Corey: Next time you are in SoHo thinking, “Why did I come here? Times Square is so much quieter!”, may I recommend The Harney and Sons Tasting Room? Yes, it will be crowded at the front when everyone is buying their tea, but walk all the way to the back and you’ll find a nice refuge from the crush of people outside.
I met Clee there while we were waiting on M, and we easily killed an hour with no one disturbing us. Just drinking tea, eating snacks and watching the paint dry. Clee had this little bottle of Green Tea with Coconut.
I had a pot of green tea with thai flavors and these little rice crackers with green tea cream cheese and cucumbers. It sounds pretty bland but it was actually really flavorful, and the thai green tea was an amazing blend of coconut and lemongrass with green tea.
They end with these little chocolate cookies. I wish I could show you what they looked like, but we ate them before we could take a picture. I love finding tiny places like this to relax in the midst of some of NYC’s busiest neighborhoods. I’ll have to post on some of my other favorites sometime…
Location: Harney & Sons SoHo 433 Broome Street New York, NY 10013
Corey: Off a little side street in Fell’s Point near a bread factory lies the Blue Moon Cafe. This is one of those little neighborhood places that when you walk into you are either expecting magic, or meh. Blue Moon Cafe? Magic!
M and I went there on a Monday morning and I was surprised that we were able to sit down immediately. I had done a little research and sometimes the wait can be at least an hour to get in.
So Baltimore is know for it’s blue crab and you find crab cakes on every corner. It’s everwhere, even on Eggs Benedict. That’s what Marion ordered, Crab Benedict with Old Bay hollandaise Sauce and hash browns. ( I can literally hear Christine salivating right now ).
Tomatoes, cheddar cheese, lump crab meat, poached eggs with a little Old Bay on a english muffin. And the hollandaise sauce was a perfect combo of lemon, butter, and Old Bay. The Special of the day of very similar, but instead of english muffins, they piled it all on top of hash browns. A table of three men next to us each got the special and it covered the entire plate. The crazy thing is that each of them also ordered what I ate, and they all finished both plates!!!
Say hello to Capn’ Crunch French Toast. (I can hear Adam G. salivating now). It looks so innocent sitting there, right?
Nothing could be further from the truth. This is the only time I have ever had a meal that I thought was a Frankenstein. It is all of these odd parts thrown together, but then it goes on a rampage and you can’t control it. Don’t get me wrong. It IS delicious, but wow, it was just honestly too much for me. If it hadn’t been for the fruit balancing out the richness of the french toast then I don’t think I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did.
And this is about as far as I got. My recommendation, go and order one of the crab dishes, then split an order among your party. Your stomach will thank me.
Location: 1621 Aliceanna St., Baltimore MD
Christine: So I did something the other day that I’m not proud of. I was on the verge of being late to an appointment and as I entered the station, I could hear the announcer say that the D train was now arriving on the express track. If I booked it down two flights of stairs, I might be able to catch it. I flew through the turnstiles and began running down the first set of stairs as the train pulled in below.
But then, right smack in front of me was a man taking his sweet old time. In that moment, all I could see was an obstacle to me getting on that train. The next thing I know, my hand shoots out and pushes him. Not hard, but hard enough for him to know that I was there and that I wanted him to get out of my way. His head whipped around with an incredulous look that said, “Did you just do what I THINK you just did?!”
(I’m pretty sure he had that same scary glint coming out of his right eye)
Realizing what I’d done (also that he was bigger than me and kinda mean-looking) but still not wanting to miss my train, I ran past him shouting, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” I made it through the doors by a hair’s breadth. When I sat down, my first thought was, I cannot believe I just pushed someone to get out of my way. That is so unlike me. My second thought was, I’m more of a badass than I thought! (albeit an apologetic one) My third thought was, I’m starving. This newfound badassery was making me hungry.
