The Morning is Good.

Thursday, January 31, 2008 15comments No tags Permalink 0


Back in Hawaii, and even during college in LA, the morning was always my favourite part of the day. I made sure to sleep at a early, get a restful eight hours (I love my sleep!) and wake up a few hours before my day would actually began, so that I could enjoy breakfast.

Since moving to NYC, my days and nights have gone all topsy-turvy. Not to say that I’m not enjoying it! I don’t think I’ve been happier in my life :) But. Sometimes. I miss the mornings. I miss the mornings because I never get home from work till late. I miss the mornings because I stay out too late on weekends. There are never enough hours in a day.

Last night I made it a point to sleep early, right after I got home from work. I set my alarm an hour earlier than usual. Because I wanted my morning back. So when the alarm went off when the sky was still a bit dark, I got dressed in a big brown sweater, lazy cotton pants and set off in the cool air. Where to?

The Doughnut Plant, of course!

I take for granted just how close I live to this wonder of doughnuts – just a brisk 8 minute walk. I rarely set foot out on Rivington Street this early, when there’s barely a soul around, save for the doorman at the Rivington Hotel, and a few individuals waiting at the bus stop. I walk east to Norfolk and make my way down till I hit Grand Street. And right there, where the two streets intersect, I peer though the glass windows, eyeing a rainbow of breakfast possibilities.

I ordered the Tres Leches Cake Doughnut from a very nice man who proclaimed it his favourite doughnut in the shop. Apparently, this doughnut is a favourite of many, see here and here. And yes, the recommendation did not lead me astray as I happily held the warm doughnut in hand, this crazy morning fried concoction infused with a triple threat of evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream. The innards bore a texture that ran the thin line where powdered sugar meets butter cake, at points nearly melting into the lusciously sweet cream. It lasted exactly eight bites – the first two were big bites, and the last six, smaller. I ate the last bit with great pleasure, a tad of the rich cream clinging to my lips and ahhh, yes indeed…the morning is good.

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St
NY, NY 10002
(212) 505-3700

Ok! Tax Season Sucks + We Have Food!

Thursday, January 24, 2008 18comments No tags Permalink 0


Monday, 5pm, My corner of the audit desk

…and not enough time to blog!
Why so many exclamation points??!!
I DO NOT KNOW.
Must be the result of this weeks’ extreme lack of sleep!!

Tuesday, 8pm. My corner of the audit desk

But Yes!
FOOD.
I’m actually at work now.
And should not be blogging.
But I didn’t take a lunch break.
I think I can justify a blogging break, yes?

These last few weeks have been full of much super funnesss. And as a result. Little Sleep. and Little Blogging Time. But I hope to (somewhat) redemn myself in this post.
-__-

Saturday afternoon and night was filled with a coffee + almond milk + pastry stop at Abraço, which I briefly posted on here. I love Abraço to bits and pieces, despite the tiny space and complete lack of seating. I for one, think the ‘coziness’ of the shop is conducive to socializing …as long as you don’t mind surrendering all notions of personal space. Post liquids and sweets, Robyn, Raphael and I moved met up with Olivia and Erin for a very, very filling dinner at Shanghai Cafe on Mott St.

We started with two orders of xiao long bao: one pork and another crab. The skins were on the thicker side, with less soup than most places, but I found the filling itself to be better than most places in this city.

The broccoli with garlic sauce was awesome, like how all Chinese vegetable dishes are awesome! I wish I could tell you more about this dish, but my head is about to crash and fall asleep on the keyboard if I don’t attempt to get some sleep within the next hour, heheh.

Pan fried rice cakes with mushrooms…

And the one dish I’ll never tire of, no matter how many times I’ve had it and how ever many restaurants: LION HEAD MEATBALLS!!!!!!!!! I get my love of meatloaves and meatballs from my dad, so I can blame any over consumption of such dishes on him. A hot casserole of six gigantic pork-based meatballs swaddled in a sweet vermicelli laced broth. This photo alone doesn’t even begin to do its’ deliciousness justice!

