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

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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


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


Dining out on Passover

March 27, 2009

 

Get your box of matzo before Food Emporium runs out!

Get your box of matzo before Food Emporium runs out!

 

 

If you celebrate Passover and can’t make it home, or just prefer to relax and enjoy the seder meal at a restaurant, I’ve got a roundup of options for NYC holiday dining. None are kosher, but let’s face it, you probably won’t be eating out on Passover if you’re kosher.

Savoy: This $95 4-course Syrian menu includes wine pairings.

Capsouto Freres: For $150 (proceeds of this Sephardic feast go to the JDC ), join a communal table and enjoy a traditional seder led by a cantor.

Telepan: The $65 4-course menu features wild striped bass and a duo of beef.

Danal: The $60 5-course menu gives you a choice of entrees and desserts (good stuff, no meringues or macaroons).

Payard: For $45 you’ll get a French influenced 3-course meal with amazing petit-fours.

Rosa Mexicano: The restaurant offers an a la carte Mexican Passover dishes all through the week of Passover.

Whole Foods Catered Passover Dinner for 8: For $169.99 you get all the fixins (from soup to tzimmes!) except for dessert.

-Lisa

Image courtesy http://www.gourmetsleuth.com.


New school Italian

March 24, 2009

 

Perfection—Burrata, prosciutto and black truffle crostone

Perfection—Burrata, prosciutto and black truffle crostone

 

In case you haven’t heard already, I love Burrata. Yup, it’s the creamiest, cheesiest mozzarella on the planet. And I can’t resist its charms. Unfortunately, the other three gals with whom I was dining at Scuderia also loved it. Translation: we each had one intensely delicious bite of the crostone with Burrata, prosciutto and black truffles. You might ask why there was enough for only one bite each at $18 an order. We did. It’s the damn truffles. I probably would have been just as happy with a few drops of truffle oil instead, if it meant there were two crostone to an order.

 

Blah arancini

Blah arancini

Scuderia is a modern, downtown Italian restaurant owned by the Da Silvano daughter, Leyla. It’s located across the street from papa Silvano’s empire and is already drawing a bustling crowd. The menu is a little less than reasonably priced, and in some cases (the crostone) a lot. We ordered modestly, with two apps and four entrées and one dessert between us. There was no bread for the table and water glasses were not promptly refilled. No matter, we persevered. Our other appetizer, arancini (two fried rice balls) were completely lackluster.

 

Please put our pizza back in the oven!

Please put our pizza back in the oven!

 

 

 

 

 

Skirt steak 'n sauce

Skirt steak 'n sauce

 

 

 

 

 

I'd take a bowl of this paccheri anytime

I'd take a bowl of this paccheri anytime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entrées were pretty good. The paccheri with spicy sausage, peas and cream was a big hit (curiously, it bears a striking resemblance to a dish at Bar Pitti, across the way). The bucatini all’amatriciana was ok. The pizza rustica with potatoes, cauliflower and rosemary was totally undercooked, but may have been excellent with more time in the oven. The skirt steak with three “sauces” was fine, but we weren’t thrilled with two of the three. Our favorite was more of a pickle/caper relish, devoid of any sauciness or dipping capabilities. Why don’t they serve bread? Probably because none of the fashionistas eating there eat carbs. Oh well. We finished up with a sweet pizza slathered with nutella and marscapone. Of course, we cleaned that plate. Nutella makes the world go round. 

Dessert pizza...yum.

Dessert pizza...yum.

 

 

 

 

 

-Lisa

 

P.S. We were all fascinated with the door leading to the restrooms…

 

In case you don't speak English, they've got you covered.

In case you don't speak English, they've got you covered.

 


Evergreen is evergreen

March 23, 2009

 
 

img_2635Shrimp and asparagus dumplingsSticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf

 
 

 

Even on the UES, you can get better than decent dim sum, and when you’re already in the neighborhood with yet another extremely pregnant friend, trekking to Chinatown is not an option. Cafe Evergreen (f.k.a. Henry’s Evergreen), here we come. According to JLB, the best thing about dim sum is that you get try so many different things in one meal and you get to see your options before committing to them, rather than just imagining them. And of course, you can always go back for seconds.  

 

BBQ pork buns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evergreen’s steamed pork buns were number one on my friend’s list of dim-sum must-haves. It goes without saying that we had two orders and probably could have taken some to go. In addition to those sticky, sweet pillows of heaven, we also took several variations on shrimp shumai (with scallions, with asparagus, plain), pork shumai, rice noodles with shrimp (my favorite dim sum item!), sticky rice with chicken and pork and turnip cakes. We sloshed dipping sauces on our plates and happily waded through the steamers until we were totally stuffed and very, very happy. I’d be thrilled to repeat the whole experience again and again.

-Lisa