Westville – West Village

It was a pretty chilly day so I was seriously craving some tomato soup and grilled cheese. We usually head to Bouchon Bakery when I get this craving – their combo is one of the best I’ve ever had. But since it’s a bit of a trek now since we’re no longer going to school in midtown, the Boyfriend found Westville, which serves up some delicious grilled sandwiches. We arrived around 1:30pm on a weekday and there were three other parties waiting in front of us for a table. We came at a opportune time though because we only waited about 15 minutes – several parties left at the same time. The place is pretty small so definitely be prepared for a wait! Their soup of the day was a creamy tomato soup so we decided to get that to split. It was pretty tasty – definitely not Bouchon or Juliette status for me, but it was pretty good. It definitely fulfilled the craving that I had! IMG_5538 We also split their Smokey Mac & Cheese ($8.00). It was done with huge spirals, which was a new one for me. The bottom was really, really creamy while the top layer was crispy and smokey. It really did taste like smoked cheese! I’d come back for this mac & cheese alone. IMG_5539 We’re huge piggies so we each also got a sandwich after we split the first two. The Boyfriend had the Beer Battered Po’Boy Sandwich with homemade tartar sauce and fries ($10.00). It was a lot bigger portion than we both expected but it was definitely good. The po’boy was crunchy and well seasoned. I only wish there was more tartar sauce cause I’m a fiend for it! IMG_5541 I went with their Grilled Cheese ($8.00), which features a blend of cheddar and gouda on a Portuguese muffin with bacon. The Portuguese muffin is sweet so it was a nice contrast of sweet and salty. It was definitely very well grilled and the cheeses mixed well together. Throw in some bacon and you’re in grilled cheese heaven. Everything is better with bacon! You also get your choice of fries or salad with this sandwich so it definitely makes a hearty meal. IMG_5540 We were definitely too full by the end for dessert but I was definitely eying their pies a la mode. Maybe next time I shall save some room for a piece of pie! Quick tip: Their bathroom is a super tiny closet in the back of the kitchen area so be very careful when you’re going back and forth!

Columbus Circle Holiday Market

The Columbus Circle Holiday Fair opened up on December 3rd so the Boyfriend and I decided to pay them a visit. We’ve been going regularly for the past four years because they always offer an nice alternative to dining around the area. There’s always something new to eat every year!

This year brings some newcomers as well as some tried and trusted regulars:

  •  Two Tablespoons Vegustation
  • Seoul Lee Korean BBQ
  • Salt of the Earth
  • Red Basil
  • Arancini Bros
  • German Delights Bratwursts
  • Hong Kong Street Cart
  • Mighty Balls
  • Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen
  • Macaron Parlour
  • Wafels & Dinges
  • Mmm Enfes

Red Basil, a regular, serves up delicious Thai food and I’m always drinking 2-3 of their Thai Iced Teas ($2.00) every time I visit the market.

German Delights, another regular, is also one of my usual stops. They have hot apple cider, hot gluwein, and delicious bratwursts.

Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen is also another regular who participated in the Holiday Market last year. They have a rotating menu of gourmet grilled cheese and are opening up a flagship shop in Brooklyn soon!

This time, we opted to try Seoul Lee Korean BBQ, which serves up Korean themed burritos, tacos and rice bowls. I had their rice, shortrib, and egg taco, which was absolutely divine ($4.00). It looks like it would be messy but it’s actually not. It also looks tiny but it’s really pretty filling. The spicy mayo drizzled on top gives the taco a slight heat, which is great for mild-spice eaters like myself.

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We also tried three balls from Mighty Balls. I’ve had their meatball sliders from the Union Square Holiday Market before but it was only one flavor. We found out that if you get their three balls option, you can get three different meatballs in three different sauces ($7.50). We went for the turkey meatball in cranberry horseradish, beef meatball in brown sauce and pork meatball in sweet & spicy sauce. My favorite was the brown sauce but the Boyfriend thought the cranberry was the best.

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With so many more food options this year, I’m definitely going to be back to try out some of the other vendors. Perhaps I’ll go for Hong Kong Street Cart next time!

