Reviews

Shimmy, Shimmy Coco Puff…..Hawaiian Style

Liliha Bakery Coco Puffs

When you hear the two words “Coco Puff”, what comes to mind? If you’re like many, the first images that arise are of the chocolate, crispy morning cereal. And indeed, I thought the same—that is, until I was introduced to the “Hawaiian Coco Puff”.

Coco Puffs are a choux based cream puff that are most often filled with a chocolate “pudding-like” mixture and topped with a heavy dollop of Hawaiian Chantilly. And where does one find the best Coco Puffs in the Islands? Without a doubt, Liliha Bakery in Honolulu.

Now to be fair, Liliha Bakery not only offers delectable pastries but also has a 24 hour Coffee Shop that serves all kinds of local grindz. But when we stop on in, we only have our hearts (and tummies) set on those magic puffs.

The Coco Puff has three basic components that when combined, are just divine. First, the choux dough. Light….perfectly baked….not too sweet….and is the perfect vessel for the filling. Which brings us to the the filling. The “chocolate pudding” is creamy….rich….dreamy chocolate flavor…..and wonderfully silky. And lastly, the Chantilly. Not to be confused with the Classic French Chantilly, this local creation is like a sugary butter cream. And when you combine the three—HOT FIRE!

And for those who are looking for a different spin, Liliha Bakery also offers a Green Tea Coco Puff—ooooh.

Green Tea Coco Puffs

Looking for other types of sweet delights? Don’t worry, Liliha Bakery has a little something for everyone.

Lilikoi and Guava Chiffon Cakes


Scones, Rolls, Cookies, Jams, and Coffee


Hello Kitty inspired Sugar Cookies


Banana Cupcakes topped with a swirl of Chantilly

So next time you’re in O’ahu, do yourself a favor and swing by Liliha Bakery to pick up a dozen or so Coco Puffs. And while you’re at it, pick me up some, too!

Did I mention that they also sell frozen Coco Puffs so that you can take these little bundles of joy home with you? Trust me, when you’re back at home, you’ll wish you had some.

Frozen packaged Coco Puffs ready for a plane ride home with you.


Liliha Bakery
515 N. Kuakini Street
Honolulu, HI  96817
(808) 531-1651
24 hours a day from Tuesday 6 a.m. to Sunday 8 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Reviews

Downtown Campbell Farmers’ Market

What’s better to do on a sunny morning than stroll the stands of your local farmers’ market? Only one thing…..RIDING your awesome beach cruiser 5 miles to your local farmers’ market and stroll around the stands on a beautiful California day.

The Downtown Campbell Farmers’ Market is sponsored by the City of Campbell, California. Over the years, the vendor stands have grown significantly offering an array of fresh produce, artisans fare, flowers, food stands, and entertainment. Not too small and not too large—perfect to spend a few hours at.

So, on one particularly gorgeous day, we hopped on our bikes to peruse the farmers’ market to pick up some produce and be inspired with what was fresh and in season.

And what did we find?

Deliciously sweet and juicy Navel Oranges

Tart and sweet Tangerines

Fresh Sauerkraut

Sea Salt

Beautiful Flowers

A Medley of Mushrooms

Wonderful Carrots

Sugar Cane ready to be juiced

Cabbages Galore

Colorful Swiss Chard

First of the season Artichokes

With so much to enjoy, we were easily inspired with menu items for that week’s meals. And that’s the great things about eating fresh—eat what’s in season and what inspires you to cook.

Our goodies we walked away with: Red Cabbages, Asian Pears, Red Swiss Chard, Fresh Sauerkraut, Navel Oranges, Cauliflower, and Artisan Bread.

Here’s to eating fresh and local! 🙂

Downtown Campbell Farmer’s Market
Campbell Ave at Central Ave
Campbell, CA 95008
Sundays, 9am-1pm
(Year Round)

Reviews

Livermore Valley’s 2nd Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend

Sunshine. Spring. Loved Ones. Wine.

We couldn’t have asked for any more as we enjoyed the first Sunday of Spring at the Livermore Valley’s 2nd Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend.

Per the the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association:

“Less than an hour east of San Francisco, Livermore Valley Wine Country welcomes visitors with a flourish expanse of vineyards, wineries, and wine country experiences. Amid picturesque canyons, ridges and outposts of suburbia, the lush vines and convivial tasting rooms increasingly define the quality of life in the valley.

One of California’s oldest wine regions, the Livermore Valley played a pivotal role in shaping California’s wine industry. Spanish missionaries planted the first wine grapes in the Livermore Valley in the 1760s. In the 1840s, California pioneers looking for outstanding vineyard sites began planting grapes in the region.

Livermore Valley captured America’s first international gold medal for wine in 1889 at the Paris Exposition, putting California on the world wine map.

Livermore Valley wineries were the first to bottle varietal labeled Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah. Nearly 80% of California’s Chardonnay vines trace their genetic roots to a Livermore Valley clone.”

Livermore County Wineries are a wonderful alternative to folks in the South Bay who want to enjoy an affordable wine experience and do not want to make the 2+ hour drive to Napa.

