Within the past week or so I’ve been trying out something new in addition to blogging. A new experiment per se, regarding my food reviews. I’ve been live tweeting reviews from restaurants and food trucks in my travels!
So far I’ve reviewed three places in NYC: the Morris Truck that serves delicious grilled cheeses and an amazing homemade hot chocolate with cinnamon fluff (that I’m obsessed with!), Korilla BBQ where I tried one of its burritos that reminded me of a mix between a fancy moo shu and a Vietnamese spring roll, Wafels and Dinges where I had one of its Belgian waffles covered in a gingerbread spread that reminded me of peanut butter minus the nuts, and tonight I reviewed the Bagels ‘N A Whole Lot More store in Stony Brook on route 347 which had an amazing crowd, a wonderful sandwich deal and great service.
I am having a blast writing these, as they’re even faster ways to let you know what I’m eating!
For all of my latest quick updates and foodie-tweets, please check out my Twitter, either at the link above in my blog at the top right hand corner, or click here.
I look forward to having you join the food conversation via another wonderful social network.
Recently I received an email from one of my favorite pizza chains, UNO, about this month being National Pizza Month.
After reading it, it sparked me to dig deep and think about how my love for this delicious savory pie originated from.
I’ve spoken on here about several national food holidays, but a whole month dedicated to pizza? There is full cause to celebrate this entire month! And I hope you do, too.
So before I pose the questions to you all in the hopes of starting a pizza-filled daily conversation for the next month (but hey, I could speak about pizza any time, any day!), I wanted to share with you a few thoughts about pizza itself.
I’ve always had a huge love for pizza, but now that I’ve really taken the time to think about my pizza-filled experiences, it really did start at a very early age.
I remember reading a children’s book when I was really young about where pizza came from. A little girl asks a grandmother-type figure about where pizza comes from and it turns into a beautiful story about its origin and and how its made. I remember it being a favorite book of mine, and after some research, I believe it’s the book called “How Pizza Came to Queens,” by Dayal Kaur Khalsa. (Anyone remember this book? If anyone can help me with this, please let me know!)
Another childhood memory of mine involving pizza is a board game I used to play called “Pizza Party.” Anyone remember this too? A memory-styled game involving toppings on a pizza.
But it wasn’t only the books and games that got me hooked-on-pizza. It was the pie itself.
I grew up in C.T., now live on Long Island and at the very early ages of my life (0 – 4) , I lived in New Jersey. While I may not have been old enough to remember everything about my time there, I have distinct memories of a few things. One being pizza.
In the beautiful town of Wayne, N.J. lies a pizza place with a truly distinctive name: Bachagaloops.
I remembered this name so well I used to sing the name when I was younger. And now that I’ve been pondering this for the past few days, I definitely think it was to the tune of the Addams Family theme song. (Brother, correct me if I’m wrong, please!)
I don’t remember how the pizza exactly tasted, but I remember going there often and recall it being delicious. And when I had moved away from N.J. into C.T., I remember going back there and trying it again with my family and the pizza being delicious.
Food to me always sparks conversation, but I’d love to hear more from you all about your memories of pizza. It could be what your favorite pizza is, or even your first memories of pizza.
Why? Because everyone’s story will be different.
And to start it off, here’s my latest vlog with some of my pizza memories.
I look forward to hearing from you and sharing your stories.
We’re in week two of one of the most exciting times in NYC (heck, every week in NYC is exciting!). Residents and tourists come near and far into the city for some cheap, yet fancy eats. A prix-fixe lunch is $24.07, and prix-fixe dinner is just $35, according to the official NYC Restaurant Week website. With TONS of restaurants to choose from, how can you pick just one?
I started perusing several menus on the website last week. I knew I would be meeting some of my AJ friends for lunch, and wanted to find a place I knew we would all like. After narrowing and narrowing, eventually down to my two top choices, I chose Ember Room.
#1) It says on the website the restaurant week deal applies to lunch and dinner.
#2) It’s in Hell’s Kitchen, land of amazing restaurants!
#2) Chocolate covered baby back ribs.
Yes, I said it and you read correctly. Chocolate covered baby back ribs. If you chocoholics out there were just as intrigued as I was, just wait until I show you what these babies looked like.
I booked a table for four through OpenTable (which is an AMAZING resource, by the way, for online reservations in NYC!) the night before, and we were set.
When I arrived from Penn Station last Thursday, I headed straight over to 9th avenue to get my chocolate fix on. I’ll admit, I had to look carefully between 45th and 46th to actually find the restaurant, but once I found the beautiful wooden sign hanging above the large glass window entrance, I was excited about what was to come.
