Monday, March 9

an italian feast at home

this weekend could be called a splurge weekend-at least when it came to food. and to end it all, V and i started Sunday with brunch at Cafe Luluc. i'd always heard great things about their brunch, especially their pancakes, and since V usually has a sweet tooth for breakfast, i figured it'd be a good suggestion.
lo and behold, the one day where V doesn't want to eat too much. turns out he'd had a fast food junket the day before and he wanted to try and eat healthier, a la yogurt and fruit for breakfast. 

however, undeterred, i forged ahead with our walk over to Cafe Luluc. arriving around 11:15 a.m., the wait was a reasonable 10-15 minutes. shortly before 11:30 a.m., we were seated at the counter and ready to order. 
a sucker for savory breakfasts, especially eggs benedict, it's no surprise i ordered the eggs benedict with smoked salmon ($10). it's served with french fries (hooray! i'm actually not a big fan of homefries-i always prefer french fries) and a small salad. overall, i wasn't that impressed with their dish. the eggs were overcooked and the salmon portion was meager. 
courtesy of blissfuleats.com
V on the other hand ordered the goat cheese and spinach quiche, which was a special for the day. the spinach was well seasoned and was perfectly paired with the creamy saltiness of the goat cheese. also served with french fries and a small salad. this was clearly the winner amongst our 2 dishes.
their service was impeccable and friendly, even though the restaurant was overwhelminingly full with diners. i also noticed that they have dinner specials Monday-Thursday and Sunday which were interesting, especially the drinks specials (all $5). definitely worth looking into.

you would think that after such a bountiful brunch, V and i would've relegated ourselves to a light dinner. but V, who clearly possesses the metabolism of a teenage boy, was already planning our dinner before we'd even left Cafe Luluc.
his interest had been piqued for Durso's Pasta & Ravioli Company after seeing it featured on Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. and so a few hours later, we found ourselves at the quaint italian shop purchasing the featured osso bucco ravioli and accompanying osso bucco sauce. to add carb on top of carb, V purchased half a dozen garlic knots ("to soak up the sauce" he said). in an attempt to balance out our carb feast, i got a half pound of broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic and some hot peppers.
in total, we spent about $50 for dinner for the both of us, which included all of the above and a box of lobster ravioli and spicy fra diavolo sauce. the osso bucco with the accompanying sauce was pretty epic. the sauce isn't a traditional red sauce, but instead more of a gravy which accents the taste of the ravioli perfectly. plus those garlic knots were heavenly with a strong garlic scent but not an overpowering garlic flavor. and it really was the perfect vehicle to sop up that amazing sauce.

Sunday, March 8

#idfwu

i've recently been seeing V, and the more time we spend with each other, the more our relationship is beginning to traverse the line between "casual" and "committed." but anyone who knows me knows i am not a person who jumps into relationships lightly. it takes me a long time to decide whether i am ready to fully commit to a person i.e. forego all others and risk the possibility that this relationship (and my time) will crash and burn like my past attempts.

the whole point of that spiel being that, yes, i go on dates with other people as well.

which is how i found myself at a dinner date with Awkward Guy at Dieci on Saturday night. ever since i found out about this place, i've been dying to go. about 1/3 of the menu items contain uni, one of my favorite food items.

upon arrival, the first thing you'll notice is how tiny the restaurant is. a long communal table sits on the right of the entrance adjacent to the half-open kitchen, and a few small individual tables sits on the left. late-reservers and those who don't specifically request it, will find themselves seated at the communal table, and it is a very tight squeeze. the girl sitting next to kept brushing my bare shoulders with her very voluminously curly hair every time she turned to face the companion sitting to her right or to address the waiter. uncomfortable.  the service is also very attentive, and slightly formal, which would be great except for how intrusive the changing of the silverware for each course can be in such a tight space.

but all is forgiven once your food arrives.

