All pizza, all the time

April 21, 2009

 

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The recession seems to have instigated lots of restaurants both new and established to serve less expensive fare, namely pizza and sandwiches. Having covered many of the new sandwich spots, I’m now turning my attention to the proliferation of pizza joints. I’m generally a fan of pizza, from the humble New York slice to the thin and crispy crust with fancy toppings.

Tonda serves Neopolitan pizza, baked in a custom-built wood burning oven that reaches 1000 degrees and circulates the pie on a sort of lazy-susan contraption, so that once it makes a full rotation, the pizza is done. The crust is pillowy and a bit doughier than I would have thought. The options for toppings were enticing, and we settled on the mozzarella, spicy sausage and fresh tomato pie. Our first complaint when the pizza arrived was that it’s not cut into slices. Why would you want to leave that task to the diner? It’s frustrating and annoying. Also, we weren’t thrilled with the sausage. It was tough and too spicy and we ended up picking it off and building a pile of it on the side. We did enjoy the tomato and mozzarella, which tasted extremely fresh and authentic.

 

Last slice and leftover sausage

Last slice and leftover sausage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for the rest of the menu, we only tried the cauliflower salad and the homemade breadsticks with prosciutto and goat cheese. The salad was crunchy and bright with acid and generally a nice addition. The breadsticks were a bit chewy and didn’t make a ton of sense with the prosciutto and goat cheese, but we ate them anyway. Bottom line: If you’re looking for new Italian to try in the East Village and you want to see a cool wood-burning oven, go to Tonda. It won’t change your life, but it’s pleasant.

 

 

Cauliflower salad with arugula, tomatoes and olives.

Cauliflower salad with arugula, tomatoes and olives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breadsticks with prosciutto and goat cheese.

Breadsticks with prosciutto and goat cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Lisa


Custom cupcakes

April 20, 2009

 

The cupcakes come in this cute brown bag.

The cupcakes come in this cute brown bag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you ever wonder why the “I don’t know why I didn’t think of this” feeling strikes so often? I do, especially after I finally made it around to Butter Lane on East 7th Street. This cupcake bakery manages to provide the ultimate personalized treat experience, albeit at $2.75 per (small) cupcake, you’d better know what you like. Here, you can choose between three types of cake (vanilla, chocolate and banana) and a rotating selection of ten or more icings (cream cheese, peanut butter, French vanilla buttercream, etc.).

 

The cake and icing menu.

The cake and icing menu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you decide on your custom combination, the girl behind the counter frosts a cupcake just for you (unless your choice is so popular that they have some pre-iced). These aren’t professional-looking cupcakes with heaps of icing and decorations that you might order for a fussy party. They look a lot like the Duncan Hines you might make at home, but they taste a lot better. The banana cake is the big winner—it’s very moist and tastes exactly like you think banana bread cupcakes would. I like it best when paired with the French chocolate frosting, a much lighter more chocolate tasting flavor than the traditional American chocolate buttercream, which tastes more like sugar than anything else. I’ve stopped in for this combo twice already and may need to avoid 7th Street entirely for awhile, unless I plan to spend the summer in sweatpants.

 

 

A fairly disappointing chocolate/peanut butter cupcake at left and my favorite banana/chocolate combo on the right.

A fairly disappointing chocolate/peanut butter cupcake at left and my favorite banana/chocolate combo on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Lisa


Community brunch

April 13, 2009

 

The brunch crowds are out!

The brunch crowds are out!

 

 

I don’t get to the UWS all that often (though I do love Barney Greengrass), so I eagerly agreed to join a friend for brunch there on what was arguable the nicest day in 2009 thus far. We met at Community Food & Juice on the most brilliantly sunny day, and the wait wasn’t even that long—20 minutes. The scene was pretty hilarious though, with the first really good burst of sun out pour the brunch hordes. If you set up outdoor tables, they will come.

Even better news? The menu is fantastic. There were at least four or five things I wanted to try and had a tough time settling on my order. My friend went with the very healthy veggie scramble and I opted for the much less sensible seven-grain waffle with sour cherry compote and toasted almonds. We also split an order of the house made chicken-apple-rosemary sausage. I’m still thinking about that sausage. We couldn’t have been happier to sit in the warmth of the sun, catching up, brunching and sipping our delicious cappuccinos. Life is good, try Community Food & Juice. 

-Lisa


Num pang is the new bahn mi

April 8, 2009

 

NMy new favorite sandwich, times two.

