again. I only wish I lived closer.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Oishii!

There are few things I enjoy more than eating well and traveling around the world. But Japan has never been near the top of my list of places to go to, not because of any particular aversion, but merely because many other places have a more immediate hook or allure - the beauty of New Zealand, a particular historical sight like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the food in Thailand, or even perhaps whales in South Africa (Mcgillicudy will appreciate that). And while I expect that food in Japan would be wonderful, never have I realized that the Japanese have an "obsession" with food, as this Washington Post article tells us.

An excerpt:

Almost every town of any significant size in Japan boasts well-stocked "food souvenir" shops at airports and train stations where visitors snap up regional specialties. Thousands of food pilgrims regularly flock to the countryside in search of seasonal dishes. Japanese travel agencies call food one of the main engines of international travel. Kinki Nippon Tourist, a leading travel agency, peddles scores of popular food-themed escapes, including sweets tours of Taiwan and afternoon-tea trips to Hong Kong.


As well, the Japanese enjoy food television even more than Americans like their Food Network! Well, I guess they did bring us Iron Chef!

Oishii! (Japanese for delicious)

Mario and R.E.M.


Having been in the NYC area for several years now, I've always wondered how it is that I never see any celebrities. Well, this past weekend I had an awesome celeb sighting!!! I saw Mario Batali at a bar/restaurant in the Meatpacking District. It was at a place called 5Ninth (owned by Zak Palaccio - who coincidentally also owns Fatty Crab).

It was about 1AM and some friends and I had just finished up dinner and drinks at POPBurger. We couldn't think of where to go next so someone suggested 5Ninth, right around the corner. I'd never been before, but it's such a nice, homey and rustic place with a working fireplace and three stories. It feels like someone's home.

Anyway, the second we ascended the stairs to the third floor, I immediately noticed him sitting in the corner of the room. He was with a group of 4-5 younger looking guys. (Maybe apprentices?) They were having wine and Mario was eating something...I couldn't tell what it was since the room was a little dark.

I wanted soooo badly to go over and talk to him, but I was too nervous and didn't want to interrupt his fun get together with friends. Also, I noticed another person go over to talk to him and she handed him his business card, etc. and I just didn't want to keep bothering him. But I really did want to at least tell him I was a big fan. (I know...cheesy...but I love his cooking!)

About 10-15 minutes after we arrived, his party got up to leave. I thought to myself. Okay this is my chance. I'll just quickly shake his hand and say hi. But right when he was passing me, I noticed him stumble and realized that 1) he was a little drunk and 2) he was rushing to leave. So I lost my courage and just watched him leave screaming to myself "YOU MISSED YOUR CHANCE!"

Anyways, it was such an awesome treat to spot him. Besides that one other person who went over to him, it didn't seem like that many people noticed him, or rather I guess they didn't want to bother him? I also heard later from the waitress that he was with Michael Stipe from R.E.M. Apparently they are good friends.

Maybe they were in the area because they were checking out Mario's new restaurant, Del Posto, a couple streets over? It was a funny coincidence because we had all wanted to try either Spotted Pig or Fatty Crab (Batali and Palaccio affiliated places) for dinner that night but of course couldn't get seats because both were too packed.

I don't even know if anyone checks this blog anymore, but just wanted to document the sighting!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Can't get enough

I have high hopes for the new blog The New York Times is now offering by Frank Bruni. Bruni is a writer for the dining section, providing weekly restaurant reviews, but they aren't just any old reviews. He has some of the cleverest, funniest and most interesting writing I have encountered in newspapers. So I am delighted to see that now I'll have a chance to (hopefully) find more of that on his blog. And of course we can't get enough of food news! Even when the restaurant review is a thumbs down and you find yourself without a tip for a new restaurant to try out, you'll at the very least be left with some great writing in its place.

He has started off with a glowing review of the new restaurant Morimoto (led by the chef of Iron Chef fame, Masaharu Morimoto) that has a predecessor in Philadelphia. Bruni also writes about the difficult reservations in the city.

Be sure to check the blog out for good words and for good food news!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

speaking of cookies

Monday, February 13, 2006

Crispy or Chewy? That is the Question

There are just some days when the sweet tooth craving is so strong you have no choice but to obey.
I had one of those days last week and obey I did. The reward was a ginormous cookie from Le Pain Quotidien, right up the street from me. For $2.95 I had a cookie as big as my plate!

Le Pain Quotidien's cookies are of the crisp variety - as you can see, despite my gentle handling on the 2 minute walk home, the cookie somehow took a hit and cracked right down the middle. A result, I gathered, of it's thin crispiness. It was delicious nonetheless - a buttery, smooth flavored cookie with just the right distribution of chocolate chips. Chocolate in every bite is key. Can you tell I take my chocolate chip cookies seriously?

On this particular day, I had no preference as to crispy or chewy, for my desires merely called for chocolate. But it is an important distinction in the world of cookie eating. For if you are of one camp or the other, then a blind purchase when the yearning wells up could leave you unsatiated. Think about it - biting into a pillowy soft, chewy cookie versus crunching into a crisp and brittle one. Different sensations serve different purposes. Don't believe me? Just consider it the same as trying to satisfy a hankering for sweets by eating an orange.

What is your preference?
I recommend you choose wisely.

Pick of the Day: Pick-A-Pita

The area around Madison Square Garden is known as a veritable black hole for good lunchtime eats. One exception however, is Pick-a-Pita. Literally located within a warehouse, this teeny shop churns out the best shawarma; and from what I've read, also makes a mean felafel.

Along with their delicious rotessierie dark meat chicken, Pick-a-Pita offers a variety of salads and condiments to make your own sandwich just the way you like it. Toppings include pickled red cabbage slaw, shredded carrot salad, cross-sections of pickles, marinated raw onions, among many others. Everything is extremely fresh and made as you order (sometimes creating a long lunchtime wait).