AG usually lets me order our appetizers, although i usually do defer to him to see if there's anything he specifically wants to eat (he is footing the bill after all). perhaps sensing how excited i was to eat at this restaurant, AG deferred to me completely. which is how we ended up with the Uni Scrambled Egg with sturgeon caviar ($18) and the Miso Seared Foie Gras (duck miso; simmered daikon) ($15). both of these dishes were heaven on earth. the egg was softly scrambled with a hint of dashi broth to keep it most.  paired with the richness of the caviar and the uni, the flavors were delicate and creamy. the foie gras was nicely seared, maintaining the rich soft center and counterbalanced with the well simmered daikon, which maintained it's firmness but was permeated with the light flavor of the simmering broth.

for entrees, i ordered the Fettucine (creamy sea urchin, sauce and calamari) ($24) and AG ordered the Japanese Red Snapper Chazuke (grilled rice ball and hoji tea soup) ($22). the pasta was perfectly cooked al dente, with a little toothsome feel to hold onto the light and creamy uni sauce. i could've done without the calamari, but it was cooked well and remained tender so it didn't distract from the overall dish. the chazuke was also very good, the rice swimming inside the broth was a good melding of subtle flavors and the snapper was well cooked. when AG went to the bathroom, i kept sneaking bites of his dish.

although i was eyeing the Earl Grey Creme Brulee for dessert, i let AG pick and he went with the Molten Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Ice Cream. great combination and well executed, it will satisfy any sweet tooth.

the night was young and AG hoped to continue our date. which was slightly problematic for me. AG is a great guy, but i just don't think we click overall, including our sense of humor and our conversation flow. he's a great listener and remembers just about everything i tell him, but it actually overwhelms me when that happens vs. impresses me. he often talks about our future vacation trips and getaways together and when i'll meet his best friends and family. #overwhelmed.

so i plopped us down at Bar Veloce (the scene of a previous crime) to have the dreaded "talk". but how to do that? which method to employ so that i could let AG down gently, especially after he took me to one of the best meals i've had this year?

i decided to disclose that i was also seeing V, and that we had been seeing each other for the past few months-beginning with the time that AG decided to "drop" me per the sage advice of his sister. i figured, with the time, money, and investment that AG was putting into me, and the fact that he isn't seeing anyone else, he would've decided to cut his losses and move on.

of course that didn't exactly happen. instead, AG took it as a gauntlet being thrown and a healthy competition. ::shake my head::  but we'll see, he might be blustering about wanting to step up to the challenge.

Monday, February 23

Omma's Year

happy Chinese New Year! it's the year of the goat/ram. which happens to be the year my mom was born in.

i have to say, my lunar new year isn't getting off to the best start vs. my western calendar new year. hope it's not a sign of things to come...

since the new year fell on a Thursday this year, my parents decided to hold the family dinner on Saturday to accommodate theirs and our working/school schedules.


P.F. Market opened up in my hometown a few years ago, on a strip of the main street surrounded by car dealerships and Wendy's, Taco Bell, and Burger King. not a very promising opening. but over the years, i've heard very good things about the mildly upscale seafood restaurant. plus it's BYOB. 

the menu is clearly seafood-centric, with little to no other options. so diners with seafood allergies beware. 



we started with a Seafood Tower ($34) consisting of 3 little neck, 3 cherry stone, 3 east coast, 3 west coast, 3 shrimp, and colossal crabmeat. it was very difficult to be judicious in picking and choosing which pieces to eat in our family of 11. as is tradition and culture, the adults got first and multiple pick, with the kids, receiving it last, pouncing on the platter like hyenas at a feeding frenzy. 



we also ordered 2 versions of calamari.  the traditional Fried Calamari ($12) was nice and crisp and i actually preferred it over the special calamari that was offered that night, which was a twist on the traditional with an inclusion of honey and chili to the fried version. others also ordered bowls of Lobster Bisque ($8) and New England Clam Chowder ($5.50).  The lobster bisque was the clear winner that night, with a great creamy texture and light lobster accent.  unfortunately, the chowder that night was very salty, nearing on almost inedible.

for entrees, the Seafood Fra Diavolo (shrimp, scallops, calamari, PEI mussels, & lobster tail in spicy marinara over linguini) ($29) was a huge hit. and the portion was ginormous. it had the right bite of spice without being overpowering, and the sauce had a clear seafood flavor and was sufficient to properly coat the pasta so every bite was balanced with the dish's components.



as is expected, my mother ordered the P.F. Paella (fresh octopus, calamari, shrimp, scallops, PEI mussels, clams & chorizo, over rice) ($28). you know that 1 dish that you can never resist when you see it on the menu? that's paella for my mother. my dad ordered the Broiled Branzino, which is technically a special but appears to be on offer at all times.



unfortunately, the remainder of the entrees ordered were all from the specials menu.  there was a very light and refreshing lobster risotto, a squid ink pasta that was a tad salty, and my entree, an arctic char served in arrabbiata sauce. 


just about everybody took leftovers home (excluding my dad and BoyCousin#1). but, proving the resiliency of the young, WongSquared ordered dessert. and as typical of young taste buds, she ordered Chocolate Lava Cake ($8). knowing that people might want something sweet, but not that sweet, i ordered the Pistachio Gelato ($8), which was happily well received.