The Barrel Tasting Weekend spanned two days. With presale tickets ($25), participants were able to visit over 25 wineries that included tastings and a souvenir wine glass. I particularly appreciated the fact that the ticket was valid for both days if folks didn’t want to try and squeeze all the wineries into one day. The intent of the event was to feature upcoming wines from each wineries as well as attract visitors to Livermore County.

With a car packed of snacks and water, my comrades and I opted to squeeze as many wineries into Sunday beginning at 12pm. We were blessed with gorgeous weather and took full advantage of seeing all that Livemore Valley had to offer.

Before I go further, I have to admit what a knucklehead I was to forget my SLR battery in the charger at home. Thus the photos in this post were either taken via my iPhone or borrowed from our friend Carol who is quite the photographer 🙂

Our first stop of the day began at Fenestra Winery

We sampled the Malbec, Petit Verdot, Estate Mouvedra, and Cabernet Franc. I preferred the Estate Mouvedra as it had a fuller, bold flavor. The BF LOVED the Mouvedra and remained his favorite for the day.

Their wine bottling machine.

(Photo by Carol Le)
Since we were tasting right out of the barrel, they used this tool called a “thief” to siphon the wine. It became my goal to convince someone to allow me to try my hand with the thief by the end of the day 🙂

Fenestra Winery
83 Vallecitos Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 447-5246

Next stop, Page Mill Winery.

At Page Mill we sampled a Cabernet Sauvignon and an Estate Petite Sirah–both from 2008. I really enjoyed the Cabernet. As for the winery itself–very charming and great for photos 🙂

(Photo by Carol Le)
Giving the Estate Petite Syrah a try 🙂

Page Mill Winery
1960 S. Livermore Avenue
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 456-7676

Next stop…Tamas Estates Winery and Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Quite convenient since the tastings were taking place at the same location. I love efficiency 🙂

At Tamas, we sampled their 2008 Sangiovese Riserva. And although they were very kind and I loved the smoked cheese they had to offer, the wine was somewhat non-memorable.

At Wente, we sampled their 2008 Small Lot Merlot and another red. Both wines….not my fav.

However, we took advantage of the grounds and picnic tables to take in some snackies.

Cold cuts, cheese, fruits, crackers, and homemade Caramel Apple Mini Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting–made by Carol. 🙂

Tamas Estates Winery
5489 Tesla Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 456-2380

Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Tasting Room
5565 Tesla Rd
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 456-2305

We then hustled to Les Chenes Estate Vineyards because we heard they were offering food pairings with their wine tastings 🙂

At Les Chenes, we sampled by 2007 and 2009 Syrah. The food paired with the wines were a bright, fresh bruschetta and an amuse bouche. I preferred the 2007 to the 2009 Syrah.

However, this was one of my favorite vineyards of the day for overall charm and scape. Just gorgeous. 🙂

(Photo by Carol Le/Jason Leong)
On our way to the next tasting….

Les Chenes Estates Vineyards
5562 Victoria Lane
Livermore, CA 94550
(925)373-1662

We were then in need of some good eats for our tummies and heard that Charles R Vineyards had tri-tip sandwiches for sale. Did someone say Barbecue????
Tucked away off of Crane Ridge Road, Charles R was in full swing by the time we arrived. Alas to our chagrin….no more tri-tip sandwiches. Needless to say, I was Sad Panda 😦

So we settled on tucking into their tastings of 5 varietals: Zinfandel, Syrah,  2007 & 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. I enjoyed the ’08 Cabernet Sauvignon and we grabbed a table al fresco to enjoy the sun and live music.

Charles R Vineyard
8195 Crane Ridge Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 454-3040

Next up? White Crane Winery. And this is when thing got out of hand—in a good way, of course 🙂 By the time we arrived, their quaint little tasting room was filled to the brim. Their barrel tastings included the 2007 Cabernet Franc and 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Neither suited me well but they were also offering their full tasting wines—6 to be exact.We sampled  Zinfandel, Merlot, 2 additional Cabernets, Chardonnay, Sparkling Wine and a Port. Yup, it was A LOT! In hindsight, perhaps it was not too smart to mix the ports, sparklings and various reds. But I guess hindsight is 20/20 🙂

My favorites (hard to believe I remembered them all!) were the 2005 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the Winery 21 2006 Cabernet Sauvingon. The 2005 was indeed, more refined and priced so at over $50. Their Winery 21 line is more affordable wines but still, delicious. At a little over $20 a bottle, we thought it was a good deal for what we were getting, and walked away with a bottle.

White Crane Winery
5405 Greenville Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 455-8095

Still standing, we headed over to what we thought would be the last winery of the day– McGrail Vineyards and Winery.

We sampled three types of 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon which were held in French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels. I was surprised to find how distinct a flavor each of the oaks left on the wine.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon in American Oak

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon in Hungarian Oak

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon in French Oak

The grounds at McGrail Vineyards were beautiful–the lush lawns are almost made for weddings and other festivities. We particularly appreciated the BBQ they had for sale and snagged up a few sammies to fill our tummies.

(Photo by Carol Le)
Basking in the sun…..

McGrail Vineyards and Winery
5600 Greenville Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 215-0717

At McGrail, we somehow made quick buddies with a couple who told us of a vineyard that was staying open later than the rest and allowed you to bottle your own wine. WHAT?! Let’s do it! So off we headed to El Sol Vineyard.

