Food

Absolute Bagels

Bagels are a reason I can't leave New York. Growing up in pretty basic New England town, we had one guy who made bagels the New York Way. They were good, not great, but chewy in a much better way than most non-metro area bagels tend to be. Then I moved to New York and started eating Bagel Bob's all the time. Hello, pimento olive cream cheese. A bagel love affair began in my life and has yet to cease.

Currently my favorite bagels are found at the edge of the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights at Absolute Bagels. This is a non-frills, kinda grimy, bagel cafe.It is not meant for Instagram selfies with matcha and pink walls. But they are one of the best in New York according to Eater!

The bagels are just right: they're chewy, not too big, not too small, salty and perfectly New York-ish. You can literally watch as the bagels are boiled and baked here, emerging from the giant oven like little golden nuggets of joy. The everything bagel is perfectly garlicky and salty, which is my real taste test for a bagel. If there is no salt I am done, that's it. Your bagel is dead to me.

I can't describe it actually but you just know what a good bagel is when you take that first bite.

Spring for the Thai iced tea if you're an iconoclast. It makes a good bagel friend.

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Absolute Bagel 2788 Broadway, 108th St.

Momofuku Milk Bar Cereal Milk Always and Forever

I feel like the scene of instagramable softserve has exploded in the past five years.  I'm a fan of one of the originals in that very important life category (I kid) namely Momofuku Milk Bar's cereal milk. I'm also partial because I live very close to their Upper West Side location so I'm constantly sneaking in trips, even in the winter.

The cereal milk flavor typifies a flavor profile I love: it starts out weird and then sinks right into umami addiction. I love when things are oddly salty and oddly sweet all at once. The layers are perfect here, too You get the crunchies on the top AND the bottom.

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Momofuku Milk Bar Many locations across NYC

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Nom Wah Tea Parlor opened in in 1920, the start of a long (and still going) life in the heart of New York City's Chinatown. It's a longstanding institution that also tells the social-history of the Chinese in all of America, from exclusion to inclusion. I've always found it's storefront to be beautiful, a worn but bright mix of colors on the outside, with an 1950's seeming interior peeking through the windows in a faint neon glow. The dim sum is fast and casual, with the usual stars that are always just right.

And now Nom Wah has expanded with hipper locations in the past few years, a fun sign of what is old is also new again. It's nice for an New York City institution to be growing, not closing.

I always hope to sit in the window, by the maneki neko and the potted plants, at the original. It's a perfect spot.

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Nom Wah Tea Parlor 13 Doyers St. New York, NY 10013 (212) 962-6047

Pizza I've Known: Pizzeria Sirenetta's Clam Pie

A few months ago I had dinner with my oldest friend at Pizza Sirenetta. It's adjacent to and operated by the same folks at the lovely Mermaid Inn where you can get great oysters at he happy hour.  Th

The draw for me was the promise of a clam pie, though. I love clam pies, like a girl who grew up going down the cape and eating fried clams like candy every salty summer.

In my pizza hunting adventures around New York City, Pizza Sirenetta quenches that fancier-than-usual rustic Neapolitan pizza experience, similar to that of the late Franny's which also had a great clam pie.)

It's got one of the best clam pies in the city, too. It has that rich combo of thin crust, creamy sauce in place of cheese, and peppery parsley to compliment speckles of clams. I'm thinking about another subtle but rich clam pizza for a celebration in the future.

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Pizzeria Sirenetta 568 Amsterdam Ave New York, NY 10024

 

Food Crawling Around Montreal

blog_guide_montrealI love our almost yearly trips to Montreal to visit family. That old cliche The Most Beautiful City in North America rings true. Montreal has a certain historic charm crossed with a old French city vibe that both reminds me of Boston meets a small French city meet San Francisco (if it got really cold, that is.) The old Port is old world, then Westmount reminds me of a bit of Boston's Back Bay, while the streets of Plateau Mount Royal and The Mile End are a mix of hip art, food, and students. I love too that city always seems to have some kind of festival happening no matter the time of year. We've visited in the summer, fall, and even Winter (bring your long underwear, though!) yet there is always something on view like the international fireworks show and jazz fest.

