Monday, April 28, 2008

Taking on the Treats Truck One Treat at a Time: The Mint Chocolate Trucker

Blondie and I are committed to our mission to take on the Treats Truck, one treat at a time. Our first treat up, the Cinnamon Cookie. Then last week we tasted the Apple Cake and Apricot Square the Treats Truck Lady whipped up especially for Passover. This week the highly anticipated Mint Chocolate Trucker...

I've always been a huge fan of the mint and chocolate. In fact Mint Chocolate Chip was my favorite ice cream flavor until it was eclipsed by Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough during the great cookie dough ice cream revolution of the late 80s/early 90s. Still mint and chocolate are high up there in my flavor combo ranks and I was super excited when the Treats Truck Lady told me several that she had developed a Mint Chocolate Trucker as her sort of Treats Truck tribute to the Thin Mint cookie. I had to try it.

Unfortunately, the Mint Chocolate Trucker isn't on the regular menu so the Treats Truck Lady only occasionally makes it and often times she would be out of the specials by the time my mid afternoon sugar low hit. Finally the cookie powers that be smiled down upon me and I made it to the truck in time to score a Mint Chocolate Trucker. Yes!

Brownie's Mint Chocolate Trucker

Dense chewy chocolate cookie and filled with an intensely dark minty chocolate filling. I was planning on saving half to share with Blondie, but, um, Blondie's half didn't make it through my snack time. I consoled myself with the fact that I wouldn't see her for a whole day and within 24 hours the Trucker wouldn't be at it's peak of freshness. The Treats Truck Lady didn't slave away in her kitchen for her Treats to be served in sub-ideal conditions. No, it would be a serious affront. A slap in the face were I to save that 1/2 cookie. I did the only reasonable thing and I ate it. All. LOVED. IT.

Fortunately great minds really do think alike and fortune had also smiled on Blondie and across town, possibly even simultaneously, she was enjoying her own Mint Chocolate Trucker, which come to think of it, she didn't mention thinking of saving half for me...

Blondie's Mint Chocolate Trucker

Any way, Blondie enjoyed the Trucker as well. She's also a mint chocolate fan, but when we did our post Mint Trucker recap she did express disappointment that the filling was a dark chocolate ganache as she would have preferred something less heavy, like a minty cream filling. Interesting. I'd certainly be up for trying it with a minty cream filling. Maybe the Treats Truck Lady didn't want there to be any confusion with the traditional Chocolate and Vanilla Cream filled Trucker. Perhaps if the Treats Truck Lady went with the mint cream filling, the filling could be colored green (nothing like food coloring to heighten the fun), or rolled in green sugar crystals.

Of the treats we've reviewed thus far the Mint Chocolate Trucker has been my favorite. I hope it someday finds a semi regular position on the regular menu. terms of our next Treats Truck Adventure, I put the question to our readers...I have finally accumulated the 10 stamps and I have a FREE treat coming my way. I can't eat nuts, but I'm open to anything else. How would you spend your free treat?

Treats Truck
Various Locations around the city.
Click for schedule

Previous Treat Reviews: Cinnamon Cookie, Passover Treats

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blondie and Brownie's Pizza Week Wrap Up

This week has been an unusually pizzariffic one for us. Pizza from the famed DiFara's. Pizza from a truck. And yes, a 99 cent pizza taste off...let's just say when you have pizza four times in a week, you know it's been a good week...

First up, taking Blondie on her first pilgrimage to Di Fara's in Midwood. I've been extolling the virtues of Di Fara's to Blondie ever since my first visit in February. She's heard Di Fara's this and Di Fara's that. I've forced her to look at my Di Fara's food porn album on flickr and she narrowly missed sitting through my Di Fara's tribute pizza dinner. It was time to savor the real thing.

We decided on Saturday visit because 1) I had already lured Blondie to Brooklyn with the promise of bicycle pedal blender mojitos from Cafe Habana's Earth Day opening celebration and cake from Cake Man Raven and once I had her in the borough, I knew I'd be able to convince her to stay for pizza, and 2) the fact that last Saturday evening was the first night of Passover was not lost on me--maybe, just maybe would be just a little shorter for pizza on the first seder night. It was worth a try.

I've blogged about my relationship with pizza before. Mom's Italian. If she wasn't making good pizza at home we were having pizza out at one of the best pizza places in the country. I was raised on the good stuff. New Haven style, that's how I roll. Blondie doesn't really understand my pizza obsession; my quest for the best. Don't get me wrong. She loves pizza and can appreciate good pie, but if you ask her what her favorite pizza is, she'll say the place that delivers to her mom's house. I just don't get it. Then again, she was allowed to watch Dirty Dancing as a kid, so I blame all of our differences on that. But back to the pizza...

