Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lunch at Mighty Quinn's BBQ in Clifton, NJ

Mighty Quinn's BBQ just opened up its first place in Jersey, in Clifton in fact.  Right where Corner Bakery used to be.  While I did love Corner Bakery this is a welcome, different addition from the usual chains.  I've wanted to go to Mighty Quinn's in NYC but I always thought the restaurants were small with long lines and not worth it to me especially with places like Hill Country where there's so much space and reservations galore.  Overall, I enjoyed the meal since I got to try so much.  The take-away is that the brisket and pulled pork are wonderful and definitely what one should order.  At least over the spare ribs (too pepper-y and not enough meat and not fall off the bone) or chicken (too much dry rub and not much flavor). The sides were all very tasty.  I'd like to come back and get a sandwich with tons of extra veggies on it.

Half chicken w/pickled cucumbers and vinegar slaw

Spare ribs w/slaw

Sweet potato casserole with maple & pecans, burnt end baked beans, edamame and sweet pea salad, pulled pork.  The best side was probably the beans because of the burnt ends in there.  The sweet potato casserole was the right amount of sweet, and the salad was the lightest so refreshing.  The pulled pork was very tender and juicy and the bbq sauce on the table added great zing.

Brisket w/pickled cucumbers and slaw.  The brisket is probably my fav of any BBQ places I've gone to in the city, so that is a high endorsement.  Good amount of fat and smoke and seasoning.  Can't wait to try a brisket sandwich in the future.

Dessert at Il Laboratorio del Gelato in NYC

Following brunch we decided to take a walk around since it was nice out and the first weekend in Spring.  We wanted something sweet and thought of getting ice cream, but I realized how close we were to Il Laboratorio so got gelato instead.  You can try up to two flavors for free, so I decided to try the pistachio, my usual go-to flavor, because I was mildly confused as to why the gelato was a brown color instead of white or green.  It was definitely nutty tasting but the color threw me off and I couldn't do it.  Instead I got avocado and toasted almond.  The avocado wasn't avocado-y enough for me; filipino ice cream has spoiled me.  But the toasted almond was AMAZING and I wish I had just gotten a whole bowl of that haha.  Dan got vanilla chocolate chip and salted caramel.  Both were awesome. 
(L to R) avocado, toasted almond, vanilla chocolate chip, and salted caramel gelato

Brunch at Essex in NYC

Dan and I finally made it to brunch at Essex in NYC.  It's always been somewhere I've wanted to go to brunch but when you have to deal with the subway and PATH on the weekends, it's so much more tempting to eat at home or eat in JC.  I'm glad we went though because now we know that it's all hype and not anything amazing.  It was super crowded when we got there and awkward/difficult to find the hostess.  Luckily we had a reservation so got seated right away.  The waiter was okay in terms of re-filling our drinks (every brunch entree comes w/3 mimosas, screwdrivers or bloody marys) but sometimes we had to get his attention.  We weren't rushed though, which was good considering how busy it was.  We both felt that we could've made our dishes better at home.  Not that I would have short ribs to just throw in my hash haha, but they OVERCOOKED my eggs!  WTF!  I asked for my eggs over easy and it was definitely over hard, barely any runny yolk at all.  The yolk was essentially cooked through and tasted like a hard boiled yolk.  Sad Panda :(   Also, the duck fat with the potatoes was really unnecessary.  The short rib on its own was so rich (and very tasty I'll admit) so it would've been better with just regular home fries-style potatoes.  Oh well; at least we know now and I can move on to other brunch escapades.

Complimentary onion roll - okay.  Soft but not warm.

The CEO - chorizo, scrambled eggs, onions and tortillas with side of home fries and salad.  Dan got this, and we both agreed that we make better chorizo scrambles at home.  Also, didn't taste like chorizo, more like andouille.  Confusing.

Short rib hash with three eggs "over easy" and duck fat potatoes.  But really kind of misleading b/c hash implies potatoes so you'd think I'd be getting double potatoes (not that I wanted that) but they should just say short rib hash in duck fat, plus eggs.

Still I cleaned my plate hahaha.  Fatty HP.

