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Friday, March 30, 2012

Korean BBQ

After fancier dinners on Thursday and Friday nights, my parents and I wanted something low-key for Saturday night.  We also needed something quick and on the West side since we were going to an 8 PM Broadway show.  We ended up in K-town for Korean BBQ at Kang Suh.  I have been spoiled by Korean in Flushing, which is about as legit as it gets, but Kang Suh is a wonderful substitute that is much easier to get to. 

We ordered three dishes and shared around, though two would have probably been sufficient.  We asked for the seafood pancake, but they brought us the scallion instead.  No matter, the egg dish was as airy as it should be (I see the evidence of interior swiss cheese-like pockets as a good thing) with a nice salty crust from where the edges clung to the pan.  We wanted to make sure to get one of the bbq dishes so we went with the kalbi, short ribs marinated in soy sauce.  This one was nice and salty but also a little sweet.  I thought it tasted best when I wrapped it in lettuce and topped with bean paste and pickled veggies from the bibimbap.  For our third dish, my Daddy wanted seafood so I crossed my fingers and hoped he would want to order my favorite Korean dish, squid with a red pepper sauce served with fat noodles.  This is the kind of dish that's spicy, but even as your nose starts to run and your tongue starts feeling too thick to fit in your mouth, you just can't stop eating. 

A huge positive for Kang Suh is that it's 24/7.  It can be difficult to satisfy a craving for this type of food at 3 AM.  A rowdy night of karaoke followed by late night food in K-town sounds perfect to me.  The only downside is that my hair spelled like Korean BBQ for the next four hours.  I hope the woman sitting next to me at the Broadway production of Memphis didn't mind too much.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

3 on Thursday

I'm sorry if you were missing "3 on Thursday" last week, but there just wasn't enough time to update the blog while my parents were here.  Now that they are back home in Savannah, I'm back on the blogging track and ready to present you with three things I'm pretty sure you need to try.

About a week and a half ago I decided to treat myself to a nice new lipstick.  I had been seeing some beautiful corals on all the cool lips around town, so I figured it was time to invest.  I absolutely love how Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere rocks her lip color, and she seems to use Chanel often so that was my first stop.  Kelly at the Bloomingdale's Chanel makeup counter was great.  I told her I wanted to try the coral trend but didn't know what worked best with my skin tone.  She found the perfect shade immediately.  Peregrina has a nice salmon tint that's not too orange-y.  Yes, $32 is a lot to spend on lipstick but it was worth it for a couple reasons.  If I had gone to Duane Reade, I would have spent a quarter of the price but would have inevitably chosen the wrong color and would need to go back [multiple times] for something better, spending virtually the same price.  This will be my go-to color for the Spring/Summer so I think it's worth the investment.  I applied this lipstick and felt like a new person, ready for the Spring weather and all the fun that usually comes with it.  That feeling was worth $32.
While my parents were here, we decided to take advantage of my MoMA membership and the $5 guest passes that come with it.  If you haven't been to the museum lately, I recommend checking out the Diego Rivera music exhibit.  I knew nothing about Rivera before last Sunday, but really enjoyed learning about him.  In addition to exposing me to a new type of art, the exhibit shed some light on the Rockefellers, Rivera's biggest patrons.  I love getting a little NYC history along with my art!

I love Broadway, a fondness I definitely acquired from my parents.  I often take in shows by myself (a perk of working in the Theater District), but I love going with my parents when they're in town.  I wasn't too excited to see Memphis.  I didn't think its 2010 Tony win was a big deal because there was very slim pickins that year - it felt like settling.  I'm happy to say I was proven wrong.  Memphis is a great musical about "black" music going mainstream in the 50s.  The songs had me tapping my feet and the dialogue kept things punchy.  As a nice little surprise, I walked in to see Adam Pascal playing the lead.  As someone who has seen Rent six times (including once with the original cast when they returned at the end of the show's run), it was a real treat to see him live.  Memphis does rush, but if that doesn't fit into your plans, you can get balcony seats for $66.  It's a small theater so balcony seats are still great. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Casa Mono For the Win

There was a ton of pressure associated with Friday night's restaurant pick.  It was my Daddy's birthday and he had high expectations.  He left the picking entirely up to me, but I knew there were a few things he was hoping to get out of dinner.  My father loves game but doesn't see it all too often at restaurants in Savannah so that was on the list.  I also knew he wanted to eat at a celebrated restaurant and taste the food of a chef who was big in foodie circles.  Finally, I knew he was leaning toward Spanish flavors or at least something on the heartier side.  Tall order, right?

