Showing posts with label East Village. Show all posts
Showing posts with label East Village. Show all posts

7/29/14

An Awesome Birthday: Tips to Help You Plan a Large Gathering in the East Village

I celebrated a birthday last week and wanted to plan a night out including dinner and drinks with friends and my Dad who was in town. I quickly learned that it is near impossible to plan an outing for more than 8 people in this city without a restaurant forcing you do pay for a $40 and up price fixe meal that doesn't even include alcohol. I love you NYC, but sometimes you are so gosh darn ridiculously expensive!

However, my hours of research and some bar scoping paid off and I of course wanted to share my insight with you in case you are looking to plan a similar event.

DINNER









190 1st Avenue between 11th and 12th streets
(212) 358-7171

Tree has been a longtime favorite of mine for their year-round garden, outstanding service, and simple yet elegant food. They could not have been easier to work with and assured me that they accommodate large parties often. They even do weddings! As such, I simply made a reservation for 18 people via email (which changed to 15 the day of with no penalties) and they allowed us to order off the menu--no required price fixe and no deposit whatsoever. It was like living in event dream world! 

As for food, I'd highly recommend the "Sunday Morning" flatbread ($16), duck meatloaf ($22) and Cookies and Cream Panna Cotta ($7).

Here we all are at dinner:


DRINKS



133 Avenue C between 8th and 9th streets
(347) 465-7911

For after dinner drinks I wanted to find someplace close to the restaurant without the college and post-college vibe that plague many East Village bars (not that there wasn't a time and place for that in years prior!). A friend and I did a Monday tour of 4 bars in the area and settled on The Summit Bar for it's clever but not rip-roaring expensive cocktail menu, the friendly bartenders, and (again) the ease with which it was to make a reservation. The long, skinny bar can section-off either the front or back areas, and I chose to go with the front because it is surrounded by tables which makes it semi-private and is close to the bar. All I had to do was call up a couple weeks in advance and let them know how many people--no deposit necessary and no penalties. 

I would highly recommend both the Sutter's Mill ($12 - Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Cinnamon Agave, Pineapple, Lemon) and The Guv'nor ($12 - Famous Grouse Scotch, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Toasted Cardamom Infused Agave, Japanese Yuzu Juice, Orange Juice) cocktails.

2/16/12

Don't Be a Square, Go Cuban

Ok, I'll admit the title is a little cheesy, but with the breadth of different flavors present throughout the NYC cuisine scene, I find good, authentic Cuban to be underrepresented. Good thing I found Cafecito in the East Village to quench my craving for fried plantains, mojitos and bistec empanizado.

Owner Manny Garcia invited me and a guest to check out his menu, all recipes crafted by his mother and slightly updated for modern times, on a recent Tuesday night. A tell-tale sign that a restaurant is good is obviously a wait. When we arrived, not only were people waiting for tables at 8:30 pm, but the bar area was packed with folks sipping mojitos and other concoctions. The only thing missing was the live music, although this place is tiny even by NYC standards, and I have no idea where a band would even go.

We were welcomed with mojitos (yum!) and seated once the crowd died down a bit. For an appetizer, we sampled the Saboricito De Cuba (which I'm assuming means "taste of Cuba") that came with a papa rellena, 2 empanadas, a frita cubana and 2 croquettas de jamon mariquitas. There was a lot of fried happening on this plate, but it was all delicioso. The papa rellena was my favorite, but honestly everything was superb.

Saborocito de Cuba

For entrees, I ordered the cod special with yellow  rice and fried plantains and my guest had the house special Churrasco with chimichurri sauce, lime cured onions, yellow rice and black beans. Though slightly oily, the cod was tasty and light. The rice was moist and who can dislike fried plantains? Really? These were amazeballs. The churrasco was slightly overcooked and chewy, but also tasty. The beans and rice together were a classic combo and I kept stealing beans because they were so yummy.


