Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spicy Souvlaki Cobb

We luckily made it through Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy with our power intact so we ate a lot of frozen food and tonight went out for some BBQ.  What I really want to eat instead is chopped fresh vegetables (not so easy in a storm disaster), so I'm going to write about my dinner from Chop't on Friday, the spicy souvlaki cobb salad.

Where is the rest of my salad? The bowl looks so ... empty.

The spicy souvlaki cobb salad (one of the current seasonal salads) consists of FreeBird lemon pepper chicken, cucumber, tomato, fried onions and feta cheese with romaine lettuce and spicy harissa dressing (that's the recommended one, which I got).

I liked the salad combination and thought it was very refreshing.  I think an olive fell in somewhere which was unexpected (but not a bad match). I liked the inclusion of the fried onions, which is different from your usual Mediterranean/Greek salad.  But what I remember most about the salad is the overpowering spicy harissa dressing.  It definitely has a kick and it was good, but it muted some of the other ingredients.  I think I like the Pink Goddess with its Mexican Goddess dressing better.  Too bad that one is only around for another day (provided Chop't is even open tomorrow after the storm!), so I will need to keep trying different salads for a favorite/go-to salad at Chop't.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Potbelly Side Salads

We've written quite a bit about Potbelly before (sandwiches, specials, cookies, etc).  To celebrate a new Potbelly opening down the block from my office on Monday (at least it's supposed to, but who knows what Hurricane Sandy will do to those plans), I thought I would write about Potbelly's side salads.

I don't know when Potbelly started offering side salads.  I don't recall seeing them before a few months ago (but I never spent a lot of time looking in the refrigerated case).  They had your usual sandwich accompaniments: potato salad, macaroni salad and cole slaw, and more recently, added a tomato cucumber salad.  I usually go for the potato salad, but as of today, have tried everything but the cole slaw.

The tomato cucumber salad consists of grape tomatoes, cucumbers, (little slivers of) red onions (that you can barely see in the photo), small cubes of provolone cheese, and vinaigrette.

I thought I would love this salad since I love shepherds salad, and this is relatively similar.  It was pretty good but I didn't love it.  I would still get the potato salad instead, although this tomato cucumber salad is much healthier!

The macaroni salad was very, very creamy.  The pasta had a pretty good texture, and the salad seemed to have some cheese in it (which I was not expecting).  I just felt like it was too creamy and rich for my tastes.  This has probably been my least favorite of the side salads.

And now, my favorite side salad - the potato salad (since I'm fairly sure I won't like the cole slaw better, even if it's amazing, because I like potato salad generally so much more than cole slaw).

I like all forms of potato salad, but this one reminds me of the potato salad from the deli that I grew up with, that plain white potato salad that's just a little bit creamy.  Definitely my favorite Potbelly side salad.  It just goes so well with a turkey and provolone sandwich.

Maybe I'll try the cole slaw the next time they are out of potato salad. Right now my rankings are: potato salad, tomato cucumber salad, macaroni salad.

And now, after thinking about side salads for a bit, I could really go for some potato salad.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mausam Curry N Bites

One of the newer food trucks is the Mausam Curry N Bites truck, bringing Indian food to the streets of the city.  It's a spinoff of the Mausam restaurant in New Jersey, and offers rice dishes, biryani, kati rolls, chaat and samosas (all of which I love).

The rice dishes on the menu are split up into the "curry rush" section, with pre-designed combinations, and another section where you can choose your curry and style.  I went with curry rush since it was my first time there, and am not sure exactly how the mix and match works.  Any adventure for next time, perhaps.

After much deliberation, I decided to go with the chicken curry from the curry rush menu ($9).  In addition to the chicken curry over rice, there was also a salad, and it came with one side (chapati) and a soda (I don't drink soda but got a Diet Coke for A).

The chicken was tender and the curry sauce was really flavorful and tasty.  I liked that, unlike some Indian places, it didn't seem too oily or heavy.  According to the menu, the curry sauce is an onion-based creamy spiced sauce.  I just wish there had been even more of it for the rice to soak up.

The salad was a good accompaniment for the rice, very light and crisp. There was romaine lettuce, tomatoes and onions, all chopped up, mixed with a light dressing and topped with some sort of spice powder.

