Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Still Inside...

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pret-ified Banh Mi

Today is the first time I've bought lunch at work in like 2 weeks and I was excited to try the Rickshaw Dumpling truck that usually is parked outside my building.  To my dismay, however, I got downstairs to discover its absence.  Darn you Rickshaw!  Instead I went to Pret a Manger, where I was surprised to see a new (?) baguette addition- Pret's Vietnamese Baguette.  I immediately identified this banh mi in disguise and brought it back to try.
I did not expect much authenticity.  I did expect a high quality sandwich, which I got.  The baguette had grilled chicken, daikon, cilantro, roasted red pepper, and sweet chili dressing.  It was delicious.  The bread was the regular Pret baguette, not the fluffy Vietnamese kind that banh mi is known for, but hey, no hard feelings.  It did cost $7.50 which is double the price I prefer to pay for banh mi, but I expected to spend that much upon walking into Pret so whatever.  Verdict: if I was eating at Pret, I'd get it again!  Well done, Pret.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fresh Produce

I'm growing arugula, spinach, a mixtures of lettuces, and radishes!  Right now I have these planters in my sunny window in the apartment since it snowed this week, but soon I will be able to put them back up on the roof.  I'll keep posting pictures of the progress!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Everyone is writing...

...about Doughnut Plant.  Danny from Food in Mouth, the girls at Blondie and Brownie, and even the New York Times have recently raved over the homemade doughnuts at the Plant, and the store has even seen the opening of a new location in Chelsea.  Well, I can't resist anymore.  I hate to be that girl saying "um, I was there like way before anyone else knew about it," but after seeing the doughnuts in Dean and Deluca on the Upper East Side this morning, I can no longer hold my peace.
Charlie and I visited the tiny Lower East Side location of Doughnut Plant when he was here in December.  I had seen a segment on the Travel Channel about the Plant, and knowing how much Charlie likes doughnuts, I figured we should check it out.  We got there late in the day, probably around 5, and were kind of deflated to see that they didn't have much left in the way of selection.  We only split one doughnut since it was close to dinner time and I think it was the Tres Leches but I can't really remember.  I do remember that we both thought it was good.  

What I remember much more clearly is the conversation that we had with the cashier.  Upon hearing that Charlie was British, the man, apparently from an island in the Caribbean, went on to playfully give him a bit of a hard time for colonization and slavery on the islands back in the day.  It was almost the Boxing Day holiday, so the man went into a description of what Boxing Day meant to his people on the islands -- a day off from serving the Queen. 

Anyway, after hearing so much about Doughnut Plant recently, I definitely want to give it another try.  I like the sound of their peanut butter-crusted blackberry jam-filled square doughnut.  When I give in to the hype and make another trip there, I'll let ya know.

Doughnut Plant: 379 Grand St. between Essex and Norfolk. (212) 505-3700

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Siam Lotus

 Crispy Noodles 
 Carrot Butterflies
Pad See-Ew, Chicken Fried Rice, Chicken Panang Curry

I'll keep it short:  The food at Siam Lotus was delicious.  We ordered a few different dishes including shrimp massaman, chicken panang curry, pad see-ew, sweet and sour shrimp, and some beef dish.  We had a few starters too and everyone seemed to like everything on the table.  The crispy noodles starter was really tasty and unique;  it had a caramel taste to it and the thin rice noodles were actually crispy.  I saw a whole fish come out to someone else's table that was stuffed with vegetables and maybe noodles and it looked great.  The one dish that wasn't quite up par was the wonton soup.  The wontons were mushy and the filling was strange.  

The negative about Siam Lotus:  The meal took 3 hours to get through.  We waited more than an hour between our starters and our mains.  We sat down at 6:30 and left at 9:30-10:00.  Everyone in the restaurant began talking to each other amongst the tables and it was quite humorous to watch.  We made lots of jokes about being like prisoners breaking free when we finally left.   I'm willing to give the place the benefit of the doubt, though.  I have since read reviews online and none have mentioned slow service.  I hope that there was some extenuating circumstance the night that I visited Siam Lotus, and I hope that if I ever go back I will not have the same super-slow experience.

