Posts Tagged ‘New York’


As a foodie always on the lookout for a new culinary adventure, I was thrilled by the idea of taking my taste buds on a “one-of-a-kind” trip around the world — all while inside the 69th Street Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York City.  The Village Voice, an alt-weekly newspaper in New York, hosted its second annual “Choice Eats” extravaganza, boasting samples from over 50 restaurants and foods from dozens of nations. The Voice billed the event as “unearthing the five borough’s best-kept secrets.”

To be sure, there were many less-than-stellar participating restaurants. Some ran out of food quickly, others proffered stale, cold fried appetizers, and some samples were downright disgusting. I guess one could expect as much in a stampeed-like festival environment in the middle of a city in March.  That said, there were several true gems that I discovered!


Porchetta (110 East 7th St) served up its famous pork sandwiches on fresh, crusty ciabatta rolls. The outfit describes it’s roasted hunk of meat as “roasted pork with crispy skin, highly seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary, and wild fennel pollen.” Incredible.


Motrino (319 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn) served up fresh, warm samples of their Italian doughnuts filled with strawberry-rhubarb compote and dusted with white sugar.


Peaches Market (393 Lewis Avenue, Brooklyn) had me sold on the first bite of these irresistable lime bourbon glazed mini-cakes.  I could have stood in front of this station and kept popping these in my mouth until I was full.  So tasty!


The beer samples were also fun; great micro-brews and unique batches not commonly found.   Check out Choice Eats 2010 if you think your stomach can handle it!


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If you judged a burger on hype alone, Shake Shack’s would win by a landslide. Since moving to the city last summer, I have not stopped hearing about their fresh, juicy burgers, high-quality toppings, crispy hand-cut fries, and thick creamy  milkshakes — all at reasonable prices, by New York standards.

The rumors are all true: these are amazing hamburgers and shakes.  The meaty and perfectly-seasoned beef patties are modest in size – slightly larger than a slider – so if you have a big appetite, go for two. The fresh buns are toasted, buttery, and eggy; the plum tomatoes are ripe and sweet; and the melted American cheese is gooey goodness on top.

For dessert, you must get a hand-spun shake made from the Shack’s thick frozen custard. I recommend the “black and white.” Incredible.

A little history… The original shop opened in Madison Square Park in 2004; they opened an Upper West Side location (77th and Columbus) in the fall of 2008. Both locations are immensely popular at all times of day with lines out the door.

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If you’re in the mood for a culinary adventure, check out Kum Gang San, 49 West 32nd Street, in Manhattan.  One of the best parts of a Korean meal, in my opinion, are the traditional little side dishes — known as banchan. The small plates with assorted marinated vegetables, seaweed, and salted fish are tasty!   My Korean friends inform me that these are often a meal in themselves eaten over a bowl of white rice.


If you’re new to Korean cuisine, definitely start with a pajeon, a classic scallion pancake.  It is made with flour batter, eggs, and scallions, served with a mixture of soy sauce & vinegar for dipping.


Pajeon is also sometimes done with kimchi instead of scallion and is also delicious. Kimchi is a trademark element of Korean cuisine and will definitely be among the plates on your table.  The fermented, spicy Napa cabbage has been marinated in ginger, garlic, scallion and chili pepper.


Koreans are known for their barbecued beef.  But another popular dish is Bibimbap, Korean for “stirred/mixed rice.” And the stirring/mixing is definitely part of the fun here. A medley of vegetables — cucumber, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, sprouts, carrots, seaweed — arrive on top of a warm bowl of rice.  You toss them with an egg, barbecued beef, and chili paste. It’s quite the conglomeration of flavors.


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Look for the chicken meatloaves on wood planks positioned around the charcoal fire. Also, you’ll see some of my favorites from the menu: the Japanese pickles; roasted chicken wings; toro and ama ebi sashimi; peppered, roasted berkshire pork; and the terriyaki chicken meatloaf with poached egg.

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As soon as you enter this cavernous Japanese restaurant on New York’s east side (23 East 45th St.), you feel the warmth of its signature robata grill. The heat draws you down a long, dark hallway of curtained booths and tables to the brightly-lit grill area in back.

Sit around the counter so you can watch the attentive chefs skewer assorted cuts of meat, fish and vegetables and roast them over the charcoal fire. Little ground chicken “meatloaves” are formed onto wooden planks and propped amid the embers — this is one of their specialties.


The sashimi is consistently high quality and makes a great first course while your selections are grilling. The ama ebi (above) were super sweet and incredibly fresh.


The draft Sapporro is ice cold. Pairs well with a start of Japanese pickles, edamame, or seasoned, roasted brussel sprouts.

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Do Oxen moo?  If so, then I’d let out a long “mooooo” of satisfaction over this feast in celebration of the Year of the Ox! (I actually felt like an ox strung out on MSG after grazing here for hours, but I digress…) The food at Chatham Square Restaurant, 6 Chatham Square in NYC’s Chinatown, is solid Cantoneese cooking. Their raw materials were quality and fresh. The seafood dishes were particularly well-done — like the fried whole fish with ginger and scallion, honey glazed prawns and broccoli, and scallops with sugar snap peas. The pork fried rice, shown here, was underwhelming; but the orange-glazed fried pork cutlets were mighty tasty.   Oh, and notice all those bottles on the table?  The restaurant allows BYOB. Cheers!

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What is it with New York City and cupcakes?  It seems like I’m always hearing of a bakery somewhere, charging $2.50 for what it claims as the “City’s Best Cupcake”… The Buttercup Bake Shop, on 2nd Ave between East 51st and 52nd, is my latest find, reportedly a spin-off by some former bakers for Magnolia.

Unfortunately, they must have lost their magical cupcake-making abilities when they left the latter. The cake is much drier and crumblier than their Magnolia counterparts, and the frosting is less buttery/creamy and more sugary. Still, kudos to the Buttercup folks for this German Chocolate cupcake, which deserves a shoutout for the coconut-pecan topping. Yum!


Interesting side note: the Buttercup folks don’t let customers photograph cupcakes in the case! The lady behind the counter nearly bit my head off when she told me I had to put my camera away inside the shop… WTF?

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