They had several varieties to taste: 2004 Cabernet Franc, 2005 Petite Sirah, 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon….but I’ll be honest friends. At this point in the game, things were getting a little fuzzy to me. Wine Fuzzy that is 🙂 BUT, two things occurred at El Sol that made my wine tour day!

First, I got to use the “thief” and poured tastings for my friends and new friends!!! SO fun! Unfortunately I don’t have any pics of it—-amidst my excitement, we didn’t take any.

And second, I bottled my own wine! Sounds kitschy right? But no, it was SO much fun!!! For only $14 I bottled a 2003 Livermore Cabernet.

Using a high air pressure apparatus to clean out the bottle

Filling the bottle with vino

Corking the bottle


Affixing the foil seal

(Photo by Jason Leong)
Labeling the bottle

(Photo by Jason Leong)
MY OWN BOTTLED WINE!!! Yiippee!!!

El Sol Vineyard
8626 Lupin Way
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 606-1827

If you were keeping count….it was 9 wineries in a course of 6ish hours with countless wines tasted. Beautiful spring day with wonderful friends. It’s days like these that make this foodie-in-training feel utterly blessed. 🙂

(Photo by Darren Yuen)
HUGE THANKS to Carol and Jason for photography, organizing the event, and of course–driving! 🙂

(Photo by Carol Le)
And of course to Darren…for all the laughs.

(Photo by Carol Le)
And lastly, to My Better Half, for ALWAYS indulging this Wine-O.  🙂
Reviews

Al Pastor? Yes, please.

I LOVE “Mom & Pop” joints.  And I LOVE Street Foods. So when you combine the two things, it’s just bliss.

For the past few years, one of my favorite places to pick up such goodness is just a hop-skip-and-jump away near our home at Metro Balderas 1 in San Jose, California. We’re blessed on the West Coast, and in particular California, to have great authentic Mexican food readily accessible. And in the Bay Area, that’s no exception.

Like most taquerias, Metro Balderas 1 offers the standard fair of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, sopas, pambazos, tortas, and more—all filled with your choices of proteins. Pollo, carne asada, chorizo, cabeza, tripas, camarones….Oh My. And let us not forget, my personal favorite…..the Al Pastor.

Al Pastor is beautifully marinated pork that is slow roasted on a vertical rotisserie called a Trompo, It has an appearance of the Shawarma but the flavors are completely different.

And Metro Balderas 1 does them THE BEST.

Offered 5pm to close only on Thursdays to Sundays, hoards of patrons flock to Metro Balderas 1 as the amazing aromas of the Al Pastor roasting on the Trompo waft in the streets. With only 4 tables indoors, its ideal to grab a seat al fresco to watch the “Al Pastor Man” expertly slice thin pieces of the meat into the fresh small tortillas cradled in his hand. With a small flick of the wrist, he cuts a tiny piece of the pineapple that sits at the top of the Trompo to top of your tacos.

We order our tacos with “everything”….which includes the corn tortillas quickly dipped in the Al Pastor grease (yup….it’s THAT good), Al Pastor, chopped onions, and cilantro. A quick squeeze of lemon or lime with a little drizzle of one of their fresh salsas and I am in HEAVEN. The meat is so perfectly marinated, juicy, and gets that beautiful roasted charred flavor from the rotisserie flames.

Side accompaniments include, fresh tortillas chips, sliced cucumbers, radishes, grilled onions, and pickled jalapenos & carrots. And yes, all those fixins’ come free.

And the final kicker? Al Pastor tacos are only $1.50 each. <Pause for dramatic effect>.

Fresh. Authentic. Delicious. Cheap.

It just doesn’t get any better than that. 🙂

And if delicious rotisserie pork isn’t your thing—their menu has a little of everything to please all palettes. Their Quesadilla des Camarones is pretty amazing too. Perfectly seasoned and grilled shrimp with cheese. Yum.

So next time you see a rotisserie going with a ginormous slab of meat in front of a taqueria, stop on in and grab an Al Pastor Taco. And if you’re within a 30 mile radius of San Jose Thursday-Sunday nights, come to Metro Balderas 1.

You won’t regret it.

In fact, message me if you do. I’ll meet you there with a Negra Modela in hand. 🙂

Metro Balderas 1
688 South Almaden Avenue
San Jose, CA 95110
(408) 295-4078

Did I mention they have Al Pastor??? 🙂

Reviews

The House: Asian Fusion at its Best

It ain’t broke—so please don’t fix it. Well, that’s what I would tell the fabulous owners of The House in San Francisco.

We’ve been coming to The House for years and they have never failed us. At that time, they had two locations—one in the Inner Sunset and one in North Beach. Since my sister lived in the building on top of the Inner Sunset location, she was the culprit that first introduced us to goodness of The House. And now subsequently, when visitors come up to Northern California, The House is usually on my top 5 list of restaurants that I refer them too. (I even celebrated the BIG 3-0 there awhile ago. I won’t divulge how many years ago…a lady never tells after all. 🙂 ) The Inner Sunset location has long closed so now I haul my cookies to North Beach to get my fix of The House any excuse I can get.

The restaurant itself is on the smaller side, seating no more than 40 patrons at most. However, I think it’s because of this maximum capacity seating that allows for their staff to be extremely attentive and efficient to diners. The décor is modest—but there’s no need for extra frills here. In fact, it’s perfect in my opinion.

