Kitchen Adventures: crispy, crunchy, good for you granola

Granola02

One of my newest food obsessions arose over a series of many breakfasts at the YouTube office in San Bruno. Every morning at work, I found myself looking SO forward to dousing my oatmeal in the gooey, buttery granola that the very experienced YouTube chefs never failed to serve in a big black bowl. I then went on a rampage. I wanted granola every chance I could find it. I bought it at Jane down the street. I started ordering it at brunch. I am now, as cliché as it sounds, a full-blown granola-eating San Franciscan.

But I also discovered that some granolas have way too much sugar or fat than necessary – I don’t need to pack on pounds in an attempt to eat whole grains. And, a bag of good granola is hecca expensive! So, I set out to make my own.

I don’t like anything that is overly sweet – even my dessert. So, I looked for a recipe with very little sugar and only a touch of fat to act as a base to the “mix-ins” I love. I stumbled upon that of Smitten Kitchen, but her version includes coconut and dried fruit, which I don’t like in my granola, so I copied her oat-sugar-oil measurements, along with her genius addition of a whipped egg white, and threw in what I wanted. The result of this oat, wheat germ, slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, flax seeds, olive oil, maple syrup and egg white combination? Absolutely crisp, nutty, and amazing granola to eat alone or top on whatever I please. And the best thing about it is that all of the ingredients (aside from the oil, oats, and sugar) are optional, so you can get creative! Highly recommend making this to fulfill your next domestic craving.

tossed granola

tossed raw granola

cooked granola!

cooked granola!

Ingredients:
3 Cups old fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 cup of maple syrup (more if you like it sweet)
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup toasted wheat bran or wheat germ
1/4 cup of flaxseed
1 large egg white
Dried fruit, if you wish

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss all ingredients (aside from egg white) in a large bowl. Once well mixed, add a frothy whipped egg white and mix. Lay on a cookie sheet with parchment and cook for 25 minutes. Then, flip all granola over with a spatula and cook for another 20 minutes. Cool and store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for a long while!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Kitchen Adventures

Featured City Posts: digesting Nashville one meal at a time

Nashville

A cross country move followed by two best friends’ weddings and a series of small trips can seriously damage a routine blogging schedule, as you all know. And while life has settled slightly since I’ve arrived in San Francisco, and I have had a handful of amazing blog-worthy meals, I knew I needed something epic to report about to motivate me to start back up again. So praise be to Nashville.

While my primary purpose of taking the compulsory 6+ hour, 1-stop minimum flight from SF to visit Nashville was to see my long lost friend Lauren and her fiancé Sam, the trip quickly turned into a food tour of every spot that came recommended to me by either fellow foodies or recent visitors. And fortunately for me, Nasvhille is relatively small, so limited stomach-space aside, checking places off my list was fairly masterable.

And boy are there great places! I started off touring the 12-South neighborhood in search of a coffee, and found the Frothy Monkey (recommended by Lauren), a quintessential college-town hangout that looked like a Berkeley transplant. Despite the many affordable, delicious bagel sandwich options, Coffee and a raisin bran muffin was all I needed to tide me over until lunch, which I found at another stand-up-and-order college-town eatery, Fido. Fido is located on the restaurant lined 21st street in Hilsboro village, just blocks from Vanderbilt, so as expected, it has a hearty list of $10 or less sandwich and salad options to choose from. I went for the chopped salad, which while not quite enough for lunch, was the perfect healthy mix of cabbage, avocado, golden raisins, feta, peppers, and tangy lemon dressing to keep me only slightly satiated before an amazing dinner at City House in Germantown.

