Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies @ Birdbath Bakery

I didn't really mean to buy these, but I keep walking by them on 1st Ave on my way to Xian, and finally, I had an excuse...I mean, when one has a flight, one needs to pack proper snacks right?

Introducing Birdbath Bakery, self-described as a neighborhood green bakery and brought to us by the City Bakery - home of the super thick but super popular hot chocolate.  Why are they green?  Well their walls are made of wheat, cups made of corn, and counters and shelves made of recycled paper.  With reclaimed wooden floors, they are legit!

I stepped inside, scanned the adorable stacks of cookies (cookies look so much more scrumptious in stacks, don't they?) and selected two.  When I got home, my bag was already slightly seeped with oil!  (Gross?  Or the sure sign of tell me!)

The quintessential chocolate chip:

It's quite a sturdy cookie, with a thick, crunchy exterior and very chewy interior that is satisfying but surprisingly not that sweet!  One could eat that whole round and not feel the slightest bit sick.  How's that for a food description? Ha!

The other cookie I nabbed was the double chocolate chip, polar opposites with the chocolate chip in both appearance and in texture.  While the former was sturdy and strong, this one was all sorts of fragile and crumbly, as you can tell by the surface cracks in the picture below.

And wouldn't you know it?  I like my cookies vulnerable!  (What does that say about me...I don't even know. Muahaha.)  This crumbly little chocolate mess was delicious!  Extra crunchy (yet still chewy!), extra buttery and the white chocolate chips added the right bit of sweetness.  It was immediately addictive.  I could've eaten the whole thing in one second.  

Birdbath, you are doing the environment and my stomach good!

223 1st Ave, NYC
Birdbath Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Atlanta Part 1! Breakfast & Lunch: Ria's Bluebird & Rosebud

Note: This trip took place in February - so sorry for the delay! Diana and I have just been eating at too fast a pace to keep up!  We will be posting the favorite parts of our trip pieces at a time.  Here's the first, which is dedicated to our blogger pal Sara, a current ATL homegirl.

Diana, Carrie and I were looking for a quick weekend trip together, and Atlanta seemed just the place.  Although it is pretty central to our three locations, and though we may have been swayed too heavily by a donut place we had espied on Bakerella's blog, we quickly learned there were other fantastic eats and sights to experience also that made it the perfect destination spot.

Ria's Bluebird was among them, noted in NYTimes fun 36 hours article series as the best pancakes in the world.  Now that is something we all had to validate.

Ria's is notorious for long waits in the morning, so we made sure to arrive right when it opened.  Within moments, the place completely filled up, and there was already a wait outside the door.

We ordered immediately, and before we knew it, we were staring down three beautiful dishes to share!

The pancake special of the day: orange zest pancakes with Nutella whipped cream

The spongey pancakes were bright and full of citrusy flavor.

Like, almost too much citrus.  There were huge chunks of orange zest that became borderline bitter the more you ate it.  Wish they had also given more of the Nutella cream on the side because it quickly melted into the pancakes and did not provide much flavor otherwise.

We also ordered a plate of the regular menu pancakes with the works: Georgia pecans + caramelized bananas.  Caramelized bananas are some of my most favoritest things.

The syrup-drenched pancakes were just as spongey yet springy as the orange zested ones, with nice hot pecans tucked within the layers.  With the sweetened soft bananas, the pancakes were pretty good but not quite the best in the whole world in my opinion (but you know I love my pancakes thick and fluffy!).

With sweets, we always have to order a savory, so we opted for the today's omelet which comes with choice of three potato options, choice of meat and bread.  We love choices!  

Hello sweet potato cake.  You are basically a griddled mound of mashed sweet potatoes, and we like you!

The omelet was good also with tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella.  Melted, fresh mozzarella is always a delight.

Diana enjoyed the buttery, crumby biscuit with the apple preserves on the table.

After, we walked off our carbolicious breakfast by experiencing the wonders of the Georgia Aquarium.  I know Diana agrees that the Georgia Aquarium has definitely ruined all other aquariums for us.  The GIANT tanks of different sea creatures swimming in perfect harmony is truly a breathtaking sight to behold.

A few hours of marveling at adorable sea otters and crazy jellyfish later, we had worked up enough of an appetite to tackle our second breakfast/brunch at Rosebud, a gem of a spot featuring local and regional ingredients through a seasonal, Southern-inspired menu.

On Friday, while waiting for my delayed vacation-mates, I burned time by sampling Rosebud's Big Nasty sandwich (apologies for the photo quality - this was pre-S95).

Fried chicken + scrambled eggs + thick cut, smoky bacon + fried chicken breast patty
Can I tell you - this has to be one of my most favorite sandwiches of all time.  It is SO good.  Sure, as I was eating it, my heart started beating so fast that I thought I was going to have a coronary, but I think it's because I was so overwhelmed with how delicious it was.  All the textures (crispy! chewy! soft! meaty!) and the flavors (buttery! smoky! savory!).  My brain could not keep up.  Good thing my mouth could - I chowed this sucker down good!

