Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blueberry Lime

The Wednesday custard flavor this month is blueberry lime.

M's thoughts:
I definitely tasted blueberry, and it tasted like it was mixed with something else, but I didn't really taste lime.  The custard wasn't bad but nothing remarkable.  I do think blueberry lime would make a nice sorbet or ice flavor.

A's thoughts:
This was an odd flavor. I thought it was going to be so much different from what it really was. There was a hint of blueberry to the custard itself, but there wasn't very much of any lime. The odd thing about this custard, though, was that it felt like it left a filmy feeling in my mouth as well. It didn't sit well with me, and I really didn't like it that much.

Blueberry Lime
A's rating: 5/10
M's rating: 6/10

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Last week I saw a post online that it was Chef Okadaman's birthday and that to celebrate they were giving out free food at lunch.  Okadaman is a relatively new truck to the streets of Manhattan, specializing in okonomiyaki (pancakes), yakisoba (noodles), takoyaki (octopus balls), and kara-age (fried chicken).  Since I hadn't been able to get over to the truck before, this was the perfect opportunity.

I got to the truck on the later side of lunch and they were out of takoyaki.  I was in the mood for noodles so even though I was really curious about the okonomiyaki, I went for the yakisoba.  It would normally be $6.25, but since I used the magic birthday words, it was free!

My first thought when I got the container was that it felt really light.  Maybe that's a reflection on how much I eat, but it was much lighter than my salad bowls usually are.  I thought that maybe it was a smaller portion since it was for the free offer (which would be fine, since the free lobster roll promotions are usually only half of a lobster roll), but looking at other people's photos, I'm thinking that this may actually be the full portion.

The yakisoba consisted of stir-fried noodles, pork, cabbage, ginger, and special sauce.  I liked the flavor of the yakisoba, but to be full from lunch, I would need to get something more than just the yakisoba.  Although the dish itself wasn't that small, the noodles were lightly packed.  I think Sunrise Mart uses the same container for theirs but the noodles are much more densely packed, yielding a more substantial lunch.  Even more food than that is the yakisoba from Sapporo, which is only a few dollars more than Okadaman, but a giant plate.

I plan to go back to Okadaman at some point to try the okonomiyaki (which I would assume is more substantial than the yakisoba).  If you don't have a huge appetite, the yakisoba might be enough for a tasty lunch, but I think I need more!


My first experience with full-on, coffee shop coffee in Spain was at a quaint little cafe called Pudding. M was nice and used her data plan to keep looking for places for me to get some good coffee, and this one just happened to be right by our hotel. As was my custom throughout this trip, I ordered a cafe con leche. It was nice to have it come in a nice mug, and it was my first "real" coffee in my life.

Cafe Con Leche

The coffee was really hot, and I wasn't really ready for that. I was still used to the American mega-breweries like I mentioned here, and so I hadn't gotten to the point of sitting back and enjoying my coffee. After my initial mouth-burning experience, I decided to slow down and enjoy my coffee slowly. Much like the cappuccino I had the day before, the coffee was very rich and smooth. The steamed milk was perfectly foamed on top, and the coffee had a nice flavor to it.

M didn't mind that I was slowly drinking my coffee because she was enamored by the decor of the place. I do have to admit, it was a very whimsical place. It's a toadstool laden fantasy wonderland.

We spent a lot of time hiding amongst the giant toadstool lamps and murals. We probably looked really silly, but we had fun. It was a nice start to our day.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pho Mac

Pho Mac, located near the Staten Island Expressway, is the only Vietnamese restaurant that we know of in Staten Island.  We haven't been there in awhile and decided to check it out for dinner over the weekend.

We started with gỏi cuốn (summer rolls), which are rice paper wrappers filled with shrimp, vegetables and rice vermicelli.  This one was served with a warm peanut sauce.

Each summer roll had 4 big pieces of shrimp and was well-stuffed with the shrimp, the scallions and the vermicelli.  They definitely didn't skimp on the ingredients.  The only problem was that there wasn't a lot of herbs or flavoring to the roll other than the shrimp.  We were expecting basil or mint, neither of which appeared to be present. The peanut sauce being served warm instead of cool was also different for us, but we didn't love it as much as some other sauces we've had with summer rolls.  It was a little bland.

