Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Buttery Cupcakes

Butter Lane cupcakes.

Butter Lane is not to be missed. I admit I had my doubts when I arrived at the cupcake shop around 7 p.m. and found out that the price for one of these sweet morsels was $3. I mean, Magnolia charges 3 bucks and - contrary to popular opinion - I don't think their red velvets are all that. But Butter Lane's long lines hinted at the potential of this cupcake hot spot.


Unfortunately, the banana with cream cheese frosting and vanilla with French frosting were sold out (my 1st and 2nd choices, respectively), but I took my friend's suggestion and gave the peanut butter frosting over chocolate cake a try. I'm glad I did. It was buttery, not too sweet and whipped to perfection. The moist cake and fluffy frosting rival Sugar Sweet Sunshine in quality. A true cupcake lover's delight.

He had the chocolate cupcake with raspberry frosting. It even came with a real raspberry on top!



I don't feel it's fair to give this bakery a rating yet since I haven't had their other distinctive flavors. But I do like what I taste so far. All the more reason to come in the future...

Butter Lane
123 East 7th St
New York, NY 10009

Chinatown Eats

Roti Canai.

New Malaysia Restaurant. The evening's meal started off nicely with some Roti Canai, an Indian pancake ($2.95). The sauce may look a little oily, but the paper-thin flatbread eagerly soaked up the the sauce's coconut-rich spiciness.

Pad Thai.

It's hard to mess up Pad Thai - so why did this one fall so flat? The first two bites were OK, but it slowly dawned on me that something was wrong with this picture. First off, no sweet chili sauce was served on the side. Without the play of sweet and spicy, sprinkling lime juice over this dish only made it sour and bland. Also, although the menu bills this one as a "spicy" dish, I couldn't detect even a hint of the kicker. It tasted like Chinese chow fun, heavy on the soy sauce and not much else.

Granted, this isn't a Thai restaurant and I probably should have ordered something more Malaysian (whoops). But still, the Pad Thai ($6.75) was sorely disappointing.

Fried Pearl Noodle.

My friend's Fried Pearl Noodle ($5.95) fared a little better. Still way too much soy sauce, but what do you expect from a Chinatown restaurant? The Roti Canai was the best of the three. The prices were cheap enough that I didn't complain all that much.

Chicken Sauteed Pea Shoots on Rice.

Late-night munchies at Yogee Noodle. Beef stew over flat noodles is this restaurant's specialty. I wish I had known that before I ordered the Chicken Sauteed Pea Shoots on Rice ($5), but it wasn't bad, especially since I split it with someone. Check out that mountain of rice!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Not that impressed.

New Malaysia Restaurant
48 Bowery
New York, NY 10013

Yogee Noodle
85 Chrystie St
New York, NY 10002

Tastes Like Carrot

Carrot Bread.

Fresh carrot bread from Union Square's Farmers' Market. No preservatives or funky business. Just honest-to-goodness all natural ingredients: carrots, flour, vegetable oil, eggs, walnuts, salt, baking soda, cinnamon.

Windy Maples Farm.

The vendor, Windy Maples Farm, also sells banana bread, pumpkin bread and huge hunks of soft chocolate chip cookies. I did a thorough pat-down of the carrot bread before finally choosing it. Carrot bread isn't something I normally eat. My exposure to carrot pastries extends only to carrot cake, which is often too sweet. I can't get the memory of sticky frosting out of my head.

But this was divine. Good for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Not burnt and definitely not doughy. The walnuts added some nice texture. I shared some with the rest of the family, so the small loaf ($2.50) didn't last that long. Having approved this one, I'll happily upgrade for the regular size ($5).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Angoletto's Pizza

Angoletto's Pizza.

A beautiful sunny Friday lunch spent with my girl RM at Angoletto Cafe. This place is up the corner from my house and has been around for as long as I've been born. Consistently good pizza. None of that light cheese fluff. Delectable down to the dough.

I couldn't choose between pasta and pizza, so I decided I'd have both with the Baked Ziti slice. RM needed some more meat on hers, so she got Chicken. And the ricotta on the White looked so melt-in-your-mouth hot that we had to go for that, too.

Also recommended: Spinach pinwheels, Mozzarella and Tomato Squares, Primavera Fusilli, Linguini with White Clam Sauce. The Penne a la Vodka isn't bad, though it's more cheesy and perhaps less refined than Mama Theresa's.

Top to Bottom: Baked ziti slice, Chicken slice, White slice.