So seeing how good this was, I was excited to return again with Diana + Carrie to try more eats!

We ordered the springer mountain chicken because I was so impressed with the juicy flavor of the patty in the Big Nasty.  The plate came with huge, fat strands of crisp green beans, mashed taters and coleslaw.  Everything was totally solid.

Crab cake benedict came with their ever so lovely crispy potatoes.  

The crabcake was good, but not too memorable.  What I do remember is how much I enjoyed those potatoes: the seasoning...the crispy edges...they should be poster child for how all breakfast potatoes should be!

Fried oysters and grits with bacon, chicken gravy and a perfectly poached egg

Poached eggs are a beautiful thing, aren't they?  So are fried oysters when they are done just right - which these were, nice and plump with a thick cruncy coating.  I think Diana liked this dish best (but maybe she will correct me :D).

While I was scarfing down the Big Nasty, I had obsessively stared at the chalkboard menu with all of the desserts listed (I can be so creepy).  So naturally, with two best galpals in tow, it was time to sample some!

The Mexican Coca-Cola chocolate cake + Rosebud sundae!

This Rosebud sundae was so money.  It came with scoops of vanilla + chocolate ice cream, peanut butter(!!), and mounds of caramelized rice krispies.

So. Money.  Like, I don't even really use that phrase, but it just feels right here.  All sundaes should have caramelized krispies on them. And peanut butter. Swoooon.

This Mexican chocolate cake was such a surprise delight also.

It was so moist, soft and tender.  I think Carrie was confused about the Mexican component (thinking maybe it should be spicy / cinnamony), but since the Mexican name is prolly derived from the cane sugar version of Coke, this cake did not have any of those desired flavors.  But!  If this cake had cinnamon in it, I would suspect this dessert could be super money also. Ha! (I'm serious though.)

Ria's and Rosebud - thanks for such a warm and tasty welcome to the city!

421 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta, GA 30312
Ria's Bluebird on Urbanspoon

1397 north highland avenue, atlanta, georgia 30306
Rosebud on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recipe for a Friday Party: Otafuku Takoyaki and Wafels & Dinges !

The other day Thanan was mad craving some ambiguous octopus balls from the St. Marks area.  Having him describe it convinced me even less that I would want to eat it: "the balls are filled with octopus and mayonnaise and fried."  Huh. What.  

After agreeing to check out the place recently, I am happy to say that Thanan has a bad memory and the balls are not filled with mayonnaise at all!  (Phew!)  The balls appear to be made only of takoyaki flour, green onion, octopus bits, water and egg.

Otafuku specializes in three key things: takoyaki, okonomiyaki and yakisoba.  Typically fare at a Japanese street market, it is a treat to be able to eat in the city!

You can order them individually or as a combo plate.  We got combo plates of the takoyaki + yakisoba.

The kitchen.  The taoyoki are made in a pan that resembles an ebelskiver pan.  Recipe for all of their products are available on their website with super cute diagrams.  Takoyaki recipe here.
The place is tiny tiny, like a walk-in closet where you place your order at the register, then you wait outside until they call your number, come back inside to watch them finish off the takoyaki with healthy sprinklings of dried bonito flakes, green seaweed and takoyaki sauce. and then take your food back outside to eat.  They do ask if you want mayonnaise (which may be where Thanan was confused), so I quickly opted no. (Close one!)

We snagged two fortunate seats on the bench outside and chowed down!  The $9 meal was hefty with six fat takoyaki globs and a lovely pile of soba stirfry.

It's essential to eat the takoyaki while it's piping hot, so I tackled those first.

The takoyaki smelled strongly of octopus, but upon biting into the soft spheres, all I could taste was a strangely smooth paste.  Eventually I found some octopus chunks (I wish there were more) which I cheerfully chewed on.  

As I polished one off and licked my lips to gather the takoyaki sauce and the crisp bonito flakes, I looked at Thanan and said, "These are tasty!"  

He didn't care.  He had already eaten all six by the time I started on my third one.  Menace.

The takoyaki were almost too tasty - so savory and flavorful from the sauce, that I rotated polishing off a ball with eating several strands of soba which were much more mild in flavor and solidly chewy.  The yakisoba will never be in the starring role though and should remain in the supporting cast.

After, we walked to the Astor Place stop and grabbed a liege wafel from the Wafels & Dinges stand.  My eyes were drawn to the Specials board with the words "Peanut Butter" scrawled on it.  Love. Peanut. Butter.

I'm usually a Brussels wafel fan, but this liege was actually good - lighter than the first I have had from them.  But maybe I didn't care at all.  There was a thick layer of peanut butter topped with melty chocolate all over it and fat walnuts that added crunch; I coulda eaten cardboard and been so happy.

Octopus balls + wafels?  Proper fuel to kick off any weekend!

236 East 9th Street New York, NY 10003-7503 
Otafuku on Urbanspoon

Astor Place, Fridays
Offers Liege wafels only
Wafels & Dinges on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Williamsburg Brooklyn Flea contd: Dough ! Table Tales Sunday Gravy ! Social Eatz!