Smorgasburg

Saturday afternoon brought the Boyfriend and I to Smorgasburg on the Williamsburg waterfront. Smorgasburg, which runs every Saturday and Sunday, is host to over 75 different vendors. Each visit is slightly different than the previous one as some vendors change weekly based on availability. This Saturday, we started off at Dough, which is usually located in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. They didn’t have my favorite flavor (blood-orange) so we settled for Passionfruit Chocolate Nibs ($2.75 each). The doughnut itself was very good but I thought the passionfruit flavor was a bit weird. I think next time I’ll probably try their famous Hibiscus instead. IMG_4506 As I was waiting on the line for Dough, the Boyfriend stumbled on the infamous Ramen Lab’s Ramen Burger line. At 11:20am, the line was already 188 burgers deep. We were #189 and #190. They were serving 400 burgers that day so we were about the halfway point. They only allow one burger per person so make sure if only one person is lining up for a group – round up the group before ordering! IMG_4518 IMG_4523 The line is pretty slow (took us TWO hours to get our burgers!) because they only have one grill and it is split into two sections – one side for burgers and another side for the ramen “buns”. There is one cook on each side with three workers unwrapping the burger patties and “buns”. One worker mans the register while two other workers sets up the burger. IMG_4520 You start with one ramen “bun”, add mixed greens, put on the burger patty, a spoonful of their special sauce and it’s all finished with a handful of chopped scallions and the other ramen “bun”. The burger is then wrapped in a circular wrapper that allows you to eat the burger without taking it out of the wrapper. Genius! Each burger is $8, which isn’t too bad considering how much work goes into preparing one. IMG_4524 IMG_4526 IMG_4527 We quickly found a nearby ledge and began feasting. Boy, that first bite was absolutely heavenly. We both thought the ramen “buns” were very tasty – and intriguing! The ramen was still chewy and bouncy despite the fact that they were in a solid block form. The patty was well seasoned and the special sauce was a nice compliment. It tasted a bit like Chapagetti sauce, which is a sweet black bean sauce used in a Korean instant noodle dish. I’m not sure if I would wait 2 hours again but it was pretty damn good. IMG_4529 As the Boyfriend waited, I would walk around and bring back goodies to the Ramen Burger line. First we tried Landhaus’ Maple Glazed Bacon. It’s more pork belly than bacon but regardless it was very well seasoned. They come $3 for 1 piece or $8 for 3 pieces. I opted for 3 pieces, which we split between the two of us. Because it’s barbequed, the bacon was a bit tougher than we’re used to so biting was a bit hard. You’re better off being a piggy and sticking the entire piece in your mouth. IMG_4509 My second trip around brought us two new items. First was Takumi Taco’s Spicy Tuna Taco ($6.00), which features big eye tuna, jicama, avocado, cucumber, and spicy mayo on top of a fried gyoza shell. The gyoza shell was very crunchy and held together better than your typical corn taco shell. The tuna was just the right amount of spicy but I wish there was a bit more for the price tag! IMG_4511 I also brought back Lumpia Shack’s Filipino-style spring rolls ($7.00 for 6 pieces). I opted for the vegetarian option – Truffled Adobo Mushroom, which features three types of mushrooms: cremini, shitake, and enoki. The spring rolls are topped with truffled aioli and pickled red chili peppers. The spring rolls were super crunchy but be careful because they are spicy! IMG_4510 The last treat that I brought back to the line was Pecan Patti’s Sweet Tea, which was a hot seller that day. Each sweet tea comes in a huge mason jar ($6.00), which is definitely the best deal out of all the vendors at Smorgasburg. The portion size lasts the longest and you get to keep the jar! I opted for the Citrus Sweet Tea, which features Orange, Lemon, Pineapple and Black Tea. The combination is refreshing, sweet and light all at the same time. I wanted to go back for another one but the line was way too long! It was even longer than the Mighty Quinn line! But I highly recommend this one – it was my favorite after the Ramen Burger. IMG_4516 IMG_4517 Although I didn’t try as many vendors this time as I did on my last Smorgasburg visit, I definitely thought the ones I did try this time were pretty outstanding. This is the first time I have waited two hours for a food item and I thought it was worth it. The Ramen Burger lived up to the hype and the sweet tea really quenched my thirst during the two-hour wait. I wish they made bottled versions of that stuff because it is delicious! You’ll have to go try it out for yourself!

Hi-Collar

I found Hi-Collar through the Yelp’s new restaurant listing and suggested it to the Boyfriend. Hi-Collar, located in the East Village, is pretty tiny with only a single row of bar seats. Hi-Collar refers to the fashion that was popular during the Japanese Jazz Age, which was a period of intermingling of Western and Japanese culture. This was really prominent in the decor as well as the slow jazz that was playing in the restaurant. Everything felt so elegant and laid back at the same time. During the day-time, Hi-Collar is a Western-inspired Japanese cafe that specializes in siphon coffee & a Kissaten menu. During nighttime, the restaurant turns into Hi-Collar Bar and serves sake instead.

