Time is more precious than ever nowadays. Hence, this post in pictures.
Time is more precious than ever nowadays. Hence, this post in pictures.
It’s rare for me to feel like a weekend trip to NYC is worth it. The commute is a lose-lose proposition; the idea of shelling out $250 for round-trip Amtrak tickets I find gut-wrenching, and at the same time, my gut is often literally wrenched by the alternative: the cramped, congested, motion sickness-inducing bus ride. And when I get there, I always end up trying to do too much, see too many people, go home to NJ, so that I never quite get a chance to sink my teeth into the city before I have to leave it again. When I make plans to go to New York, I expect to function like a chicken with my head cut off.
Not so last weekend, I’m pleased to report. A fortuitously scheduled parade of events–the 25th birthday of a wonderful friend, a newly born nephew, and a dinner party by one of the best pairs of hosts I know of–each exciting in its own right but even more scrumptious in succession, plus the fact that I needed a haircut badly, compelled me to come on down. I also ended up with plenty of downtime, most of which I spent with my mom on a windy Saturday afternoon in Chinatown and then in Soho on Sunday with one of my best pals. Without question, the meal of the weekend was a gorgeous spread prepared by a dear college professor and his beloved, and the highlight of the meal itself was Prof B’s freshly made bread. We enjoyed hearty slices of these corn-speckled loaves with expertly sliced smoked salmon from Zabar’s, ham, antipasti, salad, some gorgeous asparagus, and a platter of cheese. Plenty of wine as well, of course, as B introduced us to a wonderful everyday Pinot Noir.
L and I spent Sunday morning wandering downtown, enjoying the weather and getting in some shopping before she headed off to her exam and I to Grand Central. After grabbing coffee from The Love Truck, we stopped in at Financier Patisserie since L had been wanting to try some of their baked goods. She chose a madeleine and, unsurprisingly, a financier:
Frigid food fitting for the weather. The winter is proving no deterrent to my craving for cold, creamy goodness. In fact, I am probably eating more ice cream than I was during the summer, and have unearthed a new predilection for mint chocolate chip.
Below, a visit to L’Arte del Gelato in NYC over Thanksgiving. Thanks C for the pic!
Met up with the girls for a post-Thanksgiving dinner last weekend at The Spotted Pig. It gets crowded in there, fast, and you can rest assured you’ll be rubbing shoulders and getting polite but firm nudges in the back all night. I actually like the feel and layout of the restaurant; it’s got a rustic tavern, maybe ski lodge vibe, with lots of odd angles and intimate nooks. There’s no main dining room, as the bars on each floor really dictate how the space is arranged and filled. If it weren’t so relentlessly congested, I would like it much more. Worth it once, not twice, at least not during the dinner rush.
“Devils on Horseback” — pears wrapped in dates wrapped in bacon.
Earlier this summer, one of my dearest cousins got married. Her and her beloved’s nuptials were a multi-part saga consisting of a traditional Indian ceremony, a Chinese wedding banquet, and an afternoon cruise. I got me a small piece of the couple’s happiness at the banquet, which took place at Delight 28 in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Anyone who has been to a Chinese celebratory banquet knows that it is pure, delectable insanity: an 8, 10, or 12-course, family-style feast. Once the dishes start coming, they keep coming until your stomach has tripled in size, or exponentially if you’re really talented, and pleads for a hard-earned reprieve.
Part of what makes it fun is knowing the general kinds of dishes that will be served, and the order in which they usually appear. While this removes some of the excitement of unpredictability, it makes for some entertaining and snarky commentary from my extended family. Suffice it to say that my cousins can be hilariously effective in poking fun at Chinese traditions. It’s also always a treat to catch up with everyone, and get in some gossip and playtime with the little ones.
First off: there is always a bottle of Coke and a bottle of Sprite at the table, along with a metal container of ice cubes that always seem leaner and more fragile than most. But perhaps that observation just reflects my American preference for things hearty and plus-sized. Each table is also set with two bottles of wine. The banquet usually starts off with a cold appetizer medley of spaghetti-ed jellyfish, pickled radish, suckling pig, and a variety of meats: a combination of various off-cuts and cold-cut undetectables. It’s never my favorite dish, although I am partial to the jellyfish, but I can’t imagine partaking of a banquet without it.
On Saturday, I met up with L for lunch at EN Japanese Brasserie. The restaurant is known for their freshly made, in-house tofu. We both ordered the Saikyo miso black cod lunch set, which came with the tofu, miso soup, watercress salad, pickles, and white rice. We also ordered two sides, the shoyu-braised pork belly and lotus root and the shoyu-braised Okara, or lees of soymilk. Don’t know what lees are? I didn’t either at the time, but according to wiki, “lees refers to deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate…to the bottom of a vat of wine after fermentation and aging.” The lees dish was delicious! Crumbly soft, delicate grit.