Frothy Monkey

Frothy Monkey

Fido Big Chop salad

Fido Big Chop salad

City House is a great name for the restaurant, which appears as a random white house with brightly lit windows on a somewhat deserted, tree-lined street. Escaping a cold dark night and entering this warm atmosphere gets you even more excited to be a part of the crew that was able to score a reservation. The place itself is minimalistic, but the lighting, approachable menu and flowing cocktails create a homey and familiar atmosphere. After a few grapefruit cocktails, Sam, Lauren and I split a kale salad, an incredible charred brick oven belly-ham pizza, a roast chicken to die for and a local trout with crispy skin and peanuts. Everything was mouthwatering, but an often-doubtful chicken eater (me) was made dumbfounded by this moist, intensely smokey dark meat with crackling skin. I might even say it was better than Barbuto’s. Dessert of chocolate panna cotta and a pecan tart rounded the meal out perfectly. There wasn’t one thing I would have changed!

City House

City House

amazing belly ham pizza

amazing belly ham pizza

springer mountain chicken with sweet roasted rhubarb

springer mountain chicken with sweet roasted red onion and rhubarb

Carolina trout with breadcrumbs, raisins, and peanuts

crisp Carolina trout with breadcrumbs, raisins, and peanuts

Sam so flabergasted by the delicious desserts

Sam so flabergasted by the delicious desserts

My satisfying City House experience only motivated me to continue on the food journey the next day, and thankfully, Lauren was up for it. We had a list and there was nothing but cold weather holding us back. We started off with a biscuit at Puckett Grocery‘s downtown (which would have been great for a hearty breakfast if there hadn’t been a wait), a cortado with house-made almond-coconut milk at world-renowned Crema Coffee. Then we stumbled upon Marché Artisan Foods, a recommended brunch spot with loads of homemade baked goods and an adorable Mediterranean style, floor-to-ceiling window setting. I knew I had many meals head of me so I ordered a prosciutto and gruyere omelet to act as the base (and soak up the City House cocktails from hours earlier). Lauren’s frittata with asparagus and romesco sauce intrigued me more than my own order, but it was still a solid brunch in a great location. Next time I’m definitely getting a piece of zucchini cake to go.

crispy buttery biscuit

crispy buttery biscuit

sweet barista at Crema coffee

sweet barista at Crema coffee

Marché Artisan Foods baked goods display

Marché Artisan Foods baked goods display

fritatta + Lauren

fritatta + Lauren

After roaming by car around East Nashville, otherwise known as the Brooklyn of Nashville, we headed to Jeni’s, an adorable artisan ice cream shops known for its inventive flavors based in Columbus Ohio. With the store to ourselves on the cold fall day, the sweet and passionate ice cream scooper gave us tastes, accompanied by short histories, of almost every flavor. After sampling everything from burnt sweet potato and marshmallow, cheese curd and raspberry, cayenne, pumpkin, salted caramel, and a rich and inventive toasted coconut and roasted banana combo, I fell in love with the Buckeye – a roasted salty peanut and dark chocolate flavor that was sweet, savory, and mind blowing. Stuffed from our breakfast and ice cream samples, I walked out only with a bag of almond brittle and a newfound obsession for Jeni’s ice cream.

me @ Jeni's

me looking super cool @ Jeni’s

Enough time (15 minutes) had passed to re-ignite the hunger for something salty, so we decided it was time to check off my Southern BBQ experience at Edley’s in 12 South. I had very little desire to eat, but knew I had to do my food tour justice. I have no regrets about the smokey thick-carved turkey sandwich I ordered, and the sides of mac & cheese and green beans helped me survive an afternoon hunger surge.

Photos - 32

horrible photo – no shame no gain

Hours of lounging on the couch led us to motivate to honor our reservation at Holland House Bar and Refuge, a restaurant chock full of quaint details including a 360 degree bar, a fire place, and eclectic, wooden dining furniture. Our bartender Nate was so friendly that we decided to have our meal at the bar. The good? His undivided attention for cocktail making (which ranged from strawberry tequila drinks to vodka martinis), the beautiful low-lit vibe, and the cod brandade with whole grain mustard and pickled asparagus. The not so good? The over-salted braised greens (which we exchanged for the brussels sprouts), and the over-cooked burger (which we sent back for a more accurate interpretation of “rare”). The end result of a tender patty, caramelized onions and blue cheese reminiscent of Spotted Pig’s was obviously amazing.

