Friday, April 25, 2014

Dinner at Jeepney in NYC

For my belated actual birthday dinner out, Dan took to me Jeepney, the Filipino gastropub sister/brother to Maharlika just a few blocks over on 1st Avenue.  Despite the fact that the restaurant is full of naked Filipina pin-ups, I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone to come here.  Though if you have never had Filipino food I don't know if you would have a great sense of the more traditional, simpler foods.  This is a definitely a hipster-fied restaurant with creative takes on traditional dishes.  So since we've had a lot of Filipino food in our lives it was awesome to see new spins on familiar dishes.  We were SO full though and kind of felt bad we had indulged in so much fatty, meaty goodness.  Still, totally worth it.

Delicious drinks.  (L) Sangria with fresh fruit and chocolate spices.  (R) Can't remember name of this drink but had ilegal mezcal, calamansi honey, chipotle and other things that I'm forgetting.  It was super refreshing with a nice kick

Batangas Bone Marrow - roasted bone marrow, garlic rice and patis (fish sauce).  I don't know if people in the Philippines actually eat this, but f-ing genius.  Soft garlic rice with actual garlic crisps, bone marrow, and a little fish sauce. Soo rich and sinfully good.
Sisig Tacos - pig ears, snout, cheek, belly, garlic, bird`s eye chili, red onions, kalamansi, cilantro and avocado crema.  Normally I'm not a huge fan of sisig (skillet cooked pig's face and other parts) because I don't like some of the gelatinous texture.  However, here they cooked all the diff pork parts so they were crisp.  Plus that avocado crema!  Some of the best tacos I've ever eaten, and I loved that they used blue corn.

Closer shot

Top 5 tacos ever consumed by HP

Chicaron Bulaklak - crispy ruffle fat.  Pretty sure this was chicken, which means we started our dinner with beef fat, pork fat, then chicken fat hahaha

Finally, Bicol Express - Slow roasted pork shoulder in coconut milk, sili and bagoong sauce with Vigan longganisa, pickled chilis and baby bok choy. Served with rice.  Really delicious but different than past Bicol Express I've had in that there was no pork skin like lechon which is usually used, but there was tender pork under that blanket of sauce.  So delicious but we were pretty full.  The bok choy was a nice addition to cleanse a little.

Dinner at Otto Enoteca in NYC

My birthday celebrating continued when Elena took me to dinner at Otto Enoteca.  It's one of Mario Batali's restaurants and definitely reminded me of Eataly.  The front bar area had the standing tables plus obvisouly a real bar. The restaurant itself is pretty large but the front area is too.  Even though we had a reservation we had to wait about 15 minutes.  Fortunately we were totally simpatico and agreed on ordered a white pizza + marinara based pasta.  Both were delicious and went well together, though not the best pizza or pasta I've eaten in my life.  I actually really loved the different pastas I tried at Eataly.  I enjoyed this one but it wasn't that hot when it came out, and the portion was small, though I guess it was only $12 so can't complain too much.  I love mushrooms and white pizza but I wished there had been some truffle oil.  We shared three kinds of gelato, including olive oil which people raved about on Yelp.  We both had the same reaction to the olive oil gelato - weird and diferent but didn't hate it.  Not exactly glowing but it was just so weird.  Def got the olive oil taste plus big flakes of salt.   The other flavors were tasty because they were sweet and rather normal.  Overall a good meal.  I'm not sure if I would come back given how many awesome pizza places I have yet to try.  But a solid choice.

Funghi & Tallegio pizza

Taccozzette con Stracotto - braised pork shoulder, tomato, basil.  This was a great pasta dish but the temp wasn't hot enough.  The noodles were very soft and like little mini lasagna.  The pork was well cooked, very tender.  And the sauce had nice flavor.  I think if it came to us right when it was cooked I would have raved about it.

Olive oil in the front, hazelnut stracciatella (w/chocolate bits) on right, and milk and honey on the left.  The milk and honey was a little too sweet for me, but the one or two bites I had were great.  The hazelnut tasted a lot like java chip.  It was all good though until they kind of melted together and was a really confusing mix of flavors.

