Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bun Bo Xao Xa at Nam Son

Even though I've had a variety of Vietnamese food, I really didn't know much about it. But lately I've been reading up on it a lot mostly because I'm attracted to how it looks so beautiful, bright and fresh, and I want to be able to taste that. I know that none of those words are taste words, but you get what I mean. So after staring at beautiful photos for weeks, I decided to go out and try something new and not pho or bahn mi.

I went for a "bun" dish, which is rice vermicelli. These noodles came with sauteed sliced beef, lemongrass, lettuce, basil, and bean sprouts and then were topped with scallions and chopped up peanuts.  And some nưoc cham sauce, I'm pretty sure. 

It all sounded great, but it wasn't very good. I was actually pretty bummed out and disappointed, and I was eating alone, so I didn't even have anybody to complain to. Just had to sit there in the lonely, sad noodle-slurping silence. Anyway, I was a little skeptical from the moment the bowl was put in front of me. The noodles looked so fat and too soft, instead of thing and kind of springy. Then I poked around for the vegetables, and they were all hiding at the bottom of the bowl, under the clump of noodles. Oh yeah, clumpy noodles. That's just the worst. The one good thing was that beef was cooked really well, but it was a little too sweet, and the greens just got soggy sitting under the clump, so they didn't even bring that crisp freshness to the rest of the dish. Well, I don't know, it did, but only a little bit. I ate all the beef bits then left most of the noodles.

Being disappointed by your meal is so much worse when you're eating alone in a restaurant. Not that I don't like eating alone, but I think that I'm usually a lot less judgmental of my food when I'm eating with my friends. Or at least a lot less cranky about it if it's not good.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


You'd think that after growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I'd be really used to this gray misty-all-day kind of weather, but I'm not. I really don't like it, and I don't think I ever will. It's the kind of weather that makes you wanna eat all day and stay inside and watch T.V. til your eyes fall out. Actually, I didn't do any of those things, but I did finally go to Lomzynianka in Greenpoint. 

If I had to imagine a Polish grandmother's house (or really any grandma), this would be it. There are maybe 10 little tables kind of squished into the small, but cozy space that's totally decked out with these fake flowers, cheesey paintings, and twinkly lights. I almost expected some pleasantly plump old lady to come out and hug me, then wrap me up in a blanket. That didn't happen, but the food was so hearty and filling, it kind of felt like getting a hug. I haven't had that much Polish food, but I think this ranks at the top of my short list.

The menu isn't very big, but I still wanted a little bit of everything and was having a hard time deciding. The Polish Platter was the best way to get a little bit of everything (and it was only $10, so nuts). It came with three different pierogis, kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, bigos, and mashed potatoes with dill sprinkles. I didn't know what bigos was, but turns out it's a some sort of stew of cabbage (sauerkraut?), mushrooms, and some different kinds of meat. I think that might have been my favorite part of the platter. It was a little like the Polish version of kimchi jjigae, which is exactly the sort of thing you want to be eating on a cold, wet day. 

The stuffed cabbage was great too. It wasn't what I pictured stuffed cabbage as, and it was more like a starchy-meatloaf wrapped in cabbage, which is totally fine by me. I always like that combination of kind of tangy, sour vegetables and this heavy meatiness.

They also brought out this plate of different pickled winter-y vegetables. I wasn't entirely sure what to do with them. I tried to peek at the Polish man at the table next to us, but he was busy wolfing down a potato pancake. So I just ate these as a side dish to compliment the meatier, greasier parts of the meal. I think I had the right idea. I wished that I had ordered a potato pancake though.

I also ordered borscht with vegetables because I've always liked it even though I only recently started liking beets. I wanted to see if I would love it more now. Turns out the reason I might have liked borscht is because I'd been eating more tomato-y versions like this one. 

