best thing ever.
My company wins the Internet today. Although I was a tad peeved when I couldn’t actually order a vodka rocks & toast for breakfast.
best thing ever.
My company wins the Internet today. Although I was a tad peeved when I couldn’t actually order a vodka rocks & toast for breakfast.
Days have been cluttered with to-do lists and projects that pay the bills (just barely) and mediocre granola bars and chores and constant reminders that I’m supposed to act like an adult. All I craved was a few moments to put life on pause and read a little on the High Line. What better excuse to do just that right after a morning job interview?
I managed to finish about 97 pages of Cathy Erway’s The Art of Eating In before my Blue Bottle’s New Orleans iced coffee ran dry and my pale wintry complexion turned a gazpacho shade of red. My parched body was craving a cool-me-down. It hit me that I passed by the La Newyorkina cart about 90 minutes prior, so a paleta was definitely suitable for a pre-lunch snack.
Despite my girl crush on owner Fany Gerson and my utmost support of her Kickstarter campaign post-Superstorm Sandy, I never got around to trying her signature product. Her Latin American spin on the typical ice pop initially lured New Yorkers under her spell, but her bold-ass flavors have kept people wanting more. Friends + friends of friends have rubbed it in my face about how Gerson’s mango chili and hibiscus pops are the adult childhood treat of their dreams. I’ve waited long enough to treat myself to one of these babies.
I made my move around high noon, right around the same time when European tourists were also craving something chilly. One customer was surprised by a sneak-attack, thanks to the intensity of the heat in the mango chili. His superb reaction partially contributed to me ordering a tamer flavor (that, and I didn’t feel like having my face melt like Major Toht in Indiana Jones ). From the corner of my eye, I saw that a coconut lime flavor was scratched on the chalkboard menu. It was calling to me and I had to have it.
From the first unsexy flick of the tongue, I was hooked. The super-creamy coconut milk is a superb accompaniment to the zesty lime that was scattered throughout. The flavor remained consistent to the last drop, and it was an absolute delight to have that tropical tang coating the roof of my mouth for an additional few minutes. With every single lick, I kept thinking to myself, La Newyorkina, where have you been all my life?
This teaser of summer clearly wasn’t enough for me. I’ve been contemplating how to relive these few fantastic moments under the blaring hot sun on the High Line. Solutions I’ve come up with: 1) Pick up Gerson’s Paletas cookbook and recreate her works of frigid art; 2) Freestyle LOTS of paletas with my new full-sized freezer and hope for the best; or 3) Just go back and hit up the cart every day between Memorial and Labor Day because laziness takes over very quickly.
Some of my favorite food comes from shady joints. The exterior may be intimidating (and perhaps you might get mugged on the way between the door and the Seat Yourself sign), but all that matters is the food that comes out of those grimy-looking kitchens. The cooks in the back might grunt and snarl a bit when they receive your order, but you forgive their unrequited anger when you take a gnarly bite into whatever’s on your plate.
Aside from the stellar fish tacos from my favorite surf bar, the best taco I’ve ever came from an authentic (if not nerve-rattling) location. A two-minute walk from my apartment leads me to an incredible Mexican bodega, Tehuitzingo. I became infatuated with the big T after stumbling in one hot summer’s day looking for cheap chipotle and cotija cheese. A haunting green-tinted light peeked out from the back of the bodega, so my curiosity led me to the spooky abyss. Fortunately I was greeted with untucked businessmen, hungry regulars, and the best (slash only) pork ear & goat tripe tacos I ever put in my stomach.
You probably have some chances to crash a Mexican bodega, but I bet you never ate food served in a shopping cart before. Usually I stock up on tamales shipped from a family friend in Puerto Rico, but an opportunity to eat ones just as satisfying arose last St. Patrick’s Day. Instead of passing out in pubs like half of the city’s population was, I went on a midnight food crawl in Corona (run by Jeff Orlick; the dude knows his shit). The tour was memorable enough with the assortment of tortas and sopa de elote I was eating along the way. This one tamale lady on a dark street corner, though, was the MVP of the night. This woman’s so under the radar that a Google search results in one Yelp review and an article about her getting fined by the po-po. The only hype this woman needs is from the select few who get the chance to eat her food. I ordered a mole tamale and a horchata for under $3. What resulted was a brief road trip to PR, led by my trusty taste buds. This lady’s simple tamales brought me back to a time where I discovered them for the first time when I was just an eager child eating them by the pile.
