Monday, October 31, 2011

The Appeal of Peels

Peels is a hot new brunch spot on the New York scene, a spin-off of the popular Freeman's, that is an all-day diner featuring a Southern-style menu.  Biscuits. Grits. Fried chicken.  You know the drill.

The place is all abuzz among foodies online, so I expected the worst when I got a hankering for brunch on Saturday at 1p, but was pleasantly surprised with a minimal wait (~5 minutes) at the first floor bar.  Couples were given a 30 minute wait time and groups of 3+ were given 45 minutes.  Is it just me being jaded by New York to think that that is a decent wait time?  If waiting is not your thing, they also serve their brunch/lunch menu daily.  Options!  Lovely!

The whole scene is a brightly lit version of Freeman's, with rustic, country style woods and an entire whitewashed interior.  The brunch menu has a few specialties like shrimp and grits, poached eggs on biscuits with sausage gravy and the like.  A pretty framed box on the menu showcases their Build-a-Biscuit option which allows you to build any sort of biscuit sandwich concoction with a la carte fillings.  If you go wild, your sandwich can end up a little pricey, but I kept it low-key and real with just a couple of fixins.

Another charming menu is the Parker House rolls with housemade jam and Vermont butter.  You can see them on the top shelf freshly baked below.  They are toasted again prior to serving and look killer.  I watched three batches of biscuits being baked in their oven. It was definitely food porn.

While waiting for me entree, I couldn't resist ordering a cup of the hot cocoa served with homemade honey-vanilla marshmallow, and boy was it the right decision!

Just look at that velvety rich chocolatey pool - a beautiful fluff of marshmallow floating on top.  This was fine drinking chocolate - completely indulgent, drinkable and absolutely satisfying.  The marshmallow was perfection, oozing ribbons of vanilla into the hot drink.  I hate how early winter has come, but I love the excuse to drink more hot chocolate!

My Build-a-Biscuit was a vision to behold - impossibly tall with buttery, flaky biscuit bedecked with goooolden encrusted chicken  and yellow, scrambled egg.

 It's definitely one of those knife and fork type of sandwiches.

Man.  That first bite of chicken took me straight to crispy poultry heaven.  Amazingly crisp, well-salted and flavored and sooo moist!  Aaaaand, is it gross to say that the chicken tasted even better because there is skin still left on it?  And chicken skin is so delicious?  So delicious.  (Happy sigh).

I ended up eating half of the biscuit with the egg and chicken, and I managed to get a nice ramekin of housemade jelly in which to enjoy the other half.  The jelly was also on point - apple / strawberry - I honestly couldn't tell, but I managed to eat the whole thing :-/.  I would recommend you to do the same!

I'm pretty excited about the possibilities of Peels.  Or at least the fried chicken.  I wish I could just eat a whole bucket of it.  A life decree: more food should be served in buckets.

325 Bowery, NYC 10003
Peels on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Brunches ! Bondi Road & Westville

This is a quick post on a couple of brunches I have eaten.  I think you can see from the list of labels on the left that Diana and I are really good at eating brunches.  So here I am at what I do best!

Nick invited a few of his pals out one Saturday morning for an all you can drink brunch.  Boozy brunches are a popular past-time in NYC, with all you can drink ones topping the best.  If you are interested in brunches of drunkenness, this is a great link mapping the different places all around town.  Nick's spot of choice was Bondi Road, the sister restaurant to Sunburnt Cow, another hella-popular AYCD brunchery.  I decided not to drink that day, saving myself for the nightly festivities, to which Nick responded articulately:

"I hope you like mediocre food."

And that, ladies and gentleman, is exactly what Bondi Road offers in addition to its bottomless alcoholic beverages.

These pancakes were weird, bready and not at all appetizing.

If you can see it, it is basically bread wrapped in a tortilla type crust.  Like. What? 

You definitely need to get wasted to enjoy the food here, but the drinks were merry and full at least. 

The boozy bunch at brunch.

Westville Chelsea

On another occasion, I met up with Tanuja for a lovely brunch at Westville Chelsea.  I have always wanted to eat here because of the hanging wooden sign showcasing the special vegetables of the day outside the restaurant, and the bright, sun-lit restaurant space.  The Chelsea location was no exception - a charming, adorably cute spot.

We all nabbed the egg scramble plate with choice of three omelet fillings, choice of bread and choice of salad or potato hash.  I filled mine with fresh mozzarella, scallions and bacon, and lemme tell ya - tasty ol' combination, if I do say so myself!