Thursday, February 19

Trendy Soup Dumplings

Bubby and i are attempting to make a standing monthly dinner date to catch up with each other AND eat at a restaurant either of us has had a hankering to go to.

which is how we found ourselves outside of Azasu last night in the LES. except Azasu was closed. inexplicably. there was no posting on their website. nothing on the storefront window. i even called them and there was nothing on the outgoing voice message. 

that is seriously annoying. especially since Bubby and i had been looking forward to the dinner all day.

so, forced to come up with a quick Plan B alternative, we hopped on the M15 and headed over to St. Marks to eat at Bao. the cold weather had given me a hankering for soup dumplings. 

we walked in around 8:00 p.m and the place was packed. it's not a large restaurant and is typical of most of the eateries on St. Marks in that it had an NYU-college-frenzied-atmosphere. we put our name on the list and were told there would be a 30 minute wait so we headed over to Barcade for a drink (plus Bubby really had to pee).

exactly 1 drink later, we were promptly seated at Bao. by this point, we were hungry, so it's no surprise we slightly over-ordered. Bao's menu has the plethora of selection, and it hits all the right notes between authentic Chinese options and dishes catering to the whities (ok, that's a little racist. Bubby's white and she would never order General Tso's Chicken). 

we started with XO Sauce Fried Rice, which was ordered partly because Bubby and i had chosen mainly spicy dishes from the menu and i didn't want our mouths to be on fire and because i've gotten an affinity for XO sauce ever since my visit to Vancouver. the rice is good and flavorful, with bits of pork belly mixed within, but nothing special. perhaps a noodle dish next time.

we also ordered the Radish Turnip Puffs, which were actually very well done.  the puff pastry on the outside was the perfect crumbly and crunch consistency without being greasy. the slight saltiness of the outside pastry was balanced out by the sweetness of the sauteed daikon radish on the inside. 



next, the main attraction, the soup dumplings arrived. we had ordered the Super Spicy Steamed Buns, mainly because i was intrigued at their use of the word "super." how spicy is super? apparently, very spicy. they use a ma-la flavored soup for the inside, which creates that super spicy flavor and saltiness. while it was a good dish, i think i'd order something else for next time.


we also ordered the Sauteed Black Goat and Stir Fried Lotus Root. the goat dish was cooked well, keeping the meat still tender. it was sauteed with chinese water spinach, which also added to the overall texture (and convinced you that you were eating healthy). the lotus root was also cooked well, maintaining a general crispy texture, although a little softer than i usually like it. it was the only non-spicy dish we ordered, aside from the fried rice (which should've been spicy but wasn't), which helped to balance out our overall meal. but i think that if you don't order such heavily spiced dishes, the lotus root could be a little bland.

i liked all the dishes we ordered at Bao and there were plenty more on the menu that i would've liked to try out. it's the type of menu that you want to eat with a bunch of friends, so you can try a little of everything, exactly the way chinese food is meant to be eaten (family style). BUT, i think the price point is too high for most of the food that Bao is serving. for 5 dishes and 2 glasses of wine, Bubby and i spent just under $100, including tax and tip. 

i'd probably go back to Bao, but just for their dim sum and cold appetizers portion of the menu, which is more reasonably priced for the items. although it'll be very hard to refrain from ordering other items when the rest of the restaurant is...

Monday, February 16

Ruined!

on perhaps one of the coldest weekends in NY, Spoon and i had made plans to meet up for brunch in Manhattan. this meant me travelling from my outer borough and her travelling from Jersey City. we are clearly not levelheaded people.

but we persevered and ended up at Mother's Ruin. the space is not that big and happened to be packed at the time we arrived. it's a rustic space with hardwood floors and furniture. a mirror display behind the bar has amusingly named cocktails and a live acoustic duo was performing at the front/center of the space. so essentially, hipster. (flannels and beanies abounded).

i started to get a foreboding feeling when the hostess sat a group that had arrived after we had arrived and given our name before us. maybe it was because they were all metrosexual/gay men who were a more attractive crowd to put at the coveted window bay table. after all, they need to keep up appearances for the crowds that walked by the restaurant. when i pointed out her faux pas, she shrugged her shoulders and told me she had their name down before mine. 

i do not like it when people lie. (see previous post). 

