Sunday, February 24, 2013

Konditori: My mid-morning Fika

The greatest thing about working in the building that I live in, is that coffee is only two floors away in my apartment all day!  But today, I ran out of coffee after cup #2 (I'm a 3 cup kinda girl).  Rather than being sensible and buying more coffee to make at home, I decided to take Reggie for a little walk around the corner and grab a cup somewhere.  It was a nice morning and he loves a good walk, about as much as I love a good cup of coffee.  So I decided to take a mid-morning fika (Swedish for coffee break) and head around the corner to Konditori (pastry based coffee shop).  Given that I am Swedish, this seemed like a natural inclination for me and it was!

Reggie and I squeezed into Konditori, and I do mean squeezed.  There were four other people in this tiny little shop and we practically had to go back outside when someone wanted more cream in their coffee.  The menu was that of a nice simple coffee shop - nothing crazy, no Lingonberry Lattes or Swedish Fish Macchiatos.  They had two sizes of coffee, liten (small) and stor (large).  No Viking size or anything ridiculous (I once ordered coffee from a place that had a size "disco" - please feel free to roll your eyes at this - and the barista made me say "disco" rather than "large"... ugh, I never went back and he's lucky he still has all his teeth.  Anyway, I digress...).  They had a lovely little assortment of pastries and some of them were traditionally Swedish.

I went with the Kanelbulle (traditional Swedish cinnamon roll), a Zucchini Carrot muffin, and a Swedish coffee.  The kanelbulle was nice, not as rich and gooey as it's American brethern, but the crunchy rock sugar on top was really good.  It was a little dry, but I love nothing more than dunking pastry in my coffee and then it became a special treat.  But the star of this show was the Zucchini Carrot muffin - crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside.  It had the perfect amount of zucchini, carrots, walnuts, and zesty spices.  And on the crown, was a roasted peach... it may have been the best muffin I've ever had - and that's saying a lot because I generally find muffins to be underwhelming a waste of time.  Oh, and the coffee was good too!!

Now that I've reconnected with my people on more than Ikea and meatballs, I feel as though I'll be having fikas at Konditori more often!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cheeky Sandwiches: Doing it right!

When you only have 6 items on your menu, you had better do those 6 things unbelievably well. And that's exactly what Cheeky Sandwiches does... darn good sandwiches, 6 ways. Brent, one of my coworkers, came with me the other day to grab a sandwich from Cheeky. Like a fool, he had already eaten and that meant I was on my own. So I decided on two sandwiches... well, I can't just try one thing on this little adventure!

This place defines "hole in the wall."  But it's a cute little hole! Their walls are fun and eclectic One has a great saying on it, the others have faces sketched onto the wall. There's even a community sketch book for people to sit down and doodle in. The beer taps are garden trowels and everything has an air of warmth and eccentricity.

Beef Short Rib & Chicken Biscuit
It was Fat Tuesday, so they had gumbo on the menu and complimentary "Ben-Yay" with every order (not that we weren't ordering them anyway). They sell Fitz's Soda, which I had never heard of, but I will have to try another time as they looked interesting. Brent and I ate the "Ben-Yay's" on the walk back to the office, and they were fantastic! They were fresh and hot out of the fryer with a nice coating of powdered sugar. We devoured them, hence why there's no picture of them.

I decided on the Fried Chicken sandwich on a buttermilk biscuit, red cabbage coleslaw, and a hit of gravy.  And the Braised short rib on toasted challah bread with horseradish sauce, arugula, and tomatoes. The Fried Chicken sandwich was awesome - excellent seasoning, nice crunchy coating that was reminiscent of fried chicken from a cast iron skillet. The buttermilk biscuit was light and fluffy and was an excellent vehicle for the chicken, tangy slaw, and pan gravy. But as good as that chicken sandwich was, it wasn't anything compared to the short rib. That short rib sandwich just melted in my mouth. The challah bread was buttery and soft, the horseradish sauce was just right and not too over powering and the peppery arugula added just the right texture to the rich beef short rib.

