Thursday, May 19, 2011

Adventures in China Town

There is a television show on the Food Network that Patrick and I are both obsessed with called The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Every episode has a different theme like "Grilled," "Between Bread" and "With Bacon." On a recent episode, the theme was "In a Bowl." Guy Fieri's choice was the Hand-Pulled Noodles with Beef from Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles in China Town NYC and the dish looked amazing! I am a sucker for good noodles, and Patrick and I decided while watching the episode that we had to go.

This next part of the story is mildly embarrassing for me, so please, no judgement. I personally had no idea that Dim Sum was typically only served between the hours of 11am and 4pm. I thought "Dim Sum" referred to the small dishes served and not to the meal itself, which is apparently equivalent to brunch. Since we were already planning to venture down to China Town, I suggested we also go have some Dim Sum. Seeing as we didn't even leave the apartment until after 4pm, I had no idea that I was setting us up for a Dim Sum disaster.

I'm somewhat of a Twitter nerd, and decided to reach out to some of my favorite foodies for Dim Sum recommendations. One of them, Kelly Choi former host of Top Chef Masters and current host of several local NY food show, has responded to me on Twitter before and this time was no different:Thanks Kelly!! Her first reco, Golden Unicorn, had come up in several of my Dim Sum searches so we decided to go there.

We took the R-train down to China Town and emerged from the subway smack in the middle of a neighborhood that we were both incredibly unfamiliar with. Thanks to the map on my iPhone, we found Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles with no trouble at all. And what luck! Golden Unicorn was only one street away! We were excited, and we were hungry.

We walked into the noodle shop and I was shocked to see that it was tiny! Less than 20 seats, and almost all of them were full. They sat us across from each other at a table for 6 in between a couple and another girl. We opened the enormous menus and decided on the Pan-Fried House Special Pulled Noodles with Chicken, Beef & Shrimp (for an astoundingly cheap $6.50!) and the Dumpling Soup for $6. This was shaping up to be the cheapest meal we've ever had in New York City!

What we quickly realized was that the other 3 people at our table were also there because of Guy Fieri's recommendation on the Food Network. We spent the meal chatting with them and they were all so nice! We compared favorite restaurants in New York and talked about the food we were eating and just had a lovely time in general. When our food came, it looked and smelled amazing and we couldn't wait to dig into the noodles. The pan-fried dish was awesome, the noodles were the perfect consistency and packed with great flavor.I loved the shrimp, chicken and beef mixed throughout and the plate was empty before we could say "Dim What?"

Then the soup came, piping hot and smelling like heaven. I know it's a silly word to use to describe food, but the noodles were beautiful!It was SO hot that I burned my mouth a few times, but it was a small price to pay for the amazing soup. By the end of the meal we were so full we could barely move, but I still had my heart set on "Dim Sum" so we paid our very cheap bill, said good-bye to our new friends and set off to Golden Unicorn.

We walked through the front door and were surprised to learn we needed to take an elevator up to the restaurant. When the doors of the elevator opened, we walked into a bright room that was partly set up for a wedding reception with several large tables off to the side for non-wedding patrons. We sat at a table for four, by ourselves this time, and this was when my Dim Sum hopes and dreams were crushed. The menu looked like a normal Chinese menu and I saw no mention of Dim Sum. Uh oh. I sort of knew that I was wrong about the Dim Sim timing, but my fear was confirmed when I asked our waiter who told us Dim Sum was 11-4. Oh well!

Although we were stuffed, we ordered Pork Dumplings and Moo Shu Pork to share. The dumplings were good, pretty standard.When I was little, my grandma (DD) and I always used to order Moo Shu together. Something about the way they come to your table to prepare it makes me love it that much more.The pancakes were fluffy, the hoisin sauce tangy and sweet and the filling was excellent.I was quite happy with the food, but still sad that we didn't get to experience Dim Sum. We will definitely be returning to China Town soon for a true Dim Sum experience!

Have you ever been to Dim Sum? What is your favorite dish? Let me know so I can order it next time.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Monday, May 16, 2011

Maryland Does Crabs

You know the saying: "Crabcakes and Football... that's what Maryland does!" Turns out that I can vouch for at least the first half (and will not say anything complimentary about the Ravens even though Patrick and his family are huge Baltimore fans.) When I went home to Maryland with Patrick for Easter, I made sure to get my fill of delicious Maryland crab. His mom (hi Mrs. Patty!) makes incredible crab cakes unlike anything you could get in NYC and we make a point to get lunch at his hometown crab spot, Reter's Crabhouse.