Home-made Spam Kimchi Fried Rice

Although this is one of my go-to dinner meals, I had to post pics because I bought this round egg shaper that made the eggs atop the kimchi fried rice soooo pretty and nearly perfect.  This time the meal consisted of rice, broccoli, kimchi, garlic, spam, and of course runny egg.  I used a ton of broccoli so I think it was actually pretty healthy.

Home-made Rib birthday dinner

Dan made me one of favorite meals for my birthday dinner - bbq ribs, sauteed green beans with tons of garlic, and thin sliced African smoked potatoes with kale.  Everything was so delicious!  Dan's really trying to one-up my Dad's ribs haha.  Arguably what I would ask for on death row for my last meal.
Such meaty ribs

Different angle.  Looks like a professional plate

Veggies look great here
Dan got me what I've always wanted - my very own Carvel crunchy ice cream cake!  I forgot to take a pic before we started cutting, hence why it looks like it got slashed in the face

Dessert at Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in NYC

After dim sum we walked about one block to the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for dessert.  I love that the normal flavors are all the ones that most Americans would find weird - avocado, red bean, ube, and DURIAN!  Despite my efforts Dan didn't order durian haha.  The "exotic" flavors are things like chocolate, vanilla, etc.  I absolutely loved my almond cookie.  It tasted just like a Good Humor Toasted Almond bar plus had bits of almond cookie!  My mom's pistachio was also really good and tasted different than most places but I can't put my finger on.  Dan got this crazy ice cream called Zen Butter, which had sesame seeds and peanut butter.  He claims his was the best of the three.  It's hard to say, but since it was my birthday I think mine was haha.

(L) Almond Cookie (R) Pistachio.  They were not stingy with their scoopage

Zen Butter

Dim Sum Brunch at Oriental Garden in NYC

The 'rents, Dan and I tried to go to Jing Fong Restaurant in Chinatown for dim sum, but apparently it was closed for renovations!  WTF!  There were some crazy waits at various dim sum restaurants nearby, but we ended up going to the closest restaurant - Oriental Garden, which happened to be Michelin recommended.  We waited probably 30-40 mins but I think it was worth it, though I def want to try Jing Fong sometime in the future.  It was sort of a cross of cart-style and menu ordering.  There were carts but the place is pretty small and cramped so it was more of people bringing stuff by hand to our table than rolling by with carts.  Also, we were never ONCE offered water, despite asking 2 diff people for water, they said it wasn't their job.  Wtf you can bring me chicken feet but not some water?  My dad gave me a water bottle to drink.  So customer service not great.  But the food was pretty good.

Pork and shrimp shu mai - my absolute favorite

 Bok Choy with garlic

Shrimp Dumplings

Shrimp in rice wrapper

Pork dumplings

Chinese broccoli

Steamed spare ribs in black bean sauce

Watercress and pork steamed dumplings
Turnip cake - so unique.  Almost custard-y

Brunch at The Half Pint in NYC

My friends and I went to the Half Pint for a birthday brunch.  Sadly the menu they offered us was different than the one I had looked at online, and was almost disappointed because I thought I couldn't order what I wanted.  Fortunately Nicole asked the waitress and there was another menu for less than 8 people.  Why they have two diff menus depending on the size of your party makes little to no sense.  But whatever , got what I wanted!  Also they were very diligent about re-filling our glasses.  Though the food was good, I don't think it was anything that amazing.  But overall a great meal and even better bottomless deal.

Breakfast Nachos - waffle fries, scrambled eggs, bacon, salsa, and crazy cheese sauce.  Soooo delicious but so heavy and a ton of food.  I don't even think I got through half of it

Same bfast nachos but with sour cream too. 