Here’s a peek at the innards. The meatballs are enormous, but they go down soooo easily cause they’re beyond feather light, basking in some weightless dimension of their own. Soft, almost pillowy with a light sweetness, there’s no need for a fork, just a light hand with a spoon and a very eager mouth. Normally I would need a big bowl of rice to go with this dish, but the liberal inclusion of vermicelli noodles rendered rice unnecessary for the evening.

The only letdown of the meal were the red bean pancakes which arrived extremely heavy and greasy. But the big surprise was that the filling didn’t even remotely taste of red beans! As Robyn pointed out, the filling resembled a smashed overripe banana. Scary.

The pork filled joong, was ‘wetter’ than the norm, almost to the point where the rice had become one congealed mass. Nonetheless, it’s hard to dislike any joong despite minor faults, you cannot deny anything hot and steamy with a good chew!

About 80% finished with dinner, we teased with the idea of ordering another dish to round out the meal…even though we were already quite full. But eat with a bunch of people who also like to eat, and more often than not, no one will refuse the suggestion of another order! ;) Hence, this overflowing dish of crispy Shanghai noodles. No better way to call the meal to a close than with a dish that’s hot and oily in all the right ways, clouds of steam rising in the air as we pulled endless crisp fried strands of noodles. Ooooh noodles.

Post dinner we walked over to L’Arte del Gelato in the West Village. I must stop by this place at least once a week, and it’s the only gelateria I’ve found in the city that consistently churns out quality products. Couple that with friendly owners, prime location in the West Village and a fair amount of seating, and you’ve got a place to love. I did a Green Tea and Espresso combination, and the Green Tea proved to be a bagazillion times more enjoyable than the strange gritty serving I had from Grom just a week ago. We chased our gelato run with yet more desserts at Build a Green Bakery just up the street and then parted ways with Raphael and Erin.

The party haz cake!!

Robyn, Olivia and I went to a birthday party for Robyn’s friend, Anna at an apartment in the village. And dear, it was seriously the biggest apartment I’ve encountered in my life, much less this city! The ‘apartment’ I currently share with Shann is but 300 square feet, and this one was…4,000!! Sighs. I don’t even have storage space so my suitcase just sits next to my bed. Which leaves. No room for anything else. HAHARHAR.

Left to right: Alex, Robyn, and Olivia

Like any good birthday party, this one had CAKE. And a rather impressive selection of three cakes picked by Anna herself. And of course. I had a slice of each. Never say no to cake!

And you must say ‘yes’ to a second slice, especially if it’s this cheesecake from Two Little Red Hens! Dense, but far from heavy, it was only a tad sweet and had a fine memorably smooth and near buttery rich texture. Swoooon, indeed!

Sugar Sweet Sunshine’s Pumpkin Spice cake was too sweet for my liking, and unusually oily. The frosting was a bit ‘crusty’ along the edges, but alas, it was all fixed with another helping of the cheesecake ;)

And from The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn, a tall, foreboding and quite intense chocolate cake. Beautifully moist crumb, a very dark cake with pudding-esque ganache dripping sin of the most wonderful sort. I could only imagine how divine this would be with a round of espresso gelato from L’Arte just a hour ago!

As the night went on, we noticed a bit of strangeness taking place in the open kitchen. See the top left of this photo ;) heheh. Midnight mysteries!

Ok! I’m off to sleep now…no time to write a proper conclusion, but I’ll be back this weekend with a more dignified, better written and edited post…HAHAH. But for now….SLEEEP!!

Shanghai Cafe
100 Mott Street
NY, NY 10013
(212) 966-3988

L’Arte del Gelato
75 7th Avenue
NY, NY 10014
(212) 924-0803

Not Dead. Just Busy…

Monday, January 21, 2008 3comments No tags Permalink 0


1/20/08. 4pm. Houston @ 2nd Avenue.

…and a tad sleepy.

But I’ll leave you with memories of particularly delicious weekend involving a late afternoon stop at Abraço with Robyn and Raphael. We shared glasses of piccolo milch, almond milk, and a trio of sweets.

