Posts Tagged 'food'

Lox, Nova, and more Yiddish

There is a right and a wrong way to eat a bagel. Actually, there are several wrong ways to eat a bagel. You can’t be in a hurry. You can’t eat it quickly. And you can’t pick it up on the way to work at some half-ass coffee shop. Eating a bagel has an aristocratic flare to it. You need to be lighthearted, embracing, and indulgent. (There’s seriously no other justifiable reason to starting your day off with that many calories.) It’s a simple pleasure and it shows a sense of careful carelessness.

You can have a plain bagel with cream cheese. You can have a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and jelly. You can have an sesame seed bagel with tofu vegetable cream cheese. Jewish delis have spent the past few centuries cultivating the bagel and its spreads. Wednesday was the only sunny day this week – every other day was ruined by thunderstorms – so I thought to take the day to relax and enjoy a bagel. I casually woke up around 11AM, toasted a bagel, smeared on chive and onion cream cheese, slapped on four ounces of nova (smoked salmon), and poured myself a big glass of Diet Coke. I spent the afternoon tanning, reading, and resting. It was a perfect day in the suburbs – couldn’t have asked for more.

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A Dean and Deluca Kind of Birthday

I used to hate birthdays, but now that I’ve started to acknowledge them a day to eat everything, I think I like them now. I went to bed at 2 AM disappointed because no one wished me a happy birthday, but when I woke up the next morning, I had dozens of missed calls, voicemails, text messages, and Facebook alerts. I went to bed thinking the day would suck, but woke up thinking it was promising.

I started off the day with homemade scrambled scallion and asiago eggs, turkey bacon, orange juice, and a Starbucks coffee. (I don’t really like bacon, but I figured it’d be nice to have with eggs.) I opened all of the windows so there was a beautiful breeze flowing through the apartment. The air in the apartment is usually thick, but the mix of the fresh air from outside and the smells from breakfast lingered for hours. It felt like a refreshing summer day in the suburbs.

I made my way down to Dean and Deluca in Soho to pick up a macaron and an iced coffee. I’ve been dying to try their coffee, but I don’t know how to make my own coffee, so I never bought it to avoid putting my own sugar in. I figured today was the day to try it. I just bought a coffee macaron from the bakery area and I glanced up at the menu – iced mocha, iced this, iced that, Strawberry Italian Soda. It has been years since I’ve had Italian soda, but it so delicious that I instantly ordered one. I turned around and my friend surprised me with a red velvet birthday cake.

Of course I picked Cafetasia for my birthday dinner. It is my favorite Thai restaurant and one of my favorite restaurants of all time. The food is always delicious. The service is always fast and excellent. The atmosphere is trendy and awesome. Even if I could, I wouldn’t change anything about Cafetasia.

We ordered Mango Batita drinks, which were described as a mango and pineapple drink. I expected them to be yellow, or even orange, but they came out green. Weird. (On second thought, it is green because it is mixed with blue liquor.) They didn’t taste too strong, but half way through the drink, I was drunk. I quickly drank the rest as I saw the appetizers coming over, so I turned into drunken eating mode and just devoured it all. It was the best food at Cafetasia that I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was because the chef was especially amazing that night or because everything tastes better when drunk. Leaning towards the latter, but I devoured BBQ beef skewers, chicken satay and toast, gyoza, extra spicy chicken basil udon, and then some of my friend’s pad thai.

We didn’t eat the cake until later that night, but it took us two minutes from start to finish. It was the most dense and delicious cake I have ever had. It was such a rich and dark red velvet. I seriously wonder what Dean and Deluca can’t do. When it comes to food, especially bakery treats, they are truly the best of the best.

I laid down for a bit to recover from dinner and the cake and then made hard lemonade with Belvedere. Turned on Iron Man, and passed out somewhere within the next hour. I didn’t expect my ship to sink that quickly, but it was the perfect end to my birthday.

I am Pakistani, apparently

I wrote about Spice Corner in an earlier post, and I described the treat he gave me as a “three inch ball of a dense, fried dough, sweet and sugary.” I asked a friend of mine who was familiar with southern Asian cuisine and she told me that I most likely had gulab jamun. When I returned the other day, I didn’t realize that all of the items on the bakery shelf were labelled.

I ordered a pound of gulab juman (received a discount again) and then I thought to grab some pista barfi too. Barfi is simply condensed milk cooked with sugar and other ingredients. The other ingredient is usually a fruit – mangoes or coconut – or even a nut – cashews or pistachios. In my case, the pista meant pistachio. It is very dense and sugary – absolutely delicious. I recommend any flavor!