As for the staff—absolutely superb. There hasn’t been a time when our wait staff was not courteous or attentive to our needs. And in this economy when folks are trying to pinch pennies where they can, quality service is extremely important when someone does splurge on a meal out.

I have very easily tried a good portion of their menu over the years and have LOVED it all—including their specials. The use of quality, fresh products to produce stunning Pan Asian Fusion Cuisine is a knock out. You also cannot beat the price as your average dinner plate is around $25 and worth every penny!

Below are a few shots of my favorites over the years.

Deep-Fried Salmon Rolls with Chinese Hot Mustard (Appetizer)

Oysters on the Half Shell with Spicy Cilantro Mignonette (Appetizer)

Grilled Ahi with Spicy Mustard Aioli (Entree)

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Porcini Mushrooms (Entree: Special)

Grilled Sea Bass with Garlic Ginger Soy (Entree)

The Sea Bass is a MUST and is clearly the favorite among my family. The broiler cooking method leaves the bass extremely moist, flakey, with a delicious “char” flavor from the heat. The BF likens it to a scallop which I tend to agree. All paired beautifully with their knockout garlic noodles. SO GOOD!  I could eat it every day….seriously.

I’m not the only one who loves The House. They are always packed so do due diligence and make reservations in advance. Trust me—you’ll love it. And if you don’t trust me, give it a try yourself and then drop me a line to tell me about your experience.

Now if I can only figure out a way to create that Sea Bass…..  🙂

The House
1230 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 986-8612

Reviews

NYC: Day 7 and 8

We woke up late in the morning on Day 7 with little plans other than hanging out with my brother and baby niece. When the bro picked us up, he suggested we grab a lobster roll from a nearby neighborhood spot. Lobster, you say? HECK YES! 🙂  We cruised up to Luke’s Lobster in the East Village and walked in the small shop. Adorned with New England decor and charm, I knew we were in for a treat!

Per my brother’s suggestion, we ordered the “Schooner” which entailed a regular Lobster Roll, Miss Vickie’s Chips (I chose Jalapeno), pickle, and a Maine root soda (I got the Ginger).

When our Lobster Rolls came out, my eyes bulged out with surprise at the mass amount of meat that was piled into my roll. O-M-G…..no skimping here!!! Let’s start from the beginning…..The Roll. Thick white bread (The “OG” hot dog bun), sliced down the middle, slathered with butter, and toasted to perfection. Crispy on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside. The Lobster….chunks, and I’m talking CHUNKS of fresh from Maine lobster meat, seasoned with Luke’s “special spices” with just a light amount of mayo. And I’ll be honest, “over-mayo’ed” rolls in the past is what has deterred me from these delicious eats. But not Luke’s, they add just the perfect amount to hold the lobster together. Absolute perfection.

The prices are extremely affordable, too. For a Lobster Roll by itself, the cost is $14—which is crazy insane when you factor in how much (and how fresh) lobster they give you. And for just 2 bucks more, you can upgrade to the Schooner and get all the other goodies. 🙂

Why is it so cheap? Luke gets his lobster direct from Maine—from his Dad’s Lobster business! The lobsters are literally caught, steamed, packaged, and shipped directly to Luke’s in the East Village. You can’t get more direct than that! And with no “middle man”, Luke can keep his prices extremely low while ensuring the best quality. 🙂

My tip? Looking for an “affordable” but DELUXE date restaurant to impress you special someone? Skip the seafood houses and take your Honey to Luke’s. You’ll get the best bang for your buck and your Boo will love it. Guaranteed. 🙂

Luke’s Lobster
93 East 7th Street
(212) 387-8487

With little else on our day’s agenda and a belly full of lobster, we opted to walk around Chelsea Market to peruse all the shops and hope for a run-in with a FoodNetwork Celebrity. 🙂

Cupcakes!!! (From Eleni’s New York)

Wicked Hot Chocolate from Jacques Torres Chocolates

Goodies we picked up from Jacques Torres Chocolates

Chelsea Market
75th Ninth Avenue
(212) 243-6005

After a few hours at the Chelsea Market, we took a stroll on top of The High Line – a New York city park built on the old elevated freight railroad. GREAT views of the city and we were sure that we found the rooftop studio of where Bobby Flay films some of his Grill It! with Bobby Flay. Can you see it on this tiny pic? 🙂

With all the walking and activity we had done, I found myself with quite a rumbly-in-my-tumbly 🙂 I convinced my companions to do a quick pitstop in the Theater District so that I could pick up a plate from a food stand that friends and foodies said we could not miss— The Halal Cart. And not just any halal cart mind you—as there are MANY sprinkled up and down Manhattan. But we needed to go to this very particular cart on the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue.

I walked up to the cart and asked the somewhat grumbling guy what he suggested for me to have.

You like lamb?” he asked.
YES!” I answered.
I make you lamb and chicken combo.” he grumbled.

After a series of a few more questions (sauce–no sauce, spicy—no spicy), he handed me over a surprisingly heavy plate in a bright yellow bag. I forked over my 6 bucks and we were on our way. It smelled divine.

Back in the comforts of my brother’s place, I ripped open the bagged and lifted the cover to discover the most amazing aromas and pile of goodness.