Siam Lotus:  1664 Union Blvd. Bay Shore, NY (631) 968-8196

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gumbo Shop and Jacques-Imo's, NOLA

Gumbo Shop:  On Sunday Amy and I spent the day wandering around the French Quarter.  We stopped for lunch at Gumbo Shop on St. Peter St., where Amy had been a few times previously.  The French Quarter is known to be really touristy and Bourbon St. seemed to be filled with tourist trap restaurants and bars and strip-clubs, so I was pleased that Gumbo Shop was off of the main drag and quite reasonably priced.  We weren't able to get a seat in the outdoor courtyard, but the inside was quite nice anyway and it was OK to be in the shade for a bit on that hot day.  Amy ordered the Chicken Andouille Gumbo and I had a Creole Combination plate that came with shrimp creole, jambalaya, and red-beans and rice.
 Red Beans and Rice, Jambalaya, and Shrimp Creole
Amy and her Gumbo
This was my first creole/cajun experience and I thought my dish was really tasty.  The shrimp creole was in a reddish sauce with rice underneath but I was surprised that it wasn't spicy at all.  The jambalaya was piled in the middle of the dish and it was full of sausage, shrimp, and crabmeat.  I always envisioned creole food as having a bite to it, so I'm not sure if this was an oversight or if none of the dishes we had were supposed to be spicy.  I also remember that my shrimp creole was less than hot when it came out but it wasn't outright cold so, not a huge deal.  I would recommend the Gumbo Shop and a good place to stop in the French Quarter for anyone who does not want to get trapped in a tourist spot with bad food.

Jacques-Imo's:  On another night, Amy and I had a meal at Jacques-Imo's.  It was a Monday night but the restaurant was packed and we had to wait for an hour.  This actually worked in our favor because neither of us were starving and we were able to just relax with a drink on a bench in front of a bar next door called Maple Leaf Bar.  This was a good chance for me to try another local beer; I had NOLA Brewing Company's Blonde brew and quite enjoyed it.  
We got into the restaurant and had to walk through the kitchen to get to our table which was quirky and kind of cool.  I ordered the a stuffed catfish dish and amy got a fried drum with pecans. (Drum is a type of white fish) Both entrees came with our choice of two sides each and we both went with the corn maque choux and Amy had mashed sweet potatoes and my second was red beans and rice.  Our dishes also came with a house spinach salad with a fried oyster on the side and delicious corn-bread muffins.
 Corn-Bread Muffins above and Catfish below
Sorry these photos are so dark but the lighting in the restaurant was quite dim!  My catfish was delicious and had a generous amount of crabmeat stuffing underneath it, however I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the hollandaise sauce.  It was tasty but after a few bites I tried to avoid most of the sauce.  I would recommend Jacques-Imo's to anyone visiting New Orleans.  It has a great atmosphere and is nicely located uptown, tucked away from the tourist zones.  Be prepared to wait for your table though, and maybe plan to get there earlier than you want to eat to compensate for the wait!

Gumbo Shop:  630 Saint Peter St.  New Orleans, Louisiana,  (504) 524-0747
Jacques-Imo's: 8324 Oak St. New Orleans, Louisiana, (504) 861-0886