As I promised myself last time, I’d ask about some of the currencies next time I was in the store. After I paid and he handed me the treats, I leaned over and started to ask about the currencies. “So which currencies are these? I see you have Iraq right ther-” “And here is Pakistan. You are Pakistani, right?” “Oh, no no. I am not from Pakistan.” His face shuffled and he was staring at me as if I was lying or as if he was deeply confused. I smiled and left.

It wasn’t the first time that I have received a comment like that. A Muslim Pakistani man approached me on the train, swore I was both Pakistani and Muslim, and that he wanted me as a roommate. I would normally write that off as creepy, weird, but I was kind of flattered. Another time, I was in a touristy area and the shopkeeper was guessing where each of customers were from. “France?” She said to the people in front of me. “That’s right!” They replied. I laughed. “And, you! You are a Turk!” she exclaimed at me. “Oh, no, I am not a Turk.” “Where are you from, then?” “New York.” And then the conversation fizzled out.

Perhaps it is trivial, but I sort of take pride in these compliments. I am a Middle Eastern Studies (and Politics) major, so I think it is interesting to be considered as someone from there. But I don’t have a trace of any Middle Eastern country in my blood. I sort of thank my grandparents – who I resemble most in facial structure and skin tone – from coming from Italy, or even the Mediterranean. I know of another Italian friend who was thought to be Moroccan when she was in Morocco. She’s a little darker than me, but I can’t wait to travel around the region and see if I can blend in with the locals. They are sharp with Arabic dialects and origins, so I want to see how many I can confuse!

Stack of Oranges

After the MTA changed the bus schedule, my best friend and I decided to walk down to 14th Street instead of scouring for the nearest bus stop that was in service. A few blocks down, we noticed these perfectly stacked citruses and had to take photos. (His turned out much better and less slanted.) We’ve noticed this place multiple times, but we’ve never given it the time of day to walk inside. It’s not much larger than a bodega, and it doesn’t seem to be that well stocked from the outside. I figured it was just another, run-of-the-mill, low-grade local grocery stores. But I’ve never been as wrong in my life – the place is overstocked and gives cheap a new definition.

We cook multiple times a week and use chicken as our primary meat, so we thought to check out the chicken section: $1.99 a pound. I have never seen a price that low in the city. We usually pay $4.99 with our membership discount to Food Emporium. Whole Foods runs the same when it is on sale. But we were staring at two and a half pounds of chicken for five dollars! We both sent texts to our mothers asking if $1.99 a pound for chicken was decent, underpriced, or just right. My mom replies saying that it normal. So does his mom. How on earth did we ever possibly think that $5 a pound for chicken was reasonable?

I also found Russian dressing, which I’ve been hunting throughout the city for ever since my mom gave me the recipe to one of my favorite chicken dishes that she makes. I’m planning on making that sometime this week. I just question if the quality is decent, but half the time our chicken is supplemented by NYU dining, so it isn’t like we are used to the creme de la creme of chicken. I forgot the name of the place, but it is a great find and I look forward to shopping there soon.

Murray Hill: Ethos

After tanning for a few hours on my friend’s dad’s rooftop (which had gorgeous views of the East River), we decided to go to a Greek restaurant around the corner. I am not the biggest Greek fan – I don’t really like feta cheese or olives, but both have been growing on me as of late. I figured that I’d just find a neutral appetizer and that’d be that.

My friend and split an appetizer and we both decided on Spanakotopia. The spanakotopia, pictured above, is sautéed baby spinach, leeks, scallion, dill, and feta cheese wrapped up in delicious and flaky phyllo dough. It was absolutely delicious! Another friend ordered dolmas, but only wanted one so she passed the rest to us. They were meatless, but they were still delicious, too. The waitress also served us complimentary bread and olive oil which consisted of a few small rolls and fresh pita bread. The pita bread and olive oil were out of this world. Later, a friend ordered octopus and even that was cooked to perfection. We joked that the Asians next to us, pictured above, were having a feast, but little did we realize, we were eating just as much.

I’m truly starting to rethink Greek food. I love Mediterranean, and I know that they are very similar, but I just feel like most Greek food that I encounter has olives and feta cheese. But, again, I’m starting to realize that they are tasty. Perhaps I was just eating it wrong all these years. Ethos also served complimentary baklava at the end. I’ve had far better baklava, but I’m not going to complain when it is free, especially after the bread and amazing food.