A got the Phở đặc biệt + bò viên which is described as "combination special big bowl with beef ball".

The pho has well done flank steak, brisket, eye of round, tendon, omosa (tripe), and beef balls. It's served in a beef broth with scallions and onions cooked in. The meat and the noodles also come with an accompaniment of thai basil, bean sprouts, lemon/lime, hoison sauce, and sriracha. You don't have to use everything, but A always does.

A always follows the same ritual with his pho. The very first thing he does is taste the broth itself. He likes savoring the rich broth by itself before adding in the flavoring. First he squeezes the lime/lemon in, dumps in the bean sprouts into the middle of the bowl, spreads the thai basil in circular patterns around the bowl, squeezes on sriracha in a spiral pattern, and then finally squeezes on some hoisin sauce in a criss-cross pattern. M likes it because she finds it artistic.

Overall, the broth was a little thin and weak in comparison to the better pho A has had in his lifetime. It actually tasted a little like chicken broth instead of beef broth. The proteins were of very good quality, and the additional ingredients were all very fresh. They couldn't make up for the somewhat weak broth, though. While this certainly wasn't the best bowl of pho A has had, it certainly fulfilled a craving.

M got cơm gà xào xả ớt (lemongrass chili chicken).  It was described on the menu as chicken, lemongrass, green peppers and onions with white rice, and what came out of the kitchen was pretty much what M expected.

M liked the chicken dish.  It had very thin pieces of chicken stir-fried with slices of onions, green peppers and red peppers, with a sauce made with lemongrass and chili.  It wasn't that spicy but there was a nice zesty flavor to accompany the chicken and vegetables.  After the bland summer rolls, the spice was good.

Pho Mac isn't the best Vietnamese food we've had (that is still back on Argyle in Chicago), but in the sea of pizza, Italian restaurants, chains and diners on Staten Island, it's a nice change of scenery.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Potbelly Mediterranean

When I go to Potbelly for a sandwich, I usually have a few options that I rely on (turkey, tuna or meatball).  Recently, Potbelly introduced a new vegetarian sandwich called the Mediterranean, which sounded interesting. When we went for dinner last week for National Sugar Cookie Day (since I love their sugar cookies), I decided to try it.

The Mediterranean sandwich has "zippy hummus, feta, artichoke hearts, crispy cukes, and roasted red peppers." On top of the base ingredients, you can (like every Potbelly sandwich) add any of the free toppings you want.  I added hot peppers, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and Italian seasoning for a vegetarian extravaganza.

The most prominent items from the Mediterranean combination were the hummus, spread onto the bread, and the feta cheese which was melted on top.  The red peppers were a thin layer next to the hummus, but I barely noticed any cucumbers.  The artichoke hearts, once everything was piled in, seemed to have fallen to two distinct areas of the sandwich, so I went almost an entire half without hitting one.  The usual free toppings were a good match for the Mediterranean toppings, and I thought the hot peppers fit in really well here.  I liked them more here than I do in my usual turkey sandwich (which makes sense because, according to their tweet from today, they use oil from the hot peppers to make the hummus).  All of the flavors were pretty good.

I did like the Mediterranean sandwich, but it's more expensive than all the other sandwiches at Potbelly, including the ones with lots of meat (probably because of the feta and artichokes). And I didn't like it more than my usual ones, so I'll probably stick to my old favorites.  But if I'm ever in the mood for a vegetarian sandwich, this would work!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bryant Park Grill

Yesterday I went to the Bryant Park Grill for lunch.  It's (quite) a bit more than what I usually spend on lunch, but it was for a recruiting lunch sponsored by work, so I gladly went along.

The meal started with a big bread basket.  It was on the other side of the table so I couldn't really see all the types but there was an assortment of rolls and breads.  I opted for the cheese-topped focaccia since I couldn't tell if there were any others I would like better.

I ended up being the only one to take advantage of the bread, but I'm glad I did. I really liked this cheese focaccia.  It was soft, even on the edges, and had a good chewiness.  I couldn't identify the type of cheese that was baked into the bread but it had a nice light saltiness and flavor.

We split the jumbo lump crab cakes ($16.95), which ended up being an order of 2 crab cakes that came with petite mixed greens, a grape tomato split in half, and a honey mustard dressing.

