Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Best Tasting Quiz Ever

Diana and I were recently contacted about one of the 10,000 doughnut pictures we've shared on this site.  Surprise, surprise, our photo was used as part of a doughnut quiz on Tasting Table.  Charming!  We could not be more honored to be part of such an important, All-American test.

See how you can do !


Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Taste of Super Taste Hand-Pulled Noodles

It feels like it's been awhile since I've had a cheap Chinatown meal, so a reunion was inevitable today,  a particularly chilly day, which set the stage perfectly for a steamy bowl of hand-pulled noodles.

My tried and true is Lam Zhou (see previous posts here and here), but I decided to branch out today to sample other hand-pulled shops (a new search for the best? Mayhaps!) in the area, beginning with Super Taste.

Super Taste is just as small as Lam Zhou, but the menu is quite more varied, including the option of knife cut or hand-pulled noodles (I am wanting to try the knife cut ones next), as well as more protein and spicy broth options.  As much as I really wanted to try Mount Qi noodles, I could not ignore the siren's call of #6, the roast duck.

I have ordered roast duck at Lam Zhou before, and it came as a bowl of bones with zero meat.  Severely disappointing.  But that is not the case at Super Taste, where the plastic bowl was filled to the brim with noodles, broth, and several succulent chunks of roast duckaliciousness.

The bowl basically steamed non-stop during the entire time I slurped each noodle down - hey, complimentary beef-infused facials with every bowl!

While the noodles are fairly comparable to Lam Zhou, I do find them just a touch less chewy and the broth also lacking as much depth, with slight hints of star anise but not much else.  I did like the use of spinach versus bok choy here, and the duck had the perfect level of thick skin to meat ratio.

While I definitely appreciate the variety of noodles here, including the option of including dumplings in the soup (dumplings at all these handpulled noodle shops are my favorite), I have a funny feeling there is still better yet, but this makes a solid option in the meantime.

Super Taste
26 Eldridge
New York, NY
Super Taste Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Cardinal: Divine Fried Chicken

Some time ago, I met comrade and fellow food explorer FoodandPants at an unassuming little spot on 4th and Ave B called The Cardinal.  The dark-wooded interior was casual and warm, lit only by candlelight and the smiles from the friendly servers (ha, I am so cheesy).  

We ordered a gluttony of different southern meats like fried catfish, fried chicken, saucy ribs and homemade hot links. While the catfish was fresh, lightly battered with the right touch of cornmeal crunch, the ribs rightly tangy and tender, the sausage slightly spiced and meaty, the true star was indeed the fried chicken.

My mouth immediately watered with the harmonious sound of my knife and fork sinking into the thin, crunchy chicken shell, my eager eyes caught the glisten of the juicy chicken within, and with my first bite, my heart felt finally at peace:

This was superb fried chicken.  

My smile grew wider with each bite (by the last bite, you could probably see all of my teeth).  So flavorful!  So juicy! So crispy! So good!  The Cardinal definitely tops my list of the finer fried chickens New York has to offer, and while my search will still continue (as poultry passion is a neverending pursuit), I feel very comfortable knowing there is great fried chicken in our dear city, and I have found it thanks to Mr. FaP (read his lovely write-up here).

What is great about The Cardinal is that their sides are equally notable.  For each meat we ordered, there was a friendly side companion which included blackeyed peas and candied yams (topped with an amazing blob of toasted marshmallow).

I loved these candied yams.  I am a super-sucker for a great toasted marshmallow, but add that to brilliantly light, spiced yams, and I am in heaven.  

The mashed potatoes were also creamy and light, and most importantly, reminded me of how my mom makes mashed potatoes.  I feel that when food reminds you of home, it just makes it that much better.  And if your mom does not make mashed potatoes like this, well that's okay.  I am sure you will still enjoy them just as much because they're delicious.

A plate of freshly fried green tomatoes were crisp and bursting in bright flavor.  I think I burned my mouth eating these, but truly, no pain, no gain, right?

For dessert, they served us banana pudding in a jar, which was creamy and fine but not particularly notable.  They did remind me how much I love Nilla wafers.

However, a surprise delight of the evening was the waiter cluing us into his talented girlfriend who bakes the pies for the restaurant from their apartment upstairs.  A few text messages to his significant other later, we found ourselves staring into a fresh-out-of-the-oven, warm slice of pecan pie topped with a luminous cloud of whipped cream.

It was dynamite.  Much different than any pecan pie that I have ever had: the top layer of the pie was made of toasted pecans and the bottom layer of the pie was composed of the traditional gooey, pecan pie filler, except it wasn't particularly cloying or heavy, it was really great.  This dessert was a perfect nightcap to a glorious fried chicken find.

For those of you who have been trudging aimlessly along from $17 fried chicken plate to another (what a plight, I know), definitely take a brisk walk east and partake in this charming Southern gem!