Cod Special with Yellow Rice and Fried Plantains
Churrasco
At this point we were already on round 2 of mojitos and our stomachs were verging on way-too-full. However, Manny would not let us leave without dessert (a man after my own heart!). He brought out both the Flourless Chocolate Cake and the Flan. I used to have a thing with flan; didn't like the jiggle. However, it's come to grow on me, and this was a prime example of great flan. The caramel glaze on top was a nice touch--not too sugary. While not Cuban per se, the chocolate cake was our favorite. It was served with ice cream and dulce de leche and was so light that it just melted as soon as the fork touched my lips.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Flan

To top everything off, Manny sent over two small glasses of tres leches liqueur. The milky drink was the perfect digestif to end this meal; it was like drinking cake. I'm going to have to find me a bottle of that sometime very soon.

From the substantial crowd and relatively affordable prices (apps. $5-$14, entrees $14-$20), to the wonderful selection of Cuban sandwiches and the fried plantains, I'd give this joint 2 thumbs up. You can catch them on Scoutmob for a $10 discount through June (check the coupon on the app for details). For the negatives, expect to wait a while for a table even if you make a reservation, and be weary of consuming a lot of grease and fried foods.

If you're really feeling like you need some more Cuban in your life, Manny wants to share his Cuban Bread Pudding recipe with all my awesome readers. If any of you make it, be sure to come back and let everyone know how it came out!

Cuban Bread Pudding

The raisins should be soaked in the rum overnight, or at least for several hours. You
can use individual ramekins or a single taking dish.

1 cinnamon stick, ground
6 tb raisins
1/4 c aged anejo rum
1 c sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in 1/2 lengthwise
1 qt heavy cream
1 whole nutmeg ground
10 egg yolks
2 c cubed slightly stale Cuban or fresh bread
3 tablespoons sugar

To prepare the bread pudding: Soak the raising in the rum overnight. Place 1
tablespoon of the sugar on the work surface. Scrape out the vanilla bean seeds onto
the sugar and smear around to coat the seeds. Place this sugar-vanilla mixture in the
saucepan and add the cream, vanilla bean, nutmeg, cinnamon, and 1/2 c of sugar.
Bring the mixture to just under a boil. Remove immediately from the heat and let steep
for 20 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar until
thick and pale. Slowly whisk in a small amount of the hot cream mixture to temper the
egg mixture, stirring continuously to prevent the eggs from cooking. Add a little more
at a time until the egg mixture is warm. Slowly pour the tempered mixture into the
remaining hot cream and whisk until smooth. Pass through a fine strainer.

Strain the rum from the raisins, reserving the rum. Sprinkle the raisins in the bottom
of (whichever container you are using) add the bread cubes on top of the raisins, and
sprinkle the bread with reserved rum. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before baking.
While resting occasionally push down the bread lightly with the back of a spoon so it
absorbs more of the custard.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the mixture in a baking pan lined
with a towel (to prevent the pan from sliding). Add enough boiling water to the pan to
come about halfway up the sides. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil.

To serve, sprinkle the top with about 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Using a handheld propane
torch, caramelize the sugar all over the surface (alternatively, place under a very hot
broiler).

Remove the pan or ramekins and allow the tops to harden for a minute.

Cafecito on Urbanspoon

11/15/10

Eating the East Village

It seems like this is the umpteenth food festival event I've posted about in the last couple months, and though sometimes I feel this blog should be called Awesome Food in New York, deal with it. I heart food.

East Village Eats was put on by the non-profit organization Fourth Arts Block, which promotes the East 4th Street Cultural District, as a chance for locals and tourists alike to wander around the East Village eating and discovering some pretty snazzy restaurants and drinking establishments.  You already know that when food and wandering is involved, I'm there before you can even print out the map, so I was excited to bring along my boyfriend Mike and his college roommate in from out of town, Ben. The weather was perfect for this type of activity and we were hungry for our 15 "bites" from area restaurants. 