Holland House outside

Holland House outside

bar @ Holland House

bar @ Holland House

I was honestly relieved to end the food tour there, but we somehow ended up at Walgreens (after failing at Piggley Wiggley’s, yes, that really exists), to buy ingredients for a festive Halloween rice crispy treat.. We whipped up a batch, which was just enough activity to put us to bed at a decent hour.

Ta-dah!!

Ta-dah!!

From the list of meals I had in Nashville, one might think I had been there for a week. And that makes me feel very accomplished! Nashville, you’re all the quirkiness, culture and beauty that everyone described.

Places Mentioned
Frothy Monkey
Fido
City House
Puckett Grocery‘s
Crema Coffee
Marché Artisan Foods
Jeni’s
Edley’s
Holland House

1 Comment

Filed under Featured U.S. City Posts, Southern

Izakaya Ten: a quaint Japanese gem in no-man’s land

izakaya ten

When most people think of 10th avenue, I’m guessing that the thought of great restaurants doesn’t come to mind. But if you creep up north of 20th street, there are quite a few dark horses that I wish I had discovered sooner, one of which is a called Izakaya Ten. Izakayas are Japanese drinking establishments that also serve food. Here, despite the late hours (they close at 3am!) I would never have considered food as an afterthought. The menu is chalk full of goodies. And the energy that a boozey-focus brings solves the problem of the dreary, awkwardly quiet atmosphere of typical sushi bars. Izakaya Ten teleports you from a wide, uncharacteristic avenue to a restaurant you’d expect to find on a side street in Tokyo (or Korea? there’s kim chi). It’s got energy. It’s got hard alcohol. It has massive hand written, animé style menus. There’s music playing. And because it’s so tiny, you really feel like you’re enjoying the experience together along with the patrons around you.

I came here expecting a long list of sushi, but no, the goods go beyond sliced seafood. Yes, there’s a few selections of raw fish (we ordered most of them (the spicy tuna donburi, the sashimi plate, and the toro tuna belly seared over rice), but it’s the small plates of cooked food that really got me going. And as the sake kept pouring, we lost all shame in incessantly ordering more food: shishito peppers, a crispy cod roe rice ball wrapped in seaweed, another crispy rice ball with salmon, the chilled Japanese eggplant in broth, the savory, decadent jumbo shumai, the kara age (ginger deep-fried chicken), and of course, the special fried soft shell crab. In addition to the uniqueness of the menu, the icing on the cake was the attentive Australian server who feigned to be happy to answer our constant requests for more sake and more food.

 

kara age

softshell crab

softshell crab

rice ball!

rice ball!

 

 

We were lucky to walk in on a Friday night at 8pm and get a table right away, but it would have been worth the wait. Izakaya Ten is the perfect place for a fun dinner for a group of up to 4 people, or even for a more eventful, share-plate style date. It can get expensive if you don’t reign in the ordering, but it’s a place you want to arrive hungry and uninhibited. I can’t wait to take advantage of the fact that I’m walking distance to this spot!

Grade: A+
Location: 207 10th Ave btwn 22nd and 23rd Streets 
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Asian, Barbecue, Chelsea, Drinks & Apps, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Japanese

Shake Shack: do I really need to explain?

shake shack

I’m not a burger connoisseur. And I can confidently say that unless I’m hungover, it rarely ever occurs to me to open up a menu and order a juicy, meaty hamburger. But ever since I waited in line at Shake Shack for an hour and got so hungry and light-headed that I had to give up to search for something I could eat IMMEDIATELY, I’ve been craving the juicy burger I was so close to having like no other.

Fortunately this week, my college friend and burger-lover Ashley was in town with quite the eating list to tackle. Shake Shack naturally made the top of the list, so we decided to wait in the infamous (yet MUCH shorter than it used to be) line for the whole burger sha-bang. Since I’m such a burger novice, I still hadn’t figured out if I like my burger with or without cheese. This time, I tried the Shack burger without, and piled it high with tomato, lettuce, onions and ketchup. This combination is my new go-to, because the patty on its own is decadent enough – the cheese would have masked its crispy, seared outside and intense flavor. Whereas at In-N-Out, the real standout of the burger is the thick cut tomato, onion and soft toasted bun, at Shake Shack, it’s all about the meat and soft potato bun, which are the ingredients that in my opinion really matter. I’m craving another one as we speak.