IHOT: International House of Tofu* - Review of BCD Tofu House

BCD Tofu House Menu.

This article originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

J, my friend from Boston, came to visit New York City. He, DY and I set off to embark on a Manhattan tour, stomping from Soho to midtown, in search of interesting sights and sounds. Mesmerized by the lights of Broadway, we continued on to Koreatown for a little something to fill our bellies.

J: "Do you like tofu?"
Me: "Uh...YEAH."
J (points to the red, green and white logo): "Let's go here!"

And so were were whisked away into BCD Tofu House. Tofu, also known as bean curd, can best be described as a soft "cheese-like food made of curdled soybean milk."

A pleasant waitress directed us to our seats. There, we stared at our menu of options, specializing in the art of tofu soups: seafood, vegetarian, beef, pork, fish and more. You choose from four levels of spiciness: very spicy, spicy, mild or not spicy. I had mine spicy, DY had 'not spicy' and J's was mild. All the lunch menu soups are the same price ($9.95).


BCD Tofu House is an international chain of tofu restaurants with more than 13 locations in the USA, Korea and Japan. Most are found in Southern California. BCD's Premium Tofu soups are made with carefully culled, silken tofu and high quality ingredients. A tasty blend of Korean seasonings (red pepper, soy sauce, garlic, etc.) enhances the flavor. Each meal comes with a bowl of hot rice in an individual hot stone pot, along with banchan appetizers: squid slathered in red pepper sauce, macaroni salad, kimchi and other pickled vegetables.

Kimchi Tofu Soup.

I love my kimchi any way I can get it. Maybe it's the fermentation. Maybe it's the red hot chili peppers. Or the play of textures and flavors - crunchy, spicy, sour - with a dash o' sweet. BCD's kimchi, however, is a little too soft and doesn't shine a light compared to Gahm Mi Oak's. However, I'll take daikon any day!

Our waitress delivered a small tray filled with three delicate-looking white eggs. My friends and I exchanged glances. Were these eggs to be eaten before or after the soup arrived? Raw or cooked? And would we look like totally uninitiated newbies if we asked?

Turns out we didn't have to. In the name of (you guessed it...) adventure, I took one of the eggs and gently tapped it against the table. When I felt a slight shake of liquid movement, it instantly dawned on me what these were for.

To be crakced into the boiling bowl of tofu soup, of course! Next, scoop up some white rice with the soup. Eat it while it's hot! Cold tofu soup will put a sour expression on your face.

Now, I'm not a big rice eater. The consistency has to be just right - soft and firm, sticky and chewy at the same time. BCD's rice manages to appease my selective nature. I found the portions more than adequate.

Curry Tofu Soup.

J rather enjoyed his Curry Tofu Soup, but this is no surprise. DY isn't as big a fan of spicy foods, so he went with the Plain Tofu Soup. Both soups came with meat.


At the end of the meal, our waitress ladled water over our leftover rice, which is called noorooji in Korean. Drink the mixture like a soup. At first glance, it may seem like you're guzzling bland water and rice, but rest assured this concoction aids the digestive tract after a spicy meal.

I think I'll try one of the Combos next time, which pairs tofu soup with one of the following: BBQ rib, beef bulgolgi (barbecued beef), pork bulgolgi, chicken teriyaki, bibimbap, yellow Covina or spicy pickled crab. For vegetarians, there's a Tofu Vegetable Salad Combo. The seafood, ox tripe, and beef & octopus look fun too. Kids might enjoy the ham & sausage tofu soup.

What are you waiting for? Go get your tofu fix!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Tofu is something I enjoy, but I don't consider it one of my all-time favorites. However, I would gladly eat at BCD next time I'm struck with a tofu craving.

BCD Tofu House
17 W. 32nd St.
New York, NY 10079

*Thanks to J for coming up with the snazzy title when I was down with a severe case of headline writer's block.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On the Path

Photo montage taken March 19. High Line Park. New York, NY.

High Line Blues

High Line Park.

Shady view.

Lounging around.

Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches by Valerie Hegarty.


Photo montage taken March 19. High Line Park. New York, NY.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stalking Pepsi

Pepsi truck.

En route to the Poconos...

Pepsi machine.

...and again in Mt. Pocono, Penn.

Sugar and Spice, and Everything Nice

International Passport.

Lately I've been spending far too much time at Ihop than I would like to admit. But that doesn't stop me from posting these pictures of my morning decadence. Oh, the damage has been done. But my waistline concurs: it's worth the extra toll.

