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. 

Wednesday, January 7

t-something

at this point, Williamsburg, or the 'burg as i affectionately/lazily call it, is old news as a bastion of up and coming restaurants and bars. i started travelling out there in order to attend Smorgasburg and then slowly traveled over more often to eat at the various bars and restaurants. but even so, i don't go as often as i would like. most likely because my home base is Brooklyn Heights, so in order to get to the 'burg i have to go into Manhattan to take the L train, or else take the G train, which runs less frequently at night, or a bus. these act as deterrents to any casual outing to the 'burg.

which is why i love it when others give me a reason to go out there.

PerfectHusband decided to celebrate his t-something birthday (at a certain point i think we should stop specifying what age we're turning) in the 'burg. and he decided to go old-school: the multi-location birthday party.

the first stop: The Ides Bar.  Located at the rooftop of the Wythe Hotel, the bar undoubtedly has a great view. best for night times and sunsets. unfortunately, the place oozes pretension. i arrived on a saturday night around 9 pm and was immediately turned off by the small line forming around the corner of the hotel. because it was PH's birthday, i braved the line and waited to get in. between the asinine conversations taking place around me and the ridiculous procedure to get in, my patience was slowly being worn thin.

Ides Bar has a dual check system before you can enter the bar. first there's the hostess on the 1st floor. who is preceded by a red carpet. yes, they are pretentious enough to have a red carpet-like the ones you see celebrity step onto when entering awards shows. if you are able to make it to the hostess and are permitted entry to the bar, you are directed to an elevator. where another bouncer waits to check your ID. hmm, think they should've checked that at the first checkpoint? you are then squished into the elevator and arrive at the top floor, where you are finally let into the bar. 

which is only 1/3 full. 

and that is the ultimate douchey thing to do. the bar was not full at all, yet they were "creating" a sense of occupancy with the false line outside and making constant announcements that the line was "closing" and anyone not inside would not make it in for the night. 

booooooo.



the only thing that saved this place was the view and the company. and 1 of those things i can have any time i want, without the douchery.

luckily, we moved onto the 2nd venue: Berry Park.

much more my speed. no lines, no pretensions (although still half hipster-packed, but i can forgive that). although much more packed than Ides Bar, the place is large enough, with an upstairs and downstairs, to accommodate large crowds. plus it played my favorite type of music: old school hip hop and top 40. drinks are well-priced and the crowd is definitely out to have fun. 






i mean, look at how much fun we're having.

Sunday, November 30

Date Option: Union Square

dating in NY is a tricky activity. on-line and app dating even more so. if you make it over the initial hurdles of initiating conversations and maintaining a level of interest in someone that you have yet to meet (and i am a lazy texter and e-mailer. i text and e-mail the bare minimum to my friends, let alone a complete stranger), the next obstacle is the first in-person meeting.  you negotiate about activity (drinks, dinner, coffee, museum, park, movie), then the location (public of course, but where? east side, west side, uptown, downtown. we all inevitably want something convenient to us). 

more often than not, i tend to pick Union Square as a primary option, due to its key access to numerous subways and close train ride to my apartment. but there's only so many dates you can have at Coffeeshop or Lillie's or Rye House. so i'll throw a new option into the mix: Linen Hall.

to give you a little more background, my date was on a saturday night at 8 p.m. Linen Hall is on located on the stretch of 3rd Avenue that it littered with bar and restaurant options. but if you're looking for something in a more general, all-American theme, then look no further. 

the place has the old-fashioned wood bar with dark ambient lighting, so a great set-up for a date. not too crowded in the early stages of a saturday night. my date and i both got good seats at the bar, and comfortably enjoyed them for about 3 hours before the place started to get into full-swing saturday night in the east village. attentive bartenders and not too loud. just loud enough for you and your date to lean in and talk to each other, without having to shout.

and if it's food you're looking for, the menu has a nice variety to satisfy any food craving (assuming you're not looking for fancy crudos or upscale dining). my date and i only snacked, but the Disco Fries ($7) we ordered were the perfect bar fodder: crispy waffle fries topped with melted cheddar cheese with a hot side of gravy for dipping. i may not know what the future holds for me and my date, but i know he will always remember those fries. he actually told me so 2 days after our date.

