no pressure

Oh it’s only the first post I’ve written since 2010, about four and a half years ago. No pressure on making this a significant blog post whatsoever… So I shall speak from the heart and then maybe edit it afterwards once or twice. No biggie.

Since then, I’ve met the love of my life – I am with someone different from the boyfriend I spoke about in the last post. In fact, I am married to this person and we are now doing life together in Boston. My ex has also moved on with a lovely lady and I’m grateful that we parted amicably. Over the years I’ve mentioned this blog as a way to chime in on a food conversation or as an ice breaker, but overall since June 2010, it’s only come to mind very randomly and very rarely. I thought about starting over and I thought about deleting all the posts that revolved around dining with my then boyfriend out of respect for my now husband but it occurred to me that I like that those old posts are there. I like the person that my husband is with now, with all that my past had to teach me and shape me to be the person he is with today.

I am living the dream. I don’t know how else to put it and how else to express my gratitude to God but by fully admitting that life is in a very sweet spot right now. I am going to embrace this and soak it in. I am so thankful. As you can imagine, the break up was hard, the periods of unemployment were hard, the familial and friendship lows were hard. All this to say the past four years were quite interesting, and as simple as it is, I’m able to know how nice things are now because of the lows that have happened in the past. It annoys me that I’m such a simple creature, but this is why God is God and I am not. I’m not going to get into the details that amount to my definition of living the dream but what it entails for me generally are relationships, the foundational ones being the ones I have with my husband and with God.

So yes. Hello again world of blogging, probably just those who happen to google “pret a manger grapefruit juice” and accidentally stumble upon this site. I’m fortunate to start this again in a new city, a city that happens to include great food and people I love and new ones I am falling in love with.

blueberry pancakes

Location: my kitchen
Chef: my boyfriend
Date: my birthday

I had my first taste of blueberry pancakes at “Honey’s” in Philadelphia last Summer.  They were exquisite.  I’m not sure if the reason why Gene decided to make them for me on my birthday morning was that I raved about them on facebook.  But he did good, nevertheless, by batching up a few delicious blueberry pancakes following the recipe from Detail Magazine.

On my birthday morning I came downstairs and found Gene camped out in the kitchen making breakfast.. The blueberries were simmering on the  saucepan and there was a whole lot going on with flour, baking soda, whipped cream, and others sitting on the kitchen counter.  Was surprised and also curious to see how he was making out.  Came down just in time because he had dumped three tablespoons of baking soda instead of three teaspoons into the batter.  I was able to save the batter by spooning most of the baking soda back out… and then I quickly went upstairs to allow Gene to finish them himself.

The finished product was really amazing.  They were fluffy and infused with the taste of blueberries, but not so much that you couldn’t taste the original buttermilk flavor.  The blueberries were pretty much broken down so the pancakes had sort of a bruised color to them but with every bite you were able to catch a few pieces of the blueberries themselves and enjoy its fruity texture.

All in all, I was impressed with the blueberry pancakes and appreciated the enormous effort!  I got a glimpse of the article in Detail and saw that the instructions and ingredients were not so difficult.  Who knew a guy’s magazine would have simple yet delicious recipes?  My, how the world is changing into a better place…

heavenly breakfast

Place: The Original Pancake House
Location: 1638 Schlosser Street, Fort Lee, NJ 07024
Website: http://www.originalpancakehouse.com/index.html

Yeahh… I go to Jersey sometimes… Maybe pretty often.  Anyway, this is one of my favorite places in New Jersey so far.  The Original Pancake House!  They have several locations all over the country if you check their website.  This one is probably the closest Manhattan.

The interior has a cozy diner look that you could imagine being located near a ski resort.  You’d be surprised how large this Original Pancake House is when you walk in – it stretches pretty far back.. it’s like an underrated treasure from the outside!  We ordered the strawberry buttermilk pancakes with whipped cream on the side, a Santa Fe omelette with whole wheat toast, hash browns, coffee, and fresh squeezed orange juice.  They are very generous with portions.  The strawberries were fresh and piled on so you can eat a strawberry with almost every bite.  The pancakes were perfectly fluffy.  The whipped cream was definitely not non-fat but excusable because it was so delicious.  Not sure if this is a good thing but you don’t need to use a lot of syrup because everything was so tasty already.

