Monday, April 25, 2011

Burlington, VT

I spent this past weekend in Burlington, Vermont with my friends from my time in London: Dana, Liz and Jeff.  I made sure they brought me to some of their best foodie spots so I could really get a taste for the town.  

Hong's Chinese Dumplings:  On Church St., a pedestrian walkway in Burlington, a little bundled up woman has been making dumplings for 10 years.  She posts up outside Borders on warm and sunny days and always draws a crowd.  I waited on line for about 10 minutes only to get up to the front and be able to watch her meticulously rolling out the dough and filling the dumplings from scratch.  She offers a few different types; I tried the chicken and cheese and the crab and cream cheese, which was my favorite.  Everything about them was delicious.  I was a little skeptical that the crab and cream cheese would be thick and heavy, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the filling was melted to a light consistency.  Her prices do not compare to the cheap prices of NY, but when you're the only dumpling lady in a college town you can charge whatever you want.  She offered 5 dumplings for $4.50, 6 for $5.00, and so on.  She also had other dishes like fried rice, egg rolls and noodles, but I didn't see anyone order anything besides dumplings.
Bite Me Pizza:  Bite Me is an all organic pizza spot in Burlington that uses local and fresh ingredients.  Liz had a coupon for buy any pizza and get one free cheese pizza, so we decided to get delivery for dinner one night.  After carousing the extensive menu, we decided on a bbq chicken pizza, similar to the dominos style halal bbq chicken pizzas we always used to share in London.  The pizza arrived and I was shocked to see that they were each full sized.  I thought that $21 for the bbq pie seemed steep until I saw the size and had my first bite.  The pie was topped generously with chicken, bacon, onions, peppers, scallions, cheese, bbq sauce, and colossal cloves of garlic (eek!).  Needless to say, it went down quick.  The cheese pie was also tasty, and even more so because it was free.  
Kountry Kart Deli:  I have been hearing about a sandwich called the Rise and Shiner from Marissa for as long as I've known her.  The Kountry Kart Deli, or KKD is known for this greasy egg sandwich concoction and is hugely popular with the late night crowd.  I can attest that there is nothing better after a bit of a rough night than a bacon egg and cheese on a roll (I think the grease settles the stomach somehow,) so I knew that KKD had to be a stop on my list.  We went one morning and each got a Rise and Shiner with sausage.  The sandwich has your choice of bacon, sausage or ham, egg, cheese, and a McDonald's style hash brown all piled onto a roll.  The hash brown complimented the classic sandwich well, and it was definitely a perfect pick me up in the morning after a late night at the bar.  I can understand why so many people flock to have one before they turn in on the weekends.  If you ever find yourself a few beers deep in Burlington, definitely try this sandwich.

Hong's Chinese Dumplings:  Church St. outside of Borders and Ben and Jerry's. @hongsdumplings on Twitter.

Bite Me: 457 St. Paul St., Burlington, VT (802) 540-0707

Kountry Kart Deli: 155 Main St., Burlington, VT (802) 864-4408

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Hurricane Club

By Alicia Bozzone

My friend Alicia recently had a meal at The Hurricane Club and asked me to publish her review of it.  Check out her entertainment blog, ET-ZZONE!