IMG_1689

Ash Bash super excited for what’s about to go down

The fries were nothing sort of awesome. The jagged shape creates lots of crispy edges surrounding a fluffy potato center. They’re clean-cut and not too greasy, and actually quite good inside the burger itself.

Since the custard flavor of the day was chocolate chip cookie, I obviously couldn’t resist, but I was disappointed by the soupey texture. It should have been dense and cold, yet instead it turned out to be melted with lumps of chocolate. The flavors were there, but they need to repair their machine at this location.

Overall, I am oh-so happy I finally can check this burger off my list of must-dos before the dreaded NYC move.

Grade: B+ overall due to melted frozen custard, but the burger was amazing
Location: Multiple
Website

1 Comment

Filed under American, Cheap Eat, Chelsea, Erin's Favorites, Flatiron, Union Square

Smorgasburg: a quick assessment and a clear winning vendor

photo

Yesterday my visiting long-lost-New-Yorker-now-San-Franciscan-resident friend Ashley and I decided to do something incredibly adventurous (ridiculous) in the 90 degree (feels like 115 degree) heat. We attempted to walk to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. After a failed walk, one cab ride to the wrong market and another successful cab ride, we finally made it to Smorgasburg on North 8th and Kent Avenue, smack dab in the center of the glistening sun beating rays in a serious way down my back. I’ve been wanting to do Smorgasburg since it started a year or two ago, but at the moment, with bullets of sweat dripping down my face, the booth offerings – the majority of which were fried, meat heavy, or piping hot – were not as appealing as I imagined they’d be. But, we were there, and we set out to make the most of it.

The biggest stand out of the variety of samplings (including a quinoa falafel, a short rib Takumi taco, and a Bite Size Kitchen chicken bun) we had? By far, as would be expected of my Filipino family, the lumpia sampler from Lumpia Shack. Never would I imagine a hot, crispy roll to taste so good in life-threatening heat, but the variety caught me off guard – in a good way. The truffled adobo mushroom, made with three types of mushroom, lemongrass, and ginger, was a vegetarian’s heaven. The peking duck lumpia with hoisin sauce was the perfect little bite sized meat stuffed bundle. They’re tiny, impeccably crispy, and doused with just the right sauces to bring out their insides. A+ for quality lumpia. The original, with pork and garlic, was just like my grandma used to make.

lumpia shack

a collection of goodies

a collection of goodies

purposefully cut off my sweaty face.

halo halo purposefully cut off my sweaty face.

We also dove into the icey halo halo, made with coconut milk, flan, ube (purple yam), shaved ice, and all the syrupy, candied fruit that every halo halo lover has grown to love. Unfortunately, without the ube ice cream (which you can sometimes find in halo halo), it just didn’t stay as cold as I wanted it to. Not enough ube flavor – only a tad skimming the inside of the cup. That said, it was a nice refreshing alternative to ice cream in that God awful weather.

Smorgasburg? Meh. Lots of carb-covered easy to eat bites, not necessarily the best variations you can find in New York. Probs won’t be back unless I’m really craving some creative lumpia.