The crab cake had a lot of stuff mixed in - bread crumbs and various vegetables and herbs.  While it's not a crab cake of just crab meat like one we got in Baltimore, I do also like these softer more seasoned crab patties.

This is probably not the best crab cake I've ever had (although, in this "style" of crab cake, I can't think right now of what would be), but it was a solid appetizer.  Well-seasoned, not overdone, tasty, good honey mustard.

For the main course, I got the poached Maine lobster and Israeli couscous salad ($29.50), which, according to the menu, included tomato, avocado, corn, bell peppers, Bermuda onion and sweet basil dressing.

I was excited for this salad which sounded great from the description, but it was disappointing. The lobster was tough and chewy in parts, which is a big reason I don't always like lobster.  I've been eating more of it lately in lobster rolls and lobster salads, so I thought I would try it here.  Half of it was fine, but half of it took too much work to cut and chew (with no side taste benefit, as it seemed to be missing that rich lobster flavor) that I ended up just leaving it. Very sad to leave lobster behind!

As for the rest of the salad, there were 2 tomato slices, a few chunks of avocado, and a bowl of Israeli couscous mixed with shredded lettuce, chickpeas and little bits of onions and other vegetables.  The salad part wasn't bad and I did eat most of it (at least until the vegetables ran out), but it wasn't that flavorful either.  The menu had mentioned a sweet basil dressing that I didn't taste at all.  The salad was lightly tossed in some dressing but nothing with any distinctive flavor. Other than the couscous, the ingredients were very similar to a lobster salad we had a week ago, which was much, much better, both in flavor and construction.

Looking at some other people's experiences, it sounds like the chopped chicken cobb salad might be good.  But I'm not a huge fan of bacon, or blue cheese, or hardboiled eggs, or olives.  So that's kind of wasted on me.  I just looked over the menu to see what I might have liked better than the lobster salad and so far all I'm coming up with is the panko crusted chicken sandwich or maybe, the monkfish with baby bok choy.  And while I'm critical of the food, I do want to note that our waiter was friendly and likeable.

(We also got a dessert - a molten chocolate cake with almond cocoa nib ice cream - which was fine but nothing incredible.)

It was nice to take a break in the day for a lunch filled with good company and conversation.  I'm not one to complain about a free lunch (well, one that will eventually get reimbursed by work), but, with all the options for nice meals in New York, this probably isn't a choice I would repeat if going on my own dime.  I think it's a bit overpriced for what you get, especially compared to other restaurants in the city, and there are other restaurants I like better (both for food and value).  I think BPG is popular because of its location, but if you're sitting indoors that doesn't really matter that much as you're not really enjoying the park.  Ultimately this just wasn't a very exciting meal to me.

Patriotic Pops

Earlier this week, USA Network gave out free "patriotic pops" to promote their new show Political Animals.  I had already heard great things about it and had planned to check the show out anyway, but wasn't going to turn down a free popsicle promotion!


The patriotic pops were basically rocket pops but not in a rocket shape.  It tasted like cherry, lemon and berry (maybe blue raspberry?) flavors.  We've already established that I like popsicles and I'm a big fan of popsicles with multiple flavors (like the La Newyorkina one I got at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and the Trader Joe's rainbow popsicles that I haven't written about but really love). Since it was in danger of melting quickly, I decided to get lunch from a place a little further away than I originally planned so I could finish my popsicle before it melted.  Perfect summer treat.

Thank you USA and Political Animals!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday

Happy 2nd birthday to Shake Shack!

We went to our neighborhood Shake Shack on opening day and then returned to celebrate its first birthday last year.  My favorite part of Shake Shack's birthday celebration?  The birthday cake concrete.

The birthday cake concrete is vanilla custard with a piece of birthday cake spun in.  I first tried this in November the first year our Shake Shack was open.  I was just passing by after work and saw it on the daily menu.  Sprinkles, icing, cake, custard? What's better than that?  It makes so few appearances on the Shake Shack menu but it's my favorite concrete.  (A likes this one, but still prefers Jelly's Last Donut.)  That's one reason to look forward to mid-July: birthday cake concrete!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cantina Bowl

Taco Bell recently introduced their new "Cantina Bell" menu designed by Chef Lorena Garcia.  To promote it, they did a buy one, get one Cantina Bowl free offer on Facebook, which we were more than happy to indulge in for dinner last night.

