I’m not kidding! But hopefully you’ll enjoy it!
Just back from NYC! My post graduation plans were (and still are) to go to the Pastry program at the French Culinary Institute, but I’ve been applying for accounting/auditing jobs in NYC, “just in case.” Partly because the accounting field does interest me (it’s a lot more exciting than you would think!) and partly because I feel the need to justify my college education. And lo and behold I made it to the final rounds of interview for a few of the Big 4 accounting firms. One of the firms flew me over to NYC for final interviews this week and were kind enough to extend my stay for the weekend. I stayed with my lovely host Ingrid who has the hugest apartment in the bestest location ever, right on Bleecker & Broadway. What more could I ask for?
The trip started off pretty blegh. First my flight from Ontario to Denver was cancelled due to a snowstorm. So I was rerouted to San Francisco where I had a two hour layover which delayed into a four, then five hour layer over before I flew from SF to JFK (instead of my initial destination of LaGuardia which is much closer).
I kept myself entertained with a warm bowl of chili soup in a sourdough bread bowl from Boudin Bakery in the SF airport. Given the circumstances, I think I deserved a bowl of chili at 7am in the morning, hehe. I ate the entire thing, bread bowl cover and all, then realized the sheer quantity of how much bread I consumed. It’s very deceiving! I landed all ready to catch the Super Shuttle into the city but after a warning of a possible 90 minute wait before the next van, I opted for a taxi. The line for the taxi took a good 30 minutes – there were SO MANY people, and not enough taxis, if you can believe that. I finally made it to the Sheraton around midnight, completely exhausted and HUNGRY. Haha, and get this. They couldn’t find my reservation. I almost had a heart attack.
It turns out the firm booked it under my middle name. Whew. At least I made it!
Ok, here starts the food part. I’m going to attempt to give you my entire trip in one post. Forgive me, it will be long!
Coincidently, the Sheraton was located on 53rd & 7th Ave which happens to be just one avenue away from, “The Cart.” I’ve been following this thread on the Manhattan Chowhound Board for a while and given my perfect late night timing and ravenous appetite, I dropped my suitcases off in my room and dashed off to 53rd & 6th. “The Cart” has grown so popular that there’s event a website devoted to it.
Holy moly, THE LINES! THE LINES! I’ve never seen such a long line for any street cart. EVER. Look:
The wait was around 45 minutes (notice that my day thus far was full of long waits! :)) but as I neared closer the smell of chicken, warm pita and gyros grew more and more inviting.
I don’t know if I appreciated the smell or the warm heat emitting from the cart – it was so chilly that evening!
I ordered the “Special – Combo Meat with White & Hot Sauce” ($5.00). Sounds mysterious, no? Lol, what you get is a huge metal tin half filled with a simple salad of lettuce and tomato, topped with warm pita bread. The other half is jammed packed with yellow basmati rice and a generous portion of grilled chicken and gyro meat. Moving in a very efficient manner, one man cooked, another packed in the rice & mean, and a third bagged the tin along with two containers each of white and hot sauce. It was quite satisfying, especially after a long a chilly day, but I don’t know if it was worth the long wait. The meat was very well seasoned, but the real magic is in the mix of the white and hot sauce. Each of the sauces are ordinary on it’s own – the white taste like a mix of mayo and cucumber sauce white the red is a simply flaming hot chili sauce. I mean HOT. So what I did was just dump both sauces over the meats (not before tasting the meats without the sauce beforehand, of course :)) and mix with the rice and all. So enjoyable! Spicy, creamy, salty and hot with the sauce with bind all the rice and meats components together. I used the pita triangles to scoop the it all up, and heck it tasted so much better that way, I just dumped my fork in the trash can! It was around 2:00am when I finished this and you know what? I wasn’t tired. It was as if I were REVIVED. But I needed to sleep because my interview was just 6 hours away at 8am. So I showered, blow dried my fair, ironed my clothes, called my parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle to ensure them of my safe arrival and forced myself to sleep.