let me correct that: she may not have been lying. she probably really did put their name down before ours. but that doesn't make her correct. maybe that's why you shouldn't use a stupid chalkboard system to write down the names of people who are waiting. maybe, when you see a crowd of diners waiting to be seated, you shouldn't just walk through the crowd and ask everyone's name and then willy-nilly write down them down in whatever order you choose to remember.

but that's just me.



we got a comfortable table in the back, which started to thaw my prickly demeanor. and for me, the subsequent experience was pleasant. i got my brunch beverage-a bloody mary. it was meh, but not unpleasant. i prefer mine spicier and it barely had a kick. more salt vs. kick. but who can complain about a bloody mary? (or so i thought. the story continues later). i ordered Mother's Biscuits and Gravy ($13) (buttermilk biscuits, spicy sausage gravy, poached eggs & pickled cherry peppers) which is definitely one of the heartier savory menu items. again, the dish was overall salty vs. spicy but it was enjoyable. the poached eggs were done well. but it's sad that the only thing i can really say about a dish that contains BISCUITS! GRAVY! SAUSAGE! is that the poached eggs were done well...

NewGuy ordered the Mother's 75 (their version of a mimosa, with grapefruit instead of orange juice) and the 'Real Deal' Maryland Crab Cake Benedict ($16) (lump crabmeat, poached eggs, old bay remoulade, home fries). i had a few bites of his entree and it was ok. he seemed happy with the flavor, although he lamented the small portion.



Spoon ordered the Frenchie ($11) (challah french toast, fresh poached pears, chai whipped cream, maple syrup)-the only person to order a sweet vs. savory entree. unfortunately, the toasts were skinny limp pieces of bread that were slightly charred from overcooking. the saving grace were the pears, whipped cream (the small amount given to her), and the maple syrup. Spoon'sHubby ordered a glass of white wine and the Tri Tip Hash ($16) (worcestershire marinated steak bites, poached eggs, red bliss potato hash) which he liked, but, he also lamented the tiny portion.  on this point, i can concur. of all our entrees, his was the smallest.

interesting point about the drinks. when you sit down at the table, they bring you a glass bottle of water and glasses to fill with it. when they brought our alcoholic beverages, all of them cocktails except for SH's, the cocktails were served in distinctive glasses. however, SH's white wine, which was a very light, almost clear color, was served in the same exact glass as our water glass. so imagine us chagrined when we asked our waitress where SH's wine was, and she pointed to the full glass of what appeared to be water on the table. we were feeling a little embarrassed about it until, about 20 minutes later, the waitress came over to refill our waters and filled up SH's wine glass with water.

again, Mother's Ruin, don't you think it would be smart to have water glasses be one shape and drink glasses to be another? perhaps to avoid that exact situation?


everyone seemed less than satisfied with their Mother's Ruin meal, so we made a quick exit and decided to head out for another drink to shake off the experience. first, we made a quick sweets stop at Birdbath Bakery, which just opened a new location at 45 Spring Street. a tiny offshoot of City Bakery, but it was my first time sampling their chew chocolate chip cookie, which i loved. just the right amount of crisp at the edges while still maintaining a chewy, but not completely soft center.

we took our sweet treats and headed over to Spring Lounge, one of my favorite low key bars in the area. or so i thought. the place ended up being packed. apparently there was a chili cook-off, allowing everybody to sample a bunch of free chili and voting for their favorite. Spoon and i took one look at the crowd and decided we should probably change locations. that idea was immediately curtailed once we saw the look on SH's and NG's faces. they looked like they were in pure heaven.

as they sampled each chili, moaning about it being so tasty, they each commented, "why didn't we come here first?!"


Sunday, February 8

Bella Lush

everyone always talks about opening a restaurant, creating an iPhone app, designing their own clothing line, opening a shop to sell some item. the great thing about human nature is that you're usually looking for something else, always searching for something better and contemplating self-improvement and ambition.

of course, the other thing about human nature is that we tend to be all talk, and very little action. 

more often than not, the realities of stepping out on your own, or even with partners or friends, is too daunting to actually implement in real life. 

which is why i give FashionDiva great kudos for going through with her idea to start a lingerie line. Bella Lush is a site for "lush women", riding that recent train of thought about real women with real bodies instead of Victoria Secret models. i met FD because we attended the same law school. post-law school, she did what most of us did, which was to enter the legal profession. she could've been content to stay the course, which most of us do, but she had other ambitions and interests and thus Bella Lush was born.

i recently attended the launch party for Bella Lush at Tenpenny located at the Gotham Hotel. it's a cute venue, and definitely conveniently located near Grand Central Terminal. however, it IS a small space, so i would recommend it more for an intimate date (perhaps before slipping up to one of the hotel rooms above?).

this was my first time getting a full look at the Bella Lush line, which, i heard from others, was curated specifically by FD. 




i checked out the website and the sets are adorable, but seems to be for more "lush" women. i might pass as a "lush" woman on the bottom, but i doubt i could ever pass for "lush" at my top... regardless though, great applause for FD for stepping outside of the box and pursuing her interests and ambitions! and thanks for including me at the launch of this promising new adventure.