But there was still a little bit of beet sweetness in the soup, and I enjoyed it all the same. The bowl was enormous and only $3. Next time I might have it with dumplings. I like to pretend that this place doesn't charge that much for your food because the nice Polish grandma that runs it is more concerned about keeping you well-fed than making money. I mean, who knows, probably not, but it's nice thinking about it like that. It makes Lomzynianka that much more of a comforting, homey place to eat. I really didn't want to have to get up and leave.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kale: Learning to Love You More

Kale, apples, pecans, dried cherries, and little bit of blue cheese

This salad brought me a little closer to loving kale. The dressing was kind of thick because there were apples blended into it, so I think having sturdier greens was a good idea. But I'm still pretty "take it or leave it" when it comes to kale, although I might have said otherwise on a few occasions because I didn't want to be ostracized for not being in love with it. For real, people freak out when you tell them you don't like kale. Ugh, I will learn to love it, damn it. I'll just have to eat this salad over and over.

Well, the salad was for dinner at Nina's apartment. It was so cold and windy on Sunday, I felt like my face was being pelted with salt and pebbles. So it was a good kind of day to be inside with a lot of comfort food that your nice friend made. Everything looks like blobs on my plate because I'm not so great at cutting slices out of pies, apparently. But there was vegetable pot pie and corn casserole, which might be one of the trashiest foods I love. And I say "trashy" with a lot of affection. Sour cream, butter, corn, and Jiffy cornbread mix-- there's not much else that can make you feel so cozy and loved.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

the life cycle of a bowl of pho

Tai Nam Gau Gan Sach : rice noodles, beef soup with fresh eye of round, brisket, tendon and omosa at Pho Bang

I inhaled this. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

a poached egg

When I woke up, I found a dried piece of smoked mozzarella stuck to my leg. Apparently I had fallen asleep on top of the cheese, and it pressed into my sheets. Now there is a sad and large grease mark on my bed and on my sweats. So it's really amazing how good I feel right now, so weird. I guess it was all that water I gulped down before falling asleep (and before eating cheese in bed, apparently).

I decided to poach an egg to celebrate how un-crappy I felt. I'm usually really horrible at poaching eggs, but I think I did a pretty decent job this morning. I probably could have let it cook a little more, but I was being impatient. 


Also, I know that everyone who reads this already knows, but just wanna say "HEY WHAT'S UP" to my friend Sarah Richards and her very excellent new collection. You could have all this:  


Saturday, February 16, 2013

sandwiches from this week

I ate a lot of sandwiches this week.

Roast beef sandwich with pickled mushrooms and potato chips from No. 7 Sub (in Greenpoint)
 Ok, lately I feel like I'm always in "how can review this food" mode. I can't get out of it, and now it's kind of annoying. But while I'm in that headspace, a few notes about this sandwich: potato chips on a sandwich have to be done right or else it's just a good idea in theory and not in real life. If you use ruffle chips or lays or something, they get way too soggy, especially in a juicy-ish sandwich like this one. It's gotta be something sturdier, like kettle cooked chips. Besides, I think the chip-stuffing should be left to the eater, not the sandwich maker. They just end up spending too much time getting limp in the sandwich before you can eat it. Also, another thing, this bread had SUCH a flaky crust, not even in a good way. I'm hoping this was a fluke because I usually like No. 7 Sub. The mushrooms were good though...when I actually got a bite of them. Really gotta loosen the purse strings on those mushrooms, guys.

Pretzel and chocolate chip cookie 

Decided to try a different banh mi place: Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli
First bite: the bread is so soft but and still a little crusty, pork is good, not dry and crumbly. Every bite after that: not enough pork, a lot of sweet carrots! Also, why do none of these vegetables taste very tangy or pickled? There are too many cilantro stems. Whine, whine whine! I'm going to come back and try a different sandwich, because I think there were enough good elements to make me curious.

 Quesadillas are sandwiches, right? 

It's so hard to mess this up, but people do. I like the little bit of crust on the tortilla. The guacamole was bland and boring. Rice and beans were rice and beans, kind of hard to mess those up too. Pretty sure I filled my cheese quota for the month eating that. And I'd do it again. 