We took the bus out to Di Fara's and arrived at around 7:30ish, it was close to sundown and Midwood was a ghost town, but Di Fara's was still hopping. Our friends had already arrived for their first Di Fara's experience and we called our order in to them as we walked over--one round regular pie and a square pie with artichokes. One of the best Di Fara's strategy's I've read about came from Brooklyn chowhound, JFores, who advocates gluing yourself to the counter to keep your pie top of mind and cut your wait time. Dom's son was managing the orders and we grabbed the big table in front which is almost as good as standing at the counter. At least you are still in view of the pizza making action and of the pizza maker. Still, it took about an hour and a half for our pizzas to be ready, but it was well worth the wait and as close as pizza nirvana as I've achieved this side of New Haven county.

I've had the square pie a couple times now and it's good, but in my book the round regular is where it's at. Between the olive oil under the crust, on top of the pie, and on the roasted artichokes, the square pie has perhaps just a little too much olive oil for me (and I didn't think that such a thing was possible). The round regular on the other hand is a perfect balance of thin crust, bright and fresh sauce, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. Sigh. Certifiably delicious.

Blondie enjoyed the pizzas. But even a taste of Di Fara's magical pie could not change her 'za position. She's just a love the one you're with kind of gal. I swear, it's the early Dirty Dancing exposure.

Pizza week continued on Tuesday with a lunchtime outing to Jianetto's Pizza Truck. I love any food that comes off of a cart or truck, so this was a must try. When we arrived at around 1:00pm there wasn't much of a line, which left just enough time to scrutinize the menu and decide on a $2.75 Grandma's Slice for me and a $6.00 Chicken Parm for Blondie. I was impressed to see that the truck had 3 stacked ovens; awesome. I did feel for the guy in the truck though. I've been in my little kitchen baking just one pie with the oven cranked to 500 degrees, so I can't imagine how he could survive on that truck during the warmer months. Within a few minutes our lunch was ready and we on our way to find some outdoor seating.

It's hard to find a good Grandma's slice. Most are too thick crusted for me. This Grandma's slice however was quite good. The crust was nice and thin and the sauce was good and tangy. The basil on top was a welcome touch. The only drawback was that it could have used a bit more cheese sprinkled on top--but to be fair, they did have extra parm you could add, Blondie even asked me if I wanted cheese before we left. I was in such a rush to chow down that I shrugged off her suggestion. I should have opened the bag with my slice assessed the cheese situation before departing. Overall though it was a good slice. I should have ordered a second one because it wasn't as filling as I would have liked. On that count (and in general) Blondie definitely won with her chicken parm. Tender chunks of breaded chicken with a fair amount of cheese and sauce wrapped in a chewy, tasty crust. Mmm. Love that chicken parm. Nice find, Blondie. As for you, pizza truck, we'll definitely be back in the near future. I hear you make some good Rice Balls and Blondie has been jonesing for a rice ball fix. And I have to admit, I'm kind of intrigued by the fact that they offer pasta on their menu. Pasta from a truck? Could it possibly be al dente? How do they heat it? So many questions. Yes, a repeat visit is definitely in order.

We wrapped up pizza week on Friday with a 99 cent pizza taste off hitting up Prince Deli on 3rd Avenue and 99¢ Fresh Pizza on 43rd Street. Visiting 99¢ Fresh Pizza has been on my list of must try lunches since I read about it on Midtown Lunch. Then Blondie discovered that there were 2 places serving 99 cent slices within a block of each other. This definitely called for a taste off and with the nice weather, Friday seemed like as good a day as any to check what kind of pizza you can get for 99¢. First up was Prince Deli where I met Blondie. She had already bought my slice (and eaten her slice) by the time that I got there. The Prince Deli slice took me back to my elementary school days. It was like the Prince Deli had somehow managed to import the little old Italian cafeteria ladies from my elementary school to prepare the pizza for them. The pizza was very light on the cheese and can best be described as a step up from Ellios toaster pizza, but for 99¢ I couldn't really complain. And I was starving. This slice took the edge off my hunger and gave me the energy to walk a block over to hit up slice number two.

99 cent slice from Prince Deli

When we arrived at 99¢ Fresh Pizza there was a line out the door. To be fair the place is tiny, so it doesn't take too many people for the line to be out the door. The line moved quickly and soon enough Blondie was inside getting their special, two slices and a can of soda for $2.75. Two slices and a soda for the price of the Jianetto's slice. Not bad at all. The cheese and the sauce were much better here (heck, this pizza actually had cheese). And the crust was thinner and less doughy. This was much more like the pizza we got in school on the special Fridays when they let the cafeteria ladies order in pizza from the local pizza joint. (Come to think of it...why did they let the cafeteria ladies order from a pizza place on some Fridays? I mean, it was a nice break from their cooking for us, but what were the cafeteria ladies doing on those Fridays. How much time does it really take to reheat tater tots?). If 99¢ Fresh Pizza were closer to my office, I might become a regular customer, but it's a bit of a walk for me, so I would probably only visit when I don't have lunch and I'm too broke to get anything else and/or I want or need a nice long walk at lunch time. However, I was very excited to learn that the original 99¢ Fresh Pizza location is right near the Port Authority. Next time I need to take a bus somewhere I'm definitely grabbing a slice or two. It will definitely put a smile on my face as I deal with the requisite Port Authority craziness.