*Hopefully the interview went well. Will find out within two weeks. But till the results arrive, lets stay focused on food, shall we? :)*
Dinner the next evening was at my absolute favorite restaurant in Chinatown, BoKy (Menupages says its “Bo Ky” but I SWEAR it’s “BoKy”). I’ve gone so often that they people know me there as the girl who always comes alone and who always has the wonton mein. And they always seat me at the same table. I used to come here on a biweekly basis while at NYU and it was my favorite place to be when I was homesick, tired, had a cold or just wanted to be by myself. But tonight I wanted something more hearty, like Curry Chicken Funn…mmm!
Oh man, this was amazing. The weather has been nothing but windy cold and raining so I’ve been craving warm, filling winter foods. The yellow curry was thick and slightly spicy, poured over a bowl of boiled wide cuts of soft funn. The funn just soaped it all up and provided the perfect vehicle for the chili. Even better was when I topped it with a bit of BoKy’s signature chili sauce that is found on the condiment round at every table. It’s subtly spicy, very nutty sauce that seems to make everything taste a million times better than it was every meant to be. Oh I am so unworthy. Two large drumsticks and a chicken wing and chunks of potatoes round out this bowl of comfort.
Jenny treated me out to lunch at New Malaysia the next day where we feasted on Roti Canai ($2.25), a hot fried bread served with a thick chicken curry. I love my curries! This was perhaps the best of the dishes we had. The bread was so addicting, hot stretchy with just a touch of salt and the perfect chew.
As I college student without a meal plan, a car, or kitchen in LA I often resort to instant noodles more often than I would like. But I always go for the Korean Kimchee noodles, the Thai Mama Mein or the Indonesian Mee Goreng. But instant noodles is about as far as I’ve gone with Mee Goreng, so you must imagine it my surprise when it saw “Mee Goreng ($5.25)” offered as a menu item. This was very different from the instant noodles (well, what did I expect?!) in that the noodles were much thicker and fried with a ton of different vegetables and meats. They were all chopped up so small that most were unidentifiable, I don’t know if that should have made me suspicious…Jenny proposed the idea that maybe the cooks scooped up everything on the kitchen counter and dumped it in. Among the findings we made were bits of fish cake, tofu, onions, chicken, chili and eggs. There was also a whole lot more that we couldn’t quite identify! Flavor wise, it leaned on the greasy side but the well seasoned with a nice savory, slightly sweet and spicy balance. The noodles clung onto the shrimp and chili based sauce.
I’ve had coconut milk based laksa lemak many times in the past, but rarely Asam Laksa. Priced at $5.25 this is the spicy and sour version in a lemongrass broth. The round noodles were thick, chewy and sticky, I’m not sure if I liked it very much. I don’t feel it paired well with the thin tangy broth finished with shredded chicken, onions and all the fish flakes you could ever desire. Now if a thick spicy peanutty sauce went over the noodles – I would definitely like to take part!
We did lots of venturing around Chinatown and filled our afternoon with taro and lychee bobas, a massive freshly steamed mantou. There’s nothing in the world more satisfying that plain fresh hot bread! We also partook in a plain baked bao at Tai Pan (it’s a good thing Jenny and I both love plain bread – otherwise one would think the other was seriously insane and the rate we were eating!) We pondered buying chestnuts to roast in Jenny’s dorm kitchen, then decided we probably shouldn’t given that we have no idea how to roast chestnuts. We thought about steaming crabs (they were so delicious looking!) but then decided against that when we realized we didn’t have pots big enough. We people watched, people eavesdropped, people talked and pondered and dreamed about many things. And ate very much on this windy cold New York day before we parted ways. It was the first time I’ve seen here in over two years!
Going to Peanut Butter & Co. was the most financially unwise decision I made during this stay. I would tell you the real reason I went, but that would be embarrassing, so I will keep that to myself. Just keep in mind that no one should ever pay $7.50 for a peanut butter sandwich. Even if it is made with cinnamon raisin peanut butter and filled with slices of tart green apples and tons of vanilla cream cheese.
