Sunday, June 29, 2014

Brunch at Calle Ocho in NYC

Dan and I finally made our way to Calle Ocho for a brunch.  You can only get a reservation a month out because it's so popular due to the all-you-can drink sangria brunch.  I thought you could get your own but that would probably be madness, and it was nice to have wait service for that.  The place is inside the Excelsior Hotel, and everyone there looked 30ish or below.  All of the food was excellent, starting from the crack bread basket.  Seriously, best bread I've had.  The "pan de bono" is Colombian bread that smells/tastes a little like popcorn though has cheese inside it.  We asked for seconds, as did both table beside us.  I probably ate too much bread and as a result could only get through half of my meal, but it was fine because we took it to go, along with the extra bread.  The sangria was also ridiculously strong.  There are 8 flavors.  Between the two of us we tried 6.  Definitely would be a fun with a big group of people.  Also the sangria comes included with your meal, so potentially you could spend under $20 for a crazy all-you-can drink brunch.  No wonder it takes a month to get a res.

Box of bread plus delicious strawberry butter.  Pan de bono (cheese bread), plus chocolate chip and blueberry muffins

Close-up of bread

(L) Blanca (fresh fruit and splash of spirits) and (R) Fresas (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and raspberry vodka).  Both were delicious though the fruit was better in the Fresas

(L) Tropical (Mango, pineapple, lemongrass, passion fruit, rum) and (R) Spanish Harlem (peaches, mandarin, cinnamon, dark rum).  I again like both but the Spanish Harlem went down so smoothly

2nd bread basket of just pan de bono.  Seriously like crack.  More so than Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Latin Benedict - poached eggs, house-made pork and duck sausage, arepas, and chipotle hollandaise.  Dan got this and ordered sides bc we thought it might not be enough food.  It was super rich and delicious and the eggs poached perfectly.  The sausage was also out-of-this-world flavorful.

Vaca Frita - Cuban skirt steak, latin pork, fried rice, avocado, fried eggs.  An ideal HP meal.  I was so full though I could only get through half.  But the next day it was delicious for breakfast

Close-up of my steak

Sides of home fries and chorizo.  So much flavor

(L) Samba (Veev Açaí Liqueur, Brandy, Blueberries) and (R) Punta Cana (Mamajuana Hispanola, Peaches, Oranges, Pineapple, Rum).  We were definitely feeling it after this.  So full

Lunch at Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, NJ

My parents, Dan and I went to eat at Tick Tock because my parents wanted to swing by TJ's.  Fortunately we got seated rather quickly but it was crowded since it was prime brunch time.  I tried something new this time and was pleasantly surprised.  Also it was one of the few times I finished an entire large salad, though Dan gave me some help.  Proof that you can order healthy at a diner haha.

My dad's Cobb Salad - with grilled chicken, iceberg lettuce, bacon, avocado, blue cheese, tomato, cucumber and hard boiled egg.  Very hearty portion and everything looked nice and fresh

My Nicoise Salmon Salad - seared salmon, mesclun greens, cherry tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, capers and balsamic.  I asked for it w/no olives, which they did, but they forgot the anchovies :(  It was still delicious though and I felt good after eating, which is unusual haha

Dan got the Route 3 Traffic Jam - 2 potato pancakes, 2 sausage patties, and 2 eggs topped w/melted swiss cheese.  A quality though heart-stopping choice

My mom got the Parmigiano sandwich - breaded chicken cutlet with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella on a baguette w/side of sweet potato fries. 

Lunch at Woorijip in NYC

I finally made my way to Woorijip in Koreatown.  I've always wanted to go because I heart Korean food, but with the exception of Korean fried chicken places (hey Bonchon!), going out to eat Korean is usually somewhat expensive.  But Woorijip has lots of pre-made, inexpensive food, ranging from fried rice to dumplings to their version of sushi to soup.  I picked up an eel bowl because I love eel but usually one roll will run at least $5-6 and will need a second roll or something else.  This bowl was only $5.50 and had a healthy amount of eel meat, plus some egg patty and delicious rice.  Plus a little seaweed.  A great quick and I think pretty healthy meal. So many other things I wanted to try but didn't want to carry leftovers in my bag ha.

Home-made broccoli cheddar quiche

I made more quiche.  So easy and delicious.  I should do other varieties but I can't seem to get sick of the broccoli cheddar combo.  Maybe I'll do one w/spinach to mix it up.

Home-made branzino and roasted veggies

My parents gave me a whole branzino to cook, and since we have no grill I had to find a decent oven recipe.  I didn't do anything crazy, just baked in the oven with lemon and salt and pepper and it came out really well, though I should've flipped on both sides to ensure it was fully cooked.  I also roasted some veggies w/butter and African smoke.  A delicious, light, carb-free meal.

Branzino and roasted veggies


Close up of veggies.  I had added frozen brussel sprouts to carrots and potatoes I chopped.  Apparently the brussel sprout pack also had butter, hence the yellow sauce on everything

Fish meat on top plus veggies

Dinner from Tres Carnes in New York, NY

I brought home dinner from Tres Carnes in NYC because I was in that area, and had always wanted to try what looked like a Tex-Mex bbq version of Chipotle.  Everything was delicious and tasted like a more bbq-oriented version of what I'd order at Chipotle.  It was also a little more expensive but worth it for what you got.  There was much seating space at the restaurant so I'm glad I took it to go.  Would definitely recommend for a quick, inexpensive meal if you are around Chelsea.
Dan's Bowl - smoked brisket with green poblano rice (cilantro, poblanos, and green onions), black beans, crema, and hot salsa

My bowl - smoked brisket w/Mexican sweet rice (sweet bell peppers and onions, pinto beans, cotija cheese, radishes, and mild salsa.  The brisket was so thick and well cooked.  Great flavor and charring and a large portion

Side of my fav - esquites - roasted corn, smoky lime mayo and cilantro

My bowl all mixed up plus with the corn

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lunch at La Riviera Trattoria in Clifton, NJ

We went out for my mother's birthday at La Riviera Trattoria, which is just a stone's throw from my parents' house.  This place is well known for having a very large menu of gluten-free Italian food, which is hard to come by.  Everything was great and they were super accommodating and knowledgeable about the g-f life.  Also, wonderful dessert.
Complimentary bruschetta - great amount of balsamic/olive oil and fresh tomatoes

Seafood salad (g-f) - calamari, shrimp, octopus, mussel, celery, onion, and tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon dressing.  Nice and light with big pieces of fresh seafood.  Love octopus so much!