We met some of Patrick's friends there for lunch over Easter weekend and they all got Softshell Crab sandwiches.Although these looked delicious, I knew I had to order the full crabs that you pull apart and hit with a mallet! It's so much more fun that way. They had Jumbo crabs available that day, so I ordered two and prepared myself for the huge mess I knew I'd make.

Patrick taught me how to get all the meat out of the crab during last year's visit to Reter's, but he still had to help me this time. Here is my lunch, covered in Old Bay seasoning (of course):The first step in eating these suckers is to pull off the claws, crack them open by any means necessary and carefully pull out the meat. Then you pull off the legs, one by one, and remove the tiny pieces of meat from each one. Now comes the hard part. There is a flexible piece of the shell that resembles a tail that you pick up and use as leverage for opening the entire body, which you then crack in half. This is where it gets gross. There is some gunk inside this part that needs to be removed, and because my boyfriend is wonderful, he does this part for me. Not that I couldn't do it, he's just very sweet and knows that it grosses me out a little. It's important to note that whenever I eat lobster, my dad does all the dirty work for me (even though I'm 26). But when it comes to Maryland crabs, Patrick's my man.

Once you get the body cleaned out, the real fun begins. Mom, I know I've already lost you at this point and you're probably gagging at your computer.

You then use the mallet to break apart the shell and you are rewarded with giant chunks of succulent crab meat. Once the entire crab is clean of meat, you are left with a lovely pile of broken shells to show for all your hard work.The crabs at Reter's are awesome, and I look forward to going there every time I go home to Maryland with Patrick. I also crave his mom's crabcakes and secretly hope she'll read this, come visit us in New York and bring her amazing crabcakes!

I leave you with a picture of Patrick's family's dog, Finn, because I love him and he's amazing.Hi Finn!!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Awesome Dishes Around NYC

While I do sometimes like to focus on one meal at one particular restaurant, I thought it was about time that I share some delicious dishes I've had recently around the city--a "round up" if you will. I eat about 99% of my meals out and while some of those entire meals aren't necessarily worth a story, some of the individual food is.

1. Fish Tacos at good restaurant in the West VillageI've already raved about the brunch, but last time I was there having brunch with Jill & Jen I decided to order the fish tacos because, well, I love fish tacos! These didn't disappoint, and I highly recommend you try them (but only after you've worked your way through their standard brunch menu!)

2. Soup Dumplings at Dumpling Man in the East VillageSoup Dumplings are also one of my very favorite things. This place is a definite go-to for us whenever we're in the East Village, especially since Caroline and I used to only live 1 block away. You get to watch your food being made right in front of you.If you order delivery from Dumpling Man, you can log onto their website and spy on the place from their live webcam. (Right Sam?)

3. Crab & Spicy Tuna Timbale at Sagaponack in the FlatironThe only thing that could make spicy tuna better is to add a few of my favorite things: crab, avocado and mango. This appetizer at the charming nautical-themed restaurant in the Flatiron was so good that I almost wished Patrick and I had each ordered our own.

4. Roasted Shitake Mushroom Sandwich from Olives in SohoThis is, hands down, one of the most delicious sandwiches in the entire city. Maybe it's the unique texture of the roasted mushrooms, maybe it's the herb ricotta spread all over it. Whatever it is, get yourself down to Soho and order this sandwich, you won't be disappointed!

5. Croque Monsieur at The Boom Boom Room (Top of the Standard) in Meatpacking (important to note, Boom Boom has no website. So sometimes I doubt it actually exists.)Maybe it was the plethora of cocktails we consumed during Stevie's Birthday Brunch before visiting Boom Boom. Maybe it was the ridiculously ooey gooey cheese melted all over the dish. Maybe it was because we were taking in some of the best views in the city while eating it. Whatever it was, I'm still drooling over the Croque Monsieur from Boom Boom.