2 Comments

Filed under Brooklyn

Beekman Beer Garden & The Butterfly: two contrasting watering holes

I’m making a point to try interesting NYC bars because lately, with the impending move, I’m living every remaining day in New York like it’s my last. Last week, I trekked down in the pouring rain to attend my friend Princess’s surprise birthday party at Beekman Beer Garden at South Street Seaport. I assume all places on the water in this area are massive tourist traps, and while most of them are, Beekman Beer Garden proved to be an absolutely legit spot for outdoor drinking. The place is literally just inches from the water with an absolutely gorgeous view of the Brooklyn Bridge that gets more dramatic as the night (and drinking) goes on. The outdoor space is massive, with half of it laid out for those who want more of a beachy vibe (sand on the floor, white umbrellas), and the other half for more of a corporate crowd that wants an awning over their head and comfortable seating. Our group stuck it out in the rain on the sandy side under the white umbrellas. The best part about this place aside from the view is the massive bar that wraps around the entire edge of the outdoor space, so I never had to wait more than a second for a drink order. The worst part about this place? The food. I made the mistake of arriving hungry, ordered an $8 quesadilla from what looked like a trailer park kitchen and was left with cold chicken, frozen sour cream and old jarred salsa. It was pretty much disgusting. So, come here for a night of boozing with friends with a gorgeous, only-in-NYC kind of view, but don’t expect high quality cocktails or grub (or a really nice bathroom).

beekman-beer-garden-beach-club-grand-opening-10

beekman

erin photo

holding the birthday girl @ Beekman

Later last week, after I came across this article on SeriousEats, I had an undying incentive to see what Michael White’s The Butterfly was all about. The food looked to die for and so did the cocktails. One flip through that slideshow and I was ready for action. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I was instantly disappointed by the lack of energy in the place. It may be the low, slowly revolving ceiling fans, lack of music, or retro decor that threw me off, but something about the place just didn’t scream “let’s drink!” to me. I sat at the tiki-like bar and ordered a Paloma, one of the more interesting drinks on the menu with tequila, grapefruit, and some kind of aperol foam that I later read was created with a soy protein. Despite the bartender’s claim that it wouldn’t be sweet, it was freaking more sugary than a pixie stick. The foam tasted like tropical fruit medicine, and I couldn’t avoid it to get the drink underneath. He noticed my discomfort and offered a mojito, which I gladly accepted. Props for good service. I didn’t have the chance to order the food, and although it looks hearty and interesting, I doubt I’ll be back. Ambiance is (almost) everything to me and I just felt awkward in the relatively empty space with tons of servers watching my every move. Maybe it was just the early start time.

thebutterfly01

The Butterfly storefront

The best kind of bar for me is one that has great drinks, solid food, and the perfect atmosphere for my mood, which often changes. That’s why Rusty Knot still reigns supreme. My search for other great bars continues…

Beekman Beer Garden
Grade:
A-

The Butterfly
Grade: B

Leave a comment

Filed under Drinks & Apps

The Nomad: Daniel Humm’s rich, carefully plated dishes in a gorgeous mahogany library

Photo from NYTimes

Photo from NYTimes

I finally checked The Nomad off my bucket list, thanks to hearing from many people this weekend that it’s their absolute favorite restaurant in New York. After a late night out Saturday the last thing I felt like doing was dressing up for a rich, semi-fancy meal, but I knew it would be a mistake to pass up the 7:30pm reservation I scored last minute.

Long story short is that the place is magical – absolutely stunning with the high ceilings and warm lighting. But I’m guessing the aura of importance this place exudes is what makes the prices are as high as they are, because while the food was definitely impressive in presentation, nothing I ate was as standout as what I had expected for such gorgeous, dramatic surroundings. If I were to return, it would primarily be to re-live the feeling of being in a setting that’s truly unique and regal, but takes care not to be overly stuffy.

Library dining room

Library dining room

The cocktail list is extensive but our sommelier recommended two delicious bottles of wine that paired with the copious amounts of food my friends and I ordered. My favorite part was hands-down the hot chick-pea crusted rosemary focaccia, which they generously give to every table. I would have paid a good $10 for this. I appreciated that they offered two sizes of the crab lemon tagliatelle, but while it was bright and refreshing, the amount of crab was seriously pathetic. Along with the simple lettuce salad (which was pretty boring), the tuna tartare, served skewered on actual tuna bones, was the lightest thing on the menu and a welcome starter for what was to come.

