Thursday, May 31, 2012

Buffalo Wild Wings

The first meal on our Catalunya vacation was not in Europe or even in the air on the way there, but in Queens at JFK airport.  Our flight was at 11 pm so we weren't sure if there would be dinner on our flight (of course there was; why do we ever doubt KLM?) and stopped in at Buffalo Wild Wings for a sit-down dinner before our flight.  This outpost was a few gates down from ours, so it was very convenient.

M initially ordered the grilled chicken sandwich, but was told later they were out of grilled chicken (how is that possible?).  A crispy chicken sandwich with honey BBQ sauce was plan B.  The sandwich also came with lettuce, tomato and onions, as well as "natural cut french fries."  The sandwich and fries were both fine, but neither was anything special and it was kind of heavy as a pre-flight meal.

A got the boneless wings with Asian zing sauce.  (M did not realize there were boneless wings, instead skipping the entire wings section en route to ordering a chicken sandwich.)  The Asian zing sauce was pretty good - like a sweet Thai chili sauce with some heat to it - but the chicken was basically (overly fried) popcorn chicken.  The boneless wings came with carrot and celery sticks with ranch dressing.

A also ordered a lemonade to try to hydrate before the flight which led to a minor annoyance.  The menu notes that all soft drinks (which includes your basic lemonade) had free refills but our server told us that we couldn't get a refill.  After some pushback on our part, he relented and gave us one refill (but did not acknowledge that there were actually free refills and it was more like he was doing us a favor).  That was annoying considering how expensive the lemonade was and that we had only ordered it because of the free refills.

One interesting thing that our table had was a small video kiosk which claimed you could order from it (you couldn't really do that), play games and pay your bill.  We did use it to pay our bill which was convenient.

Overall, the meal was just OK but we weren't expecting much from airport food here to start off our trip.  Unfortunately many of the concourses at JFK just don't have great or healthy options.  This was the best option we found nearby!

May Custard Summary

Since we tried all of this month's Shake Shack custards (except for one that we didn't get around to) before we left for vacation, it feels like it was months ago.  Here's our roundup of this month's custards:

Monday - lemon chess
Tuesday - oatmeal creme pie
Wednesday - Mom's coconut cake
Thursday - derby walnut pie
Friday - banana bread (this is the one we skipped)
Saturday - Mexican chocolate fudge brownie
Sunday - olive oil cake

Many of the custards this month were just so-so and forgettable, but the standouts were derby walnut pie and olive oil cake.  I think those are probably the only 2 we would consider getting again.  Excited to see what pops up on next month's calendar at midnight!

Lemon Chess

The last custard we tried this month at Shake Shack was lemon chess.

M's thoughts:
The first spoonfuls of this reminded me of the lemon custard you get in the middle of pies or donuts, which I don't really like that much.  After a bit, it started to just taste like lemon creamsicle, and I don't particularly like creamsicles.  If you like those types of flavors, you might like this but it just wasn't for me.

A's thoughts:
I'm going to be honest, I don't remember much about this flavor. That sort of explains my thoughts on this custard, it's forgettable. It was sort of lemon-y, but other than that I can't remember much. Maybe I should have tried it again, but it really wasn't anything special.

Lemon Chess
A's rating: 5/10
M's rating: 6/10

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mom's Coconut Cake

The Shake Shack Wednesday custard this month is Mom's coconut cake, which we hoped would be good.

M's thoughts:
I don't really have much to say about this custard.  It tasted like sweet coconut.  There wasn't any cake or shredded coconut in it, so there was no textural difference.  It was just coconut and it was fine.

A's thoughts:
This custard just sort of was. Yes, there was coconut flavoring, but there was no actual coconut or cake. Why call it "Mom's Coconut Cake" if there was going to be no cake? Why not just call it coconut? Some actual coconut shavings would have been nice, too.

Mom's Coconut Cake
A's rating: 6.5/10
M's rating: 7.5/10

Back from Barcelona

Long posting absence, mostly due to getting ready for our trip and then our 10 day vacation in Barcelona!