Forget the forks we needed spoons to shovel in this goodness!!! Juicy and flavorful chopped lamb mixed with the wonderful sauces—what is that white sauce anyway?! Who cares, it was amazing! The hot sauce was SPICY but I loved it. The chicken was also VERY tasty but I was all about the lamb. All paired with seasoned rice and the softest pita I’ve ever had.

HOLY MOLY—was this goodness really only $6!!! It was as heavy as a newborn baby! Easily a meal for 2. Delicious, cheap, filling—I’m ALL over it! Long lines at the Cart are supposedly quite the norm but lucky for us…we had none 🙂

Believe the hype folks….it really is THAT good.  P.S. They’re open until 4am…how amazing is that?!

Halal Cart
53rd Street and 6th Avenue

The next couple hours were a blur for the BF and I as we were caught in a Halal Food Coma……happily so, but still comatose. 🙂  As it was the Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Olympics, the bro and sis–in-law invited a few of their friends over to join in on the festivities that evening.

They called in a few pizzas and salads from one of their favorite neighborhood spots, Gruppo.

Shroomtown Pizza (Portabello, Shitake, Button Mushroms..Drizzled with Trufle Oil)

Meatball Classic (Mini Meatballs, Red Onions, Basil)

And although I wasn’t really hungry, late in the evening I managed to get in half a slice of each of the pizzas. At least so I could say I tried it, right?? 🙂    MMMM!! The Meatball Classic was cute with the mini meatballs but I preferred the Shroomtown. LOVED all the mushroom flavor!!

Gruppo
186 Avenue B
(212) 995-2100

DAY 8

We woke up on Day 8 with that mixed feeling of sadness and anticipation since it was our last day in NYC. After packing up all our stuff, we loaded the car to run a few last minute errands and grab lunch before the sibs dropped us off at JFK.

Where did we have our final meal in the city? At Chinese Mirch in the Flatiron District. 🙂  Chinese Mirch offers a menu of Chinese/Szechuan dishes with an Indian flair. The restaurant itself is nestled on the corner of Lexington Avenue in a 2 story building. Decor is modest but clean and accented with artwork that reflects its cuisine. (Hey, I rhymed!)

Seated on the 2nd floor next to large windows that faced the main street, our group ordered the Crispy Okra for appetizers.

These aren’t your typical fried okra that you may find in Southern restaurants—completely different flavor profile. In fact, the okra themselves looked smaller in size than your average variety. Lightly floured and dusted in a spicy seasoning, these okras are flash fried and aren’t the least bit oily. With two dipping sauces to choose from (a sweet tamarind base or chili), they were a GREAT way to open our meal.

For our entrees, we went family style and ordered the Singapore Rice Noodles, Salt & Pepper Prawns, Coriander Vegetables, and Chili Chicken.

LOVED, loved the Chili Chicken! Slightly Crispy and quite spicy. Coriander Vegetables were also quite unique as it came with a spinach/cilatro pesto. 🙂

Chinese Mirch
120 Lexington Avenue
(212) 532-3663

On our way to JFK, we drove by Doughnut Plant to pick up some goodies for the flight. Unfortunately, we encountered our first true line of our whole trip and decided we couldn’t wait and risk missing our flight.   After much hugs and goodbyes to the family we checked in without a hitch (SHOCKING, I KNOW!) and found ourselves with a couple of hours on our hands before our boarding time. After putzing around the terminal shops, I decided to get some food for us to have on the 5.5 hour plane ride back to Cali. No meal service on this flight 😦

And what did I scrounge up??? Drumroll please….

Famiglia Pizza and Dunkin Donuts. Hey, thoughts of Doughnut Plants wonderful creations were haunting me and I needed to fill the void. How was it? Mehhh….the best Airport Food Court can possibly be.

But we have little to complain as we just had a phenomenol 8 Day Food Tour of New York. Amazing food from “Cheap Eats” to “Break the Piggy Bank” and covering a wealth of cuisines. We were blessed—even with the snow storm.

8 Days……20+ Restaurants…..1 Homecooked Meal…..Gallons of “Adult Beverages”…….1 Snow Day……..Priceless Time Spent with Family & Good Friends…….and Memories to Last a Lifetime.

I’d say it was a success. So…..where to next? 🙂

Special Shout Outs and Love to Family and Friends for being such gracious Hosts/Hostesses and wonderful ambassadors of NYC. Thank you for making us feel so much at home! 🙂

AND because I am one of  “those” aunties, please indulge me as I show off a  few pics of my little ones who I already miss SO much. Auntie loves you–come to California to visit soon! 🙂

The beautiful Claire who has already learned the skill of multi-tasking (Talking on her book over brunch)

My wrinkly and loving Pug Niece/Nephew, Princess Leia and Zangief. Leia is the quintessential “little sister” as you can see while she sits on poor Zangief’s head. 🙂

And lastly, my gorgeous neice, Luna — who may be one of the happiest babies on earth and can melt your heart in under 5 seconds.

GOOD BYE NEW YORK….UNTIL NEXT TIME! 🙂

Reviews

NYC: Day 6

The snow had let up when we woke up the next morning and with all the rest we got from our day of hibernation, we were ready to face the day. Bundling up to brave the cold, we headed back down to the Lower East Side to the infamous Katz’s Delicatessen.