The chapati side was buttery like a croissant, very flaky and chewy, just as I like it.

I had a good experience with lunch from Mausam and it was absolutely worth getting stuck in the rain on the way back to the office.  I definitely recommend lunch from this truck and can't wait to try more.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pink Goddess

During the month of October, Chop't is offering a special Pink Goddess salad to benefit The Pink Pony Fund for cancer care and prevention.  The salad isn't a cheap lunch (over my usual $10), but $2 from each salad goes to the fund.  The salads during October are also being served in pink bowls that I wish were reusable like Just Salad bowls because I love the color.

The Pink Goddess salad consists of romaine lettuce, mesclun, Freebird grilled chicken, pickled red onions, avocado, black beans and cotija cheese, and is recommended with Mexican goddess dressing (avocado, cilantro, jalapenos, lemon).

I thought this was a really good combination, and I liked that, unlike many other Chop't salads, it didn't try to mix in something like tortilla crisps but was all protein and veggies.  It's a little pricey for an everyday salad, but I may get it again before the month is out, since it's only here for a limited time and proceeds do go to a good cause.  And now that I have my Chop't card registered, it'll get me another salad closer to a free one!

Wondee Siam III

Tonight for dinner I was in the mood for something spicy and light. We often order from Wondee Siam III at home (instead of II) and I decided their larb would be perfect for what I had in mind.

My throat was a bit sore so I also decided to get some soup.

I got the woonsen soup ($4.95), which was a clear broth with glass noodles, shredded chicken, shiitake mushrooms, celery and scallions.  It was a light and "clean" soup, perfect for a fall night.

The main part of my dinner was the larb kai ($8.95), which I ordered "medium" but it packed plenty of spice (as always).

Chicken larb (larb gai, larb kai, etc) is one of my favorite Thai dishes.  (I've written about it several times on this blog.)  Larb kai is minced chicken mixed with ground toasted rice, red onions, scallions, cilantro, lime juice and chili.  It's usually served on a bed of lettuce.  Wondee III also includes a small box of either jasmine rice or brown rice with the order (I like brown rice but I usually get jasmine rice with the larb).

The larb tonight was exactly what I was looking for, although I think I'm getting weak when it comes to spice because this felt spicy to me (especially after I mistakenly tried the chili powder for the soup by itself to test how spicy it was).  I do like larb spicy though, because very mild larb just doesn't have the same flavor kick.  I'm willing to drink lots of water (or milk, or Thai iced tea) in exchange for great flavor.

We often get the larb from Wondee III and I'm surprised I haven't written about it until now.  Do you like larb or have any favorite spots for it?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Farewell Farmers Rotisserie

Walking home from our Ethiopian dinner tonight, we stopped abruptly when we saw the windows of one of our favorite neighborhood spots covered in newspaper.  We were hoping that it was just a renovation, but when we saw the sign in the window, our hearts sank.

Farmers Rotisserie, also known as Farmers Rotisseria a la Brasa, was one of the best affordable casual spots in Hell's Kitchen.  (We wrote previously about the arepas (here) and their rotisserie chicken (here).)  It wasn't trendy, it didn't have lines down the block, it didn't have a well-known chef. It was just down-to-earth Colombian cooking with delicious food.

We're not sure when it closed.  It looks like people were still going on Wednesday based on Foursquare, but today the windows were covered and the menu board outside was blank.  We haven't eaten there in a few weeks, and I think we took for granted that it would be there the next time we had the opportunity and the desire for rotisserie chicken.  It's never a happy occasion when a restaurant closes, because someone is always adversely affected, but it just feels so much worse when it's actually a good spot that you love.

We will miss their rotisserie chicken - the juiciest we've ever had at a restaurant and so well-flavored.  We will miss their spicy green hot sauce and their rich scallion-filled chimichurri sauce.  We will miss the rice, the beans, the plantains.  We will miss their crispy corn arepas topped with the tastiest white cheese.  Mostly we will miss our go-to neighborhood spot for a reliable casual dinner.  Farewell Farmers. We will miss you.