234 E 4th St
New York, NY
The Cardinal on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 24, 2012

I Adore Buvette

I am a creature of habit.  Once I like something, I want to eat there a lot.  And often.  So true to form, I now find myself bordering on eating at Buvette too much also.  I just can't help it.  Just look at this place.  Tin-paneled ceilings, warm lighting and long-haired French waiters.  Adorable.

Look at this menu, complete with pop-up cutlery crown.  So-friggin-adorable-it-friggin-hurts.

Jodi Williams, who I consider a rogue chef in the NYC scene (fired from Morandi, sued by her partner at Gottino), has opened up this cute French-inspired spot in the West Village with much of the same feel of Gottino, but with added charm of croques, cassoulets, and charcuterie. 

I love the cappucinos here, so creamy and warm.  I love splashing it with raw sugar and watching the rough granules sink slowly through the airy foam.

When Diana recently visited, we all ordered the blood orange juice that is freshly squeezed to order using a charming metal handpress.

It really does not get fresher than this.  Bright and crisp, this is the juice all other citruses should aspire to be. Heck, I'm not a citrus, and I wish I could be this juice.  (And that may not even make sense, but at first sip, you may begin to understand.)

Christina's husband ordered an Americano with steamed milk.  They served it with a pint of beautifully frothed milk in a rustic silver pitcher.  I am a sucker for presentation.  The fact that all the cups and cutlery are slightly smaller than it should be just adds to the charm of everything (or makes you feel like a giant, which can be fun).

On my first visit to Buvette, I tried the Croque Madame.

It was gorgeous.  Just look at the size of that perfectly golden yolk dusted with freshly shaved parmesan.

Buvette's twist on the Croque Madame features their signature crusty bread (which accompanies practically every dish on the menu), sandwiching thin slices of ham and cheese.  Much of the sandwich's flavor comes from the hidden layer of dried herb-infused cheese broiled on top of the sandwich.

The size of the plate mandates some delicate care in enjoying the sandwich, but truthfully, there should be no rush.  Just bask in the warmth of the sunlight, sip your cappuccino, and watch the gloriously golden yolk slowly cascade down.

The steamed eggs were much the same as Gottino, with the exception of pancetta being served there, and only freshly shaved prosciutto, smoked salmon or sundried tomatoes served at Buvette.  Did I just say "only freshly shaved prosciutto?"  Such #firstworldproblems.

This is a shot from the scrambled eggs at Gottino.  Expect the same feathery light eggs at Buvette, brilliantly cooked using the steaming rod on their espresso machine.

For "dessert," there are lovely baked bites in the form of petit pain au chocolat, airy bundles cradling small pieces of dark chocolate in a light, crisp shell, 

...and cute little croissants served with a fat spoonful of creamy butter and strawberry jam.

But the crown jewel of dessert was a wondrously and massively thick chocolate mousse served as a dark, dense slab on a plate topped with freshly whipped cream.

Rich, indulgent but not too sweet, thanks to the light whipped cream, this is a decadent dessert to be enjoyed with your favorite galpals or by yourself (much as I am tempted to do soon!). 

Oh Buvette, you are a true West Village gem.  Cannot wait to try your charcuterie next!

42 Grove St, New York, NY
Buvette on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Monday Prix Fixe Special @ Buttermilk Channel

I've debated writing this post.  

There are reasons why I should:
1. Dinner with Anne is always a delight.
2. The dessert was *so* good.

There are reasons why I shouldn't:
1. The service was *so* bad.  Atrocious. Frustrating. Terrible.
2. The overall meal was meh.  Meh, I tell you.  No other words. Just three letters that reflect a sound to summarize our lame disappointment.  
3.  My pictures suck.  Lighting (sigh).  Try not to look too hard.

Sooooo, with all that out of the way, let's just boogie on through this until dessert !

Word on the street is Beyonce and her beau, Jay-Z, like to frequent Buttermilk Channel.  Maybe when they dine here, they nosh on these house-made pickles served in both spear and sliced form...

...or maybe they like the fresh mozzarella balls, skewered with crusty, oiled bread, laced with tiny anchovies and broiled until golden.  These were not bad, but they were not great.  They were just alright - punched up by the tiny, salty fish that makes Thanan's heart go pitter-pat.

Pureed cauliflower soup was a promising start to our three-course prix-fixe feast, available on Mondays at Buttermilk Channel  for a slim 25 bones.  New discovery: crushed pistachios in creamy soup = delightful.

Anne's green apple and arugula salad was more disappointing, the promising charm of grilled blue cheese sandwiches were simply that - toasted bread with grilled cheese inside and nothing more (sometimes the menu does mean what it really says!).  