Thankfully, I was headed to my sister-in-law Martha’s place that night to have dinner in Queens with her, my brother-in-law Robert and little niece Sofia. They had ordered in heroes from the “Sandwich King of Astoria” (aka Sal’s Deli), the Italian combo with hot and sweet peppers. It is a MASSIVE sandwich stuffed with salami, mortadella, prosciutto and provolone (and only $7.50 for this humungous thing! Queens, you’re the best). Finishing one of those is not for the faint of heart. It’s the kind of sandwich that says, “Don’t mess with me. I will take you down.” But I was so starving, I messed with it and I took it down. Okay, I took half of it down. But still.
After polishing that off, we moved on to the Lemon Ice King for dessert. They have 30 different flavors, including peanut butter! The lemon ice was refreshing, tart, not too sweet, with ice pummeled so fine it was almost creamy. I loved the vanilla chip, which is just like eating chocolate chip ice cream except that you feel like it’s really healthy for you and so you should eat more of it.
Martha warned that if you go there, don’t ask them if you can mix flavors because the guy behind the counter is the Soup Nazi of Lemon Ice. He doesn’t care what you want or that you’re a paying customer. Don’t even THINK about mixing his ices together. You have it HIS way or no way. Capiche?
“No Lemon Ice for you!”
Sandwich King and Lemon Ice King is food with an attitude, but without the possibility of getting beat up. So the next time you feel the urge to push someone down the stairs, follow my example. Just give them a little shove, apologize profusely as you run by and hope you make it on the train without them. Then head to Queens and eat like the total badass that you are.
Sal, Kris and Charlie’s Deli, “The Sandwich King of Astoria,” 33-12 23rd Ave, Astoria
The Lemon Ice King of Corona, 52-02 108th St, Corona
Corey: Sorry for a long time between posts on my end but it will be worth it.
Last weekn M and I joined Christine and Jimmy in Baltimore for a wedding and while there we hit up WoodBerry Kitchen, a fantastic farm to table restaurant. We had brunch there on Sunday and aside from a few small hiccups, it was a pretty fantastic meal.
We tried starting out with the bread basket, but they mixed it up and we ended up having it for dessert instead. Cinnamon Raisin Toast, Chocolate Chip Scone, Apple Crumb Cake, and a nice little doughnut. What set this apart is that little helping of quark. It is a cross between cream cheese and sour cream that I don’t see much outside of Germany. It worked well with everything, especially the scone.
I think Jimmy was more in the mood for dinner. He had a beer and a breakfast burger. Hamburger on an english muffin (baked in-house?!?!?) with a friend egg on top.
Christine had Biscuits and Gravy. It was a great traditional take on one of my favorite southern meal. Plus there is another fried egg.
Here is Marion with French Toast with Stewed Plums. (no fried egg.)
And here’s me. Grits and Sausage (German Weisswurst) and who’s that on top? You got it. Also Jazz band behind me.
For me this was the highlight. Plum Soda. You know how I love my weird soda and this one goes in the record books. It tasted like fresh crushed plums, but also like Autumn in a glass.
I had been to Balitmore once or twice before but WoodBerry Kitchen opened me up to a side of the city I had not seen before. This place was homey, with equal parts old industry and farm renaissance. Great meal in a great part of of a city I’m really starting to love.
WoodBerry Kitchen: 2010 Clipper Park Road, No. 126 Baltimore, MD 21211
Christine: Look at this. It’s a cat that you wrap your headphones around (pictured with my new pencil case). Isn’t that adorable? Now you understand why I couldn’t write any posts while I was in Korea. I was too preoccupied by all of the unbelievably cute things they have there, like this cat. Also, after being in such a food crazed state in Thailand, Korea ended up being much less about food and more about relaxing at home and spending quality time with my parents. The ten days just flew by and before I knew it, I was on a plane back to NYC, listening to music and smiling at my cat.
(hanging out with my cute parents)
That said, I didn’t want to miss writing about Korea even though it’s somewhat long passed, so bear with me as I cram some highlights in one post, and thus bring closure to my summer Asian food adventures.