Friday, February 15, 2013


I've made a lot of lengthy trips just to get to food, trips that were made even more complicated by the fact that I live off the G train. But the journey that took me to Lakruwana was by far the longest and most involved trip I've ever made. I'm pretty sure I used every mode of public transportation available in this city-- 2 subways, 1 ferry, 1 bus ride, and 2 legs, I guess. But it really wasn't the huge pain in the neck that I thought it would be. Maybe I'm just getting used to it. Or maybe, after reading Pete Well's review of Lakruwana, I wasn't going to be a whiny baby and let something like public transportation get in the way of me eating this food. It's probably a combination of both.  Also, sorry ahead of time for any blurriness, partially due to my sub par phone camera and partially because I was too excited and overwhelmed to care.

Starting with the green pile on the right and moving clockwise: chopped and stir fried kale with coconut, an egg (from the egg curry), pork curry which blends in with the deviled chicken, it's hard to tell the difference just by looking. Then there's the green beans, pineapple curry, vegetable fried rice (basmati, of course), and then that heaven in a wafer, made from coconut and rice flour. Pretty sure it's called a "hopper." So crispy, a little sweet, a little savory. I regret only eating a few of those.

On Sundays there's an all day buffet. I was a little disappointed to learn that I couldn't order anything off the regular menu because I didn't want my first experience with Sri Lankan food to be lukewarm buffet food. BUT my fears were totally put to rest because this is not your usual line up metal trays full of steamed, soggy food (hi, college). No, no, this buffet serves what seems like an infinite number of dishes in big clay pots over flames. Peeking into each pot was like opening a Christmas gift-- a gift of delicious Sri Lankan food. Actually, everyone, take note. This is what I want for Christmas next year. Yes, that's right, I would like a clay pot buffet.

Some beautiful pots not so full of food, but they were re-filled soon after this.

But I was too busy eating to get back up and take another picture. I wish that I had though, because as it is right now, this doesn't look totally appetizing. The pork curry flavor was not totally memorable (it sort of had a generic curry powder taste) but the chunks of meat were pretty well cooked, and it was overall, still enjoyable. The deviled chicken was way more delicious though, tender and flavorful, with a little bit of crunch from the bell peppers. The heat from the chiles was HOT, obviously, but I think that I'm getting better at enjoying spicy food without wanting to dunk my tongue in milk. I liked that the more I ate, the more pleasant the spicy tingle became, especially since there was a little bit of sweetness to counter the heat.

Yuca! I don't think I've had yucca that many times, or ever, maybe. This was pretty chunky, with big soft blocks of yucca, but it was also partially mashed too, which made for a pretty confusing texture--creamy smooth but also very thick and starchy. It clung to the roof of my mouth, which sounds unpleasant but I enjoyed it. The yuca had a nice, delicate flavor and was a nice contrast to the other spice-y and spicy dishes. A very nice way to temper the burn of anything too intense.

Vegetable fried rice and basmati rice

Close up
I'd eat that whole pot of this fried aromatic deliciousness

Green bean curry

Eggs in a coconut milk curry
This pot looks like something straight out of a kid's Halloween movie. It was the only thing that I didn't feel like trying, but I like hard-boiled eggs, so I went for it. The curry was super mild, and was a nice subtly milky-coconutty addition to my rice, but the egg was just an egg. I wouldn't waste stomach space with more of this.

Lentil Curry (hiding in the dark corner)
I loved how appetizing this looked-- hearty, yellow, and filling. It wasn't quite as appealing to my tastebuds as it was to my eyes (I thought it was a little boring), but there were nice hints of cinnamon mingling with the creamy coconut milk and lentils. I'd want this on a really cold day. 

HOT: chile-onion relish, basically
Nice way to jazz up the less flavorful dishes. Haha, "jazz up." What I mean is that this must be the Sriracha of Sri Lankan food.

Plate 1
I know I already posted this picture, but I wanted to talk about the kale and the pineapple curry, which is that mustard color pile of sticks right in the middle of the food pile. The kale was delicious, curly and soft without losing the its sturdiness, and rounded out with a toasty milky notes from the coconut. On the other hand, pineapple curry was a little bit spicy and sour, which I think maybe comes from tamarind. I thought it was helpful to have those flavors to create a flavor balance, but cooking the pineapple brought out the natural sugars and made it too sweet for my liking. It was better used as a condiment for the more savory meats. Actually, maybe that's what it was?