Skillet scramble with spinach, peppers, bacon and perhaps other things I can't see.  Nicole enjoyed it and got to customize it

Salmon eggs benedict with avocado, breakfast potatoes and salad.  Looked really tasty. I  heard the eggs were overcooked though :(

More salmon eggs benny with spinach.  And overcooked eggs.  Womp womp

Dinner at Red Robin in Clifton, NJ

Dan and I went to Red Robin to redeem my free birthday burger.  Anytime during the month of your birthday, if you're part of their rewards program, you get any free burger.  I almost got my usual bacon blue burger but ended up getting one of their pre-set burgers - the Whiskey River BBQ.  A burger with bourbon-infused Whiskey River BBQ sauce, crispy onion straws, cheddar, lettuce and tomatoes.  I excluded the mayo.  Dan got an extra-large bacon cheeseburger.  Both of us were very satisfied as usual.  I think their special seasoning maybe crack.  Woops!

Inside of Dans's bacon cheeseburger.  Gluten-free bun.  Again the waiter was super careful about asking about allergies/reactions to gluten. 

Whiskey River BBQ burger

Lunch at Larb Ubol in NYC

My mom and I went to Larb Ubol in Hell's Kitchen for a quick, tasty, and inexpensive Thai lunch.  I've wanted to go to this place for awhile after seeing a different place out-of-state on DDD that showcased larb - a Thai dish with ground meat, some herbs, and either cabbage or lettuce wrap.  The lunch special of an entree plus either papaya salad, chicken larb, or soda gave me a great way to try larb but also got the entree of my choosing.  I ordered a dish with chinese broccoli and crispy pork over rice.  It was actually pretty spicy, but very tasty and manageable to eat.  Lots of flavor in the pork, and crispy like lechon.  The chinese broccoli made me feel less bad about eating fried pork for lunch haha.  My mom ordered a dish with steamed chicken, ginger, rice, and sweet chili sauce.  I think she enjoyed it.  It looked healthy but still appetizing, so a winner in my book.

Kao Mun Kai - steamed chicken with ginger rice, Thai herbs and ginger sauce.  Only $8

Complimentary chicken larb.  Honestly I wasn't that impressed by this.  Some ground chicken in lettuce.  Perhaps some of the entrees of larb have more flavor than this?  But this reminded me a little of why I didn't like ground meat as a child because it looks so unappetizing

Kana Moo Krob Over Rice - Stir-fried Chinese broccoli and crispy pork over rice.  You can see some pepper on the pork; there was def some heat.  The veggies were a nice counter-balance though, and the portion was perfect for lunch.  Not too much to feel gross, but enough to be full.  Also only $9.

Home-made gluten-free fish tacos

Dan made some delicious gluten-free fish tacos.  He breaded the tilapia in Trader Joe's all-purpose gluten-free flour and pan fried.  It was sooo crisp and delicious.  He also made a delicious vinegar-based cole slaw and sriracha aioli on top, plus avocado and cilantro.  A delicious, quick, and generally healthy dinner.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Home-made Rice & Beans w/Pernil and Roasted Veggies

My dad cooked pernil the other day and gave us some.  I wanted to use it more creatively than just heating it and eating, so I added it to some leftover black beans and fresh cooked jasmine rice.  Then I roasted some broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and garlic, topped with salt, pepper, and TJ's African Smoke seasoning.  The flavors surprisingly worked really well together.  It felt a little like a chopped-style meal haha.  Although I was competing with no one.

Home-made Zucchini Pasta

Dan purchased this awesome vegetable spiralizer (not sure what the word is) on Amazon after we read some HuffPo article about fun, different ways to cook and eat vegetables.  The spiralizer is amazing and so easy to use.  We used one medium/large zucchini for the two of us and it took probably one minute for him to crank out all the noodles.  Then he added it to a saute pan filled with pasta sauce he had made a few days prior (ground beef, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs) and also added fresh cherry tomatoes and kale.  Except for the beef it was super healthy, but really the meat was lean so overall a good idea.  I was pretty full too considering there were no carbs.  I liked the crunch of the zucchini skin as we didn't peel it.  Next time though perhaps we can cook it a little longer to achieve a more pasta like texture. 
Just cut zucchini "spaghetti'.  So colorful and bright.  Makes me happy just looking at it

Final plate.  Restaurant quality in my humble opinion :)

Home-made Pho Noodles

Dan and I were craving pho but basically driving to JC is now a terrible idea given the Pulaski is shutdown for years.  Fortunately we had some pho cubes (so we are kind of cheating) and rice noodles in our pantry.  Added some strips of steak, bean sprouts, scallions, and herbs.  Plus the usual sriracha and lime juice.  Obviously the broth is not nearly as good as going to a real Vietnamese restaurant, but definitely a step up from instant ramen noodle type things.  And it looked good.

