Thursday, April 22, 2010

I ♥ NY more

I promised - and I will keep my promise (especially since I already had a bunch of this written when I decided to split up my posts) to continue with my New York eatings wanderings in this second blog post. As you know, a certain fantastical bake sale has popped up in between these postings, but I'm back to finish this up!

We could see the Statue of Liberty from our hotel room window

When I visit New York, it seems it's all about revisiting a few key places I truly love while trying to squish in some new places I've never been. This trip was no different. I saw the areas with which I'm most familiar: Midtown and 5th Ave, Theatre District, Upper East Side, East Village, Soho, Greenwich Village and Chinatown...but I also visited some to which I'd never been. Chelsea, Meatpacking District, Hell's Kitchen, Flatiron and of course - Brooklyn.

Left: the High Line from inside The Standard Hotel
Right: The Standard Hotel from outside on the High Line

One of the Top 5 things I did on my trip was to subway my way to Brooklyn for some pizza and ice cream and then walk back to the city over the Brooklyn Bridge. Not only was the day perfect for this (and for some photos) in that it was cool and overcast, but it wasn't very crowded either. I must thank my friend, Maria profusely for this spectacular suggestion!!

As I walked the Brooklyn streets I glanced over my shoulder and saw this.
Magnificent! Empire State Building framed by a tower of the Brooklyn Bridge!

There are a few destinations just over the bridge that are absolute "Must Do's" if you visit Brooklyn.
1) Grimaldi's Pizzeria
2) Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
3) Almondine Bakery (but only if you're a bakery addict/macaron stalker like I)

Almondine Bakery was so charming from the outside

I was IN.CRED.IB.LY lucky that the line for Grimaldi's at 2pm on a Wednesday in March was no more than about 15 minutes. I hear the lines are easily an hour long during the lunch hour on a weekend. But one thing I did have enough time to notice while I waited in line (by myself)?: the sign that said "No Slices". Uh oh.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory in the little "house" on the far left, Beekman Tower in the Financial District across the river (with the red scaffolding), one of the bridge's towers at the top and Grimaldi's (green awning)

Lower Manhattan and a New York Water Taxi

So maybe a half hour later I found myself staring at a 16" pepperoni pizza which (as per their menu) feeds 1-2 people. That's gotta be some BIG person who can eat a 16" pizza. I ate 2 slices. But oh was it worth it to have to carry leftover pizza in my bag the rest of the afternoon! What fantastic pizza! Thin crust, not overly sauced but perfectly simple while still being generous - it's actually hard to explain. You'll just have to go wait in line to find out yourself.

The nice waiter made me let him take a picture of me (little dim in there - hence, the blur)

This is what was placed in front of me *gulp*

And even though I'd just stared at an entire pizza, I couldn't leave Brooklyn without a stop at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. It's not really a "factory" so much as a "cute little house" that sits RIGHT on the dock and looks out over lower Manhattan.

Pizza? Check. Ice Cream? Check. Stop into Almondine Bakery, wait in a silly long line, get 2 macarons, carry them gingerly in my purse all afternoon, lose them somewhere in or around my hotel room before I sampled them? Check... Oops.

What a spot for an ice cream place!

I think I got Butter Pecan

The Almondine macarons! I bought two, couldn't eat them,
gingerly carried them all afternoon and lost them :-|

When my good friend, Ali was living in NYC (the main reason I would visit all those times) one of her very favorite little spots was Cha-An Japanese Tea House. Think British afternoon tea, but... Japanese. So the decor is Asian, the teas are green and the teacakes and cookies are black sesame, mochi and red bean. Well not solely. I got black tea and there was blueberry pound cake and chocolate chip scones and mini bagels with raspberry butter. But it's such a wonderful little twist on something like this. I spent a couple hours here one afternoon with a friend and it was truly enjoyable.

Cookies, scones, poundcake that came as part of the afternoon tea at Cha-An

Chocolate filled mochi and black sesame crème brûlée

Another important foodie stop: Chelsea Market. Not only are the Food Network studios on the upper floors of the Chelsea Market, but the entire downstairs is an "urban food court" filled with bakeries, food shops and restaurants. I think practically everything relates to food. I peeked into Eleni's Cookies - a bakery I've heard about many times. Her cookies are famous for being impeccably decorated. I snuck into the Fat Witch Bakery, which made Oprah's "My Favorite Things" List, but wasn't so impressed with their Caramel Witch.

Ahhh... Chelsea Market

Various shops and restaurants inside Chelsea Market

Eleni's Cookies was SO CUTE!

