Friday, December 31, 2010

M's Favorite Food Memories of 2010

Here we are, at the end of 2010. This year has been such a blur and the year in food has been no exception. It was so hard to pick out 10 top food memories from the year because there has been so much good food! A lot of things got left off the list that were good, including Shake Shack in its entirety. I think overall that has been one of the more significant food events of our year, since it opened in our neighborhood, making it easier for us to enjoy all the monthly custards, special concretes and special events like the entire Shacktoberfest menu. With something like that missing the list, what made it for me (A's list to come)? Here are my favorite 10 food memories of the year, in random order:

1. Waste em All burger from Grill Em All truck

The Food Network's Great Food Truck Race filmed its finale in NYC over Memorial Day weekend. We went down to the Union Square area to check it out, trying the two finalists - Grill Em All truck and Nom Nom truck - both from LA (we had been to Nom Nom in LA earlier in the year). We tried 2 different burgers from Grill Em All but my favorite (and one of the better burgers of the year) was the Waste Em All - topped with cheddar cheese, beer soaked onions and jalapeno peppers. The burger was definitely memorable (along with the yummy fries in truffle salt), and this also makes the list because we got to watch the filming and the end of the show before it aired, which was lots of fun.

2. Haribo smurfs

In the train station in Antwerp, Belgium, I found this bag of Haribo smurfs (smurfen, schtroumpfs). I haven't been able to find it anywhere else since then - not in Brussels, not in Brugge, not in the States. As soon as I tried the berry flavored smurfs, they shot up to the top of my favorite candy list. Unfortunately they're so hard to find. If you have any idea where I can find them, please help!

3. Patacon Pisao

When the Vendy Awards came around in September, one of the contenders we were really looking forward to trying was Patacon Pisao. They're usually far uptown (although they also have a place in Queens) so we had never tried them before. We tried the patacon sandwich (two flat green plaintains instead of bread, with chicken, ketchup, queso frito, lettuce, tomato and special sauce). It was delicious. We couldn't wait to get another one so we tried at the sh*tshow that was the Grub Street Food Festival where the line went in both directions, didn't move and there was no room to walk because of the mob scene (not their fault). After that failure, we ventured down to the Hester Street Fair on a different weekend they were there and had a patacon sandwich each. I got chicken again and it was quite delicious. They're opening a new location soon. I can't wait.

4. Veggie pancake from Pancakes! Amsterdam

We really wanted to try Dutch pancakes while in Amsterdam and Pancakes! Amsterdam seemed like a good choice. Dutch pancakes may look big but they're quite thin and filled with toppings so they're not that heavy. Our first pancakes there were so good that we decided while there that we would try to come back again the next day before leaving Amsterdam. I loved my veggie pancake the best - it had mushrooms, spinach, onions, tomatoes and pine nuts. Healthy and delicious!

5. Hazelnut dacquoise at the Bar Room at the Modern

Back in 2005 or 2006, I went to the Modern for an interview lunch. For dessert, I had the dacquoise. It was so good that it stuck in my head years later as one of my favorite desserts ever (along with Lahaina Grill's Iao Valley lime tart, Brasserie's frozen chocolate souffle from 2003, Perilla's cranberry apple cobbler, maybe a couple of others - since I'm more of a savory person, I can actually make a short list of favorite desserts but absolutely cannot do that with savory food). I remembered it being like a crispy upscale candy bar. When we saw the dacquoise on the bar room menu, the choice for our 6 month wedding anniversary was simple. I had the dacquoise for dessert and it actually lived up to the memory and my expectations.

6. Khao yam at Jitlada

Jitlada was a definite on our LA places to go list. We heard that their Thai food was excellent and being lovers of Thai food, we had to try it. We were not disappointed. If you love spicy food, you will also not be disappointed because they do not tone down the spicy dishes and just serve them as they should be.

We had so many good things there but my favorite was definitely the khao yam (rice salad). Khao yam, a Southern Thai specialty, consists of jasmine rice, mango, green beans, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai chiles, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, bean sprouts, coconut and dried shrimp. This was one of those dishes where after you eat it, the only thing left to say is, wow, when can I have it again? Unfortunately for us, we cannot find it anywhere other than Jitlada and we live across the country from Jitlada! While there, I was googling khao yam looking for places in NYC ... and google sent me links to posts about Jitlada. Oh well. A must for our next trip to LA.

7. Fish Soup at Cambrinus

We got into Brugge, Belgium late in the evening after spending the entire afternoon in Antwerpen, so we ventured somewhere close to our hotel for dinner. Cambrinus was a great find, and confirmed our feeling that we were really going to like Brugge (and we did). It was a bierbrasserie, with a huge beer menu and so many food options. The portions of the entrees were huge. This was also where I learned that in Brugge apparently people love spaghetti bolognese. My plate of it was so gigantic that neither of us could finish it.