Now where will we go for rotisserie chicken?  Any recommendations?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Free Cheese Truck

This week the Sweetery truck was converted into the Castello cheese truck, and the past few days they have been roaming the city giving out free samples of cheese.  Free samples?  Count me in.  Today the truck was near the office during lunch and I braved the early fall chill for some free cheese.

By free samples, they meant a platter with 3 Finn Crisp crackers topped with 3 types of cheese.  I thought they were going to give out tiny packages of cheese, so this was better than I had imagined. There were 3 types of cheese: weissbier, bergkase and hirten.

I didn't really put much thought into the order I ate the cheeses and just went by which napkin was on top of the pile.  First was the hirten, a crumbly salty cheese, with a slightly sweet caramel overtone and a hint of pine.  (It should be noted that these descriptions are largely based on the information card they gave out. I am terrible at describing cheese flavors, as I've learned over the years from the Artisanal cheese menu.)  I don't think I really noticed caramel or pine but I did like the crumbly texture.  Second, I went for the bergkase, with its slightly smoky aroma and hint of mountain herbs. The last one I had was the weissbier, which was the softest of the 3, making me wonder if I should have eaten them in the reverse order.  The weissbier is a bit nutty, and is bathed in beer 3 times a week, possibly accounting for its softness.

I liked all three cheeses and am not sure which is my favorite.  Maybe the bergkase since I did get the "hint" of mountain herbs from that one.  My fingers were turning to icicles as I was eating the cheese, so perhaps I should find a warm place near the truck and try this again.  Two more weeks of free cheese!

Want to know where the Castello truck is?  Twitter, of course, has the answers.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mediterranean Turkey Burger

Tonight I dropped by Balkanika, a Mediterranean place in our neighborhood (that we have been to a few times and just like everything else, have not gotten around to writing about), to pick up a sandwich for dinner.

I went with the turkey kofte sandwich. The sandwich was described as a grilled ground turkey burger with cumin, yogurt cucumber sauce, ajvar red pepper spread, onion, lettuce and tomato.  You had a choice between a roll, white wrap, and wheat wrap.  I went with the roll because I was picturing a turkey burger - one big kofte patty (kind of like the kofte "meatballs" at the Turkish places) with sauce, built up with the lettuce, tomato and onion like an American burger.

Instead, this "burger" was two strips of turkey kofte, with a chopped lettuce, tomato and onion salad, on a roll that had been spread with the two sauces (yogurt cucumber and ajvar red pepper).  It was quite good, but considering how it was made, I think a wrap might have been a better choice.  Every time I bit into the roll, all of the delicious sandwich contents spilled out of the roll, making a bit of a mess.  I did like the sandwich though and would get it again.

Balkanika's takeout menu (don't remember if they were on the restaurant menu) has a lot of different and interesting-sounding sandwiches in addition to the turkey kofte.  I'm looking forward to trying more of them and also getting the turkey kofte in a wrap!

Concord's Cue

The current seasonal concrete at Shake Shack is the Concord's Cue.  The concrete consists of vanilla frozen custard blended with fresh concord grapes and walnut-grape jam shortbread (from Brooklyn bakery Butter + Love).

This concrete was pretty good but not our favorite.  The walnut-grape jam shortbread was really tasty.  The crumbly (but firm) texture, the rich grape flavor, and the buttery cake when topped with a light layer of vanilla custard was really good.  It was nice having actual grapes in there too but they had seeds, which is a bit difficult to eat in a concrete.  A accidentally chewed a couple seeds up before realizing what they were.  M's favorite part was the shortbread, and A enjoyed, despite the seeds, the fresh grapes.  Maybe the shortbread by itself with a side of custard would work better than blended in a concrete.

The concrete is only available at the Theater District Shake Shack until today, October 8th, so if you want to try it, head over soon!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Manos Peruanas

It was cold and rainy at lunch today, so I didn't make it more than a few blocks away. I was in the mood for something comforting and filling that I didn't need to eat with my hands, and the dishes at the Manos Peruanas cart fit the bill.

I decided on the arroz con pollo, described as chicken with cilantro rice.

The arroz con pollo I got looked very similar to its cart photo.  It was a container full of cilantro rice (which also contained peas), topped with a drumstick and a breast meat piece of chicken which was well-stewed and seasoned, and covered in red onions.