The Cantina Bowl consists of cilantro rice, romaine lettuce, citrus-herb marinated chicken (or steak or veggie, depending on what you get), black beans, guacamole, roasted corn and pepper salsa, pico de gallo, and cilantro dressing.  Looking at it, it would appear that it aims to be a competitor for the Chipotle burrito bowl as the basic ingredient setup (rice, beans, meat, salsa, lettuce) is the same.

What worked:
  • This seems to be a healthier option for Taco Bell than some of the other fare (tasty chalupas with fried shells that I really like, I'm looking at you).
  • The crunchy lettuce with the chicken and salsas would make for a good salad on its own. (See first point in the next category about the rice.)
  • The pico de gallo and roasted corn and pepper salsa had really good flavor, especially the corn/pepper one.
  • Guacamole doesn't cost extra, like it does at Chipotle (but it's more of a smooth guacamole than the chunky one at Chipotle).
  • The creamy cilantro dressing has great flavor. 
  • The price isn't bad.  In the NYC market, you can get that entire bowl of food for $5.99 (pre-tax). A balanced healthy dish under $7 is not so easy to find here.

What we weren't crazy about:
  • The rice.  A thought it was a little salty but made up for the lack of seasoning in other areas.  I just thought it felt out of place.  The bowl (unless you mix it up first, see next point) starts out with salsas, chicken, guacamole and dressing on top of a crunchy bed of lettuce.  The rice is underneath all of that and to me, felt like a misplaced afterthought.  I was left wondering if this should have been constructed as a salad instead, or, like Chipotle, offered with the option of having rice or lettuce as the base.
  • The bowl was very compartmentalized.  Unlike Chipotle, where they aim to spread the ingredients over the entire length of the bowl (some do it better than others), each part of the Cantina Bowl had a distinct section to call its own (other than the lettuce and the rice).  Unless you mixed it up really well, it was hard to get one bite with everything in it.  It was harder to mix because the bowl was not that deep and everything was so separated.  The cilantro dressing especially would have been nice spread over the entire bowl.
  • I forgot there were black beans in it until I read the bowl description on the Cantina Bell site.  The beans (black or pinto) at Chipotle add a lot of flavor, but these were just kind of there.
  • The ingredients aren't quite as good as Chipotle, having more of a chain "feel" to them (like the processed strips of chicken) than the fresh natural ingredients that Chipotle promotes.  Also at Chipotle you can ask for more of the salsas if you don't get that much, while here at Taco Bell, they were just small dollops of each salsa.

The verdict?  Definitely worth a try.  It's cheaper than Chipotle's bowl by almost $2 but there are things about the Chipotle bowl that, to us, are clearly better than this one (and it's also more filling).  I've always liked Taco Bell despite the naysayers (including the new-ish Doritos locos tacos) and I'm glad they've made the effort to try something healthy and new. We prefer the Chipotle bowl but we would get the Cantina Bowl again.

Beer Nuts

One of the more intriguing custards this month was beer nuts, a custard made with Brooklyn Brewery's ShackMeister Ale and pecans.

M's thoughts:
What an odd flavor.  It was basically a beer-flavored custard with pecans mixed in.  It just tasted really strange and I learned that I wasn't a huge fan of beer in custard form.  It didn't taste bad, but just isn't a flavor I would say that I liked.

A's thoughts:
I really like ice cream/custard, and I really like beer. I do know that, from previous experiences, mixing ice cream and beer doesn't really work very well. This reminded me of that. There's something a little off-putting about sweet, creamy, frothy, vanilla-flavored beer. It was just such an odd mix of flavors and textures, that I really never found myself enjoying it. The sweet pecans were nice, but they certainly weren't enough to overcome the odd mix of flavors of the custard itself.

Beer Nuts
A's rating: 4/10
M's rating: 5/10

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chipotle Chicken Avocado

My mind was melting and lacking lunch inspiration today in the 95 degree sun.  I wandered in circles trying to decide on something to eat and found myself right back at Earl of Sandwich for the second time this week.  I decided to try the new limited time special sandwich - the chipotle chicken avocado.