Various toppings - hoisin sauce, sriracha, lime juice, bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapenos, and steak

Lots of noodles

Final bowl.  Looks legit

Lunch at Mighty Quinn's BBQ in Clifotn, NJ

My dad wanted to go back to Mighty Quinn's for lunch so he, my mom, Dan and I went back.  We got some new things (or new variations of things we've tried) so now only have a couple of things left on the menu to try, including the Brontosaurus Rib.  I like having reasons to come back to delicious places though.

Brisket sandwich with complimentary vinegar coleslaw and pickled cucumbers and chilis.  Brisket was as great as last time, super moist and nice combo of lean and fatty meat.  The bread was a little too dense for my liking.  I like bread that gives in more easily haha.  The chilis were supremely hot.  I only ate on.  Cucumbers were nice and refreshing and I put them on my sandwich.  Slaw was great too.  I like that they have a non-mayo, vinegar option.

Sides of Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple & Pecans, and Buttermilk Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Almonds.  We got the sweet potato casserole last time too and it has great flavor and texture, but too sweet for me to eat a ton of.  The buttermilk broccoli sandwich was delicious and something I would prob order everytime from now on.  Great combo of sweet, salty, and crunchy.  I like to think it's healthy even though it's drenched in buttermilk plus bacon.  Woops.

My mom's pulled pork sandwich.  So much pork.  She took half of it off and had a nice sized sandwich still.  Meat is also super tender and flavorful.  Confirms my conclusion from last time that one should order either brisket or pulled pork.

Spicy wings.  Dan got these and liked them but he's also got a much higher tolerance for spice than me.  He also said the pickled celery was spicy.  Mighty Quinn's certainly is not shying away from spicing things up.

Lunch at Mile End Deli in NYC

So back to that second lunch.  Because we felt like we could eat more and we wanted to go some place where we didn't need a reservation (as it was prime lunch/brunch time), we ended up going to Mile End.  I've wanted to go for a long time because they have poutine and smoked meat a la Montreal, but you can't make a reservation so I haven't gotten around to it.  Fortunately we had no wait although there were definitely others eating there.  The poutine was f-ing AMAZING.  Best poutine I've had since I went to Montreal my freshman year in college.  The last two times I went to Montreal I was dissapoutined.  #SorryImNotSorry.  Figures the best poutine I have is in NYC.  The smoked meat was good but for me a little too pepper-y, or there were some spices that didn't make me love it as much as Katz's.  Katz's rules all.

Smoked Meat Poutine - fries, cheese curds, brisket, gravy.  First of all, this was so rich that I easily could have just eaten this.  Second, it was so good I didn't want to not be eating this.  The fries were perfectly crispy, the smoked meat was peppery and thick, the gravy was delish and the CURDS!  THE CURDS!  So many places in NY/NJ that claim to have cheese curds lie to me, but these were the real deal.  I think actually the meat detracted a tiny bit from the awesomeness of the curds and gravy.  Next time I will just try the classic poutine because it is that good on its own.

Classic Breakfast - two eggs scrambled, potato latkes with sour cream and applesauce, and smoked meat.  I unfortunately didn't take great shots of the potato pancakes, but there were two underneath the eggs.  They were f-ing ginormous.  Probably the size of a 8 or 9" diameter plate.  Like bigger than my face.

You can have a little better sense of the largeness of the potato pancakes.  We pretty much demolished the poutine but took home the leftover potato pancakes and smoked meat for next day's breakfast.  Didn't take the eggs because not the most appetizing to reheat.  Still, this whole plate was only $13.  Definitely worth it.  I want to come back and try their bialys as well.