Pizza Week Wrap Up:

Di Fara's Pizzeria
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
(718) 258-1367

Jianetto's Pizza Truck
47th Street (b/w Madison and Park Ave)
New York, NY
(917) 287-7241

Prince Deli
690 3rd Ave (b/w 43rd St. and 44th St.)
New York, New York
(212) 661-2240

99¢ Fresh Pizza
151 E. 43rd St. (btw. Lexington & 3rd)
New York, NY


Friday, April 25, 2008

Taking on the Treats Truck One Treat at a Time: Passover Treats!

Last week Blondie and I began our mission to take on the Treats Truck, one treat at a time. Our first treat up, the Cinnamon Cookie. And now, we bring you Passover treats...

Now as Blondie mentioned these treats came at then end of a long birthday of eating (I'll bring you more of that this weekend...), so I wasn't starving but Blondie and my mom wanted to break into the treats while we enjoyed our birthday drinks at the Rainbow Room. So, we forged ahead and started with the apricot square. It was sweet and pleasant, but very crumbly. We were constantly sweeping the table to avoid discovery. I wished that the ratio of crust to topping were a little more favorable to the topping.

Next up, the apple cake which was appley, rustic, and sweet but not overly so. Blondie thought it should be called an apple pie square instead of cake, because even though we knew the treats were unleaven and flourless for Passover, calling it cake evoked a certain expectation of spongyness, (though as a couple of Gentiles, we've never had one of those Manishevitz Passover cakes from a box, so we can't compare--this apple cake may very well be the height of Kosher for Passover cake deliciousness).

Overall these two specialty treats were good and would be nice to bring to a seder, but I don't think they will replace any of the Treats Truck standards in our pantheon of favorite Treats Truck Treats anytime soon. Now...if only we could persuade the Treats Truck Lady to make Chocolate Hamantaschen for next Purim...

Treats Truck
Various Locations around the city.
Click for schedule

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blondie's Libations! #1: The Bellini at Rainbow Room

Those of you who know me, know that I began to partake in imbibing somewhere, oh I don't know, around the age of, in utero. Blame it on genes, blame it on my friends, whatever the cause, I fully revel in my libations and am constantly looking for a new drink to try. My brother, the former bartender, tends to assist me in these special quests, if only to make sure I don't get drunk and go home with the wrong boy.

To that end, I will be bringing you Blondie's Libations, my personal adventures in trying new drinks or old stand-bys in new locations. First up, the Bellini. For Brownie's birthday last night, she suggested that her, her mother, and I stop by the Rainbow Room for some drinks. My initial hesitation of "I'm not dressed for the Rainbow Room!" was pushed aside and off we went. After snagging a table in front of the windows, Brownie and I both ordered Bellinis, her mom, a mojito. Theirs is a traditional peach nectar and Prosecco. And, I've got to say, Rainbow Room is stingy on the alcohol or they gave us flat prosecco. There was no fizz, no bubbly in the tumbly. It was sweet, but certainly didn't transport me to the Italian countryside. Interestingly enough, the peach nectar (see it's not even a Bellini anymore in my book), complemented the Treats Truck Apricot Square quite nicely.

I did like how they placed a mint branch in Brownie's Mom's mojito, but I guess it was all about the view, not the quality of the drinks, and a good drink would have been reason enough to brave the express 65 floors, ear popping elevator ride again.

Rainbow Room
30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor
New York, NY 10112

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy Birthday Brownie!!!!

Hope you enjoy your birthday. I'll see you later!!! jump

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blondie and Brownie World Tour: Stop #3, Greece

Delicious Loukoumades

I love Greece. I grew up eating Greek food with Greek friends. And as Blondie counts down her final days in Astoria, a Greek mission was definitely in order...

Let's start at the beginning...Last year while in Astoria, I stumbled across Lefkos Pirgos, a Greek bakery and cafe. Their display case was well stocked with a wide variety of luscious pastries and the cafe populated only by aged Greek men, both good signs that this place was worth a try. I hadn't had some good loukoumades since Lawman and I were in Greece a couple years earlier and I was desperate for a fix.

Ah, loukoumades,
delightful delicately fried treats smothered in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and clove--imagine the Greek version of a donut hole, but a thousand times even more delicious. Mmmm good. So good in fact that they were worth the icy glares of the older Greek woman behind the counter who was not charmed by my friendly chatter as I awaited my to-go order. No matter. The 12 made to order loukoumades were well worth their $5.00 price tag so I happily went on my way, shared the goods with Lawman, recommended the place to friends in the area, and vowed to make a return visit.

