Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Han + Diana Northwest Trip: Seattle's Pike Place Market

On Friday morning, Han and I braved the chilly weather and headed to Pike Place Market. The market was my absolute favorite Seattle spot! Yes, it's a tourist magnet, but this is one tourist magnet that I would go to over and over and over again. It's got all the standard farmers' market selections, plus a lot more.

I especially loved all the flower shops in the market, all selling beautiful bouquets of my new favorite flower: dahlias.

And super affordable - this bouquet sold for just $5!

There's also, of course, a ton of fresh seafood:

But okay, it's time to tell you about all the food we inhaled. Our first stop at the market was the famous Piroshky, Piroshky, specializing in Russian pastries. It all smelled and looked amazing.

Han and I decided on one pasty each, because we knew there was a lot more ground we had to cover. Han picked the cheese & onion roll, which the cashier said was the most popular.

It looked gorgeous (hellooooo burnt cheese), but we both thought that it was too dense and actually kind of bland.

I went with the potato & onion piroshky, which was carbtastic.

I loved the inside - the slivers of potato and green onions were delicious. Overall, while these pastries were tasty, I didn't think they lived up to the hype. But that doesn't mean we won't be trying more pastries at Piroshky Piroshky next time! I look forward to it.

We then continued walking around intending to hit up the next spot on our itinerary, when we spotted this:

Zeppole and bambaloni (Tunisian beignets) at Michou.

Clearly, we got distracted and had to order a bambaloni. Could you have resisted the words, 'Tunisian beignet?' No, I didn't think so.

It's just what it looks like - fried dough covered in sugar. Sadly, it was also a little stale.

Back on track, we headed to Daily Dozen Donut Company for our fill of mini-donuts.

Hipsters serving us food = theme of the trip.

We tried three flavors: chocolate sprinkles, powdered sugar, and cinnamon sugar.

All there flavors were pretty good, but these donuts were definitely not as fresh and delicious as the famous mini-donuts of Soulard Farmers Market. (*nostalgic sigh*)

It's hard to believe that after Russian pastries, a bambaloni, and donuts, we weren't quite finished with breakfast! Our last breakfast stop of the day was also my favorite: The Crumpet Shop!

This adooooorable little shop serves hot and fresh crumpets all kinds of ways.

I don't think I'd ever had a crumpet before, so the nice lady behind the counter gave us a crumpet tutorial. She has such a sweet smile!

While we waited for our crumpets, we took note of the crumpet man in the crumpet-making space - ie, where the magic happens.

We ordered some hot tea and a couple of crumpets: Han got the green eggs & ham crumpet, and I got a crumpet with cream cheese and homemade raspberry preserves.

Close-up of green eggs & ham:

Han enjoyed this, but I think she would have preferred that the egg not be cooked in the microwave.

My crumpet:

There really are no words. This might even be my favorite thing that I ate on the whole trip. The shop was incredibly generous with the cream cheese and preserves, for which my stomach is very thankful. And the crumpet itself... oh my *lord*. I loved the sponginess. The crumpet tasted pleasantly yeasty, and the bottom was just so slightly crispy. I definitely experienced 5 minutes of heaven. I would fly to Seattle just to go to The Crumpet Shop.

And there you have it, our marathon of a breakfast now complete. The rest of the day to come soon. In the meantime, have a happy and feastful Thanksgiving!

Piroshky, Piroshky
1908 Pike Pl
Seattle, WA 98101

Michou at the Market
1904 Pike Pl
Seattle, WA 98101

Daily Dozen Doughnut Company

93 Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98101

The Crumpet Shop

1503 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Slammin' ramen: Totto & Minca

After eating Ippudo three times in a matter of days, I had unfortunately "ramened" myself out for a solid three months.  Just the mere mention of ramen made my stomach churn despite how delicious Ippudo really is.

Japanese ramen houses are aplenty here in NYC though, and new ones keep popping up by the day.  One of the more recent additions is Totto, so Thanan and I decided to check it out after I was finally ready to ramen again:

Totto Ramen is a tiny sliver of a ramen shop with a handful of seats at the bar and a few tables in the back.  Totto is the newest addition to Ryuichi “Bobby” Munekata's restaurant empire which includes Yakitori Totto's (which I have been meaning to try for some time).

Thanan and I sat at the bar and had a great view of how all the plates were made, including how each piece of pork was hand blow-torched, my new most-desired occupation in life.

Totto Extreme Spicy Ramen - featuring nine chili peppers on the menu.  Luckily, they serve the super spicy chili oils on the side so you can self prescribe your fiery death.

Thanan and I both added an egg.  No brainer.

The ramen was a perfect texture and consistency.  The egg and char siu were spot on, but the thing we both liked best was the lighter, chicken broth featured here at Totto; it was far less salty than Ippudo's thick, pork soup base, making Totto a  great alternative for when you want ramen with a smaller chance of hypertension. With this visit, Totto immediately leapt onto Thanan and my favorite ramen spots in the city.
A couple months later, after a couple of our friends repeatedly lauded a new ramen favorite in their hearts, Thanan and I found ourselves at Minca in the East Village.  Its sign cites the spot as a ramen factory.  I don't know if I've already made it apparent, but I just about love any restaurant that calls itself a factory.  There's just something deeply satisfying about imagining food in an industrial setting (but maybe that's just me).