My personal favorite is the chicken shawarma pita sandwich with hummus, green sauce, harissa, red cabbage slaw, raw onions, extra pickles, with a sprinkle of tahini. This sandwich is a thing of beauty. Click below to see a photo of the shawarma.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/dining/28factory.html

Friday, February 10, 2006

Kitchenette is Right On

I would just like to say that Kimmie is absolutely right about the best Pad See Ew.

I had the opportunity to taste Pam Real Thai's rice noodles yesterday and they were so over-the-top good, I wanted to lick the empty container. The rice noodles were perfectly soft, the chicken was abundant and the sauce so was delicately flavored. It was addictive. We were trying to figure out what made the sauce so sumptuous and our only guess was possibly butter? There was a nice hidden depth and fattiness to the whole dish although it was not at all greasy.

Next time you're over at Kim's, beg her to order in some Pad See Ew from Pam's.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Spanish Benevolent Society

Last night Kimmie and I decided to visit the Spanish Benevolent Society (aka La Nacional) for some authentic tapas and paella. They have a restaurant/cafeteria in the basement that serves as a sort of informal meeting place. With no visible street level signs, it's one of those hidden gems that most would have no idea exists. (We learned of the place from an old NYT article and through good old www.chowhound.com).

To start we had grilled squid, tortilla espanola, and patatas bravas. The squid came out in whole small pieces (and tentacles) lightly grilled with olive oil and served with a wedge of fresh lemon. It was delicious but rather ordinary and mildly seasoned. The patatas were cubed fried pieces of skinned potato which were nicely crisped on the outside with a very fluffy interior. They were topped with a creamy white garlic sauce and a red spicy sauce...at least the sauce was supposed to be spicy, but it didn't seem to have much heat. Nevertheless they were still addictive.

It's interesting because they were extremely different than the patatas bravas at Sala. The dish at Sala is composed of roasted potates (with their skins on) and they're topped with a very spicy tomato-based sauce. Kimmie explained to me though, that patatas bravas can vary a lot and each place has their own spin on the dish.

The tortilla espanola was a thing of beauty. Sweet onions with luscious potatoes all encased in egg and perfectly seasoned. We got a huge wedge too for the $5 price tag.

For our main course we shared a single serving of the "house paella." Included in the paella were peeled whole shrimp, chicken chunks, rings of squid and mussels and clams. Upon first tasting it, I exclaimed this almost tastes Asian! The rice was nice and plump and the sauce almost had a hint of goh-choo-jang (korean red pepper paste) to it. Sorry if that's blasphemous, but that's what it tasted like to me! The paella was lovely and unctuous and quite filling.

To top it off, our dessert was an AMAZING bread pudding. The bread had chunks of chocolate and swirls of cinnamon in it. It was truly the best bread pudding I've had - not too heavy, delicately sweet, and moist by not sticky.

All in all, we agreed this would be a great place to come back to. It's affordable, the space is comfortable, and the service is friendly.

An additional bonus is that they have free tango lessons on Thursday evenings in the upstairs section of SBS! Kim and I observed a beginners' session and it looked like it could be a lot of fun. Apparently, they also have flamenco performances on Friday and Saturday evenings (2 performances per evening). We'd definitely like to go back and at least watch one of the performance while munching on a nice wedge of tortilla espanola and of course, that bread pudding!

(*note: that photo is borrowed from www.gothamist.com)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Reporting from Atlanta...

Hi everyone. I thought it was time to introduce a Southern perspective on food. HA! Like this New Jerseyan knows anything about Southern cooking. What I do know is that Atlanta has an excellent restaurant scene. Do I dare say even better than Chicago? And maybe better than New York? Completely kidding, please no passionate rebuttals to that last comment. So let's talk about one of my latest finds- Fat Matt's Rib Shack. I don't know if Matt is fat but I do know Matt serves one of the best pork ribs I have ever had. They're juicy, they're tender, and they come with extra tangy sauce. The meat really does fall off the bone and you can finish a half slab in no time. If you're a vegetarian, well they have good sides. Tall mantou (my better half) and I especially like their rum-baked beans. The restaurant is a no-frills type of place which I think is a sign of a good BBQ place. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I'll order some Fat Matt's ribs for Superbowl Sunday. I need something to distract me while I patiently wait for the halftime show.

If only...

What restaurants do you most desire to try someday, without regard to location or price or any other potential limitations?
Here are mine:

Blue Hill at Stone Barn - Pocantico Hills, NY
This restaurant is set inside of a renovated old stone barn, once a part of property owned by the Rockefellers and it has its own farm from which it draws its ingredients fresh.

El Bulli- Roses, Spain
Alinea - Chicago, IL
Minibar at Cafe Atlantico - Washington, D.C.
These three seem to draw from the same trend of experimental cooking, launched by Ferran Adria. Foams, deconstructed food, and all sorts of variations on the familiar. These places pique my interest, intrigue me, despite the rumoured hourslong event that dinner becomes at these institutions because I seek adventure and innovation in food.

Per Se - New York, NY
Chef Thomas Keller has also created a place where dinner is transformed into an exhibition of his talent, where the diners are the audience sitting through multiple courses, but thus able to sample and render judgement.

The Inn at Little Washington - Washington, VA
This restaurant is often cited on lists of the best restaurants around the country.

Street food around the world - particularly Southeast Asia
While good food is often one of my top priorities, I do tend to heed warnings about sanitation and drinking local water. I don't do very well with stomach ailments and often try to avoid them at all costs unfortunately.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Aquavit Restaurant Week lunch

Last Thursday, I experienced my very first Restaurant Week lunch at Aquavit. For a newbie like me, the visit was well worth the $24.07 (without tip and tax) pricetag. But for chickiecc and dpawaters, my more experienced RW eating companions, it was perhaps slightly less exciting.

We were seated in a room that seemed to be separated from the rest of the restaurant (perhaps the designated RW lunch room). The restaurant's design is simple and sophisticated (that's what those Scandanavians are good at, after all) as was the presentation of the dishes.

Three choices for bread, served individually by the waiter: a Swedish flatbread that reminded me of Triscuits, a pumpernickel bread and a small baguette all served with dill butter.