Plate of Loukoumades

Flash forward...Blondie is getting ready to leave Astoria so we plan a Greek adventure. Our mission: introduce Blondie to the wonders of NesFrappe--the best thing about breakfast in Greece--and loukoumades. Blondie suggested a few neighborhood cafes--Omonia Cafe and Athens Cafe to name a few--but no, I insisted on returning Lefkos Pirgos.

We arrived mid-afternoon on a Saturday and there were just a couple tables filled inside and several occupied tables outside. Not wanting to be presumptuous, we politely waited to be seated, and after a few minutes of being ignored by the older women behind the counter (see previous reference to being glared at for not being Greek), a lovely, friendly young waitress showed a nice table inside, but near the window/patio door where Blondie could watch the old men play backgammon (and the old men could not so subtly stare at us).

Shortly after being seated we placed our order. 2 NesFrappes ($3.50 each), 1 order of galaktoboureko (around $4.00, don't remember the precise price), 1 order of loukoumades ($5.00).

The NesFrappes and galaktoboureko arrived first. The NesFrappes were icy, frothy, and strong.

Frosty Nesfrappe

Delicious. We ordered them without sugar because I had read that some cafes made them overly sweet, but both Blondie and I added a packet of sugar.

Frothy NesFrappe

Next time, we'll just trust the kitchen to adjust the sweetness level properly. The galaktoboureko was just the right combination of flaky, phyllo pastry and a light lemony custard with just the right amount of honey drizzled on top.


Next up, the loukoumades, fresh and hot from the kitchen. Golden and perfect, and swimming in a honey syrup they were a sight to behold. Though the best loukoumades I've ever had were from Rendezvous Cafe on Naxos, these definitely satisfied my craving.

Honey Soaked Loukoumades

All in all a successful mission. I paid the bill, got a container to take the rest of the loukoumades home to Lawman and prepared to head out to our next Astoria eating destination. As I passed by the aforementioned pastry display case and I couldn't resist snapping another couple pictures of the pastries in the case for the blog to share their delicious beauty with our dear readers. Suddenly I hear some yelling in Greek. Ella, ella, ella!* Now I'm taking the photo and wracking my brains. Ella...what does that mean in Greek?...can't remember. Click, click. The owner(?) an older Greek woman comes and starts yelling at me saying that my taking a picture is not good. I try to explain that it's for my blog and that I like her bakery, but she either doesn't get it or she doesn't care or both. So I apologized for upsetting her and hightailed it out of there with Blondie.

I'll admit, the whole experience left me pretty shaken. I love taking pictures of delicious food. For the record, there weren't any signs saying the taking pictures was prohibited (at least I didn't see any if there were), I wasn't blocking anyone's view of the case, and I didn't even have my camera's flash on. I just wanted to get a couple other pictures so I could show my readers the other items they had at the bakery. When I returned home I discovered that I'm not alone in my experience of being yelled at for photo taking, the ladies at Alpha Astoria had a similar experience a couple of years ago. At least it wasn't just me.

For all of my fellow amateur food photog friends, here are a few sights that I found with really helpful info about rights of photographers: Attorney Bert Krages site has a printable flier listing your rights as a photographer when stopped or confronted for photography, an article from USAToday, and a post from Chubby Panda about photographer's rights.

Soo, I would definitely recommend the frappe, the pastries and the loukoumades at Lefkos Pirgos, but I would warn that unless you are Greek, you are not going to feel welcome there by some of the older staff (and I say this based on my experience(s) pre-photography incident). If you want to take your food to go or if you are unfazed by hostile stares and the occasional leer, give them a shot. It's best to know what you're in for, but overall the place is worth the trouble. For more photos from our trip check out our flickr.

Lefkos Pirgos
2285 31st St
Astoria, NY 11105-2713
Phone: (718) 932-4423
*ella means come here in Greek

The Fro-yo to end all fro-yos

Fro-Yo from Forty Carrots

With the weather getting nicer, I've been in the mood for summer. Brightly colored summer patterns, sandals, and fro-yo. Ah, fro-yo. Back in February my friend and I did a Bleeker Street fro-yo head-to-head. I've been meaning to blog about this Pinkberry vs. Red Mango fro-yo throwdown, but my visit to Forty Carrots today might have made all that battle completely moot.

Yes, oh, yes, I'll say it freely, the Frogurt from Forty Carrots is the best fro-yo I've had in my life. EVER.