The house tofu, made fresh hourly–I could definitely eat a vat of this stuff: so luscious.
L arrived in Boston a few nights ago with some precious cargo: cake from Pinisi Bakery! She knows well my sweet tooth, so it was the best kind of surprise: unexpected and right on the money.
Pinisi makes a standout red velvet cake. The cream cheese-based frosting could have been a little more tart, but the cake itself was moist with a rich, dense, yet spongy crumb. I hear sour cream is part of the secret. One bite in, I realized how long it had felt since the last time I plunged a fork into such a scrumptious creature. Cake is a special occasion food for me, so when I eat it I really want to indulge. Red velvet, carrot, and chocolate cakes are probably my favorite, and this red velvet was worth every lipid gained. We also started nibbling at the coconut cake, which was drier and lighter, and not nearly as memorable. Perhaps it was destined to disappoint on the heels of its crimson-colored counterpart. I ate the rest of it last night, and was much more pleased. It is tasty in its own right, though I still wish the coconut flavor was more pronounced.
128 E. 4th Street, NY 10003
18-20 1st Ave, NY 10009
My first Shake Shack burg. Satisfying but not worth the hype or the wait, yet another thing about New York (and New Yorkers) that perplexes me. The vanilla frozen custard with toffee and Valrhona chocolate chunks, on the other hand, I want a deja vu of that mouthwatering stuff. Loved the variety of textures and the strong presence of vanilla in the base (rather than a generic sweetness).
Latte from Joe the Art of Coffee
Momofuku cookies. L to R blueberry cream, cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow, and compost. Again, unimpressed with the much-hyped Milk Bar. My favorite of the trio was the cornflake one b/c of the unique texture from the interplay of the crunchy-chewy cornflakes and melted marshmallows, but they were all toothnumbingly sweet, unnecessarily so (and L concurred). Will definitely keep your sweet tooth in check for a long while.
My foot in union square on a picturesque Sunday afternoon. That, a Giants win, and a home-cooked meal with friends = a happy day.
Dinner at Nicks Pizza. Homey but sophisticated ambience with solid thin-crust pizza. Would not make a trip up to there just for the pizza, but would definitely go back if I am in the neighborhood.
Pokemon creature in the bread basket..
A stellar portobello, parmesan, and wilted spinach salad.
Small Margarita pie and a large 1/2 eggplant 1/2 sausage pie. That the Margarita was clearly not straight out of the oven was my only main complaint. The pizza had a crisp, flavorful crust and tasty toppings (both the eggplant and sausage were prudent additions).
I celebrated my last night in New York’s Chinatown (for the next year, at least) in style. I will definitely miss this place, where many of my prior food-induced comas and other generally positive, food-related moments have taken place. Although this place has increasingly become a restaurant den that disappointingly caters more toward the tastes of tourists and Canal Street shoppers than to the nolstagic palates of Chinese immigrants, I still enjoy the occasional experience of eating here, if only for remembrances past. Several of my family members and I gathered at Golden Unicorn for this last supper of sorts:
We started off with an appetizer of pickled chicken feet:
Yes, that is a nail. This next dish was a favorite of my childhood…or that period of my life when I didn’t give a lick about my health. I know it as Hup toh hah, which translates into something + shrimp. It’s basically lightly battered, deep-fried shrimp dressed in a thick, sweet mayonnaise dressing and roasted walnut halves. I’m not sure that there’s anything redeeming about this dish. Except for maybe the flower.
The obligatory vegetable dish:
Stir-fried steak with peppers and onions:
Deep-fried crab with deep-fried bacon and deep-fried bits of shallots or something equally delicious:
As a family, we evidently don’t win any prizes for healthful eating, which partially explains why when I’m on my own, I tend to be a bit picky and generally try hard to eat well. Anyway, my night fittingly ended with a stop at the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, on Bayard, one of my favorite streets in the city. This sight is probably familiar to many of you:
I went with a double scoop of black sesame and almond cookie in a sugar cone. Unfortunately, the flash distorted the color of the black sesame ice cream, ruining the contrast between the two. But in the thick, steamy air of the summer night, all was forgiven as I took one bite of this hot mess, taking care not to let a single drop fall wasted onto the sidewalk. I know I’m going to be around Chinese food for the next year, but I think I’ll still miss this place. No matter how commercialized or watered down it gets, Manhattan’s Chinatown is dear to me. I’m excited to come back here next year and see how my taste buds have evolved.