It's funny when you visit a city often for family though, because you're not exactly being a tourist the way you would on another kind of trip. But through these occassions I've come to know how bike-able and walkable Montreal is no matter our itineraries. I'm familiar more and more with the joys of climbing Mount Royal, the public markets, the amazing street art, strolling alongside St. Lawrence, navigating the underground to fight the cold, as well as the glorious Expo 67 architecture.

This year I decided to add to our trip with a guided food tour day, majorly helped by a pair of in-the-know hip Montrealers. Cousins are great! We decided to primarily focus on the Plateau and Mile End as they're both full of hip food destinations and very easily walked in a long day of eating and drinking.

Highlights from our food crawl for me were definitely buttery slices of Kouign Amann, fatty delicious smoked meat, and lounging at a local gastropub for beer.

Of course, there is a lot more to eat and see in Montreal than this little jaunt so take it as a starting point for your food crawl and not an exhaustive list. Next time I'd love to venture farther out east as well as explore more of the markets.

Montreal Food Crawl 

in no patricular order 

Atwater Market: This one is nearer to Westmount as well as the canal,  but a classic open market. It's great for cheese, maple, butchers, and basically everything fresh to eat. Kem Coba: Interesting flavored ice cream shop just made for instagram but still worth it. I recommend my cherry almond swirl soft serve. Dieu du Ciel: This is a great Montreal brewpub! They have a terrace, too. I loved the hibiscus infused draft I tried. Saint Viateur Bagels: Hand-rolled Montreal bagels! Take them to go to just eat freshly baked, dipping into cream cheese tubs. Cafe Myriade: A great latte is always needed on a food crawl itinerary. Cheskies: Decadent Jewish chocolate Babka. I could eat this forever. Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann: An ethereal buttery cake from Brittany.  Hof KelstensA hip Jewish boulangerie with great coffee and treats. Shwartz's: Smoked meat! This is like what Katz's is to New York City.

p.s. Well okay I didn't include this intially but yes, we ate Poutine at Cafe Claudette. I couldn't help myself. While we tried many versions, I loved the classic. What can I say I love all french fries!

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NYC Pizza I've Known: Martina

PizzaIveKnown_Martina Martina is a new fast Roman pizza place by the ever expanding Shake Shack crew. I eagerly awaited it's arrival as both a budget New York dining and pizza aficionado.

To start, they have a fried risotto suppli and a lemony arugula salad. I love simple dressed salads, call me a boring lady, but it's my favorite side dish to pizza. The pizzas here remind of Rome through and through: zucchini flowers, gooey mozzarella, spicy salami, and a cracker crust. Martina is a good mix of delicious and quick, a spot I can see myself stopping in before a cocktail date or post-movie in the neighorhood. True to the style, you can drink prosecco in plastic cups which is delightful.

Next time I've got to try the dessert of flor di latte soft serve gelato because it sounds amazing.

I love the illustration on the paper that lines their metal trays, of course. __

Martina 198 East 11th Street East Village, NYC

Favorite New York City Coffee

I like to pretend I'm on vacation most weekends by treating myself to espressos. During the week it's mostly french press at home or coffee cart dollar cups. But fancy coffee never tastes so good as when I'm lounging at 3pm in another neighborhood or just down the street on a Saturday afternoon.

Here's a current list of my favorites for the season of back to school and back indoors. Now, if the New York City heat would finally leave.

My New York City Coffee Geography

Toby's Third Estate because it's a tiny spot with a hidden Strand. Third Rail  for the Washington Square Park vibe. Sweatshop for Aussie Williamsburg espresso. Birch because of the cold brew I'd drink all year long. Joe as a classic from back when I moved to New York. 9th Street Espresso for a real space to work and think with your espresso and milk. Think because the old NYU undergrad heart only grows fonder! Blue Bottle in Carroll Gardens since it's got that South Brooklyn charm. Like, is this neighborhood even real?

 

Queen's Night Market

Food halls and markets are popping up all over New York City this year but they're often a bit pricey for what is still fast and casual food.  That's exactly what makes  Queen's International Night Market, open in the summers since 2015, a welcome respite on the food scene. The market is far less about a hip location or culinary trick.  It's a place for first-time entrepreneurs to introduce their foodways to curious New Yorkers of all kinds.  The idea is directly inspired by the colorful night markets of Taiwan. The Taiwanese immigrant who runs the market emphasizes the cultural relationship to food and lower priced smaller portions with every vendor he signs on. If you're looking to try a plethora of hard to find dishes from a range of countries, this is the place!