Most tables received freshly baked popovers upon seating.  We waited for nearly half an hour before reminding our waitress that we would very much love to enjoy these puffy, airy gems also.  Perhaps we had waited too long - the anticipation was too great - and while warm, eggy and indeed fresh, the popovers were merely fine.  An extra heavy pour of honey on the plate woulda pushed them over the edge to good, but Anne didn't even feel like finishing hers, so I helped her out (that is what friends are for!).

We ordered the ham wrapped trout, served on a thick bed of grits and roasted radishes.  Anne was really loving the flavor of the grits, despite its unbecoming, thick and chunky texture.  We both agreed the trout was fishy - the good fishy that true fish lovers enjoy but on-the-fence-loving-fish-people would not particularly appreciate, the overall dish augmented by the salty ham seared within the crispy trout skin.

Our other entree was their popular fried chicken, served atop two cheddar waffles alongside savoy cabbage slaw.

Sinking my knife into the cardboard-textured skin of the chicken elicited immediate feelings of sadness and remorse for ordering this dish.  The initial bite, with painful chew through the overly thick, tough exterior, grew even more disappointing in discovering the fairly moist poultry flesh underneath that breaded abomination was bland beyond belief.  Just a little bit of salt?  Please?  Brine it?  Dine it?  With some soy sauce?  Anything.  Pretty please. This bird needs a super healthy kick of seasoning up its...yes.  Don't even get me started on the cheddar waffles that were sad, stiff little pucks.  If you like the texture and flavor of Cheez Nips, then you will like them.  Chew carefully.

We laughed at how much the chicken needed salt.  (Anne laughed.  I cried.  When fried chicken goes wrong, it can go so very wrong!)

What was amazing was that the chocolate chip bread pudding was much saltier than the fried chicken plate altogether.  Large, coarse flakes of salt were heavily sprinkled on the drizzled chocolate butterscotch sauce.  The bread pudding itself was okay.  Dense, heavy, unbalanced in sweetness against the salt, I cared very little for this dish.

The knockout star of the whole night was the pecan pie sundae.  A miniature version is served with the prix-fixe, but I have half a mind to come back just to eat a full-sized helping of this delicious beaut.  Layers of huge, softly-caramelized pecans, velvety vanilla ice cream and lovely whipped cream in a cup.  Simple. Savory. Sweet. Great.  It was a glorious sundae symphony.

Sometimes the best is saved for last.  You should just go on and skip the whole charade of the meal though, and head straight for the sweet goods.

524 Court St
Brooklyn, NY
Buttermilk Channel on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Hot Valentine's Date: Grom Hot Chocolate

This year, I found Valentine's Day a great excuse to completely indulge in a brilliant cup of chocolatey splendor.

Wandering around the West Village, I passed by Grom, with posters taped in the windows urging pedestrians to take the chill off inside with a cup of hot chocolate.  Though today was not particularly chilly, a cup of hot chocolate sounded mighty fine.

Grom serves a couple of hot chocolate options with fancy Italian words: cioccolata calda fondente is made with dark Venezuelan chocolate, fresh whole milk, cocoa powder, and cane sugar.  Cioccolata calda bacio uses gianduja cream, made with hazelnuts.  I opted for the cioccolata calda fondente to keep things pure and simple.  Medium (more than sufficient cocoa shock).  The server will then ask if you want whipped cream.

You will want the whipped cream.  

The whipped cream, scooped with a flat metal spoon and eased onto the glistening surface, is nothing short of magnificent.  Grom utilizes special machinery to whip cream within a metal container, reducing the amount of air incorporated.  The result is absolute, luscious heaven.

Though rich and resplendently thick, the hot chocolate remains drinkable, best savored slowly, alongside spoonfuls of the beautiful, almost buttery whipped cream.  

The hot chocolates I adore in the city are few, but Grom's may be among the best of them.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone !


233 Bleecker
New York, NY
Grom Gelato on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Philadelphia ! Capogiro, Beck's Cajun Cafe & Sabrina's

This is going to be a long post.  It is going to be filled with delicious pictures.  Following review of this post, you will most likely snack on something that will not be as satisfying as anything posted here, but that is okay - I just polished off a package of Andy Capp hot fries. You are in fine company!

Greeshma and I were not intending to eat ice cream in November, but after reading that Capogiro was named in National Geographic as the #1 place in the whole world to eat ice cream, we had to check it out, because you know how I feel about restaurant superlatives.  

The first thing you might notice, as I surely did, is that Capogiro is not an ice cream place.  It is a gelateria.  I immediately questioned National Geographic's loose use of the term "ice cream," but Greeshma's love for the periodical pushed us through the glass doors.  Our eyes instantly feasted upon beautifully swirled displays of Amish dairy goodness.

I believe Greeshma and I abused our sampling privileges, but it was worth it.  The Thai coconut milk was pure and delicious - like drinking a can of Chaokoh bottoms up.  I ended up getting a scoop of that flavor alongside some rich dark chocolate.