But even better than the spaghetti bolognese was my appetizer - the best fish soup I think I have ever had. The menu said it was fish soup with "rouille" (spicy garlic sauce). I don't know how to explain how good it was, but it was so tasty and comforting. It came with two pieces of garlic "bread" which were also delicious.

8. Tofu salad from Burmese Fun Fair

There aren't many options for Burmese food here in New York so we get our "fix" during the various food fairs they hold during the year (usually in the summer). The tofu salad is one of our favorite things. We get there early to make sure we can get some before they run out, but the problem is that I want more in the days after the food fair and it's impossible to get. It's really that good and the flavors are so unique. This tofu salad was for a fundraiser in Woodside earlier this year.

9. Beef and bernaise from wd-50

If you know me, it might be shocking to have a dish in the top 10 with beef in the title considering how little red meat I eat (and also to have a burger on the list with it). But it's wd-50, so nothing is really what it seems. It was such a dilemma for me deciding between this and the cold-fried chicken, but in the end this was the one that surprised me most with its flavors, its creativity and its complete difference from what I thought it would be. And it was so tasty. Instead of beef with a bernaise sauce, it was bernaise gnocchi topped with caramelized shallot paste in a beef broth and accompanied by snow peas. Amazingly good.

10. Chipa guazu from I Love Py

We previously talked about I Love Paraguay, the Sunnyside bakery with some of the only Paraguayan food we could find in NYC. Chipa guazu gets a spot on this list because it was delicious from the first bite and it also represents everything we wanted out of our World Cup challenge. We got to try something new for us while learning more about the country and its cuisine. To me, the World Cup is not just about soccer/football, but about coming together, understanding one another and learning about the rest of the world in one of the few true moments of togetherness. Our Paraguayan lunch trip did this in so many ways. Not only did it have great new food, but I got to put my shaky Spanish to use, tried the chipa guazu on a recommendation from someone actually in Paraguay, and got to spend lunchtime surrounded by Paraguayan folks watching deportes on TV. The World Cup was also one of the main motivators to us finally putting this blog together so it holds a special spot on this list. (After all, at least one spot had to go to something we ate from the World Cup challenge!)

I can't wait to see what delicious food 2011 will bring. What were your favorite (or top or best) food memories of 2010?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best of 2010

We'll be jumping on the "best of 2010" bandwagon soon (although, to be fair, we've been planning this for a few weeks and just haven't done it yet, so I'm not sure if we're really bandwagon jumpers) with our dishes of 2010 that were the best or most memorable (to us).  We're going to do separate lists and then see how many overlap.  Ideally by year end we'll have our best of/most memorable lists as well as a random sampling of the year in food.  Of course, considering the crazy work schedule lately, it may be very last minute for the end of the year, but we're doing our best!  What was your favorite dish of 2010?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Maybe a heavy lunch isn't a good idea on a day you haven't had much sleep.  No, I take that back.  Not "maybe."  It's not.a good idea.  I'm already feeling food coma and it hasn't even been an hour yet.
I was out in Jersey for work and on my way back in to the office, I stopped by Peter's Since 1969 to pick up lunch.  We've been there a few times before but it's a bit of a hike from the office for lunch.  I do like having vegetables at lunch though, and that, combined with the fact that it's difficult to go normally, made that my lunch choice.
I got the lunch special ($8.95) with meatloaf, okra and rotisserie vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions).  It was good, but a lot of food (there was also a corn muffin).  I'm completely stuffed and very, very sleepy.
I do love meatloaf though.
Now I am going to drink massive amounts of tea to try to stay awake.  Even though caffeine doesn't really keep me awake.  Here's hoping.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Today was our last chance to try the gingerbread custard at Shake Shack. (Next Saturday is Christmas, and the one after that is January.) Since we hadn't made it on any other Saturday this month yet, we headed over after dinner, despite being incredibly full from the sushi buffet at dinner.

Maybe we should call this gingerbread custard soup...

I tried it after we got home but waited to hear what A thought before I commented, since I didn't want to affect his perception of it. His first comment? "It tastes like pumpkin pie!" (Not the pie itself, but the pumpkin pie custard at Shake Shack.) That had been the exact reaction I had. It tasted just like pumpkin pie, but with just a little more spice. It didn't really taste like gingerbread to me, but I only had a couple of spoons. A got some more ginger spice in one part of the cup (and that part was heavily spiced with ginger), but mostly it just felt like spiced pumpkin pie.

A's rating: 6.5/10
M's rating: 5/10

Friday, December 17, 2010


After our awesome "happy hour," we went for a late dinner. We didn't really have any destination in mind so we headed down to Leidseplein. There are so many restaurants there and it's known for having places open late, so we thought our best chance at finding something would be there.

