Monthly Archives: December 2011

Lucky Plaza: 81 Christie st. New York, NY

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Like all good Jews, Gabriel and I had big plans for Chinese food and a movie on Christmas. We decided it would be fun to wander around Chinatown on a quest for Lychees (one of my favorite snacks that we learned are totally out of season right now) and various types of dried fish. (aka: cat-treats) While we did not find lychees, we DID manage to find longan (aka: dragon eyes, and rightfully so) and a pretty overpriced and not-very-good Chinese restaurant. Go figure.

There are SO many awesome and dirt cheap places in Chinatown that I’m really not quite sure how we managed to go to this one. It’s not that the food was awful, but it wasn’t great either.

We ordered pork juicy buns- well, actually we ordered crab/pork (see what good Jews we are? hahaha) juicy buns but were told they were out of crab. Oookkkay. We ordered jellyfish and squid stir fry…but then we were told they were out of jellyfish. Ooookkkay. We ordered fried rice, mixed vegetables and crispy oysters. Everything was so- so. The oysters were basically just a plate of tempura oysters, with no sauce. When we asked what we were supposed to dip them in, they pointed to the red vinegar (which poor Gabriel tried and nearly spit out). When we asked again, they brought out a miniscule bowl of duck sauce. Ookkkay. The fried rice was pretty good- and thank goodness for that since it’s basically what we filled up on. The vegetables were fresh and cooked nicely- but the sauce they were in was too greasy/slimy for my liking. The dumplings were also eh. So. Ya. Booooooo.

When we got the $46 check and realized what our money could have bought us instead, we were none too thrilled. Seriously? Oooookkkkay.

Oh well. Next Christmas we’ve decided we are going to be on a beach somewhere anyway.

Co Ba: 110 9th ave, NY NY

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Just a few days ago I had a realization that I’d never tried Banh Mi before. (a Vietnamese sandwich that seems to have gotten very popular in NYC recently) I had a lunch planned with a friend in an area neither of us knew very well, and after searching for scoutmob/yelp/groupon/living social deals and not finding anything very appealing, we decided to take a chance on Co Ba- which stood across the street from where we were. When we looked in the window and saw only a couple of people eating there, we realized it was a little risky but decided to give it a shot.

It’s a cute, little restaurant, with lovely photos of the rice paddies and straw hats lining the walls, and it had an overall sense of peace and calm inside.

The prices for lunch meals were mostly under $10 and I thought much of the menu sounded great. I was sure I wanted to try Banh Mi, but didn’t know which one so I asked our waiter about them. He recommended the pork belly or the beef, explaining that the pork belly was very fatty but tasty and that the beef was leaner and spicier. I went with the beef and was sure I made the right choice after the first bite. The tangy/sweet vinegar of the pickles, cabbage and carrots went SO beautifully with the watercress and spicy tender beef. The side salad it came with was refreshing with sprigs of mint and a sesame soy dressing. The crusty french baguette the sandwich came on was such a cool contrast to the asian flavors but seemed to be paired perfectly. Okay. I officially love this sandwich.

I cleaned my plate and was even more pleased with the check arrived and I saw that my whole lunch including tip was around $10. Great deal, great service and awesome food.

Cupcake Heaven NY: Yonkers, NY (914) 309-6933 www.cupcakeheavenny.com

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 I bought a Groupon deal for a dozen cupcakes (for $12!!) to be delivered from Cupcake Heaven NY and was excited to find out that we could mix and match any 3 flavor combos. After browsing their website, Gabriel and I placed an order for: 1. red velvet cake. vanilla icing. peanut butter cups on top.2. rich chocolate cake. whipped cream filling. marshmallow icing.hershey bar topping.3. classic white cake. chocolate pudding filling. chocolate icing.oreos topping.

The order arrived for us a few days later in cute little boxes, but we were bummed to find out that the combos were incorrect, and included some flavors that we really strongly dislike and wouldn’t eat.  At that point, I emailed the company to point out this disappointment and was told that our order would be corrected and re-delivered at our convenience. Happy to accept that mistakes are made, and a solution was offered, I placed the new order for a couple of weeks later.

Well, the order arrived today and I must say that I am VERY pleased. Everything we wanted was exactly correct, and the cupcakes were totally delicious. The cake was moist and fresh- I’m guessing they came out of the oven just an hour or 2 before they arrived at my door.

I read the reviews on Yelp and see that a lot of people are unhappy with this company. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. They are clearly new and working out some kinks. Bear with them for a little while and I’m sure they will be a great success. Nom nom nom. YUM.

Chez Carey: Low-guilt chocolate chip meringue cookies!

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Low-guilt chocolate chip meringue cookies: Whip 4 egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup of sugar, just a little at a time until well incorporated. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and continue beating until stiff peaks form and it’s glossy. Fold in 3/4 cup chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto a silpat and bake at 300 for 40 minutes or so. YUM. Like little mini smores minus the graham cracker part. Delicious and much lower carb (and guilt) than regular cookies. AND very easy to make.