I seemed to find everything he wanted in Casa Mono.  The Spanish tapas restaurant is owned by the Batali/Bastianich team and is consistently ranked on the Top 101 Restaurants list.  There is also an extensive game selection on the menu.  Jackpot.

Every dish was wonderful.  Simply wonderful.  The scallops with parsnip puree and cherries was about as close to perfection as you can get.  My other favorite was rabbit with anticuchos and habanero cuajada.  That cuajada is a yogurt, so you get the heat from the habanero and the cooling factor of the yogurt all emulsified in one sauce that I slathered onto the carrots and rabbit that was served fried and [I believe] braised.  The squash gave the mole sauce that was served with the duck a different kind of sweetness that you don't get with the chocolate alone.  The waiter warned us that not everyone loves the squid ink rice and scallop dish because they find the strong ocean flavor overpowering.  I appreciate the heads up, but he didn't realize he was dealing with a Lowcountry family who regularly pulls dinner up from the river.  Salt water is a beloved flavor to us, and this dish only reminded us of that. 

Each dish was a winner.  Casa Mono came through as the perfect restaurant to celebrate my Daddy's birthday.  Now I just need another reason to celebrate so I can go back!
Scallops with Parsnip Puree and Cherries

Quail with Tomato Raisens and Baby Romaine

Pork Croquetas with Porcini and Cider Greens

Confit Goat with Creamed Kale and Pepitas

Rabbit with Anticuchos and Habanero Cuajada

Duck Confit with Winter Squash Mole

Squid Ink Bomba Rice with Taylor Bay Scallops

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Flex Your Mussels

My parents' trip here this past weekend had multiple objectives: 1) help me get everything in order for an apartment I am hoping (praying) to get 2) spend some quality time with their one and only daughter and 3) celebrate both of their birthdays.  I was unable to spend my mother's birthday with her so on Thursday, the two month anniversary of her bday, we went to a restaurant that was tailor-made for the one and only Marcy Konter.  My mother loves moules frites so choosing a restaurant for her was a no brainer - no one does them quite like Flex Mussels.  There are 23 different versions of mussels on the menu which means there is something for everyone. 

Before I get to the bivalves, let's talk starters.  Daddy got a tuna carpaccio that he offered up with the warning if I didn't taste it right then, it would be gone.  That's always a good sign.  I had walked past a man eating a wedge salad at the bar and couldn't stop thinking about it so I knew it had to make it to the table.  It was perfect.  It was nontraditional in that it had radishes and grapes - the addition of the radishes didn't seem so crazy, but grapes are new to the wedge salad kingdom.  After trying it, I think I'll keep them around.  The bacon was thick and perfect and there was the perfect amount of blue cheese (I requested light dressing).  It's a $12 appetizer salad, but it really hit the spot.

They get quite inventive when it comes to mussels.  They have the normal versions on the menu (white wine and garlic), but then they sprawl into new territories.  Here, mussels take on Thai, soul food, and creamy Italian.  We each ordered a different variation to take full advantage of the menu and then argued over who picked the best one.  My Mom ordered the pesto, my Daddy went with the Acadian, and I chose the San Danielle.  I loved the large chunks of salty prosciutto and sweet caramelized onions that floated in my white wine and garlic broth.  I couldn't stop sopping it up with bread and fries.  I wasn't the only one.  We each dug into our pots with reckless abandon.  I actually thought about asking for a doggy bag for my leftover sauce so I could pour it over rice or pasta later.  I held my tongue because it seemed like a somewhat gauche request, but part of me wishes I did it anyway.  The pots, by the way, are huge and come with plenty of bread for dunking so the $18-$24 price range is actually pretty reasonable.  Where they get you is the apps and dessert.  Yes, the wedge was great, but it's not necessary.  The desserts, however, should be mandatory.