This place used to be quite good, believe it or not, until business boomed, media took hold, prices went up and quality went down. Now they don’t aren’t willing to even grill your sandwich, much less toast your bread, but they sure have enough guts to serve you stale bread! (But the vanilla cream cheese is good :))
For dessert I walked over to Rocco’s further down on Bleecker Street. I was debating between Magnolia’s banana pudding or a cannoli at Rocco’s, but weather conditions prevented me from walking any further than absolutely necessary.
I got takeout and brought it back to Starbucks where I enjoyed this treat along with my Chinese homework. It took the (cute) counter guy a good five minutes to package and wrap up my purchase, which only cost $2.50. I wonder if they lost money on my sale… Want to see what’s inside?
Nope, not a cannoli! I was swayed at the last minute by a luscious looking French Lulu. Even the name is beautiful. It’s describe as “A Light Pastry Shell Filled With A Vanilla French Cream and Topped With a Macaroon Crunch,” and that’s precisely what it is. The cream was wonderfully rich and thick, only a tad sweet and flavored mostly by bites laced with chunky bits of crushed macaroon cookies. The sheet was similar to that of a Japanese cream puff, though a touch heavier and much more flaky. The guy put so much work into folding the pastry box that the decided to keep it. The empty box traveled with me all the way back to lovely ol’ Claremont.
I almost forgot that Daylight Savings took place Sunday morning and was thus much grateful for the extra hour which I spent wandering aimlessly around the city. Growing up in Hawaii, I never knew Daylight Savings existed until I moved to NYC. And it still doesn’t make sense to me. It just adds more unnecessary confusion to our already flustered, full and delicious lives. Perhaps one day I’ll get it.
Brunch of the hugest French Toast at City Bakery on 18th St. Some people come for the pudding thick hot chocolate (which I also had) but I was hankering for their French Toast.
It’s the most money I’ve paid for a single slice of toast ($6.50), but it is HUGE and a better deal than a $7.50 peanut butter sandwich. At least in my books. It is also very filling.
The massive chunk is essentially dripped in an egg batter and grilled and caramelized. It’s a good excuse to have dessert during breakfast. The bread is a yeasty yellow creation, I suspect it may be challah, and the large proportion of hot bread is a good match for the thick layer of caramelized crust. It’s not a custardy type of French toast but a good two inches of fluffy goodness paired with crunchy caramel shell. Throw in a $4.50 cup of hot chocolate and you’re all set for a most wonderful sugar coma.
Unless your name is Kathy and you decide that a midday break of banana pudding at Sugar Sweet Sunshine is well deserved. One of the problems I battle with is that once I get a food craving in mind it never ever goes away until I get that one food item.
Hence, the need for the banana pudding I never got last night. I walked over to Sugar Sweet Sunshine instead of Magnolia (closer) because 1) the people are nicer 2) their cupcakes frosting is more fluffy and sugary 3) they really pack in the banana pudding into the 12 oz. “small” cups.
It’s not much too look at and quite easy to make, but who’s going to take the time to assemble vanilla pudding, bananas and nilla wafer when they want it NOW. And who possibly has the patience to wait overnight for the wafers to soften before indulging in the sweets? I supposed some (or many) people can, but I am unfortunately not on that list
On my last trip here I shared the coconut cake and pumpkin pudding with Robyn. The cake was waaaay too sweet, but it was all easily forgiven in exchange for the moist soft texture and strong coconut flavor completed with mounds and mounds of shredded coconut flakes.
But what I really loved was the pumpkin pudding. Remember this one, Robyn? It was so good that I even managed to finish it after our five course dinner at L’Ecole! Eggnog pudding, cream and pumpkin cake. I didn’t make out a distinct eggnog flavor in the pudding but the soft cold pudding combined with chunks of moist and nutty pumpkin cake called for a fall celebration in my mouth. Woohoo. Party indeed. All layered and moushed together like the banana pudding. I think it’s the texture that appeals to me – like bread pudding. And rice pudding. Oooh, pudding. Anything pudding. I love love it all!