Me with my East Village Eats goodies. We got sporks!
Mike and Ben inside Bond Street Chocolate
I must admit that I was weary after the first stop at Bond Street Chocolate, where we were offered only a smidgen piece of flavored dark chocolate, but stop #2, Cucina de Pesce, was tre magnifique! We were offered a table and each received a plate full of Italian antipasto -- tomato, mozzarella and white bean bruschettas, tomato and mozzarella caprese and eggplant stuffed with goat cheese and roasted peppers.

Cold Antipasto "Feast" at Cucina de Pesce
Next, we made our way to the eclectic Mediterranean restaurant Nomad. The decor made me feel like I'd hopped on a plane and landed in Morocco, but no one was trying to sell me carpets or a fez, so that was good. We were each offered a seat at the bar and served plates of Moorish chicken skewers flavored with African spices, crispy pita and hummus. Although I didn't want to start out filling up on bread, this pita was delicious and the chicken succulent. I'll definitely be back!

Chicken, pita and humus from Nomad
We made our way east to the new Korean eatery Mono + Mono and from the second we walked in I was enamored by the decor. We all agreed that we want our house to look like this restaurant. It only opened a month prior, and with dark wood, high ceilings, a wall filled with 30,000 Jazz record albums (and an electronic system that carries them around the dining room) and a shelving unit displaying jars of colorful fruit and vegetables above the bar, it's truly a site to see. The food held up to the grandeur of the surroundings as well. Mono + Mono was sampling their Korean-style fried chicken wings - moist on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside with a honey flavor all over, we all wanted seconds and thirds. 

Mono + Mono
Korean-style fried chicken wing
I was super excited to visit Supper for our next bite, but compared to our previous stops, it felt like they didn't try as hard. Nevertheless, we arrived at the cozy, comfy Italian bistro and were offered what they called a Mushroom Trifolati, but it was really just cooked mushrooms on top of their grilled crusty bread. Again, not trying to fill up on bread, I mostly just ate the fungi. Slightly cold, they were still good.

Plates of Mushroom Trifolati at Supper
Now, it seems like Vietnamese sandwich shops have been popping up in every neighborhood like wildflowers within the last year. The problem is, they all seem to be the same - chicken, pate, daikon, cilantro, pickled carrots, crusty bread, done. I'm personally a fan of the catfish version from Baoguette, but I digress. Next door to Supper, we went to Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches for our next "bite." Half a sandwich later, I can say that I've found a different sort of Vietnamese sandwich shop, but a place where you can still find the classic. Mike and Ben both tried the sardine, but not wanting a salt overload I opted for the BBQ chicken. 

Our "bite" from Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches
Heading north, we stopped at Souen for some steamed seitan dumplings. I had seen all the ads from Fresh Direct on the bus stops about seitan being a super food, but I had never actually tried it so I was intrigued. Souen is a pretty cool place with neat decor and trendy lighting, though long and skinny and hard to move around in, but it hasn't turned me on to seitan. Oh well, not the best item to feature for a general audience, but I'm sure someone loved it.

Souen East Village
Seitan Dumplings at Souen
The fabulous Luke's Lobster was next on the list, and though I had never been to the East Village location before, it seemed like everyone else from the food tour hadn't either. There were probably 40 people crammed into the tiny storefront oogling about the maritime wall decorations and the mouth-watering menu, waiting for their shrimp rolls to be ready. I took this opportunity to let the boys wait for the rolls as I headed down the block to Xoom smoothies, where they were offering $3 smoothies to East Village Eats participants. Nothing like a cold guava and mango elixir to wash down a shrimp roll :)

Yum!
A glimpse of the crowd descending on the Luke's Lobster counter
Making our way to the Tuck Shop, I was beginning to get very very full. We slowed down the walking  pace a little to give our stomaches digestive breaks. But upon entering the Australian meat-pie shop (perfect 3 a.m. food by the way), we were offered small portions of their pork and sage sausage rolls. While it was good, I much prefer the chook (aka: chicken) meat pie and a Lamington or Vanilla Slice for dessert. Grab a Cooper's beer while your at it because no one actually drinks Foster's in Australia. 

