Sunday, May 30, 2010

Boating Essentials


My husband and I were cruising along Lake Placid this weekend when we happened upon a group of four guys in the boat pictured below. Their boat was equipped with five essentials: two surfboards (it's a lake, there are no waves); two cases of beer (can't argue with that); and a fantastic addition to help take boating snacks to the next level- a functioning oven.

The perfect set-up for a day on the water...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ruben's Empanadas


Ruben's Empanadas is an empanada producing franchise that somehow touts itself as a "bistro and coffee shop". In addition to an empanada of the month (May's is the "chili dog"- an empanada filled with ground beef, chili and a whole hot dog), Ruben's Empanadas has been hawking meat, poultry, seafood, vegetarian, breakfast and sweet empanadas, side dishes like rice and beans, and coffee drinks since 1975. Previously seen solely in downtown Manhattan, a new location recently opened on 8th Avenue in Chelsea (mere blocks from my apartment). I went into the new Ruben's Empanadas anticipating the flavorful, crispy empanadas of my youth (all hail Mighty Taco!). Instead, I was met by disgraceful, chewy empanadas that had been heated in a microwave oven and left such an awful taste in my mouth that they quickly found a home in my trash can.

My experience left me with two questions: Who is Ruben, and why are his empanadas so terrible? I don't think the answers are coming anytime soon- while the franchise has been in business since 1975, it's website remains under construction.

Ruben's Empanadas' colorful signage (falsely advertising its empanadas as NYC's best) is extremely inviting...the bait and switch routine

The spinach empanada with whole wheat dough and the spicy tofu empanada with regular dough- each $4.50

The spicy tofu empanada is made with tofu, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and chili- when I cut it open I was shocked at the reveal- it is nothing like what I imagined it would be

I will boldly say the spinach empanada is one of the worst foods I have ever tasted- it is made with chopped spinach, tofu and nutmeg

Sweet empanadas are available in apple, cherry, sweet potato, and guava & cheese- each $2.25

Guava & cheese encased in puff pastry- sounds promising, leaves a lot to be desired

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Popsicle Revolution


As a youngster in Buffalo my parents often ignored my persistent demands for frozen treats from the local Dairy Queen (looking back on it I am thankful, but at the time I was crushed). On those dismal days, I would beat the heat by mixing an envelope of powdered Kool-Aid with cold water and pouring the sugary results into readied popsicle molds. Using Tropical Punch flavored Kool-Aid was as inventive as my homemade popsicle endeavors ever got. Nearly twenty years later, an afternoon trip to the Chelsea Market opened my eyes to what could have been...

Nestled snugly in a corner of the bustling Chelsea Market sits people's pops, a purveyor of "fresh, local fruit ice-pops and shave ice." The trio responsible for people's pops (Joel Horowitz, David Carrell, and Nathalie Jordi) have revolutionized popsicles by taking the frozen treats in a healthy direction. Gone are the days of sugar-laden popsicles; each people's pops' pop-ice is made with local, sustainably grown fruits and herbs and draws its sweetness from the season's ripest treasures. At $3.50 each, and available in inventive varieties like plum, organic yogurt & tarragon, and blackberry & jasmine, people's pops' naturally flavored ice-pops are the perfect guilt-free warm weather indulgence.

In addition to a booth at the Brooklyn Flea, people's pops opened an outpost in the Chelsea Market

Flavors of shave ice, the syrups poured on shave ice, and ice-pops rotate based on the season's bounty. This week's pop-ice flavors included pear, yogurt & maple, straight-up raspberry, apricot & cardamom, blueberries & cream, and rhubarb & jasmine. Shave ice flavors included organic lemon and bartlett pear

Ingredients are sourced from local farms. This week's farms included Samascott Orchards, Phillips Farms, Red Jacket Orchards, Beth's Farm Kitchen, and Ronnybrook Farm Dairy

My pop-ice of choice: pear, yogurt & maple

My husband's choice: an ice flecked apricot & cardamom flavored pop-ice

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Baoguette


I didn't pay much mind to the banh mi craze that swept (is it still sweeping?) Manhattan, but after a recent run-in with a sandwich from Baoguette (owned and operated by husband/wife team Michael Huynh and Thao Nguyen), I instantly became a banh mi convert. A culinary triumph, banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich served on a fresh, crusty baguette typically layered with ingredients like bird chilies, pickled carrots and daikon radish, thinly sliced cucumber, fresh cilantro sprigs, steamed and seasoned pork roll, pork liver pâté, and either additional meat (think barbecue glazed pork and ham) or crispy tofu.