My favourite glass of almond milk in the city…or that I’ve tried so far. Pure, simple and just the barest touch sweet.

Rose Water Pain Perdu with Sweet Ricotta. Robyn and Raphael both didn’t like it very much, but I enjoyed most of all three desserts. Go figure. I must start eating more ricotta – there’s a whole nother world I’m missing out on!

Cardamom-orange bundt cake. I love Abraço for the unconventional treats, sweets that are never too sweet and always promise the inclusion of a herb or flower-y twist. I missed out on the sesame bundt cakes, and an olive oil loaf, but that’s only cause we just paused here on our way to dinner and wanted to ensure plenty of tummy space!

Lavender salt butter cookie. They also had cured olive cookies but were sold out by the time we arrived. Nonetheless, the lavender salt cookie was delicious, crisp all the way though with a generous hand of butter and a light lingering twist of lavender.

Saturday + Sunday = Too Many Pastries & Gelato Times Two

Sunday, January 13, 2008 17comments No tags Permalink 0

Saturday Morning…

Good Morning! 1/12/07 Upper West Side

I met Shravani for breakfast at one of my favourite coffee shops in the city. Located on the Upper West Side, the 40 minute subway ride from the Lower East Side is certainly not the most convenient, but my visits to Arte Around the Corner always leave me quite happy with a sense of peace.

Inside Arte Around the Corner

It’s been months since the last time I’ve seen Shravani – the very first friend I made as an NYU freshman, and one of the few NYU people I still keep in close touch with.

L to R: Rustichella (Lemon Oil Cake), Flourless Chocolate Cake

We walked in around the 10 o’clock hour and sat down to a morning catch-up of times past. The place never fails to be packed to the brim on weekends, yet there is always a constant sense of calmness and efficiency in what sometimes seems to be a crazy city.

It’s hard to pick a ‘favourite’ item here, as everything I’ve sampled has been either good or amazing. In the ‘amazing’ category one can place the Rustichella, a classic lemon oil cake. Now I have no clue how they make this, but if someone knows, please do tell! The cake bears a thin and dark golden crust that breaks into soft, yellow innards. It’s beautiful to look at. But that is just the beginning.

On a different visit, the Rustichella came with a sugar dusted top!

Take your fork and cut all the way down from top to bottom. Put the slice in your mouth and wooosh, it sits for a moment, just long enough for you to take in the fragrant touch of lemon and the moist, full, texture much akin to a well done pound cake. And then, as you dare take a chew, it kind of, sort of…for real, just melts. Just like that. As if it were made from powdered sugar and lemon oil alone. It melts. And disappears. Like the most lovely of memories.

Many loaves to pick from!

But if it’s your first visit here, you must go with one of the herb-honey loves. The come in three simple and pungent flavours. Honey + rosemary, sage, or basil. You cannot go wrong with any of them. It may look like an innocent slice, but do not be deceived.

Rosemary-Honey Loaf

It is POWERFUL. It is dense, it is intense, it is soaking in honey and the herbs play a dominate and unforgivingly delicious role. The taste of rosemary in the photo above was not a whisper or even a touch. It was bammed in there, straight in your face. Coupled with honey in equal intensity, it tastes as if it were bathed or baked in a river of honey. The golden crumb is rich and solid – this loaf is strong and not for the weak. A cup of coffee or tea is a must. It’s a great morning treat, and sure to wake you up with its intensity! My first taste of this loaf was way back in spring of 2006, when Robyn mailed me a slice (along with many other goodies :) to Claremont. Oh goodness, that was a very delicious package!

Simply ‘good’ pastries here are the muffins, above is the Peach-Banana muffin I had on another occasion. The muffins are best thought of as mild and plain. Not overly sweet, but on the same hand, not exactly fully of flavour either.

It’s a very light muffin, boring if you will, studded with a fair hand of chopped peaches and bananas.

