Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Lovely Breakfast at Dominique Ansel

Hallo, friends !

It certainly is no new news right now that ol' sassy, Superstorm Sandy is nearly upon us, and today was an important day for most of us to purchase rations to ride out the storm.  Since I had bought squashes and free range eggs a'plenty at the farmer's market on Friday, I was fairly confident, that all I needed on this Sunday was some fine French pastries, and there are none too finer than those at Dominique Ansel.

My stomach gladly welcomed the "perfect little egg sandwich," a brioched bundle of joy with a thick square of fluffy, steamed egg and melted gruyere.

I really don't know how they make this egg, but it's quite airy and soft.  Combined with the beautifully buttery housemade brioche, goshdarnit, did this breakfast sandwich live up to its charming name.

Since Dominique Ansel opened, I have stared long and hard at pictures of its namesake pastry DKA (Dominique's Kouign Amman), trying to figure out how exactly this would taste, and how it could possibly be worth $5.25.

Kouign means cake, and amman butter, and the fusion of these two tasty words is a glorious union indeed. If a palmier and a croissant had a fat, happy baby - its name would be DKA. The crust is caramelized sugar, crisp and crackly, yielding to a most soft and moist interior--a ridiculous, buttery belly of deliciousness.   I have no idea if this is worth $5.25. I just know I want another one.  And another after that.

I spotted these thick chocolate rounds under a glass case by the cash register, flourless chocolate pecan cookies, and asked the clerk if they were good.  "They are flourless, so they are quite rich.  It's basically like chocolate on chocolate."  I have never been known to decline compounded chocolate, and I wasn't going to start now.

The cookie is beyond dense - imagine a wonderfully dark-fudgy brownie encased in a crunchy little shell - each bite like pure bittersweet chocolate melting on the tongue.  Perfect with a glass of whole milk (treat yourself !).

On this pre-Sandy afternoon, the bakery was still frequented by many patrons ordering bagfuls of croissants;  I like how people in Soho prepare for superstorms in style !  For a future visit, I'll have to take Diana, since there is a canele here with her name on it !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Yes, the exquisite, buttery pastries will go straight to your hips, but your weight will be offset by your slightly lighter wallet !  Worth the occasional indulgence !

Dominique Ansel
189 Spring St
New York, NY
Dominique Ansel Bakery on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Burger at Diner

Having only visited Diner during brunch (which is delicious - the bacon reason enough to visit alone), it was time to pay this cozy spot a nighttime visit to try their famed burger.

The full dinner menu was scrawled on the paper tablecloth by our waitress.  Last night's appetizer options included scallops, fettuccine with raw egg yolk, and a spinach salad, which Mr. FaP selected.  While the greens tasted most fresh, tossed in a light, bright dressing, ours also came with a tiny bug that crawled around on the plate until it died a most citrusy death.  A pretty cool, tasty way to go.


Burgers come dressed with lettuce, tomato and pickled onions with option of white Vermont cheddar cheese.  (Never mind how mine comes like how a 5 year old would eat it - just meat, cheese and bun.)

The burger was cooked to a perfect medium, juicy and flavorful, crusted with a healthy coat of salt.  The bun was soft, but substantial enough to soak in the patty's juices in full.  Indeed, the burger is worthy of its acclaim, though I still prefer the Brindle Room's burger, with its more even-handed seasoning.


The fries were golden and crisp, but also fairly salty, so coupled with the burger, I drank many a glass of water during the meal.

I balanced out the salt with their most decadent slice of flourless chocolate cake.  Rich and creamy to no end, this slice was an incredible indulgence.

Mr. FaP ate the apple turnover, plated on a pool of creme anglaise, and it was filled with plenty of tender slices of cinnamon-laced apples. 

By the time we left, the restaurant was more than bustling with happy eaters.  Everyone looks just so cool here in the dining car restaurant, and you can too !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: The burger is delicious, but you might be as-salted, depending how happy your cook is with seasoning.  Skip the desserts - they're just fine, but you deserve better than that !

85 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
Diner on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Few East Village Eats: Xe May, Puddin', and Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

(This is one of those sad times I forgot my digital camera, but hopefully my personality and eloquent words will help you forget that you are looking at lame cell phone images.)

Sometimes I crave a good sandwich.  It's not often, but when I do, I just want to sink my Chiclet-sized chompers into a toasted french baguette filled with grilled pork.  In other words - a banh mi !

Xe May opened early this year, on the Japanese-centric neighborhood of St. Mark's, and the shop still has that slick, new store smell.