One shop I was impressed with though? The Lobster Place. Sadly, their lobster rolls were a great disappointment, but their fresh seafood was to die for! It was so good I went back a second time! (Well, I was staying a block away...) You can pick your own oysters and they'll shuck them for you on the spot. Or buy a plate of sashimi as they cut the pieces from the fish. Those lobster rolls were such a disappointment being that I was so close to New England. I grew up eating lobster rolls in New Hampshire and can honestly say that Old Port Lobster Shack in California has a much better product (in flavor) than The Lobster Place!


They were literally cutting the sashimi right off the fish *DROOL*

My final very important NYC food stop was at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Both my friend, Yvonne and I had been told by more than 1 person to not miss Shake Shack. The burgers, the frozen custards, the fries, the line.... But actually - I can't believe I complained about the line taking 10 minutes to order when apparently on a regular ole day it can take upwards of an hour! An HOUR! For a burger and fries! Hhmmm but actually - these burgers and fries really were absolutely legendary. I can't explain it. They were delicious. Yvonne really loved them because they apparently tasted identical to the burgers at her dad's hamburger shop when she was growing up. I wish you could have seen her face when she took her first bite: Bliss!


Shake Shack had just closed its windows as we finished up our burgers

Yes, you stand in line. Yes you sit outside (and in our case - sit under heat lamps on a very cool March night). Yes you can't always find a table. But damn - those were some good burgers.

The very last thing I did in New York City on this trip was lunching at Gramercy Tavern. Oh, how I wish there was a Gramercy Tavern in my little pocket of the San Francisco Bay Area. It's a brilliant little restaurant where one can dress to the nines and dine on the Tasting Menu, yet the next guy can come in jeans, sip a beer and munch on a sandwich. It's so versatile and unpretentious yet sublime and creative. Even the decor is shabby chic/rustic floral. ♥ ♥ ♥

Gramercy Tavern's Smoked Trout with Cippollini Purée
and Pickled Onion Vinaigrette

Loved, loved, loved the "shabby chic-ness" of Gramercy Tavern

Little cookies on our mignardise plate: baby chocolate tarts, pecan
toffee covered truffles and caramel macarons

And believe it or not - the best macaron I actually ate in all of New York City was the little baby mac left for my friend Daphnie and I on our mignardises plate. Gramercy Tavern was just phenomenal!

The photos I took on the Brooklyn Bridge were some of my favorites

Goodbye New York. I ♥ you.

As I wrap up this second New York City post I kind of can't believe how much food I saw over the course of 4 days. Not like you're surprised at my priorities. New York is a beautiful city from the outside looking in and from the inside looking out. And even moreso, it's a wonderful city for foodies and chefs and food lovers and cooks and food bloggers and hungry people and people who breathe oxygen... So if any of you, my friends, has a trip to New York planned, don't even joke around by asking me if I wanna tag along. I probably will.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Food Bloggers Rock

I decided not to set my alarm this morning since I've been up baking until 3am and 2am the last couple nights. I guess it went to show me how much sleep I needed since my eyes opened to see 11:02am on my clock and a hungry doggie staring me in the face. All this baking was of course in preparation for the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale to raise money (no, not for Food Bloggers, like one guy asked) but for the charity Share Our Strength which fights to end childhood hunger (which would be quite different than ending "food bloggers' hunger"..)

Three different macaron flavors and three different macaron
fillings = not a lot of sleep over the last few nights

She planned this ONE MONTH before her wedding! ONE MONTH!

What a day it was! It was quite possibly as close to Perfect as it could have been!
  • GORGEOUS weather (and after a gloomy rainy weekend, prior too)
  • Lots of passersby walking dogs and babies and grandparents
  • A fabulous group of not only talented but helpful, giving, funny, sweet and heck, good-lookin' bloggers who contributed and worked and donated baked goods!
  • A wonderfully organized leader in Anita who rallied us just ONE MONTH before her own WEDDING. Folks, - ONE MONTH!!
  • A SUPER accommodating and generous hostess in Celia at Omnivore Books
  • Unbelievably chic packaged goodies - we looked SO professional!
  • Ending on the high note of hearing Baking Goddess Rose Levy Beranbaum speak at Omnivore about her newest book Rose's Heavenly Cakes
Baby Gingersnaps and Lemon Madeleines

UNBELIEVABLE how fast that cake sold!

Spicy and Salty Caramel Corn - I ♥ this packaging

Ridiculous amounts of precision in those fruit tarts

I am SO proud and SO excited to report that San Francisco's food bloggers raised ONE-THOUSAND-SIX-HUNDRED-AND-FIFTY DOLLARS for Share Our Strength yesterday! $1650!!! *pausing for all the applause* *bowing* *patting Anita on the back* That there is one of the highest totals we've heard of being raised throughout the entire nation! Gaby, who came up with the phenomenal idea for food bloggers to host bake sales on 4/17, hosted her bake sales in LA and they came in at a whopping $2300!

Mike, the Money Man - look they're waving money at him even as he stands there!