The official sandwich photo from Earl of Sandwich - Source

The chipotle chicken avocado sandwich had grilled chicken strips, a zesty chipotle sauce, avocado, cheddar cheese and leaf lettuce.  It also comes with bacon but I requested mine without bacon (and didn't miss it).

I really liked this sandwich. The best parts for me were the zesty sauce, the soft avocado, and the melted cheddar cheese on the soft toasted bread.  The least successful part in my opinion was actually the chicken. The strips had a texture of formed chicken, but when combined with everything else, it was relatively easy to get past that. 

My sandwich didn't look exactly like the photo in the promotional ad but it wasn't too far off.  I'm not sure how long this will be at Earl of Sandwich but it's worth a try.

Trip Planning

When you go on vacation, how much advance planning do you do for the restaurants you're going to visit?

In the past we've done varying amounts of research.  For trips like the Carnival Glory cruise or our stay at the all-inclusive Dreams Cancun, we did very little.  For both trips combined, I think the only research we did was to find places in Saint John, NB that had good seafood and/or poutine.  Otherwise our meals were pretty much planned out for us and there was nothing to do.  That was great in terms of relaxing our mind, but it was also choice-limiting because of the nature of the vacation.

For our trips to Europe, we've generally done more research.  When we went to Amsterdam and Belgium, we went with a list of places that were recommended by various people, but no reservations and no set plans (other than a must-try list of types of foods, like fries, pancakes, etc).  We visited some of those places but stumbled on most others.  When we went to Greece, it was similar - a list of places that we could go to but nothing concrete, and mostly in Athens.  In some places like Naxos, we had the name of one place (Lefteris) and just winged it for the rest.  On both trips we ended up having some great food, some from our list but some that we just stumbled on.

Barcelona was a bit different.  Most of my research is done on Chowhound, a site that I spend time on in bursts, but have generally been lurking around for over 10 years.  Unlike the other 3 countries, the Spain board there is quite active.  Not knowing much about Barcelona before going, it was completely overwhelming. So many names, so many options. I didn't know where things were or what they were near (I could plot them on the map but didn't even know what we would be visiting at the time). It was so busy in the weeks leading up to the trip that we had done so little research, both for sightseeing and eating.  On one of our last days in New York, I went through a couple of posts on the board and made a page long list of restaurant names, but that didn't provide us much guidance on what to do either.  They were just names.  The only thing we did do, months before our trip (and pretty much as soon as our plans were set), was to make reservations for 2 of the high-profile spots we really wanted to go to - Tickets (the tapas place from the Adrias) and El Celler de Can Roca (the #2 restaurant in the world right now).  So we knew we would get good food at those 2 places but the rest was kind of up in the air.  Advance reservations were something we had never done before in our travels but Tickets books up about 60 days in advance (the same day the reservations open for that day) and we were incredibly lucky to get a reservation at El Celler de Can Roca only 3 months in advance.

At the end of our first full day in Barcelona, I felt a bit unsettled.  We had been getting our bearings in the city and now had a better idea of the layout, the geography, the travel methods, and where things were.  We hadn't had bad food during our first day but it wasn't amazing. One thing you hear about Barcelona all the time is that the food is incredible and like nowhere else in the world. We hadn't had that experience yet as we casually wandered into places whenever we wanted a snack.  We usually resist planning our itinerary down to the minute or the meal (unlike some people who seem to go with an exact plan for lunch and dinner for each day), and see where the day takes us.  But I didn't want to feel like we wasted our meals on places that were good but not great.  I wanted us to see all this fantastic food that Barcelona had to offer that people raved about.  I needed to do more research.

Luckily our hotel had free wifi which made this a lot easier.  After we got back from McDonalds, I stayed up for a couple of hours (probably until 3 am or so) reading thread after thread about Barcelona restaurants.  I skipped anything on the more expensive side and/or requiring advance reservations.  I marked down types of restaurants, locations, what sights they were near (since we had no intention of running all over the city to eat), people's thoughts.  I scribbled all over the paper with my initial list (since I had forgotten my notebook on the trip), realizing that I had some places listed 3 times.  But we now had some sort of a plan.  We had some recommendations.  It wouldn't be the only time we did research as I did keep looking up more ideas during the trip. But we were ready to start our eating adventure!