My latest discovery came in the form of a normal Lower East Side hole-in-the-wall with a world-renowned reputation. Chef Andy Ricker blows the roof off the Pad Thai you’ve grown so accustomed to with his joint, Pok Pok Phat Thai. Walking a few steps below into a sunken space decorated with Thai vinyls might not seem like your cup of tea for dinner, but the food more than makes up for the possible skepticism. Their signature phat thai ruam has surprises buried under every rice noodle. Dried tofu, palm sugar, rendered pork fat, tamarind, fish sauce – beat still my heart! Throw on some lime juice and chili flakes on top and you got yourself an authentic Thai experience. Their take on a popular night market staple, hoi thawt, is for the adventurous – they take the crepe to the nth degree with the additions of mussels and garlic chives. Cap it off with a Thai iced tea with lime juice (it works a LOT better than it sounds) and you’ll never go hungry again.
Currently I’m in the works to reside back in the lovely borough of Queens, which means I’ll have plenty of opportunity to discover even more peculiar places that’ll satisfy my bold-ass palate. I’m up for any recommendations – just don’t send me to a dark alleyway. I’m prepared with some mace, but I don’t want to plan on using it.
Spooning is very romantic, especially when you are croissants.
We need to talk about Little Prince’s French Onion Soup Burger.
Times have been tough lately. A few weeks back, for the first time in our tumultuous five years together, I opened myself up to my man about all the ways his actions have damaged me. Doing just that felt like the giant elephant sitting on my back finally decided to find another place to park. At the same time, that same elephant ripped my heart out with his giant ivory tusk and chewed it in front of my broken face. Needless to say, I haven’t been myself in about a month.
My support system of friends and family knew that the one thing that could temporarily cheer me up is comfort food. My stretch-marked thunder thighs did not thank them, but my injured psyche did.
One of my best friends, Susie, kicked things off with her idea of the perfect Cheer-The-F**k-Up dinner. Her experiment of baked clams with a healthy apple-onion broth was hit-or-miss (hit for me, miss for her sister Kathy), but the pineapple upside-down cake that followed it was just the thing to rotate my clown frown 180°. Days and weeks followed with lots of heart-to-hearts with the elite in my life paired with nachos & oxtail empanadas from Coppelia and homemade devil’s food bundt cake and vegan pizza from Two Boots and piles of Num Pang sandwiches. My month of mindless munching came to an end on Wednesday when Susie invited me and her friend Gwen over for a mid-week sleepover. What she presented us with was an all-out buffet of stuff that shouldn’t be in my stomach: mole chicken breasts, spinach pie, soba peanut noodle salad, mushroom pate, homemade pizza rolls with super smoky mozzarella, double chocolate brownies and a wheel of brie.
Eating alone with my thoughts is when things get really dangerous. Everyone has their stand-by sad food that they like to eat under the comfort of their own blankets. I’ve spent multiple nights dipping cinnamon graham crackers in homemade cayenne Nutella in bed. When my stashes ran dry, I took advantage of my weekly Seamless employee discount. I became friendly with my delivery men as they whisked packages of miso-glazed salmon from Mooncake and verde chilaquiles from Ponche to my doorstep. My stomach was beyond satisfied, but eating solo at a table meant for two was startlingly depressing.
The piles of crap bubbling up in my stomach brought me back to my college days when I really let myself go. A hostile roommate situation on top of philosophy and religion classes I could never get the hang of led to late nights of bingeing on Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food in the student lounge and almost-daily Sicilian pizza runs. The short-lived good feelings mutated into self-destructive tear-soaked feasts. It was a terrible cycle, one I never wanted to repeat.
Recent events almost made me revert back to my bad habits of those hard days. Eventually I realized that I was a stronger person than I was when I was 20. If I could conquer the hell that was college, I could get through a little bit of heartbreak. I’m sure I’m going to come out of this fire pit a stronger woman; I just need to get my shit together and trade my chocolate for some kale for a while.
Does anyone look back fondly on Mickey Mouse pancakes like I do?