The RW menu consisted of four choices for appetizer and main course and two choices for dessert. Here is where the benefit of more dining companions comes in handy - you get to sample as much as possible from the menu, provided you bring other adventerous, willing-to-share diners. I started with the herring sampler, which I thought was the most interesting dish of the meal: four chunks of herring with different flavors each, accompanied by potatos and swiss cheese. I wish the menu had provided more detail on the preparations of herring, but unfortunately they took the bare minimum, obvious route of description: an assortment of herring. There was a classic herring with onion; a curried herring; a slightly sweet flavored herring served with a dollop of sour cream (?); and to be honest, I don't really know what the last preparation was, though it was topped with salmon roe. Each piece was different and packed a punch of flavor in its own unique way. I took my time with each bite to savor the bold tastes and textures.

The other two appetizers at our table: shrimp salad toast with golden white fish roe and frisee salad with mushrooms and goat cheese. Both good, but perhaps not particularly memorable.

Main courses:
Hot smoked salmon in an apple-horseradish broth with celeriac puree. The good-sized serving of fish, prepared medium rare, was beautifully pink and melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Warm roast beef accompanied by a potato gratin tart topped by an anchovy. The medallions, served slightly pink, were also tender, but the gratin was the standout portion of the dish. It was remniscent of potato latkes.
Swedish meatballs with lingonberries and a side of mashed potatos (that just called out to dpawaters). Flavorful and tasty, but fairly standard.

Dessert:
Arctic circle - a goat cheese parfait with blueberry sorbet and passionfruit curd. The parfait was an upright cylinder with the scoop of sorbet delicately balanced on top. A thin wafer for decorative effect. The passionfruit curd was the treasure in the middle. A very interesting dessert. The parfait had a light cheesecake-like consistency.
Chocolate peanut butter cake with coconut sorbet and grapefruit. A small rich chocolate cake with peanut butter in the center, not unlike a Reeses Peanut Butter cup. This was similar to your basic, ubiquitous chocolate lavacake dessert, but with peanut butter instead of ganache - delicious nonetheless. As dpawaters put it, the sorbet tasted like suntan lotion - but in a good way! Smooth, creamy and sweet.

The food was served quickly (though there did seem to be a slight lag before dessert), but with the comfortable rubbery chairs, we probably wouldn't have noticed had we had to wait a little longer!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Meatloaf and Mac & Cheese

Cooking as a group is always more fun than cooking alone. Diluted effort and a more delicious outcome (and shared cleaning responsibilities): infinitely better.

Last Thursday, chickiecc, dpawaters, and I took that to heart as together we prepared a calorie-laden, but delectable meal. Comfort food to fill our stomachs and to fulfill a gluttonous inclination that winter seems to bring on - as though there were a need to prepare ourselves for a period of hibernation. On the menu: a hearty turkey meatloaf with fig gravy, mac & cheese and some steamed broccoli thrown in for good measure. For the meatloaf, we were guided by Barefoot Contessa; the gravy, by the Boston Globe (the paper strangely just happened to run a turkey meatloaf recipe the week we planned on making it); and the mac & cheese, by The New York Times recipe combined with another found online. Recent criticism led us to believe it would be prudent to improvise a bit on the recipe.

We also made minor modifications to the meatloaf recipe (which I think our arteries might thank us for). The recipe called for five pounds - yes, five pounds - of ground turkey (can we say leftovers?). We mixed it up with some ground chicken. We used fat-free chicken broth. We went easy on the ketchup. But nevertheless, the end product was a moist, mouthwateringly flavorful meatloaf.

We all agreed that it didn't even need anything more, but we made the fig gravy out of curiousity. Though we had substituted California figs for the Turkish figs the recipe called for, the reduction, combined with onions and apple juice, was also quite tasty.

While we had originally intended to make the crusty mac & cheese recipe from The Times, the base we used from the other recipe countered that. We had a creamy mixture to hold together the pasta inside our dish and lots of cheese to cover it. The recipe called for grated cheddar and grated American. We took the easy way out with shredded cheddar, but we could not find any American in the supermarket. And in the interest of grocery shopping time, we went with Land O'Lakes cheese product slices - that element was definitely detectable to the tastebuds, but not in a negative way to any of us. So that's just a note for those who might want a more gourmet mac & cheese: use real cheese!

We also spread some grated Parmesan cheese over the top, which added a nice slight crunch. Our impatient stomachs compelled us to pull it out of the oven as soon as it looked melty enough, so perhaps for that reason too we did not achieve ultimate crustiness. But once again, we managed to achieve scrumptious gratification.

Shady Shellfish

Ladies,

I would just like to warn you about ordering shellfish in a restaurant. I'd read in Anthony Bourdain's book that he recommends you only eat mussels from a person you trust. I didn't really believe him at the time; but now I do. I've had two experiences where I've eaten clams or mussels in reputable restaurants and gotten sick. Not just slightly ill, but pukey and overcome with nausea.

I think the reason is that it's very easy to serve bad shellfish. Normally, when you cook at home the cardinal rule is that you discard any clams/mussels that do not open after you cook them because this signals that they were dead before you even placed them in the steamer/saucepan, etc (and for who knows how long.) But in a restaurant setting; obviously, it is to their financial benefit to pry them open and serve them.

Also, in Mr. Bourdain's book he mentions that you should never eat seafood on a Monday. He says that it's impossible for a restaurant to get seafood delivered from their suppliers on a Sunday; so what you're eating are the leftovers from the weekend. Again, this potentially compromises the freshness of seafood.

So just be careful when ordering in a restaurant! If the shellfish looks suspicious or tastes funny don't eat it!

Friday, January 20, 2006

WOW

wow guys.
so last nite i came home...i had had a hard week of grading and writing comments, including one or two all-nighters in there and of course still having to teach about the civil war and the renaissance..in a daze of sleeplessness...when i see a mysterious box, with no return address or actually there was a random address in california...and i open said box, and again it's mysteriously packed with no information...i'm like what is this black box....and then i see it's an ipod...i am thinking okay who sent this to me anonymously...and then i open the tiny white envelop with the little apple on it and see it was from you all. thank you so much for the ipod!!! i am so touched by your thoughtfulness and generosity...i sat there not knowing what to do with it...i feel like a whole new world has been opened to me..hahah...okay a little dramatic there...but yeah. thank you. who cares about food?
hahha..i have been eating out a lot recently...perhaps will update about it in the near future...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

How Can You Not Want to Try P.C. After This?