Flex Mussels' pastry chef, Zac Young has made quite the name for himself on Bravo's Top Chef: Desserts.  His creativity is embodied in the swedish fish ice cream that accompanied our pineapple upside down cake.  I would have been satisfied to stop there, but then I would have missed out on the doughnuts, and that would have been a true shame.  I apologize for not taking pictures, but I wanted to dig in, while everything was still warm and melty.  The rotating boozy doughnut didn't appeal to us that night, but the other available flavors were too appealing to mind.  We tried the meyer lemon, peanut butter and jelly, smores, and salted caramel.  I can't even begin to pick a favorite.

Flex Mussels has entered the ranks as favorite - a favorite I can afford to eat at on a somewhat regular basis.  With so many flavors on the menu, I could easily go weekly and not get tired of it.     

San Danielle

Digging in

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's a Snap

When I knew I had leftover chicken to eat last week, I decided to make the rest of the meal more interesting by trying out a new side dish.  Much like the shrimp and quinoa salad I made last week, this would make for a great picnic vegetable.  Trim sugar snap peas and cut them in half along the diagonal.  Then boil them until they're a nice bright green (about 3 min).  After boiling them, I should have plunged them into an ice bath to shock them into maintaining that great color, but, alas, I did not.  While they're cooking, slice some radishes and mix your dressing of chopped mint, olive oil, white wine vinegar, pepper, lemon juice, and sumac.  Toss it all together along with some ricotta salata.  Ricotta salata is a very light cheese, another reason this would be a welcome addition to a picnic menu.  This salad has a great crunch as well as some herbs and spices that are not quite as common.  After three cook outs featuring the standard potato salad with the same old seasonings, you'll love seeing this on the spread.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shrimp and Quinoa Salad

I may not have been at a picnic, but I found the perfect picnic dish last night.  When cooking up supper, I didn't have outdoor food in mind, but I'm thinking it may be perfect for open air soirees this Spring/Summer. 

Mix quinoa, halved grape tomatoes, avocado, ricotta salata (or feta if you can't find it), and shrimp.  Then toss with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, honey, oregano, salt, and pepper.  That's it.  I let the rice cooker do all the work with the quinoa and only had to bother myself to chop the tomatoes and avocado.  I bought raw, cleaned shrimp and those suckers take approximately one minute to boil up.  I can't think of a single other thing I can do in one minute.  Tie my shoes, perhaps?  Only on a good day. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


If you want to see why Mario Batali is famous but don't want to pony up the pesos for Babbo or Del Posto, I highly recommend Otto.  Batali's pizza/pasta restaurant is spitting distance from the arch in Washington Square and offers quality food at prices that draw NYU students right out of the park.

Amy and I decided to go splitskies on a pizza and pasta.  The first half of our combo was the pizza special with an egg, black truffle, and some sort of cured meat.  I love their super thin crust, perfect amount of cheese, and believe it or not an egg is the perfect topping for a pizza.  And don't forget that shaved truffle.  That topping made this pizza double the price of the others on the menu and it tasted great, though I'm not sure if it tasted doubly great.  We also ordered penne with a parsley, mint, and walnut pesto that got me nice and ready for spring.  The best part of the pasta was scooping up the leftover sauce with the bread...but isn't that the best part of every pasta dish?  As good as our choices were, I think Karina wins the best order award.  Her pasta special of bucatini with stinging nettle pesto was incredible.  I don't know what a stinging nettle is other than the waiter's description of it as an "herbaceous plant," which didn't help much.  What I do know is that once pureed with pine nuts into a pesto, it has a deep uber-spinach-y flavor that I loved.