I headed back to Ingrid’s apartment later on the evening and we both walked up to S’Mac in the East Village. Though my love for mac ‘n cheese is not as extreme as my love for puddings, I do like it very very much. Sigh, is there anything I do not love? My first experience with mac ‘n cheese was freshman year at NYU. I lived in a triple with two other girls who were OBSESSED with Easy Mac. Like OBSESSED. It was crazy. I think they went though five or six Costco packs per semester. They lived on that stuff. And I admit, I partook in the occasional midnight indulgence of that stuff. Or morning breakfast. And I still eat Easy Mac every once in a while. Sniff. It’s actually quite good! Well getting back to the subject, mac ‘n cheese is the only menu item that S’Mac carries (if you don’t count drinks and mediocre looking cookies). It’s unassumingly tucked off 1st Ave on 12th St but the minute your get in, it’s serious sensory overload of the color orange. The whole restaurant is orange. Swimming in one shade. Hot Orange. And with the open kitchen it’s HOT inside. You feel like you’re sitting in a furnace. Okay, maybe not that hot. But close enough.
(Sorry for all the awful orange tinge to the pictures!)
The menu is simple and straightforward. Ten versions of mac ‘n cheese with one monthly special. Or you can opt to make your own creation. Three sizes. Nosh, Major Munch, and Mongo. I’m sure the nosh can fill up most normal people, but we were in a hungry mood so Ingrid and I decided to split the Major Munches. Hear the tummies roar!
“The Brie” is noted as “Mac-n-Cheese for the “upper crust”. Creamy Brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary. It’s addictive!” No, not really. I like the combination of ingredients in words and it sounds rather decadent. But this dish didn’t work out for me. It just wasn’t cheeeeeesey enough, brie is already a not so cheesey cheese so they should have compensated by using a more cheese, but no, they used even less than what you get in Easy Mac. And I thought I would love the figs, but they really do not belong in mac and cheese. It’s like hot pasta, cheese, mushrooms…salty, savory. And all of a sudden you bite into…FIG? Fig and cheese is good. But figs, hot cheese, pasta and too much other stuff just doesn’t rhyme well. Maybe I’m not “upper crust” material. At least when it comes to mac ‘n cheese
But you know what was good? This one! The special of the month, the “Masala Mac” is “North American comfort food blended with Indian spices – exotic? mysterious? avant-garde? – you be the judge. This one is certainly not for the faint of heart!” I know, aren’t their descriptions SO cheesy. Oh boy, this was so good. Super cheesey and spicy. The crust was probably the best part – lots of breadcrumbs sprinkled on top (optional) and baked till crunchy. Every spoonful yielded rounds of macaroni blinded together by hot American and Cheddar laced with classic Indian spices. Yes, it was spicy. Yes it was so good. And even though I was full beyond words I keep on going, one tummy warming spoonful after another. Such satisfaction. No more Easy Mac for me.
And that was NYC in a weekend! I bet you’re just as exhausted reading it all as I am by writing it I was glad I had a chance to return to some of my favorite haunts like BoKy (I dare you to find a better bowl of Chicken Curry Funn!) and City Bakery. One of my favorite things to do in the city is eat alone because you always end up sitting next to or talking to someone fascinating. It is as if every individual in New York has a passion or a story to share or tell. You never know how your day will end and begin. At City Bakery I started talking with man who collected antiques from weekend flea markets. He turned out to be an NYU professor and a close colleague of the only professor from NYU that I still keep in touch with. What are the odds? The lady who was in line behind me at Rocco’s on Saturday evening ended up being in front of me in line at City Bakery the next day. We must share the same taste in food.
And the best part about Manhattan? You never ever have to drive!
53rd & 6th Ave
80 Bayard St
NY, NY 10013
46-48 Bowery St
Chinatwon Arcade #28
NY, NY 10013
Peanut Butter & Co.
240 Sullivan Street
NY, NY 10012
243 Bleecker St
NY, NY 10014
The City Bakery
3 West 18th St
NY, NY 10011
Sugar Sweet Sunshine
126 Rivington St.
NY, NY 10012
S’Mac: Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese
345 East 12th Street
NY, NY 10003