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yo Quiero Pacific Shrimp

Soooooooooooooo, it was probably inevitable that I was going to try either the Pacific Shrimp taco or burrito from Taco Bell after seeing it on their commercials. (Do they have a great marketing team or is it just me?)  Some of you may think it is gross to even think about eating seafood from Taco Bell, but to that I just say, you only live once, so whatever.  It just so happened that Mom was into the idea too, so on Friday we hit up TBell for one of each.  I have to say that they were quite pricey for Taco Bell, 3 and 4 dollars, but I guess that is to be expected when shrimp is added to the mix.
I didn't expect much really.  I thought the shrimp would probably be small and poorly cooked, or unrecognizable.  However, I was quite surprised.  They were in fact pretty small, but they were very tasty and didn't seem processed or gross at all.  I think there were the same amount of shrimp in both the taco and the burrito, so next time I would probably go with the taco to avoid all of the extra carbs from the excess soft shell of the burrito.  In both there were lettuce, some cool taco sauce that Taco Bell calls avocado ranch, tomatoes, cheese, and red tortilla strips.  I liked this combination because it was a lot lighter than some of Taco Bell's other choices that are full of beef and tons of cheese.  I would get it again, if they even still have it the next time I'm near a Taco Bell which could be a while since Fordham is so inconveniently far from any of TBell's locations. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Crawfish to Go-Go

On Sunday night we had the master plan to get our own Crawfish boil goin on in Amy's house, minus the boil and plus a take-out seafood restaurant called Don's Seafood Hut in Metairie, LA.  We tried to grab the crawfish at Big Fisherman Seafood on Magazine St., but by 6pm on Sunday night they were out of the little mud-bugs, as I've heard them so affectionately called.  Big Fisherman did, however, have quite the selection of alligator and turtle meat sausages, which I was quite tempted to try.  (Not the turtle meat of course.   Little Turt, my pet turtle, will forever be in my heart.)

We called in to Don's Seafood Hut for 10 pounds of crawfish to go for Amy, her roommate Chelsea, and me to feast on.  They came pre-seasoned and boiled, and ready to eat.  After a quick peeling lesson we were off for about an hour of eating the little suckers, and they were delicious.  We were told to dip them in a mixture of ketchup and mayo to take away from a bit of the spicy-ness, and we washed them down with a beer called Abita Strawberry, which is a seasonal beer made right here in Mandeville, Louisiana.  I was worried this beer would remind me of sweet, European strawberry beers that I have had and that it would be weird to drink strawberry beer with seafood, however I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the subtle strawberry taste.  

Crawfish 101:  I know some people who don't like to eat crustaceans like lobster and crab because they are too much work to peel, but I think the peeling is half of the fun.  To peel a crawfish, first you gently squeeze the tail part of the shell and pull it loose from the rest of the little body.  Then crack the tail shell from the middle of the underside by placing your thumbs on the top middle of the shell and pulling the sides up.  (Is this confusing to read, because it's confusing to write.)  After the little tail shell is cracked you can loosen the tail meat and eat it.  I think after doing around 100 of them in about an hour, it becomes therapeutic.

I was so full after we finally got to the end of the two 5 pound bags.  I'm told that crawfish are eaten in all of the gulf-bordering states, but that they are the best tasting by far in Louisiana.  They are also very engulfed into the southern way of life, and are often dumped on huge tables of newspaper and shared at backyard parties all over the region.  From my experience and from what I heard from LA locals, it does not seem like fresh seafood is less available down there after the BP crisis but I'm sure the effects of that disaster are ever present in many ways.

Dons Seafood Hut: 4801 Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Metairie, LA  (504) 889-1550

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. James Cheese Company, NOLA

OK so this week is Spring Break and from Friday, 3/11 to Tuesday 3/15 I went to visit my friend Amy down in New Orleans.  I ate my way through the city (I think trying food is a great way to get to know a culture,) and now I have lots of reviews to post!  I'm not posting them in chronological order, but whatever.  I'll jump right into it.