Thursday, January 22

Everyone Deserves a Second Chance?

a few months back, i had been casually dating AwkwardGuy. AG is a really nice guy, with a great job and a great future. basically all the attributes that my mother keeps trying to pound into my head as the  makings of a great husband. we'd been seeing each other for about 2 months, but when the holidays came up, our schedules got extremely busy and, after a few missed connections, AG dropped off the face of the earth. i didn't really pursue it because my interest was lukewarm.  

until about 3 weeks ago, when i got a text from AG out of the blue.  i thought about just ignoring it, but, in the spirit of attempting to be more practical about my dating choices, i decided to give AG a second chance.

here's the thing about AG: he is a super awkward conversationalist. in this day and age, being a self-touted "dork" isn't necessarily a bad thing. in NY, it's almost a badge of honor. unless of course, you really are a dork. and not in the ironic sense.  AG isn't a lovable, endearing dork who might like some trivia and video games.  AG actually wouldn't be classified as a dork for all intents and purposes.  in fact, AG is actually a frat boy, through and through. likes to get wasted with his buddies at the Red Lion and hails from Villanova, one of the epicenters of the quintessential frat brother.

but AG is awkward. maybe it was our first date, when he started talking about us planning a weekend getaway together.  or on our first and second date when he talked about introducing me to his family. or maybe it's his awkward laugh: the kind that starts as a guffaw and then dies down to a whisper because you're laughing at your own joke. 

gentlemen, a word of caution: some self-deprecation can be endearing. it 's a sign of humbleness, a lack of arrogance, and a great way to put your date at ease. however, too much of it, and it becomes a red flag. your partner will start wondering whether you're not just being ironic, but are just attempting to put all your negative points on immediate display so you can say that you came with a disclaimer and that your partner had already been warned of all your faults before they began a relationship.

so then why would i give AG a second chance?

simple: AG always picks amazing places to meet for dinner and drinks. and he pays.

yes, it's completely shallow and horrible but it's the truth. or at least my truth. 

and that's how i found myself at The Shakespeare meeting AG after work on Friday. 

i'd never been to the Shakespeare, although it's relatively close to my office.  but having spent a year studying abroad in the UK, i'd been planning on going at some point. the place was crowded at 6:30 p.m., and if you listened closely, approximately 50% of the people there were definitely from across the sea. so if you have a hankering for the lilting tones of a British accent, get yourself to the Shakespeare.


the place is cozy, hovering between a local bar and a British bar (it really is a fine line, anyway). we ended up at a table on the first floor, tucked into a corner. the food is very traditional pub fare, but classier.  AG ordered the Roasted Bone Marrow ($15) to start, which was salty decadence, in a good way. the accompanying lemon zest and sweet and sour shallots were a nice balance to the richness of the marrow. In an attempt to lighten up our meal, i ordered the Woodland Mushroom Salad ($8).  the mushrooms were nicely sauteed/roasted and the rocket lettuce and shaved parmesan were a hearty pairing to add some depth and lightness to the appetizer.





as mains, AG ordered the Fish and Chips ($23). i ordered the House Blend Burger ($19), which consisted of aged NY strip, skirt, short rib and chuck topped with cheddar/stilton, smoked bacon, Brooklyn brine pickles and served with a small side of triple cooked thick cut chips. overall the burger was very good, although a little salty. i personally wasn't a fan of the fries. they have the 2 things that i'm not particularly fond of : triple fried (which is why i'm also not a fan of burger king and checkers fries) and thick cut (i'm a shoe string girl all the way). 

if you're an expat looking for a taste of home, or an American looking to pull a Brit, this is probably the place for you. otherwise, i'm not sure i'll be headed back any time soon.

as for AG and myself, the inevitable topic of conversation was why he had stopped contacting me. it turns out, one of his sisters (he comes from a family of 9 by the way), had told him that i didn't seem interested in him and that he should stop wasting his time on me.

so it seems that women really do have a good intuition when it comes to other women. AG probably should've listened to her.