Saturday, January 28, 2012

Seared Cod with Pesto Fusilli

After a Whole Foods shopping spree, this is what I came up with for dinner. It's simple to make and loaded with both mono and poly unsaturated fats. 

Seared Cod with Pesto Fusilli
2 cups arugula
5 campari tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons pesto
4oz uncooked fusilli
3oz cod
4 cloves of garlic, 2 shallots
black pepper, salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pasta: Boil water to cook the fusilli, remember to boil with about 2 teaspoons of salt for flavor. After about 10 minutes, drain pasta and run under cold water.

Salad: Create an arugula and tomato bed for the pasta. (You don't have to use any dressing for the salad, because the pesto fusilli that will sit on the arugula will be flavorful enough.)

Cod: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan with half of the chopped garlic and shallots. Once the oil is boiling, place the fish in the pan. Sear each side until slightly browned (about 2-3 minutes per side), use salt and pepper to season. Remove fish from the heat.

Pesto: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the remaining garlic and shallots, as well as the pesto. Dump the drained pasta and mix thoroughly. Place pasta above the arugula salad and then top it off with the seared cod.

✓ omega 3 fatty acids
✓ vegetables
✓ fiber 
✓ Vitamin C

✓ monounsaturated fat

Note: You can easily substitute any of these ingredients to fit your preferences. If you do not like the bitterness of arugula, definitely use a mesclun mix or baby spinach. If campari tomatoes aren't available, cherry tomatoes are a great alternative. Furthermore, a cheaper option for cod would be tilapia, another flaky fish.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Budapest, Hungary

Hungry in Hungary? Not so much. I knew that Eastern European food was supposed to be heavy, but I did not expect to be full for more than 10 hours at a time. In a country where there is great Ottoman, Nazi, and Soviet impact, the cuisine is something I've never tried before. The common use of sausage and sour cream in everything ranging from goulash to rice to pasta is very novel (and heavy) to me. Also common? Ruin pubs, which are bars built in abandoned buildings and factories. Great concept. However, their concept of dumplings  was rather of a shock to me, for it is small pieces of chewy dough. But nonetheless, the beers and the paprika made up for everything and warmed me up from the cold weather and dreary history of the city. 


Monday, January 23, 2012


Happy Year of the Dragon! In celebration, I shall be posting about one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the city, Philippe. Yes, it's trendy, and most people write it off as a destination for scenesters or for celebrity spottings (I must admit, I always look out for Knicks players when I'm there), but regardless, there is definitely some high quality duck at this joint (even Kobe Bryant agrees). 

It makes sense to be wary of Chinese restaurants that are anywhere north of Canal Street or where the average meal goes for $69 a person (Zagat's stats, not mine), but there are quite a few gems uptown, such as Grand Sichuan, that are worth the trip. Keep in mind, Philippe is definitely not the place to go if you're looking for a traditional Chinese meal (exception being the Peking duck) or a cheap eat. Most dishes are catered to the American palate and differ greatly from what you would expect from more authentic Chinese establishments. 

With that said, for starters, definitely try the chicken satay. The name is deceiving because it's not actually in satay sauce, but the superbly tender carrot marinated chicken (the color of the chicken is an intense orange) is served in this delightful cream sauce that I find myself dipping the rest of the appetizers I order in. 
The vegetable spring rolls are also very good and are served above addictive crispy seaweed.

Whenever I dine at Philippe, which I must confess is at least every other month, my main course is always the Peking duck. There is no need to order other entrees, because this in it of itself is filling and extremely satisfyingly enough. (Note, ask for the duck the moment you sit down, because they're made to order. Also, it can serve 2-4 people.) How do I begin to explain? I've had quite a few Peking ducks in my life before, including in Beijing, but none of them have been quite as life changing or memorable. 

The Peking duck at Philippe's is served with thin house-made skins (literal translation, emphasizing the need for thinness)/pancakes that are the size of your hand and are perfect for one slice of duck with sweet sauce and some scallion and cucumber garnishes. The pancakes are just thick enough to withhold the sauce and the duck without ripping, yet not too thick to overpower the texture or flavor of the crispy duck. Do not take this for granted, for many restaurants serve pancakes the size of plates or buns (which are good, but I find small thin pancakes are better for duck. I prefer buns for roast pig). 
The duck itself is crispy, juicy, and not dripping with fat. This is because, according to Philippe Chow himself, they use this air compressor that heats the duck, and they roast it vertically so that all the oil drips out (this may be the worst explanation recall ever, someone please correct me). Whatever it is, it is delicious.

