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Category: Americas (page 1 of 3)

oink’s guide to … New York City! Kitchen Arts and Letters

I cannot believe that I almost forgot to write about Kitchen Arts and Letters! This place is like the Holy Grail to all chefs, home cooks, and anybody who loves food.

Owned by Nach Waxman, this tiny bookstore houses everything and anything about food. The moment I stepped, I could feel my heart skip a beat and I couldn’t breathe. I was only at the door, I felt dizzy, giggling like mad – Kitchen Arts and Letters was my haven.

Kitchen Arts and Letters

However do not be deceived by the size, Kitchen Arts and Letters have some of the best (food) collections I have ever seen. When I was there, I couldn’t resist and flip through pages of the Modernist Cuisine (it was so beautiful). Despite only spending less than an hour in the shop, I managed to control and bag four books. One of them is Marjorie Winslow’s Mud Pies and Other Recipes.

This may sound like a bake book but no – it is a cookbook for dolls. It has recipes for Grilled Mud Sandwiches, Sawdust Cake and so on. Reading this book was a delight and this was one book that I would have never discovered on my own.

If you are a fan of cookbooks or food, do drop by Kitchen Arts and Letters. People there are friendly and helpful – when I told them I worried about my luggage space, they promptly informed me they provide shipping. Gosh they are so “evil”!

Kitchen Arts and Letters
1435 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10128
+1-212-8765-550
Opening hours: 1.00pm–6.00pm (Mon), 10.00am–6.30pm (Tue-Fri), 11.00am–6.00pm (Sat) (Closed on Sat in July and August)

oink’s guide to … New York City! Cafe Mogador

The last couple of days in New York, the weather got ridiculously hot – it was hotter than Singapore! Kat and I got really tired and lazy, and actually dread going out for fear of the heat. Kat did some research and found a Moroccan restaurant near our apartment which we went for dinner.

Located at St Marks Place and a mere 10 minute walk from our apartment, Cafe Mogador was packed. We had to wait outside for 15 minutes (and no way we would dine al fresco). The waiter was kind and brought us glasses of iced water to cool us from the heat.

Once we were seated, we realised the place was not just packed, it was loaded with noise. I think because it has a low ceiling, the noise somehow compact into the restaurant.

Kefta Kabob and Chicken Tagine (with Casablanca Sauce)

As it was Kat’s first time having Moroccan food, I took the liberty to order for us. Since we did not have much appetite, I settled on a lamb Kefta Kabob and a (Casablanca) Chicken Tagine.

The lamb Kefta Kabob was smaller than expected but Cafe Mogador served them with a side of hummus which was delicious. I have not much to say about the kabob as I am not a fan of lamb and I cannot get pass the gamey taste.

For the chicken tagine, I ordered the accompanying Casablanca sauce which comprised of chickpeas, raisins and onions. I love the sauce – its part sweet part savoury. The chicken was perfectly cooked, and with the sauce and basmati rice, it was wonderful.

Despite the heat, I was pretty happy that we managed to find this treasure trove on our last days in New York!

Cafe Mogador
101 St Marks Place (Between 1st Ave and Ave A)
+1-212-6772-226

oink’s guide to … new york city! Lula, Abraco and Bouchon bakery

Every night, when Kat and I went back to our apartment, we would see people gathered around at the shop next door. One night, curiosity got hold of me and I decided to take a peek. And guess what? Its an ice cream shop! Lula’s Sweet Apothecary is an all vegan ice cream parlour offering sundaes, sodas, sweets – the place is decorated to remind you of old school soda shop (even the staff was dressed to the part).

Lula

Root beer ice cream (US$3.75)

Lula has conventional flavours like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. On the night I was there, I decided to be adventurous and go for the root beer ice cream which tasted like … root beer but it was not as sweet as the drink. It was actually strangely nice. Slurp!

Abraco

Iced coffee (US$2.50)

As I walked to the train station in the morning, I would see bikers, office workers crowding around this tiny coffee shop. Since I needed a java jab, I sneaked in and took a look. Abraco is this small espresso bar that smelled delicious, not just from the coffee but from their amazing looking breakfast items. They have brioche, croissants, and muffins. If not, I was meeting a friend for breakfast, I will definitely bag one for the road. In the end, I ordered the simple iced coffee which was rich and bitter – the way I like my coffee. Sip!

Bouchon Bakery

The place for breakfast was Bouchon Bakery. Opened earlier this year, Bouchon Bakery took over the space from the iconic Dean and Deluca, serving breakfast treats, desserts and pastries. And yes Bouchon is the brainchild of Thomas Keller.

