Sundaes and Cones

During one of our usual wanderings of the East Village, the boyfriend and I stumbled on Sundaes and Cones, an ice cream parlor. I’ve had Sundaes and Cones on my go-to list for a while now, ever since I saw pictures of their super cute cakes online at their website. You should definitely go check it out! They will work with you to create the cake that you want with the designs that you want. I’m already brainstorming for a cute design for the boyfriend’s birthday!

The boyfriend knew I wanted ice cream so he kindly offered to buy me a scoop…or two. There were so many that I couldn’t figure out which one I wanted! Bf suggested that I ask for the workers’ recommendations so I did. The girl behind the counter told me that their best sellers were the cookies‘n’cream and mint chocolate chip.

First of all, their ice cream is extremely soft for something that’s not soft serve. It just kind of slid off the spoon into my mouth without me having to use my tongue or teeth. Second, the ice cream was just the right amount of sweet. It wasn’t too much.

Out of the two, my favorite was the mint chocolate chip. And I don’t even like mint chocolate chip much! I quickly ate the entire mint chocolate chip scoop, only leaving behind some cookies’n’cream. The mint chocolate chip had a very good ice cream to chocolate chip ratio. There was an abundance of chocolate chips dispersed throughout the ice cream. And the mint! The mint was very light, more like a hint of it. I especially liked this because sometimes, the mint flavor can be too strong and overpowering the vanilla flavor. This was definitely not the case.

I definitely recommend paying these guys a visit if you haven’t already been. Very good quality ice cream!

Winter Ball at the Mandarin Oriental!!

I usually don’t write blog posts about parties or banquets that have a set menu but I had such a great time last night at my university’s Winter Ball at the Mandarin Oriental that I had to rave about it. Upon entering, we were ushered into elevators to the 36th floor, where their ballroom is. Coat check was fast and after checking in, we entered the cocktail hour area.

First, the view was amazing! 36 floors above Columbus Circle really is a fantastic view at night. There were two bars – both serving nonalcoholic drinks like Shirley Temples, Pina Coladas, Strawberry Daiquiris and soft drinks. Waiters were walking around with cute hors d’oeuvres.

In between taking pictures with friends and of the amazing view, I managed to snag a few of the hors d’oeuvres. First was the Brie cheese topped with pesto on tomato and crackers. These were yummy. But then again it might be my love of cheese and pesto.

There were also Chicken Satay sticks! The boyfriend really liked these. He actually kept an eye out for these whenever the waiters refilled their trays.

After an hour of “cocktails”, we were ushered into the main ballroom, which was beautiful. Each table was adorned with a centerpiece that lit up on the bottom. The ceiling was beautiful – the lights were dim and reflected off the windows!

Our appetizer was a mixed green salad. Since the boyfriend is allergic to apples and I’ve learned not to eat them either, we picked those off and left it to the side. The salad was very simple – I liked the chunks of feta cheese. But it really wasn’t anything special. Kind of underwhelming.

Our main course was filet mignon with baby potatoes and thin fried onion strips. I’m pretty sure everyone at the tables finished up their entrees. I know I did! It wasn’t the best piece of meat that I’ve had but it was pretty good – especially since I’m eating it in the Mandarin.

And finally, onto my favorite part of every meal – dessert! They had set up a buffet style table for dessert and the boyfriend and I quickly made our way over to grab some.

First up is the crème brulee. They made these in tiny little baby ramekins and it was so adorable!

I also had their cheesecake, which was also a mini baby version. This one I gobbled up and so did the boyfriend. We both agreed that this was very good.

While we were all sitting down for dessert, some waiters were walking around with shot glasses filled with milk and baby chocolate chip cookies. Both the boyfriend and I thought it was super cute!

And to top off the night, there was a waiter walking around with a tray of mini ice cream cones. This really just made the night amazing. They were so adorable and very yummy.

I had an amazing time at the Mandarin Oriental. It was very comfortable, the music was great and the food was good. What more could I have asked for?