When the omelette first came out I poked at it because I thought it would deflate.  They are actually that huge and they are actually baked… to perfection.  They didn’t skimp out on its ingredients and the sauce that accompanied the Santa Fe Omelette added a kick with its spicy taste.  I wonder how many eggs they use for one omelette.  Sounds gluttonous but its enormous portion doesn’t frustrate you because you will enjoy every bite.  The hash browns are diced potatoes, not thinly sliced, that are cooked through with the right tenderness.

We left nothing behind.  I believe we had food coma for the rest of the day but there were no regrets!

momofuku ko

Place: Momofuku Ko
Location: 163 1st Avenue, between 10th and 11th Street
Website:  http://www.momofuku.com/ko/default.asp

This is a great way to surprise the girlfriend – a girlfriend who knows what you have to go through to get reservations (Reservation instructions are on the website).  After we had gotten off the cab, blocks away from our friend’s birthday party to pick up drinks, Gene told me to change out of my havaianas and into my stilettos and I couldn’t figure out why he would want me to be uncomfortable before I had to.  I was confused and complained but when he directed me towards an entrance I realized he surprised me with Ko when I saw the glorious orange peach.

I think David Chang set this up right.  He wanted to really showcase his talent by minimizing limitations; his reservation style and set menus portray this.  An already sort of exclusive nature complements Ko’s upscale experience.  By the way, pictures are not allowed.  However, Chang’s persona is very evident through his no VIP reservation policy and the way his chefs ended the night with drinking beer in the kitchen (the kitchen is in front of you).

The food?  Ko says it’s American cuisine but I would categorize it as Momofuku’s take on fusion.  We went through 10 courses of beautifully created food.  Part of the experience is watching the chefs prepare each course for you and you can tell that every dish was treated with such value.  My favorite of the 10 was a dish that included an egg topped with caviar, homemade potato chips, and cooked onions.  A common favorite is the frozen foie gras served over lychee, which is served both during lunch (17 course meal) and dinner.  I think the forte of the overall experience was impeccable balance, which can be reflected by the dish I described above.  I felt that every small dish had an amazing combination of tastes and every ingredient played a critical role.

It was a very enjoyable, palate challenging, pleasantly surprising experience.  And considering the price of a great dinner in New York these days, I’d say the experience was worth its value.  Not sure what the boyfriend thinks but I distinctly remember him saying during our dinner, “this is fun.”

experiencing sushi at its best

Place: Blue Ribbon Sushi
Location: 119 Sullivan Street (between Prince St and Spring St)
Website: http://www.blueribbonrestaurants.com/rests_sushi_man_main.htm

Not located in the busiest area, low key, traditional yet trendy, Blue Ribbon is a favorite for celebrities some say.  I had the opportunity to go before setting off for a two week trip to Kenya as an au revoir dinner.  At an off-site location in SOHO, you have to walk down the steps to the foyer, where patrons wait to be seated but since we had an early reservation, the waitress immediately escorted us to our seats.

The sushi bar is the first thing you see turning left from the entrance to the seating area.  It’s dark but welcoming with a warm light setting and the seats are cozily sized.  Blue Ribbon Sushi has traditional Japanese wooden decor and is very slightly trendy from its sleekness and aura but keeps the integrity of its cuisine.

We started with the Ebi Shumai and ordered the Toshi’s Choice per person for our entrees.  The Toshi’s Choice is a platter with an assortment of sashimi and sushi chosen by the chef.   Gene likes the Dragon Roll, so we requested the roll to be included with the platter – they were happy to oblige.  Along with the platters we ordered two choices of dry sake.  I’ve never seen a sake list so extensive.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Ebi Shumai because I’m personally not a huge fan of the appetizer.  The Toshi’s Choice platter was beautiful in taste and presentation.  It almost looked like a miniature stage with an orchestra of sashimi and sushi.  The fish were at its best – the perfect temperature, texture, freshness, and cut.  The Dragon Roll literally melts in your mouth because the chef only uses avocadoes at that particular level of ripeness.

The waitress poured the two cold sakes into wooden boxes until it overflowed onto its carrying plate.  They were as delicious as alcohol can taste.  And its complement to the sushi was impeccable.  The sakes were at very specific temperatures because they were neither cold nor lukewarm.  It is no wonder why Blue Ribbon is known for their award-winning Sake list.