The menu is simple, with a variety of banh mi options including a vegetarian rendition with glazed portobello and cauliflower spread, and others featuring all the key meat characters: curried lamb with coconut, lemongrass chicken, grilled pork (aptly dubbed 'The Hog'), and of course, the traditional, classic banh mi with headcheese and other coldcuts. 

In addition to banh mis, you can also opt for tacos which use similar fillings as the banh mi, with added options of grilled meatballs and beefsteak.

Jamie and her beau shared a couple tacos and proclaimed them delicious.

The trio also opted for the Super Club Classic, the traditional banh mi with bbq pork and headcheese.

The sandwiches were beautifully layered.  The group nodded agreeably as they munched on the sandwiches.  "You can taste the pate!" said Thanan.  Pate is such a beautiful thing.

I pigged out on The Hog, jammed with plenty of lean, grilled pork, and fresh, lightly pickled carrots and cucumbers.

What's particularly nice about this sandwich is that either they hull out the bread, or the bread interior itself is minimal.  It's a perfect balance of filling to bread ratio, with a solid crispy exterior that doesn't cut up your mouth.  The pork was nicely marinated, not dry, benefiting from the healthy douse of spicy mayo, and was altogether satisfying, especially washed down with a cup of their tasty Vietnamese coffee.

I can't wait to go back to try the classic, ask for extra pate, and fill up my punch card so they can feature it on their wall of superfan fame!  

We then stopped in next door to Puddin'.  The shop specializes in pudding parfaits, with a variety of pudding flavors, including seasonal pumpkin, banana, butterscotch and lemon, in addition to an assortment of toppings like brownie pieces, homemade peanut brittle and lime angel food cake.  

I sampled the pumpkin, and thought it tasted exactly like spiced up pumpkin puree, so I went for one of their signature concoctions - banana cream dream, because basically I dream of banana cream (I'm just a simple girl, y'know?).  

The small cup will run you $4, and it's a phenomenally tiny ol' thing, but will satiate your sweet tooth enough for the two minutes it will take you to finish it.

This one had layers of banana pudding, banana cake, and crushed graham crackers. It was good, but I just wasn't that impressed.

Around the corner is my forever love, Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, which debuted its pumpkin soft serve flavor last week, so naturally, I had to have it.

I'm sure the pumpkin soft serve would taste good in any shape or form, but the Bea Arthur is a worthy presentation fit for that flavor.

The soft-serve was creamy, lightly spiced with lovely notes of pumpkin...taken in full with the crushed Nilla Wafers and generous drizzles of dulce de can just forgetaboutit.  A total fall slam dunk !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: It's too hard not to eat a variety of things on your stroll in the East Village, so it's best to just unbuckle those pants, gear up for the winter weather and eat your heart out in this beloved neighborhood! 

96 Saint Marks Place, New York, NY 10009
Xe May Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

102 Saint Marks Place  New York, NY 10009
Puddin' by Clio on Urbanspoon

125 E 7th St, New York, NY
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What You Can Eat in New Orleans !

I've promised more New York, but I have to write a quick post about one of Diana and my favorite food cities in the nation, New Orleans !

No trip is complete without a trip to Cafe du Monde, of course, conveniently open 24 hours a day, where the service is always sketchy at best, but the beignets are served hot, dusted with powdered sugar like freshly fallen snow, and where the cafe au lait washes it all down mighty fine.

Our original visit to Carrie years ago included a trip to Surrey's, a colorful little cafe with Day of the Dead inspired artwork adorning the walls and an assortment of freshly squeezed juices with options of wheatgrass and kale shots.  Much as I remembered from before, the sweet dishes far outshone the savory ones; in particular, it is the banana french toast that continues to haunt my dreams.

Made with the the city's ubiquitous french bread, filled with brown-sugar-laced banana puree, seared and finished off with a ridiculous rum sauce, this decadent dish is best shared.

The special of the day, a lump crab omelet with brie and avocado, just tasted off (metallic?), despite a thick, generous helping of crabmeat, which is always appreciated by my seafood loving self.

In my hot and heavy pursuit of the best fried chicken in New York, and across the nation, my heart will always go aflutter for Willie Mae's, so no visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop at this southern institution.

A $2 plate of cornbread is a must; the order comes with two plain muffins and a couple of squares of margarine.  So old school, dudes.

The cornbread is sweet, moist, and soaks the partially hydrogenated oils perfectly.

The plates of fried chicken can come as orders of dark or white meat, and we all know what's most delicious.  My plate of thighs, drumsticks and fries were a fried beauty to behold !

The clear differentiator of Willie Mae's fried chicken, among all other fried chickens, is their thick, crispy tempura shell, fried to a deep, deep golden brown.

While the shell is fairly oily, it is crunchy to the core, and seasoned with cajun spice.  The meat is, without question, moist and flavorful.  Altogether, it is just a brilliant plate of amazing, deep-fried Southern happiness.

