Weekend Eating Fest

I swear that’s one of the best things to do in this city…

Eating Fest w/Shek 🙂

How do I host my guests in NYC? By showing them great places to eat of course! Well, eating this much was not planned, but I think we walked it off a good amount. I’m still tired after this weekend, but gotta make the most of it while I’m here. This was my last FULL weekend in NYC. My 9 week internship is coming to a close, and living in the Big Apple has been quite an experience. I’ll miss this city, but I’m also looking forward to going back home to DC. YUM!


1st stop: Murray’s Bagels (@5:47am)

We went to the 13th and 6th Ave (Avenue of the Americas) location. I think it may be the original in Greenwich village? It had better reviews than the one in Chelsea located on 22nd and 8th Ave. I couldn’t find a bakery that opened this early, so a bagel place was the best option. We got:

To my surprise, this was Shek’s first time trying lox on a bagel. It was a big sesame bagel sandwich of cream cheese, capers, red onion, tomato, and salmon. So good, but I couldn’t eat most of it because it was too much for me to bite and chew (blast! braces :() The banana nut muffin was pretty good. Apparently not as good as the coffee shop in Frederick though… hrmph.

2nd stop: Becco in the Theater District

Located on 46th between 8/9th Ave’s, this place has good pasta at an amazing deal. You have the option of getting the lunch special for $17.95. It comes with salad and 3 types of pasta ALL YOU CAN EAT. We got that with a bottle of white wine, pinot grigio. We both got Caesar Salad and they offered up Spaghetti w/tomato and basil, Mushroom ravioli, and Rigatoni alla bolognese. All the pastas were al dente, cooked just right- not too soft and not too hard. I really liked the ravioli and rigatoni (w/meat). The wine was light and crisp, nice for summer and $25 for a bottle.  It’s a restaurant that falls between nice and casual, everyone is very friendly, and it’s SO close to the Broadway shows. We were in the hood for IN THE HEIGHTS at the Rodgers Theater located on 46th between 8th and Broadway. We were both completely stuffed.

I forgot to mention, I really liked the olives. The hummus/evoo dip was not so great. I really like the green olives, they weren’t the usual you see in restaurants. They weren’t as salty. The bread was okay, I only liked 1 out of the 3 varieties. The pretzel bread was too hard for my teeth, again… sad face. I totally recommend this place as a pre-theater eating stop. Dinner is $22.95 for the all you can eat pasta.

stop 3: Shake Shack (madison square park loc)*

We shared an order of the Shack Burger (dbl), Shroom Burger, Fries, New York Dog, and Fair Shake. The meat is so good at Shake Shack, it definitely trumps the Shroom Burger, I just can’t handle all that cheese they put inside the fried patty! Of course the fries are always good. The New York Dog was a disappointment. They put Sauerkraut on top, which was pretty good, but the dog itself was not. Papaya and Ben’s are FAR better. FAR FAR FAAAAAR. Fair Shake was good too, but Shek couldn’t taste the coffee, only the vanilla… :/ HM. I liked it.


stop 4: Chelsea Market (Amy’s Bread and Friedman’s Lunch and Ronnybrook Farms)

took this photo as they were prepping, we were too early

This was Shek’s second visit to Chelsea Market. The previous day everything was closed so we hung out on the High Line. Sunday morning and we returned at a more reasonable hour, got in line for Amy’s Bread (well known in the neighborhood and apparently on food network?), grabbed some drinkable yogurt from Ronnybrook, and waited for our breakfast order from Friedman’s Lunch (to take with us on the High Line).

Amy’s Bread is pretty amazing and I can see why they usually have a line out the door. They have an incredible variety of breads, muffins, scones, biscotti, and the list goes on. We got the focaccia bread twists: parmesan, black olives, raisin, and prosciutto. In addition, we got the cinnamon challah, and chocolate croissant. EVERYTHING was delicious. Okay, I didn’t taste the parmesan and raisin, but I’m sure Shek will let me know how they were from his bus ride back to Maryland.

Breakfast complete with our drinkable yogurts from Ronnybrook Farms. We shared blackberry and strawberry. I liked the strawberry better even though both were good. The blackberry kind of left a chalky after taste for me. The cinnamon challah was Shek’s choice and I was surprised at how good it was as cinnamon is not my favorite. The croissant was flaky but would’ve been better if served warm because the chocolate was so solid. I really love the twists and I’m thinking of going back for more since they’re only $1.75 a piece. 😀

Brioche French Toast with Peaches and Candied Walnuts. Nova Benny: Salmon on top of Potato Pancake with two over-easy eggs, hollandaise sauce, scallions, and mixed greens salad. I think the photos speak for themselves. I love Friedman’s Lunch. I think they serve the best breakfast food I’ve ever had in NYC. And I mean THE BEST.

stop 5: GROM Gelato

Did you know there’s a Grom in Midtown on Broadway just below Central Park? Eh? Now you do.