Eating bagels are never not exciting. When my brother Jon and I were making plans to catch up over last week, he recommended we meet at a bagel shop that’s around his neck of the Upper West Side. Cue to last Sunday when we reunited (and it indeed felt so good) and we crawled to the back of the line. The starving Mr. Moms and Columbia kids snaking around Absolute Bagels ordered their toasted everything bagels by the bakers’ dozen with pounds of blueberry cream cheese and a liter of orange juice and binged on their purchases on the frigid city streets. Jon and I, on the other hand, were logical and happily noshed on our whole wheat bagels and reminisced about our chubby child days back home.
Bagels are a Long Islander’s best friend with benefits. There is literally nothing wrong with a perfectly executed bagel; their luscious curves, the way their yeast bakes to make them pleasantly plump, the way the outer skin snaps when you bite into a fresh-out-of-the-oven ring, and their ability to perform chameleon acts from time to time and transform into French toast or a “diet” food (although bialys are what I call “bitch bagels”) are all traits that make me swoon. They’re dangerous and live on the edge, but my body’s willing to take those chances.
As a kid, I was spoiled with the amount of carb-friendly options that was in a two-mile radius. All the townies and high schoolers flocked to Bagel Town, while my family usually stuck with Heavenly Bagels. Bagel Town was a good back-up plan for lunch during senior year since it was literally down the block from school. It didn’t do much for my bready belly to eat ‘em so often, but how could I resist the consistent coo of their honey whole wheat bagel with peanut butter? Heavenly Bagels was more my flow, though. Sure, the lines on weekend days stretched around the strip mall and the inners of the deli were full of soccer moms who wore neon green snug velour jumpsuits unironically. But the proud men behind the counters served a mean end product. Bagels that were meant to be shared around the family table were instead annihilated in the comforts of the front seat of your ride. In about six minutes flat, remnants of your perfectly toasted bagel with butter and empty bottles of Yoo Hoo littered your dashboard. Sounds like the ideal post-church-service morning to me.
There are, sadly, bad bagels that I’ve eaten and been emotionally crushed by. I’ve often eaten Thomas’ bagels during sleepovers at my girlfriends’ houses, and they were rarely satisfying. Pre-packaged bagels are for those who don’t feel like going to the deli or bakery and buying bagels baked with love. Although, I have to admit, they make for excellent bagel bases for the occasional drunken pizza bagel. I’m also guilty of committing my biggest bagel no-no in my past: digging out the inners of the bagel. I was a self-conscious kid who didn’t want to add on to my excess baby weight, but I eventually realized that one must never find loopholes to making a bagel healthy. They’re meant to be enjoyed to their fullest, yeast calories and all!
Nothing beats the unbeatable awfulness that is a Dunkin’ Donuts bagel. I only had DD’s bagels once in my life (during an impromptu road trip to Six Flags last Labor Day), and it was the one time my mom openly raged about food. The woman literally complained about how pathetic and bready and unfulfilling this bagel was for an entire day. Eating it might’ve been the biggest regret we’ve both made last year. Seriously, DD’s bagels are only good for feeding pigeons in Tompkins Square Park.
Right as I type this, I’m nightdreaming about my beloved. The hours are ticking down until I continue my quest to find the best bagel in Manhattan. I’ll see where my hungry travels lead me, but I know the breadcrumb path to bliss will be magical.
Spring is ALL ABOUT the ramps.
One of my favorite joints in this city filled with fancy feastin’, gourmet gastropubs, and excellent eateries is actually a diner. It’s nothing like the diners full of the elderly and college kids bingeing on cheese fries and pancakes in the middle of the night. This one diner specializes in the kind of Cuban food that forces your heart and soul to spontaneously perform the tango. Coppelia serves the traditional fare with a twist (Grilled Cheese with jalapeno, nachos with short ribs and Chihuahua cheese, burgers with chicharrones) and Latino staples (arroz con pollo, arepas, ropa vieja, chile relleno). Every single friend I raved to about my diner-away-from-home comes back to me with the same reaction: utter infatuation.
Coppelia loosely reminds me of a place I practically grew up with; the simply-titled, never-disappointing Dominican Restaurant in Uniondale, Long Island. Aimlessly wandering through side streets and shady parts of the ‘burbs housewives keep on the DL to reach the unassuming destination makes you question why you’re putting this much effort in to eating a mofongo. When the arousing aromas of pork skin and fried cassava assault your nasal cavities upon entrance, though, you’re reminded of why you took the food pilgrimage in the first place.