Does research take away a little bit of the "magic" that you get from wandering into an unknown place and realizing that it is absolutely incredible? Sure.  But if you only have a limited amount of time and you want to make the most of every meal, sometimes you have to sacrifice a little bit of serendipity and take the advice of others.  We still didn't plan that far in advance, deciding before each meal or (at the most) each day where to try, and going armed with a list of multiple places in case our options were closed or too crowded.  But we did have some great food, as we'll get to in the posts to come.  Not just great, but incredible and extremely memorable.  Food that we still dream about today and that will likely make it onto our "best of 2012" lists.  That made the research and the planning well worth it.

What's your travel planning style and why do you think it works for you?

McDonalds España

I've written before about being fascinated with American fast food chains operating abroad and how they adapt to fit their surroundings.  We were still looking for fruits/vegetables after our pub dinner and stopped in at McDonalds looking for something like a yogurt parfait.  We ended up getting a variety of snacks from their 1 euro menu (called un x un).

The McDonalds menu in Barcelona had so many things that we had never seen before at McDonalds here (not that we go often, but I do look at all the ads in the windows).  They had chicken wings, happy meals with carrots or cherry tomatoes as sides, potato wedges, the "McIberico" (with ham, of course), Milka donuts, and much more.

A got a black & white cone (con black & white) - soft serve ice cream in a chocolate-dipped cone.

A likes ice cream and A liked this cone.  It was a good dessert.

We also got the Greek yogurt with fruit (iogurt grec amb fruites), which had an assortment of berries (mostly strawberries and blueberries).

This was really good and left us wondering why we can't have a healthy snack like this at our McDonalds at home.  It was exactly what I wanted after all the sandwiches and burgers.  The yogurt was smooth and the fruit was sweet and juicy.

Another thing we don't have at McDs at home: onion rings (anelles de ceba).

Burger King has onion rings at home but McDs does not.  Why not?  Onion rings are tasty crunchy snacks.  These onion rings also were better than the BK ones at home.

One of our favorite items from the un x un menu was the gazpacho (gaspatxo).

The gazpacho was in single serving bowls and made by Alvalle - the same gazpacho we saw at Carrefour earlier in the day.

From what we remember, it was mostly a smooth tomato/vegetable soup with a little bit of pulp.  It was cool and refreshing, exactly what we wanted.  I can't explain it but sometimes I just crave tomatoes.  This fulfilled that craving.

On our way out, we took a look at the dessert case which, as usual, had a lot of stuff we don't have at home. Macarons!

Visiting fast food outlets abroad always makes me wonder why there are so many great things that we don't have.  I would probably go to places like McDonalds more if they had things like this.  A bowl of gazpacho, some onion rings on the side, and a dessert of yogurt with berries, for about 3 euro?  That would make for a great, mostly healthy, and cheap lunch!  Fast food chains are criticized here for having so much unhealthy cheap food, but the stores abroad just prove that they can (and do) sell things other than crappy triple patty bacon burgers that clog your arteries.  Why can't they share some of these good ideas with the American stores?  Perhaps people would make "better" choices if there were good alternatives to what we have now.

George and Dragon

Our first full night in Barcelona also happened to be the night of the UEFA Champions League final.  Barça wasn't playing in it (it was Chelsea and Bayern Munich) but we still wanted to watch the game.  One thing we realized Barcelona did not have many of was the sports bar/gastropub type of place where you could grab a beer, some bar food and watch the game on a multitude of TVs.  The only places for that seemed to be English or Irish pubs.  The first place we tried to go was standing room only and packed, so we ventured over to our other nearby option - George & Dragon, an English pub.

Since we were rooting for Bayern in the game (yes, at an English pub, although it was split about 60-40 or 65-35 Chelsea), we got some German beer from the Aktienbraurei brewery.

The beer was crisp and very clean tasting.  It had a decent hoppiness to it, much less than an IPA, but more than an American macrobrew.  It also had about a medium level of carbonation.

We also got some snacks.  M was craving vegetables (not really a good match for bar food) since we hadn't really eaten many fruits or vegetables since arriving in Spain, and the closest thing that would work seemed to be jalapeño poppers.

These were about the same as what we would get at home - hot deep-fried jalapeño peppers stuffed with gooey cheese.  Tasty but not something we would need to get again.  It came with a good tomato salsa.