Salad that came with all the entrees.  Nicely dressed and salted and peppered.

My dad's grouper in a red sauce.  I think it was a special of the day.  Great flavor and hearty meat-like tatse

My mom-s cheese ravioli in red sauce.  Great as well.  The filling was thick but not pasty

Dan's gluten-free veal parmigiana.  Nicely sliced with good balance of sauce to cheese.  Would not have known this was gluten-free

My penne a la vodka.  The pasta was cooked al dente and the sauce had a nice flavor, but I wished there was something else in it, like peas or some meat.  Just one extra thing would have been nice because it was a little tiring eating the same thing

Gluten-free brownie with vanilla ice cream.  Good but not as good as mine

Gluten-free creme brulee.  Great vanilla flavor and nice texture

My cannoli.  Def the best part of my meal.  The filling was everything. 

Dinner at Peter Luger's Steakhouse in Brooklyn, NY

For Dan's second birthday dinner I took him to Peter Luger's, which has been a meaty dream for us both.  It was my first time in Brooklyn in quite some time.  Unfortunately because I had to change our reservation so last minute we had a late seating, but nonetheless it was totally worth it because our meal was great.  I still don't know if I could say it's the best steak in NYC because I've had a lot of great steak, and the score would go down because the sides were just ehhh.  But the meat itself was so tender and melt-in-your mouth.  We had no trouble getting through it.  I also find it funny how simple the menu is.  Steak for # of people is the main steak choice haha.  Love it.
Complimentary bread.  The bread in the middle and on right were pretty rock hard.  The left was an onion roll that was soft and edible though not necessarily memorable

Sizzling Bacon, Extra Thick - Do this.  And don't be like me and think you should just get one to share.  Thank god Dan convinced me to get two slices

Porterhouse Steak for 2.  Perfectly cooked medium and piping hot.  There was hot butter on the bottom that we constantly used to sauce our meat

Plate with creamed spinach, steak, and german potatoes.  The creamed spinach was okay.  Honestly didn't eat too much because I wanted to get all the meat.  Some of the potatoes were burned and I thought it would be more like Hill Country's, which it was sadly not.

Key Lime Pie - again, do this.  We thought we were full but this was worth it.  Perfect blend of sweet and tangy

Huge blob of fresh whipped cream, which just completed the pie.

Huge bowl of leftover whipped cream that Dan wished he could take home

Home-made oven-baked bbq chicken

Dan made bbq chicken thighs in the oven along with Mexican corn and bbq baked beans.  A great meal that almost made me forget that we don't own a grill.

Dinner at Union Republic in Jersey City, NJ

I took Dan to Union Republic in JC for birthday dinner #1.  Apparently the owners of UR use to own MAE (Modern American Eatery), which used to exist in JC on Communipaw Ave.  There were some issues with the landlord and MAE shut down, but please see former reviews of how awesome it was.  Anyway, so glad that UR opened up and in a nicer part of time.  Like MAE there is a modern, non-uptight theme with lots of different cuisine all lumped under "American," though MAE had more of a southern flair and UR has more of an Asian/meat-inspired theme.  Just like Hungry Panda haha.  Everything was delicious and I can't wait to come back to try the ramen burger!
Complimentary hummus, toast points, and black bean dip.  The hummus was very subtle but together with black bean dip was excellent.  I wished they had given me more toast but I continued to eat up the dip anyway

Lamb ribs - This was SO good and very reminiscent of what they had at MAE.  Maybe it's the exact same recipe.  Tender meat, albeit a little fatty, with a rich sweet sauce

Warm Octopus with chorizo, potato, frisee, and cherry tomatoes.  Possibly the best thing we ate all night.  The octopus was perfectly cooked and all the other elements worked perfectly together, with a nice light citrus dressing

Dan's A Hen Full Ramen with rice noodles (gluten-free) - soft egg, chicken meatballs, dashi and shoyu broth.  Dan wasn't loving the noodles and I'll admit they weren't the best I've had, but the broth was really nice and flavorful

My Nose to Tail Ramen - pork, heart, belly, sofrito-shoyu broth.  Looking back on it I'm not sure what exactly the crunchy part was (left) that was a little salty, but everything else within it tasted great.  I loved the soft egg but I ate so much before that I could barely get through half of this.  No worries though because it reheated well

Creme brulee for dessert.  Excellent vanilla and citrus flavors

Home-made gluten-free broccoli cheddar and bacon quiche

One things for certain - Dan and I love quiche.  It's so easy to make and I finally got a nice, sturdy pie pan.  The only shortcut I took was using pillsbury's frozen gluten-free pie crust, though as noted last time I made the dough myself.  I added bacon this time so everything wonderful was in the quiche.  Same recipe using broccoli, cheddar, and heavy cream.  Seriously as good as any quiche I've had at a restaurant, but I may be patting myself on the back a lot.
Entire quiche

Now that it's sliced you can see the wonderful bacon bits