First opened in 1975, during the beginning of the great US fro-yo craze, Forty Carrots is hidden away in Bloomingdales on Lexington Ave. I entered the store on Lexington Ave, dashed passed the perfume counters, narrowly escaping sample sprays, followed the sign that pointed me to the 7th floor. Up one, two, three levels on the escalator, spotted gorgeous insanely expensive yellow Ralph Lauren Black Label dress on fourth level, up three more levels, followed more signs through the bedding department to arrive at last at the famed Forty Carrots restaurant. Forty Carrots is also famous for it's lines--Blondie has tried several times to get her fro-yo fix and has never succeeded--but when I arrived at around 6:00pm on Friday night there only were a few people waiting to order and I got my serving right away. They had four flavors available: the lowfat plain, and the fat free coffee, fat free chocolate, and fat free wildberry. I went for a small with the plain and coffee which was $4.50 plus tax. It was HUGE! More than ample for a small.

Coffee and Plain Fro-yo

The coffee was surprisingly good, if a little sweet. I've tried the new coffee flavor at Pinkberry and it's disgusting. Very tangy and yogurty with strong coffee overtones and kind of icy and melty. This coffee yogurt was smooth, creamy, and sweet with a pleasant coffee finish.

But the real winner was the plain yogurt. Rich and creamy with a lovely tangy finish, the plain yogurt was a heavenly treat after a long week at work. I like Pinkberry's plain yogurt, but I prefer the plain at Red Mango, and this was even a cut above the Red Mango plain. The yogurt was smoother and richer. It had the tang of real yogurt and the real live active cultures of real yogurt (though I just read that Pinkberry now also has live active cultures), but still felt more like an ice cream indulgence than eating a healthy substitute for Ben & Jerry's. It was hard to believe that the yogurt was only 25 calories per ounce. I kept thinking of the Seinfeld episode with the fake non-fat yogurt--too good to be true! I'll definitely be back for more (hopefully with Blondie in tow). And with the oppressively hot New York summer days on the horizon, this may well become a lunch time fav.

Forty Carrots

1000 3rd Ave
7th Floor
New York, NY 10022

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Blondie and Brownie World Tour: Stop #2, Chile

Recently we headed to Blondie's soon-to-be-ex nabe, Astoria. Our first stop was San Antonio Bakery #2. Blondie has passed them many times, as it's on the walk to the gym, and wondered "Chilean hot dogs?" Then she saw this. Three of her favorite things: hot dogs, avocado, and mayo. Something's wrong. These flavors shouldn't mix. But.... (For those of you not in the know, Pap is papaya-flavored soda deliciousness. Oh Pap! How I loved you so!)

NOTHING!!! was wrong! It was absolutely delicious! The avocado and mayo added the right amount of creamy fat to the hot dog. I liked that there wasn't a lot of tomatoes because any more topping would have been too much. AND the bread was freshly baked, as everything at San Antonio is made at their Valley Stream branch. I will definitely be introducing this flavor combination to many people in my life. Let's see it again!

The puff pastry is actually Brownie's Chilean empanada. Yes, it's in a pastry, not fried like what we're used to. The pastry was also very fresh, light and airy.

To finish it off, I had a slice of tres leches cake. The cake had soaked up an ample amount of the milk as the slice was incredibly moist. It had just the right amount of sweetness and was thoroughly enjoyed. More to come with the next visit.

San Antonio Bakery #1
174 Rockaway Avenue
Valley Stream, NY
(516) 568-0075

San Antonio Bakery #2
36-20 Astoria Blvd (South, at 37th Street)
Astoria, NY 11103
(718) 777-8733
N, W to Astoria Blvd, Hoyt Ave; walk away from the Triboro

Taking on the Treats Truck One Treat at a Time: The Cinnamon Cookie

We've enjoyed many a good treat from the Treats Truck Lady, Kim Ima, since the delightful mobile bakery first hit the streets of NYC. I always want to try new things, but some how I can get easily get caught in my ways and order the same treat. No more! There are too many treats to try, so Blondie and I are introducing a new feature where we take you treat by treat through the Treats Truck's classic offerings and specials.

First up the Cinnamon Cookie...

Yesterday I dropped by the Treats Truck and spotted a new treat. What was it? A snickerdoodle? No! A Cinnamon Cookie. Since I knew I was meeting up with Blondie later, I had to buy one for us to share.

Normally, I don't like crispy cookies. I prefer soft and chewy ones. This cookie however had just the right balance of buttery crispiness and a chewier center. Blondie and I agreed that the thin shmear of cinnamon butter frosting was a nice touch and complemented the cookie well. And the cookie was a good size for $1.25. The verdict? Certifiably delicious.

Treats Truck
Various Locations around the city.
Click for schedule

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pongsri Thai, Revisiting an Old Midtown Fav

When I first started working in midtown, a few years back, I went to Pongrsi Thai, all the time. With their solid Thai food and reasonable lunch specials it was one of my standbys. Somehow along the way, Pongsri fell out of favor with me and my lunch crew. At this point, I'm not even sure why. But all of that changes last week when I returned to Pongrsi for my first lunch there in a very long time.