Dinner at VB3 in Jersey City, NJ

Law school lady reunion in JC.  Very belated.  While I'm glad I finally got to try the food at VB3 and the environment itself was kinda fun for a chill Friday night, the food itself was just okay.  My pizza was tasty because how can cheese, truffle oil, and mushrooms be bad, but the pizza crust was just ehh.  I think everyone enjoyed their pasta except Laura, which I kind of agreed with because it was oddly lemon-y.  The arancini and wings we had for appetizers were fine, nothing so memorable but tasty.  Overall, definitely better food in JC, and most definitely better pizza elsewhere.   But not bad if you're in the Newport area and want something besides mall food court food.

Brick oven chicken wings with roasted onions, celery, chili calabrese and gorgonzola cheese.  Nice and crisp with a good amount of spice.  Didn't really eat any of the stuff on top, maybe that would've made it even better.

Arancini - saffron rice balls stuffed with mozzarella and peas.  Honestly did not taste anything except cheese inside.  Fried cheese is hard to mess up, but it just wasn't anything so memorable and needed some salt.

Penne Primavera with seasonal vegetable, cherry tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.  Kavita got this and I think she enjoyed it.  I didn't try it but it looked fresh and healthy.

Penne a la vodka with prosciutto and peas.  My fav combo, which is also Jess's favorite.  She seemed to like it and I tried a bit and the sauce was good.  Didn't get any meat or peas in my bite but since the sauce was good I'm sure with the prosciutto and peas it was even better.

Wild mushroom pizza with pecorino, truffle oil, and thyme.  Great balance of cheese, shrooms and truffle oil.  The dough was fine but didn't make me want to eat my crusts.

Orecchiette con gambieri - jumbo shrimp, broccoli rabe, lemon, white wine and butter.  Laura got this and unfortunately did not seem to be a huge fan.  I tried it and the only thing I could taste was lemon.  Too bad because it looked really good.

Lunch at Num Pang in NYC

Whenever I'm in NYC and want a quick lunch, Num Pang is always a great bet.  A little pricy for a sandwich but super fresh tasting and always a great variety of meats.  This time I tried the Grilled Skirt Steak sandwich, with crushed coriander, peppercorn, and the usual fixins of cucumber, pickled carrots, chili mayo and cilantro, all on french bread.  Just amazing.

Home-made Irish Dinner

In honor of St. Patrick's Day Dan decided to make corned beef, cabbage, and colcannon (kale and mashed potatoes).  Everything turned out amazing and was awesome together.  Dan bought corned beef that had already been brined so saved himself five days in the fridge.  He cooked the cabbage in the corned beef water, which added great flavor.  And the mashed potatoes and kale together were sooo much better than either separately, because each bite was a little different and both rich yet healthy tasting.  Delish!  And he's not even Irish haha.

Corned beef

Everything together

Cabbage w/some carrots added in

Corned beef and colcannon

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dinner at Umami Burger in NYC

Nicole and I went to the only NYC outpost of Umami Burger in Greenwich Village.  Sooo many pros: no wait, fun drink and dessert options, delicious burgers, and only half a block from the 9th Street PATH station.  Only negatives I can see is that the burgers aren't as cheap as I'd like but for the quality of food I think it's worth it.  We shared everything of course and each loved both the truffle beef and duck burgers we had.  The manly fries were also super tasty, and normally I don't love fries that thin, but the beer cheddar and bacon plus onion straws just made every bite awesome and different.  My drink was a little tart for my liking, but still good.  We also both loved the various dipping sauces.  Definitely worth another visit as there were other things on the menu we wanted to try.  I don't think they take reservations so best to come with a small party.  The space was pretty big downstairs and there was an upstairs but plenty of people waiting to be seated.

Pear martini drink (forgot the name) and the four dipping sauces: (Top to bottom) 1. Umami ketchup 2. spicy sriracha sauce 3. jalapeno ranch 4. roasted garlic aioli.  Nicole liked the jalapeno ranch the best, while I loved the garlic aioli and the ketchup.  Something for everyone

Make-em-Manly Fries - fries with beer cheddar, bacon and onion strings. Such a great combo and some much fun dipping

Truffle Burger - beef burger with roasted garlic aioli, house truffle cheese, and truffle glaze. SOOO good.  You can tell the beef is quality by how it melts in your mouth.  Of course I loved the aioli and all the truffle flavor was wonderful.  We could smell truffles when we got in

Five Spice Duck Burger (special to this location) - house ground duck, peach apple chutney, Chinese 5 Spice, Madagascar pepper, topped with crispy duck skin & garlic aioli on a bed of caramelized fennel.  There were so many flavors here, it's kind of hard to remember but everything worked so well together.  I guess I would say there was more obvious "umami" flavor here than the truffle burger but both were really spectacular.  I would definitely order either of those again

Sea salt caramel - such a great balance of sweet and salty.  Only thing that would've made it better was some crunch, maybe pretzel bits.  Yummy.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dinner at Orale in Jersey City, NJ

Dan and I returned to Jersey City for dinner and decided to go to Orale.  As it was a weekend it was pretty crowded but fortunately we snagged some seats at the bar so we could order right away.  We shared everything and it was all rich and delicious and sinfully bad.  Bone marrow pork belly tacos.  Yup.  That is all.