We also got the "100% Iberian hamburger with potatoes and salad."  The potatoes were actually fries, which were fine, and the salad was a good mix of greens, pickles, tomatoes, onions and other veggies.  They gave us bottles of oil and vinegar to mix in on our own to our liking.

We had been wondering why it was called an "Iberian hamburger".  One thing A noted when ordering was that they didn't ask what temperature we wanted it cooked, and before it arrived we started thinking there might be ham involved in the burger.  We cut it in half and our questions were answered.

The Iberian hamburger was literally a ham burger. They took a burger, split it apart, and stuffed it with Iberian ham before topping it with cheese.  The burger portion was unseasoned and cooked to well-done since it was so thin. That didn't matter since the ham added moisture and saltiness. The caramelized onions that were used as a topping added a small layer of texture and also some sweetness. The bun was toasted a little too much and was a touch too crumbly, but overall the burger tasted really good.

The food at George and Dragon wasn't exactly the type of food we were looking for in Barcelona before our trip, but it was a good pub stop to watch the game.  If we were back in Barcelona on the night of another game (and wanted to combine dinner with the game), we might check it out again.

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

It was hot last weekend (sunny and high 90s) - perfect weather for ice cream!  We were in the East Village and when in the East Village, there's one obvious choice for ice cream - the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop!

A got the American Globs.

This ice cream concoction is soft serve vanilla on a cone topped with pretzel pieces, sea salt, and dipped in chocolate. A had originally thought of getting something else, but after seeing one Glob go out, he opted instead to follow suit. The chocolate dip solidifies nicely like with any NYC ice cream truck offering, but the addition of the sea salt and the pretzel pieces was really nice. The saltiness of each component really brought out the flavor of the chocolate, and the pretzel pieces added texture to the overall dish. The only downside of this cone is that once you get to the cone itself, that part is boring when compared back to the top portion. As someone that really enjoys ice cream, though, A dealt with it.

M thought about ice cream but in hot weather, all she craves is popsicles.  Big Gay Ice Cream Shop has popsicles/paletas from La Newyorkina in multiple flavors and M went for rainbow.

The rainbow popsicle had 5 flavors - hibiscus, passionfruit, mango (we think), cucumber lime, and coconut.  If M could, she would have flipped the popsicle over so that the hibiscus and passionfruit were at the end and she could save the best for last.  It was a great cooling treat.

We have been to the truck plenty of times in the past, but every time we have thought about visiting the shop it was always packed. Thankfully this time we were able to get in. The store has some additional offerings like the ice pops and also ice cream sandwiches. Even if you have gone to the truck, the store is definitely worth a trip if you can make it.

Blueberry Pie Oh My

For the 4th of July, Shake Shack whipped up a couple of specials including the blueberry pie, oh my concrete that we tried today.

The blueberry pie, oh my concrete is their regular vanilla custard with a slice of blueberry pie blended in.  

We love the concretes at Shake Shack because the cakes, pies and other mix-ins provide a good textural contrast with the smooth custard.  The blueberry pie here was really good (so good that we would have gone for a slice of the blueberry pie by itself).  It's not fresh blueberries since they're in pie mix, but you can definitely taste the sweet berries mixed in.  This is just the latest in their line of "pie" concretes. We were fortunate to try Pumpkin Pie Oh My concrete before, but we missed out on last year's Peach Pie Oh My. Since we love their pie concretes so much, hopefully we can get it if they do it again this year!

Can't wait to see what the next special concrete is at Shake Shack!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Five Guys Times Square

Happy Independence Day!

We started off the day just like last year, a movie - this year was Ted, last year Transformers - followed by lunch at Five Guys.

The new Five Guys in Times Square opened recently, complete with 3 Coca Cola Freestyle machines (multi-flavor touchscreen soda fountains).  A thought the soda from these machines was not as good as regular soda, because it didn't have as much syrup.

There is a fair amount of seating at the new location, although it was also easy to find seats today since a lot of people are probably away for the 4th.

Five Guys was the perfect lunch for July 4th.  After all, what is more "American" than a lunch of cheeseburgers and (cajun) fries?