This entry from www.chowhound.com has become permanently embedded in my memory. I just find it so intriguing and funny. The topic of the thread was "Any Weird Food Addictions?"

Subject: Re(1): Any Weird Food Addictions?
Name: Browniebaker
Posted: August 26, 2005 at 17:29:57
In Reply To: Any Weird Food Addictions?

Message:
Anyone who knows me well knows I have a pimiento-cheese addiction. I have a pimiento-cheese sandwich for lunch every single day if I can help it. Have to have it or I'll - I don't know.

If I know that lunch that day will have to be other than pimiento cheese, I'll have pimiento cheese for breakfast that morning. Sometimes, I declare a "sandwich night" so that I can serve the family sandwiches for dinner and serve myself a second pimiento-cheese sandwich for the day.

I even carry a jar of it with me on the airplane if it's going to be a short flight and spoilage will not be a problem. Oh, in case you're wondering, it's homemade, of course. But I will eat just about any PC rather than go without.

The Golden Nugget

For those of you who haven't seen the commercials, McDonald's is currently running a special and RARE promotion on their Chicken McNuggets. You can get 6 nuggets for a mere $1. Yes, ladies you heard me right! I think the promotion ends at the end of Jan. so stock up on those morsels of chickeny goodness. Then again, I don't think this applies to stores in NY. But for everyone else, enjoy and raise a nugget in toast to your sistas in the Big Stinkin' Overpriced Apple.

I R.U.B. it ! <3

So I went to R.U.B. again for an impromtu dinner with Luis before my class last night. This time we got to try a couple of new dishes. I got the long end ribs which were described on the menu as "the first 6 ribs off the slab - meatier." (This is as opposed to the short end which are "the last 7 ribs off the slab - the tender end.") They were so ribbilicious! Very tender, again dry seasoned no sweet sauce slopped all over them. I actually think they may have given me an extra rib too, because I had 7 long end ribs).

We also tried the fried onion strings. It's a huge quantity - big enough for at least 3 and probably 4 people. They come in this wide basket and the onions are sliced very thin and in long shreds, dipped in buttermilk, coated in a batter, fried and sprinkled with an *Essence of Emeril* kind of seasoning. I liked them because there wasn't a lot of breading and you could really taste the chock-umami-full flavor of the onions.

The next thing I'd like to try is their chilli cheese fries. Those look amazing too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Trader Joe's in NY

So Trader Joe's is opening in Union Square after all. I cannot wait! Although I'm sure it will be crowded all the time. But at least I can stock my freezer with some last-minute frozen food. Some of my favorites: frozen lasagna, jasmine rice, burritos and their tamales (which I've only tried once thanks to chickie). Not to mention their snacks: rice crackers, vanilla almond granola, and chocolate pudding. Yum!

Cookies!!!

I love dessert. I think that's pretty plain to see.
And I've discovered a great little gem of a cookie store here in New York on W. 50th and 10th. It's called Ruby et Violette and it's easy to miss since it's way over on the west side and the storefront is so small. But the cookies are amazing! They're medium sized and cost $1.25 each. But the best part is that they make all different, interesting flavors: rose, strawberry & champagne, french vanilla, tiramisu and my personal favorite: espresso bean. The selection varies from day to day. Most of them are chocolate chunk in addition to whatever flavor cookie it is. Go check it out or take me with you!

Papa John

papa john's is #1 in the field of mega franchise fast food pizza. and i should know since i am a poor student dependent on late night fatty take out food. well i guess that makes it sound like i am forced to eat it...but, in truth, even if i were stinking rich and living in manhattan w/ all the fine dining establishments at my fingertips, i would still remain faithful to the big papa. its good if, like me, you prefer saucy rather than overly cheesy pizzas. and the pepperonis are always nice and crispy. i always get "the works" with its various meat and veggie toppings but i hear the chicken alfredo pizza is good too. PLUS, it comes w/ special dipping sauces. the garlic butter is delish....it allows you to finish off your otherwise dull crust with a garlicy bang. and the spicy chipotle wings are also addictive and im not even a wing person.

and as if the delicious pizza werent enough...if you order online then you can get a free blockbuster trial for a month (the one where they mail the movies to you). so you can get extra fat eating the pizza while slumped in front of the tv watching free movies for 10 hours. good deal good deal. just make sure you cancel the subscription after the free trial is over so you dont wind up paying...and then start another account w/ your subsequent pizza purchases. evil pizza scams! >:P

papa john also has a very inspirational story. he started off working in a pizza parlor in high school and then opened up his own pizza stand in the coat closet of a pre-existing establishment. it took off from there and now he has a pizza empire spanning the entire globe (i hear there are tons of them even in korea). i love rags to riches stories like that *sniff* .

Peppermint Dust


FYI: Yesterday morning while waiting for my apt. elevator to take me down to the lobby I noticed some remnants of peppermint candy embedded in the carpet. Yes, ladies. It's still there. Which makes me wonder, how often do they actually vacuum the common areas?

Also, I saw on the Food Network the "proper" way to crush peppermint candies. You are supposed to double bag the candies, cover the whole thing with a dish towel and bang away at them. That prevents the candies from exploding everywhere and breaking through the plastic bags. Good to know for next time!

The Food Lottery

I feel like I win the food lottery whenever I enter the office kitchen right when they're unloading leftovers from a big meeting. The best is on days when the Board comes in.

Today I had a humongous brunch of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, onions, sliced tomatoes, and fruit salad. These Board members don't eat a thing! It seriously comes to the "commoners" virtually untouched.

That just made my day. It's finding joy in all the little things in life!