Minca is also another tiny ramen shop, with the kitchen taking helm in the center of the place and a scattering of tables on the side and bar stools at the front.

Thanan ordered Tsukemen, which is a dipping-style sort of ramen.  Everything is plated apart, and you dip and eat as you please in the broth of your choice (salt & roast garlic, soy sauce flavored, pork and chicken combo broth, etc.).  Thanan thought this was okay, but was pretty underwhelmed.  I let him taste some of mine, and he had immediate food envy. Tsukemen is supposed to be pretty popular, but it just wasn't our cup of tea.

I heart ramen eggs so much.

Here's my giant bowl of spicy ramen.  Comes with the full works: nori, char siu, egg, mushrooms and a healthy spoonful of corn!

The broth was not as heavy as Ippudo nor as flavorful.  While Totto was light yet hearty, Minca's just tasted...ordinary.  I don't know what I was expecting, but after our friends' professed adoration and devotion to this spot, we felt like this should have been a lot more magical than it was.  It was good...but just not great.

And while eating my first slice of char siu, I realized I might be tired of fatty pork.  Just look at the inch rim on this sucker! That's all just me, overdosing heavily on pork belly of late though.  It tasted fine, and the fat was nice and velvety.
So far, my favorite ramen spots are Totto and Ippudo, but we hear that a third, Hide-chan may be even better, TBD this winter!

366 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019
Totto Ramen on Urbanspoon

536 East Fifth Street 
New York, NY
Minca on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Seattle Saturday Brunch! Cafe Campagne, Mighty O Donuts & Paseo

I am pretty excited today: (1) I am *almost* done with this intense  project so that means more time to blog again ! and (2) I get to talk about some great Seattle eats!

On Saturday, Diana and I returned to Pike Place Market (which Diana will tell you more about soon!) for our "appetizer" meal of the day @ Cafe Campagne, a cute little French eatery tucked in an alley away from the Market.

They are known for their "oeufs en meurette:  poached eggs served on garlic croutons with pearl onions, bacon and champignons in red wine-foie gras sauce with pommes frites."  The first time I read that description my stomach churned a bit, but I was also really intrigued, so we ordered one plate to share.

Oeufs en meurette, in their red crowning glory

Pommes frites!  Perfectly crisp and not greasy.  Diana and I had zero trouble polishing off the entire, overflowing plate of potato goodness.

This is what I call a sexy shot.
The ouefs were as decadent as the menu made them sound, but they were seriously delicious.  The thick garlic croutons made a unique and tasty base.  Diana loved the pearl onions (which I knew Greeshma woulda been all about too!), while I swooped in on all the fat rimmed bacon slivers (naturally).  We were glad we ordered just one plate to share as we could not imagine eating the whole thing ourselves.  Because where would be the room for dessert?

And dessert was to be had at our first key doughnut stop: Mighty-O!

Mighty-O appears on Diana and my life goal list of Bon Appetit's Top Best Donut Places in the Nation.  They are known for their vegan doughnuts: dairy- and egg-free, trans-fat and cholesterol-free.  Like what?

Mighty O interior, rockin' on a Saturday morning.  The place smelled of warm spices.

Diana and I ordered four doughnuts: grasshopper to the left (my favorite from the bunch), peanut butter chocolate to the right
Pumpkin to the left, nutty french toast to the right
And we went halfsies on the whole thing, o' course!
On Yelp, the nutty french toast is heralded the best, but Diana and I found this one the most disappointing of all.  It tastes nothing like french toast, and I wasn't a real fan of the sharp peanuts against the soft, light interior.  I can't really say what it tasted like.  A bit of a bummer all around.

Pumpkin interior.  Diana liked this one best I think.  It had a really light pumpkin flavor.  The texture of the doughnuts here are really great.  Just light and soft.

What is remarkable about Mighty-O is that Diana and I did not even know these doughnuts were vegan at the time.  You can't even tell.  The doughnuts tasted every bit as sweet and tasty as cholesterol-rich ones.  I wish we had more of these around Dallas; they'd be totally guilt-free!

After our breakfast(s), we checked out Gas Works park which is my favorite view of Seattle during our trip there.  It's just a neat little park with this great, aged industrial manufacturing type plant to one side and lots and lots of open fields overlooking a great view of the city.  I wish we had had more time to just linger there and loaf around.

But we didn't because nearly an hour had passed and we still hadn't eaten anything new!  We made a pitstop at Paseo before hopping on a train to Portland.

Paseo is tiny shop, as you can see from the overflowing, but patient, customers above, that specializes in Caribbean sandwiches.  The restaurant seats maybe a dozen people, so most customers opt to take their food to go and loiter around the area and eat their giant, meaty sandwiches.

I got the grilled pork since it was described as their original, legendary sandwich.  I only want to eat legendary sandwiches from now on.  It features a grilled pork loin, marinated in their namesake marinade and grilled over an open flame.
The sandwich was immense and SO. DELICIOUS.  The meat was tender, the pork  was citrusy and savory, sweetened by the caramelized onions and then immediately spiced by the jalapenos...the flavors were having a rave party in my mouth.  It was such a great combination and a great last meal in Seattle before we headed southward to Portland!

1600 Post Alley @ Pine
Seattle, WA 98202

Mighty O Donuts
2110 N 55th St
(between N Kenwood Pl & N Meridian Ave) 

6226 Seaview Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98103