Pork and Sage Sausage Roll from Tuck Shop
The next two stops were disappointing because I expected a lot and was let down. Though this was probably for the best because there was a lot of food backing up in me by this point. First we went to Xi'an Famous Foods which was sampling their "Cold Skin Noodles" or what they described as bouncy and chewy wheat noodles mixed with seitan (there it was again) and vegetables, and tossed with secret spicy sauces to make a cool, delicious mess. Well, the only mess it made was a very spicy one in my mouth. Spicy to the point where I couldn't taste anything but heat and I had to throw mine away. Note to vendors: never serve something super hot to a general audience. I can handle spicy, but this was a bit much. S'mac was another sad story. I had walked by it so many times before and each time thought to myself that I need to try it one day. They were sampling their classic four cheese mac 'n cheese, but it was from a chafing dish outside the restaurant - that was their downfall. The cheese wasn't able to stay melty and instead it was crusty, crumbly and just bad if you can believe it. I'm hoping this was just a fluke, because never before have I thrown out mac 'n cheese and I don't intend to ever again. 

Big bowl of VERY spicy noodles from Xi'an Famous Foods
Mac 'n Cheese with hardened cheese from S'Mac
The food tour did redeem itself as we went on. Tulu's bakery had the most amazing mini red velvet cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese frosting. Pretty simple and typical as far as NYC cupcakes go, but these were gluten-free! I know a couple of people that would be in love with this place after learning that. Also, the cupcakes were the perfect size for a bite of sweetness.


Mini red velvet cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting from Tulu's Gluten-Free Bakery
Ben and Mike hanging out at Tulu's
Just in time for a pick-me-up, we stumbled on the MUD truck in Astor Place for a latte for me and straight coffee for the boys. I'm not a big coffee drinker as it messes with my stomach, but my small orange cup was the perfect size to warm me up and let me get a taste of MUD's great brew.

T-Shirts for sale on the MUD truck
Me with my MUD cup
Inside the Cooper Square Hotel, we were able to get a glimpse of the full dining room at Faustina inside the futuristic tower hovering over the older buildings in Cooper Square. We were also treated to Garlic Nodini - basically garlic knots with a dollop of whipped ricotta in the middle. Ricotta is one of my magic words, so I was happy, but honestly, the last thing I wanted at this point was more bread.

Garlic Nodini at Faustina
The final stop on the tour was one I was very much looking forward to as I've read review after review about how amazing Hecho en Dumbo is. We sampled their Tostadas de Dzik: chilled salad of braised venison ossobucco with tomato, red onion, sour orange, chile habenero, radish and avocado served on a bed of crisp, hand pressed corn tostadas. You could really taste the love that went into this dish, and being from California where you can get fresh Mexican food on every street corner, I much appreciated the handmade tostadas. In a city where my qualification of a decent Mexican joint is one that gives you chips and (good) salsa for free, I'm happy to have discovered Hecho en Dumbo for myself and I can't wait to go back.

Tostadas de Dzik at Hecho en Dumbo
Mike and I outside Hecho en Dumbo
I want to thank Fourth Arts Block for enabling my friends and me to partake in this awesome afternoon of food and wandering. Can't wait to do it again next year! Did you attend? I want to hear your thoughts on the event!

10/21/10

AWESOME DEAL: 51% off "East Village Eats" Food Festival this Weekend

Well, well, well. New Yorkers sure do love their food festivals. Fresh off of last weekend's Taste of the Village: West comes East Village Eats, sponsored by community development organization Fourth Arts Block. Tickets are usually $45, but Living Social NYC Downtown is offering an awesome discount for this afternoon of eating, drinking and raffle prizes. For only $22, you can get your slice of the cake, literally.