Thanks to Philippe, I can no longer eat Peking duck anywhere else in Manhattan (also because Peking Duck House in Chinatown seats all Chinese people in the basement, so I refuse to dine there ever. Truth.) and I now have ill  Peking duck cravings, which makes Philippe the go-to place every time I'm back in New York. 

33 East 60th Street
New York, NY

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Steak 'n' Shake

"Want to go to Steak 'n' Shake? It's the Shake Shack of the Midwest."
Little did I know how confusing this sentence can be. There's no Shake Shack on Broadway. Oh, Midwest, not Midtown West. New Yorkers, how I love you. 

I braved the 27 degree weather with my brother and his friends to check out this newly opened burger chain. They're known for their steakburgers, a burger made of rib eye and New York strip steak. Sounds promising to me. Promising enough for us to wait more than thirty minutes outdoors only to find a continuation of the line inside. Luckily, we snagged a table for 4 people (half the seating available).

...and the burger was very delectable. The use of steak made it a leaner burger, but this was exactly what I needed to heal me from the bitter winds of the streets of New York. 

The hand cut fries satisfied my craving perfectly, though I wish the cheese didn't come in a separate container. I also had a vanilla milkshake, and my brother's friend had a banana milkshake that was surprisingly not artificial tasting. 

I can only imagine how long the lines will be come summertime. Hopefully they can find a way to accommodate more than 8 seats for customers. Oh, I forgot to mention the best part. It costs about half the price of Shake Shack. Don't get me wrong, I will opt for a shroom burger over a steakburger any day, but a steakburger with fries is only $5.99. 

Steak 'n' Shake
1695 Broadway
New York, NY

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Market by Jean Georges revisited, Boston

I had the opportunity to revisit Jean Georges' Market last month. I must admit that there was a very noticeable improvement in everything ranging from flavors, ingredients, to presentation. 

There was some confusion when the hostess told me that my name was not listed for a reservation that I definitely made, but the rest of the night went very smoothly and management was extremely attentive. I went with my friend Rich, and we both decided to go for the Market menu, which is very moderately priced at $59.

We started with  Maine diver scallops served over crunchy rice and a very tasty chipotle emulsion. I think this was my favorite course, for there was a great balance of temperature and textures.  

Then came the butternut squash bisque, that had the nice addition of pumpkin seeds. 

The Atlantic salmon was also enjoyable, and had this glaze that I couldn't quite name. It was very familiar, yet never have I ever tried it paired with an entree. It was sweet with a nice kick of tang. I asked the waitress what it was, and she told me it was ginger. I was certain that it wasn't. I guessed passion fruit, and now in rereading the menu, I realize that it is. It was a very novel sauce, though I don't know if it's something I can eat in a larger portion. 

The soy glazed shortribs were not as tender or moist as I would've liked, but it was still enjoyable. 

I must admit, I wasn't anticipating dessert too much, for it was a simple sundae, but I definitely ended up enjoying it a lot. The caramel popcorn and peanuts added a great touch to the caramel ice cream sundae. I definitely could've used seconds on the single oversized scoop of ice cream.

Overall, I must admit that this was quite a step up from my initial dining experience. I would recommend the Market Menu for anyone wanting to try Jean Geroges' without making too much of a dent in your wallet. I definitely plan on trying The Mark Restaurant on the Upper East Side in the near future. 

100 Stuart Street
Boston, MA 02116

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Meatball Shop

I am back from my Eastern European travels! I'll give some thorough food analysis of what I ate there soon, but I must first post about my dining experience at The Meatball Shop last night. 

Here's the thing about hype. It creates this preconceived notion that your dining experience will be phenomenal and that what you will eat will put you in a state of pure bliss. I must admit that the only reason that I even considered trekking to the Lower East Side was because of the very inspirational video that I happened to come across awhile back. I was intrigued by the passion, the camaraderie, and the fun in the meatball business. 