So, after a slight tiff, I supposedly took advantage of Shek and had him buy us gelato. 😀 It was great. This is one of the best gelato places I’ve experienced, along with Dolcezza in DC and Pitango in MD/DC. He got almond and tiramisu; I got green tea and dark chocolate.

The green tea and almond were most memorable.

stop 6: Original Ray’s Famous Pizza (and Bagel)

So sorry, can’t provide a link for this one. There are a hundred (practically) “original ray’s famous pizza” in NYC. I don’t think anyone knows which one is the actual ORIGINAL. Eh, it doesn’t matter to me as long as the pizza is good. I don’t know if you remember from previous posts, but I’ve been having a difficult time finding really good pizza in NYC of all places. I think we found a pretty good one though… this Ray’s is located on the corner of 8th St and 3rd Ave. The dough was soft enough for me to bite, but still chewy. I got pepperoni and Shek got tomato, ricotta, basil.

(last) stop 7: CHIKALICIOUS

How did I first hear about this place? My sister would not stop talking about it and never forgot to remind me, on every single phone call, “make sure you go to chiklicious, er, chikalicious, it’s a really good dessert bar,” umm… okay. Only dessert?! She also insisted that Shek be the one to treat me to Chikalicious, hehe. I really enjoyed this place. It makes for a nice date, intimate, personal because they prepare the desserts right in front of you. The co-owner/manager (Don Tillman) is the one that greets, seats, and tends to you while the co-owner, namesake, chef (Chika Tillman) is preparing and serving before you at the bar. They explain what everything is with a nice smile on clean plates and beautiful presentation. I can see Chika’s culinary arts and skills shine through her presentation and care for every dish. They also have a more casual take-out cafe across the street. This is also in Lower East on 10th between 2nd and 1st avenues.

Don Tillman (whom I did not realize was attending to us at the time) gave us the option of table or bar. We rightly chose the bar as you can see above. All of their fridges and machines are in full view. The sink was right before us. She cleaned every knife and rinsed her hands after touching each item. If you look closely you can see the bowl of Pluot or hybrid fruit of apricot and plum. They have shabby chic plates and utensil holders much like chopstick holders. The American/Japanese/French fusion is evident in the food as well as the preparation. They change their menus by season, but tend to change daily as well going with whatever is in season, in stock, and delicious.

Amuse: Sorbet with raspberry sauce and honey jelly cube. From watching her serve “amuse” to other guests, I’m assuming it’s just whatever she feels like putting together, because each one was different. Some people had melon sorbet or two different sorbets, etc.

You have the option of choosing an individual dessert (just a few anyway) and wine or cocktail OR the prix fixe menu. Three years ago, 2007, the prix fixe menu was $12 and the wine pairing $5. Now, in 2010, prix fixe is $14 and wine pairing $7. Inflation or the weak economy? I still think it’s good for what they give you. Sure the desserts aren’t astronomically large like the ones at Cheesecake Factory or other suburban chain restaurant, but it’s all about quality and experience in addition to the taste.

Shek got the Fromage Blanc Island “Cheesecake” with Alvear Pedro Ximenez 2004. Okay, I’m not sure about the Alvear, but I know it was definitely a port. I got the Pluot on top of a Fancy Biscuit with Vanilla Sauce and Basil Sorbet with Basil Seeds paired with a Moscato D’asti. Okay, so my description is not accurate, but this is what I meant by, “the menu changes daily”. My dish is not on the website and I think it’s because the Pluot must be in season and they could’ve gotten a very good deal on it. The seeds look a little weird, I’ll admit. Per overheard conversation, the basil seeds are boiled resulting in the jelly formation.

The cheesecake had a very subtle taste and paired well with the port. In case you were wondering the cheesecake is sitting on top of crushed ice. If pluot were readily available in any and all supermarket, I would buy a bushel. I absolutely loved the taste of sweet plum mixed with apricot, lacking the sour/tart taste you often find in most plums. The basil sorbet was strong, just the right amount, and still refreshing. The basil seeds looked funny… they’re boiled to create that jelly around them. I ate those. They’re not just decoration!

Let’s review. Prix Fixe comes with Amuse, Choice of Dessert, and Petit Fours for $14. Wine pairings are $7 additional. We received the following Petit Fours: Coconut cubes sprinkled with fresh coconut, they tasted like light fluffy marshmallows; dark chocolate truffles; gooseberries dipped in sugar. I really enjoyed the gooseberries, and from their appearance I think they’re a popular subject in Japanese art.