Plate 2
You'll notice that I didn't go back for the pork, but got more chicken! I also got some eggplants as well, which is that dark brown blob at 9 o'clock. Sticky and sweet, with a slightly bitter after note, the eggplants are basically a chunky mush that you want to stick your face into. This was definitely one of my favorite dishes, and I liked it best with rice or scooped onto a hopper. I also really loved the onion sambal, which is that purple-red stringy pile under the hopper. It was a nice tangy condiment to add to the creamier curries and meat.

Mango Lassi
I like mango lassis, They're creamy, thick, sweet and delicous but I should never order one for myself. It's too much for me, but it was nice to take a sip here and there whenever the heat got to be overwhelming. 

Tapioca, homemade yogurt and honey, caramel pudding, and mango mousse

The mango mousse was basically a mango lassi in mousse form, which was enjoyable but I had already overdosed on that. The caramel pudding was a soft and fluffy, laced with nutty flavors and mango sweetness, but not quite the dessert I was looking for. I might have felt differently had I not had that mango lassi. My favorites were the tapioca and especially the yogurt. I like to end my meals on a savory note, but if it has to be sweet, I prefer it to be subtle and in small amounts (I know, this big plate of desserts doesn't count as small). The yogurt totally fit the bill. It's so smooth and creamy, with more tang and sourness than sweet, and when it's topped with that beautiful dark honey, you wanna melt right into it. The honey was luxurious, I almost felt like I could drink it with a straw.

 I thought it would be nice to end this post with a picture from the ferry, but this is actually us leaving Manhattan, not going towards it. But humor me just this once. 

This was my first time trying Sri Lankan food, so I can't say how this compares to the "real deal" but I enjoyed it so much. I can't wait to go back. Next time, I'd like to try just a few of the dishes so I can really savor them. Also, that way I won't be too full to try the other Sri Lankan restaurants on Staten Island. I also wanna bring a real camera with me; this is one of the times I really wished that I owned one. Lakruwana is such a beautiful restaurant-- it really transports you, and none of my iPhone pictures do the space or the food any justice. Holla at me if you're down for a 2 hour trip on a Sunday morning. I'll be there!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

losing track

Well, I've lost track of the things I've been eating. I'm not sure what I was hoping to learn by trying to document everything I eat, I forget. I guess I just set weird goals like that for myself these days. That way I can avoid the total panic that descends upon me when I think too much about what I'm doing with my life. All I know is that I have a B.F.A, an all-consuming interest in food, and a whole lot of love for printmaking. It would be really cool if someone else would just figure out the rest for me because beyond that, I'm really confused. I mean, I get it, I'm young and in that phase of life that will inevitably be peppered with serious doubts and freak outs, but when am I supposed to finally figure it out? Does anybody? Yikes. Here's hoping that when I have my mid-life crisis, I'll at least be able to impulsively buy a bunch of stupid things while eating expensive steaks. Knock on wood.

Two eggs over easy, bacon, potatoes, and seriously buttered whole wheat toast

But despite sounding like I am having a really bummer time in life, I'm not! The storm wasn't too stormy over here. We just holed up in my apartment with burned french toast (I must have messed up the Smitten Kitchen recipe) and bacon. Then we reconvened at John's Coffee and Donut the next morning because you just can't get enough breakfast, apparently. They always cook the bacon exactly how I like it. So when I call this place a crummy little diner, I mean that as a compliment.   Sometimes this is just the kind of food you need. No frills. Like, at all.

Friday, February 8, 2013

everything day 4 (a day late)

Let's just always assume that any time I'm at Serious Eats, I've sampled something delicious (or not delicious, sometimes). Yesterday that "something" was a few sandwiches that Kenji made. I also learned what "pambazo" is, and whoa, I wish I had known sooner. Red guajillo pepper sauce soaked bread, y'all. Get on board.