I got there at around 9pm (after the Stanton Social stupidly sat me and my brother in the lounge, though he is clearly not even close to looking like a 16 year old, and we had to leave because he was underage and the wait for a regular table was 1.5 hrs. I'll get to you soon, French onion soup dumplings and Kobe sliders!) and the only available spots were a very cramped standing section next to the storefront window. I was hungry, and I was already there, so I made us take the standing spot. 

After unsuccessfully discussing with our waitress how many ounces was in their glass of Sixpoint Wheatball beer (she had no numerical idea of the difference between a glass and a pint), we waited patiently for our meatballs. In the meanwhile, a party of 6 decided to crowd around the standing table behind us (note: my brother and I were already feeling more than cramped standing together, imagine the situation now). Yes, I realize it's 9pm on a Thursday night and that you're all here waiting for a table that you're not going to get until 11pm, but this is not a bumping nightclub. There is no need to push and shove as if you were fighting to get a barista's attention. Everyone else around you is trying to enjoy their meatballs and 16oz beers. 
--Sidenote. Let me comment on how so many places in this area serve Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. I honestly don't get it. It's gross. Who knew that I was also a hipster because we would sometimes opt for PBR over Natty Light to save a few dollars on beer pong nights. ...Someone bring be back to the Czech Republic PLEASE. 

The meatballs: incredibly underwhelming. I bit into the naked balls that were slathered in parmesan cream and served over spaghetti, and I was just not impressed. They were rather dry and flavorless. The crust of flatbread served with it had quite a stale texture. I ordered two sliders, a recommended vegetarian ball with tomato sauce and their special for the night, which was a Reuben with thousand island dressing. Again, I encountered an unexpected dryness and blandness. The vegetarian ball just tasted like straight up grounded white beans, and the coat of tomato sauce was so sparse, that it even added to the dryness. I couldn't handle it with the cold bun, my throat was next to parched.  The Reuben evoked similar sentiments, and I also noted the luke warm temperature of the meatballs that were served. Now, I'm no meatball expert, but I really don't think they're supposed to be served on the cold side with stingy amounts of sauce. (Or maybe I just came back from Istanbul, where their kofte, meatballs, were consistently flavorful and succulent.)

The redeeming factor of the meal was the ice cream sandwich. The special of the day was orange cream, so my brother and I decided to pair it with a snickerdoodle and ginger snap cookie. The cookies were definitely well made and the texture was perfect to hold together the sandwich. 

My brother wants to go back to try the mushroom gravy, but honestly, I do not know if I want to go back. I hate it when places have great service but poor food. Talk about hype. 

The Meatball Shop
84 Stanton Street
New York, NY

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Travelling for the holidays

I hope everyone had a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday season. I will now be flying from New York to Istanbul, then travelling throughout Eastern Europe to hit up Budapest, Vienna, and Prague.

Updates to come in two weeks! For now, keep warm, eat lots, and safe travels!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2nd Ave Deli

Since I was in elementary school, my grandmother would bring home packages of brisket and pickles from 2nd Ave Deli. They have two locations (neither of which are on 2nd Avenue anymore), and one of them happens to be right in my new neighborhood! 

I woke up one morning in a daze thinking that my brother and mom were discussing cole slaw on sandwiches, and I thought they were planning to head over to this Jewish Kosher joint (they really weren't). When I was actually awake and suggested heading there to my brother, he was more than ecstatic to join me (he loves his Kosher food). 

We ordered a twin double on rye, which was half a pastrami and half a corn beef sandwich. My brother also insisted on getting the SQUARE potato knish (the difference is that the round one is baked, and the square one is fried), which was probably the best potato product I've ever eaten. 

We slathered both sandwiches with mustard, and both were very satisfying, though my brother prefers Katz's pastrami more, for they offer a "marbled" option. Look at that pastrami!

After your meal, they also provide a complimentary chocolate soda shot, which was perfect because it just left me yearning for more.  

Because we sat at the bar (and avoided the LONG wait), we were situated right in front of boxes of rainbow cookies and rugelach. I couldn''t resist the rainbow cookies and bought a box home. I can't wait to go back for another knish, a towering sandwich, and my chocolate shot! 

2nd Ave Deli
162 E 33rd St  
New York, NY 10016

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! I wish everyone happy eating in 2012!