The World's Greatest Candy



It's incredible. It's undeniable. It's irresistible.
It's Peppermint Bark.

And we owe it all to Williams Sonoma for concocting this perfect minty chocolate. The sharp mint flavor not only surprises your tastebuds, its aroma flows up into your nose so it lasts even after you've swallowed your last bite! The decadent creaminess of the chocolate hits the spot! The bits of crushed peppermint candy add a delightful crunch. It all melds together and sends me into bliss.

I first discovered this treat one day when I happened to walk into Williams Sonoma just to browse and found myself offered a handful of chocolate. I knew it from the moment I first tasted it. This would become my new love. I soon found myself making more deliberate trips into the store whenever I happened to be nearby - the chocolate a magnet pulling me in with its sweet force. I would search desperately for the salesperson walking around with the plate of Peppermint Bark slabs. Sometimes I would get my fix and suddenly the day was looking up. But other days I left disappointed, a raincloud hanging over my head even if the sun shone bright in the sky.

Post-Christmas, I began to see signs for this box of pricey chocolate on sale. I soon decided it might make for good gifts. But by the time I finally sought it out, the first store I tried was sold out. But I persisted and managed to find a store where it was even more deeply discounted than I had hoped and still well stocked!

If you have not yet tried Peppermint Bark, get thee to a Williams Sonoma fast!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Some of My Favorites

Here are some of my favorite random treats. Feel free to post about yours too! I'd love to read about them.

From Costco:


-Great smoked salmon (I don't remember the name of the brand my family usually buys) but it's affordable and not artifical tasting.
-Fresh and moist rotisserie chicken
-From the costco "cafeteria" area, surprisingly good "Chicken Bakes". This is rolled up pizza dough with chicken, cheese, cesar salad dressing, bacon, green onions inside. I know it doesn't sound like the most delicious thing, but trust me it is. Especially hot out of the oven when the outside is so crispy.

Costco also sells these premaid and frozen at Costco. The one bad thing is that I found the nutritional information online and it's possible the worst single food item I've ever seen in my life! So I'm a little torn. As much as I'd like to recommend this treat, I don't want to wish a coronary on any of you!



Serving Size:1 sandwich
Amount Per Serving
Calories 927.21
Calories from Fat 465
% DV*
Total Fat 51.68g 80%
Saturated Fat 12.55g 63%
Polyunsaturated Fat 6.57g
Cholesterol 117.54mg 39%
Sodium 1960.87mg 82%
Total Carbohydrate 80.09g 27%
Dietary Fiber 2.81g 11%
Sugars 5.25g
Protein 55.15g 85%
Vitamin A 9% • Vitamin C 5% Calcium 44% • Iron 28%

Umm, at least you can get some of your calcium?

Other treats:

Shari's Berries:
www.berries.com
I was able to taste these because one of my roommates in college would get deliveries of these from her long-distance beau. They are so so so good. An excellent gift for somebody.

Also found online, salty caramels from Fran's Chocolates:
www.franschocolates.com

Actually, I guess you can say I stole this from Hil since she first discovered them. But they're divine! I love the contrasting tastes of salty and sweet.

My Namesake

I've discovered that there is actually a restaurant in the city called Kitchenette! Comfort food.
Who's up for visiting my namesake sometime? It sounds yummy! Check out the menu.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Random Food-Related Thoughts



This puppy is so cute I just want to gobble her up!!! (hence, posting this on our food related blog)

But that got me thinking: where the heck did that phrase come from? I've heard people say similar things about babies. For example, "He's so cute I could eat him!" Why are we so cannibalistic when it comes squishy and cute babies?

Anyway, another random thought...or maybe it's a question.

A while back I had to buy some baby food for my final design project. I walked through the aisles at the local grocery store and where did I find it? In the same aisle as pet food; actually to be more specific, exactly opposite the bags of dried dog food and stacked cans of cat food.

Is that where baby food is normally located in grocery stores?

Also, another odd/funny thing was that at the very top, above the shelves of baby food, they had hanging boxes of cond*ms! Maybe to remind parents, "If you don't want this to happen to you again, use these"?!?!?! I just thought it was so funny.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Cookie Recipes

So since these cookies passed the taste test, I thought I'd post the recipes for future use, courtesy of Martha Stewart Living Magazine. (I'm typing them up because I couldn't find the exact ones online!) :

CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT COOKIES (Makes about 3 dozen)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract
3 large eggs
45 round swirled peppermint candies, coarsely crushed

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add sugar, extracts, and eggs; mix on medium-low speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture. Stir in one-third of the candies. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 30 minutes (or wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.)
2) Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, form mounds of dough; dip tops into remaining candies to coat. Place cookies, candy sides up, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until just set, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

--------------------

MOCHA SLICE COOKIES (Makes about 4 dozen)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for
work surface
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process
cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa nibs
Coarse sanding sugar

1) Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, espresso powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle; mix on medium until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in cocoa nibs.

2) Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface; roll into a 2-inch-diameter log. Wrap in parchment paper; transfer to a paper towel tube to hold shape. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap log, and let soften slightly at room temperature, about 5 minutes. Brush with water, then roll in sanding sugar. Cut log into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

4) Bake until centers are set, about 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely. Store in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.

R.U.B. - Righteous Urban BBQ

On Friday evening Luis and I originally planned to eat at Sala One-Nine. To make a long story short though, we ended up leaving because the place was too packed and the service was extremely slow.

This led us to R.U.B. on 23rd between 7th and 8th. I had always passed this place on my way to Pratt and had heard good things about it. The menu had all the standard bbq fare like brisket, pulled pork, ribs, sausage, etc.

Luis got a "two meat" platter of pulled pork and sausage. His two sides were french fries and vinegar-based coleslaw. I got the "one meat" platter of brisket with potato salad and collard greens. The food was surprisingly very good! I'm not an expert on bbq by any means, but I thought the brisket was very nice and tender and the pulled pork was moist and sufficiently "porky". The thing I really loved about this place is that the meat was not drenched in bbq sauce. I don't usually crave bbq because I think it can be a little too sweet, overall. But this place cooks all their meat dry (sans heavy sauce) and you add the sauce to your own liking at your table. The sauce was mightly tasty too.