1. This is one of my dad’s favorite restaurants, Yet Kol To Sang, which means “old clay castle.” It’s a semi-outdoor restaurant in the Yangjae area of Seoul and is supposedly very popular with the Korean celebrities. They specialize in a thick spicy stew called haejang-guk. I asked my dad what haejang-guk meant in English and he said, “Dissolving…” trying to find the right words, “your intestines.” Mmm. You had me at intestines.
The story is that haejang-guk was what Koreans would eat the morning after they got stone blind drunk. Your head is pounding, your stomach is churning and you’re feeling faint. This soup has all the right medicinal ingredients to deal with your hangover (according to Koreans): chilis to clear your head, steaming broth to soothe your tummy, and braised beef, bitter greens, shiitake mushrooms, and congealed cow’s blood to give you a shot of energy.
Not being into bovine hemoglobin as I am, I just couldn’t do the congealed cow’s blood. I don’t care how hungover I am, that stuff looks exactly like what it sounds like - jello, but made out of blood. Other than that, it was delish!
2. This place, Sa Gak Ha Neul, is apparently the Momofuku of Yangjae. My favorites from this meal:
daeju (date) meeum (rice porridge): It has the consistency of smooth grits but with the slightest hint of sweet dates and sprinkled with sliced dried chestnuts. If I had a tummy ache, this is what I would want to eat.
Tofu balls: There are not many foods I like that are shaped like balls. Meatballs. Malt balls. That’s about it. Tofu balls just sounded like a really bad idea. But mixed with pumpkin and red peppers, lightly fried and topped with bean sprouts, I could’ve popped these into my mouth all day.
This was the coolest dish. They cut potatoes and cabbage into very fine curly strings, then mix it with sweet vinegar and Korean mustard which gives it a wasabi-like kick that cleared my sinuses. I like being able to breathe deeply while eating. It makes me feel more alive.
3. We ended up eating at home quite a lot, ordering in mandoo (dumplings), samgetang (chicken stew) and jook (rice porridge). But I have to say, I loved the food my mom prepared best, even if it was something that Korean squirrels would eat. Here is a typical meal from my mom’s kitchen:
Acorn jelly sprinkled with dried seaweed and sesame seeds
Miso soup with enoki mushrooms and scallions
Seriously intense rice, with all sorts of grains and beans mixed in there, it must have weighed five pounds
Perilla (or sesame) leaves, what we call ge-nip.
You can’t tell from the pictures but the dishes my parents own are about half the size of normal dishes. So imagine eating the food of squirrels on dishes made for squirrel-sized portions. For the first few days, I was hungry most of the time. But I felt so healthy and cleansed by the end of my trip, I could just tell that my blood was circulating better and cancer was being prevented.
So there you have it, the end of Food Fix-Asian Summer 2011. I’m glad to be back and ready to get eatin’ again in good ole NYC. Next on my list: Earl’s Beer and Cheese…me and my cat will see you there!
So I’ve been dumbfounded by the explosion of frozen yogurt places over the past few years. I think Mr. Softee has even been replaced by little pink frozen yogurt trucks around the city. As with anything that starts becoming too common place, I’ve started overlooking them. That is until the real thing comes along.
M and I were in Brooklyn to visit our friends and to partake in the one-two punch. After finding 4 and 20 closed, my dessert stomach ( BTW: I have two. one for the meal, one for dessert) started crying like a little baby. Our friend Dan suggested we do frozen yogurt, saying “I don’t even like frozen yogurt, but i like this place. Plus it has crazy toppings.”
Wellllll… my curiosity needed to find out more about these crazy toppings.
I was rewarded. M and I decided to share a regular. This is Ginger Pear froyo with key lime custard and graham cracker topping.