Shann’s strawberry croissant with worth a shot just to try it once, but I wouldn’t get it again. Memorable croissants are already hard enough to come by in this city, and it’s simply best not to eat it if you’re not going to be a good one! As far as pastries here go, it is best to stick with the sweets that you don’t find in most bakeries: the various herb-honey loves, pear-ginger bread, lemon & pine nut polenta cookies and ricotta cheesecakes. You can find scones, muffins, and rolls at near any corner bakery, but it’s rare that you’ll come across sage/rosemary/basil-honey loves!

We decided to walk over to Zabar’s after breakfast, get some fresh air, and perhaps burn off a few unnecessary calories.

Ahhh.

Burn off? Well we burned off maybe one or two crossing a couple avenues…but we piled it all back on as we passed the front doors and fell into the temptation of Grom.

If you don’t know about Grom already, read more on it here, here and here. As you can see, there is much to be expected!

I’ve only sampled Grom once before, and that was when I took a spoonful out of Shann’s order. I recall thinking it was very nice, though far from spectacular. So I figured I give it a try for myself today. The pristine clean shop was completely empty as we entered and debated over the variety of flavours. One thing that bothers me about this place is that they cover the gelato so that you cannot actually see the gelato itself. Just metal. And the tag reading the various flavour names. But you cannot see the gelato! Why hide it? :(

I handed over five dollars and some change for a small cup – the most I’ve ever paid for gelato. But if it’s good, it’ll be worth it right? That’s a scoop of the Marron Glaces to the left and Green Tea to the right. Easy on the eyes. The Marron Glaces was somewhat of let down, for it tasted of a bland vanilla gelato with super tiny nidbits of candied chestnuts. No complaints on the texture, smooth with a creamy mouthfeel. I moved on to the Green Tea.

Oh god. It was terrible. The Green Tea. It was gritty. Sandy. Have you ever had gritty gelato? I pray that you never will. The flavour itself was nice, if not mild and pedestrian, but at least the matcha taste was clear. But…SANDY? It was as if the granulated sugar did not dissolve in the process…or something. But. Yes. The Grom Green Tea gelato was gritty. It was disgusting. You never walk into a gelateria expecting a gritty scoop, and you most certainly would never in your right mind pay over $5 for below average gelato. Most other people seem to have had better, or even incredible experiences at Grom. Has something happened since they first opened? Was it an ‘off’ day? I sure hope so. Such ridiculously poor quality was completely unexpected.

Shravani’s Nougat and Gianduja fared better, but I was so letdown/surprised by how disappointing my order was that I did not focus too much on hers. Bah. Am going elsewhere for my gelato fix.

Zabar’s

I tried to mend my broken gelato spirits in the busy aisles of Zabars, basking in the glow of apple-cheese strudels, chocolate babka, and a bounty of rugelach. We browsed though buckets of olives, a befuddling variety of cheeses (the burrata looked especially nice!), and went upstairs to oogle kitchen timers and madeline pans.

Zabar’s on Weekends = Madhouse

The day was bright, cool with a light breeze, sun shining straight down and not a cloud in the air. We browsed a wide selection of books from vendors laid out along Broadway from 83rd St all the way down to 72nd. Save for the gritty gelato, the day was good.

We parted ways post-Grom & Zabars, and I went off to do some work and a bit of what I call ‘organizing my life’. I love organizing my life, which might sound a little crazy, but it is lack of organization which drives me crazy.

Saturday Night

Robyn came over to the apartment for dinner, where we feasted on spam musubis (Robyn’s first ever!) and mochi doughnuts she brought over from a bakery in K-town. I didn’t take pictures from our musubi-making night, the lighting in my apartment is pretty awful…BUT! Robyn took photos, and hopefully it will be up on her Flickr soon.

(Edit: Robyn posted! Notice her MAGIC with photos. My apartment was dark at the time of musubi making, but it looks like daylight in her pictures! :) My favourites: TOWER OF MUSUBIS…and ROBYN HAZ LAU LAU).