We spent most of our time in Barcelona itself, only taking one day trip out to Girona.  It was fabulous, and we fell in love with so many foods and dishes that we won't be able to get at home (at least it won't be the same).  There was so much great fresh asparagus, especially white asparagus, and artichokes, and perfectly cooked octopus and squid, and our favorite chipirones (baby squid).  I never knew I could love artichokes and squid as much as I do right now, but I'm not sure if we'll ever be able to get them back home like they are in Barcelona.  All the seafood there was so fresh and perfectly cooked, and so much was simply grilled, and that made us so happy.

Recaps to come. There's so much to tell you about - from our incredible tasting menu at El Celler de Can Roca (currently the #2 restaurant in the world) to a spectacular lunch at a neighborhood corner restaurant - and we can't wait to start!  Everything (including our layovers to and from Barcelona) will be tagged "Catalunya 2012".  So excited!

(And hopefully this will be the first Europe trip we actually finish recapping...)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Summer Rolling Noodles

One of our favorite Thai restaurants in the Hell's Kitchen / Midtown West / Theater District area is Qi Bangkok, which has an extensive menu including special dishes designed by Pichet Ong.  A has previously written about the great and affordable lunch special (which, although still a good deal, no longer appears to come with free spring rolls and soup in addition to the appetizer), but we haven't gotten around to writing about any of the other dishes.  Tonight I ordered some delivery at work from Qi and decided to order only dishes we hadn't tried before.

I started off with the fresh basil summer roll with shrimp ($5.90).

In addition to shrimp, the rice paper wrapper was filled with julienne carrots, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, red onions and basil, and it was served with a tamarind hoisin sauce.

I've always been a big fan of summer rolls.  They're refreshing and healthy (much healthier than spring rolls!).  Qi's summer roll is really good.  The vegetables are fresh and crisp, the roll did not fall apart or melt into my fingers, the wrapper wasn't too sticky, and it was wrapped well with all the ingredients evenly spaced throughout.  I would recommend this.

For my entree, I got the rolling noodles ($10.90).  We have tried a lot of the noodle dishes at Qi (including the awesome Qi Pad Thai which has vermicelli wrapped into an egg white crepe) but the rolling noodles were new to me.  

At the restaurant everything probably comes mixed together but I appreciated that for delivery they packed the noodles and bean sprouts separate from everything else, keeping it from being a big soggy mess.  The "everything else" was minced chicken with shiitake mushrooms, brown tofu, scallions and cilantro in a soy-based sauce.

I poured the chicken mixture on top of the noodles and bean sprouts for a very tasty dish.  I probably shouldn't have poured it on with all of the sauce because that did make it a little too salty.  Lesson learned.

I really liked this dish.  I like minced chicken dishes in general, especially at Thai restaurants (have I mentioned my love for larb gai before?), and in this dish, the minced chicken soaked up the flavor of the sauce and the mushrooms really well.  It was just a really good combination and different from what is usually available at Thai restaurants.

To finish off my order, I got a drink - cranberry juice ($3) - which arrived in a plastic soup container.

If you've ever wanted to know what $3 of cranberry juice looks like, there you go.  Seems a little pricey to me.  It was also a bit odd trying to drink cranberry juice through a straw from a plastic soup container.

If you're in the area and looking for Thai food (of which there is no shortage in Hell's Kitchen), we would recommend Qi.  They have a lot of unique options (and a great lunch special) and really good desserts (which we don't always remember to save room for).  I'm not a huge dessert fan but I was sad to see that they don't deliver dessert.  Let us know if you have any Qi favorites - we would love to try more things!

Qi Bangkok is located at 43rd and 8th.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Olive Oil Cake

Olive oil cake was one of the Shake Shack custards we were really looking forward to because of the unique flavor of olive oil desserts that we've had before.  We only had one option to try this custard - today - so we definitely wanted to try it.

M's thoughts:
I've had olive oil gelato before, which was kind of sweet like an olive oil candy, but it was the type of thing that I liked in small doses. Too much olive oil gelato was a little bit overwhelming.  I was curious to see how Shake Shack would handle an olive oil cake flavored custard.  It was good - very thick (although it didn't seem like there was any cake mixed in), rich with olive oil flavor, but not overly candy sweet like the gelato I had before.  I'm not sure how much of this I could eat, since I think it's still the type of flavor I appreciate more in small amounts, but I would recommend it.