Being a college kid on a strict and usually broke budget it is hard to remember that there is a world of fine restaurants out there waiting to be discovered.  Being a student in NYC fine dining is not always at the top of my list; it’s more about getting the bang for your buck and finding awesome drink specials for us.  However, recently one of my roommates Gina has taken up a job as a waitress at one of the newest hot spots in fine dining The Hurricane Club and sparked my interest in exploring high quality eateries.  Ever since Gina started waiting at The Hurricane Club I have heard nothing but AMAZING things.  From the décor to the Pan-Asian fusion dishes to the exotic drinks it all sounded to die for.  Fortunately, my other roommate Allie’s mom was in town recently and wanted to try The Hurricane Club out for herself after hearing such rave reviews.  Allie’s mom graciously brought Allie, myself and some other of our friends out to dinner so that we might have the chance to sample the amazing food that this high-end restaurant has to offer.  
Walking into The Hurricane Club is like walking into a club more than a sit-down restaurant.  The music is booming, the décor is modern and chic, and there are a million waiters bouncing around serving fabulous looking New Yorkers.  I felt like I was in an old school episode of Sex and the City upon walking in and being seated at a candle-lit table in the midst of random fern leaves, and crystal chandeliers.  The wait-staff was extremely helpful and efficient and our waiter explained to us that we should all choose 2 or 3 entrees to split between the table so that we were able to sample as many of the interesting dishes on the menu as possible.  For the table we ordered Shanghai Lobster Noodles Fra Diavolo, Cashew Chicken, Croque Monsieur Spring Rolls, The Club’s Coconut Shrimp and a Flowering Shrimp Wrap.  With that said there were a plethora of meals to sample and with every bite I found a new favorite dish!  While the Shanghai Lobster Noodles Fra Diavolo was a close second, my favorite dish had to have been The Club’s Coconut Shrimp.  Usually I am opposed to coconut shrimp and never ever do I order it out at a restaurant; that’s how I knew The Hurricane Club food was awesome, I actually liked something that I usually cringe at the sight of!  As for everything else, it packed a punch of flavor and my entire table cleaned our plates and could not pass up the Banana Crème Brule for dessert.  It was one of the most delicious and unique dining experiences I have ever had!  
I suggest The Hurricane Club for a fancy date or when your parents are in town visiting to take you out to a nice dinner, or else, save up, because it is definitely not cheap!  Even if you grab some appetizers or just a quick drink at the ornate bar, The Hurricane Club is a hot spot you should definitely check out if you are in the mood to dress up and hit NYC!  It is located on Park Ave at 26th Street and it is suggested that you make reservations before hand because it gets packed!  
Here is a link to the restaurants homepage; make sure to check out the history of The Hurricane Club, it’s got a great story!  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy Hour Tapas and Cheap-ish French

Tapeo 29:  Charlie, Marissa and I went to Tapeo for their happy hour.  All of their beers-- draught and bottle-- were $3 and they had a list of $5 and $6 tapas.  We were the only ones in the place around 6:30 but by the time we left around 8 it was more crowded.  We ordered patatas bravas, pan con tomate, and chorizo al vino.   The patatas bravas (small chunks of potatoes with aioli and mayo) were satisfying but not amazing.  The pan con tomate was nice but very garlicky which is a bit of an issue for me as I'm allergic to raw garlic.  I really liked the chorizo, which was sliced thinly and served in a dark red wine sauce.  All in all we were pleased to drink and have a few bites for cheap.  I wouldn't necessarily go back to Tapeo 29 when it is full priced, but I would definitely go back for happy hour.

Sebastian:  The three of us popped in here for dinner after seeing the brasserie style menu and reasonable prices.  We were the only ones eating in there (it was a monday night) but there were a few other people sitting at the bar.  Marissa had a grilled tuna sandwich with fries, Charlie had poulet frites (fried chicken with french fries) and I had two appetizers-- french onion soup and mussles marinieres.  We were all quite surprised with the quality of food for the prices.  Everything was delicious, except Charlie didn't love the gravy his chicken was in, and I agreed that it was a little weird.  Also, we ordered $6 Kronenburgs and were only given half pints.  Besides these small points, Sebastian was enjoyable and I would go there again.  Charlie and I went to expensive and crowded Pastis in Meatpacking for my birthday, and we both agree that Sebastian is a valid replacement for brasserie environment and food

Tapeo 29: 29 Clinton St. at Stanton St. (212) 979 0002
Sebastian: 81 Ludlow St. at Broome St. (212) 677 9383

Almost There

My little seedlings have come such a long way!  They were still in my apartment until about 2 weeks ago when I brought them back up to the roof.  They have been up there in lots of rain and wind since, but they seem to have done well anyway.  The spinach hasn't done as well as the others but there are a few promising sprouts anyway.  I'm not sure how the radishes are progressing under the soil since there are so many planted in close proximity to each other, but the tops of them look healthy so I guess we shall see!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches and an Ensuing Food Crawl

Charlie and I headed down to Ave A and 2nd St. today to have banh mi at Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches.   We both ordered the original sandwich with pate, ground pork, pork slices, carrots, cucumbers and cilantro on a white baguette.  The sandwiches were a bit smaller than the ones at Banh Mi Saigon and also a little more expensive at $5.00 each.  Yet we were both pleased with the taste and especially the baguette itself.  I thought the bread was nicely crusty while still fluffy on the inside.  There was a good amount of meat on each sandwich however there was no daikon and not a lot of cilantro, which led to less of the signature explosive banh mi flavor.  The pate was nice but we also missed the roast pork pieces from Saigon.  I tried to get a bubble tea but unfortunately they were out of bubble.  I had the lemonade though and I definitely recommend it.