Thank you Chika! You’ve brought a delightful and beautiful dessert bar to NYC. You and Don must be very proud as your guests enjoy such wonderful and beautiful desserts. 🙂


Eating Fest w. E*

Brace yourself. This is the mother of all food blogs. I have a lot of photos and we hit up a lot of places. I swear, I do nothing but eat everytime my love, Estar, visits! I think that’s her favorite hobby in NYC though… or in life in general, besides planning her upcoming wedding.

1st Stop: Doughnut Plant

This place is TINY! Absolute hole in the wall (har har, pun). Apparently this was on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown show (what hasn’t been, I begin to wonder) and unfortunately the owner lost. 😦 Still, good publicity and they’re very popular.

Go ahead. ADMIRE and DROOL. I know Homer is.

Lavendar. Valrhona. Tres de Leches.

I liked the Lavendar but it was so… pure lavendar, a bit strong. The chocolate was DELICIOUS and the tres de leches was very good. By the way, we each got 2 donuts and an iced coffee. Total pigs, and enjoyed every morsel, thanks very much.

Details of the tres de leches and the peanut butter/jelly Esther got. The pbj donut is actually square so that EVERY corner is filled up with the combo. It’s like a sweeter version of pbj sandwich. The tres de leches was just so soft and chewy and flavorful. Loved it. The donuts were all pricey though… $2-4 each! Well, that’s how much gourmet donuts are going for these days….

2nd Stop: Chelsea Market

I’m going to miss this place.

FRIEDMANS LUNCH: Shrimp & Grits (mills grits, blackened shrimp, cheddar, over easy eggs) and Fried Green Tomatoes

The shrimp/grits were comparable to the ones I’ve had at Elmo’s Diner in Durham, North Carolina. I loved the over easy eggs mixed in with the grits and cheddar. The shrimps were cooked just right. The fried green tomatoes could’ve been better. Esther said it was rather bland and I thought there was too much batter. The best green tomatoes I’ve had were in Old Salem, NC. They were cooked perfectly with just the right amount of batter, not so much that it was competing with the taste of the tomatoes when I went to Sweet Potato in Old Salem. Le sigh, still, eating our lunch on the high line, even on a cloudy/rainy day, was relaxing and filling.

3rd/4th Stops: Billy’s Bakery & Magnolia Bakery

Two dessert in a row? Well, at least we shared. And there was SOME time lapse. 😛

Only comment from Estar: “Mine is better.” We still finished it. I’m not a big fan of key lime pie, but in cheesecake form this was very good. Billy’s Bakery is in Chelsea, an avenue and 2-3 blocks away from me. I pass it often to/from work.

In my opinion, Magnolia Bakery NYC is comparable to DC’s Georgetown Cupcake. So, you would think we would get the cupcakes here. Nope. The banana bread pudding is well known in addition to their cupcakes. This was really good. I still love the BBP my ol’ coworker, Linda P., makes. Magnolia’s didn’t have enough of the bread I think… or manila cookies? It was super sweet, and though we got the smallest size, definitely for two and not one.

5th Stop: Maison in Theater District

So if you’ve seen my pics and crazy status updates on FB, you know by now that Estar won the lottery tix for WICKED! After we stopped shaking from the excitement and surprise, we picked out a local spot for lunch, just before the show.

Maison is a simple French restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. It was way too hot for outdoor. The indoor wasn’t that soothing anyway, but still we were protected from the sun’s rays. We shared the salmon version of eggs benedict.

Home fries, salmon, english muffin, over easy eggs, and hollindaise sauce. The sea salt in this dish was a bit much, but we both enjoyed the meal. It was filling and just enough before the show. I think we both really liked the home fries too, they had herbs and were so soft.

6th Stop: THE Halal Cart on 53rd and 6th Ave

AMAZING! Out of all my visits to NYC, this was my first time trying the Halal Cart. It’s right around the corner from MoMA too! How could I not notice this before?! Estar kindly introduced me to the original with their yellow shirts and yellow bags proudly stating they are the original despite competing carts surrounding them on other corners.

The Combo: Chicken and Gyro with Rice. Includes gyro, shredded chicken, REALLY soft pita (even i can bite), shredded lettuce, and yellow rice. Esther grabbed THREE containers of the ‘white sauce’ and 1 mini container of the hot sauce (which is really hot hot hot)

I think 3 white sauces was a bit much… but other than that, the chicken and rice with gyro was heavenly. Probably the best cart food I’ve ever had. They give you a lot for $7 too. It took the two of us to finish that whole thing. SO. FULL.

And so comes the end of my lengthy and ginormous food adventure blog entry with E*. Hope you enjoyed my gorge fest as much as I did!