What are some of your favorite dishes in NYC, or wherever you live? I am constantly finding new food that I love, and these are just a few examples. Looking forward to discovering lots of yummy new dishes.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Monday, May 9, 2011

Asellina in the Gansevoort Park Hotel

My latest piece on The Strong Buzz is about a dinner I recently had at Asellina, the restaurant in the semi-new Gansevoort Park Hotel. I'm still dreaming about the stuffed olives... Check it out:


The Meatpacking District has its draws: The Highline, Jeffrey, DVF, and the Standard Grill come to mind -the neighborhood does tend to exude a certain aura of pretension. It's definitely not where you want to go out if you're looking to save some cash. Stop in at the Gansevoort, located near the corner of 9th Avenue and Little West 12th Street and you may find it hard to justify elbowing your way through the snooty model-types just to pay $20 for a cocktail.

So when the Gansevoort Hotel Group opened a second NYC location in Gramercy, the last thing I was expecting was an approachable neighborhood restaurant with cocktails under $15 a pop. But that's precisely what they did with Asellina, a 10,000-square foot Italian restaurant located in the new Gansevoort Park Hotel.

The restaurant, which I visited on a cold rainy night, was designed by iCrave, the design firm behind such hotspots as STK, Tenjune and Crobar. It's lit by a fireplace, and despite its football field size, it somehow feels warm and cozy; it's a place you'll want to stay a while. A beautiful bar made of dark wood runs the entire length of the front room and is surrounded by several matching tables. Off to the side of the bar is an intimate lounge that is the perfect spot to relax over cocktails ($14, a $6 savings over the MePa).

The atmosphere at Asellina is truly delightful, loud enough to feel the room's bustling energy, but quiet enough to carry on a conversation without shouting. Our waiter was a charmer with a thick Italian accent who never let our water glasses go empty and kept up a perfect pace for the entire meal. When a friend showed up to join us for dinner, he kindly moved us to a great low table in the corner of the restaurant that was surrounded by comfortable couches. This allowed us to sit back, relax and enjoy our evening as the food was promptly delivered to the table.
The kitchen is under the care of chef Marco Porceddu, who hails from Sardinia. He most recently worked in Las Vegas at Bella Luna, a place he opened after a stint with Steve Wynn. He's clearly one who wants to please every appetite. His dinner menu begins with Antipasti and Flatbreads, moves on to Pastas (Primi) and Entrées (Secondi); it offers enough variety for a meal of a little bite with a glass of wine or a multi-course feast. We went for the feast options, starting off with the Burrata cheese and stuffed cerignola olives, followed up with the sausage and goat cheese flatbread, and the pasta with pistachios and lobster, and the sea bass special.

The Burrata was as luscious as you'd imagine: a kind of love child of cheese, butter and sour cream. It's served with both red and yellow tomatoes, and drizzled with a beautifully nutty olive oil. We finished every last bite. The olives were olives in name only. Just small enough to eat whole, they arrived stuffed with roasted veal and Parmesan, then very lightly fried to a crispy finish. Salty and rich, but not at all greasy, they vanished quite rapidly.

The sausage flatbread was quite good, an easy dish to share with a beer at the bar, but the dish that stole the show was the pasta with pistachio nuts and fresh lobster meat. The nuttiness of the pistachios somehow made the lobster meat even sweeter. It was something I'd never tasted before, and a dish I hope to have again and again.

The sea bass arrived was perfectly cooked, and flaked apart under my fork and melted in my mouth just as the Burrata had a few courses back. But perhaps we could have skipped a course or two, because we were officially full.

I enjoyed a strong Espresso for dessert and sat enjoying conversation with my dining companions for hours. Our waiter never rushed us, never made us feel us feel unwelcome and urged us to stay as long as we wanted. As stepped back out into the rain, I didn't even mind the nasty weather because of the wonderful experience I had just had at Asellina. I got all the perks of dining at a Gansevoort-quality restaurant, but none of the pompous attitude.

Asellina is located at 420 Park Ave S E 29th St, (212) 317-2908.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Lambs Club: Beyond Dinner

As you may already know from reading my post about my trip to Atlantic City, I got to spend some time with some amazing members of the food community-namely Geoffrey and Margaret Zakarian and their posse. I had the pleasure of stopping by The Lambs Club for drinks a few weeks ago to meet their Social Media guru Brian Simpson, and just a few days ago I attended a breakfast they held to showcase some new menu items including some new vegetable juices.