Compared to the other meats, the sausage was not my favorite. The texture was a little dry and the seasonings reminded me of chorizo but not as good. The best side we had was the potato salad althought the fries (covered in spices) were also good. Collard greens were a little salty and the coleslaw was too heavy on the celery salt.

I saw quite a few tables ordering chili cheese fries which looked delicious and also the fried onion rings (mounds of skinny fried strings). So next time, I will definitely try those.

It was interesting though because on the back of the RUB menu there's a list of frequently asked questions. One of the questions was: "why isn't my food hot?" The answer went on to explain that true bbq is smoked at a low temperature for a long time so the meat is never meant to be "hot." And I have to say, you can definitely tell that everything is lukewarm. I guess I just wasn't used to it. I like my meats piping hot.

So in terms of service, I think R.U.B. does a really good job. All the employees were energetic, pleasant and attentive. I think the place has a very lovely, casual feel to it. And is a great restaurant to drop in on for some good meat and beer. Actually, I'd love to go back soon so let me know if you'd like to join! :)

Friday, January 06, 2006

philly standbys

Chinatown: SangKee, ShaoLongKong (okay totally butchered spelling), Vietnam Restaurant, Penang, Rising Tide (for Bubble Tea!)

West Philly: Lemongrass (Thai), Thai Singha House, New Delhi (Indian buffet), Vietnamese Restaurant on Spruce St., Marathon Grill

Fort Washington: Zake's Cakes

Swarthmore/Suburbs: Nifty Fifty's, Panera's, Countryside Market and Cheng Hing's! Ruby's Diner, Margaret Kuo's Peking

Cheesesteaks: Pat's, South Street

Center City: Reading Terminal, Maggiano's, Buca di Peppo, Continental (where we went Chris), Buddakan, Fork

Korean Food: somewhere in N. Philly...soondobu-jip as i call it...

i think i definitely need to try some other places...

ps. did you know trader joe's sell packaged bool-kogi?

Boston standbys

I am not yet at a point where I can post about standby restaurants in DC but - for the benefit of our law student - and our many other Boston-based readers, here's a list of favorites from my time there (organized by category, to be read in the key of G-Major).

Thai - Dok Bua
Harvard Avenue, Brookline
Cheap and tasty, what could be better? Nothing. I pine for it still. The food is so good that even the humiliating experience of ordering take out and showing up with no means to pay for it (wallet left in a friend's car and spare credit card expired) couldn't keep me away.

Turkish - Family Restaurant
Washington Street (near the public library), Brookline
The baby eggplant appetizer may be my favorite eggplant dish ever. And for an eggplant-lover like me, that says a lot.

Indian - Tanjore
Eliot Street, Cambridge (Harvard Square)
Two words: lunch buffet. Well-priced and consistently yummy.

Sushi - Mr. Sushi
Harvard Avenue, Brookline
Given the number of restaurants in my list located in tiny Brookline one might be tempted to conclude that convenience was my culinary trump card. Not so. There are probably 10 sushi restaurants in the blocks around my old apartment. Mr. Sushi is not the best (that would probably go to Fugakyu, where Judy's sister once was a hostess) but it is inexpensive and good quality. The caterpillar roll will convert anyone who squirms at the thought of eel.

Pancakes - Deluxe Town Diner
Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown
Eggs are fine. The various lunch and dinner options are nothing special. But the pancakes - they're worth a wait in the cold. This decor at this diner is cute with a capital C and I dream about the blue corn pancakes. Next time I'm in Boston, it's you and me at Deluxe Christine. Ok?


DC recommendations HEARTILY welcome.

My muffins

I have a confession: I’m still not over Boston.

I know I said I wanted to finally get out of New England but I miss it – the restaurants, the ocean, the snow and slush of a real winter and, of course, dear friends. But I am – slowly – getting used to life in the District; beginning, predictably, with the neighborhood that surrounds my office (or, as I like to call it, my home-away-from-home) – Dupont Circle.

Here’s another confession: I’ve become addicted to
Marvelous Market’s marvelous chocolate chip muffins.

As soon as the clock moves to the PM my mind drifts to chocolate – specifically this chocolate chip muffin (the images of dancing muffins are sometimes accompanied by more banal thoughts of chocolate caffeine – or “mocha” as Starbucks calls it.) And so begins the debate – to muffin or not to muffin.

Eight times out of ten the “pro-muffin” side triumphs and off I go, either around the Circle (Dupont, that is) or across, depending on the angle of my squint on that day (some days the circumference seems shorter; other days a walk past the fountain does).

As the cashier noted while ringing up my already half-eaten muffin this evening, “at least they’re not brownies.” True, but neither are they healthful, stick-to-the-ribs hearty bran-oat or blueberry wheat-germ muffins. My babies should rightfully be called cupcakes, because, friends, that is what they are. A light and moist chocolate batter studded with chocolate chips, poured baked to near-perfectness is cake, not a muffin no matter what the shape is.

Issues of nomenclature (and its enabling capacity: who can really justify eating a ‘cupcake’ two-three times per week) aside, I have come to fear that others in the neighborhood have discovered my secret. Several recent trips – all late in the afternoon – have found me standing forlornly before a baked-goods shelf already emptied of chocolate-y goodness. The other muffin options – while generally satisfying – simply do not compete (and how could blueberries and apple really be expected to?).

So what now?

Pragmatically, I should probably take the empty shelves as an unspoken endorsement of my renewed pledge of healthy eating.

Or I could branch out.

I bet their chocolate croissants are pretty marvelous too.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

On Food Blogs

We're just another needle in the haystack that would probably be accused of "generalism"....
Check out this L.A. Times article

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Dinner at Kunjip

Chickiecc and I had a great hit-the-spot dinner at this place in K-town tonight. The cold weather just brings out the cravings for hot and spicy food. Luckily we were able to get in there early (6:30) - we just beat the crowd. We had to share a four-person table in this sort of "hip" place filled with mostly young Koreans.