My parents wanted me and my brother to squeeze as much culture as possible in our tiny bodies. Doing that was a little difficult when you live in the archetypal suburban town, but we made do. Dad dragged us to glitzy Broadway musicals (Jon loved them more than me, but we share a mutual hatred for Bombay Dreams and Ghost). Meanwhile, mom would drive us to Little India to take in the spice-filled aromas and eat some authentic curry and naan. It was magnificent to expand our cultural horizons at such a young ago, but I was more curious about learning more about my Latino background. Nana will always be ashamed to be a Puerto Rican, so she was the last person I could rely on to learn about my heritage. The next best option was to literally shovel culture into my face and down my stomach.
Dominican Restaurant may have been no-frills, but their always-crowded dining room and deceivingly-simple dishes made their appearance a nonentity. There was always a fight of the fittest (or hungriest) to get the last remaining parking spot in their shady lot, but we usually ended up triumphant. When we got in and claimed our prized booth, I spent precious time gawking at the menu and feeling so overwhelmed at all the colorful scrumptious selections.
Fortunately Mom and Dad were good tour guides for my taste buds. To begin the expedition to my gut, they eased me into the aural sensations to come my way and ordered me familiar food with a twist. Roasted pork never tasted so juicy, and Goya had nothing on Dominican’s rice & beans. Maduros and tostones with garlic sauce were gateways to the magical power of plantains – they seriously are delectable in every form. I never got used to washing it all down with a glass of Malta, but a mango shake always did a girl right.
Sometimes it’s hard to find food that’s a combination of cheap, satisfying, and reminds you of home. Eating piles of pork at Coppelia brings me back to the days when I would stuff myself with Dominican’s pernil immediately after dance recitals. The dish may have clogged my arteries a little bit and destroyed my high school figure, but it was always worth it.
I’m holing up in the apartment to write some posts this weekend. In the meantime, some amusement for your Friday morning (or at least mine).
Ever since I started my weight loss journey in late 2011, I’ve made a subconscious list of foods I should avoid most of the time. Cheese (AKA my most beloved food group) tragically had to go on the short list. Bouts of cheese tasting, cheese cave tours, and Liz Lemon night cheesing had to take a back seat to my health. I’m not super strict with my diet, though, and I’m totally okay with indulging once in a while. With their ass-smacking new brunch menu, Murray’s Cheese Bar (264 Bleecker St) gave me the perfect opportunity to do so.
I managed to win a spot in the restaurant’s preview brunch (being glued to Twitter has its perks), so I decided that my coworker Nalini would be the perfect person to join me in my carb-heavy pig-out. We knew that we had to go balls-to-the-wall with this brunch, since Nalini has only been to a proper brunch once in her short life. Their menu taunted me – how could I possibly fit a brunch burger, breakfast melt with melted fontina, and a chocolate-fondue-topped French toast stuffed with cream cheese in my 5’6” frame?! Answer: it’s impossible. Ultimately, we both decided on ordering some of the more sinful items they’re offering – the Elvis French toast for her, the duck hash with a poached egg on top for me, and the cheesy grits to split.
We both literally almost sobbed at how good the food at Murray’s was. The melted cheese on top was still bubbling when the grits were delivered to our table, but the burn felt so good going down my throat. The side is essentially 75% cheese and 25% grits, which makes this a super-rich side option for a party of one. While Nalini was being serenaded by her personal Elvis (topped with sliced bananas; loaded with a generous heap of peanut butter, a dab of marshmallow fluff, and super-thick strips of Nueske’s bacon; served with a side of sugary sweet maple syrup), I was trying to put a ring on my duck hash. Every single mouthful was full of juicy smoked duck, crispy roasted potatoes, egg yolk drippings, and hints of onion. Nothing tastes more perfect than a forkful of tender loving duck. The hash tasted even better on a nice slab of toast. The other piece of toast was reserved for a slab of homemade jam and subtly-salted butter.
Fortunately the world doesn’t have to wait much longer for Murray’s Cheese Bar’s outstanding brunch; it begins tomorrow (February 23rd). I’ve already convinced a handful of cheesy people in my life to “brie” my brunch dates in the near future.