GORGEOUS breads by Penni Wisner

Storefront on far left: Omnivore; Storefront on right: Noe Valley Pet Co.
Owned by two fantastic women - we're so thankful for them!

I feel like I'm still coming down off the high that was yesterday. Making some truly wonderful new friends. Chatting with baking fanatics from the hobbyists to the professionals. Seeing Rose Levy Beranbaum in the flesh! Even right down to visiting with all the friends who came out to support our bake sale and chat with me!

The PLACE to be on Saturday was that corner right there

Rose Levy Beranbaum speaks while Celia (owner of Omnivore) looks on

Some of the wonderful bloggers who contributed (and with whom I actually found the time to chat):
  • Shauna at Piece of Cake (not only is she incredibly friendly - she has one beautiful little girl!)
  • Daphne at Cooking San Francisco (made a very generous donation in the end and "adios-ed" a bunch of our leftover goodies)
  • Allison at Bake Your Heart Out (turns out we're neighbors!)
  • Irvin at Eat the Love (heard about the bake sale the morning of and still managed to bake!)
  • Pat at Ringalings (also known for her ipies which currently sell at the Palo Alto Farmers Market)
  • Faith at Blog Appetit (a friendly, happy face I got to chat "cakes" with most of the afternoon)
  • Katie at I'd Have Baked a Cake (hilarious. HILARIOUS. And worked so hard all day long!)
There were something like 19 other contributing bakers/bloggers that I either did not meet, or do not have a blog - but HUGE shouts out to all of you as well!!

By 4pm we'd transitioned from 5 tables down to 2! GREAT selling!

I ♥ this blogging community! We rock!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A commercial break

I know you were expecting my 2nd New York post - and yes, that is coming...but I had to throw this in here for ALL SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA READERS!!! (if you don't live in the SF Bay Area and read my blog - you can of course still read this, but it might just make you sad that you DON'T live in the SF Bay Area. Well you should feel sad that you don't anyway - but that's another story...)

If you live near San Francisco - come sample baked goods by your
FAVORITE food bloggers, this Saturday April 17th!!

This coming Saturday is the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale which is part of the Great American Bake Sale. Gaby Dalkin of What's Gaby Cooking came up with the wonderful idea to invite food bloggers from across the country to unite and support the cause by holding bake sales in their states. April 17th is that day! Check out her list of food bloggers hosting bake sales in various states across the country.

Money raised will go towards Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America.

Does that picture get your attention? I think I'll be making (and selling)
the same flavors I made for Easter last week: lemon with lemon curd
buttercream and pistachio with pistachio buttercream

Anita Chu is generously hosting the San Francisco Bake Sale this Saturday at Omnivore Books in Noe Valley. Of course you know Anita from her award winning blog Dessert First and for her wonderful cookbooks. I feel so fortunate to call her a good friend and that combined with this wonderful cause will have me baking non-stop through the end of this week in order to help out on Saturday!

There are so many reasons you want to attend this event!
1) You can sample baked goods made by me AND by Anita AND by other local food bloggers!
2) Rose Levy Beranbaum will be speaking at Omnivore that day from 3-4pm
3) Omnivore is an all cookbooks bookstore. It's a fabulous place, and some of their books go back to the 1800's!
4) Any money you spend on baked goods will go to help end Childhood Hunger

The Deets:

Where: Omnivore Books, 3885 Cesar Chavez Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

Saturday April 17th, 2010 from 12-3pm

Anita Chu hosting along with 18 other local food bloggers contributing baked goods for sale

National Food Bloggers Bake Sale as part of the Great American Bake Sale

cookies, cupcakes, French macarons, cakes, tarts, pies, breads will be for sale to raise money!

I'll be there all day long so please come say hello! I can't wait to see you!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

I ♥ NY

Well it does indeed appear that my "new life" has far less room for blogging than my "old life" did. That's not the worst thing ever, but I really do love blogging and yet, find that on my evenings at home these days I'm vegging in front of the TV (for some sound in the house) and not blogging. But maybe some encouragement would help me along? Please feel free to leave me comments on blog posts so I feel like people are reading!!

Ah, New York City

Well as my last post mentioned, I spent about 4 days in Manhattan in March. I truly ♥ NY. And somehow all my visits to New York City have turned into solitary ones. Meaning I spend each day touring around by myself because the friend I'm there visiting is working or in school during the day. But this is actually the best way - because one can do whatever they want whenever they want! And that's exactly what I did on this trip!

Grand Central hustle and bustle, on a Tuesday morning

Taken from the Meatpacking District one morning

My four days in NYC seemed to turn into some type of "Food Tour"... But come on - would you expect anything else from me?

One of the highlights of my trip (um, other than seeing Ms. Stewart) was dining at Thomas Keller's Per Se. I've been to French Laundry but it was many, many years ago and I barely remember the experience (is that really allowed?) So when I got a last minute reservation for dinner on my first full day in the city - I was thrilled!