Since its inception in 1888, Katz’s remains to be a favorite to locals and tourists alike. Whipping out amazing corned beef and pastrami (just to name a few), Katz’s maintains a steady flow of followers and is the site for the infamous scene from “When Harry Met Sally“. You know which scene I’m talking about 🙂

We walked into Katz’s from the cold and were greeted with the overwhelming aromas of goodness. Again, with no line, we moseyed up to one of the cutters and placed our order for a Pastrami Sandwich. Did I mention they always cut a few small pieces of pastrami for you to try???

Once seated, we smiled with glee at the beautiful sandwich and plate of pickles. Simple in construction, two pieces of rye bread with mustard holding together a mound of freshly cut pastrami. Hand cut by the way–no deli machine slicers here.

Absolutely, meat-a-licious…..and for those of you who have had a Katz’s sandwich before know exactly what I’m talking about. Perfectly seasoned meat that is so tender…..you’ll never look at a pastrami sandwich the same again.

Homage to the exact spot from “When Harry Met Sally

Someone was a HAPPY camper after his pastrami sammy!

Katz’s is absolutely a MUST DO when visiting the city. You’ll be hard pressed to find a “deli” that serves up such quality eats in the same old fashion way that they do. The atmosphere is second to none with old “diner” tables/chairs, photos of famous celebs adorning the walls, and the staff yelling at each other in the fab New Yorker accents. 🙂

Worth every penny for that $14 sandwich—in fact, I would plunk down the money to eat that on a VERY regular basis. 🙂

Katz’s Delicatessen
205 East Houston Street
(212) 254-2246

After lunch my brother picked us up and we headed over to Edgewater, New Jersey to the Mitsuwa Market. In addition to getting a little “bleh” of all the eating out we were doing, we wanted to cook a nice dinner for my brother and sis-in-law to thank them for all of their hospitality. Mitsuwa was the ideal spot for us to pick up our usual goodies and ingredients. On a random note, the BF and I may do an homage tour of all the Mitsuwa’s in the States. We’ve been to three out of the 10 but I may be able to knock out the Chicago location at a business trip later next month 🙂

Tonight, I took the role as sous chef/commis as the BF took the lead with some of his popular dishes.

The BF’s Mise en Place 🙂

Yup, he’s a great cook and a cutie 🙂

Ahi Poke on Wasabi Nori Chips

Furikake Crusted Salmon with a light Teriyaki Glaze. Served with Baby Arugula and Brown Rice

Furikake Crusted Salmon with a light Teriyaki Glaze. Served with Baby Arugula and Brown Rice

With delicious food, priceless family time, and a few bottles of vino from Alphabet City Wine Company, we had the perfect recipe to a memorable evening in the city….and no high-end, bougie la-la restaurant can beat that 🙂

Reviews

NYC: Day 5

We had intended to get some last minute eats in before our 6pm flight on Day 5……but Mother Nature had other plans for us. 🙂

As an epic Snow Storm hit the East Coast, we were informed by JetBlue that all flights out of NY were to be canceled. The earliest flights they could book us back to San Jose would be three days later. Slightly ridiculous but my rants about JetBlue could consume a whole another blog post. 😦 After the initial shock wore off that our vacation was to be extended due to the impending 12-18″ of snow, the BF and I decided that we deserved a true snow day—first one I’ve had since leaving Minnesota in 1986!

So, we took the suggestions of family and city officials and settled into our digs for Hibernation Mode. Truth be told, we were looking forward to it since we had been on the go for 4 straight days and the idea of staying in our PJs in front of the TV seemed divine 🙂

Snow shot from our window on the 5th Floor.

Somehow after a few episodes of “Holmes on Homes” and “Dog Whisperer“, my tummy began to growl and I knew it was lunch time. Knowing that I didn’t want to even try venturing out in the snow, I thanked the Delivery Gods and began perusing a stack of menus that were left in the kitchen of our rental apartment. Since we had been gorging on a ton of meat over the past few days, vegetarian Indian food sounded perfect. We stumbled upon a menu for Sangam a few blocks away from us and called in our order.

Less than 20 minutes later, a knock at our door signaled the arrival of our lunch. DANG, they were F-A-S-T! Particularly since they had to maneuver poor weather conditions and 5 flights of steep stairs up our building.

The BF and I pulled out our dishes on the floor of our living room and dove right in. We had the Aloo Channa Qorma Curry, Vegetarian Samosas, Basmati Rice, Naan, and a Diet Coke.

Not bad at all–particularly when you factor in the fact that all that food only cost $16 AND we didn’t even leave the apartment! That’s what I’m talking about New York!!! If only San Jose, CA had such an easy and cost effective delivery culture. 🙂

Sangam
190 Bleecker Street
(212) 228-4648

Perhaps the weather suppressed our hunger because by the time 8pm rolled by, we still hadn’t thought about dinner–nor was I even really hungry. But as the clock ticked by, we decided that we needed something for our tummies, no matter how small. And since we had been cooped up all day we decided to bundle ourselves up and walk over to the corner market to see what they had to offer.