My new favorite sandwich, times two.

 

According to their website, Num Pang is Cambodian for sandwich. These sandwiches are similar in composition to Vietnamese bahn mi, with fresh cilantro and pickled vegetables, plus meat and mayo-based sauce. The num pang pulled  duroc pork sandwich with spiced honey (pictured here) far outshines the baoguette. Despite being half the size and twice the price of the baoguette, the num pang is about quality over quantity. The perfect bread from Parisi Bakery is toasty on the outside, soft on the inside. The chili mayo is totally addictive. The pork was perfect. The whole combination was a delight, and way more satisfying than the all the other bahn mi. Next time I’m going to try the coconut tiger shrimp version.

 

The Num Pang assembly line

The Num Pang assembly line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Lisa


Penne from heaven

April 7, 2009

 

Sadly, I forgot to photograph the pasta, but here is the pro-version from Everyday Food.

Sadly, I forgot to photograph the pasta, but here is the pro version from Everyday Food.

 

 

In search of a little comfort food last week, I browsed the pasta section in the March issue of Everyday Food. I quickly settled on the baked penne with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes because it reminded me of a dish we used to order in Ann Arbor at the Cottage Inn. The magazine suggests you cook half of the pasta and freeze the other half, but I knew the whole thing would be gone within 24 hours, and that’s exactly what happened.

 

 

The recipe was pretty easy to follow, especially after a trip to Trader Joe’s where I bought a bag of pre-shredded Quattro Formaggio (I love a good short cut) cheese, which I believe included asiago, provolone and parmesan. I had whole wheat penne in the cabinet, sun-dried tomatoes in the fridge and chicken breast in the freezer. Hooray for using a few things I already own. I put the pasta on and sauteed the chicken, then dealt with the bechamel/cheese sauce. So without explicitly saying so, this is a modified mac and cheese. I think you’ll feel less guilty about eating it if you just call it baked penne, but it’s pretty darn cheesy and completely delicious on a chilly, rainy night. Also, I tend to feel much better about eating like that when I prepare it myself and know exactly what the ingredients are, and that no high fructose corn syrup or processed sodium laden stuff got in. 

-Lisa


Back forty brunch

April 6, 2009

 

These aren't chicken nuggets!

These aren't chicken nuggets!

Who would have thought three cute girls at Sunday brunch would immediately zero in on pork jowel nuggets as the nibble with which to start their day. I also had my eye on the fresh doughnuts (a sensible Sunday brunch choice) but we settled on the swine. Great decision, as it turns out, since the golden “nuggets” were bread-crumb-coated, rich and fatty pork belly cubes served with a complementary sweet and spicy Jalepeno jam and cilantro. 

We continued on with brunch entrees of fried chicken and waffles, house smoked trout  with sweet potato pancakes, creme fraiche, onions and capers, and poached eggs with cheesy grits, spinach, mushrooms and toast.  

 

An excellent tribute to the south

An excellent tribute to the south

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fried chicken of the aforementioned dish was near perfect. It was juicy and flavorful and crunchy. It wasn’t dry or greasy, but we did have one minor complaint: why would they serve a wing as part of the meal. It seemed cheap. Oh well, never mind the wing, we loved every bite of the salty/sweet pairing.

The poached eggs, etc. were blah and under-seasoned. 

 

See how skimpy the trout looks next to the rest of the dish?

See how skimpy the trout looks next to the rest of the dish?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The smoked trout dish was lovely, if a bit stingy on the fish portion. We really enjoyed the crunchy little salad of celery, onions and capers, even if it was overdressed. The sweet potato pancakes were yummy on their own, and would be a great solo item on the menu, served with maple syrup (I happily dipped them in the syrup from the waffles).

 

No pickles:(

No pickles:(

 

 

Overall, we liked the Back Forty brunch quite a bit, but felt they lost points on two fronts: when one of ordered the bloody mary with pickles, it came without any preserved veg; we waited far too long for our entrees and get pretty antsy and annoyed. I think we’d all return though, for that fried chicken and waffles dish. It’s that good. 

-Lisa


Sale doesn’t always=Good idea

April 1, 2009

 

Cosmetic procedures are not the place to scrimp and save!

Cosmetic procedures are not the place to scrimp and save!

 

 

 

Sales can be incredibly tempting at times like these, but be careful not to get swept away by this kind of bargain…

Like your mom always said, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

-Lisa

Image courtesy http://www.tvscoop.tv.


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