We were satisfied and full enough from the sandwiches and we headed down to the Lower East Side. We stopped in Cocoa Bar on Clinton St. for some coffee.  They had lots of different chocolates and little pieces of free brownies to try which was nice.  We both got an iced coffee, and I was surprised to see that the ice cubes were made of coffee.  I thought that was ingenious, but on second thought, I realized that I kind of like having regular ice cubes to water down my coffee and prevent the huge caffeine buzz I sometimes get.

We walked further down Clinton and stumbled on Prosperity Dumpling, which I have read about online.  We couldn't resist 4 fried pork and chive dumplings for a dollar.  They were tasty but I thought the dough wrappers were a little thick.  
Then Charlie wanted a doughnut from Doughnut Plant.  We waited on a line out the door for 20 minutes.  They didn't have any peanut glazed ones left, so we ended up with just a sugar glazed strawberry jelly doughnut.  As you can see, he loved it.  However, I'm not sure it was worth the wait and $3.00.

Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches: 150 E. 2nd St. between Ave A and B. (212) 388-1088

Prosperity Dumpling: 69 Clinton St. between Stanton and Rivington Sts., also a location on Eldridge St.

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

Taqueria Downtown

On Friday Charlie and I went to Jersey City to visit my cousin Larisa and her husband and son.  We went for beers at the Zeppelin Hall Biergarten which was really cool and cheap for happy hour ($4 for a pint of Leffe and $3 for some others, I think Charlie had a Spaten.)  On the way home we grabbed food to go from Taqueria Downtown, which is known for its California style Mexican food.  Larisa recommended the carnitas and fish tacos, so thats what I got.  The carnitas taco was shredded pork with onions, lettuce, a radish and a lime, and the fish had the same with a generous portion of nicely grilled fish.  It's hard to say which I liked better because they were both delicious.  Charlie said he enjoyed his carnitas torta as well.  I liked Taqueria because they claimed to be authentic-- their menu boasts that they do not serve fajitas, nachos, or huge burritos, and that the staff is not dressed in "tacky red, white, and green uniforms with a red sash around the waist."  Each taco was $2.50 or $3.00 and the tortas $6.25.  Taqueria is opening a new location down in the Lower East Side which we happened upon today when we were in the area.  Its right off E. Houston on Orchard St. and looked like quite a small space.  I look forward to seeing how it does when it opens, but if the crowd at the Jersey City location was any indicator, I think it will do just fine.

Taqueria Downtown:  236 Grove St. at Grand St., Jersey City (201) 333-3220

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jamie's Wonky Summer Pasta

Last night Charlie and I made Jamie Oliver's Wonky Summer Pasta.  We got fresh pasta from Borgatti's ravioli shop on 187th St. and put the meal together really quickly in about 10 minutes.  The light sauce called for 3 egg yolks, the zest and juice of two lemons, a handful of fresh basil, 125g grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  The fresh pasta was still soft from when Charlie bought it earlier in the day so it only took about 5 minutes to cook through.  Then the pasta got tossed together with the egg, lemon, cheese, basil and oil combination, and it was done.   The first thing both of us tasted was lemon, and we later agreed that perhaps next time we would use the juice of only one lemon instead of both.  However, the pasta was delicious and light, and perfect for a summer day as Jamie intended it.  Wonky Summer Pasta was a quick and easy recipe that I would definitely make again.

If you've come to this page as a result of googling Jamie's Wonky Summer Pasta, welcome!  I've seen a large number of hits on this post and I hope that some of you will poke around and check out some of my other reviews.  You can navigate my other posts on the archives bar on the left of the page, or go to my most recent posts by clicking on the "TO STAY OR TO GO" text on the header photo.  Thanks for visiting, and enjoy!

Borgatti's Ravioli and Egg Noodles: 632 E. 187th St. between Hughes and Belmont (718)367-3799

Monday, April 11, 2011

Homemade Baklava

Homemade Baklava courtesy of Olga, a great family friend.  Baklava is a mediterranean desert dish made from filo dough, chopped walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and honey.  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mexicali Blue

Mexicali Blue-- It's in New Paltz, New York, a nice little hippie town with lots of places to hike in the mountains.  Anthony Bourdain has been there, and apparently he loved the catfish tacos.  This is the steak and shrimp burrito, which I recommend.