This was when we went back and got the exact same thing. No kidding. I love to try new food unless something is so good and original that it really becomes a fixation, and this was one of those times, and not a few days later, a couple of seconds later. The woman at the counter said “I knew you’d be back for more” once M went up for round two.
This is what our Dan and Julia got. It was something liked baked peaches and seasonal raspberries but honestly I was so enthralled by my own yogurt I didn’t pay enough attention. High marks to this place. I kind of want to go there now after writing about it.
Location: 331 5th Ave (between 3rd St & 4th St) Brooklyn, NY 11215
Corey: Right around 3 O’clock on most days is when my dessert hankering kicks in, so on a recent rainy day I decided to duck into Irving Farm Coffee Co. and grab a coffee while I waited out the rain, and hopefully get a snack. What I found was one of the best baked good selections I’ve seen in a small coffee shop. Someone there knows their stuff because I saw great pastries from all over manhattan and brooklyn, including the Balthazar Oat Scone which I count among my favorites.
I picked the Old Fashioned Doughnut from Pies and Thighs, and a small iced slow drip coffee. The coffee packs a whallop for an iced coffee. If you like a strong brew, as well as a company that is really meticulous about where it’s beans come from and how they roast them, you should check this place out. Here is a link: http://www.irvingfarm.com/index.cfm?c=2&pg=aboutus.cfm
Me, all I care about is the doughnut. And it is big and yummy. Just enough cinnamon and sugar on the outside so that it wasn’t overly sweet.
To be completely honest I wish I had been eating that doughnut as soon as it was made because by three in the afternoon it was getting slightly too cold for my taste. I ate half of it and then 4 minutes in the oven at home brought it back to it’s full potential. I’m heading back soon to try the other thing that caught my eye. A homemade poptart!
Location: Irving Farm Coffee Co. - 56 7th Ave., Manhattan, NY
Christine: I love good cheap street food as much as the next person. And during this trip I discovered food courts, something I never experienced when I lived in Thailand for some reason. But after eating a lot of cheap meals, we decided to try two higher end restaurants and see how they stacked up: La Table de Tee and Taling Pling.
I don’t want to waste time talking about the meal at La Table de Tee, so let me talk about my disappointment instead. This was our big splurge, a five-course tasting menu for 900 baht, about 30 dollars. Jimmy had eaten here when he’d been to Bangkok previously and been blown away. Here is the promising looking menu:
Suffice it to say that the meal had its moments, but for 900 baht, it fell way, way short. Do you know how many Chiangmai sausages I could have bought with 900 baht? 22.5. I could be eating one right now if I had 22.5 sausages. This only makes me more bitter.
(I may have eaten everything on my plate, but that doesn’t mean I liked it.)
Thankfully, Taling Pling more than made up for the disappointment of La Table de Tee. I am not speaking in hyperbole when I say that this was the best Thai meal I’ve ever had in my life.
I knew we were off to a good start when they brought out my drink, the lime lemongrass honey ice frost. That is Jimmy’s lemongrass drink in the background. Mine was the better of the two, drizzled with honey and just the right bite of lemongrass to keep it interesting.
This was our favorite, stir fried morning glories. You know it’s good when a plate of greens is your favorite dish among five pretty awesome dishes. They are stir fried with garlic and chilis, but what set them apart is this smokiness that you often find in a good fried rice that’s been cooked in a well seasoned pan, e.g. the pork fried rice at Rai Rai Kan in the East Village.
They are not messing around with this tom yum goong, filled with generous portions of tiger prawns. I’ve had a lot of tum yum goong in my day and more often than not, it has tended to be overly sour and a bit watery. The coconut milk in this broth was just the right amount, somehow tasting light while also giving it depth. It was spicy, sweet, tart, salty all at the same time.
I wrote from Phuket that I am not a fan of fried seafood. I take that back. I am not a fan of BAD fried seafood. This soft shell crab with garlic and chili sauce was a totally different experience. The batter was so light, it was more like a crispy outer shell. What made the dish was the fried garlic at the bottom of the plate. We scooped it up onto the crab, dipped it into the chili sauce and were in fried seafood heaven.