Pork Chop Sandwich & Seafood Po'boy
The next day, Brent, realized what a fool he had been and went back to get two of the other sandwiches from Cheeky. He popped into my office today with a bag full of yum. He got the Marinated Seared Pork Chop Sandwich with caramelized onions and apples, and sweet and spicy mustard. The pork was nicely seasoned and tender, and the onions and apples just pulled that bad boy right together. He also, as surprise, got the Seafood Po'boy dressed (lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) on a roll. The white fish was nicely coated in cornmeal and had a good crunch to it. It also had a zippy remoulade that I really enjoyed as well.

The Verdict:
Brent preferred the Pork and Chicken sandwiches.
I preferred the Beef and Po'boy sandwiches.
We both agreed that all four of those sandwiches were unbelievably good and this place is legit!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Via Tribunali: The Calzone that brought down NYC pizza forever!

Marinated olives, Piazza Dante, and a wood burning oven.
So pizza is not exactly my jam.  Yeah, yeah, I know, I live in New York City and our pizza is the best... blah blah blah.  NYC pizza is just okay.  It's not better than any other city's pizza, it's just bigger, flatter, and greasier.  I like real pizza.  Pizza that has the dirt of San Marzano tomatoes on it.  Pizza that has cheeses like grana padano, provlone, and mozzarella di bufala.  Pizza that talks with it's hands and and has the sweat of a Pisan on it, with his muscles rippling and glistening in the light of a wood fired oven as he shovels that pizza in and out and in and... oh wait, what were we talking about?  Oh yeah, pizza.

Luckily, I live across the street from one of the best Neapolitan pizza places in the city.  Yeah, I know, true story!  Via Tribunali's pizza is like crack - I can't get enough of it and I jones for it.  Whenever my friend Shannon comes to town, the first thing she does is demand good pizza (she's very pushy like that).  The small Georgia town she comes from greatly lacks in this area (I can attest to this because I lived there for 5 years and I never had good pizza).  Well, I think after having her visit twice a year for 5 years, we have finally found a place to satisfy her pizza palate, as we ate here twice in one week, and with no complaints from me.  
Calzone Vesuvio, Specialita' della Casa!
This place is tiny.  I mean, really tiny.  It's about as big as my living room and most of that is taken up by the gorgeous wood fire oven they have in the back.  The tables are ridiculously small, especially considering your putting a pizza on it.  The chairs are like little torture devices after 20 minutes and the service can be pretty slow.  But you know what?  I don't care, because this pizza is that friggin' good!  

The first time we went we started with their marinated olives.   Anyone who knows me knows that I am an olive freak.  These are awesome - lemony, garlicy, olivey, heavenly and a nice pairing with their house wine.  On our waiter's recommendation, we ordered the Piazza Dante (pomodoro, provola, prosciutto di parma, arugula, cherry tomato), it was delicious!  Their dough is perfectly chewy, light, and a little smoky from the wood fire.  The tomato sauce (pomodoro) is clean and simple.  This had a great balance of warm cheesy pizza with the freshness of a tomato and arugula salad on top with some salty prosciutto.  It's no wonder it's a house favorite.  

Mezza Luna Nutella
But then, there was the Calzone Vesuvio... there's no coming back from this one.  I've never seen anything like this.  This is not your doughy, folded over calzone... oh no.  This a pizza with a thin layer of pizza dough over it that puffs up like a volcano while it bakes.  Cut it open and inside is a delicate feast of pomodoro, fior di latte, ricotta, prosciutto cotto, roasted mushrooms, and fresh basil.  It's not too heavy, but it has this amazing richness to it that makes your eyes roll back into your head.  It was perfection.

On our second trip, we decided to start with a couple of salads and lighten it up (I am a fan of the house salad with the Italian tuna and Shannon went with the Caesar - which was excellent) and then go right into the Calzone Vesuvio.  There was no question in our mind that this calzone needed to happen again.  However, we also decided to save room for their house dessert, a nutella calzone.  People from the table next to us were salivating and making comments to us how amazing this looked.  And you know what? It tasted even better than it looked.