When it came to dessert we were originally only getting one scoop of olive oil gelato for all four of us.  Somehow that turned into three full-fledged desserts and I'm not sorry at all.  We stuck with the gelato, ordering a scoop of olive oil and a scoop of salty peanut.  Olive oil gelato seems to be the vanilla ice cream of Italy that makes vanilla seem irrelevant.  Next we ordered a polenta cake filled with dried fruit and served with whipped ricotta.  Why whip cream when you could whip ricotta?  Finally, we ordered banana gelato served on top of a brownie and covered with a shell of caramelized white chocolate and salted peanuts.  This was probably my favorite.  When you read the description, it doesn't sound all that much different from what you serve in mass quantities at a sleepover, but they just make it better.

There's just something about a restaurant that is beloved by 19-year-old college kids, 50-year-old yuppies, and everything in between.  When you see a mix of sweatshirts and ties, you know that it's not trendy, it's tried-and-true.     

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Brunch at Bistro Nora

Bistro Nora is right around the corner from my friend's apartment so I have walked by often and disregarded it just as often.  It looked like standard American fare...and it is.  However, now that I know about their brunch deal, standard American is much more appealing.

The brunch entrees are basic and, thankfully, come with the basic prices of $10-$11.  Lindsay ordered eggs benedict while I went with an avocado BLT with fried egg.  I'm not sure if you can still call it a BLT if it comes with that many extras.  I think that's akin to calling my brother single when he's been married for five years, but whatever - it was tasty.  The entrees come with fries, potatoes, or salad so you'll get quite enough food while you drink the rest of your meal.  During brunch (which runs til 5 PM), mimosas, bloody marys, and bellinis are only $5.  You think that's good?  Those $5 drinks are buy one get one free.  They're not super strong, but when they're only $2.50 a pop, they're strong enough and you can afford to drink til you're nice and toasty.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kick His Ass Sea Bass

There were only two things I missed food-wise while I was in Israel.  The first was real coffee.  Israelis seem to have a partiality for instant for some bizarre reason.  It was great to get back to the states and have a real cup of Joe.  The other was seafood.  A lot of our time was spent in the dessert where there's not so much seafood - go fig.  Even when we got to the beach areas I somehow ended up eating all meat (just couldn't say no to shwarma) so I was ready for something with gills for my first home cooked meal.

I was still getting over a bad cold/cough that I caught toward the end of the trip so I didn't want to spend too much time in the kitchen.  I looked for the easiest new recipe on my Epicurious app while standing at the fish counter with the rule that if I needed to buy more than three ingredients I wouldn't make it.  I ended up making sea bass with spicy roasted bell pepper sauce.  Roast your own peppers over an open flame or buy them in a jar - I don't really care; it's going to taste good either way.  Put the roasted peppers in a food processor along with almonds, olive oil, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, and cayenne pepper.  Finito.  The amount of cayenne will determine how kick-assy the sauce is.  I wanted to cure whatever it is that's been ailin' me so I made sure to give it quite a few good shakes of cayenne.

Sea bass is one of those fishies that just tastes super fresh and clean.  That freshness, I now know, comes at a price.  That stuff is $29/lb!  Thankfully, I got a steal at the meat counter so it all evened out, but for that price I was disappointed to find bones in my filet.  Tsk tsk, Whole Foods.  It's ok, I love you anyways because this meal was so good overall.  The almonds and tomato paste give the sauce a thicker texture so it wont just slide everywhere all willy nilly.  Nobody likes a slippery sauce.  I even added it to the spinach I used as the bed for my fish because, let's face it, frozen spinach can be sort of bland.  After two weeks of meat meat meat, this dish hit the spot.  And it was healthy.  Bonus.    

Friday, March 16, 2012

Book Review: Those Who Save Us

Though a German, Anna is good of heart and can not understand why the Jews of her town are being persecuted.  She does, however, understand the need to protect her daughter, Trudy, by whatever means necessary, even if it means becoming a Nazi officer's mistress.  In present day Minnesota, Trudy struggles with the guilt that stems from being a German and not knowing how her mother behaved during the war.