A's thoughts:
I think I had some sort of olive oil ice cream or cake at some point once before, but I really can't remember what it tasted like. This custard tasted really good. It was a nice olive oil flavor sweetened nicely but not overly sweet. Even though it's an olive oil cake, there was no cake. However, it almost tasted like there was cake batter in the custard. This was really tasty, and I would certainly get it again.

Olive Oil Cake
A's rating: 8/10
M's rating: 7.5/10

Mexican Chocolate Fudge Brownie

The Saturday custard this month is Mexican chocolate fudge brownie, which we thought would be like a spiced chocolate custard.

M's thoughts:
For some reason, when thinking about this custard, I kept trying to put the words "hot" or "spiced" into the name.  I think that's just what I expected it to taste like.  Instead it seemed to me to be just like chocolate, but perhaps a little more bitter, with a heavy afterkick of cayenne pepper that had been sprinkled into it.  I wasn't really a fan of the pepper after each spoonful, but I suppose that's personal preference with respect to the combination and the ingredients.

A's thoughts:
I kept thinking this was going to be chocolate custard with cinnamon and actual fudge brownie pieces mixed in. It really wasn't like that at all. Yes, it was chocolate custard, but there were no brownie pieces. There was no cinnamon or anything, but there was some sort of chili powder mixed in. I like heat, and there was good heat here, but with custard? No, not so much. Maybe if I were expecting it it would have been better, but I just didn't really like it.

Mexican Chocolate Fudge Brownie
A's rating: 5/10
M's rating: 5/10

Friday, May 4, 2012

Rice Platters

I haven't been able to make it over to Big D's Grub Truck for awhile, so today was the first time I got to try the rice platters, one of the new(er) additions to the menu.

Like the tacos and grinders, the rice platters are available with bulgogi, spicy pork, ginger chicken, or spicy chicken.  On my last few visits, I had been getting the spicy pork grinder so I decided to go with the spicy pork rice platter.  The rice platter was very similar to the grinder except there was rice instead of bread and the rice platter included a side of kimchi.  They both have daikon, carrots and cucumbers, which is great since they are healthy and refreshing.

I really liked the rice platter.  It wasn't white rice like I was expecting but it looked orange and I'm guessing it was slightly flavored.  The raw vegetables mixed well with the flavorful spicy kimchi (both the side and the topping to the pork) and the sweet and spicy tender pork pieces.  It's slightly more expensive than a grinder (although I used LevelUp and had a credit so it came out to the same price) but it's worth it.  I would definitely get this again.

Derby Walnut Pie

The Thursday custard this month is derby walnut pie.  Neither of us was sure what to expect from this custard but we hoped it would be good.

M's thoughts:
When I picked this up at Shake Shack, it looked at first like any other chocolate custard.  But before they gave me the cover, they took it to the back and sprinkled some walnuts on it.  That was promising, since I like the custards with things mixed in.  In addition to the walnuts sprinkled all over the top (which were not mixed in, so I think in order to make it derby "walnut" pie, they need to add those walnuts on top), there was a darker colored chocolate cake mousse type of thing mixed in to the custard, which gave it different flavors and textures.  I really liked this combination, even though I'm not a big walnut fan.  I don't know what derby walnut pie is supposed to taste like, but I liked the combination of chocolate and walnut here.

A's thoughts:
I wasn't sure what to expect with this flavor. I've never had a walnut pie, but I really like pie. I couldn't pin the flavor of the actual custard itself, but it tasted really good. Couple that with the crushed walnut on top and the odd, mousse-like darker brown custard made this a really good mix. My guess is that the darker brown is meant to be a maple flavored custard. If a walnut pie is anything like a pecan pie that would make sense. It was a really tasty dessert, and I would definitely consider getting it again.

Derby Walnut Pie
A's rating: 8.5/10
M's rating: 8/10

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Oatmeal Crème Pie

The first new custard we tried this month was oatmeal crème pie.  As we mentioned in the preview, we were really excited for this one.