Mexicali Blue: 87 Main St., New Paltz, NY (845) 255-5551

Pure Thai Shophouse

On Thursday night Charlie and I went for dinner at Pure Thai Shophouse around 6pm.  I had read that it was one of the best Thai places in Hells Kitchen and that the food is all really fresh.  We arrived to see a tiny little space with closely spaced tables and a counter down the wall.  There was a station in the front where some of the food was made in plain sight. 
Charlie and I ordered two starters to share-- the crispy shrimp sesame crepe and the chicken curry puffs, both $6.  The crepe was a flattened dough with shrimp mousse, sesame seeds and a lime wedge on each slice.  When eaten in one bite, the lime wedge was a nice compliment to each slice.  We also enjoyed the curry puffs, but we both agreed that we could not decipher the difference between the ingredients.  We couldn't taste any chicken, but the filling did seem quite potatoe-y, and the puffs were tasty when dipped in the pickled vegetables and sauce that was provided on the plate.
For our mains, I ordered the Ratchaburi Crab and Pork Dry Noodle, and Charlie ordered a special of the day called Pad Khing.  My noodles were kind of sticky but after mixed in with the little bit of sweet liquid at the bottom they were nice.  The pork was tender and tasty, and the crab seemed fresh and fluffy.  However, I thought there could have been more crabmeat in the dish.  Charlie's dish had shrimp and calamari with mixed vegetables and came with rice.  The wok stir-fried seafood and vegetables seemed fresh and were nicely prepared in a sweet, soy-saucy marinade.
Ratchaburi Crab and Pork
Pad Khing

We were surprised at how cheap the food was; my dish was $9 and Charlies was around $12.  We each had a beer or two, and our check came to around $50.  For fresh, delicious, seafood dishes, I think most people will agree that this is not a bad price-tag.  We left satisfied.  However, we were dismayed to realize that for the next day and a half we both felt minor effects of food poisoning/sickness.  I mean, it was nothing crazy, life-threatening or excruciating, but we have deduced that our minor discomfort was most likely from this restaurant.  I have not read any other reviews citing sickness, so maybe this was a freak ocurrance.  SO, I still recommend the place, but enjoy the delicious food at Pure Thai Shophouse at your own risk.

Pure Thai Shophouse:  764 9th Ave. between 51st and 52nd.  (212) 581-0999

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bapcha Korean Cuisine Cart

Today I wanted to go to the Schnitzel and Things Truck on 52nd and 6th for lunch but when I got there there was a huge crowd, many of whom had already ordered their lunch, and I was told that most of them had been waiting for 20+ minutes.  I'm not into that.  Although, the huge popularity of the truck must be a testament to its great food, which I haven't been lucky enough to try yet.  Next to the schnitzel truck there was the little Bapcha cart with a Korean menu-- bulgogi ramen and udon, kimch, galbi-- and when I stopped to look at the menu one of the women working there cornered me.  I went down like a sinking ship. 

I ordered the Dak Bulgogi Ramen, which I understood to be marinated chicken bulgogi with ramen noodles.  I was offered a free dumpling to try while I waited, which I found a bit greasy but pretty tasty.  I then saw the empty bag of dumplings in the trash, indicating that they were possibly frozen at some point and purchased already made.  Won't be wasting my money on the dumplings.  I waited about 5 minutes for my meal and then walked back to my cube with a sinking feeling that I had been conned.
Anyway, the soup had its highs and lows.  The noodles were reminiscent of instant ramen noodles, and in fact I did spy packaged dried noodles at the cart.  The broth was mediocre-- tasty, yet nothing special.  It was very spicy though, even though when asked if I liked spicy food I said no.  It was so spicy it made my nose run.  There was a good amount of scallions, sliced peppers, corn, and sprouts, however the corn and sprouts seemed like cup of soup quality.  There was also a fish thing that I didnt eat.  The bulgogi, however, was delicious.  I'm not sure if I did in fact have chicken bulgogi because to me it looked and tasted like beef, but it was sweet, peppery and tender.