We were presented with the menu, which is quite small. I’m perfectly fine with this because a big menu makes me very indecisive. After we ordered, we were presented with a complimentary mixed fruit soup. It was really light and sweet, which really opened up our appetites.

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The Boyfriend opted for their pressed English Breakfast Tea ($3.50) and I opted for their Hawaiian Maui Coffee. Hi-Collar offers three methods for coffe preparation – Drip ($3.50), Siphon ($4.50) and Aeropress ($5.50). I opted for the Drip and it was so delicious! The coffee was so fragrant and rich. It was strong without being too bitter. I thought the Hawaiian Maui coffee was very smooth – I can definitely see myself coming back for just the coffee!

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The Boyfriend decided on the Shokudou Lunch Set ($13.00), which features Japanese tapas dishes with rice and miso soup. The dishes, starting from left, are – miso soup, strawberries in a balsamic glaze, vinegar and ginger with seaweed, and a sour plum. The big dish was sliced beef, tofu and egg in a thin broth. The broth was extremely delicious – the sliced beef was extremely tender and the entire mixture gave a lot of flavor to the broth. The set was just enough to fill him up but not so much that he was too full.

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I opted for the Katsu Sandwich ($8.00), which features Berkshire pork katsu with today’s salad. The salad of the day was a light egg salad, which I thought was amazing. The pork was very tender and the katsu skin had an amazing crunch. The sandwich itself is very simple but it was very flavorful at the same time.

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We were so comfortable and in love with the restaurant that we decided to order dessert so we could stay a bit longer. Since we weren’t really in the mood for ice cream, we opted for the Hot Cakes ($6.50), which is Japanese-style pancakes with specialty butter. We opted to add seasonal fruit into the pancakes for an extra $1.50. This was a great decision because she added bananas into the pancakes, which is one of my favorite fruits to put inside a pancake. The specialty butter was a grape-butter, which is something neither of us have ever seen before. The pancakes themselves were some of the fluffiest pancakes I have ever eaten – and I’ve had my share of pancakes. One of the best desserts I have ever had!

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We never felt rushed to eat faster or leave. Even when our dishes were cleared, our waiter or waitress never urged us to leave. In fact, we had to flag the waiter down to get the menu for dessert. I love the laid back atmosphere of Hi-Collar and I know I will definitely be back to try out the rest of their menu.

 

Columbus Circle Holiday Market 2012

Every winter, the entrance to Central Park turns into a festive fair and I’m always super excited when it does. Every winter, new vendors come to fill the tiny white and red-stripped tents. I love browsing around the tents to see all the things that are on sale – jewelry, winter gear, chocolates, candles, and other knickknacks. My favorite part of the market though, is the food section. The food is always concentrated in the middle of the tents and each year someone new always comes. This year, the standard German Delights and Wafels & Dinges were there. Sonrisa Empanadas were also there. I had tried those last year and they were pretty good. This year, I noticed Bar Suzette, known for their crepes, and Mexicue, who has 2 storefronts and a truck. The first we tried was Mexicue, since I’ve been hearing so much about their Green Chili Mac and Cheese from various foodie websites ($4.00 per cup). I thought the green chili was a bit weird but boy was I wrong. The mac and cheese had a tiny taste of chili but not too much. It was so cheesy! The noodles weren’t mushy at all, despite the fact that it’s premade and not cooked on the spot. I wish there was a little more cheese topping though! We also tried their Brisket Topped Green Chili Mac and Cheese as well (extra $2 per topping) and it was just as good. The brisket was soft and tender and the juices leaked down into the mac and cheese. My only gripe with this was the fact that it was a bit difficult to get to the mac and cheese with so much brisket on top! IMG_2635 IMG_2633IMG_2652 Next up was Bar Suzette, who is known for their crepes. But surprise! This Bar Suzette stand was selling burgers! We weren’t too upset though, because we noticed another stand that was selling crepes. We were happy with burgers too! I left the deciding up to the Boyfriend because I was sitting down on one of the yellow benches nursing my mac and cheese from Mexicue. The Boyfriend came back with their Bistro Burger ($6), which comes with an organic beef patty, cheese, arugula and tomato. He opted to add on mushrooms for an extra $1. And boy, was that burger good. The patty had just a little bit of pink left in the middle, which is just the way I like my burgers. The mushrooms and cheese melted perfectly into each other and all the juices were leaking out. I didn’t even need ketchup for this burger – it was so juicy! IMG_2637IMG_2641