My sister was back for spring break, which clearly entailed a breakfast run. This time around, my eyes wandered across the menu and desired everything at once. So, of course, I settled on the International Passport, which allowed me to feast on two sausage links, two eggs sunny-side up, two slices of bacon, French toast and (not pictured) two pancakes. I consumed it all. Except the pancakes.

Poor, lonely pancakes.

Swedish crepes.

My sister's not-so-secret sweet tooth tempts her to order a side of Swedish crepes with candied strawberries and a tornado of whipped cream.

Epitome of Breakfast.

Mom had a light and fluffy Swiss cheese-mushroom omelet. Dad had the Big Steak Omelet: tender strips of bacon, hash browns, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheddar cheese with salsa. Steak has never tasted so good. (Truth be told, I'm not much of a steak lover otherwise.)

Time for a proper diet. I mean, dance-off! Burn, baby, burn...

Almost Paradise: Paradis To-Go

Paradis To-Go.

This review originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

Fresh fall tulips and gerbera daisies. Hot cup of coffee. Hugs and smiles. This is a perfect Saturday afternoon lunch with my bestie.

After months of separation, my friend K and I finally made plans to meet up for some quality bonding time. Where better to catch up than at a cozy little cafe off of Union Square? Paradis To-Go is barely the width of a Pinkberry, complete with a pretty scalloped awning and green bench. Scribbles of pastel-colored chalk covered the menu boards, highlighting the Daily Specials. The two counter attendants reminded me of the lead pair in 500 Days of Summer - but more 'hippie' than 'hipster.' They were gushingly friendly and seemed genuinely interested in catering to us and making our experience a positive one.

Herb Turkey Gruyere.

Croque Monsieur.

I had the Herb Turkey Gruyere sandwich on oat, pecan and raisin bread, while K picked the Croque Monsieur with French bread, ham and bechamel ($7.75 each). The sandwich prices are a bit steeper than I'm used to paying, but for the quality and creativity, worth the occasional splurge. Two small coffees ($1.75 each) rounded out our order. Soups on display included broccoli-cheddar-cauliflower-bacon and butternut squash. $4 for a small, $5 for a large.

Sweetie Pie.

Sweetie Pie Layers.

We took a heart-shaped chocolate cake, aptly entiteld 'Sweetie Pie,' to-go. The Sweetie Pie resembled a big whoopee pie with three dense layers separated by marshmallow frosting, topped with luscious strawberries and sugar. Even though K and I were quite full from our meal, this cake was too cute to pass up. We split it.

Paradis To-Go is also know for its fist-sized, gooey chocolate chip cookies. Come for the cute soups, sandwiches and cookies! Other sandwich options include Spiced Rub Pork, Goat Cheese with Avocado, Pastrami Reuben and Chipotle Tuna. Free Wi-Fi is available; I spotted a young woman in the corner typing away on her laptop while she sipped her coffee. Next to us, another woman dug into a hearty bowl of soup, with a roll on the side.

I'm not sure why this place has 'To-Go' in its name because I could stay here for hours. Make yourself at home on one of the comfy chairs with a good read, for some chill time or to people-watch. Time slows down when you're in paradise, and this is about as close to it as you can get.

Rating: 4.5 stars. This is no wimpy fare. The cafe's simple charm and whimsical atmosphere warrants a stop.

Paradis To-Go
114 4th Av
New York, NY 10003

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ise Japanese Restaurant

Miami Roll and Crunchy Salmon Roll.

Catching up with my cousin downtown on Wall Street, we stopped by Ise Japanese Restaurant for some rolls and a rice bowl.

Miami Roll: Daily special. Mango, avocado, tuna, cilantro and a bunch of other tasty ingredients combine for tangy-tart succulence.

Crunchy Salmon Roll: Salmon tempura, avocado, cucumber and scallion with teriyaki and balsamic sauce.

The rolls were high-quality and packed with flavor. I mixed my ginger-wasabi-soy sauce mixture with each bite for additional oomph.

Katsu Don.

Nothing like good home-style donburi to complete a meal! We shared the Katsu Don, since we already had two rolls to work on. Boy was this filling. I forget how satisfying eggs, cooked onions and crispy deep-fried breaded pork cutlets over rice can be. The stone pot really maintains the dish's temperature well.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. This is more of a mini-review. I normally wouldn't go out of my way for Japanese, so I'd only eat here again if I'm in the area. Impressive rolls and stomach-pleasing rice bowls.

Ise Japanese Restaurant
56 Pine Street
New York, NY 10005