However, as I said, everything happens for a reason, and you know what? We got an even better deal, in fact a steal, if you ask me!
For $15 we got a two-course lunch. Cha-ching!
For the first course, choose from several appetizers such as the chocolate baby back ribs I spoke of, cold udon salad (sugar snap peas, wakame, sesame vinaigrette), bbq wings and shrimp toast.
For the second course, choose from entrees such as the Ember burger (ground prime sirloin, Parmesean cheese bun), steak sandwich (grilled hanger steak, wok sauteed peppers, onions and rendang bbq sauce), pressed ciabatta sandwich (rotisserie chicken breast, chili cheddar cheese, grilled Japanese eggplant), and for you vegetarians and vegivores out there, the vegetable burger (lentils, summer peas, bean curd aioli, tofu fries, tofu ketchup).
Before I get to the food, I also want to point out that besides the really beautiful atmosphere Ember Room had with its beautiful hanging lights, modern yet classic black chairs and tables with touches of red, Asian-themed paintings and wooden and metal fixtures covering the walls, we had a pleasant surprise while waiting for the food. Myself and my two dear friends heard amazing 80s and 90s music playing overhead. And since we all sing together whenever we’re around each other, we couldn’t help but burst out singing songs such as the YouTube videos below:
We were so entertained, singing and chatting. Our first courses then arrived, and I was excited to try my chocolate-covered-ribs. The presentation was beautiful: I loved the drizzled chocolate-sauce design on the plate:
Now that I look at the picture tonight, the ribs actually look like two mini slices of chocolate cake from afar, don’t you think? The sauce was definitely chocolatey, but wasn’t overly sweet, which was a great balance. It had the taste of cocoa, with a hint of spicy and a hint of tang (my friend and I both agreed it was very similar to Hoisin sauce, one of my favorite sauces!). The ribs were meaty and fell off the bone easily. It wasn’t too messy, but I did end up washing my hands anyway between the two courses. I definitely recommend these to everyone. The ribs have just the right hint of chocolate with a mix of that Asian BBQ sauce spice.
The second course was just as wonderful as the first. I loved the presentation of it as well, coming in a metal tray and the fries coming in a metal cup:
The sandwich was overall good: while the steak was tender, yet a little hard and chewy, it blended well with the sweet peppers and onions and the sweet and tangy sauce on the crunchy baguette, making for a second good balance. The fries were interesting: these were very well done and tasted like zesty, crunchy potato sticks over actually fries. But I actually liked these alot, I loved the different texture over the normal soft innards fries have.
Another great reason to check out Ember Room, besides the great food, atmosphere and amazing lunch deal? Its concept of Asian- meets-American food was created by chefs Todd English and Ian Chalermkittichai, and the interior was designed by famous architect Roy Nachum.
For $15 in Hell’s Kitchen, the neighborhood known for its fabulous restaurants, I would certainly choose this deal over the lunch restaurant week deal and get my Ember on!
During my trip to NYC I was given the opportunity to see neighborhoods I haven’t been to and neighborhoods that I have been to, yet haven’t taken a closer look at.
One of the days there were a few hours of free time where I decided to hop on the subway and head south to Chelsea. I’ve driven by Chelsea before, but have never taken the time to explore the neighborhood itself.
Picture this: a humongous brick building. Several floors of offices on top….the main floor filled with food. Lots of food. An article on Chelsea Market’s website calls walking through here “is to stroll through a sort of postindustrial theme park.” This is so true. This building, also according to the article, used to be the home of the National Biscuit Company Complex and “baked everything from Saltines to Oreo’s.”
Walking inside the big glass doors on one end of the building, I looked to my right and saw signs for not only Food Network, but for several other TV networks as well. But my friends, as it is a market, there were tons of food establishments to check out.
There was a sign in the window of the Chelsea Wine Vault for a free wine tasting happening right at the moment I was there. I immediately went inside the vault, which had a very homey, country feel with a wooden interior. To the right of the cashiers was a room where the wine tasting was happening.
With my wine tasting I took a “Wine Report”: the vault’s monthly newsletter. In the January 2011 edition, there was an article on “New Year’s Wine Resolutions,” highlighting new wines to try and giving the reader wine suggestions for this year (including taking wine education classes). There was also a listing of all of the vault’s upcoming classes in wine education, including a wine and cheese pairing class with Lucy’s Whey. There was even a recipe on the back of the newsletter for a Ricotta and Sausage Pasta.