Salad or potatoes?  Uhm.  Duh.  Potatoes.  The hash was a creamy mix of vegetables, like orangey slivers of carrots and peppers and awesomeness, all wrapped up in tators.  The texture is a bit interesting, but the flavor was rich and strangely addicting.

Intrigued by the option of Portuguese muffin, I just had to have it.  Breadier and slightly sweeter than an English muffin, the Portuguese one is definitely a winner.  Charred and crisp on the exterior - lovely carb option for the breakfast meal.

I find myself craving Westville more and more lately.  It's a simple brunch, well executed with bright fresh flavors.

Bondi Road
153 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002

Bondi Road on Urbanspoon

Westville, multiple locations
246 W18th Street, New York, NY 10011
Between 7th & 8th Avenue
Phone: 212-924-2223, 212-924-2201

Westville Chelsea on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lucali ! Brooklyn Farmacy ! A Brooklyn Pizza & Ice Cream Kind of Night

Before Nick left to move to California, I met him and his boy_friend at Lucali in Carroll Gardens.  

I had always wanted to eat at Lucali because:

1) it was momentarily shut down because
2) its owner was stabbed !
3) by a mob associate !
4) over a woman !

Yeah.  Legit Sopranos sheeeyit, son!
And also because Nick proclaimed Lucali as one of the best pizza places in NYC.  That's big claims.

The small place already had a short wait around 6:30p, but we nabbed a center table in due time.  It also helped that I showed up late so I waited less. (Score!)

Topping options are limited here to a handful of items listed on the chalkboard outside the restaurant.  On the day we went, the choices included salami (?), basil, onions, garlic and pepper.  We ordered up a couple of huge pies because it was Nick's Brooklyn pizza bon voyage, and we had to do it big.

I loooooved the abundance of fresh basil on both of our pies.  This one just had the meat + basil.

Thinny minny!
This one had garlic and onions and stuff.  And more basil.  Because I am hooked like that.

I enjoyed the freshness of the ingredients and the crispiness of the pizza.  The sauce was solid.  The cheese was solid.  I might rank Lucali in my top 5 pizza places, but I think I still have a lot more pizza to eat before I make such bold claims myself.  I just wish Lucali had more meat options?  But maybe that is pizza blasphemy, and I just don't know it.  I do know some spicy sausage woulda been awesome on these pies though.  Just sayin'.

Afterwards, we strolled to the nearby Brooklyn Farmacy to grab some dizzzzert for a little nightcap.

The Farmacy is all about soda jerkin' (love their sweet aprons adorned with JERK in tall serifed letters) - making sodas by hand (including egg creams) and crafting lovely ice cream sundaes to oodles of sweaty patrons.

Their shelves are stocked with local vendor wares from jams to artisan chocolates to sauces and more.  It's a great one stop shop for made-in-Brooklyn goodness.

I like cute signs like this.  Chalk. Boards. Cute.
Nick ordered the Sundae of Broken Dreams featuring vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, broken pretzel rods and a healthy mound of fresh whipped cream.

Here's a shot of Nick looking adoringly at the sundae.  It was love at first bite.

I ordered the black and white shake after seeing throngs of people leaving the space with these heavily hot fudged cups of creaminess.

As you would expect, hot fudge + vanilla = duh.lish.shake.  There are some other interesting sundae options on the menu though that I wouldn't mind trying including the Red Twinkle Split which includes a red velvet twinkie (?!) alongside three scoops of ice cream.  Yeah.  I know.  I'll get on that soon.

Good job on this night, Carroll Gardens.  You have some good eats!

575 Henry St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Lucali on Urbanspoon

Brooklyn Farmacy
513 Henry St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Brooklyn Farmacy on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Plano ! Densetsu, Sushi in the Suburbs!

Surrounded by so many great restaurants in New York, I forget that my little hometown in Texas could have tasty food too...especially when it's located in a suburban strip mall near Wal-mart in Plano.

Densetsu is an absolute Japanese gem with clean, simple decor and bonafide Japanese chefs behind the bar. Their leather bound menu features two glorious pages of seaweed wrapped, soy paper wrapped, and tempura battered and fried (yeah, I said it!) sushi roll options, offering something for everyone, both cooked and raw fish eaters alike. 


We ordered three rolls to share, which might seem like a paltry amount for two, but these rolls were definitely quite immense and filling.

The golden special roll is a lightly battered, deep fried spicy tuna, crab, avocado roll served with house special sauce. I've had deep fried rolls before at Asian Mint in Dallas, but where theirs is craggy and thick with batter, Densetsu's is light but sufficiently crisp--delightful!