Esquites (my fav!) - charred corn, crema, citrus, and queso fresco. So so good

Tacos Machin - roasted bone marrow, topped with crispy pork belly and shredded cabbage.  Served with a side of rice and beans, which Dan doused with their green hot sauce, which according to Dan is the best shit ever that they should bottle immediately.  Now, back to the tacos.  SO f-ing amazing.  The fattiness of the bone marrow is compounded with the crispy and slightly fatty pork belly.  The cabbage is a nice way to lighten it up and make you feel a little less bad.  But let's be real, nothing this good can be good for you. There were five tacos total, each served over the empty bone marrow bone.  Plus the rice and beans.  Not bad for $16

Ceviche Peruano - mahi mahi, yellow chile, lime, and plaintain chips.  Nice and thick

Brunch at Candle Cafe in NYC

Sometimes the best thing in life are unplanned, though I rarely say that.  Ended up having brunch with Greg, Tyler, and Risheen on the UES at Candle Cafe - a VEGAN restaurant of all places.  All I can say is that the food was actually pretty tasty and filling and I was a good sport haha.  It was pretty pricy for brunch though. I guess vegan places can do that.

Nuevos Rancheros - spicy tempeh potato hash, corn tortilla, guacamole, tofu sour cream and tomatillo salsa

Cajun Seitan Sandwich - cajun crusted seitan, steamed greens, caramelized onions, avocado, on toasted foccacia with ancho chili aioli and fries.  The seitan actually tasted like crispy chicken and everything on the sandwich was delicious.  I think avocado honestly makes everything better and acts as a great meat distracter ha

Dinner at Red Robin in Clifton, NJ

Pre-movie date Dan and I went to Red Robin because I saw they had a gluten-free menu, and it's been a long time since we've gone out for burgers somewhere besides the Five Guys below our apartment building.  Although we had to wait a little while and I am constantly confused why chain restaurants have suchhh long waits sometimes, the food was actually really good and we both ate our dishes completely.  My drink of beer and booze was amazingly refreshing and reminded me of summer - blue moon white ale, svedka clementine vodka and some orange and lime juice, all served in a hollowed out beer can that was ice cold.  Perfect.  Red Robin also has gluten-free buns and even a dedicated gf fryer.  The fries were also seasoned with something awesome because I could not stop eating it and I usually don't like and can't eat too many steak fries.  Well done Red Robin. Would definitely come again.  Also, the burgers were each like $10.  Not bad at all.  So many good burger places.  Smashburger and Five Guys need to hop on the train and have gf bun options.

My bacon cheeseburger- burger, lettuce, tomato, bacon plus I added blue cheese.  And bottomless steak fries.  Thankfully I had some self control and we left before I could get them refilled

Dan's Royal Red Robin - bacon cheeseburger mayo, lettuce, tomato, and with a fried egg.  So decadent and delicious

Dinner at Kittichai in NYC

Dan finally went with me to Kittichai in NYC for Restaurant Week.  Although it took us a little while to be seated (granted, we got there 35 mins for our reservation haha), the quality of the food totally made up for it.  Dan was veryyy impressed with everything, and that's quite a feat.  They also had a $15 3-course wine pairing, which was amazing given that a regular mixed drink there is that price (though tasty and worth it).  I had no idea what everything was that I drank and on their own, not so great, but with the food definitely a great pairing.  Dan also splurged on sashimi that was not part of Restaurant Week and thought it was some of the best he's ever had.

Snapper sashimi, cilantro-tamarind vinaigrette, candied cashews, trout roe - super tasty.  Dan thought was top notch.  Had all the five tastes/flavors that the foodies rave about

Duck Confit Salad, sesame dressing, micro herbs, lychee and peanuts.  A very fresh and light appetizer to start.  Duck was cooked well but a little lost in the dish in my opinion

Barbeque baby back ribs, spiced tamarind glaze, spiced basil - the ribs were cooked great as the meat fell off the bone, but the sauce was a tad sweet, even for me.  The portion was pretty damn huge though.  I was already kind of full!