It all started when one of my work friends and I were trying to decide where to go for lunch. We wanted to get out of the office instead of eat something at our desks or on a bench somewhere. She suggested Minar, another of my old standbys that I haven't visited in awhile, but I had just had curry and wasn't in the mood. I wanted to try Free Foods, but we both agreed despite the name the price was not right for lunch. Pongsri? Ding Ding Ding. We had a winner.

When we arrived at Pongsri at around 12:30, the place was fairly crowded, but we still got a table right away. I ordered the Chicken Pad See Ew ($5.95) and my friend got the Pad Ki Mao ($6.95). The dishes were steaming hot and out of the kitchen before we knew it.

My Pad See Ew (which apparently literally translates to "fried with soy sauce"--awesome) was studded with fresh and crispy Chinese broccoli. The chicken was moist and flavorful. The noodles were sauteed to perfection. I was planning on taking some leftovers home, but...there were no leftovers. Too good. My friend also enjoyed her Pad Ki Mao. We'll both be back and soon. I promise not to forget you again, Pongsri!

Pongsri Thai
244 West 48th St
New York, NY 10036
Tel: (212) 582-3392

Monday, April 14, 2008

Just Opened: Fig & Olive Midtown

After a weekend away on a business trip and dinner last night at Ghenet, where we ate every last morsel, I had nothing to eat for lunch yesterday. Last week I read about Fig & Olive's soon to open midtown branch on Eater and Midtown Lunch and I figured if any time would be a good one to check it out, it would be now...

When I arrived at Fig & Olive at lunchtime they were up and running. Several of the seats at the counter were occupied as well as a number of tables that were in view. The space was bright, streamlined and inviting. They didn't print up enough of their takeout menus for me to take one home, but after quickly glancing at their house copy of the takeaway menu, I selected the Roasted Vegetable Panini on Tomato Bread (which at $6.50 was one of the cheapest things on the lunch menu, the other paninis with meat and cheese were $8.50 and I think I remember the salads being over $10). While the friendly gentlemen behind the counter were toasting up my sandwich I snapped some pics and became entranced with the Apple Tarts. After staring into their appley goodness, my resistance was down. I had to have one.

Back at my office, I opened up my panini box and discovered that they added in a couple roasted potato wedges, and placed the sandwich on a bed of arugula. If I liked the taste of arugula, I would have been in heaven. Alas, I'm not an arugula kind of gal, but it was a nice gesture.

The sandwich had an assortment of grilled vegetables: portobello mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, and eggplant and it was topped with olive tapenade, shaved Parmesan-Reggiano, cherry tomatoes, and a few sprigs of arugula. Normally I don't go for sundried tomato bread, usually it's a little sweet and cloying--but this one was actually spicy. It had a nice bite and a peppery finish and was an excellent contrast to the roasted veggies. If I had one complaint, it would be that at times the eggplant was a bit overpowering in the sandwich. Perhaps if the eggplant slices were thinner (they were the thickest sliced vegetable), that would have helped with the balance. For a fairly small sandwich I was decently satisfied (the extra potato wedges helped), I decided to save my apple tart to share with Lawman after dinner but I wish I had gotten a little something more that I could have eaten at lunchtime.

Late last night we dug into the apple tart which was kind of a hybrid between an American Apple Tart and a Tartatin. The crust was flakey like a tart but the presentation and the light charring around the edges was more tartatin. Lightly sweeten and butterlicous, I would definitely go for one of these again.

Overall I was pleased with my lunch from Fig & Olive. I'm trying to cut back a bit on my lunchtime spending, so I doubt it will become my go-to place, but if I'm looking to treat myself, I'll consider a return visit. Their main dining room menu looked really good and it's a nice atmosphere. I would be willing to give them a try for a business lunch with colleagues or clients.

For more pics, check out our flickr.

Fig & Olive
10 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022


Ghenet Brooklyn, at last!

When I first heard on Eater that my favorite Ethiopian restaurant in the city, Ghenet, was opening a Park Slope outpost, I was totally psyched. I have been longing for some good Ethiopian in Brooklyn. And now, the first taste after the

For the past week there have been rumors that Ghenet was about to open. So on Sunday night I checked out the thread on Chowhound and learned while they weren't officially open yet, they were serving drinks and appetizers as a soft opening in advance of their full opening which is on track for this Tuesday, April 15th (great way to celebrate tax day!).

Lawman and I moseyed over to 4th ave and Douglass street around 8:00ish last night (for you non-Park Slopers, Douglass street becomes St. John's at 5th Ave). The door was open and inviting and there were a couple tables that were full.

After scanning the appetizer menu we decided on the Asa Tiklil, a chopped spicy raw tuna wrapped in toasted injera, the Asparagus Soup, and the Misir Wett, a spiced lentil spread, on toasted injera.

(l. to r. Misir Wett on Toasted Injera and Asa Tiklil)

Everything was delicious. The Misir Wett is a standby favorite for us at the Manhattan location and it was delicious as always. The Asparagus Soup was refreshing. And the Asa Tiklil was a first for us and the highlight of the meal. The texture balance between raw tuna and the toasted injera was incredible. The tuna was perfectly spiced. We will definitely have that again.