M's thoughts:
I haven't had an oatmeal cream pie before so I didn't go into this custard with any expectations.  Based on google searches, it seemed like it would be like a whoopie pie but made with oatmeal cookies. I was hoping that this custard would have cookie pieces mixed in but it didn't. Tasting this custard, all I got was oatmeal cookie, kind of like an oatmeal raisin cookie. It tasted OK but I was just hoping for something more unique based on the flavor name.

A's thoughts:
I grew up eating Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies as treats. I loved the chewy oatmeal cookies and the creamy, sweet interior. I had serious concerns about this flavor since I had such fond memories of the actual dessert. My first bite of the custard offered a hint of oatmeal cookie flavoring. It was actually pretty spot on. However, the more I ate, the more it devolved into just tasting more like plain vanilla. The custard itself also was missing that distinct cream filling flavor. I would have preferred trying to make the custard taste like the filling and then crumbling in oatmeal cookie pieces, but I understand that it would probably much more expensive doing it that way. Still, this ended up just being a minor disappointment.

Oatmeal Crème Pie
A's rating: 6/10
M's rating: 6.5/10

Soondubu Jigae for a Cold Day

I've returned to Ambrosia several times since my first visit last fall, but each time, I've gotten the same thing - Korean chicken fried rice.  It was so tasty the first time and with tax it still comes in under $10, so I haven't really branched out.  Today it was much cooler than I expected, as well as damp and rainy, so I was in the mood for a spicy Korean soup or stew.  Seemed like a good day to try some soondubu jigae (spicy tofu and egg stew).

Ambrosia has several types of soondubu jigae - seafood, beef, kimchi and vegetable - all of which were $8.95 (pre-tax).  Since they were all the same price, I decided to go with the seafood.  The tofu stew came with the usual side of kimchi, as well as soybeans and some pickled cucumbers for banchan.

I'm not an expert on soondubu jigae, so the way the seafood was included was surprising to me.  I was expecting small pieces of seafood, like small shrimp or pieces of mussels (without shells).  Wikipedia tells me that oysters, mussels, clams and shrimp are common ingredients, and other than oysters, these were all present here.  In their shells (which, in the case of the clams, were gigantic).  And in the case of the shrimp, with the head and legs attached.  I've had plenty of experience with whole shrimp thanks to Chinese restaurants, but not when they are covered in tofu and soup and I'm at work with nowhere to put the shrimp to take off its extra stuff.  Eating the seafood was a bit challenging and unfortunately (since it's more costly than tofu) I left a good deal of it in the bowl once I got full.  I probably should have gotten the kimchi but I had no idea that the seafood would come with all of the shells and would be so hard to eat.  Lesson learned.

I did enjoy the tofu and egg with the white rice and thought that made for a good lunch.  (I'm one of those few people who really does just like tofu.)  The stew had a nice flavor but it wasn't very spicy.

Next time I'm in the mood for soondubu jigae I think I'll stick to the kimchi variety, or maybe the vegetable.  I splashed stew all over my shirt thanks to the giant clam and mussel shells and it was just way too much work for a cramped desk with a pair of cheap wooden chopsticks.  Or maybe I'll just get the fried rice again.  That dish is really, really good.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Crisp on Wheels

I've been to Crisp a number of times, usually getting the Africa handbag sandwich, but sometimes branching out for other sandwiches, getting sandwiches in salad form instead, or ordering non-falafel-ball items like burgers and pizza.  I've never tried Crisp's food truck - Crisp on Wheels - but it was nearby today when I was wandering around looking for lunch so I decided to give it a try.

I ordered the Africa salad with whole wheat pizza and was surprised when I saw the price.  For some reason I missed the fine print that getting any handbag sandwich as a bowl would cost $1.50 more.  I knew it cost extra at the store but for some reason I didn't see the fine print on the menu here (it was definitely there when I looked later though) and thought they were both the same price.  That's part of the reason I ordered a salad instead of my usual sandwich.  Oh well.  My own mistake pushed the price just over $10.  More than I was hoping to spend, but at least they take credit cards.

My to-go bag contained a take-out container full of lettuce and salad toppings, a small paper bag with 4 falafel balls, and another small bag with their fluffy whole wheat pita.  It was nice that they packaged the falafel separately to keep it crispy.  Sadly, it didn't look to me like the salad contained $1.50 more of ingredients (other than lettuce which is not very expensive).