Chili smoked hanger steak, stir-fried long beans, preserved chili jam, micro cilantro - Dan got this and enjoyed it a lot.  The meat was perfectly cooked and well spiced, though the portion was a little small

Braised pork cheek, spiced palm sugar braise, steamed buns, truffle poweder - some of the best pork buns I've had, but after the sweetness of the ribs, I think my sweet tolerance was wearing thin.  I wish I had gotten something else other than ribs because the pork was phenomenal.  And you know I LOVEE ribs
Black cardamon lava cake, thai basil ice cream - this was another thing that on their own, each piece was fine.  But together it was AMAZING.  The thai basil ice cream was super herby and refreshing and the cake wasn't too sweet, but together just the right amount of sweet.  And whatever that flaky thing was made it great for crunch.  Kind of cap-n-crunchy

Jasmine tea panna cotta, raspberry compote, coconut tuille - Dan got this as panna cotta is naturally gluten-free.  Basically tasted like flowery/tea-flavored custard, almost flan-like.  Nice and light and not too sweet   

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Home-made Vodka Shrimp Spaghetti and Sauteed Kale and Chickpeas

Dan and I were down to some of our last food ingredients, but ended up making a great dinner of shrimp spaghetti in vodka sauce plus sauteed kale with roasted chickpeas.  There was a nice balance of flavors and textures and we felt somewhat healthy eating it.  P.S. Oven-roasted chickpeas are the best.  There's no reason why this should not be regularly incorporated into weekly cooking.  So easy and so good for you

Oven-roasted chickpeas with sauteed kale

Shrimp over spaghetti in vodka sauce.  And lots of parmesan cheese :)

Dinner at Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, NJ

Finally some decent fish and chips in NJ!  Apparently the chef at Tick Tock Diner is British, like actually from England.  So of course the fish and chips was amazing.  Thick nuggets of cod in a perfect batter, plus thick cut fries (a.k.a. chips) and onion rings.  A little gross to eat so much friedness but I showed restraint on the chips.  Very good and on par with fish and chips I've had in the UK.

Home-made gluten-free thai chicken peanut stir-fry

Found some gluten-free thai peanut sauce at Whole Foods and decided to use it for my chicken and veggie stir fry.  The sauce was SPICY.  Like, it was hard to finish my plate spicy.  The sauce itself could've been more sweet/peanut-y but for jarred sauce it wasn't bad.  One day I'll make my own from peanut butter but had to cut down on time after a long day of work.  A very healthy and filling meal.

Chicken, carrot, cabbage, and pepper stir-fry with Thai peanut sauce over jasmine rice

Home-made gluten-free gnocchi with bolognese sauce

We found some gluten-free gnocchi at Whole Foods so Dan decided to make a bolognese sauce to go with it.  It was so so good.  The gnocchi itself was tender with great potato flavor and the bolognese sauce was even better.  It was so flavorful and meaty that we could've just eaten it on its own.  The bit of basil on top made it perfect.  And Dan got to use the knife-cutting chiffonade skills we learned from our cooking class.

Home-made Braised Chicken with Veggies

Dan and I bought some chicken thighs after being inspired by one of Rachael Ray's cooking shows.  He decided to braise the chicken in oil, chicken stock and white wine and cooked it with carrots, spinach, and mushrooms.  And of course there was lots of garlic.  In the end it was a delicious, garlicky, and comforting mix of chicken with some amazing sauce to dip the potato wedges in. 

Dinner at Empire Steak House in NYC

Had a lovely day at the Newark museum then a delicious meaty dinner w/Nicole, Andrew and Tracy.  In honor of Restaurant Week had some $38 three-course steak meals.  While the service was a little awkward and the restaurant itself a little old-school for my taste, the food was pretty good and definitely worth the money.

Sizzling Canadian Bacon - nice and thick and a perfect amount of salt and fat

Fried Calamari - nice crunchiness and not too greasy

Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella - a little lacking in flavor

Prime New York Sirloin with broccoli and mashed potatoes - my stick was cooked perfectly and it was a filling yet manageable size.  Nice sides too. 



Vanilla Ice Cream - can't go wrong although couldn't eat all of it