On our next trip to the market, we tried out Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen, which sells grilled cheeses. They have three options for grilled cheese, all of which looked amazing. I decided to go with their Cheddar Grilled Cheese ($6), since it was the more original sandwich. The wait was a bit longer than I expected for a grilled cheese but they were also pretty popular since it was lunchtime. Each grilled cheese comes packed nicely in a folded box so there’s never any mess. Perfect for taking back to work or school! The grilled cheese was very cheesy and the Italian country bread was very crunchy as well. My one problem with it was the oil – it was a bit oily and I had to use a napkin to eat my half of the sandwich. IMG_2650IMG_2651 There’s a couple of more things that I haven’t gotten to yet but with all of December left, I know I will definitely attempt to try them all! But before I go, let me leave a tiny plug for Beurre & Sel’s cookies, which we discovered on our way out of the fair one-day. They have a variety of flavors and each batch of cookies comes inside these cute little plastic containers. I tried their Classic Jammers ($14), which features Blueberry Streusel and their Sable ($14), which is a shortbread sugar cookie. Both are very delicious – soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. If you’re in the mood to splurge, definitely try them out! IMG_2643

Smorgasburg – My Trek to Food Paradise

After staring at the Smorgasburg website and all the vendors they had to offer in one place for over two years, the Boyfriend and I finally decided it was time to go. So along with the Boyfriend’s mom and her friend, we made our trip to the waterfront for some delicious food.

We arrived around 10:30 so we took a walk around to see the vendors setting up. The only vendor that was up and ready for sale after our original walk through was Brooklyn Piggies, which sells Pigs in a Blanket. Their Pigs in a Blanket comes in original or spicy. Since we had four people, we got 3 of them to share (3 for $5). The crust was very crispy and the little franks for very juicy. It was a great way to start off the day.

Our second stop was Shorty Tang & Sons, which serves cold sesame noodles. They use a wooden bucket to toss their noodles in their own combination of peanut sauce, sesame paste and chili oil. Each order is hand tossed on the spot whenever you order. This ensures that the noodles don’t soak up all the peanut sauce and become soggy.

We ordered one order to share between the four of us and it was just enough to get a good taste. One order can definitely fill you up entirely. The noodles were bouncy and cooked to perfection. There was a hint of spice, which was a nice compliment to the sauce.

After we finished the noodles, it was around 11am so we decided to head for the main attraction of the day – Red Hook Lobster Pound. While the Boyfriend’s mom took her time to decide between the Connecticut or the Maine style roll, I noticed that Dough was starting to sell their doughnuts. Dough is famous for their different take on doughnuts with flavors like passion fruit, hibiscus, and cheesecake.

I decided on their Blood Orange doughnut because it sounded so different. Each doughnut runs at $2.50 each but at the size it comes in, it’s more than worth it. The Blood Orange doughnut was amazing. Even the Boyfriend, who isn’t usually a fan of sweets, thought it was amazing. The doughnut was fried to perfection. Dough had managed to somehow capture the taste of blood oranges and transfer it to doughnut frosting.

While we were snacking on the doughnut, we headed over to Red Hook and made our order. I’ve had Maine style lobster rolls – chilled lobster tossed in mayo – before so I knew I had to try the Connecticut style. The Connecticut style, which features warm lobster tossed in butter, was perfection. The roll was toasted and buttered, which makes the entire dish warm and toasty. The buttered lobster meat really allowed the lobster flavor to shine through. Despite the fact that it’s $16 a pop, I would definitely recommend giving them a taste – at least once!

On our hunt for something to eat, the Boyfriend and I walked by Mighty Quinn’s and noticed the long line. We decided that getting on the line earlier was a better idea than later when more people started to arrive at the flea. The Boyfriend and I decided to share their beef brisket slider. The sliders are $5 for a small and $8 for a large. We decided on the smaller size because we wanted to try more foods later on. The brisket was very tender and some pieces melts in your mouth. No wonder there was a line!

We decided that our first drink would be Kelvin Natural Slush Co., which was a Vendy Awards winner for Best Dessert. I noticed them setting up earlier in the morning and was actually pretty curious to what they were serving. The method used here was that you pick your base slush – either Ginger or Arnold Palmer – and then you pick your mix-in, which is basically the flavor you want.

I watched them make it and basically they fill one-third of the cup with the base slush and then add about another third of the mix-in flavor. After that, they finish up with more base slush in order to even out the flavor. We decided on the White Peach, which was a great choice. The slush was very even and didn’t have any odd chunks of ice. The peach flavor was very prominent without being too much. I would definitely go back for this!