This place is too easy for me.  It's steps from my apartment, and on a cold, rainy or snowy night when I don't want to cook or go very far, this is my home away from home.  It's pizza at it's finest and comfort food to boot.  Plus they have a slammin' happy hour - $5 pizzas and $8 for a half craft of house wine.  Can you blame me for going??  Hmm... maybe I'll stop in tonight.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pig & Khao: A Most Delightful Combination

 Chicharrons with coconut vinegar & a Michelada
My favorite thing about my friend Shannon visiting is that she is a fearless foodie.  I will literally forgo going to restaurants until she comes to town so we can experience them together.  However, she's gotten into a stale routine the last few years of going to the same places over and over again.  This visit, I was determined to break her out of her routine and introduce her to my yummy neighborhood!

Pig and Khao opened over the summer and I've been dying to try it!  Using a Google Offer ($15 for $30 - yeah, baby!) - which we desperately needed after our week of eating out - we jumped in chicharrons deep!  What??  That's a saying.

Grilled Pork Jowl with watermelon, and chicharrons
The restaurant is sleek, modern, tiny, and congested.  It's a little noisy and a little too friendly with the neighbors seated next to you.  But this is indicative of many new restaurants in NYC these days, especially in the LES.  The nice thing about these tiny little places, is that the eavesdropping is usually fantastic and so is ordering off of other people's tables.  "Um, I'll have what that person two tables down is having... yeah the noodle thing."

We of course started things off right with a couple of cocktails and some five spice chicharrons with coconut vinegar (it's okay, I didn't know this was a thing either).  They were fresh, hot, crunchy, spicy, salty... the best.  If you've never had fresh chicharrons, you are missing out.  To wash them down, I had a Michelada, (Genesee beer, P&K sangrita, Thai chili salt) one of my favorite drinks and a good deal at $6.  Shannon had the Phuket Punch (Prosecco, grapefruit-cinnamon syrup, and mint), which I determined tasted exactly like applesauce, and we agreed that was not a bad thing at all.

Grilled Curry Lamb Ribs
Our next course was Grilled Pork Jowl with watermelon, chicharron, toasted rice, lime-chili fish sauce, and herbs.  This dish was so damn near perfect that I dream about it at night.  The pork jowl was grilled perfectly and melted in your mouth as soon as it hit your tongue.  The jowl paired with the sweet, refreshing watermelon, spicy, salty, crunchy chicharrons and the perfect hit of acid from sauce and a little cool cilantro - it was truly amazing.  We practically licked the plate clean!

As an entree we ordered the Grilled Curry Lamb Ribs that came with an  a little yogurt sauce, pickled beets, whole wheat roti chapatti.  We also ordered a side of their vegetable of the day, which was some sort of Asian green with a tasty little sauce on it.

The perfect bite makes Shannon very happy -
that cocktail wasn't hurting either!
Okay, I'm not going to lie, I really do love food that requires assembly like this.  I enjoy putting together that perfect little bite of food that suits my palate just right.  These lamb ribs were fantastic!  They were tender, well seasoned and grilled, and not gamy or fatty (which can happen with lamb).  The combination of the meaty smoky lamb, with the cool yogurt, tang of the beets, bitterness of the greens, sweetness of the coconut rice rolled up in that light and delicious roti was amazing!  And as you can see from Shannon's face, it made us that happy!
Turon - banana fritter, chocolate sauce,
and salted caramel ice cream
For dessert - yeah, we managed to shovel some more food down our throats - we got the Turon (banana fritter, chocolate sauce, and salted caramel ice cream).  This was probably our least favorite dish of the night.  I mean don't get me wrong, we ate it, but it was lowest on the list.  The "banana fritters" weren't exactly what you want from a "fritter."  These were essentially pastry wrapped bananas, like you'd see at any typical Thai restaurant.  Nothing to write home about for sure.  However, I would write home about that salted caramel ice cream, because it was fantastic.  I recommend just ordering a dish of that.