I was actually reading this book while in Israel where I toured Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial.  Seeing the atrocities of the war up close made reading this novel that much more intense.  As a Jewish woman, it is hard for me to read a book that paints [some] Germans in such a good light, particularly when it is a work of fiction.  However, I had to accept the fact that although untrue, the novel represents an actual portion of the German community, as small as it may have been.  Once I got past that, I found Jenna Blum's novel to be a beautifully written story that examines the shame that buried so many who experienced the Holocaust firsthand.

4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

3 on Thursday

I am finally starting to get back into the swing of things after two weeks out of the country.  Even though I am stepping back into my normal life, I still have one foot on my Birthright bus which is why this week's "3 on Thursday" is two parts what I loved in Israel and one part back to reality. 
All the food in Israel was so fresh - even the canned fruit juice tasted good.  This mango was one of my faves and, once discovered, made a frequent appearance on my lunch tray.

We toured an olive press and sampled the delicious infused olive oils produced there.  The press' owner also let us try this olive wash that will leave your skin silky smooth.  The exfoliant in this all natural scrub is actually crushed olive pit.  I had to bring some home, but soon you may be able to find it yourself as they are working out a deal with Whole Foods.

I jumped back into my normal routine by celebrating a random, silly holiday last night.  Yesterday was March 14th, aka 3/14, making it Pi Day (since Pi is 3.14...).  I had a great pie recipe in mind but scrapped that when I was tired and couldn't find some of the necessary ingredients.  Instead, I celebrated by trying a flavor of store-bought pie I had never tasted (coconut custard) and embellished it with a chocolate pi symbol.  Next year, I'll be sure to plan further ahead, but for last minute, I was pretty happy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Falafel and Shwarma and Schnitzl Oh My!

I'm back from my two-week escapade all over Israel and all I can think about is how I want to be back in that gorgeous country with all my new friends.  I could talk for hours about the places I visited, but I would be lying by omission if I didn't tell you that the food was the ultimate trip highlight.  I awoke each morning to a spread of yogurt, cheese, fresh fruit, and vegetables that would make you weep.  It has been difficult to adjust to a life without those breakfasts.  But don't think we peaked at the beginning of the day.  Lunches were also spectacular.

Each day for lunch, we asked ourselves the same question: falafel, shwarma, or schnitzl?  The sandwiches are basically the same, the main ingredient is just swapped based on what you're in the mood for that day.  They're served in pita (fluffy and unlike what we have here in America), laffa (sort of like thin flatbread), or sometimes baguette.  Then comes the plethora of toppings.

The toppings can make all the difference.  On the first day, for instance, I put a curried mango sauce on top of my falafel (I think it's called adom?).  I didn't see this sauce for the rest of the trip but loved it.  Incidentally, I didn't eat falafel beyond this first lunch because it was so unbelievable and I knew no other falafel would stand a chance.  Light, almost creamy on the inside, and just crispy enough on the outside.  After that, I mostly went with shwarma, meat on a spit.  The middle picture shown here is the shwarma I got at a truck stop.  I learned that much like bbq in the US, the best sandwiches in Israel can be found in hole-in-the-wall places like gas stations and random outdoor markets.  In the last picture (of schnitzl, breaded chicken), you'll see one of my favorite toppings, french fries.  Americans have practically made french fries a separate food group, yet we haven't been smart enough to put them inside the sandwich like they do in Israel.  It makes all the difference, especially when they soak up the hummus, tahina, cabbage, salad, and other toppings.  I may get strange looks, but I'll be putting my fries inside my burger now that I'm back after having seen the light.

It's bizarre being back and having to choose a lunch option that does not stem from this holy trinity of sandwiches.  It usually seems like New York has the best of everything when it comes to food, but I just don't think I'll be able to find any falafel, shwarma, or schnitzl that can compare to what I got in Israel.  ::Sigh::

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Diablo Royale Este

I've been to both Diablo Royale locations plenty of times for the bar, but this is the first time I've eaten there.  Looks like they're more than just micheladas - they make a pretty serious taco.  Since I was still a little full from lunch and was already stuffing myself with chips and salsa, I went with the two tacos for $16 (vs. three for $19).