Cha-An Teahouse

After reading raving reviews and looking at pictures of the food, I knew I had to pay Cha-An a visit. This cute little Japanese teahouse, located in the East Village, is only open for lunch and dinner. They open at 12pm from Friday to Sunday and at 2pm from Monday to Thursday. They’re on the second floor so if you’re not looking, you might miss their door. They do have a lunch special sign by the door, so be sure to take a look at all the pictures before you step inside!

The boyfriend and I arrived around 12:30pm on a Friday and were greeted warmly by a waitress. We were seated immediately and given lunch special menus and their regular menu. The boyfriend had already decided on their lunch special of the day (it changes daily) – the Salmon Tar Tar Don ($13). I also decided before we even arrived that I would be ordering their Cha-An Set B ($22). I wanted the full experience and while it was quite pricey, the taste and quality definitely made up for it.

The boyfriend’s lunch special came with a Genmai-Cha tea, which is a form of green tea mixed with grains. The tea came in a little pot that held about one cup of tea. The teapot was refilled with water continuously during the meal. The waiters and waitresses seemed to know just the right time to stop by and get us a refill. I really liked this tea! It was very light and fresh. There wasn’t a heavy green tea flavor – just a hint of it with a light grainy taste.

I decided to order their Matcha Float, since it pictures looked so good. With my set lunch, the float would cost $5, but by itself, it costs $7. It was a bit pricey for a drink of this size but it was very very good. The matcha flavor was very distinct but very smooth. The red bean that was mixed into the drink sunk to the bottom so with every sip, I had green tea+ red bean. It was almost like drinking matcha bubble tea but with red bean instead.

The boyfriend’s Salmon Tar Tar Don is Friday’s daily lunch special and only 15 servings are made each day. His lunch special also came with one side dish, as per the chef’s choice. The chef’s choice for the salmon tar tar don was vegetables sautéed with a peanut sauce. The vegetables were pretty good but the highlight was the salmon tar tar don. It came in a large bowl and was very filling. I had a couple of bites and it was very flavorful. Inside the bowl was chunks of smoked salmon + lettuce + their 15 grain rice + their special sauce. So yummy! The dish was light and refreshing.

Now onto my Set B, which came with today’s soup, two side dishes, soymilk quiche, tea smoked salmon, their 15-grain rice and a dessert. It came in a neat little basket, which I absolutely adored! I also loved how the soup, side dishes, and dessert was up to the chef’s choice because it left me guessing as to what I would get. Not knowing what my side dishes or dessert was meant an pleasant surprise when my meal came.

First, let’s start with the quiche since it came first. This was very pillowy and fluffy. There was a very distinct mushroom and cucumber flavor in this quiche, which I loved since those two are one of my favorite foods. The use of soy milk made the quiche very light and sweet.

The soup of the day was an egg drop soup. Their egg drop soup was very different than the usual Chinese takeout version. Their version was very light and smooth. It wasn’t gooey and thick like the Chinese takeout version. It wasn’t too salty or too seasoned. I thoroughly enjoyed my soup.

Next is the tea-smoked salmon, which was almost like a smaller version of the boyfriend’s salmon tar tar don. There was three pieces of smoked salmon nestled on top of a bed of lettuce. I grabbed a piece of salmon and a chunk of lettuce and ate it together. It was very fresh and very delicious. The salmon was very smooth and soft.

My first side dish was sautéed vegetables in olive oil. This was very different from the boyfriend’s side dish. While his was served cold, mine was served hot. The vegetables were cooked until they were soft, which made it nice and easy to chew. I would put pieces of the vegetables on top of my rice and eat it!

My second side dish was mushrooms, baby string beans and shrimp cooked in a cream sauce. This was easily my favorite dish in the basket. The mushrooms were chewy and flavorful. The shrimp was juicy and the string beans were very soft. The cream sauce tasted amazing! After I finished all the goodies, I even poured the cream sauce over the rice!