This was really tasty.  I loved how the chicken fell off the bone, the spicy green sauce, the crunchy red onions, the seasoned soft rice.  A very satisfying and filling lunch.  I would definitely return for more.

The Manos Peruanas cart is located on 47th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.

Cardoz Num Pang

Num Pang, the fantastic Cambodian sandwich place M has written about before (here and here), has a series called "Guest Chefs Give Back" where they invite chefs to design a sandwich, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.  We love trying these sandwiches (like the chicken salad one designed by ABC Kitchen which we never got around to writing about) and the current one is the "Cardoz Num Pang" designed by Floyd Cardoz (chef at North End Grill, another place we've visited, but never written about).

The Cardoz sandwich consists of black pepper braised lamb with pickled red cabbage, chili yogurt, and mint, in addition to all the other good stuff that comes on your usual Num Pang sandwich - cucumbers, pickled carrots, cilantro and chili mayo.

The lamb was fairly gamey which A likes. M usually isn't a fan of that, but didn't really notice it that much here (maybe it was overpowered by the spices and toppings). We both really liked this sandwich. The spices on the lamb (which reminded M a bit of the lamb tofu stew they have at Chinese restaurants) and the chili yogurt were a beautiful combination and really highlighted Chef Cardoz's training and styling. The pickled red cabbage added a nice sourness. The standard Num Pang vegetables added their standard crunch and were finished off with their toasty bread.

The Cardoz Num Pang is only around until October 12th, so if you want to try it, you should go soon! We recommend it!

Red Wine Poached Pear

The first custard flavor we tried in October was red wine poached pear, which was new to us (except that we had tried the Shiraz poached pear before and thought maybe they just changed the name).

M's thoughts:
I liked this one better than the Shiraz poached pear one we got before. I could taste the (mild) flavor of wine soaked pears throughout the custard, which was nice.  That said, the flavor was still fairly mild, but I guess pear doesn't lend itself that well to custard flavors.  I'm not sure I would get it again, but it was worth a try.

A's thoughts:
This custard really tasted like pear. I got a hint of wine here and there, but there wasn't that much there. One thing I did feel, and I'm not sure if this was from us freezing the custard first, was a bit of grit almost like a real pear. It was a pretty good flavor, but I don't know if we'd repeat this.

Red Wine Poached Pear
A's rating: 6/10
M's rating: 5.5/10

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Custard Calendar

October, one of our favorite months of the year, is already here (where has the time gone?).  We were really excited to see what came up on the custard calendar for October (and are eagerly awaiting Shacktoberfest news).

Here's the October calendar:

Monday - red wine poached pear - it doesn't look like we've tried this one before, even though it came up on the calendar back in November 2011.  We were wary of it then because we didn't particularly like the Shiraz poached pear flavor, but since this one is returning (which to me means someone must have liked it), maybe we'll give it a shot.

Tuesday - maple bacon banan-za - we tried this back in March. We thought it was OK and interesting, but we didn't love it.

Wednesday - Shackenstein - the first custard we reviewed in our custard series, about two years ago. No one is ever quite sure what is in it, but we liked it.

Thursday - salty chocolate peanut butter - A loved this one and I liked it back in March.  It was like a peanut butter cup in custard form.

Friday - caramel apple - a new one for us and we're intrigued!

Saturday - peanut butter marshmallow swirl - we've had peanut butter custards and marshmallow custards but not a peanut butter marshmallow custard before. This one sounds like it could be interesting.

Sunday - pumpkin pie - another one of the first custards we reviewed and one which we think we overrated.  We did like it but in our memory it doesn't come close to some of the other highly rated ones like Christmas cookie or gianduja.  We may have to give it another try to re-rate it now that we are more knowledgeable about custard!

We will likely skip Tuesday, and although we liked Thursday, 6 custards in a month can be a little overwhelming (we've done it before), so we may end up skipping Thursday too.  We think we owe it to ourselves to do a re-review of Sunday and we like Wednesday (and it's appropriate for the holiday), so we may get those even though they're not "new" to us.  The new to us ones are Monday, Friday and Saturday, so those are on the "should try" list.

Looking at these flavors, fall is definitely here!