Yesterday, I went to Chavela's. It's right on the corner of the street I lived on when I first moved to New York. I know, I know, it wasn't a long time ago, but still, it felt a little sentimental. Especially since the whole time I lived there, Chavela's was closed (they were in the process of moving into a new space). But there was so much hype around it, with rumors floating around that this was the week it would re-open. Every time, I thought "this is finally happening!" It was like the second coming, like Chavela's was supposed to make Crown Heights the place to be. But summer passed, I moved to Bed-Stuy, and Chavela's still wasn't open. You can only cling to that kind of hope for so long... If my life was a movie, this might have been one of those dramatically narrated slow scenes-- our moving truck driving away from a still-unopened Chavela's as I cried goodbye to the cross streets I'd never see again. Actually, that's not how moving day happened at all but sadly, I hardly ever go back to that part of Crown Heights any more.  

Obviously, Chavela's finally did re-open, and people really seemed to freak out about it. After what felt like an eternity of waiting to try it out, I finally made the stupidly roundabout trip of getting there. As we were sitting down, one guy came in and said to his friend, "Isn't this place so quaint and charming?!" It was weird that he didn't have a British accent. I mean, I wanted to laugh but also, he was pretty spot on. Maybe that's why everyone loves it so much because I thought the food, while totally enjoyable and delicious, was not worth the total heartbreak I felt after a summer of disappointment. I got the chicken mole taco, the carne enchilada taco, and the salsa trio with fried corn tortillas. Sweet, smoky, a little spicy, and really filling is how I would describe most of my meal. This isn't the super authentic Mexican restaurant I thought it was going to be, but the atmosphere was so pleasant (gag me for saying this, I'm not a yelp review!), the food was cheap ($2 tacos at happy hours, they're huge), and it felt nice to be back so close to my first home here.

Oh yeah, later I ate a piece of toast with raspberry jam.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

everything day 3

You know what's been really fun about my internship? I mean, a lot of things-- I'm secretly (maybe not secretly, but I don't think anybody there reads this) still super star-stuck. Like one time I met this girl at a party who used to intern at SE, and I freaked out because I recognized her name from a sandwich post she did. I think instead of flattering her I just weirded her out, but c'mon, if you spent most of your time reading food websites, you'd be excited to have a real face to put with a name. 

Oh, but yeah, so the best thing is all the food I get to try. That office kitchen is constantly full of food, so much of it. Not in the way that some office kitchens are stocked with pretzels and peanut butter. No, no, it's like a million steps above that. But it is the Serious Eats kitchen, so nobody is surprised except me, because sometimes it takes time for the really obvious things to sink in. 

Today for breakfast (and lunch) I sampled maybe 20 different chocolates for an upcoming post. I wasn't that excited about it since I had already been trying a bunch of chocolates, and I don't really have much of a sweet tooth. But then I opened the box, and they were so beautiful. I couldn't wait to try them. I've never wanted to really gush about chocolate before, but they were delicious and I'm still so excited by them. Just as the chocolate was about to wear off, another intern came back with 3 amazing sandwiches and chips from Maysville. It was the perfect savory snack I needed to follow up my sugar rush. I wish I could be more descriptive, but I think should let the upcoming posts say all the things that I want to. There was also an assortment of vegan baked goods and some not-so-great pizza, none of which I tried, but I just wanted to give you an idea of the aforementioned full-of-food kitchen. I hope you wish you were me.

Anyway, that's why this dinner is so boring. No, actually, it was totally enjoyable and filling, but I always have a hard time accepting the idea that a meal doesn't need bread or cheese. This stupid idea somehow only applies when I cook for myself. 

Update: I am eating tater tots. I just can't get enough, these are my biggest weakness at the moment. It's so nice to have tots back in my life.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

everything day 2

I didn't eat a big amount today, but I've eaten a lot of different things, which is the most fun way to eat. I got to sample a few new sandwiches, but then became weirdly full.

 Then on my way home, I stopped by the steamed bun store around the corner on Mott and Grand. I forget what it's called, but it's so good! The buns are so perfectly sweet and fluffy, but also kind of pliant. I'm pretty sure that's what I mean. I love the Chinese sausage one, you know, the kind that's fatty yet kind of sweet, with a snap to it? Sweet and savory, but not in an intense way. It felt so nice to walk to the subway with a warm bun.