(The only thing I would recommend is to get another side than fries alongside your chicken.  Our fries were heavily salted and hard to eat.  A side of red beans and rice might've made a better pairing.)

Carrie's #1 favorite spot in New Orleans during her residency here was Creole Creamery, so I paid the ice cream shoppe a visit on her behalf.  This is what real friends do for each other !

A $4 mini sampler, featuring 4 'mini scoops', gave me a nice taste of their flavors including chocolate peanut butter, coconut, salted caramel and mint chip.  The ice cream is tasty, rich and thick, putting the creamy in creamery.

A dinner at Commander's Palace brought back memories of Diana's historic feats of polishing off 8 pieces of their amazing garlic french bread before dinner arrived, . but I was only able to polish off six glorious pieces of this bread myself.  If I was a chipmunk, I woulda left the restaurant with cheeks filled with this heavenly breadstuff.

A bowl of turtle soup brought up conflicting thoughts about my love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but was hearty, flavorful, and hit the comfort spot on the bullseye.

The pecan-crusted gulf fish, topped with blue crab meat, was plated with this unbelievable golden sauce, light and sweet, tasting of fresh summer corn.  An unusual but unbelievable flavor combination with the gulf fish.

And as with any classic dining establishment, leftovers are exquisitely wrapped up in aluminum foil.  Commander's Palace remains an ideal dining destination for anyone visiting the area looking for a bit of traditional Southern hospitality.

If you are looking to walk off your beignets from Cafe du Monde, walk your way to the French Market, a bustling, open-air market filled with snacks, cajun spices, countertop restaurants, freshly shucked oysters and these amazing fruit smoothies.  

For a light, quick snack, vegetarians and seafood eaters alike can converge at Meals from the Heart.  They boast of their crab cakes, with a trademark name of "crab cake passion," but the real star here is their tilapia poboy.

Thick filets of fresh fish, lightly seasoned with cajun spice (of course) make for a light refreshing lunch during hot, humid times of classic New Orleans summer.

The crab cake passion, with poached egg, is a fine plate, but the crab cakes are stringy instead of lumpy with more breading than I would typically prefer.

We were in town for the Satchmo Summerfest, a free jazz festival held in the French Quarter celebrating the great Louis Armstrong.  I was incredibly impressed with how well the festival was run, with stages under large white tents that somehow masked the unbearable summer, and allowed us to focus on the beautiful sounds of brass.

Because the festival is free, it's encouraged for eventgoers to eat at the food stations at the festival, so that was the least we could do !

We had not one, but three cups of New Orleans snoballs from Plum Street Snoballs.  The best flavors were cream-based, sweet and light.

I had a bowl of lemongrass chicken over vermicelli noodles from Amy's Vietnamese, and though the chicken lacked much flavor, the light fish sauced dressing just made the fresh, crisp dish perfect for outdoor fare.

My boss gave a recommendation for The Camellia Grill, citing the best omelets ever.  It's a bold statement, I know.  We stopped into the location in the French Quarter, which had a winding counter for every customer to have a front-row seat to the action.

I ordered an orange freeze with my breakfast, which is basically an icy shake made with orange concentrate and ice cream.  Totally breakfast appropriate.

However, the fun ended there. The omelets were flat and lusterless.  The hashbrowns greasy and limp.  This was one plate of breakfast sadness.

So we fixed matters with a short lunch later at Coop's Place, a dingy bar with friendly staff and plates of cajun-spiced fried chicken.

The crisp batter was more traditional, but with the dusting of cajun love, irresistible.

The fried oysters were too heavily battered to be enjoyed, but hell, I'll never turn down a plate of oyster anything.

The last thing I ate in New Orleans before hopping the plane back to New York was this pineapple cilantro popsicle from Meltdown - so tart and refreshing, but had me pining more for richer flavors, like Vietnamese coffee and salted caramel.  Some other time !

And that's a quick run-through of N'awlins!

Smell you later !

Cafe du Monde
800 Decatur St New Orleans, LA 70116

Willie Mae's Scotch House
2401 Saint Ann Street New Orleans, LA 70119

Creole Creamery
4924 Prytania Street New Orleans, LA 70115

Meals from the Heart
1100 N Peters St New Orleans, LA 70116

Plum Street Snoballs
1300 Burdette St, New Orleans, LA

Amy's Vietnamese
1235 N. Peters St., New Orleans, LA

The Camellia Grill
540 Chartres Street New Orleans, LA 70130

Coop's Place
1109 Decatur Street  New Orleans, LA 70116

508 Dumaine Street  New Orleans, LA 70116