On Sunday, I walked to the Brooklyn Flea (a new part of the lazy Sunday routine) and promised myself (for you) to try new things, which is sooo hard because every part of me just wants to eat a Porchetta roll, drink some watermelon juice and call it a day.

But that would be so boring for you, and we can't have that!

My new goal is to spend only $20 each visit to limit myself (my eyes are always bigger than my stomach) and to pace myself for visits to come.

Here's the rundown for this visit: 

1. Luckyrice / Social Eatz - a featured vendor for the week with Angelo from Top Chef (totally adorbs!) showcasing a couple of dishes from his newish Midtown restaurant.  He was dishing up beautiful tomato curry soup ($2) and Korean beef tacos ($3).  

I opted for the Korean taco which had a nice heaping serving of marinated bulgogi.  

The meat was a lot darker than I am used to seeing for bulgogi, and I was worried that it would potentially be dry, but it was sufficiently moist and nicely flavored.  With the crisp fresh julienned vegetables, the taco was a bright, solid snack for a mere three bux!

2. Next stop, my most anticipated new vendor (who I couldn't find the first week of the Willyburg Flea), was Dough, a popular doughnut spot in Bed-Stuy.  The popularity is evident by the patient hipsters lined up to eat their wares at 1pm.

A long line means that at least you will be able to carefully decide the flavors you want to try from their beautiful, portable doughnut display case.  Each donut costs $2 a pop; they are gigantic so totally worth the dough - aah puns! Love them!

Glossy and beautifully iced.
So many options!
Serious Eats identified Dough as having the best doughnut holes.  You'd be happy to see that you can try them here, 4 for a $1.

Coated with cinnamon and sugar.
Soft, crispy and warmly coated in sweetness and spice.
I had a hard time selecting flavors when it came to be my turn (times like this is when I wish Diana lived in the same city as me!), so I ended up with three big fatties:

Dulce de leche topped with toasted sliced almonds.

The toasted almonds were the best!

While Serious Eats notes that Dough's doughnuts are too dense and dough-y, I rather liked it!  Yes, it's a heavy doughnut, but the filling is so soft and pillowy (I want to smother my face in it) which pairs nicely with my favorite part of the doughnut: the crispy fried exterior.  If you look carefully at the picture below, you can see the line of grease along the perimeter penetrating the pure white of the inside.  That my friend, is serious deliciousness.  Because it is so big, you could totally be satisfied with just eating one doughnut, but that is pretty boring.

Let's move on.

Blood orange with slivers of candied blood orange.  The flavors were so remarkably citrusy, bright and refreshing.  With the blue skies and sun overhead, it was the perfect doughnut to mark the emerging spring.

Chocolate with Earl Grey did not fare well in my paper sack (ick, I know) but it all looks the same in my stomach, right?  Could not taste any hint of Earl Grey, but the chocolatey icing was spot on - rich, sweet and satisfying.  

Three donuts and a Korean taco later, I was still trekking on.  I still had $7 to burn and a small spot in my stomach for something savory.

I tried a sample of Flour City Pasta's goods (a cooked medley tossed in olive oil and sprinkled ever so slightly with salt and pepper to let the pasta speak for itself).  I was told the grains are locally sourced in Ithaca and ground upstate to produce this organic pasta.  I couldn't really taste anything particularly distinctive with their pasta, but it's always nice to support the locavore movement.

3. My nose ended up selecting the final spot for my last $7: Table Tales' Sunday Gravy.  I know, Sunday Gravy is a weird name that Diana and I had to get over in Boston (and ended up adoring), and it appears to be similar here: slow braised pork, beef, sausage, and san marzano tomatoes; with those ingredients, what's not to like!  This weekend, they were serving the Sunday Gravy over imported garafalo macaroni.  

It smelled amazing. You will have to order it.

Dishing the thick Sunday gravy over freshly cooked macaroni. 
What?  You want a closer look at the Sunday Gravy?  By all means, stick your face in this lovely red sauce!

Grated cheese?  Uhm. Duh. Please. Yes. Buckets.
I was so excited to dig into this, I love fusilli (it has the word silly in it!) pasta and the sauce was so rich and thick and beautiful and meaty.  All my favorite words in life.

Uhm. Total love / bliss at first bite.  Every bit as flavorful as it looks: hearty, sweet, savory, and I even found a thin slice of super-fennelly sausage that I particularly enjoyed.  They sell the gravy by the pints which I might consider since I could've eaten a punchbowl of this.  What a wonderful new option at the Brooklyn Flea!

One hour later, I took my first swim class, and I am not sure if it's because of my overall nervousness in learning how to swim or the 5000 calories I consumed for lunch, but I sank like a rock.  Maybe I will stick to something lighter next time (or just eat a little earlier) :D.

Till next time!
27 N 6th St
Williamsburg, NY

*Note: for those of you doing the math, $3 is unaccounted for...the watermelon juice was so refreshing :)