Friday, November 14

feeling French

BlackSesame and I always try and find interesting and good meal deals so we can try out restaurants that we may not usually go to. this time, i had purchased a Travelzoo voucher for Mon Petit Cafe, which is a small french bistro. i mistakenly thought it was located downtown (as so many small french bistros are), but turns out it was located in midtown east, which was super convenient for me to get to after work.

when i arrived, there were mylar balloons decorating the restaurant. apparently they were celebrating their 30th anniversary and was serving their original 1984 menu, along with their regular menu.  due to the voucher, i didn't get to see their original menu, but it was a great concept.

the restaurant is tiny and can get cramped very quickly, but that can sometimes be the charm of a bistro. the service was generally good, although there was a significant lag time in the arrival of our appetizers, although we had ordered before other tables that had received theirs. this hiccup aside, the service had a very homey, neighborhood feel to it. 

BS and i shared appetizers of the Tartar de Thon (tuna tartar)($16) and the Escargots Maison (unshelled snails in garlic butter and Pernod) ($13). the tuna tartar was light and refreshing, with a sweet balsamic undertone. the 3 ridge chips served with it were soft and stale, so i recommend skipping those. the escargot was served piping hot, as BS quickly found out, and was very rich and savory from the garlic butter. both were good, but not particularly memorable.



for entrees, BS ordered the Hachis Parmentier de Canard (pulled duck confit with two root mashed potatoes) ($27).  BS was pleasantly surprised when he found out that the 2 root mashed potatoes were regular white potatoes and a sweet potato mash.  the duck is served in 2 ways, one with the regular mash and cheese on top and the other with the duck atop the mashed sweet potato.  it offers a nice contrast of flavor, and, if you didn't know the dish was to be served that way, a very nice palate surprise. the duck was also very tender and aptly described as pulled duck confit. the only thing i would note is that as an entree, this could be considered a little heavy, and the sweetness of the duck's flavor may become overwhelming over time. 

i ordered the Steak Frites (grilled NY Strip Steak with a choice of sauce and fries)($30) and opted for the bearnaise sauce (go big=go fat for me). this ended up being very very good. the steak was cooked perfectly medium rare and was the right amount of tenderness. the bearnaise sauce was served on the side, which allowed me to choose exactly how much, or how little, i wanted with my steak and fries. the fries came unsalted, but that was easily remedied by the small salt shaker available on the table. overall, this was the surprising hit of the night for me. usually, Steak Frites can be throw-away french bistro fare, done acceptably, but not well. Mon Petit Cafe did this dish very well.

all in all, including the bottle of wine, this was a very good deal for the meal we received. we both left with a fully satisfied, which doesn't always happen, unfortunately. and if ever in the neighborhood, and feeling a little french, i would consider dropping in for meal. 

Tuesday, August 5

something sweet and salty

i'm supposed to be watching what i eat.

and for the most part, i have. but on a recent lazy weekend, i found myself craving something sweet. like pastry sweet. and i realized how long it's been since i indulged in a true dessert.

considering the abundance of italian bakeries in my neighborhood, i figured i'd take a leisurely stroll down court street and peek my head into the shops and see if anything hit my fancy. around 11:30 a.m. (and it took all my willpower to wait that long), i rolled out onto the sidewalk on my mission for dessert.

first i rolled past Union Market. apparently 12 pm is too early for the market to be set up. none of the free samples had been set out (i love trying out their cheeses) and the displays for each food section hadn't been set up yet. it was a little like peeking behind the curtain while a performer's getting ready.

so i moved on to Court Pastry Shop. except 12 pm is too early for this bakery as well. i always thought bakeries were open at ungodly hours of the day, but it turns out i was wrong. when i walked into this small bakery, only 2 trays of pastries were displayed, and a bunch of cookies. the pastries didn't appear very enticing, and cookies, while delicious, is no pastry substitute. so i politely smiled and meandered on my way.

almost directly across the street was Caputo's Bake Shop. would they answer my pastry prayer? alas, not. they too suffered from the late-bakery-riser-symptom. i had just exited the shop to return home, a failure when i noticed a constant and fast-moving line of people purchasing bread. so i consulted with my trusty yelp app and discovered that Caputo's is well known for their lard bread and decided to take a leap.

and what a leap it was.

although i grew up in an italian suburb of New Jersey (Sopranos was filled 1 town over from me-that's how italian it was), i'd never heard of lard bread. clearly i was missing out.


the loaf given me was still warm and slightly crispy on the outside but soft and doughy on the inside. the pieces of ham (?), bacon (?), whatever it was, gave it a perfectly salty seasoned taste to it making it great to eat on its own, or with the burrata and tomatoes i later ate it with. the whole loaf cost $4.75 and lasted me the entire weekend (well, Saturday afternoon and Sunday brunch at least).