I compared this bowl with the ones I've gotten previously.  There was much more of the North African peanut sauce and habanero harissa sauce here, making the salad creamier and zestier than the ones I've had previously.  Like the others, there was plenty of corn salad, cherry tomatoes and green onions which made me happy.  And there was one other change that I liked much better here - the sweet potatoes were soft pieces, matching up well with the creamy sauce, unlike the fried slices I've had before.  But like all the previous times I've ordered the Crisp Africa, it was delicious.

The Africa combination is still my favorite out of all the Crisp combinations.  I wonder if they will ever come up with something new to displace it!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sandwich Planet

We're still in the process of unpacking and our apartment is full of stuff, so we have been getting a lot of takeout and delivery.  Last night we decided to order dinner from Sandwich Planet, a local place we've been to a few times.  Sandwich Planet also happens to be the first place we ate after moving in to the old unit all those years ago and now it's the first meal we ate (although this time, delivery) after officially leaving the old unit.  Don't think we planned it that way but it's a nice coincidence.

We ordered a fresh mozzarella caprese appetizer since we love caprese salads ($6):

The salad came with four large square slices of mozzarella, topped with slices of bright red tomatoes and plenty of basil leaves.  One of M's big disappointments with caprese salads is that sometimes there isn't enough basil, but this was not a problem here.  It was a generous portion for an appetizer.

We also got a side of potato salad ($4):

The potato salad was very creamy and, although you could taste some actual pieces of potato, much of it was just creamy potato mayo. It was almost like mayo mashed potato. The flavoring was pretty good, though, even if it would have been nice to have more potato.

M got the South of the Border Churasco ($9.20):

The South of the Border comes with jack cheese, salsa, guacamole, and jalapeno peppers, to which M added sauteed onions.  The chicken was a little too dry and the whole sandwich was a bit messy with the overflowing salsa, but it was a good combination.  The sandwich is on the large size so it's also kind of heavy.

A got a Reuben Sandwich with added sauteed onions ($8.50):

A loves corned beef in all forms and Reubens are always right up his alley. It's the mix of salty, cured meat and cheese with the tart sauerkraut and russian dressing that just seems right to him. However, this corned beef was a little muted with regards to flavor. It was nice and fatty, though, so that made up for it a little. The sauerkraut and russian dressing were virtually non-existent which was very disappointing. The onions added a little sweetness to the sandwich, but it wasn't enough to salvage the meal for A.

There are other healthier and better options for delivery, so we don't order often from Sandwich Planet, but it was nice beginning and ending our stay in the old unit with the same place, even if we didn't do it on purpose.  Ready for the next stage of our journey!

May Custard Calendar

The May custard calendar is up and it's such an interesting lineup! I'm not sure we've ever seen these flavors before.  (The shake special also seems like a great thing to do.)

Monday - lemon chess - I guess this will taste like lemon pie?

Tuesday - oatmeal creme pie - I've never had an oatmeal creme pie but A thinks they're awesome and after googling it, I'm very excited to try it.  First day of the month (today) is a Tuesday, isn't it...

Wednesday - Mom's coconut cake - I wrote about the snowball custard last year and how much I love coconut flavors, so I'm very excited for this one.  A likes coconut and cake, so he wants to try this too (although he wonders who Mom is).

Thursday - derby walnut pie - Is May national pie month or something?  Google tells me that a derby pie is a chocolate and walnut tart.  Will it live up to gianduja?

Friday - banana bread - I think we all know what banana bread is, but will the custard taste like anything more than banana?  The bananas foster didn't do too well.

Saturday - Mexican chocolate fudge brownie - We're intrigued by this one as well (we're intrigued by the entire list, obviously).  I'm thinking it will be like spiced chocolate?

Sunday - olive oil cake - I've had the olive oil gelato at Otto and I vaguely remember an olive oil cake at dessert somewhere one day, so I'm interested to see how Shake Shack will adapt olive oil cake to a custard.  We are excited to try this.

Which one most interests you?  I'm having trouble choosing since all of the flavors are new but since we have a short month here, we will have to strategize our custard eating. Let's see how the May custards turn out!