Ham and cheese croissant

For breakfast, I ordered the classic ham and cheese croissant. I wished they have toasted the croissant a bit more – the sandwich was bordering between lukewarm and cold (from the ham and cheese). I like my sandwich to be warm and toasty.

Chocolate eclair

The innard

Bouchon has this amazing desserts display case, showcasing all the sweet treats. And I cannot resist and order a chocolate éclair. I love the chocolate éclair – crunchy chocolate ganache on top, filled with a generous amount of chocolate cream. Sweet!

Lula’s Sweet Apothecary
516 East 6th Street
NY 10009
+1-646-4815852
Opening hours: 3.00pm–10.00pm (Tue, Wed, Sun), 3pm–1130pm (Thu-Sat)

Abraco Espresso
86 East 7th Street
NY 10003
Opening hours: 8.00am–4.00pm (Tue-Sat), 9.00am–4.00pm (Sun)

Bouchon Bakery (they also have another outlet at Time Warner Center)
One Rockefeller Center (facing the Today Show)
NY 10020
+1-212-7823890
Opening hours: 7.00am – 7.00pm (Mon-Fri), 8.00am– 8.00pm (Sat, Sun)

oink’s guide to … New York City! Shake Shack

If there was only one burger place you had to go in New York City, I would recommend Shake Shack.

Shake Shack, the brain child of restaurateur Danny Meyer, is a restaurant chain selling affordable grubs such as burgers, hotdogs, milkshakes, frozen custard and so on. The first outlet is located at the Madison Square Park and still commend long queue during lunch hours. And its not just the Madison Square Park outlet, it seems the rest of the outlets have pretty long lunch queues too.

My order

To ensure that I do not get myself stuck in the queue, I chose the Upper East Side outlet (Lexington Avenue) and ate at 1130am. I ordered the simple single cheeseburger, and a cup of Arnold Palmer.

Single Cheeseburger (US$4)

Bite into yummy goodness

For the cheeseburger, I chose to have it with lettuce and tomato (I omitted the onion and pickle). The first bite was heaven. The beef patty was cooked to medium, hence it was warm and juicy. The burger bun was pretty good too – freshly baked and soft.

If Arnold Palmer (US$2.15)was on the drinks menu, I would almost always order one. Half lemonade and half iced tea, its a must have in summer. As it was still super hot in New York, I didn’t have the stomach for fries or their famous frozen custard.

I was also very impressed with the service at Shake Shack. The staff was very friendly. They asked me about the food and even helped me to clear my tray.

There is almost nothing not to love about Shake Shack – great prices, multiple outlets (read: convenience). NOW I want a burger from there!

 

Shake Shack has outlets around New York City so do check out their website for details. They also ventured outside of NYC – Washington DC, Miami, and even Dubai.

oink’s guide to … New York City! Per Se

When I was planning my trip to New York, I know there was that one restaurant that I want to try – Per Se.

Months before the trip, I was reading Grant Achatz’s Life, On the Line. In the book, Achatz illustrated the time he spent at the French Laundry, and the way he described Thomas Keller (owner of the French Laundry and Per Se) made me really curious about Keller and his food.

Per Se

The menu

So precisely a month before the date we wanted to dine at Per Se, I tried to book a table via Open Table which was IMPOSSIBLE – there was never an opening. So I decided to go traditional and call up the restaurant. After a 15 minutes wait, I got a table on 19 July and 545pm (I was offered a table at 9pm but I think I will just fall asleep while eating).

Per Se – three Michelin stars –US$295 for the tasting menu – I have high expectations. I was prepared to be blown away. My heart was pounding when I reached the Warner Time Center. But first we needed to find the restaurant. The moment we reached the 4th floor of the building, Kat and I walked one round and we couldn’t find the restaurant. Thanks to its minimalist decor, we finally discovered that Per Se was behind the blue door that we walked past.

We got ourselves seated in the main dining room facing the Columbus statue and were shown the menu and were asked to make the selection. Once that was done, complimentary amuse-bouche was served to us.

Gougeres

Salmon tartare cornets

The first was gougeres – cute, warm and cheesy – which we easily finish off with one bite. The next was the famous salmon tartare cornets – this whimsical amuse bouche was served on a cone stand, and we bit off like an ice cream. I love the freshness of the tartare but I thought the “cone” was alright.