The bun makes a good snack, but I got hungry again. I made this kale salad from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I took a picture of the recipe from the book in the book store. I know that's so cheap of me, but I'm not that sorry about it. Anyway, it's dinosaur kale, dried cherries, pecans, and goat cheese with this dressing made with white wine vinegar, honey, and dijon mustard. I thought it was okay. I liked the tart (but also sweet, does that work?) cherries with the goat cheese, but it would have been better if I enjoyed kale. I don't dislike it, but I mostly like it cooked, not raw.

Then I ripped off a corner of a pita and melted some smoked mozzarella in it. Smoked mozzarella is so good. I've been getting this kind from Sahadi's that I'm obsessed with. This is an action shot. Then I ate part of a banana. I put the rest back in the fridge. I've been told that that's weird, but really, it isn't.

Monday, February 4, 2013

everything day 1

This week I want to document everything I eat, in photos or words. Like everything, including the handful of knock off Sun Chips that I eat before brushing my teeth. I don't know what made me want to do it. It might be some sort of effort to "be more aware" of my eating habits and patterns. Sometimes I think I get so caught up with the idea of food that I totally forget about the food I actually eat. What I mean is that I'm stuck in a food rut and getting bored of my dining choices. I want to make things interesting again and get out of my "pita bread and hummus for dinner" phase. I also think that I'm still surprised at how easily the weight I lost to the stomach bug stayed off while I was eating my mom's cooking and how quickly my jeans went back to being a little snug after I returned to New York. The human body is a weird thing. So starting with today:

Roast beef, arugula, and parmesan mini-sandwich from Pret a Manager. This is one of my favorite sandwiches from Pret, it's always just the right size. The salty beef complements the sharp cheese and peppery arugula nicely. I always get crumbs everywhere though.

En route to my mouth

Then I sampled some chocolates and vegan bahn mi at Serious Eats. I was "whatever" about them.

I went to Congee Village (on the Bowery). Shared this abalone and chicken congee with Neal. This congee was pretty mild and not very thick at all-- actually pretty slurp-able for a good while before it cooled down and got a little gummy. The abalone slices were good, soft and springy, but I probably could have done without the chicken. It was just kind of boring.

This was the roast duck and meatballs congee. We tried this one first, and while I would definitely call this a mild congee, compared to the abalone, it had a much richer, deeper flavor because of the roast duck and meatballs (which tasted like a hot dog/fish ball blend, not a huge fan). It made the abalone congee seem super light. But it wasn't heavy at all, with pretty fragrant ginger and scallion bits to balance out the meatiness of the porridge. We also got some scallion pancakes. They were pretty dense (almost cake-y) and greasy, and overall, not that great.

Hello little piece of roast duck

For dessert, I'm pretty sure this is some sort of red bean soup. It has that nice mild sweetness you find in most Asian deserts. Not sugary or anything.

Then a few hours later I ate a pepperoni off my friend's pizza plus a bite of the crust. And just now, I ate some pita, spicy hommus, and 1/2 a banana with a spoonful of cold peanut butter. As much as I'd like to move away from this particular snack onto something more interesting, I just can't quit it.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

early super bowl snacks

Hey guys, I learned one new thing about football this year. "Super Bowl" is actually two words, not one. Obviously I fall into that category of people that "celebrates" the Super Bowl for snacks. That was supposed to happen today, I guess. But then yesterday, we were wandering around Chelsea and realized that we don't need a football game to justify making Buffalo wings and tater tot nachos. No rules! I live my life on the edge. Ugh, yeah.

Buttery, vinegary, saucy, you know...these don't look as red as they did in real life. Thank you, yellow kitchen lights. We improvised, but next time I think I'll try to make one of these.

tot-chos, layers 1 (tots) , 2 (cheese, duh) and 3 (black beans and scallions)

Unfortunately the guacamole looks like a more solid version of the Nickelodeon green slime, even though it tasted nothing like that. But making tot-chos is like trying to wear leather pants, which I have only tried to do once and actually, they were probably pleather. That was the worst 25 minutes I've ever spent inside an Urban Outfitters dressing room. Anyway, the point is that tot-chos are like leather pants. You just can't make them look nice.

Layers 5 (pico de gallo) and 6 (sour cream and jalapenos)

 Next time, there will be more interesting vegetables. But really, who was thinking about vegetables besides the ones that came in tater tot form?