A few weekends ago a trio of us made it out on a whim to the market, a surprisingly easy plan to hack on a Saturday afternoon of lounging about the city. It's location in Corona Park Queens take some time to reach if you're coming from our neck of the woods but it's easily managed by the subway nonetheless if you're hungrily motivated. The mood is family friendly and boisterous. As the New York Times emphasized in the a market profile just this week, there is a lot to be enjoyed at the market by just soaking in the colorful atmosphere. I too loved the friendly giant inflatable maneki-neko.

My advice on visiting is really simple: graze. Oh and bring cash. Come later in the evening if you want to avoid the bigger family crowds. If you're resourceful, bring some wine in a travel to go cup (yes, I am that girl but also don't rude with it) so you don't have to imbibe in the drinking area that's removed from the market.

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Queen's International Night Market Every Saturday Apr 22 - Aug 19 Sept 30th - Oct 28th Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens

 

What we ate:

The Keema Palata at Burmese Bites. Mochi Waffles at Moffle Bar. Takoyaki at Karl's Balls Taiwanese Cakes at Catmint Wheelcake 

And some yakisoba and jian bing that I can't remember where we bought from!

 

 

Ruminating on things eaten in Paris last year

Maybe it's that my sister in-law is headed to Paris right now. Or that I've recently joined the fan club for those normal French pharmacy beauty products that just seem so much better every time I use them, like this dry shampoo and this really basic moisturizer. It's probably also that I was in Paris a year ago crazily enough, and being stuck inside during a snow day had me wistfully thinking about that late winter trip.  If you're looking for even more inspiration, Cup of Joe's recent city guide of Paris has me thinking France is always a good idea, whatever the weather. Of particular note to me, even a year later:

baguettes, always good, with butter even better gastro pub Les Deux Cigales , very delicious mint tea at the Grand Mosque of Paris worth the marauding pigeons  all pain au chocolat forever!

 

Embrace The Pretzel Croissant

I love breakfast. It's the best meal, hands down. You can eat it early, you can eat it late or you can eat it twice like me most days. There is a strange promise in being fancy for breakfast every once in awhile. It's like seizing the day, reminding me of being on vacation. Making any day commuting in Manhattan to feel like a vacation day is a good approach for making my life more enjoyable.  I love to put in a little effort some morning to make it in earlier than usual to stop for a croissant and a cappuccino because Im old enough now to just embrace my love of frivolity without caring.

This week at the office my lovely coworker brought in pastries from The City Bakery to celebrate Mardi Gras. My favorite of the bunch is by far the Pretzel Croissant.Call me an iconoclast but It's a beautiful, salty thing of butter wrapped into a pretzel homage of sorts. The crispy outside is saltier than a regular croissant. The inside is the familiar buttery goodness. I have a fondness for it's brown-flecked flakey layers. I enjoy that while saltier it's still a croissant, through and through.

I like it even more jam, a perfect blend of sweet and salty, eaten at my desk. Those tiny crumbs of course ruin my usual attire of dark on dark.

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The City Bakery 3 W 18th St New York, NY 10011

 

Happy Lunar New Year

I recently got back from a wonderful birthday trip to Hong Kong! Which is to say, Happy birthday to me and Happy Lunar New Year, I'm so grateful to spend any time exploring the food and lives of other people around the world, ever slightly unhinging the way you can feel your experience is the central way of life. Before we took off I started thinking about New York City's Chinatown, seeing that it was first settled by Cantonese immigrants to the city . It's the largest Chinatown in the United States, too.

It's easy to ignore the beautiful, unique nature of Chinatown's busy, neon signed streets. It's easy to accept it as a part of Manhattan's core, not stopping long to appreciate it's flare for out-of-the-norm. After being in Hong Kong, I'm ever so ready to score it's back alleys for egg custards and waffles.

e. There has never been quite a time to appreciate an immigrant enclave in New York City that right now, to think that at a time we also excluded Chinese immigrants from coming and settling in the United States. I'm so thankful that it is a part of the fabric of New York City, though, with more Chinatowns in both Brooklyn and Queens growing today.

A local favorite Chinatown favorite is Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, a staple in my journeys through the neighborhood.