At the end of this amazing meal, we definitely felt like pigs and cows... not to be confused with Pig and Khao!  It was excellent, and I am soooooooooooo excited to go back when their garden is open!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Vogue Knitting Live

On Saturday, January 19, I went to my first yarn and knitting expo.  Yes, that's right, I'm officially one of those people.  You know those people?  Those people who carry their knitting everywhere they go - subways, classrooms, bus stops, movie theaters.  Someone a lot like Corie, one of my student workers.  She's the little crafter in my crew; her hands are always going at something. But if being like Corie is like being one of those people, then I'm okay with it because she's pretty much one of the coolest people I know.  But I digress...

We went to the Vogue Knitting Live Expo at the Marriot Marquis in Time's Square.  There were two floors of what every happy hooker could ever dream about - yarn, glorious yarn!  Yarn of every color and worst and length and type and... and... and it was amazing!!!  The unfortunate thing about all of this amazing glorious yarn, was the prices.  This is not your Red Heart discount yarn from Michael's.  This is home spun yarn from Swiss Alpacas sheered on a full moon and spun by blind nuns during a winter solstice.  This was some good sh*&!  Corie and I quickly realized that we were not these people... we are, as Corie put so eloquently, the white trash of knitters and crocheters.
Crocheted food - such a cute idea for toys.

With our yarn buying dreams squashed, we managed to pick up the pieces of our crafting lives and still enjoy ourselves.  They had cool demonstrations of this crazy new knitting and crotcheting with needles and hooks bigger than my arm. It reminded me of something that you would find in a children's museum or play house, but it was legit!  People were actually making afghans with these huge tools.  I decided that next year I would invest and learn how to do it, because I was pretty obsessed with it by the end of the day.

There was a cute little fashion show... some of the pieces were terrifying, but overall, they had some cute stuff.  Although the knitted pantaloons are still giving me nightmares.  They had book signings, people making yarn, and loads of classes.  They had little beginners areas where people would teach you how to knit, crotchet, and all sorts of cool crafting techniques.  We really enjoyed just walking around drooling over everything.  However we didn't leave empty handed, Corie bought the most gorgeous purple chunky sparkly yarn (from Lion Brand, where we could afford to shop... and will continue to) and I got a custom cross stitch iPhone case that will be the shiz when I sit down to do it.

To console our dashed yarn dreams, we headed across the street to get some Junior's Cheesecake.  Corie's cherry cheesecake and my carrot cake cheesecake did just the trick, we were satisfied with dreaming big and using cheap yarn.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Los Perros Locos!

Yay!!  Los Perros Locos finally opened!!!  I've been walking past this place for weeks now and drooling with anticipation.  A Colombian Hot Dog place three blocks from me??  Does it get any better??  What is a Colombian Hot Dog you ask??  That's an excellent question and you're about to find out!

The decor is fun and festive and it's set up like an indoor hot dog stand, on the "streets" of Colombia, which is cute.  The staff was friendly and helpful.  They were also knowledgeable about the menu and that was a good thing considering all the interesting concoctions on there.  The service was really... really slow, but it was their first day and we might have been their first customers, so I'll forgive them that today.  I mean, they didn't even have change yet.

The hot dogs were awesome though!  The prices weren't too bad, about $6 - 7 for a specialty dog and they are large and filling.  The dogs themselves are juicy and flavorful and they toast the buns, which I really appreciate.   We ordered the...

Pablo Escabar - hot dog with pineapple salsa, apple chipotle slaw, potato chips, Kewpie mayo, and perico (yeah, I don't know what that is either).  This dog was hands down my favorite.  The sweetness of the salsa, cool of the slaw, crunch of the chips and salty of the dog were excellent!  I do which the slaw had a bit more chipotle kick to it though, it was definitely tame.

Chimi-Churi-Chori - grilled chorizo dog with grilled provoleta, chimichurri sauce,  aioli, and crushed potato chips.  The grilled chorizo was really wonderful and had well balanced flavors.  The rest was just okay.  It wasn't really spicy, as I had been told, and it was missing something... like that pineapple salsa.  The provoleta didn't add anything the dog at all, but the chimichurri was very good.