There were so many options, many of them crowded, and then we stumbled upon Sherpa, a Nepalese-Tibetan place. It wasn't that crowded and it was different from everything else we had already eaten in Amsterdam, so we decided to try it.

There were a lot of options on the menu ranging from Tibetan pizza to different stews. I had Tibetan food in the city before at Tsampa and liked it, but had never had Nepalese food. A had neither, so this was going to be an adventure for us!

We started with mango lassis and they brought over some crackers:

Then it was on to our main courses, both of which we chose from the Nepalese side of the menu. I got chicken with spinach, and A got some lamb dish. All the dishes are served with black eyed beans, rice and salad, which you can see in the background on the table. It was good. Sorry that we don't have more color to the descriptions but it's been over 3 months now (can't believe it's been so long) so unfortunately our memories are fading...

We liked our dinner at Sherpa. We probably wouldn't make a special trip to go back on our next trip (unlike some of the others and since there's so many places to try), but if you're in the area, we recommend it. It was a nice close to the day.

Chocolate Orange Chestnut Swirl

Tonight we tried the 5th daily custard (yes, we're behind in updating) from Shake Shack's December custard roster: chocolate orange chestnut swirl. We were really excited because chocolate ice cream/custard is always good, and we wanted to try this combination.

Initially, we were a little disappointed. It just tasted like chocolate custard. There's nothing wrong with chocolate custard, and it was a good chocolate custard, but we got this because it was supposed to be more than just chocolate custard. So that was a little disappointing. (This reminds M of when she got sweet corn over the summer and tasted nothing but vanilla the whole time.)

There was one section of the cup that had a small hint of orange, so it doesn't seem like they forgot it. It was just really subtle and overpowered by the chocolate, so it didn't really seem to work. A got some chestnut flavor in a different section of the cup, but M didn't notice that, if she did encounter it at all. A felt the chestnut was as effective as the orange (not very).

So, our conclusion: it's good if it's supposed to be just chocolate custard... but it's not, so it wasn't one of their best.

Chocolate Orange Chestnut Swirl

If it were chocolate:
A's rating: 7/10
M's rating: 7.5/10

For what it really is:
A's rating: 3/10
M's rating: 5/10

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brouwerij 't IJ

It's a well-known and publicized fact that I like beer. I like it a lot. Some say that I like it too much, but I don't believe in such a thing. The good thing is that M likes beer too. She may not like it as much as I do, but she enjoys a good, chilled brew here and there.

One place that I put on our list of things to do while in Amsterdam was Brouwerij 't IJ. It's a local brewery that actually brews onsite and sells through local providers as well as in their tasting room. It also has a windmill on top that used to be used in the brewing process back in the day. Oh, the windmill also still works, and that's really cool.


So aside from the novelty of the windmill, Brouwerij 't IJ also has really good, really cheap beer. How cheap you might ask?

This is the price per pint. And next to them is the alcohol content of each beer.

So I started with the Columbus since the Spicy Amber sounded intriguing, and it also had the highest alcohol content (yes, I'm a lush). M opted for the Plzn since she really likes pilsners. The Spicy Amber did indeed have a nice spice to it. I really can't recall the exact flavor anymore, but it had a nice bitterness to it to go with the spice. M's pilsner wasn't as smooth as the fresh Heinekin that we had at the brewery tour, but it was still crisp and refreshing.


Now, we couldn't just go for beer. I'm perfectly comfortable walking around in a slight drunken haze, but M prefers not to do so. There were a few things that we read were recommended for all patrons. We tried to order the Osseworst, but they had run out. Instead we settled for a half order each of the Trappist Cheese and Salami. The cheese was really good, tasty cheese, and the salami tasted so fresh. M wasn't as fond of the salami since she's not really a fan of salami in general, but she did enjoy the cheese. She was just a tad unhappy because cheese and beer mixing together in her stomach did not feel all that great. She would do poorly in the Midwest :P

Cheese, sausage, and beer. The Midwesterner in me is smiling

And the Midwesterner in me doubly approves

Oh right, there are 3 glasses there. After I finished my first beer, I opted to go for a Zatte. It was sweet, refreshing, and very very tasty. So tasty that M liked it a lot and took it from me. Slightly annoyed to have lost my beer, I went up and ordered a Natte so that I could try and keep this one. The Natte was darker, more hoppy, and quite delicious. It was definitely my favorite of the day, and M obviously loved the Zatte.

Sadly our time here ended for the day. They're open daily but only from 3pm-8pm. At around 8pm they turned up all the lights, let everyone know they were closing, and started cleaning up. Now, the best part about this place is that it's family owned and they've only hired a few people from outside the family (or maybe they married in, I don't really know). Such as it is, the workers there started cleaning up, got bored, then poured themselves a few beers to relax for a bit. Everyone that goes helps clean up as well.