It's not hard to find a plain chicken taco so I wanted to try two of the more interesting tortilla pockets.  On the left you'll see the Al Pastor, which is chili and pineapple marinated pork with pineapple salsa and crema.  The pork was tender but although it sounds like this would be packed with pineapple flavor, it could have used a little more of a citrus punch.  On the right is the fried oyster taco, topped with lemon cumin aioli, cilantro, and sweet canela plantains.  I really enjoyed this one.  There were plenty of large oysters and the cumin in the aioli gave it a little more substance than the traditional lemon you're used to seeing with oysters.  The taste wasn't the only reason I liked this one.  As I sunk into my second big bite, my chompers landed on something hard - not what you want to feel when most ingredients are on the soft side.  Turns out I found a pearl.  That has to be some sort of lucky sign.  If only I could find about 50 more for a bracelet...

There were two downsides to the meal.  First, they asked if we wanted heat in our guacamole appetizer and we responded with an enthusiastic "yes."  However, our guac was about as mild as it gets.  It would have been fine if they hadn't asked, but once they gave us the option they needed to come to the table, especially when it's $9 for a pretty small bowl.  The next meal setback came as Matt was about two bites into his fajitas.  Through no fault of the restaurant something went down the wrong pipe and he was choking.  For real choking.  He and Karina needed to leave early, leaving Brad and I to decide whether or not it was appropriate to eat the extra two meals.  After a bite or two of their food, we just felt weird and left for another bar with more positive energy.

Freaky choking aside, I was happy with Diablo's tacos.  I think there may be other (perhaps better) places to get good Mexican/tacos, but if you're already going for the bar scene, pull out a chair and grab yourself an oyster taco.  If nothing else, you'll expand your jewelry collection.

Monday, March 12, 2012

JoeDough Solves the Conflict

I have found a sandwich place to rival my favorite, No. 7 Subs.  JoeDough is the offshoot of JoeDo that serves only sandwiches.  I've heard JoeDo is good but haven't been to vouch; this small window of a restaurant, however, is great.  They have some simpler sandwiches on the menu, like the Cubano and the Chicken Avocado Club.  But if you want simple, you may as well just make yourself and sandwich at home.  I went on the funkier side and ordered the Conflicted Jew.  I never thought I was famous enough to have a sandwich named after me, but there it was.  Inside buttery grilled challah was a tub's worth of chicken liver pate.  This had the same taste as my Grandma's chopped liver but with a smooth consistency.  On top of the pate were caramelized onions and crispy thick bacon (the conflict).  On the side, they serve a sweet apple compote that I inserted right into my sandwich.  Normally, the apples would be a little too sweet but the other sandwich components are salty so it's like they were just asking for each other.

All sandwiches are $10 (including tax) and they'll keep you full the majority of the day.  If you want to upgrade to the combo, don't get the kettle chips they have in a basket.  Do yourself a favor and get the homemade chips, which are basically toast points.  If you happen to get the messy Conflicted Jew, they're perfect for scooping up all the extra liver/onion filling that slips out.  As a Jew, I may still be conflicted, but there is no question in my mind about how much I like JoeDough.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

3 on Thursday

By now, I'm well into my Birthright trip to Israel.  Have you been holding down the fort while I've been away?  To keep you busy, here are some fun finds I rounded up before my trip:
Apparently, neon is hot right now.  I found this great mod top for $35 and pants for $12 at H&M.  I'm not one to follow trends so if I go for one of the fads, I would rather do it on the cheap.  I went with a quasi-neon, as this top is more lime sherbet than 80s neon because that was just more me.  Also more me?  A mod look.  Love clean lines.  Someone complimented my "Audrey Hepburn look" the day I wore this and I thought that was the best compliment I could get.
The Coveteur is a great website that gives you a special peek into the closets of the rich, famous, and fashionable.  They present the clothes outside the closets themselves so you also get to see their posh home decor.  Only the most special pieces are highlighted so you can see how they've impacted the lives of their owners.
Apparently JK Rowling is writing a book for adults.  Since I pretty much read Harry Potter as an adult, I can only imagine this will be PHENOMENAL.


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