The self-guided tour starts at 11 a.m. this Saturday 10/23 and goes until 4 p.m. You will find a total of 15 (that's huge!) restaurants participating in this event, which means you get 15 food samples and numerous drink samples. Fourth Arts Block has created a map so that you can set your course for the day.

Here are the restaurants and food samples they have lined up:


Bond Street Chocolate: Decadent spicy dark chocolate bark.
Xi’an Famous Foods: Liang Pi “Cold Skin Noodles:” bouncy and chewy wheat noodles, mixed with seitan and vegetables, and tossed with secret spicy sauces to make a cool, delicious mess.
Cucina Di Pesce:  Cold antipasto feast: tomato mozzarella & white bean spread bruschettas, tomato & mozzarella, and eggplant stuffed with goat cheese caprese and roasted peppers.
Hecho En Dumbo: Tostadas de Dzik: chilled salad of braised venison ossobucco with tomato, red onion, sour orange, chile habanero, radish and avocado served on a bed of crisp hand pressed corn tostadas.
Luke’s Lobster: Half of a sweet Maine shrimp roll, one of the best sandwiches in NYC (New York Magazine) and best market lunches in the country (Bon Appétit).
Mud Truck: 10 oz Mud coffee, 10 oz latte, cappuccino or shot of espresso –  all roasted, blended and made by MUD.
Nomad: Moorish chicken skewer flavored with African spices and served with a crispy pita and humus.
S’MAC: Four cheese mac & cheese delight: cheddar, muenster, gruyère and a touch of pecorino.
Souen East Village: Steamed Seitan dumplings: juicy wheat dumplings filled with seitan (wheat gluten), napa cabbage, shiitake mushroom, garlic, ginger, soy sauce.
Supper: Mushrooms Trifolati: freshly sautéed mushrooms on Tuscan toast
Tuck Shop: Cocktail portion of their famous pork and sage sausage rolls, a true classic. Get a $5 beer to wash down the bite.
Tu-Lu’s Gluten Free Bakery: Mini red velvet cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting.
Faustina: Garlic Nodini: “Knots” of baked dough with garlic, crispy herbs and whipped ricotta.
Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches: Variety of five sandwiches: the Classic, Sardine, Chicken, Porkchop or Tofu on a toasted baguette with marinated carrot, fresh cucumber, jalepeno, and cilantro with a wipe of mayo.
MONO+MONO: Famous Korean fried chicken that is double fried, non-greasy served with either spicy sauce or soy-garlic sauce.
DRINK PARTNERS
Jimmy’s No. 43: $2 off any beer.
DBA: $2 off any beer.
Xoom: $3 smoothies (normally $7) or $2 lattes
With so many choices, I'm not sure what I'm most looking forward too, but the shrimp roll and the Mushrooms Trifolati are sure up there. Click here to get your $22 ticket! Maybe we'll bump into each other mid-bite. That would be awesome.

8/13/10

Guests Come, Time to Eat, Play, Walk

Many people often ask me what they should do around town when they have guests. Though most people who live outside of New York are morally (it seems) against walking, it's truly the best mode of transportation to really see the city. Mike's brother, Jason, was recently in the city for the day and I wanted to show him a good time. Starting in the Financial District and ending at Penn Station, where we dropped him off to catch the train, we probably logged at least 6 miles for the day. Tip #1 for your guests: wear comfortable shoes!

Jason and Mike on the Brooklyn Bridge

We started our journey with a walk halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge and back. This is really one of the best ways to get a feel for the city. This bridge has been around for more than 100 years and is a one-of-a-kind structure. The bridge in itself is truly a microcosm of the city if you think about it - you get city views, street vendors, a historical perspective and an opportunity to experience the hostility of local pedestrians and bikers.

Next stop, a walk through Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Tourists always get a kick out of Chinatown with its knock-off purses, super cheap tchatchkes, alive and dead animals in shop windows and its funky smells (oh that durian fruit). I love the area as well. There's no better place to find good bubble tea, dumplings, and just about anything you ever wanted to buy for cheap.

Crab tied up in what seemed to be a corn husk among krill.