Spicy Spicy Mango Perros - hot dog with spicy mango mojo, melted mozzarella, and spicy Doritos. This was awesome.  Sweet, spicy, a little Doritos cheesy... it was a great combination.  My friend, Alice, who I was with, kept talking about it with her mouth full, so you know it had to be good.

Mazzzzzorca - which they claim is "the best grilled Mexican corn you have ever had."  Um... yeah, not so much.  I would disagree whole heatedly.  First of all, it wasn't grilled.  It was boiled, soggy... and over cooked.  I would even go out on a limb and say this was either frozen corn reheated or corn made the night before; it definitely wasn't fresh.  The spices didn't stand out to me either.  It was very underwhelming and way over priced at $4.  I'll be heading to Cafe Habana for my Mexican Corn... those Cubans know how to do Mexican Corn right!

Overall, I will definitely be back, as I'd like to try some of the other fun hot dogs on their menu - like the El Perro Perdido - hot dog in a deep dried french toast bun, strawberry ancho jam, smoked ham and melted swiss!  I'm sure they'll have worked out all the little kinks by the time I return.  This place will be great for late night munchies!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Breakfast at Berkli Parc: The Day We Became Famous

I had promised my staff member, Nicole (no relation), that we would have a breakfast date this week.  She was positive that I was purposefully planning to do fun things with other staff members while she was busy.  I explained to her that this was because I secretly hate her, but she wasn't buying that.  So during our Friday morning meeting, we braved the bone chilling cold and ran over to Berkli Parc to grab some breakfast.

When we walked in, there were two women having a conversation/interview - love advice of some sort - and being filmed.  At first we were quiet and hesitant, waiting for them to politely ask us to leave or at least to be quiet.  Since neither of those things happened within the first 20 seconds that we were there, we went on with our loud and ridiculous conversation.

Their menu was intriguing!  They had all sorts of new and exciting coffee drinks that we had never heard of... The California Latte, Dirty Chai Latte, Strawberry Fields Latte, and so on.  The only problem was that none of these exciting drinks had any explanations as to what went into them.  This caused a chain reaction of numerous questions and side bars between Nicole and I about our feelings and thoughts on these drinks.

While we waited for our coffee, chai, and breakfast sandwiches, I had a lovely conversation with the restaurant's owner.  He too is a native Californian in fact, we're both originally from Sacramento. This is not something I usually tell people... that I was born in Sacto (and if you've ever been there, you'll know why - sorry Sacto peeps, I still love you).  However, we bonded..  He even honored a fictitious discount that Google Offers was spreading around about them.

Nicole got a Chai Latte, hold the Dirty (which we found out meant a shot of espresso and not an olive as I had initially suspected).  I got the Californian Latte (had to represent), that orange zest, cloves, and cinnamon, I believe.  It was zesty and lovely, and I appreciated the foam art.  Our sandwiches (or half sandwiches that were pretending to be whole sandwiches) were Bacon, Egg, and Sprout on Whole Grain.  Despite it really only being a half sandwich for $6, it was really tasty.  The egg was perfectly over easy and had a nice bit of runniness to it (or nature's gravy, as I like to call it) that pulled the entire sandwich together.  The earthiness of the sprouts was very clean and fresh - and nothing like baby trees, as I explained to Nicole.
Nicole's big break!

But really the highlight of the breakfast outing was that Nicole and I became famous.  Yes, that's right, we are now reality TV stars.  As we were waiting for the light to change outside the coffee shop, we heard a man yelling "Ladies, hey girls!" at us. Naturally, being New Yorkers, we assumed it was a crack head and completely ignored him.  To our surprise, it was actually one of the film crew from the coffee shop wanting us to sign a release for the show that we were just staring in.  It's a new "reality" TV show (although, we have serious doubts about how realistic it is) on MTV called "Girl, Get Your Mind Right."  I declined to be shown, since my agent wasn't there to broker this agreement, so my face will be blurred out.  However, Nicole will be staring in a full role.  We will be credited as the Two Annoyingly Loud Girls That Won't Shut Up.  So tune in to MTV in May and see our big premiere at breakfast.

Networked Blogs