Thomas Keller's Per Se: an experience

The meal was perfect, the service was spectacular without being snobby and we even got a KITCHEN TOUR. A KITCHEN TOUR! That was amazing. I think it's rather common, but it was still amazing. However... I just don't think the meal warranted its price-tag. We opted out of the wine pairings and still walked out roughly $300 poorer...EACH! I'm all about spending money for fantastical food but I don't think this was a $300 experience. $150. Maybe $200. But not $300. And I say this after dining at many a Michelin rated restaurant and none with quite a price-tag (even the French Laundry sister cost about half this price when I was there - yes that really dates it doesn't it?) I've had meals no more spectacular for half the price. Just sayin'. But it was an experience and I'm happy we did it.

Two favorites: Gruyère Gougères filled with Béchamel &
"Oysters and Pearls": Pearl Tapioca with oysters and caviar

Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster with Beets, hazelnuts, Japanese greens
and sunchoke mousse. ~~ Yvonne and I on our kitchen tour!

What else did I do?... I walked through Central Park and I sipped frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity. I was awed by the magnitude of Dylan's Candy Bar and I strolled through the MoMA. And I saw Next to Normal which just about blew my mind. If you loved Rent, and can handle a little grit in your Broadway show - I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

My stroll through Central Park

[Peanut Butter] Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity

The stairs at Dylan's Candy Bar

van Gogh's Starry Night was on display at the MoMA!

Time's Square boasting its multitude of Broadway shows

But what did I really do in New York City?... Let's just say, it's a good thing I walked about 30 miles over those 4 days. Because all I did was eat.

The night I arrived in Manhattan I ran across the street from my friend's place to 44&X ("pronounced" forty-four and ten) for dinner. What a wonderful find in the middle of Hell's Kitchen. I loved the ambiance of the place - think white, with twinkle lights and a trendy yet not overly contemporary decor.

44&X is 'pronounced' forty-four and tenth :)

My friend, Daphnie and I dined on the Lobster Taco with avocado relish, Braised short ribs with basil mashed potatoes and Turkey & wild mushroom meatloaf wrapped in bacon. The lobster taco and short ribs were FANTASTIC - and I loved the basil mashed potatoes. But the meatloaf was a little dry for my palate. I topped off my meal with Meringues, pineapple, mango and raspberry sorbets and mango chutney. A perfectly light dessert after that meal - though I think the meringues could have been better.

Lobster Taco with avocado relish

Braised short ribs with basil mashed potatoes

Meringues, pineapple, mango and raspberry sorbets and mango chutney

Another important, albeit trendy stop was at David Chang's Momofuku Milk Bar. If you are a foodie of any form you likely know all about David Chang and his ridonculously popular restaurants which vary greatly in food and price, yet share a common name of Momofuku, which means "lucky peach" in Japanese. Momofuku Ko, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Milk Bar and the newly opened Momofuku Má Pêche. From what I hear, Chang serves his pork belly buns at every restaurant - finding some way to "fit" them into each menu regardless of whether said restaurant is high end, casual or a dessert shop.

A few more pix which epitomize New York:

I know - it's so "typical" but it's still clearly New York

Gotta just stop by Rockefeller on every visit to New York

I found myself back at our hotel "early" one night. 10:30pm. Yes - that's early both for a New Yorker and for a Californian in New York (7:30pm, sorta). So I rushed over to Milk Bar, which was very subtly hidden behind Ssäm Bar. I bought almost everything I'd heard raved about: the infamous pork buns, cereal milk and cereal milk soft serve, a compost cookie and a cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookie. I had to pass on the crack pie since I was already a little embarrassed at my order - but at least half of it was for my friend, Yvonne!

Momofuku Milk Bar goodies: cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookie,
compost cookie, pork belly buns and cereal milk

I'm not a huge cookie person. And the cereal milk was very interesting but not earth-shattering. But what did rock my world? Them pork buns. Oh man... the pork belly buns. Obviously, David Chang is a generous man since he has printed the recipe for them in his über popular cookbook. Thank you Mr. Chang. I'll be attempting them sometime in the near future.

*DROOL*... seriously, like BUTTAH

A breakfast stop at the original Ess-a-Bagel on 1st Ave. was something I had to do after many a New Yorker friend told me they couldn't be missed for their incredible bagels. And it was followed a few hours later, by lunch at Ippudo for one of the greatest bowls of ramen noodles I've ever eaten.

My Ess-a-Bagel plain toasted with veggie schmear

Shiromaru Hakata Classic ramen - Oh man... if only I could fly to NYC for lunch

And with that I will be pausing to take a break, since I fear my raving about the food in New York City is getting a bit long winded. Part two will be coming shortly...PROMISE!