focaccia - this was from last season

focaccia – this was from last season

tagliatelle with crab and meyer lemon

tagliatelle with crab and meyer lemon

frothy poached egg that turned into a soupy mess

frothy poached egg that turned into a soupy mess

The theme of the rest of the meal was heavy, rich, and doused with butter. Eating everything from foie gras to fried sweetbread egg rolls, I felt like I was in Versailles. The egg poached in butter with quinoa actually tasted like a frothy butter soup. Then, because we pretty  much had to, we moved onto their special chicken for 2, which at $79 I expected to blow me away. Theoretically, it should have. The chicken, which is first presented whole and then carved and plated, is massaged with black truffle foie gras stuffing. The dark meat is carved and served in a separate cast iron pot of “jus”, which honestly tasted like rich, meat flavored butter. The stuffing on the breast meat was great, and the entire presentation was creative, but I’ve had better chicken in Korea town. The meat itself lacked flavor and could have really benefitted from some brining. A+ for creativity, but B- for actual taste and flavor.

chicken before carving

chicken before carving

chicken carved

chicken carved (photo from starchefs.com)

chocolate dessert

chocolate dessert

milk and honey

milk and honey

The desserts, as usual on this blog, saved the day – probably because we had little chance to fail since we ordered every item on the menu (and the waiter kindly brought us one on the house). Each was beautifully plated and incorporated lots of variation in texture – the chocolate dessert had little squares of rich fudge bites, crispy chocolate cookies, and malt ice cream. I loved their well known “milk and honey”, three scoops of subtly flavored honey ice cream with crispy shortbread and brittle. Others raved about the poached strawberries with angel food cake and ricotta, but I’m not usually a fan of fruit dessert. If I’m going to eat dessert, I want it to be as far away from healthy food as possible.

I’m very satisfied with my experience at Nomad because 1) I finally got to see what the hype was all about, 2) I proved to myself that the chicken was not worth $79, 3) I got to spend over two hours in one of the most striking, grandiose  real life version of Harry Potter’s library ever, and 4) Most importantly, it will tide me over from expensive, special-occasion meals for the next few months. Was it the best meal of my life? Definitely not. But I would recommend having the experience at least once to everyone.

Grade: B
Location: 1170 Broadway @ 28th
Website 

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Meal, Flatiron, French, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Romantic Date, Sex & The City Swank

Saravana Bhavan: dosas in comfort and cleanliness

saravanna

I had my first Indian meal when I visited the Indian port city of Chennai during my semester at sea in 2007. I was 20. While I know Indian cuisine has so much history and possesses the qualities I look for in food – flavor, aroma, variation, and a focus on bread – I just never had the opportunity to really get into it growing up. My family would dine on Filipino food or burritos when we were feeling really adventurous. Now that I have an Indian man in my life (Chef Akhtar), I have no choice but to incorporate this very unique cuisine in my life.

During our visit to the Indian market today in “Curry Hill”, there really was no way to avoid eating Indian for lunch. And with a lingering hangover at lunch time, I welcomed it with open arms. Thanks to the advice of a customer at the market, we were told to walk two blocks down to a place called “Saravana Bhavan” – thankfully she detailed the location, because I forgot the name instantly. When Chef Akhtar and I walked in, it was bustling with Indian families eating Sunday lunch – which I take as a key indicator of an Indian restaurant’s authenticity. The plates flying by all got my stomach rumbling, and I somehow soon ordered the most expensive item on the menu – the $17.99 South Indian Thali, which came as a platter with hot bread, rice, and mini bowls of Indian curries and stews for dipping. Using bread to shovel an array of delicious things in my mouth, which is often how I eat Mediterranean food, is my favorite way of eating – I only wish the bread was a little greasier and crispier like Naan, which the restaurant doesn’t serve. We also ordered the Masala Dosa, which arrived as a massive cone engulfing a concentrated scoop of potato and peas. The bread was crispy, moist, and a sturdy utensil for the three accompanying sauces. And on a whim, we requested a fluffy Poori, a fried fluffy whole wheat bread that was just another perfect vehicle for dipping into my tray of delights.

dosa

dosa

a platter for a Queen

a platter for a Queen

inflated poori

inflated poori

I can’t say I loved every little bowl on the platter; the sweet mango and rice pudding I could have done without, but the koottu (lentil puree) and the rasam (a South Indian Tamarind soup) were especially soothing to my hung over soul. Washed down with a diet coke, this hearty, vegetarian, finger-fed meal became a new found cure to an upset stomach. I’ll definitely be back when the mood to head north and east in Manhattan strikes me.