Throughout the meal we chatted with the waiter and one of the co-owners, Yeworkwoha Ephrem, about the opening and how much we love their Manhattan branch. Everyone was so welcoming and lovely. Towards the end of our meal, the owner sent out a complimentary plate of the Sega Tibs, thin slices of beef marinated in tej and seared to perfection. I don't eat beef, but Lawman does and he said it was spectacular.

All in all, a delightful meal. We can't wait to go back when they are fully open to try new dishes and have some of our old favorites.

Full opening, Tuesday, April 15th. Grand opening later in May. Will offer take out soon. For more photos, check out our flickr.

348 Douglass Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Root Beer Floatie Cupcakes Revisited!

I've gotten some great reactions to the Root Beer Float Cupcake that I posted last week both from folks online--Cilantro and Lime even made her own version of the cupcakes!--and friends and colleagues offline. But I'm always trying to improve and streamline my recipes and I've come up with some revisions to make your prep smoother and an alternate way to do them sans ice cream. Check it out after the

Here's the recipe:

Cake Recipe:
1 boxed white cake mix
3 egg whites
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups root beer
Brown food coloring (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line 24 muffin cups with paper liners

In a large bowl or kitchen stand mixer, combine cake mix, vegetable oil, egg whites and root beer until ingredients are moistened. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add brown food coloring, if desired, to enhance the root beer-y color.

*NOTE FROM BROWNIE: I used Dr. Brown's Draft Style Root Beer which is "blended for a full bodied flavor" and I would recommend using a strong bold root beer so you get a nice flavor zing that carries over to the cupcakes. If you want to add extra bite you can also add a touch of root beer extract--but to keep things simple I suggest a strong root beer.

Pour batter evenly into lined cups and bake for 18-20 minutes or until done.

Cool cupcakes and frost.

For frosting:
1 4oz stick unsalted butter (room temp)
4 oz cream cheese (room temp)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

For Topping
4 cups of good quality vanilla ice cream
24 red coffee stirrer straws

Mix butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer until light and fluffy.

NOTE FROM BROWNIE: While waiting for cupcakes to cool, using a melon baller scoop 48 mini-scoops of ice cream. If ice cream sticks to the melon baller, dunk in hot water between scoops. Place scoops on a parchment lined baking sheet and put baking sheet in a very cold freezer so scoops will harden. Take 24 red coffee stirrer straws and cut each in half.

Frost the cupcakes with a layer of fluffy icing. Immediately before serving, remove ice cream scoops from freezer and place 2 small scoops of ice cream on top of each cupcake. Add two little straws to each cupcake for decoration.

(Makes 24 cupcakes)
*To lighten up the recipe: substitute diet root beer for root beer in the cake recipe, low fat or fat-free cream cheese in the frosting, and use low fat or fat free ice cream for the topping.

YET ANOTHER NOTE FROM BROWNIE: I usually don't like fussing with recipes that require me to empty out my freezer or to put things on parchment paper to chill and while the ice cream topping is totally delicious and totally worth it, it can be a challenge to pull off. You can still make cute root beer float cupcakes sans ice cream just by adding two fluffy dollops of frosting (the easiest way) or make a double batch of frosting. Put one batch in the fridge to chill. When the first batch is suitably chilly and hardened, use your melon baller make little frosting scoops to top the cupcakes.

Voila! Root Beer Float Cupcakes without the Ice Cream topping!


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Chow Chow Cupcakes on Martha!

Yesterday I got the most exciting news! My cupcake that I entered in the Martha Stewart Show's Cutest Cupcake Contest was one of the grand prize winners! And Martha referred to my Paw Paw Cupcake on her show. Eeeeee!

More Martha cupcake goodness after the

Thanks so much to Cupcakes Take the Cake for always keeping their readers up to date on the latest in the cupcake world. I first read about the contest on their awesome site. And thanks to CCTTC flickr member, Queen of the Cupcakes for letting me know that my cupcake appeared on Martha!

For those of you who are interested here's the show. My cupcake is shown when they announce all the winners in the first segment.

I'm a HUGE Martha fan, so I'm super excited. And I saw that pool of the 2,000 plus entries. There were some truly, truly amazing cupcakes, I'm honored and humbled that Martha picked my little Chow.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blood Orange Cupcakes!

Yesterday Lawman and I made a run to the Trader and I was excited to see that they had bags of blood oranges. I love blood oranges! The price was right so I threw the whole bag in my cart. Now what could I do with all of those oranges? Why make cupcakes, of course!

I love the Orange Chocolate Combination. Lawman does not. But sometimes I just need my fix.

I've been wanting to try doing a filled cupcake and since I was completely experimenting on the fly, I figured, why not? Here's what I did.

Use your favorite chocolate cake recipe or mix to make 24 cupcakes.