The dynamite roll is a California roll topped with creamy scallop, baby lobster (read: crawfish) and mushrooms, served with eel sauce.  Served in a bowl, this dish was messy to the max, smothered with thick cream and the tiniest bits of scallop; the sauce soaked completely through each roll which melted in your mouth, if you could ever get it out of the plate without completely destroying it. 

Densetmu might need to consider serving this dish with a spoon to help scoop the pieces out.  Messy or not, it was delicious and worth the extra effort.

The crispy rice spicy tuna roll was constructed of a crisped cube of rice topped with spicy tuna, avocado and a thin slice of jalapeno, perched in a pool of the house special sauce.  The roll was not greasy, and the jalapeno gave it a perfect spicy kick.

I do declare that this sushi order was pretty perfect in terms of flavors, styles and amount.  I love sushi rolls, so any place that demonstrates a bit of creativity has my complete heart, and stomach.

And of course, if you give me complimentary orange slices post-meal...well then you have me for life.

Densetsu, I am excited to have you in my hometown neighborhood! This place is a must-eat for anyone dying for some fun and delicious sushi in dear old Plano.

4152 W Spring Creek Pkwy
Ste 176

Plano, TX 75024
Densetsu Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Texas State Fair !

Long overdue greetings !  I've been in Texas !  And doing things like eating at...

The Texas State Fair!

Last year, Diana and I went and gorged ourselves on many a fried delight there.  This year, Carrie and I reveled in much of the same, so this post combines both this year and last year's eats, showcasing the many fried wonders available at the biggest state fair in the country (I am so proud!). 

Last year's winner of the best taste competition was fried frito pie, and it was indeed my favorite then, and I must say I still feel the same today (I mean it - I ate it twice this year!).

Each bite sized bundle of chili goodness is dipped in a batter of ground Fritos and deep-fried.  It tastes exactly like a Frito pie should, comforting, salty, crunchy and just plain delicious.  The serving size is not nearly big enough - I could eat buckets.

The fried lemonade, huge fluffy fried spheres served in a plastic cup and drizzled with a tart but sweet lemony glaze, was my surprise second favorite dish.

Moist and soft, fried lemonade essentially tastes like a "good lemony doughnut," as described by Carrie, and is refreshing among the other heavier, rich fried wares at the fair.  This treat is a good "in-between snacks" snack, because you must snack continually when you attend the fair.

Consistent crowd favorite, and true fair tradition, Fletcher's corny dogs.  Solid.  Diana's is the perfectly drizzled one at the right.  

Carrie's eyes lit up at the prospect of fried mac 'n cheese at one of the stands.  We asked the booth representative whether it was worth it, to which she replied, "Oh, it good," and her voice dropped in just the right spot of good, sp we knew she meant it, and we knew we had to have it.

It was good.  Crispy, not oily and full of pure melted cheesy goodness.  Ultimate comfort food.  You can see Carrie's relaxed flip flops in the background there - see how comfortable she felt while eating?

After seeing such an assortment of fantastic fried foods so far, you might be inclined to say, "Anything fried is good, Han!," but let's just pause at the moment Diana and I realized that was not true...
...the moment we decided to order fried beer.

Fried beer turned out to be cold, crinkly edged ravioli blobs filled with an oily beer liquid.  The whole thing tasted terrible - rancid and gross.  We shared the remaining pieces with some strangers nearby, to which they said, "Man, I like beer, but this is disgusting." 

So let's go back to things that should be fried!  A new item this year from the Crispies booth in the Midway was fried cakeballs!

Three large puffs to an order, the cakeballs came with option of vanilla or chocolate, but in our haste, we forgot to specify and were given three vanilla cakeballs.
As you might imagine, this one was solid, sufficiently sweet and moist from the mixed icing-cake interior.  Carrie called it quits at one, since we were reaching sugary overload, so I took one for the team and polished off the other two.  Sometimes, you do what you gotta do!

Last year, Diana ate these fried chocolate balls, but man, I cannot remember what the name was - hopefully Diana can jog my memory.  The grape in the center just throws me off, but otherwise I am pretty sure it was beyond decadent.  The fried cookie dough is a much better option if you're looking for a semi-chocolatey goo to hit the sweet spot.

I think Diana's other favorite from last year was the fried peaches 'n cream from the Food Court pavilion. Firm but fleshy peaches are coated in a golden brown batter, dusted in powdered sugar and served alongside more peaches. 

The combination of the cinnamony vanilla sauce with the crunch of the hot peaches is a match made in fried food heaven. 

This entire post makes my heart hurt a little, but it's all good fun since it is just once a year, right?  Yeehaw! :)