Chickiecc will have to fill in with the actual names of the food we ate, but we started off with an appetizer of spicy, glutenous chewy rice "sticks" with strips of fishcake and onions over chewy vermicelli noodles in a thick brown gravy. (Sorry, if that actually doesn't sound appetizing, but it was delicious!)

I ordered the stone pot bimbimbop that I'd been hankering for. Chickie had a dried pollock (aka dried fish?) soup. There were the usual Korean accompaniments. But the restaurant also gives every table a complimentary steamed egg casserole that was piping hot in its stone pot. To finish, they also brought us each a cup of cinnamon, persimmon tea - a sweet, cleansing/digestive tea at room temperature. Everything was very tasty! (I could make this a standby place!) While not super cheap, you do get a lot of food for what you pay.

I was forewarned that the place rushes you through (which seems necessary when you see the line out the door). While they did seem to hurry us a bit, it came in full force at the end of the meal as they came to take away our dishes the second we paused and put our chopsticks down! From that point on: Pay the bill, get your coats on and get out of their way!

Kitchenette's Standby Restaurants

So the other day chickiecc posed the (borrowed) question of what are our standby restaurants. I'm defining standby as a place I'll go to for a guaranteed good meal. And price is a big factor in whether or not I'll be able to call a place a standby. It's going to have to lean toward being a steal of a meal to make the list. The exception might be a place I like that is on the more expensive side but that is a good place to take visitors.

It's an interesting question and one to which I surprisingly am not sure I have many answers (yet). Having moved to this grand city filled with many, many places of culinary distinction from a city with far inferior options (and one where people are sensitive to such criticisms, vehemently defending the wasteland) has perhaps made it more difficult to come up with good ol' standbys. There's so much to try now and so much I'd been deprived of! It often pains me to make a repeat trip to places, even ones that I like!

A few of the places that I have actually gone to more than once and probably will eat more of in the future:

Empanada Mama
Pam Real Thai - thus far, they have the best Pad See Ew (I can't resist flat rice noodles) I've found. Too many of the other places smother theirs in garlic.
Alta - this is quickly falling into the slightly more expensive but good place to take visitors category. Its big list of tapas that allows me to make repeat trips and try different things certainly helps.
Amy's Bread - good sandwiches, reasonably priced

I'm still on the hunt for standbys to fill these categories (i'm particuarly picky about price + value for these) and frankly could use some help!:
bagels (thus far, the place I like best is Bagels 4 U in Livingston)
pizza (score one more for Livingston with Calabria's)
chocolate chip cookies

Judy's Food Log

sunday:
no duk-guk (traditional rice cake/dumpling soup) for new year's...instead i had a disappointing meatball sandwich with fries :(

monday:
yay vietnamese food! at a really local place in south philly...
2 summer rolls (shrimp/pork)-delicious
1 bowl of steak pho...just ok

tuesday:
three course meal at tgif's
chips with queso dip-pretty good...but i think i was starving.
bruschetta chicken pasta-the garlic was really strong and overpowering
vanilla bean cheesecake-yummy, but i was too stuffed to really enjoy it :(
spiderman balloon (i didn't eat this, but is there always a guy who walks around tgif's to make balloons for people?)

i feel like i'm on a dieter's blog revealing my eating habits...i don't really have interesting food stories...right now i eat to live, rather than live to eat....coincidentally is anybody watching the biggest loser tonite?

BLT Fish Review




I ate here with my family last week and had a pretty good experience. We were first whisked into the elevator up to the third floor. The dining room is somewhat small, maybe 20 tables. We had a table fairly close to the back of the room, which made the meal more fun because the kitchen is open so you can see everything that's going on in there.

We started off with complimentary small cubes of raw salmon in a celery puree with chopped asian pear on top, which was nice, though didn't taste that special. Now, the warn cheddar chive biscuits on the other hand, are excellent. They come with butter that has a little maple syrup on top (as well as a little card with the recipe). We were also given a second set of them upon request!

The raw bar menu from the fish shack is the only thing from downstairs that they offer in the dining room. We had stone crab claws and lump crabmeat salad. We also ordered the grilled octopus salad. The raw bar food was standard but tasted fresh. The octopus was very nice - it came with roasted grape tomatos and i think it was fennel - and had a very nice grilled flavor.

The whole fish on the menu are mostly for sharing between two people. We had their signature crispy red snapper cantonese style and the sea salted new zealand pink snapper. We liked the red snapper best - it came with chinese sausage (when we ordered the waitress asked if it was okay if it had pork sausage in the dish - but I wasn't picturing chinese sausage, which I don't think I've ever had in a non-Chinese food setting) and mushrooms in soy sauce. The pink snapper had a very thick crust of sea salt when it was brought out (they bring the whole fish to the table so you can see it and then they take it to be deboned before serving) so much so that you couldn't even see the shape of the fish! The pink snapper didn't have as much flavor and the bits of salt left on the plate made bites occasionally too salty.

For sides, we had the silver dollar potatos (crispy and good), the crispy rice galettes (not bad) and two special sides - roasted brussel sprouts (they were kind of overcooked) and potato truffles, which were basically fried balls of pastry with potato inside (I personally didn't like the consistency of the potato inside but my family liked them).

As you can see above, for dessert I had an ice cream sundae upon waiter recommendation that I think was some combination of chestnut, vanilla and chocolate flavors? I didn't love it though. There was too much of some kind of cream on top that had a weird almost grainy consistency. My dad had a cappuccino that had very neat foam on top, which is also pictured above (I heard the waitress tell the table next to us that they have a great barista.)

And then there were the complimentary desserts (you can see them in the first photo): the green apple cotton candy that came in a jar of the sort you see in doctors' offices for cotton balls and a small plate with mini macaroons, a coconut ball and some other translucent sweet that I didn't try. The macaroon didn't have much taste.

All in all, a good meal in an interesting and fun space.