If you're there at the right time, when the tables aren't too busy, you can easily watch the chef slap the hand-pulled noodles down in the tiny side kitchen with a loud, sudden whack. The noodles are chewy and fresh. The thicker the cut the better in my book! I prefer them stir fried with vegetables.

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Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles 1 Doyers Street New York, NY 10038

Sushi Yasuda

sushiyasuda When Brian turned thirty this past January we looked high and low for a few indulgent things to do in New York City. The thing is, so many of the fancy restaurants don't keep my interest for very long. Give me a plate of dumplings or slice of good pizza and I'll be more happy than I am with tiny plates of foraged mushrooms at every-other-farm-to-table-restaurant or upscale Italian joint in the city.

Ahem, but sushi, I'm ready to burn a hole in my pocket for sushi.  Elegant fish prepared piece by piece is exactly the kind of thing worthy a big milestone. So after a bit of a research, we decided that Sushi Yasuda was perfect for marking an entire new decade.

sushi_yasuda_one

Sushi Yasuda is one of the top sushi restaurants in Manhattan even if Mr. Yasuda has moved on. It's tucked away on a nondescript block near Grand Central. The simple layout has an understated elegance, the kind of light and minimal restaurant I've already created fantasy narratives about visiting Japanese business travelers stopping in for dinner.

For the full experience, the kind worthy of splurging for because that's what you're going to do here, we sat at the bar for the Omakase set where the chef prepares the sushi meal piece by piece for you. There was no set menu or price when took our spot at the warm colored bar. We didn't even order drinks, instead sipping green tea that is generously refilled by attentive waiters. The only question we were asked was what we didn't want before the chef began. I decided I didn't want to try sea urchin, but Brian did, fish being one of the few times he's more adventurous with food than me. When we weren't supposed to use soy sauce he let us know, which I loved, because of course we're woefully unaware Americans. Often he'd set down a trio of fish, my favorite being variations of salmon. He'd note for us if something was flown in from Japan. Each bite was velvety and rich, the right balance of fatty fish to sushi rice's slight sweetness, with a hint of wasabi underneath.

sushi_yasuda_two

The older Sushi chef had a sweet smile, a bit of a quiet wit. He laughed when he asked us if we were finished after what felt like a million years marked in single pieces of fish. When the bill was paid we left,  it was lightly raining in the city but warm for a January so we decided to stroll across town, thinking we'd probably never dine that well again because to be honest, some roundtrip plane tickets are cheaper.

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Sushi Yasuda 204 East 43rd Street New York, New York 10017 212-972-1001 www.sushiyasuda.com

 

Turkish Delight from Kalustyan's

turkish_delight I may take for granted that while living in New York, I can find almost any food on any old regular day, no matter the time. I do just that by stopping to buy turkish delight, a sugary gummy confectionary often studded with nuts and flavored with rosewater, in the evening at my local bodega-turned-grocery-store.  Somehow the eastern European owners stock it, tucked away in bins next to cheerios and vitamin water.

My Bulgarian sister-in-law whom grew up eating Turkish delight marvels at its prevalence in the city, from my neighborhood all the way to Brighton Beach, because elsewhere you've got to go looking.

I mistakenly forget it's not normal to eat candy of the world whenever you're feeling the sweet tooth. The nougat ones, milky white and studded with pistachios, are my best friend.

 

But the truth is that for the best selection of Turkish delight and almost anything else you've longed to try and cook with, there is no other place to look than Kalustyan's in Murray Hill,the Middle Eastern and Indian speciality food and spice emporium operating in Manhattan for forty years. Or as it's colloquially known, Curry Hill, because of all the indian restaurants that dot that section of Lexington Avenue.

I first came across Kalustyan's in the back of a cookbook with instructions on just how to find what you're looking for when the local grocery store doesn't even stock Goya beans.  Since then, it's been a yearly pilgrimage spot for me to pick up hard to find dried beans, a beloved prepared spice mix of Ras-Al-Hanout among the other world food items for my kitchen. Not to mention the copious amounts of Turkish delight which is bountiful and the bane of my dentist.

Come to Kalustyan's to try Turkish delight but definitely stay to try grape leaves or hummus at the cafe, while stocking up on their own brand name of spices.kaluystans

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Kalustyan's 123 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016