A lot of people mentioned this chicken pandan in reviews so we had to give it a try. It’s juicy chicken wrapped in banana leaves and roasted, served with a sweet dipping sauce. Here’s an unwrapped closeup.
You can catch a glimpse of my greasy thumb which I was licking clean every time I dug into one of these packages.
Our last dish was green curry with chicken served with roti. Sooo goood. Like the tom young goong, there were so many flavors going on at the same time. This included red chilies, small round green zucchini, and these neat little peas that were slightly bitter and exploded when you bit into them. The roti was thick, crisp and the perfect thing to dip into that amazing curry.
Dessert? Forgettable. This was our one misstep. People raved about the coconut sticky rice with mangoes but I was in the mood for ice cream and Jimmy wanted chocolate. We should have gone with the sticky rice.
(The food at Taling Pling was not the only thing that was smokin’ hot that night.)
Prices here are expensive for Thailand, but it would be considered an affordable restaurant in NY with many entrees around $8, give or take a few dollars. If you ever go to Bangkok, this is a must. And make sure you go to the Taling Pling in Silom. There are three locations and this original one is considered the best.
So there you have it, my friends. Thailand through the eyes of my stomach. Yes, my stomach has eyes and now they are turning their sights towards Korea if I don’t keel over from all of this food first. I highly doubt it because I am at my parents house where they eat like birds and every meal promotes good blood circulation and cancer prevention. Till next time…
Christine: I’ve been in Korea for almost four days now, eating new things, Korean things, but I haven’t even caught up about all the great food Jimmy and I had during the remainder of our time in Bangkok. Memories of thick rice noodles in savory broth, green papaya salad, fresh fruit juices fill my mind. I want to live in this kimchi-filled present, but I’m still holding on to the past. It pains me to rush through the memorable meals we had there, but if I want to move on, I need to let go. My last love letter to the food of Thailand, in two parts:
Siam Paragon Food Court, who would have thought I’d ever meet a food court like you? You’re mall food, but with fresh ingredients, local cuisine made from scratch right before my eyes. Meeting you was like going to Cinnabon for a six-pack of minis and discovering there was an Amish grandma behind the counter kneading and rolling the dough from flour she milled herself.
And the best part? You didn’t require much from me. The most you asked was 50 baht. Where will I find food like you for $1.50?? You overwhelmed me by your vast array of food stalls, cafes and restaurants. I sensed that if I got to know you better, it would be like falling into a maze of which there would be no return. So I kept coming back again, and again, and again, eager to discover the delights you had to offer.
I couldn’t get enough of you, sai oua. I loved you from the first time we met. Sure, you looked like rolled up intestines, but once you were sliced up into little pieces and served with sticky rice, I was addicted. I knew you were bad for me, but you were so hot, I couldn’t resist. I had to drink a full bottle of water while ingesting you.
Coconut grilled pork satay, you stand head and shoulders over other satays. Over the years I’ve grown jaded by those slightly hardened, dry pieces of meat on a skewer that I’ve had to yank off with my teeth. But you were so tender, so juicy, and surrendered to my chomping molars without a fight.
Sweet taco dessert thing-y, the unnatural orange color of your cheese unnerved me at first. But then I bit into you. Mixed with shredded coconut and raisins, in a shell of something like a lighter, crispier fortune cookie, you surprised and delighted me because I thought you were going to taste disgusting. But you didn’t. You tasted delicious.
Banana milk with matcha ice cream and tapioca balls, I can’t let you go. I just can’t. I must have you again in the States, even if it means going to Pathmark and buying some Quik. Who knew that green tea and bananas made such a winning combination? You did. You did. And while Quik will never replace you, it’s the closest thing I have and so I will drink it in honor of your sweetly complex memory.
I will never forget you.
Until we meet again,