And finally, here is the rice! Their 15-grain rice is very flavorful and tastes a lot different than your standard bowl of rice. There were visibly many different types of grains in the bowl. The result was a very different feel and texture with every bite. The white parts were soft and chewy while the brown, black and purple grains were kind of harder and crunchy.

The dessert the chef chose for me was their green tea soufflé. It was more like flan than soufflé but nonetheless it was delicious! The green tea flavor was strong, but not overwhelmingly so. The stop layer was caramel-y and mixed very well with the green tea. The texture was so soft that it almost melted in my mouth! By the time we finished it, we wanted more!

I really must comment on the service at Cha-An. It was superb! The waitresses were very nice and made sure to ask if we had any food allergies before putting in our orders. They would come by whenever we needed a refill without us even having to ask them! The waitresses and waiters were very attentive and I don’t have a single complaint.

The whole atmosphere at Cha-An is very relaxing. It’s such a nice environment that everyone feels the need to speak in a lower tone – almost as if to respect the other patrons. I really liked this because at some restaurants, I have to yell over the other people in order for the boyfriend to be able to hear me. Their bathroom is also very pretty. Their toilet is controlled by a remote that’s attached to the cabinet next to the to the toilet. No more having to reach over to flush!

I know I will definitely be back at Cha-An. It might be my new favorite place. The service is amazing and the atmosphere is relaxing. Cha-An you really do deserve 5/5 stars.

Update: Georgetown Cupcakes

Since I only had one cupcake the first time I paid a visit to Georgetown Cupcakes, I decided I needed to have maybe 2 to 3 more before I can pass final judgment on them. So the boyfriend and I made our way over to the new cupcakery on Friday and tried out some of their specials.

First of all, I really must comment on the way they package their cupcakes. Each cupcake is put into a pink box carefully. The box is then sealed with a sticker and put into a paper shopping bag. Super cute and it ensures that travel won’t destroy the cute cupcakes.

Now, onto the cupcakes themselves. I ordered two of their Strawberry cupcakes since I was such a big fan of it last time. And since Strawberry Lava Fudge is a February special, I decided to try that one too. The first bite was very messy. The second bite was also very messy. The main issue was the fudge drizzle on the top and the fudge core. The fudge drizzled gets all over your lips while the fudge core kind of explodes out the moment you bite. The fudge was very tasty but it was just a bit too much. 

I also had the regular Lava Fudge, which was a Friday special. This cupcake had the same problem as the Strawberry version. But I definitely liked this one better because the vanilla icing was less sweet than the Strawberry icing. With the amount of fudge in these cupcakes, even that little bit less of sugar makes a big difference.

Next was the red velvet. I hate to rag on this very cute cupcake but the frosting just wasn’t my thing. I almost felt like I was eating cream cheese right out of the Philadelphia Cream Cheese container. And don’t get me wrong, I love cream cheese – I smear it all over my bagels without remorse. But the fact that the frosting tasted exactly like what I put on my bagels didn’t work for me. I was expecting something cream cheesy but not that much!

The boyfriend isn’t a big fan of any of their cupcakes. He thinks they all kind of taste the same after a while, which I guess is true considering most of their cupcakes are either chocolate or vanilla. I, however, really enjoyed (and still do) their Strawberry cupcake. I am still a fan and whenever it’s back in rotation I will still make a visit to get some.

I might have judged Georgetown Cupcakes a bit too soon based on just one cupcake. For me, they’re not the new best cupcakery around. Their cupcakes are super cute but I wasn’t a really big fan of their Lava Fudge variations or their Red Velvet. I still recommend Sugar Sweet Sunshine for Red Velvet cupcakes – their satin buttercream is to die for. But since I am in love with Georgetown Cupcake’s Strawberry cupcake, I will be back – but probably not until May when I want to get some Mother’s Day cupcakes for my Mom. These cupcakes aren’t bad. In fact, they’re quite good. They’re just not the best I’ve ever had.

Best New Cupcakes?