We ended our dinner with the Green Tea Creme Brulee.  It was a perfect creme brulee, just the right amount of sweetness and fluff, with a slight taste of bitterness from the green tea flavor.  It closed our sushi meal very elegantly.  I would recommend Blue Ribbon over Nobu any day.

best pizza under the bridge

Place: Grimaldi’s
Location: Douglaston Plaza Shopping Center, 242-02 61st Ave, Douglaston, NY 11362
Website: http://www.grimaldis.com/

Grimaldi’s is arguably the most famous pizzeria in New York.  New Yorkers will encourage you to walk over to Brooklyn from Manhattan through the Brooklyn Bridge and get some pizza from Grimaldi’s when you reach the other side.  Pretty recently, a Grimaldi’s opened in Douglaston, Queens, which is also located under a bridge.   I finally had the opportunity to try it last Saturday when my friend and I decided to go for lunch.

The atmosphere is very homey, very family-owned restaurant-esque, which includes the traditional red and white checkered table cloth, exposed brick wall, and the coal-brick oven you can see in the back.  We ordered a pie with mushroom on one half and roasted peppers and italian sausage on the other.  Grimaldi’s pizza is made to order – when it is served to you, you know that it was just taken out of the coal-brick oven.  Although, Grimaldi’s is New York’s favorite pizza, it does not serve the traditional cheese slice that you would find at your local Joe’s or Gino’s.  It looks more closely to the pizzas they serve in Italy, where the crust is lighter and thinner and the toppings are more distinguishably placed. 

Grimaldi’s pizza will not disappoint!  Their pizza tastes homey, slightly smokey from the coal-brick oven, and traditional, all because it is.  The roasted red pepper and Italian sausage combination is superb but even if you were to get a plain pie, the tomato, cheese, and basil combination will satisfy.  There is not a hint of artificial flavoring, such as salting, and the ingredients taste like it’s good for the body.  Grimaldi’s has been around for so long for a reason and New Yorkers will never get sick of the Grimaldi experience, whether it be under the Brooklyn Bridge or randomly in the Douglaston Mall Complex.

tapas y paella y churros

Restaurant: Boqueria
Location: 171 Spring Street, between Thompson and W. Broadway (SOHO)
Website: http://www.boquerianyc.com/

Boqueria got Best Paella by New York Magazine in 2007.  Though, that is considered to be a long time ago in the New York restaurant market, it was enough for me tack it on my list of need-to-try restaurants.  I’ve been wanting to find a great paella place after I got back from Barcelona two years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long already) so I’ve been researching and noticed that many paella places opened with great reviews… La Paella, Soccarat, Las Ramblas… have yet to try these other places but we shall see!

Boqueria instantly receives brownie points for being located in one of my favorite areas in NYC.  SOHO, specifically the cobblestone area, is my go-to place to get away.. mentally and physically from the mundaneness of working in midtown.  Before meeting up with my boyfriend, Maurice, I went to the local boutiques, Wink and Big Drop NYC, and also American Apparel – she was running late because of traffic but I enjoyed my time perusing around.

For my friends and I, Sangria is a must when going to a Tapas place.  So we began by ordering glasses, scratching that, and then ordering a pitcher.  yummo! (sorry, rachel ray haters) The pitcher worked just fine for the rest of the night.  Tasty but I’d recommend more alcohol content.  We started with the jamon serrano – it is grilled bread rubbed with tomato, garlic, and olive oil with aged 18 month ham on top – highly recommended! Sounds like an italian appetizer, but it can’t taste more Spanish… extremely light but flavorful with a nice balance of salty from the ham. 

Afterwards came the Paella Valenciana – the traditional kind with the rice on a pan topped with an assortment of seafood.  Maureen, who’s been to Soccarat, said that it was on the smaller side… Could have been because we were able to finish the dish between the two of us.  But anyway, it was definitely satisfying and delicious. – the rice had a great texture and the seafood flavors were in harmony.  A couple negatives, though, such as the overly salty shrimp and the meagerly shellfish.  It looked too.. pretty…with the shellfish in the right places and angles…I think the paella would have been better if the seafood was just piled on generously. 

For dessert we ordered the churros.  Brought back memories of searching relentlessly for churros in Puerto Vallarta.  Nostalgia is always good for eating!  The churros are made to order, crispy and comes with a side bowl of melted chocolate to dip in.  It was fantastic.

I’ll know where to go next time I’m in SOHO and I’m craving some Spanish food.  I still need to try the other paella places to determine whether or not I’d go back to Boqueria if I’m craving Spanish food in general.