I got the little cheeseburger (1 patty) "all the way" (no mayo) plus onions and green peppers, while A got the regular cheeseburger (2 patties) all the way (no mayo) plus hot sauce and jalapeños. "All the way" means lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup and mustard (once you take out the mayo).  One of my favorite things about Five Guys is all the free toppings for the burger. It's what makes their burgers so great.  Another thing is the fries, which, in addition to the cup, "overflow" in the bag to provide another serving of fries.  They're also really tasty. I just wish they had a smaller size because it's tough for me to eat a whole order of their fries for lunch on my own (at work).

We're so glad that Five Guys is now even closer to our apartment! Our favorite burgers are probably still the Shackburgers at Shake Shack but at least now at Five Guys we can get good burgers with no lines!

Earl of Salad

I've been to the Earl of Sandwich a few times now, but one thing I never noticed until today was that everything is the same price - $5.99 - sandwiches, wraps, salads, vegetarian, non-vegetarian.  It was around 90 degrees again today and I wanted something light like a salad.  I decided to give the Earl's salads a try.

A number of the salads sounded good, but I opted for the Mediterranean Chicken Salad.  The salad had grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, field greens, feta cheese, roma tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, red onions and Mediterranean dressing.

As you can see from the photo above, the salad was a decently large size, which was great for the price.  It's not easy to get a salad with chicken, cheese and plenty of vegetables for $6 in midtown Manhattan.  The salads at Earl of Sandwich are pretty tasty and freshly made, and they're a bargain at that price.

The salad was very similar to a Greek salad except for one thing - the dressing.  When I saw Mediterranean dressing, I was expecting something oil/vinegar based, or maybe balsamic vinaigrette.  Not the case here.  The dressing was creamy like ranch dressing.  It worked well with the ingredients in the salad but just wasn't what I was expecting.

Was it the best salad I've ever had in my life? No. Will I get another salad from Earl of Sandwich?  Absolutely.  Good ingredients, nice size, great price.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Caramelized Peach

The first custard flavor we tried for July was caramelized peach, the Monday flavor.

It was more frozen when M got it, but it melted due to the heat and a long conversation in the building lobby about the Euro final.

M's thoughts:
I love peach sorbet but I wasn't expecting intense fruity peach flavor like that from this custard (although I was prepared to be pleasantly surprised if it was).  I was hoping that this would have more peach flavor than it did though.  I did taste some peach but it seemed to have a little bit of a creamsicle like flavor to it, and I don't like those as much (as previously mentioned here and here).  This wasn't bad, just not as peachy as (and more creamy than) I would have liked.

A's thoughts:
This wasn't very peachy or caramelized peachy. It was a little fruity, and it might have been peach, but I really wasn't sure. I expected so much more since putting in pieces of actual caramelized peach didn't seem like a stretch. It was just okay, but I don't think I would get this again.

Caramelized Peach
A's rating: 6/10
M's rating: 6.5/10

Jamaica Coffee Shop

We wandered around the Eixample area of Barcelona for most of the afternoon and found ourselves wanting a drink break.  Perhaps it was all the walking that our bodies were not used to because of our usual sedentary lives, but we were hungry again and decided to also get a snack.  The Jamaica Coffee Shop, on the corner of Rambla de Catalunya and Carrer de Còrsega, looked good and we stopped in.

We got two drinks - a frappé xocolata (chocolate frappé) for A and a fruites del bosc (berry) smoothie for M.

A enjoyed his frappe. It was back in Greece that he fell in love with the cold, coffee drink.  This was, as evidenced by the picture, laden with chocolate syrup.  It had a rich, chocolate-y flavor to pair with the cool coffee.  M liked her berry smoothie.  It was sweet, smooth and cold - perfect for a break on a warm afternoon.  The flavor of the mixed berries (raspberry, blueberry, blackberry) was really good.

We also got the pollo barbacoa (bbq chicken) sandwich, which came with some potato chips.

The sandwich had grilled chicken lightly covered in bbq sauce, some sliced tomatoes and lettuce on a hero-type roll.

The sandwich was pretty good.  It tasted light and healthy, which was nice for a snack.  As with most of the food we had in Spain, all of the ingredients were very fresh.

Our stop at Jamaica Coffee Shop was a nice break before we continued on our walk around Eixample. Sometimes you just need to take a break!