While the cupcakes are baking and cooling prepare the frosting and filling.

4 oz melted high quality dark chocolate (I prefer 70% or higher)
6oz lowfat cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla
Milk to thin filling

In a free standing mixer (or using a handmixer), blend melted chocolate, cream cheese and vanilla. Add in milk as needed to thin the filling so that it is creamy and fluffy.


4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 oz confectioner's sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Milk to thin, if needed
2 Tbsp blood orange juice
1 tsp blood orange zest
orange food coloring

EDITED: In a free standing mixer (or using a handmixer) blend 8 oz of the sugar, 2 tsp of vanilla and blood orange juice until you have a well incorporated orange sugar paste. Continue to whip frosting to incorporate the butter. Add in blood orange zest. Add in milk as needed to thin the filling so that it is light and fluffy.

When cupcakes are cool, pipe filling into the middle of the cupcakes or using a sharp knife, carve a cylinder out of the top of the cup cake and pipe or spoon the filling in. Trim removed cylindrical piece of the cupcake and fit it back on top of the cupcake. Frost per usual. I frosted mine with a knife in a swirly pattern and added a little extra red food coloring to the frosting as I was sculpting to make it more festive.

Voila! Blood Orange Cupcakes. Not terribly hard and decadently delicious!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Brownie Chows Down in Utah!

Brownie is sad. Very sad. My trusty laptop, Junior, had a wee bit of an accident. It involved water. Not a lot of water. But enough that Junior needs a 24 drying out rest period before I can try to use it again. Sniffle. Since I can not access any of the delicious photos I took of Blondie and Brownie's world tour this weekend, I'm finally going to blog about the rest of her eating adventures in Utah. Now on with the chow...

Prior to my recent business trip to Utah, I had only spent one day in the city while waiting for Lawman's flight to come in. During that time I savored a ham & cheese sandwich at The Terrace Restaurant in the Salt Lake City airport. I highly recommend their ham & cheese sandwich if you have a layover in SLC. Much better than the standard airport fair. And I also had a meal at the Rodizio Grill in downtown SLC. An all you can eat Brazilian meat restaurant that operates on the red light/green light principle. Turn your cue to the red side, no meat. Green side, bring the meat on. It's a very showy and has it's charm especially for rabid carnivores, but in general I found that the meat to be overly salty--perhaps to insure that I wouldn't be able to eat all that I could eat. Suffice it to say, when I knew that I would be in the Salt Lake City area for 5 days in March on business, I was very much looking forward to exploring some of the local cuisine. Here are some of the highlights.

Discovering new things!

I have at least a medium sized latte pretty much every morning. Alas, Lattes are not easy to come by in Utah. Members of the Church of LDS tend to avoid caffeine. After several mornings of decaf and back-to-back work sessions, I was so desperate for caffeine, and since chocolate was plentiful, I was considering just choco-gorging for my fix. Turns out looking to the chocolate was the answer...Snickers apparently makes a candy bar with caffeine and taurine and b-vitamins. Who knew? I was ready to try about anything so the 60 mg of caffeine were a welcome addition to my morning--almost the amount of caffeine in a regular cup of coffee; though though at 250 calories a bar, that's 245 more calories than I would get in a cup of black coffee. Desperate times...Biting into the bar it looked pretty much like a regular Snickers though I'd say that the caramel was a slightly darker (though I could have been imagining it in my caffeine deprived stupor). At first bite it tasted like a regular Snickers, but the aftertaste was a bit off, slightly bitter, which gave it more of the flavor of one of those weird taurine-infused "health" bars (not to say that it was healthy) but it tasted overly manufactured. I wouldn't buy it again, but it helped a little, in a pinch.

Other noteworthy Utah food experiences:

*Having my first Shamrock Shake after an eight year search.

*Dessert at Sundance Resort. Beautiful view and beautiful food. I had the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding with Crème Anglaise. Delicious! I would have never thought to make bread pudding with croissants. So soft and pillowy. The dish was studded with dark chocolate chips. This is definitely something that I'll try to make at home. It would make an impressive dish for entertaining.

While my bread pudding was delicious. Lawman was the hands down winner with his Apple Pie a La Mode with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Amazing. The pie was warm and rich. And the ice cream was the right balance of sweet and lightly salty.

*Funeral Potatoes. This homemade dish was served as a side at the luncheon on my last day in Utah. American cuisine at it's finest, Funeral Potatoes are made with shredded potatoes, sour cream, cheese, cream of chicken soup, baked up with a crunchy corn flake topping. So decadently good. I could go for a serving of that right about now...

I'm working on tracking down an excellent Funeral Potatoes Recipe and I promise to report back when I do.

All in all it was a tasty trip. I only wish I had a chance to try the vending machine pizza. How often does one get the choice of pizza, chicken nuggets, and fries all from a vending machine at an airport?! Utah is awesome!