Snow Shot! 🙂

When we got inside the little market, I was surprised to see that they had a pretty good variety of snacks, sandwiches, fruits, and other items to choose from. But perhaps my inner “10 year old self” was calling because all we ended up with was this:

That’s right, Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche Ice Cream and a bag of Ruffles Sour Cream and Cheddar Chips. Hey, at least the chips were baked and not fried! 🙂 And I tell ya, it was a fabulous dinner……I might have also failed to mention that a six pack of Red Stripe was included with our dinner somewhere 🙂

Quite an unexpected, yet fun, snow day 🙂

Reviews

NYC: Day 4

Day 4 was a BIG DAY for us. For lunch, we were headed to the BF’s Top Pick for the trip. As such, we needed some caffeine…BIG TIME.

Per my brother’s suggestion, we grabbed a cup of joe from one of his usual spots from the Mudtruck. With two locations in the East and West Village, this popular spot is all about no-thrills, no-frills tasty coffee. Seriously. You won’t get your Sta-narz-bucks, unreliable coffee here! 🙂

With drip coffees (mine with two Splendas, please) in hand, we were ready to head off to grab a light breakfast and knock off another spot from our list. 🙂

The Mudtruck
307 East 9th Street
(212) 529-8766

Where to? THE DOUGHNUT PLANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Featured on the FoodNetwork’s, “Throwdown with Bobby Flay“, the Doughnut Plant is an institution in the Lower East Side for whipping out quality and innovative doughnuts. MMMMmmmm…..doughnuts! I was quite concerned about possible lines for this hot spot, per reviewers and other bloggers, but we were in luck! No lines! So we strolled right up to the counter to place our orders. 🙂


I’ll be honest….I was a little overwhelmed. It’s one of those moments that you think, “heck, I’ll take one of everything”. But common sense (and fear of great obesity!) rears in your mind. As such, I selected one of their infamous Tres Leche Doughnuts and the BF selected a seasonal special, Passion fruit…..ooooohhhh. 🙂

How were there?? Undeniably THE BEST doughnuts of our lives. Exaggerate much? Not me…..at least not this time. The Tres Leche was absolutely amazing. Rich, sweet (though not too sweet), crisp on the outside—yet moist in the inside. As for the Passion fruit….now that was the stumper. It looked like your average glazed, yeast doughnut. But after one bite, you realize that they somehow took passion fruit and infused it into the glaze. And not some “imitation-meh” flavor. But an honest-to goodness, passion fruit flavor. How did they do it? I have no idea. Sneaky, Doughnut Plant. Brilliant, they are. 🙂

Doughnut Plant
379 Grant Street
(212) 505-3700

With delish doughnuts and coffee in our tummies, we headed over the Brooklyn Bridge to take in some sights and encroach upon our lunch spot. Here’s our view from Brooklyn Heights into Manhattan. If you take a closer look, you’ll see a tiny Statue of Liberty towards the center. 🙂

A light stroll through the neighborhoods (with a greater appreciation for the beautiful brownstone homes), we headed towards Williamsburg for the BF’s Top Pick for our entire NYC trip. Drum roll please…….

PETER LUGER STEAKHOUSE!

Peter Luger has received awards after awards from the New York Times to James Beard and even has a Michelin star. And since the BF is quite the Steak Connoisseur, this particular meal was greatly anticipated. 🙂

The decor is old school…..and by old school, I’m talking 1887. The restaurant is embellished with dark woods, heavy set tables and chairs, and oversize artwork. In every sense, it’s an “old boy’s steakhouse” right down to the cantankerous waiters, who play their roles quite well. 🙂

Steaks are typically ordered by person. So, for our party of five, we ordered the Porterhouse for 2 and another Porterhouse for 3. We also added a side of their creamed spinach and sides of bacon (ordered by slice) because we were told that it was a MUST.

The Extra thick, sizzling bacon. It WAS really tasty–though for me, it was more reminiscent of ham than bacon.

Our Porterhouse still bubbling from the broiler….sliced, bathed in butter, and served table side.

My steak and creamed spinach.

My thoughts? Well……I’m scared to actually say it but I would only give this “meat institution” a 3 out of 5. Our steak was greatly under-seasoned and although there was the famous Luger Steak Sauce on the table, I think a good steak should be well seasoned. Heck–ALL food should be well seasoned. The quality of the dry aged beef was top notch that it was a shame that they drenched it in butter. However, I did enjoy their methods of using a blazing high temperature broiler to seal in the juices.

But I did enjoy the overall experience at Peter Luger. The waiters were entertaining, the environment/atmosphere appears to have not changed in the over 100 years it’s been running, and the sides were quite yummy.

Plus, we got these fun gold chocolate coins at the end of our meal. In fact, they were thrown by our server across the table at us. Again, another kitschy touch 🙂

Peter Luger Steakhouse
178 Broadway
(718) 387-7400

With a day filled with “heavy eats” paired with the FREEZING weather, we were in need of something warm to comfort our tummies for dinner. When this happens, only two things sound yummy to me….either Pho or Ramen. 🙂 My bro and sis-in-law suggested we head over to the East Village for their favorite winter Ramen from Minca.

Mmmmm……sounds good to us!

We were quickly seated right before a dinner time rush (kind of our luck the whole trip!). Between the four of us we shared an order of the Shrimp Gyoza and Kimchee. Both very yummy!

I ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen with Pork as seen below.