Oysters and Pearls

Once the amuse bouche was cleared, our tasting menu began. First, Oysters and Pearls. This dish essentially was a sabayon of pearl tapioca with oysters and caviar. This was my favourite dish of the night – the pearl tapioca was delicious and not overcooked. The oysters and caviar (pearls) tasted like the ocean – refreshing, and salty.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Foie Gras

For the second dish, I have chosen Heirloom Tomato Salad. This was my first time trying heirloom tomatoes. For me, the taste of the tomatoes was like a cross between a plum and a tomato – they were sweet and juicy. As Kat was not a fan of the vegetable, she chose Foie Gras which was served with a side of brioche and a selection of salt. I did not have a taste of the foie gras (not a fan of the liver) but Kat did tell me that they were a bit salty (hence she did not need the salt given). For the brioche, I think once they have left it at your table for five minutes, the waiter would swing by and replace with another plate of warm brioche – which we thought was a bit excessive and wasteful.

Butter!

Once we were done, we were presented with the bread basket. Kat didn’t get any and I saw a pretzel roll and I couldn’t resist it. I was sad – the roll was cold and chewy.

Sautéed Fillet of Mediterranean Lubina

Next was the fish course – Sautéed Fillet of Mediterranean Lubina. The fish was simple and perfectly cooked, and flaky. What I love was also the presentation of the dish – adored the little vegetable flower cut out.

Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster

The next dish we had was Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster. I was unsure is it because of the size of the lobster meat – I found it to be a bit too much and slightly overcooked. However I enjoyed the accompanying ragout of Brentwood corn – it was sweet and delicious.

Hill’s Farm Poularde

For the poultry course, we got Hill’s Farm Poularde. The chicken was tender and well seasoned. As I think they have stuffed the leg with (possible) bacon or pork (which I can taste it), I couldn’t finish the chicken.

Calotte de Boeuf

At this stage, we were struggling – our tummies were feeling the strain. And we got another meat course – Calotte de Boeuf. For me, it was perfectly cooked – medium rare (I must see blood!), salt crusted; and the jus was flavourful and light.

Roncal

For the vegetable course, we got a Roncal which was a medley of (mashed) vegetable. I don’t remember much of this dish as I didn’t really like it and I thought was the weakest among the lot we had. I believed I left the plate half eaten.

Compliments from the chef

At this point, our waiter suspected that we were too full to stuff ourselves with any more food – he brought us a complimentary “palate cleanser” – it was some sort of flavoured sorbet with lavender meringue and sake. This was a life saver – it was light and refreshing – something that was much needed.

Coconut and Melon Sorbet

After the palate cleanser, desserts were served. Desserts at Per Se were never ending. They just kept giving us more! The first of the many desserts was the coconut and melon sorbet. The flavours were subtle and it was a nice and light start to the dessert course.

Maple Sour Mash

Next, we got the Maple Sour Mash which was a caramelised puff pastry topped with bourbon-maple syrup ice cream. The pastry was buttery and crisp, and for the ice cream – the flavour was once again subtle and not overpowering.

Chocolate

At this point, I was expecting them to serve us their famous Coffee and Donuts. But NO. Perhaps they thought we were full and didn’t serve it to us? Why? I maybe stuffed but I am greedy! Still Per Se managed to overwhelm us with chocolates, truffles, pulled-candy, macarons.

They will stuff you to death!

At the end of the meal, Kat and I got a pack of sandwich cookies which sadly did not make it into my stomach. They were crushed to bits on the way home to Singapore.

For me, the service at Per Se is a reflection of Thomas Keller – organised, (sterile), consistent and swift. I am not totally blown away by Per Se – I just feel there was always something missing. Still, it was a great experience which I am proud to have.

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle (60th Street)
4th Floor
New York City
+1-212-8239335

oink’s guide to … New York City! Otto

One of the places that I have heard so much for their reasonably priced pastas, pizza and anti-pasti was Otto. Owned by celebrity chef Mario Batali (Iron Chef!) and his business partner, Joe Bastianich (Masterchef USA), Otto served up comforting and delicious cuisine.

Otto – Love the clock!

Linguine Puttanesca (US$10)

For lunch, I chose my favourite – Linguine Puttanesca. This Southern Italian pasta is simple and savoury, combining anchovies, capers and tomato sauce. Three ingredients. That’s all. Otto’s version was flavourful and not overly salty. The portion was huge too – I only managed to finish half the plate.

I liked Otto for its take on food – simple yet delicious. The place itself had an old school charm too.

Otto
One 5th Avenue New York City 10003
+1-212-9959-559

oink’s guide to … New York City! Luke’s Lobster

After our encounter with Luke’s Lobster at New Amsterdam Market, Kat was still missing the lobster’s roll. A couple of days later, we made our way to Luke’s for brunch. At 11am to be precise.