I ate breakfast with my food blogger partner in crime, Megan Murphy of This Girl Can Eat and had the pleasure of seeing both Brian and Margaret while I was there. I ordered the Egg White Frittata with a side of Mixed Berriesand Megan got the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes also with a side of Mixed Berries. The food and atmosphere were both delightful, as was my company (as always.) The Lambs Club offers a solid breakfast menu and is the perfect spot for anything from a morning business meeting to a great place to bring your folks for breakfast when they're in town.

The Lambs Club will also be offering a Mother's Day special including a rose wine selection that will be featured thus Sunday (5/8) during Brunch and Dinner.
Chef Geoffrey Zakarian will create special dishes for Mother's Day that pair beautifully with Rose, such as Egg White Frittata with Leeks and Green Asparagus for Brunch (I can vouch for that dish!) as well as the Grilled Striped Bass with Lemon Marmalade and Roasted Tomato and Spice Roasted Duck with Mango and Baby Onions for dinner. As an added bonus, 5% of the proceeds will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.   
If you're looking for somewhere to take Mom on Sunday, you can book reservations by calling The Lambs Club directly at 212.997.5262.

Here are a few of the Rosé being offered for Mother's Day at The Lambs Club.
·         Comanderie de Peyrassol, Côtes de Provence 2010
·         Chateau de Pampelonne Cotes de Provence, Provence 2010
·         Hermann J. Wiemer, "Rose' Cuvee," Finger Lakes, NY 2010
·         Domaine Ott, Château de Selle, Côtes de Provence 2009
·         Ameztoi, Txakolina Getariako, "Rubentis," Basque, Spain  2010
·         Raventos I Blanc, Cava Brut Rosé, “L’Hereu de Nit” 2006

Whatever you do for Mother's Day, make sure you make Mom feel extra special!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lunch at Kin Shop

One of mine and Patrick's favorite TV shows is Top Chef, so whenever a "Cheftestant" has a restaurant in NYC we try to make it a point to go. Harold Dieterle, winner of Season 1 of Top Chef, opened Kin Shop in the West Village with Alicia Nosenzo (famous for her Front of House prowess) and we couldn't wait to try it.We went for lunch a few weeks ago and although I had heard mixed reviews, I was pleasantly surprised by our meal.

The decor of the restaurant is bright and refreshing, although quite minimalist. White walls are dotted with beautiful artwork in blues and greens that give just the right splash of color to the space.I was happy to note that there was a prix-fixe lunch offering for $20, so I decided to go with that. To start I ordered a salad, although I unfortunately can't recall precisely what was in it (nor can I find a description of it anywhere on the internet.) The lettuce was fresh, the nuts were crunchy, the fruit was sweet and overall it was as flavorful as it was beautiful to look at.Patrick ordered the Fried Pork & Crispy Oyster Salad and although I didn't try it, he all but licked his plate.For our main courses I chose the Stir Fried Wide Wonton Noodles with Chicken Sausage, Thai Broccoli Rabe & Oyster Sauce while Patrick chose the Massaman Braised Goat with Fried Shallots, Purple Yams, Mustard Greens & Toasted Coconut. It's no secret that I don't like spicy food, and Pad Se Ew is one of my favorite Thai dishes so the dish I ordered was right up my alley for its likeness to the classic dish. The noodles were rich and tender, unlike any noodles I'd ever had before and the chicken sausage was tender and perfectly seasoned. I inhaled my dish and enjoyed every second of it.Patrick often orders Massaman Curry and while I do enjoy the flavor of it, I could never imagine eating an entire dish covered in the sweet sauce. The goat in his dish was one of the most delicate and savory meats I had ever tasted. The sweetness of the Massaman was strong but not overpowering and everything blended perfectly. It was delicious!I let Patrick pick my dessert course figuring I'd just have a bite or two and he ordered the Thai Coffee-Chocolate Ice Cream. It arrived to the table as a perfect sphere in a white bowl. The dessert was a rich chestnut color and the texture was luscious and creamy. We all know I don't love ice cream, but this was some darn good ice cream. The strong coffee flavor overpowered the sugar and I definitely had more than one or two bites of the dessert.While I do feel that the menu is slightly overpriced for Thai food, I really enjoyed my meal at Kin Shop.

Next step on the Top Chef Restaurant Tour: Angelo Sosa's Social Eatz (with a Z!) Will be sure to report back. Have you been to any Top Cheftestant's restaurants? Which ones? What did you think?

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Photo credits: Photo of Harold Dieterle from the New York Times, photo of restaurant interior from Eater NY