Later on in the night, we headed to L’Arte del Gelato in the West Village, by far my favourite gelato place in the city. Yes, I did have gelato just a few hours before. But because it was quite awful gelato, I saw no harm in yet a second, hopefully redeeming dose for the day!

L’Arte del Gelato, much like Arte Around the Corner always makes me happy. For a month or so back in November I’d visit L’Arte at least twice a week just cause it was soooo awesome. I’ve never been disappointed here, and it seems to taste better with every visit. Pricewise, L’Arte is just a negligible $.50 less than Grom, but the quality is a million times more dependable.

We each opted for the Pistachio, and while Robyn picked Lemon Sorbet as her second flavour, I went with the Stracciatella. We took our gelatos to a table and ate. Oooooh. Geezus, the L’Arte del Gelato’s gelato was a world apart from whatever it was that I had at Grom in the morning. The pistachio tasted like as if they had churned pistachio into a creamy rich butter, heavenly on the tongue.

The thing about the flavours here is that they taste so honest, and pure. That thought was further confirmed halfway though our cups as the owner brought over two sample spoons filled with the banana gelato with speckles of chocolate. OMG. Gaaah. HOW COME SO GOOD?! (Insert Intense Drooling). Like perfectly ripe bananas in the form of gelato. Silvers of dark chocolate, just so that they melt on your tongue the moment it hits. The same goes for the chocolate in the Stracciatella, the chocolate shavings nestled in simple, unadulterated vanilla gelato. It tastes whole. And clean. And just the way gelato should. They don’t mess around here. The people are always so nice, and more than happy let you sample flavours. But most importantly, you’re paying for an excellent product.

So. For the record. As far as my books go, Grom = NO. L’Arte del Gelato = Yes, please!

Mighty content, and glad to have ended the day on a happy note, Robyn and I wandered around the West Village, poking into various supermarkets and pausing to look at many restaurant menus. We each went home later in the night, and I tucked to sleep well past midnight, quite satisfied with the day.

Sunday = Cave Day

Sunday, as long time readers are aware, are my cave days, and so I went about my meanderings today, doing the things I do…running errands, drooling over lovely home furnishings for the apartment I do not yet own, and people watching.

I popped into Joe’s on 13th Street between afternoon Open House visits for a cup of coffee and muffin.

I’ve always relied on Joe’s for consistently delicious muffins, and thus was sorely disappointed by today’s blueberry muffin. Strangely spongy with a stingy bits of blueberries smashed up on the bottom left of the muffin, it left much to be desired. The saddest part was the crumb topping, light, and near tasteless, it barely bound to the muffin, and proved to serve only for visual appeal.

As I drank the coffee I could not help my let my mind wander back to yesterday morning with Shravani, more specifically to that book we spotted outside Zabars. I wanted a copy of Secret Ingredients since it first came out, but didn’t want to pay the list price. I could get it cheaper on Amazon or at Strand…but still…The vendor selling books right outside Zabar’s had it for $20, which is pretty good, but $20 is a bit much to spend on an everyday reading book. I hemmed and hawed a bit yesterday, but decided against it.

The book guy in front of Zabar’s

But. But like my food cravings, my book cravings are never satisfied till I have either eaten the food or own the book. And such was the case. So I dashed up to the Upper West Side on a quick whim and, lucky me, the book was still there. $20 poorer, but much happier, I can finally call the book my own.

I tend to be pretty good controlling my spending habits, but like many of us, I do have a few weaknesses when it comes to money management: baked goods, food literature, and black dresses. Only three vices. I think that is fair ;)

I still haven’t finished The Gospel of Food, which I bought only a few days ago…and with the busy tax season at work…I’ll pray for more subway delays so I can have more time to sit and read the books while waiting for the ever slow F train.

Arte Around the Corner
274 Columbus Ave
NY, NY 10184
(212) 875-2195

Grom
2165 Broadway
NY, NY 10024
(646) 290-7233

L’Arte del Gelato
75 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
(212) 924-0803

Joe the Art of Coffee
9 East 13th Street
NY, NY, 10002
(212) 924-7400