I wouldn't necessarily order the ramen again.  I have since read on Yelp that the galbi and the kimchi are really authentic, so I guess I would go with either or both of those next time.  I won't go back soon though, even though the workers were so sweet and friendly-- I mean, the woman asked me my name.  When it comes down to it, I was justly skeptical of ramen from a truck and I should have followed my instincts!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fordham Plaza $1.00 Slices...

...are now $1.50.  Yes, I am sad to report that the pizza stand across from the Metro North has upped its price per slice.  I gave in to temptation today on my walk home from the D train and got a slice, expecting it to be a dollar.  (You all know you've wanted to try it, don't lie) Well, I wasn't the only one surprised.  Others were asking what's the deal.  All of the signs are even changed.  I said something to the guy who looked like the owner, and his reply was "look at this slice, its worth more."  In my opinion, maybe not.   Apparently the new deal they're trying to push is $3.00 for two slices and a soda.  Nah.  So sorry if you did not get a chance to try a dollar slice, but it looks like the glory days of Fordham Plaza pizza are in the past.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Punjabi Grocery & Deli

Punjabi Deli and Grocery has been on my list of places to try for a while now.  I see it from E. Houston all the time but hadn't gotten a chance to go in until today.  It is a tiny, unassuming storefront with a green awning so I was not surprised to find that the interior is less than impressive.  It's no more than the size of a hallway, and it's open 24 hours a day.  You can get anything from a cheap lunch or midnight snack to a large selection of Indian DVDs from behind the counter.  I had read that Punjabi boasts some of the best veggie curries in Manhattan, and that its rockbottom prices can't be beat.  All it consists of is a glass case with about 7 numbered curries and other treats, and 4 microwaves lined up on top of the case.
Sam and I went at lunchtime and each ordered a small bowl with two veggies and rice and a roti, which is a  type of flat bread that can be used to soak all of the sauce up.  I'm not sure the name of everything we got, but I had Saag which is curried spinach and a brown chickpea thing, and Sam got something with mixed veggies and paneer.  I also got a samosa to try.  My entire meal of two veggies and rice, a roti and a samosa came out to $5.00.  Sam got raita (yogurt) instead of a samosa and paid $4.50.  It's that cheap.
We ate outside on the stoop of the building next door.  I thought the food was delicious.  My saag and chickpeas were just spicy enough without being overpowering, and the roti was a nice compliment.  The samosa wasn't crispy but was packed with potatoes and peas and had a nice bite as well.  Since we ate outside the food didn't stay hot for long but it didn't even matter really.  

We were both surprised by the paneer in Sam's dish.  I have only had paneer once and it was from a Trader Joes saag paneer package; we both found the real thing really chewy.  Paneer is a lacto-vegetarian cheese homemade by many in India that provides protein to vegetarian diets.  I think an authentic paneer takes getting used to.  Her raita did not have cucumber; it was only plain yogurt but it was cooling with the hot curries.  There were a few different condiments inside including some kind of garlic sauce and tiny little hot peppers that I did not go near.  

Shout out to "Shawty" and her girl who traveled all the way from Queens to come to Punjabi.  Sam and I won coolness points by telling them we traveled from the Bronx.  For real, she asked our names and then said hers was Shawty.  Overall, Punjabi was diverse experience and I would definitely go back again.

Punjabi Grocery & Deli:  141 E. 1st St.  between Ave. A and 1st Ave.  Don't bother calling, they probably don't have a phone.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rickshaw Dumpling Truck

Yesterday for lunch I got dumplings at Rickshaw, which is parked right outside of my office on most weekdays at 50th and 6th.  I got the special: peking duck, chive and napa cabbage dumplings with hoisin dipping sauce.  The duck was locally grown in the Hudson Valley which was nice.  It was $6 for 6 dumplings which is a lot compared to other dumpling spots further downtown, but you cant get lunch in midtown for any less really.  I was pleased with Rickshaw's dumplings-- the dough was nice and thin and the filling was really tasty.  They weren't juicy on the inside though like at North Dumpling, which would have been a nice addition.  At the Rickshaw truck they only have 3 or 4 dumpling choices and a few sides daily, but at their store on 23rd they have more variety, like wild American shrimp or chicken saag dumplings.  Their store is actually a few doors down from where I interned last semester.. why didn't I know that until now?

Rickshaw Dumpling Bar: 61 w. 23rd st., with several daily truck locations.  (212) 924-9220
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