Eldridge Street Synagogue

The immigrant history of the Lower East Side is dense and the architecture shows it. The Eldridge Street Synagoge on well, Eldridge Street, was built when this area was settled by Jewish immigrants from Russia, Poland, Ukraine and all other parts of Europe. It's gorgeous on the inside and I'd highly recommend a tour. A visit to the Tenement Museum, currently undergoing a revamp, is also a great way to spend an afternoon.

We kept north and ran into one of my favorite holes in the wall, Prosperity Dumpling. This is THE place for dumplings. At 5 for $1, you can order boiled or fried pork and chive dumplings, and their 75 cent sesame pancake is my go-to snack. Everything else on their menu is super cheap as well and the same guy is always running the show in front and taking orders. Definitely check it out, but make sure you take your food to the nearby park to eat as there is limited and crowded seating inside Prosperity.

Jason with his dumplings

Still heading north, we took another pit stop at a place I've been longing to try since it opened a few months ago - The Meatball Shop. Another awesome thing about NYC eating establishments is that so many of them get off with touting one food item. There's Peanut Butter and Co. in Greenwich Village, Rice to Riches (rice pudding) in Soho, and S'mac (mac 'n cheese) in the East Village with its many flavors of the glorious comfort food, and now The Meatball Shop.

The menu listed several types of balls (beef, chicken, pork, veggie and a special - lamb when we were there) and several types of sauces (pesto, spicy meat, marinara, mushroom, parmesan cream, etc.). We did the naked balls, since the boys were full from their dumplings, which was 4 balls with a sauce served with a slice of focaccia bread. You also have the option of ordering a sandwich or meatball sliders. In addition to the meatballs, this place had a great selection of sides (I'd love to come back and try the special risotto), drinks (every day is a special lemonade!) and, wait for it, homemade ice cream! You can even select your favorite type of cookie and flavor of ice cream and they'll serve up a highly dangerous looking ice cream sandwich. 

The Meatball Shop

Although we didn't go in, Katz's Deli is a NYC landmark. It was featured in "the scene" from Harry Met Sally and is known for it's ginormous sandwiches. There's a great window where you can watch the master sandwich builders and knish makers work.

Jason and Mike at Katz's

We ended our food journey at Mike's new favorite place - Lula's Sweet Apothecary in the East Village. It's a completely vegan, dairy-free and mostly organic ice cream shop and since Mike is lactose-intolerant, he was finally able to indulge in a banana split without disastrous effects. Even I, a hard-core ice cream fanatic thought this sundae was amazing. The ice cream didn't taste anything less than the super creamy dessert I know and love. The hot fudge and marshmallow sauce were flowing, sweet and gooey. I did notice a slight texture difference in the whipped cream, but by that point I didn't really care because this thing was the real deal. Lula's also serves "ice cream" shakes and malts, brownie sundaes and a myriad of different flavors on cones. If you are milk-free for whatever reason, I'd run to go find this place.

Lula's Banana Split

Weighed down by fried meat in dough, meat in balls and 3 scoops of ice cream with all the fixins, we slowed down a bit. Headed in the general direction of Penn Station, we strolled through Union Square just to give Jason the vibe (and stop to use Nordstom Rack's restrooms - very nice I might add). If we had more time, and a third stomach, I would have liked to go to Max Brenner's, Chocolate by the Bald Man. They have amazing chocolate food, regular food and like a million different varieties of hot chocolate. I'm not kidding, like a million - Swiss, Mexican, Italian, white, milk, dark, in a hug mug, with caramel, rice crispies, whipped cream. I don't believe I've ever not taken an out-of-town guest there and every single one still raves about it.

I hope I've given you some good ideas for the next time you play city host or hostess. I'd love to know what your favorite places to take your guests are. Leave a comment and let me know!

Lula's Sweet Apothecary on Urbanspoon

Braeburn on Urbanspoon

Lula's Sweet Apothecary on Urbanspoon