On Monday Amy and I decided to stop at the St. James Cheese Company for lunch before driving over to the Lower Ninth Ward area of New Orleans.  St. James reminded me so much of a place called the Cheese Society in Lincoln, England, where I have been for lunch with Charlie.  I was completely overwhelmed with the menu of sandwiches and salads, but I finally chose the Brie de Meaux and French Ham baguette over the Mac and Cheese.  Amy chose the Beecher's Cheddar, which had turkey, avocado, tomato, and thinly sliced cheddar cheese.  We also splurged on a small cheese platter to share since we are both obsessed, and decided on a stilton, a camembert, and a poacher.
Ham and Brie

We were already stuffed when we finished our sandwiches, but were able to taste all of the cheeses and bring the rest home.  The cheese plate came with a loaf of sliced french bread, fig jam, grapes, and some candied almonds, which really went well with the cheeses we chose.  I was impressed with the cheese selection, I thought for sure I would throw them with the Poacher.  The camembert, which is one of my favorite cheeses, was delicately pungent  but not overbearing, and was great with the fig spread.
Poacher on left, Stilton at top, and Camembert on right

I would definitely recommend stepping away from the cajun/creole scene and into St. James Cheese for lunch on a trip to New Orleans.  There was cute outdoor seating, and it's a great chance to break away from the French Quarter to the beautiful neighborhoods of the Garden District!

St. James Cheese Company: 5004 Prytania St., New Orleans, LA, (504) 889-4737

Monday, March 7, 2011

Clammin' Up

This past weekend I went up to Beverly, Massachusetts with Marissa to stay at her home.  It was nice to get out of the Bronx and into the fresh air of New England, and of course while we were up there we had to hit up the local clam bar of the area, Woodman's.  According to their menu, Woodman's is famous for its award winning New England Clam Chowder, and its Clam Cakes.  We each had a small chowder and shared a medium order of the cakes. 
The clam chowder was delicious.  Often a New England Clam Chowder can be very heavy and thick with too much cream or very light on the clams and potatoes, but Woodman's seemed to have a good formula down.  The soup, seen here with crackers, was nice and light and had an adequate amount of clams.  It wasn't the boldest tasting of soups, however it seemed very natural and fresh.

Neither of us was sure of what to expect from the Clam Cakes, but we figured we had to try them since they were noted as famous.  They came out in a carton and looked deep fried and greasy, but they were surprisingly tasty and light.  The inside was filled with a bread and clam mixture that wasn't too heavy or filling, and kept me wanting more.  Marissa and I both agreed, however, that they could have each been a bit smaller to include more of the fried outside with each bite of breaded inside.  The cakes were really nice with tartar sauce, which also seemed homemade.
Apparently Woodman's is super busy during the Summer months.  It was nice being there during a quiet time; we did not have to wait long for our food or wait for a table at all.  However, some of the prices do reflect the popularity of the restaurant.  Many dishes on the menu are over $12 each, however Marissa and I each spent around $8 for our soup and cakes.  I guess this really isn't that much compared to the prices at some Eastern Long Island clam bars, namely Clam Bar on Montauk Highway east of Amagansett, where Charlie and I stopped last summer. 

Anyway, I just started my new internship in midtown today and there seems to be a few interesting food trucks parked outside of my building, including Taiwanese and a dumpling truck.  Hopefully I'll have one to write about soon.


Woodman's: 121 Main Street, Essex, MA, (978) 768 2559,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Frito Burrito

Many of you who know me probably know that I love Taco Bell. Ecoli scare? Controversy over meat ingredients? Whatever; I have remained loyal. I've been drooling over the commercial on television for the beefy crunch burrito for about a month now, and tonight, in Penn Station after a Get Up Kids concert, I have finally fulfilled my trashy fast food desires.

And? It was good. Really good. The dirty details escape my memory, but I bet it had rice. I know it had beef, and lots of cheese. It was crunchy, true to its name, from spicy fritos dutifully placed throughout (could have used a few more.) It had taco bell sour cream. I hate taco bell sour cream because its not even close to real sour cream. I can tell its from a tube. I don't even like real sour cream usually, but I can definitely tolerate it over taco bell sour cream.

Through my conversation with a faithful Penn Station Taco Bell employee, I learned that due to the demand of T Bell from drunk Penn dwellers, the prices are higher (a crunchwrap costs 3 dollars more than in Queens.) To be honest, I guess I couldn't expect much more from a place where I saw a transvestite and a homeless man dance to a jazz band about 4 hours ago.  

Only in New York.

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