Luke’s Lobster

Inside

The moment you stepped into Luke’s Lobster, you are kind of transported to the coastal village, Maine. Nautical icons such as nets, ropes, knots, buoys were used to decorate the shop, mimicking a lobster shack.

The menu

As we were there pretty early, the lobster bisque was not ready. However luck was on our side, while we were ordering our lobster rolls, the waitress informed us that the bisque was done.

Lobster bisque (US$9)

Though it was a pretty hot day, the bisque provided great comfort to our exhausted souls (we were in Boston the day before and were thoroughly tired from the train ride). The bisque was rich and had a very strong seafood flavour. And Luke’s was not stingy on the lobster – chunks of lobster meats can be found in the bisque.

Lobster roll (US$16)

The star of the day was definitely the lobster rolls. Let’s start with the roll – soft, buttery and toasted to perfection – the bread was simply delicious.  As for the lobster, they were chunky, plump and meaty. It might seem a bit expensive (US$16) for a lobster roll but the freshness and the amount of meat inside the roll were just incredible. It’s worth every penny.

I am glad we do not have Luke’s Lobster in Singapore; if not, my cholesterol level will be sky-high.

Luke’s Lobster
93 East 7th Street (1st Ave)
+1-212-3878-487
Opening hours: 11.00am–10.00pm (Sun-Thu), 11.00am–11.00pm (Fri-Sat)

oink’s guide to … New York City! New Amsterdam Market

Situated at the old Fulton Fish Market, New Amsterdam Market is a weekly market that featured some of New York’s best food vendors. After our hot sunny walk along the Brooklyn Bridge (where Kat and I were almost melted), we were pleased that the market was sheltered (from the sun) and was pretty cooling.

New Amsterdam Market

Who wants pie?

Perhaps it was the heat, the market was not crowded. It was quite nice to walk around and look at what each stall is selling. The focus of New Amsterdam Market was to support small businesses, introduce seasonal produces, feature local farmers, hence you see stall selling free range ducks, organic tea, artisanal cheese and handcrafted chocolate and candies and so many more.

Liddabit Sweets

The first store I hit was Liddabit Sweets. Started by Jen King and Liz Gutman,  Liddabit Sweets specialised in making candies, lollies, chocolates – all things sweet.  I was hoping to get some slurtles which were beer caramels topped with either pretzel or potato chips (I know, crazy right?) and finished off with a dark chocolate shell. But due to the hot weather, no chocolate was on sales (sadness). However I managed to bag three bags of caramels – dark chocolate and sea salt (which was divine) and beer and pretzel (sweet and savoury).

Pastries!

Gorgeous strecci

From afar, I spotted Sullivan Street Bakery.  I’ve been wanting to make a trip to the bakery and I was so happy to see they have a stall (In case, you don’t know, I have a tiny obsession with Jim Lahey’s no knead bread and pizza dough). Though I was not in an eating mood, I could not resist getting one of the strecci with tomatoes. The bread was chewy and savoury, and with that bit of tomatoes and salt, it was perfection.

Lobster roll

The last bite we had at New Amsterdam Market was at Luke’s Lobster. It was so good that it prompted Kat and I to go back a few days later to have the lobster roll again. And yes, I will talk about it later.

Hi Scooby

If we have New Amsterdam Market in Singapore, you will see my face at the market every Sunday, sniffing around and eating well.

New Amsterdam Market
South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip
Sundays from 11.00am-4.00pm

oink’s guide to … New York City! Motorino Pizza

I cannot remember exactly how it happened. But after a few direct messages (Twitter) and a couple of emails, I met Robyn aka The Girl who Ate Everything. I have been reading her blog and writings (via Serious Eats) for a couple of years. She is hilarious and animated. And her doodles are pretty incredible too.

Robyn gave me a few food options. All of them sounded delicious but I decided to go for Motorino Pizza – I think it will be wrong to come to NYC and not have a slice of pie.  And it was the best decision I ever made – Motorino produced these gorgeous artisan pizza from its wood burning oven, and till now, they are best pizza I ever have.

Since Robyn was the only one who been to Motorino (Robyn’s friend, Francine also joined us for dinner), she suggested that we should try the cherry stone clams, and brussels sprouts and pancetta pizza. Thanks to the high temperature of the wood burning oven, the pizza were delivered to our table pretty fast.

Cherry stone clams pizza (US$17)

The cherry stone clams pizza was delicious – it’s like a piece of heaven. With a tiny squeeze of lemon on top of the pie, the clams were sweet and melt in your mouth. The pizza and the mozzarella were soft and chewy. And the crust. The oh-so-wonderful crust. It’s a good crust.