The gelato was expectedly creamy and satisfying, but the immediate question at hand was: Is it the best in the world?  Mmm...not for a long shot.  I admit, I have not eaten a lot of ice cream from across the world, but I know there is better ice cream in Santa Monica, and I can only imagine the incredible cups coming from the gelaterias in Italy, if we are extending the definition.  Capogiro will satiate your cravings, with some flavors more on point than others, but there was nothing that made my knobby knees buckle.

Fueled by Amish calcium, we then took a tour of the Birthplace of American Medicine, the Mutter Museum, one of the most interesting museums I have ever visited (look at me throwing out the superlatives!).  It was utterly fascinating, and eye-opening.  If you find yourself in Philadelphia, it's definitely worth a creepy visit, especially if eight-foot colons are your thing.

On Sunday morning, Greeshma and I headed to the Reading Terminal to reacquaint ourselves with our beloved apple dumplings, only to find one flaw in our decisioning process:

The Amish do not work on Sunday.

It should have been obvious. (We often miss obvious things when we are together.)

So we waltzed around aimlessly until we both did a literal double-take on a sandwich one young chap was unwrapping at a plastic cafeteria table.  By double-take, I mean, Greeshma stopped in her tracks and stared at the kind fellow while he took his first amazing bite.  We then politely waited for him to chew and swallow before asking where he got it.

We immediately bee-lined to Beck's Cajun Cafe and ordered ourselves a breakfast po boy to share, since, naturally, we had a brunch to tend to shortly thereafter.

I love watching eggs cook on the griddle, especially when I know those eggs are mine.

Beck's other Cajun fare looked equally delicious, especially the golf ball-sized hunks of fried mac 'n cheese in the bottom left corner.  We also sampled the jambalaya which was remarkably well-seasoned, moist and flavorful.

Although I am sure it was no more than five minutes, the wait was excruciating.  After we unwrapped our much anticipated foot-long sandwich with glee, we gazed at it with glorious admiration.

The cast of Breakfast Po Boy characters: Medium cooked egg.  Melted provolone.  Thin slices of peppery Andouille sausage.  Fresh French baguette, toasted.

It was awesome.

I think if Sam Sifton ate this sandwich, he would describe just as eloquently:

"Awesome." - Sam Sifton

I loved the spicy sausage, and the bread was perfection.  Greeshma proclaimed that she only wanted to eat breakfast sandwiches on French baguettes from now on, and I could not agree more.  The bread was soft, slightly chewy with just the right amount of added crunch from the crust.  We devoured it in minutes.

We then wiped our faces and headed over to Sabrina's, one of Greeshma's favorite brunch eateries.

Sabrina's is an exceptionally popular spot on weekends, with notoriously long waits, but Greeshma and Stef both have the routine down pat, and we waited about 15 minutes before being wedged into the bustling brunch scene.

Belmund and Stef before diving into the tremendous spread (though Stef appears to have a headstart)
Belmund dined on the huevos rancheros, a hot mess of chorizo, guacamole and jalapeno peppers piled high on blue corn tortillas.

Stef ordered her favorite, the apple and cheddar omelet.

Her facial expression is recommendation enough!
Stef admitted the omelet sounds weird, but the sweetness from the Granny Smith apples melded well with the sharpness  of the cheddar.  It was rather delicious.  I was rather jealous.
A side order of blurry sausages (my hands must've been too eager to snatch one).  Picture shown  to indicate heft of these links - ridiculously thick and meaty.
Greeshma's omelet with goat cheese and some sort of vegetables.
Going for the Thanksgiving theme at the time, I ordered off of the brunch specials menu with a dish titled the Mayflower featuring things they probably did not eat on the Mayflower, but most likely wished they did:  poached eggs, marinated skirt steak, avocado, grilled cornbread, corn slaw, the works.

There was a lot going on in the menu description, and there was a lot going on in my plate.  Unfortunately, the steak was limp, chewy and fairly flavorless, the cornbread dry and disappointing.  It was a sad breakfast order indeed.

However, the meal was quickly redeemed by the beautiful shared plate centering our table - the brunch special french toast featuring apricot jelly, cream cheese and goo galore encapsulated by the thickest slices of challah bread.

With one bite of this unbelievable concoction, all was right in the world once again.

It certainly doesn't look the prettiest, but the taste is spot on dynamite.  Decadent, moist and creamy, all french toasts should be stuffed with warm cream cheese, seared on all edges and launched directly into my large mouth.  Bliss!

Philadelphia, you were a tasty visit.  Can't wait to see you again soon!


119 S 13th
Philadelphia, PA

Beck's Cajun Cafe
Reading Terminal
12th & Arch
Philadelphia, PA

Sabrina's Cafe
1804 Callowhill St.
Philadelphia, PA 19130