Bus your own glasses and plates

I'm not sure why I was so happy there. Yes, we just had some awesome cheese, salami, and beer, but they were closed. That meant no more beer for me. Oh well, we were already making plans to come back so it would be okay.

So happy. I don't get the ostrich, but whatever

If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, and we wholeheartedly recommend it, definitely put Brouwerij 't IJ on your list of places to visit. You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Red Velvet Twinkies

Last weekend we ventured over to Park Slope (for the first time, I think) to go to an open house. Afterwards, I was kind of hungry (realized I had only eaten a light breakfast) so we went for a snack before heading to my office.

Trois Pommes Patisserie (on 5th Avenue between Carroll and Garfield) looked so inviting on a cold winter afternoon. (And this rainy Sunday afternoon, with cookies in the oven, made me want to blog about it. Such winter hibernation.)

We got 2 snacks. A's choice (which you can see behind mine in the photo) was the peanut butter pie. It was like a rich Reeses peanut butter cup. (I won't say anything more about it, since it was A's snack, in case he wants to blog about it.)

Can you guess what mine was? (Probably, considering the title here.)

Red velvet twinkies!

The cake was SO good. I wanted more! The twinkie was more cake than cream, which was just fine with me. I should have taken another photo when I finally got to the cream, but the cake was so good that I forgot.

The cake wasn't dry, it didn't feel that heavy (despite being filling and dense), and had the right amount of sweetness. I was quite happy with my snack!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanks to Chuck

I'm skipping ahead 2 entries on the block by block challenge to talk about today's lunch. Hopefully I'll have time to go back and talk about those 2 sooner rather than later. Sorry for the light posting -- it's been crazy busy here and I've been practically living at the office.

Today I went to Subway. I was kind of dreading the day after Cafe Cello (one of the missing posts) because the next restaurant on the block was some Brazilian place that usually has the gate down (but today they didn't but I think they are still closed down), and then Subway. Technically today should have been an Eddie's Pizza day, since their food truck was on the corner (and I haven't been there yet and it comes before Subway) but it was cold (23 degree wind chills) and they had a 15 minute wait (and I have work to do). This is the 2nd time I've had to skip Eddie's Pizza (last time was rain/cold, as I hope to write about some other time) and I was hoping to get there today for the City Harvest promotion but that's probably a reason they were even busier. So, Subway it was.

I don't HATE Subway, but I wasn't really looking forward to going. I have had plenty of Subway sandwiches in my time, mostly because my parents used to get them on the weekends for lunch after the gym all the time. Lots of turkey sandwiches where they would count out the number of slices they would give you, and put the stack back once you hit your limit. It just felt cheap to me, like they couldn't just let you have one more piece of cheese. Really, would it be so awful?

I think I have been to Subway for lunch once since I started working here five years ago. Once. I almost went back for the Save Chuck campaign but something must have come up because I never made it (and I am on board with anything that would save Chuck).

Which brings me to today. First Subway visit (by choice) in ages.

I guess Chuck made an impact on me because I went with the meatball marinara footlong (on Italian herbs and cheese bread). It doesn't look anything like the one on the show, but I didn't expect it to, since that's made for TV. I added a whole bunch of extra toppings even though it's a meatball sub and didn't really need anything, just because I could. Although I guess "tomatoes" sounded like pickles at first, so now there's pickles on my meatball sub (which aren't actually that bad).

It's actually not bad. I'm not running back to get more tomorrow but I might go back again. I think if I return I'll stick to the $5 footlong menu though because it feels less bad that they are being cheap with ingredients when the whole sandwich only costs $5. (Unlike other places... I don't think I posted a pic of my not-very-filled Europa sandwich and that was over $7.50.) And $5 for lunch is a good price. Always up for a deal.

Edited to add: I realized later in the day when doing my calorie counter that the calorie count that I thought applied to my sandwich only applied to the six inch and not the footlong meatball marinara. Talk about shocking. A footlong meatball marinara is close to hitting my daily calorie limit. That must not make the list of Subway "diet" foods.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Leftovers for Breakfast

It's been a busy few weeks (with no real end in sight), so blogging has been light. I'm still wondering if we'll finish our trip blogging by year end. It would be nice but probably not.

Since I'm short on time, I'm not going to blog right now about the continuation of the block by block challenge (from Tuesday) or my unexciting visit to Europa today for an uninspired sandwich because I didn't even have time to continue the block by block challenge. Another time.

Instead, I'll talk about breakfast. That's usually easy because it's a granola bar. But not today. Today I finished off my portion of the Thanksgiving leftovers (and A finished the rest for dinner).

Stuffing, carrots, onions, shiitake mushrooms and asparagus. Now, that is my kind of breakfast. Doesn't it look good? Too bad I can't have this every day. I love leftovers for breakfast. It was what I did all through high school. A nice delicious start to the day.