Baoguette's tiny Lexington Avenue location currently turns out a variety of phở noodles, summer rolls, and salads in addition to five types of banh mi- a vegetarian (Veguette), two signature (Cat Fish and American influenced Sloppy Bao), one classic (the Baoguette), and a BBQ Chicken. I chose the Veguette, made with a Kung Pao soy protein, and opted for extra spicy. Buyers beware- extra spicy denotes very hot (unbeknownst to me, I apparently had a choice between medium, mild, hot and very hot). My attempts to cut the heat with a tall glass of cold almond milk proved futile- the fire was still ablaze long after the sandwich was gone. A minor mistake that didn't make the sandwich any less delicious, and one that will definitely not be made again.  I am now fully on the banh mi wagon.

The signage in Baoguette's storefront deconstructs a typical banh mi

The 5 banh mi options at the 61 Lexington Avenue location

The overflowing Veguette sandwich is priced at $7- many of the other options cost a modest $5

A look inside Baoguette's Veguette

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Taste Of Tribeca 2010


May 15, 2010 marked the coming and going of the 16th annual Taste of Tribeca. Founded in 1994 by Tribeca-based parents, the food-themed fundraiser benefits the area's two public elementary schools, PS 150 and PS 234. A $45 ticket ($40 if purchased in advance) provided access to 6 tastes (luckily I went with a group of 5 friends and was able to maximize my sharing potential). When all 6 tastes were gone, used tickets were traded for a bag of Bazzini nuts.

Hordes of people worked their way across Duane and Greenwich Streets while queuing up to sample small bites from over 60 neighborhood restaurants and sponsors like Whole Foods (who served a skewered banana dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed nuts) and Haagen Daz (who handed out free individual sized chocolate peanut butter and vanilla flavored ice creams). Pig appeared to reign supreme with pulled pork sandwiches from Walker's (the never ending line indicated this was a clear crowd favorite), bacon wrapped date kabobs from Ward III, mini pulled pork sliders from Tribeca Grand Hotel, barbecue ribs from The Odeon, and pulled pork sliders from M1-5.

Marinated artichokes and lemon ramp ricotta from The Harrison

Barzinho's moqueca de frutos do mar with coconut milk, cilantro and tomatoes, fish and yucca flour puree over white rice
Bar Artisanal's white grape gazpacho with spiced marcona almonds
Grilled octopus salad with smoked chickpeas from Terroir Wine Bar
An unappetizing color (muted purple) for an appetizing pasta- porcini agnolotti with port wine from Acapella
The chef at Tokyo Bay making a california roll
Spiedino di pollo from Gigino Trattoria
Gigino Trattoria's zeppole
Roc's sausage ravioli with mushroom sauce
Trofie al pesto con fiori de zucca from Trattoria Cinque

An assortment of cookies and a brownie from Tribeca Treats

The clear favorite- Walker's Restaurant and Bar

The line for Walker's pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw and watermelon was by far the longest
Capsuto Freres Bistro's terrine provencal with a drizzle of balsamic
92Y Tribeca's crispy potato pancake topped with house made gravlax and sweet mustard dill sauce
Grilled octopus from Thalassa Restaurant
Homemade pickles and chips with hummus from The Hideaway
Flautas from MaryAnn's
Grandaisy Bakery's Roman style pizzas and bread
A grilled merguez sandwich from Landmarc
Le Pain Quotidien's mini tarts and belgian brownie
Tribeca Grill kept it light with an herb chicken and heirloom tomato panzanella salad
One of my favorite tastes of the day- the seafood ceviche with plantain chips from Centrico
The Odeon's barbecue rib
Scalini Fedeli's porcini ravioli
Making up a plate of porcini ravioli at Scalini Fedeli
Nobu's chicken karaage with green mango and jicama slaw
Little Pie Company had an assortment of pies and cakes- I took home a piece of their famous (or so I was told) sour cream apple with walnut
Little Pie Company's carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
Mini sandwiches made with smoked ribeye and a light horseradish whipped cream from The Palm Tribeca
Macao Trading Co.'s jade dumpling- made with shrimp and crab
Newcomer Plein Sud had a duck liver mousse with port gelee
Plein Sud also put out a chilled white gazpacho with pine nuts and mint
With its large portions of apple brown betty, Bubby's Pie Co. was out of food long before the Taste of Tribeca wrapped up
Crawfish remoulade on gougers from Duane Park
Focaccia vari gusti from Franklin Café Tavola Calda
Mini pulled pork sliders with pickled vegetables from Tribeca Grill

One of my absolute favorites- hello dolly bars from Billy's Bakery
Creamy white frosting sandwiched between two chocolate cookies from Billy's Bakery