So I heard that Georgetown Cupcakes was opening a branch in Soho and I knew I had to go. Nestled in the heart of Soho at Mercer Street, it’s relatively close to the N/R train stations, which makes the commute here very easy. They have a pretty effective system where the case of cupcake examples is placed in the front before the registers. You can check out the cupcake flavors of the day before you get on line – which speeds things up a lot. After you order and pay, you get a receipt and your number will be called. Once your number is called, they will ask you if you want it to say or to go.

They also have a menu of their cupcakes that you can check out as well. It’s a pretty extensive menu. There’s a section of cupcakes that are the same everyday. Then there is a section of cupcakes that change daily. And then there’s another section of cupcakes that you can preorder ahead of time. Oh, and they have monthly cupcakes too. Talk about a big range of choices!

After hearing so many good things about their Strawberry cupcake, I decided to go for that one. It’s the cutest cupcake ever! There’s a light pink frosting with a candy heart on top. This cupcake is the perfect little treat for your special someone! So I got the cupcake to go and when I got home and took it out of the bag, a strong strawberry scent came from the cupcake. Love it when food smells as good as it tastes!

But the taste, OH-MY-GOD. The frosting is amazing. It’s so soft and smooth that it almost melts in your mouth the moment you bite into the cupcake. The cake itself has little strawberry bits and is the softest piece of cake ever. I’m actually drooling a little bit just typing this up! It makes me so sad that this cupcake is only here for February 😦

I only had one of their cupcakes but I know I will be back for more! With flavors like Key Lime and Chocolate Banana coming up later in the week, I know I’ll make it a mission to try them all. I suggest you make a stop for one too! Priced at around $2.98 after tax, these babies are super affordable!

Chai Thai

It was the middle of the week and I had a sudden craving for soup. After a quick Yelp search, I found out that the original Soup Man (the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld was based off of this man and his storefront) was just 5 blocks away from school. So I got the boyfriend, the sister and a friend and we made our way over. When we arrived, we realized that they probably haven’t updated their website in a few years. Their soups were no longer $4.95 for a small cup – more like $7- $8 for a small cup. I can get a bigger cup of soup at Whole Foods for cheaper. So we backtracked to the Thai restaurant we walked by and decided to stop for lunch.

We had actually found a little hidden treasure! Chai Thai Restaurant offers lunch specials from 11:30am to 4:00pm. Their lunch specials include your choice of several entrees and your choice of soup, salad or spring roll for the low price of $6.95. For food in the Hell’s Kitchen area, this is a very good deal!

I decided to go with their soup, since it was pretty cold outside. Their soup has a chicken broth base with tofu chunks and small strands of vernacelli. It was a bit salty but I finished every drop. I really liked the vernacelli because it tasted almost like a mini-noodle soup.

My sister went with their spring rolls. I didn’t try them but she told me they were pretty much your average spring rolls. Crunchy and covered with a sweet and sour sauce.
For my entree, I went with the chicken pad see eew (pad sea eiw on their menu). First thing I liked was the chinese broccoli. They cut their broccoli extremely thin, which I loved. I thought this was a very nice touch since most places slice the broccoli too thick and makes it hard to chew through it. The second thing I liked about this dish was the flat rice noodles. It wasn’t over-seasoned, which is also another problem with a lot of Thai places. It was a bit wetter than what I normally like, but overall very good.
The sister went with their Pad Khing, which is your choice of meat sautéed with mushrooms, onions, scallions and red bell peppers. Her dish came with a side of rice, which was made into a crescent moon shape. How cute! I stole some beef and mushroom from her plate. The beef was very tender and chewy. The mushrooms were delicious! Very flavorful.
The boyfriend and our friend went with the chicken pad thai. Yummy! It was very nicely cooked and a pretty big portion. The only problem that I had with this dish was the fact that this one was a bit too dry. If only the wet from my pad see eew was transfered over to this pad thai!
Overall I was very happy with Chai. I can see myself coming back for their lunch specials. The food came out quick and despite us being there during prime lunch time, it wasn’t overly crowded. There were maybe 2-3 other tables full while we were there. The best part though was when my friend got her pad thai doggy bagged, they folded the brown paper bag in such a cute design!