The bowl was HUGE!!!! The broth was extremely rich and savory–much thicker broth than our usual ramen spots however it was perfect for the cold weather. I loved the corn and mushrooms that were served as accouterments and the pork was absolutely delicious. Extremely tender and a little fatty—but in a good way! 🙂

Fantastic way to end our day and warm our tummies for the cold weather ahead.

Minca
536 East 5th Street
(212) 505-8001

Reviews

NYC: Day 3

Day 3 in NYC was a fabulous one.

We started off the morning in the Lower East Side at Clinton Street Baking Company for some breakfast. Recently featured on the Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay“, Clinton Street Baking Company is known for some darn tasty Blueberry Pancakes.

So what did we get? The Blueberry Pancakes of course!


And a side of Sugar Cured Bacon. I’ve never even heard of “sugar curing” but it sounded good. And heck, it tasted gooooood!


The pancakes were darn tasty with just the right amount of Blueberry Sauce. Paired beautifully with their maple butter, the pancakes were light, fluffy, and simply delicious. Their coffee was REALLY good, too. 🙂

Service was quick and efficient and we only waited for a few minutes to get a table. Word to the wise, this spot gets crowded on weekends so if possible, I suggest grabbing a late breakfast on a weekday to avoid the wait.

Clinton Street Baking Company…..it’s goooooood. 🙂

Clinton Street Baking Company
4 Clinton Street
(646) 602-6263

After breakfast we jumped on the subway towards Midtown to spend a few hours at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Below are a few shots of some of my favorite pieces:

“Starry Night” by Van Gough

“Water Lillies” by Monet

Entrance to the Special Exhibit of “Tim Burton”

A few hours later, we had gotten our full of art but our tummies were in need of some sustenance. Where to? Brasserie Les Halles where my fav, Anthony Bourdain is the “Chef at Large”.


The moment we walked in the door, I knew we were going to LOVE this place. No, not just because of the food but because they were BLARING Jack Johnson over the speakers. And this girl LOVES her some Jack Johnson. 🙂

When our server handed us the menus, she informed us of their Monday Special—50% off all wines!! What the?! YIPPEE! So of course being the civic Americans we are, we did our best to add to the economy by ordering a full bottle instead of our original one glass plan 🙂

A quick perusal of the menu and we settled on the Confit de Canard and Steak Tartare avec Frites.

The BF’s Steak Tartare that was mixed table side.

Frites….hands down the best fries of my life. And this girl knows her fries. 🙂

My Confit de Canard. Notice the piece of toast underneath the duck to catch all the goodness?

Our delicious bottle of House Bordeaux.

Friends…..words cannot describe how amazing this meal was. The Confit was so crispy and fall-off-the-bone tender. The piece of toast that sopped up the goodness was genius. As for the Tartare–it was perfect. So well balanced between the mustard, cornichons, capers, etc. And the fries…OH MY GOD, THE FRIES!!!!! Crispy yet somehow tender in the inside–I couldn’t stop eating them! And the bf, who usually doesn’t eat fries that much, said he needed to finish them all. Which we did 🙂

The prices were so affordable–which was so amazing considering the great quality food we enjoyed. If you’re in town, Brasserie les Halles is a MUST DO. Seriously.

Brasserie les Halles
411 Park Avenue South
(212) 679-4111

A few hours later with a very happy tummy, we found ourselves at Top of the Rock to catch the beautiful views and skyline of the city.

Introducing my better half…. 🙂


Here I am doing a quick Yelp search to find our next snackie destination 🙂

Although it was clearly dinner time, the BF and I found ourselves with a bit of a sweet tooth. 🙂 Since we were in the area and it was on our list, we headed straight over to Bouchon Bakery. Yup, I’m one of those folks who is kind of hell bent to have my last meal on earth at the brilliant Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa Valley, California. But, since I can’t afford to drop several hundred dollars on a lunch (although I am POSITIVE it would be worth EVERY penny), I am perfectly content to get my Keller-fix at Bouchon Bakery 🙂

I was like a kid in a candy store when I approached the counter and display case. Everything was absolutely gorgeous and meticulously put together. Cookies, macarons, tarts, eclairs, quiches….even Foie Gras Doggie Treats!



We ordered a selection of Macarons (Chocolate, Pistachio, Caramel, and Coconut), Pain au Trois Chocolat, and Espressos. I have no shame when I say I dove right into each of the pastries, marveling at the complex flavors of each item I bit into 🙂 The Pain was so delish with the chocolate flavors—crisp, rich…yum. And the Macarons–OH MY!!!! Lightly crisp exterior yet chewy in the inside…..with the “feet” that all good macarons should have. Hands down, my favorite two flavors were the caramel and coconut…TO DIE FOR! The caramel was so rich and for lack of better description, it was “caramel-y”. 🙂 The coconut had the PERFECT flavor that didn’t have that imitation coconut taste that many pastries have.

Our beautiful Macarons Selection 🙂

Giving the Pistachio a try 🙂  Verdict? Gooood.

And the whole time I kept on saying to myself, “If this is how his pastries taste, think of how AMAZING the French Laundry would be!” One day….<sigh>……

Bouchon Bakery
10 Columbus Circle
(212) 823-9366

Needless to say, when we went home that night, my tummy and “site-seeing bone” were extremely content. 🙂