While the Boyfriend and I were enjoying our slush at one of the picnic tables, his mom was wandering the flea and came back with one of Brooklyn Bangers’ sausages. She decided on their Kielbasa sausage, which is a Polish sausage. Neither the Boyfriend nor I really liked the onions on top but the sausage itself was very good. It was very juicy and when served piping hot, very delicious.

After some more wandering around, we stumbled upon Noodle Lane. Sometimes they serve mini hot cakes but today was just not our lucky day. Instead, we decided on sharing an order of their Dan Dan Noodles, which is served cold with spicy chili oil ($8). The noodles were very good but a bit on the spicy side, which is why I gave most of my share to the Boyfriend. The presentation was very nice and had it not been the spiciness, I would have eaten a lot more.

After Noodle Lane, we all agreed that we were pretty full. Time for dessert! While the other two went to check out Kumquat Bakery, the Boyfriend and I headed over to S’more Bakery. They torch all their s’mores on premise so they all come nice and hot. They serve two flavors – an original milk chocolate and a salted caramel. We opted for their S’more d’oeuvres, which comes with 3 mini versions of their original sized s’mores (3 for $4).

We opted for their original version, which features Madagascar vanilla marshmallows sandwiched in between two baby graham crackers with a milk chocolate ganache. It was fun watching the s’mores being toasted right in front of us. And eating them was even better – the marshmallows were melty and fluffy at the same time. It wasn’t overly sweet either – perfection!

Our last stop was Kumquat Bakery, which serves mini-cupcakes. Most mini-cupcakes are $1 each and some are $2, depending on the novelty of it. I decided to go with their Cilantes and Lime Margarita flavor. It was a wonderful choice. The cupcake was fluffy and the frosting wasn’t too soft. The best part was the sea salt sprinkled on top of each cupcake to imitate a margarita. I really liked that small touch because it made it all the more real.

While we were eating our cupcakes, we noticed that the next stand was Brooklyn Soda Works. They service handmade carbonated juices, which was something I’m always in the mood for. They give out samples on request so if you’re being indecisive, make sure you try it before you buy it! After trying the Ginger Apple, I decided to buy some. Buying a cup costs $4 but if you pay an extra $4 you get a class bottle to take it with you. We decided on the glass bottle. With tiny sample cups, we all were able to try the drink. I definitely loved it – there was a strong apple cider taste but the ginger was also present. Definitely a must try!

Despite the fact that there is no shade in the immediate vendor area, I was quite content. It was hot but not overly so. The fact that it is right by the river made it very breezy and nice to just sit and eat. The park area was a perfect place to sit and just enjoy the water breeze. If you have a free Saturday, think about making the trip to Smorgasburg. It’s definitely worth it.

Bouchon Bakery

For the past couple of months I’ve been experimenting with several cookbooks and basically making lunch for the Boyfriend and I. But since it was our “manniversary” or our friend’s term for a monthly anniversary, we decided to go out for a sit down lunch. We decided on Bouchon because I’ve only ever had their pastries. We arrived around 11:30 and were seated immediately. Their lunch menu is pretty extensive – there are salads, sandwiches, soups, and a variation of meat entrees.

After we ordered, our waitress brought over some warm bread and butter. The bread was delicious because it was warm and the butter melted on top of it. The only complaint I had was the lack of plates to eat my bread with. I know we could have asked for plates, but I feel like it’s something that should already be offered regardless.

I decided to go with their grilled cheese with tomato soup ($13.50). First, the tomato soup was delicious. There was a lot of tomato flavor and it went down quite smoothly. It tasted good alone but together with the grilled cheese, it was amazing. The grilled cheese was also very good – moist and chewy. The bread was toasted just right. The combination of Gruyere and fontina cheeses was just right – not too salty.  It looks small but it’s definitely more than enough to fill you up. By the time I finished my meal I was full.

The Boyfriend ordered the Tuna Tartine, which features tuna salad with olives, lettuce and sliced hard-boiled egg on top of pain de champagne ($13.50). I hate to admit it because I love grilled cheeses, but I actually liked his dish better than mine. The tuna was very nicely seasoned with just the right amount of mayo. Most tuna salads include celery but this one didn’t and I loved it. I’m not a big celery fan at all.

I really wanted to have a slice of their crepe cake but both of us were too full to order it. Next time I am definitely saving room in my stomach for it. Since we had such a great experience with their lunch menu, we will definitely be back to try some of their other dishes. The table next to ours ordered the seared salmon, which looked amazing. I might just get that next time!