Brussels sprouts and pancetta pizza (US$16)

I was not exactly looking forward to the brussels sprouts and pancetta pizza as it was a combination of the two things that I don’t like. I detest brussels sprouts as they always leave a bitter after note. As for the pancetta, it’s pork. And miracle happened. I was in love with this pizza. For the first time, brussels sprouts tasted so good – they were actually sweet and earthy. There was no bitterness. For the pancetta, well, it’s savoury and porky. Without letting Robyn and Francine know, I secretly picked the pancetta and hide them under my crust.

At the end of my NY trip, though Motorino Pizza was the only pizza place I went; it will be the pizza place that I will always lust (A little shout out to Robyn for bringing me to Motorino and sharing a slice with me).

PS. Robyn did a great write up on Motorino too!

Motorino Pizza
349 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003
+1-212-7772-644
Opening hours: 11.00am-midnight (Sun –Thu), 11.000am-1.00am (Fri, Sat)

oink’s guide to … New York City! Brooklyn Flea

The Brooklyn Flea is a conglomerate of flea markets around Brooklyn which are held over the weekends. If you seek vintage goodness and yummy food, you cannot miss these wonderful weekend flea markets.

Fort Greene flea

The first one I went for the day was the Fort Greene flea. Held at a school’s backyard, this flea featured 150 vendors selling vintage loots such as clothing, furniture, kitchenware, toys. And of course, there were a lot of food vendors parading their homemade salsa, sweets, pizza, soda  and I can go on forever.

Red currant and shiso soda

It was a really hot when I reached the flea market. After 10 minutes of walking, I needed to sit down and have a drink. I chanced upon this cool soda stall – Brooklyn Soda Works. Every soda  is handcrafted, no preservatives. And they have unusual flavours too. I decided to go for the red currant and shiso. It was sweet and tart. I am amazed the shiso which has an intense flavour did not dominate the drink – everything was well balanced.

Even the dog is feeling the heat

Hot House Market

I love the Fort Greene flea. You get all sorts of knick knacks. One of the stalls that I went had all kinds of vintage ornaments and toys. I picked up a pair of Raggedy Ann and Andy table ornaments, a blue cat with spectacles toy and my prized possession – a Pillsbury Dough “girl” doll. All these loots for US$15. Incredible.

The next stall I went is Hot House Market. Based in Indiana, the owner, Carrie Rosen, would drive to New York every two weeks and sell her wonderful treasures at the flea. Her vintage loots were amazing. I wanted to bag everything home, especially the suitcases. They were so cheap. In the end, I resisted and only got myself two canisters.

Chicken tacos

My first horchata

After a quick tour of the entire flea, I decided it was time for lunch. Tacos! I got a chicken tacos and horchata from Choncho’s Tacos. The chicken taco was decent (this means average). The shredded chicken was a bit dry and the salsa was really spicy. What I was missing was the flavour of corn in the tortilla – it’s the reason why I love tacos (I really miss the tacos at New Maxwell Street Market in Chicago. They were the best).  For those who are not familiar with horchata, it is a rice based Mexican drink and it was my first time trying it. The verdict? I don’t like it. I love rice milk and I thought I would love horchata. But I don’t. It was too sweet and the cinnamon flavour just put me off. And it left a residue on my tongue.

Loots from Fort Greene

Once lunch was done, I went back to the few stalls where I spotted items that I wanted to purchase. The final loots bought were a Pillsbury Dough “boy” doll, a vintage cat toy, 3 ancient postcards and a Petunia Pig glass. I left the flea a very happy girl.

Smorgasburg

Entertainment for the day

Cucumber, lime and sea salt soda

The next flea I went is Smorgasburg. Smorgasburg is all about food – you can get delicious cheap eats, produce, kitchenware. I wished I could have gone crazy at Smorgasburg. But I didn’t. It was hot, very very hot. It was near impossible for me to go and try anymore food. I tried my best to walk around but I gave up after half an hour. Before I left, I got myself another soda from Brooklyn Soda Works – cucumber, lime and salt. It was just what I need – refreshing and cooling. The salt was not strange at all, it actually complement the cucumber and lime.

I really wished the weather was much better when I visited the flea markets. The heat deterred me from walking and eating. Still I left both flea markets with lots of treasures. Happy days.

Fort Greene
176 Lafayette Ave (between. Clermont and Vanderbilt Ave)
Saturday, 10.00am-5.00pm

Smorgasburg
East River Waterfront (between North 6 and 7 St)
Saturday, 10.00am-5.00pm

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