Grade: A-
Location: 81 Lexington Ave @ 26th Street
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Affordable Date, Cheap Eat, Family Style, Fun Group Dinner, Indian, Murray Hill

Eataly: The best place on earth for multiple things

eataly

Made in Italy
Local and artisanal
This place spoils me.

When Eataly opened (almost) three years ago, I immediately became obsessed with the place. On walks uptown, I’d go out of my way to pass through the Flatiron district to embark on the Eataly maze, dodging a chaotic mass of people with shopping carts or glasses of wine in hand gazing at the piles of imported italian products. Each visit I’d discover something new about the place, and like most customers, I just couldn’t get enough of it.

Fast forward to today and now I am an official Eatalian as an Eataly intern, and I couldn’t be happier to be an official part of the internal team. I appreciate the quality of the food and the constant orchestration that makes the whole place sing more than I ever did before. So, in honor of my time thus far, here are (only some) of my favorite things Eataly has to offer that aren’t as widely known as they should be.

1. La Scuola: Eataly has an amazing executive chef, Alex Pilas, that combined with a fully dedicated events team, a beautiful demo space (which is a restaurant by day), and dean Lidia Bastianich, make for an incredible cooking education program. Classes are relatively affordable, hands off (which I prefer) and more often than not include plenty of food and accompanying alcohol. I recently took the Summer Risotto class, which for $100 provides three glasses of wine, delicious house made bread, a four course meal, a detailed cooking demo, and a cooking booklet to bring home. At 90 minutes classes are relatively short, which I welcome considering I tend to get antsy sitting still.

Chef Alex Pilas teaching class

Chef Alex Pilas teaching class

summer saffron risotto

summer saffron risotto

scallop risotto

scallop risotto

2. Eataly Walking Tour: If you’re overwhelmed by the space like most people, I highly recommend the $35 Eataly walking tour, where in just two hours you are given an educational walk through the store that includes samplings of almost every individual counter. On my walk, I tasted fresh mozzarella, shishito peppers, jicama, fresh baked bread, parmesan with aged balsamic, homemade pasta, a slice of pizza, gelato, and hot chocolate. A steal for the price, and perfect if you want to become an expert at navigating the space.

3. The Panini Counter: Oh my lord, the best sandwiches ever, which is probably why the line curls around the store at lunch time. The bread is made fresh in-house every day. The meats and cheeses are imported or local. The ingredients are so high quality that each sandwich needs only 2-3 elements to make it really stand out. My favorite is the soppressata and provolone or the simple caprese with house made mozzarella. But on cold days, the hot sandwiches made out of fresh pizza dough are just the thing to get.

warm pizza-bread panini, pressed on the grill

warm pizza-bread panini, pressed on the grill

soppressata

soppressata

parma ham and mozzarella

parma ham and mozzarella

4. The Focaccia: If you want to experience Eataly’s quintessential homemade-ness without spending an arm and a leg, get a $1.80-$3.80 slice of olive oil crisped focaccia. Salty, crunchy, earth-shatteringly flavorful bread. It smells of Italy.

focaccia

focaccia

5. The Walnut Loaf: So I love bread. Sue me. But this particular loaf is on another level. Buy a loaf, slice it up, and freeze what you don’t use for toast (with butter) in the morning.

bread counter

bread counter

6. La Piazza: By far the best menu of any of the 7 restaurants in the space because it’s got a little of everything, and I actually like eating standing. In the middle of your Eataly tour, stop here for a cheese plate, some salumi, and maybe some crostini. and definitely taste the squid if it’s on the special menu that day. Caramelized simply with citrus and oil, it’s absolutely incredible.