Healthalicious: 1594 2nd Ave (between 82nd St & 83rd St) New York, NY

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Living social has been offering a pay $6 for $10 worth of food deal at Healthalicious for a couple of weeks and I take them up on the offer pretty frequently. It’s a GREAT place when you want a healthy meal that you don’t feel like cooking yourself. I plan to keep buying the offer until they stop offering it. At their regular prices- I probably wouldn’t go as much, but this deal rocks.

Pictured are my last 3 lunches so that you can get an idea as to what they have. Everything is always cooked to order so for a ‘fast’ food place, it’s a little on the slow side. I’m not usually in a rush so I don’t mind waiting 5-10 minutes at all- and I like that the cashier brings your meal over to you when it’s ready. The arugula salad was the only one of the 3 meals that I didn’t really love. It was okay- but not very exciting, and the mozzarella wasn’t particularly fresh tasting- pretty much just slices of slightly firm low fat tasting cheese. The balsamic dressing was very nice though, and it was a large, filling meal.

The hot plates are my go-tos now and I will continue trying the different ones that they have on the menu. These 2 dishes are: The Get Ripped: Seared tilapia over cauliflower puree and steamed broccoli with a lemon/caper sauce (Excellent. The fish was cooked perfectly and the cauliflower is SO creamy you’ll think it’s mashed potatoes) and The Body Toner: (very good) grilled chicken with lentils and steamed spinach with a light citrus sauce.

I always feel great after I eat here and am happy to know that someone out there is trying to take the concept of fast food to a healthier place. You can feel full and satisfied, without loads of fat, calories or carbs and still really enjoy eating your meal. Plus, then you don’t feel so guilty about that post-lunch piece of dark chocolate 🙂

Pincher’s Crab Shack: Gulf Coast Town Center 10029 Gulf Ctr Dr Fort Myers, FL

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Gabriel and I spent a few days in Florida visiting our parents and we were starving when we got off of the plane in Fort Myers. His parents were nice enough to treat us to lunch at Pincher’s, which was a great choice. The menu was SO appealing- with a ton of seafood choices. Wanting to start out the trip with a healthy choice, I ordered a salad with grilled shrimp instead of one of the many fried seafood options (but I did have a taste of the fried oysters which were awesome).

There was enough shrimp  on the skewers for 2 or 3 people and I happily gave some away. The  vegetables were all fresh and the blue cheese dressing was chunky and creamy. I was quite happy with my lunch choice and easily cleaned my plate. I realized as we left that this was one of many Pincher’s locations and thought I would definitely go back to try some of the other items on the menu. As a New Yorker, I was especially impressed with the oyster prices- and surely plan to go back for a dozen the next time I’m in Florida.

Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon: Inn at Irving Place 56 Irving Pl New York, NY

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My dear friend and I have birthdays a day apart and every year we pick a place to celebrate together. This year, we decided to go for a fancy tea instead of lunch or dinner and it proved to be a great decision.

Lady Mendl’s is hidden away at the Inn at Irving Place behind doors that make you think you’re walking into someone’s private brownstone. A small teacup plaque near the front door is the only clue that you are indeed in the right place, and it gives the feeling of walking into a little treasure.

Inside, the small rooms are decorated in warm, cozy light, antique furniture and plenty of candles and fresh flowers. After the host took our coats in the greeting room, we were led to a wonderful pair of leather sofas in front of a roaring fireplace. As girly as going out to tea may sound, this had such a romantic feel that It would make for a lovely date as well, assuming that your date loves delicious snacks, tea and excellent service.

We began with a wonderful butternut squash amuse bouche which was hot from the oven, perfectly smooth in it’s crispy shell, and so full of squashy flavor. My bouche was indeed amused.

Next, my chamomile tea was served with sugar cubes, including one particularly pretty decorated one that sat next to my cup. Delicious and poured beautifully by our server.

The waiter then came around with a tray full of tea sandwiches which we could choose from- with no limits I might add! Knowing that we had a lot more coming, we chose to share a few different ones including: smoked salmon with dill cream cheese on pumpernickel, cucumber with crème fraiche on brioche, turkey on seven grain and classic egg salad on rye. They were all delightful and petite- as they should be.

Next were the scones, one buttermilk and one cranberry. They were served with jam and clotted cream- although I must admit that I prefer the cream at Alice’s Tea Cup- another favorite tea spot of mine, which is a bit fluffier and thicker. The cream here was a bit running and loose. The scones however, were wonderful. It was a good thing that just two small ones were served because I think I could have polished off a whole basket full of them.

The dessert was my favorite course. It’s not hard to see why this cake is the one that Lady M is famous for. Wow. About a million layers as thin as crepes were piled high with a spread of whipped cream in between each. Underneath the cake was fresh raspberry coulis, the perfect accompaniment. It was SO indulgent, SO light, beautiful, simple and really incredible tasting.

Just in case we weren’t totally stuffed by then, our last and final course was served. I will call this one dessert, the sequel. A plate of handmade cookies and chocolate covered strawberries. I’m not sure how I managed to find room but I can assure you that I did. No cookie went unfinished. My favorite was the heart shaped butter cookie half-dipped in dark chocolate, and of course, the strawberries.