Hell’s Kitchen: Room Service

I took the weekend off from work to relax and rewind. Most of my friends, including myself, are leaving the city next weekend, so I figured I’d have an extended weekend with them this week. I’ll have to work double this upcoming weekend, but that’s fine.

I met up with three friends last night for dinner. One of them suggested going to Room Service, a Thai restaurant that I’ve been eager to try since I discovered it on Yelp a few weeks ago. Room Service has two locations in the city, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. If anything indicates quality and quantity in New York, it is having multiple locations. Spice, a popular Thai restaurant, has nine locations in the city. My beloved Cafetasia has two. And then there’s Holy Basil with only one, for good reason.

One friend had preference to the Hell’s Kitchen location because she had to leave after, so we made the trek there. I’ve always felt that Hell’s Kitchen is too far out of the way and has unreliable subway lines (ACE,123), but the neighborhood is loved by its residents. Personally, I’m more of a fan of Greenwich Village or Union Square, which both have amazing accessibility to multiple subway lines, as for I like to travel and go throughout the city. But there are some self-sustaining neighborhoods, like Hell’s Kitchen and Siberia Battery Park City that work for their residents.

We started off the dinner with two appetizers: Sesame Tofu and Flank Steak. Sesame and tofu are one of the few tasteless ingredients in the world, so the thought of ordering them together was a little stupid, but they turned out okay. We asked for soy sauce in addition to the sauce that came with the sesame tofu and proceeded to drown them in both. The flank steak was a complete miss. It claimed to have come in a “roasted jasmine rice sauce,” but that sauce tasted like balsamic vinegar. And I hate balsamic vinegar.

I ordered extra, extra spicy Chicken Basil Noodles as my entree. I was excited because I love spicy basil noodle dishes and I now had the opportunity to use my green chopsticks. It’s nice when Asian restaurants uses plastic (and sometimes ceramic) chopsticks instead of the break-apart wooden ones. There also seems to be something marketable in green features – Starbucks having green straws, Room Service having green chopsticks – both of which I think are really cool. The actual dish was tasty. I won’t say that it is the best chicken basil udon I ever had, because there was hardly any chicken, but it was not bad. It was only $8.90, so it isn’t like I could complain. It was a relatively large proportion and the flat rice noodles were great.

I recommend Room Service as a cheap lunch or cheap dinner. I wouldn’t order any appetizers though. You can get Pad Thai and Basil Noodles for $8.90 each. Leave a little tip and dinner for two can be about $20 dollars total for two.

Little India: Spice Corner

Little India spans a few blocks on Lexington Avenue between 24th and 30th. Unlike Little Italy or Chinatown, both popular and tourist infested ethnic neighborhoods, Little India is relatively unknown to tourists and most Manhattanites. The only street walkers are those who live there, mainly Indian or Near Eastern descent, and students at Baruch College. The streets are lined with Indian curry houses, grills, and formal restaurants. On the corner of 29th and Lexington, a little Indian and Middle Eastern grocery store occupies the lot: Spice Corner.

Two men, presumably the owners, eagerly and warmheartedly welcomed me when I walked into the store. I scoped out the general feel of the store – clean and organized. I asked for couscous and basmati rice, to which one of the men directed me to the shelf and offered a discount. I asked about olive oil. Another direction and discount offered. The back of the store was lined with spice shelves (pictured above): beans, powders, relishes, dried fruits, spices, seasonings. You name it, it was there. I found the bread aisle and was amazed at the selection of poori, naan, and other Indian and Middle Eastern breads. I found package of 10 naan flatbreads. “For you, three dollars,” the man said. I brought it to the counter and handed him three dollars. He walked behind the cash register and came back with a small and sweet looking baked good. “No, no. Just the naan,” I said. “No, for you and your friend.” He sliced it and handled it to me. I don’t know what it was, but it was delicious. It was about a three inch ball of a dense, fried dough, sweet and sugary. I was tempted to buy a pound’s worth of it.

I was amazed by the collection of currencies under the counter glass. I stared at them for a while, hoping that I’d recognize one. At most, I saw a Lebanese note, but I couldn’t confirm as for it was on the Arabic side and I didn’t see any French writing. I didn’t look for long, but I’ll be sure to ask questions next time I am in the store. It’s truly fascinating to see bank notes from other countries. I want start my own collection when I study abroad next year.


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