La Piazza

La Piazza

7. The Gelato: Ok, so if you’ve been here you know about this, but it really doesn’t get much better. Eataly’s pastry chefs use the local farm milk and eggs that they sell to create this creamy concoction, and each bite just leaves you wanting more. Get the salted caramel and pistachio if you want my ideal situation, but all the flavors warrant recognition.

gelato

pistachio and coconut

8. Birreria: Summer or winter, the rooftop beer garden is the ultimate, picturesque setting for a brew and some mushrooms. It tends to get crowded at peak beer sipping hours, but in my opinion, the al fresco dining experience is worth the wait.

beer garden in summer

beer garden in summer

9. The Butcher Counter: Let’s be honest, every “counter” at Eataly is artisanal and serves a better product than almost anywhere in New York. The pasta counter gets me every time. But the dark horse of the bunch is the meat counter, somewhat hidden behind the dry pasta, outside the central piazza. You can be sure that all meat is antibiotic and hormone free, and sourced from sustainable local farms that (Eataly confirms first-hand) treat their animals humanely. I never thought raw meat could actually stir my appetite. Go for the sausage or the ready-made burger patties for an affordable, delicious and easy meal.

butcher

butcher

There are so many dozens of other reasons this place is fabulous and as popular as it is. Every accolade it has received is well deserved. It’s cliche, but in order to believe you gotta come see it. Do yourself a favor and reserve an afternoon to get lost in a sea of Italian and local goodness.

1 Comment

Filed under Filipino, Italian, Market Prowl

The Palm Court at the Plaza: tea time, anyone?

Justyn @ Plaza

Justyn @ Plaza

Scones, clotted cream, tea
Fancy forks and velvet chairs
Hellof expensive

I never thought I’d add high tea at the Plaza to my New York bucket list, but when my sister invited me to join her with her friend Nicole, it suddenly became a pre-move-to-SF priority. Plus, I grew up fantasizing about the Plaza as an avid Elouise fan. Before I could read, my sister would pretend that this said book was oddly written all about me, so imagining myself jumping around the hotel was often how I’d fall asleep. To be here today as an adult, sipping tea as a civilized New Yorker, happy and independent…well it just brought a warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia.

Until I was told we would be charged $20 per person to share any of the four assorted finger food selections. At $60 for an individual order, I should’ve assumed as much. Fortunately, my annoyance only slightly disrupted the beauty of the grand and uniquely ornate surroundings.  

We selected the afternoon tea and shared the New Yorker, which came with a selection of mini sandwiches, lemon scones with clotted cream, lemon and jam, and sweet treats, all a notch less fancy than the “Fitzgerald Tea for the Ages.” And while “they” call it “tea”, it soon became much more of a food test than a sipping tea fest. I sampled every sandwich (microscopic bites since we were sharing between 3), and the smoked salmon with endive was by far the best. The other two were delicious – roquefort with grapes, and a crispy prosciutto with mozzarella and pesto. The cucumber was not cold and crispy enough, and far too heavy on the whipped cream cheese.

Me & platter

Me & tower

Nicole & Justyn & platter

Nicole & Justyn & tower

The scone, a very important part of tea, was crumbly, buttery, lemony, and perfect with the clotted cream and sweet additions. It was enough dessert on its own, but that didn’t stop me from sampling each of the bite-sized desserts on plate 3 – the cream-filled profiterole was the best.

The best deal here, however, is the $30 Elouise tray for children. Nicole’s daughter lucked out with her own, 3-tiered tower filled with a PB&J, cucumber sandwich, strawberry sandwich, and a few others, a scone, and a ton of desserts that looked better than our adult ones (like a white chocolate dipped strawberry and a pink oreo…so unfair). I took a few bites here and there, and while the PB&J was a little on the stale side, I’ll say this much – if you can pass for an 11 year old, I would come here to order this and call it a day.

heaven for a child.

heaven for a child.

Will I be back? Not on my paycheck. Did I feel super sophisticated and rich eating there? Yes. Quintessentially New York? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Totally.

So America, here you have it. Tea at the Plaza Hotel.

a horrible photo of all of us.

a horrible photo of all of us.

Grade: B+ (food only)
Location: The Plaza. Do I even need to explain?
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Brunch, Business Meal, Midtown East, Midtown West, Upper West Side