Overall, I was totally delighted by this experience. I would go back in a heartbeat- and would love to take a group of ladies and/or family there sometime. I think it is best on a chilly winter day to go and make sure to get that fireside spot. Enjoy this special place!

 

 

Yum Yum: 662 9th Ave (between 46th St & 45th St) New York, NY

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I’ve been to Yum Yum (and the other 3 with the same name on the same block) a bunch of times and thought I’d actually review it this time. My photos are a bit lacking because of the dim lighting in the restaurant, but I assure you that the dishes looked much better in person. When in the theater district, a ton of the restaurants are hit or miss, but Yum Yum is pretty consistent. It’s not like it’s the BEST Thai food I’ve ever had, but the price is fair, the service is quick, and the food is pretty tasty.

The prix fixe deal is excellent. $15.95 for “5” courses. Why is the “5” in quotes? Well, 2 of the appetizers are really combined onto one plate and I think it’s a real stretch to call it 2 separate dishes. Even still, and with the fact considered that the portions are fairly tiny, it’s a good deal.

I started with a Tom Yum soup which I really love and get almost every time. Fresh veggies, large shrimp and a mildly spicy broth always warms my belly and takes the hunger edge off. Next I had the dumplings and salad- which are the 2 that come together. When an order of dumplings = 2 pieces, it’s hard not to feel a little ripped off. We also asked for peanut sauce with the salad, but they served us the regular ginger vinegarette instead even though they said they’d bring the peanut one too. Womp Womp. The side of steamed veggies that we got complimented the Pad Thai well and we were glad we added it on. I think the Pad Thai here is the perfect flavor, but missing the raw bean sprouts and lime that usually come alongside the popular dish. Not pictured are the lychees that we had for dessert- one of my favorite fruits.

I’ll continue to go to Yum Yum, despite the small portions and the poor health dept. rating in the window. Given the fact that all of their restaurants are just about always packed, I guess I’m not the only one who thinks it’s pretty darn good.

 

Dark Horse: 17 Murray St (between Broadway & Church St) New York, NY

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Gabriel and I went to get tickets to see the World Trade Center Memorial and had about an hour to kill before we could go in. We searched for a deal in the area for lunch and stumbled onto Dark Horse, which had very good ratings online. It was a dimly lit pub atmosphere with a friendly, though sort of rushy waitress, who sat us right  away.

I ordered a bowl of French onion soup and a mixed salad and thought both were pretty good, but nothing special. The soup didn’t have much flavor, and was a little on the oily side. The salad was fresh but came with a vinegarette when I’d specifically asked for bleu cheese- but oh well. I am sure I could have sent it back if our waitress had been easier to flag down.

With the deal, this lunch was totally worth it- but otherwise, I thought it was pretty run-of-the-mill as far as pub food and service goes.

I doubt I’d go back- but if you’re in the area and can find the same 50% off deal that we found, I guess it’s worth a shot.

 

 

Maison Laduree: 864 Madison Ave. New York, NY

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The first 2 attempts I made to try the macarons at Laduree were foiled by 45 minute lines that went out the door. Today, I got lucky and happened to walk by when there were only a few people inside. As I waited, I noticed the VERY Upper East Side looking crowd. The clientele was basically made up of UES ladies with bleach blond hair, Prada over-the-knee boots and nose jobs-a-plenty or their nannies with the children they were caring for- coming in for their overpriced after school snack. I felt slightly out of place in my Old Navy yoga pants and sneakers, but that wasn’t enough to stop me from experiencing this very well-reviewed French treat. Ten minutes later I was at the front counter, looking at an array of beautiful choices just waiting to be eaten. Hooray, it was my turn to order.

I looked over the macaron map on the counter and chose 3 pieces: chocolate, salted caramel and pistachio. The other flavors all sounded wonderful but I wanted to limit myself, both calorically and monetarily, to a reasonable number. I got up to the cash register and paid my $8.10 for the 3 cookies. WOAH. I could have a 2 maki sushi roll lunch special, complete with miso soup and shumai for $.40 more than that. Amazingly expensive treats indeed.

The cashier gave me back the change from my ten spot, saying ‘You don’t mind the nickels’ with a smile and a chuckle. a $1 bill and $.90 in nickels. He explained that he was out of other change. Um, THAT was annoying. 30 seconds later as I was leaving, I heard and saw him crack open a new roll of quarters. Heh? Gee thanks. Perhaps the big coins are reserved for the customers wearing designer clothes.

I stepped outside and took a quick photo of my macarons before eating them. I started with the pistachio which was unfreakingbelieveable. The meringue shell practically melted in my mouth and the pistachio cream inside was almost like marzipan. The chocolate one was not too sweet, and though the filling’s consistency reminded me of fudge, the flavor was more like fine cocoa powder. The salted caramel wasn’t particularly salty- actually, I didn’t taste the salt at all, and the caramel was a slightly more firm than the other flavors but again, the shell was total perfection. These are truly exquisite, decadent, and worth every over priced penny. I’m not entirely sure I’ll go back give the fact that they cost more than double what they cost everywhere else, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend at least one visit to you. Enjoy!