But what I studied most closely was its “January top ten:” ten recommended wines on sale at the vault. Four of ten wines were offered at the tasting I went to.
After being to wine tastings throughout the past few years (including the Great NY State Fair at the wine tent with my friend and exploring the Long Island vineyards with my family) and trying several wines when out to dinner with my family, I discovered I love dry over sweet. I love a good Pink Zinfandel and a Rose, but for the most part, sweet wines have been way too sweet for my palate. What do you prefer, Syracuse?
However, if you asked me whether I like white or red more, I couldn’t answer that. There are certain reds and whites that I like more than others, that’s all I’ll say.
Back to the wine tasting: the man in charge started off with the whites. The first wine I tried was Montinore Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2009 (BIODYNAMIC) (on sale there for $12.99). The vault’s wine report says it comes from Willamette Valley, O.R., and is a Pinot Gris grape. The winemakers note in the report says: “Very aromatic with notes of fresh ripe pear, yellow apple and a pleasant floral/herbal accent. On the palate it bursts into flavors of ripe honeydew melon with hints of mango overlaying ripe apple/pear character. An almost creamy mouthfeel and long finish of crisp apple essence and distinct mineral qualities.” After swirling my small, plastic cup, I tasted a light, and sweet wine that was just okay in my book.
The second white was Hedges CMS White Columbia Valley 2008 (on sale for $10.99 there). This wine hails from Columbia Valley, W.A., and combines the grapes of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Marsasnne. This was another light wine, but more on the tart side. Definitely better than the one before. The winemakers note, according to the wine report, said it’s a “blended white with Sauvignon Blanc dominating over 75% of this wine, this was one of the original malic-acid friendly white wines released from Washington State. Beautifully structured with wonderful Sauvignon Blanc character; the mouthfeel has a delicate balance of acid angularity and defined herbal sophistication. Perfect as an apertif or as an accompaniment to a variety of seafood and shellfish.” Out of both whites, this was the winner of the white tasting.
Onto the reds. The first was Independent Producers Merlot Columbia Valley 2008 (on sale there for $9.99). Another wine coming from Columbia Valley, W.A., this merlot was most certainly a dry wine. After reading the winemakers note in the wine report, I could pick out the rich, yet tart flavors of plum, black currant and cherry: “Plum, black currant and cherry fruit make a strong showing in this well-balanced Merlot. Its producers are more focused on terroir than marketing, so this wine often flies under the radar. Let it land on your table and it will enhance any meal, from pizza to lamb chops.” This one was good, but I liked the next one better.
The overall winner of the tasting was the following: Tenute Valdifalco Loacker Brillando IGT Toscana 2008 (BIODYNAMIC) from Tuscany, Italy. It’s on sale there for $13.99. This was the most surprising of the four wines: the man pouring described it having a candy-like taste to it. It most certainly did, following with a nice oaky flavor, which I love. The grapes in this wine, according to the wine report, are 85% Sangiovese, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot : “With concentrated berry and spice aromas balanced by firm oaky tannins, this wine can either be enjoyed young or cellared for up to 10 years. Serve with game, veal, steaks and aged steaks.” I loved the different sweet, yet dry flavors I tasted in this one, and out of all four, this one I recommend trying the most if you come across it.
After my wine trip, I came across Fat Witch Bakery, which I saw one day reading a blog post on Serious Eats. I remember looking at the picture of the brownie (they’re actually called “witches” at Fat Witch), and thinking, “This looks sooooooo good.” I went inside the cozy, yet open designed white establishment, picked up an original Witch, and took it outside to try.
This brownie was extremely moist and fudgey the whole way through. It wasn’t cakey at all, it was very similar to eating a flourless chocolate cake in brownie form. It took me on a trip through chocolate land and back.
This bakery has been around since 1991, and its website says the philosophy behind the bakery and the witches are “No icing. No preservatives. No nonsense. Only the best, most natural ingredients. ” Fat Witch says on the website it also bakes the witches in small batches and are in “no hurry.”
If you are ever in Chelsea, please go stop at this delicious brownie kingdom, which also has several other Witches including pumpkin, java, blonde, red , snow and breakfast.
And if you’re looking for something smaller, Fat Witch also sells Witch Babies, which I was very tempted to get: smaller, bite-sized witches.
And these were just two of the several restaurants in the market. If you get a chance to head over to Chelsea, take a stroll through the market and try a few items along the way. You will not be disappointed.