A Food Poem by Deepa

My name is Deepa
I like to eat
My cooking, however
Equals defeat

I like to read
Your foodie posts
To see which restos
You like the most

Can't wait to check out
That resto week
So I can be
A chowhound geek

For now I'll say
I like my diner
Across my street
And food can't be finer!!

Pre-Fixe Lunch at Bouley

So I promised Kim that I would write a review of my lunch pre-fixe experience at Bouley last Friday.

I had heard that they were known for phenomenal desserts (apparently their bleu cheese ice cream is a thing of wonder). So I was warned not to be too disappointed by the savory dishes as the desserts are truly the stars of the meal.

To start here's what was on the menu

LUNCH TASTING MENU I

Chef’s Canapé
~

Seared Swordfish with Lemon, Garlic Root SaladCaper-Shallot Dressing
Or
Tender Maine Baby Skate with Gently Cooked Mushroom RagoûtMushroom Reduction
~

Seared Chatham Cod with Peeky-Toe Crabmeat, Fresh Horseradish Fingerling Potato and Chive Sauce
Or
Pennsylvania All Natural Chicken Baked in Buttermilk with Seasonal Rapini,Roasted Maitake
~

Chilled Concord Grape Soup with Candied GingerFromage Blanc Sorbet
~

Warm Pineapple Meringue with Pistachio CakeTen Exotic Fruit Sorbet and Pistachio Ice Cream
Or
Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé


I won't go into too much detail but basically I was surprised at how good the main dishes were. I had the swordfish and the cod. I liked the swordfish better because the sauce was nice and light and had a good tartness to it. It didn't seem to be that complicated of a dish: it was just the freshness of everything that made it something different. The cod itself was pretty average but the peeky-toe crab tucked underneath was so freakin' good. It was really sweet and soft - I would have been happy with just a bowl of that crab meat in the refreshing green sauce.

The worst thing was the chef's canape. Some nasty combination of beet and raspberry soup with goat cheese mousse and a leek foam. Pretty to look at but looks don't mean a thing. Just not pleasant at all to the point that I almost gagged...and this has nothing to do with me not liking the individual ingredients themselves. I actually love beets and goat cheese and raspberries. But together? Not something I want to experience again.

Desserts were good. (although there were substitutions on the day I went). We had a tangerine sorbet in a blood orange soup with grapefruit segments.

The room itself was beautiful, the service not as perfect as I would have expected for such a pricey place. (For example, a small complimentary dessert of white chocolate mousse with green tea gelee came in the middle of our main dessert. The waiter just put it on our table to the side. I felt like that should have been handled better. They should have returned to the kitchen with it and brought it out as a separate course - as it was done for the table next to us. The timing was not right.) Also, they weren't as friendly as I was expecting. No farewell from the hostess while we were leaving and just a little snobby/frigid.

Anyway, it was overall a decent experience but maybe next time I will try Jean-Georges.

Restaurant Week 2006

Look out for these:

New York City
Winter Restaurant Week 2006
Jan. 23 - 27 & Jan. 30 - Feb. 3
$24.07 (We got robbed of a cheaper lunch this year!) Lunches, $35 Dinners
List of Restaurants


Philadelphia
Center City Restaurant Week
February 19 - 24
3-course dinners for $30 per person
List of Restaurants

Washington D.C.
Winter Restaurant Week 2006
January 9 - 15
$20.06 lunches & $30.06 dinners
List of Restaurants

Boston
Winter Restaurant Week 2006
March 5 - 10
$20.06 lunches & $30.06 dinners
Restaurant List: TBA

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What Are Your Standby Restaurants?

Question:

So I saw this question posed on chowhound and was wondering what everyone's "standby" restaurants are. Places that you like to visit somewhat regularly and that you can rely on for good food.

Mine include:

Village Yokocho
Sala
Kunjip
Cafe Mogador
Flor de Mayo
Scopa to Go
Sophie's

Dinner at Cafe Mogador

I feel honored to write the first food-related entry!

Yesterday, in the lovely stormy weather, I went to Cafe Mogador in the East Village. This was my second time going there and I remembered it being good so I was excited for some yummy Moroccan food.

The atmosphere was cozy inside. Not fancy at all, but clean and homey with candles on the tables and lights strung about the restaurant. It was pretty crowded especially for a Monday evening with terrible weather, but we had made reservations and were seated promptly.

I decided to order the merguez (a heavily spiced lamb sausage) combination plate which came with the sausage, hummus, salad, harissa and pita bread. Also, because the price was so nice at just $8.95 for my dinner; i decided to try a small pot of Moroccan tea, which was advertised as green tea with mint and sugar . Most everyone else I was dining with got some sort of tagine dish.

The one negative thing I have to say about this place is that service can be quite slow. The waiters are attentive, but the food just takes a while to come out. I would guess we were waiting 30-45 minutes for our dishes.

Anyways, back to the food. My merguez came out and it looked ... umm ... interesting. It was skinny and all coiled up. Several dining companions made crude jokes about it resembling certain body parts, etc. Hardy har har. I was just plain hungry so I dug in. The merguez was fabulous! Nicely complex with warm spices like cinnamon and cloves (maybe?). The hummus was creamy and soft with a pool of olive oil drizzled in the nucleus. The salad was fresh and simple. I think it was mainly cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, parsley, and a little shredded iceberg lettuce. The harissa was fair. Not spicy enough in my opinion but still added a nice zing to the little bundes of pita, sausage, hummus I constructed.

The tea was also just as it was advertised. It was light and not too sweet with fresh chopped mint floating in it. Sort of like a mojito but not alcoholic, not cold and no lime. hahahaha. so yeah, JUST like a mojito. Actually, I liked the tea so much that I tried to recreate it in my humble office cubicle. I used 1 teabag of green tea, 1 teabag of mint tea, and about half a teaspoon of sugar. Not too shabby but no snowglobe effect with the fresh mint.

Overall, a wonderful dining experience. Everyone seemed to love their various tagine dishes and the food was very affordably priced. I think it's a good standby restaurant with a lovely atmosphere and an addictive menu. Just don't be in a rush and enjoy the tea!