May 26, 2010

Pazza Notte

I can always count on my friend Holly P for excellent spots in the city. Her latest suggestion was to celebrate our friend Kwame landing a new job (Yayyy!) at Pazza Notte (Italian for Crazy Night). PN is just a few blocks from my office. Oh, did I mention the 2-for-1 martinis? And I don't mean your Humphrey Bogart, put-hair-on-your-chest kind. I mean the fruity, frilly, delicious kind :)

The rules for Happy Hour @Pazza Notte--you have to order 2 of the same flavor, and they bring them both at the same time. Odd, but brilliant. I mean if it's 2 for 1, you're definitely going to get a second one--why not save your server some trips? It's also served straight up, so there are no ice cubes to get all melty and whatnot. Holly P and I decided to share flavors. I ordered the passionfruit and she got the French (which we think has Chambord in it). They have plenty of other flavors, including white peach, lychee and blood orange.

The French version was good, but I wish the Chambord had just been a little stronger. The passionfruit, however, was outstanding.

Pazza is also known for its crispy pizzas and flatbreads. We started with the four cheese bruschetta, but it was really more like a soft garlic bread with a cheesy topping. It had flecks of rosemary, but just enough to flavor it, and not so much that I felt as if I were eating a pine tree. :) It only comes with 4 slices, so among the 3 of us, it wasn't very filling. Delicious, but not super filling. What are three hungry girls to do?

Oh right, order the pomodoro bruschetta!!! Also tasty and fresh! Again, just 4 pieces, so we each got a good bite or two before it was all gone.

We had a round or two before the guest of honor arrived, and that's when we ordered the Regina Pizza (artichokes, peppers, tomatoes, yummy!). The crust was light and had crispy edges. This was light, fresh and flavorful.

A few things to note: service can be really slow and spotty--I couldn't tell if our server was just busy/distracted or if we annoyed her? Also, they pack you in TIGHTLY. The table next to us was so close that we had to ask someone to move his chair so we could slip by to use the bathroom. Tight, tight quarters! At least we had a comfy booth!

Overall, this place is definitely worth revisiting. The martinis are 12 dollars for 2, an excellent price! The bruschetta was about 8 bucks a pop--not a lot of food, but tasty if you want a small bite of something. The pizza was really good--I'll be trying another flavor next time--after I've ordered my passionfruit martini, of course! Kudos once again to Holly P for picking a kick-butt place!!

May 25, 2010

Lobstah 101

I finally did it! I finally cooked my own lobster. It was comical at best (for me, not the lobster), and ultimately delicious, but I still feel weird about it. I am a shameless carnivore, but I will gladly remove myself from the food-harvesting part of the food cycle. Then had to go and put lobsters on sale, and I figured the time had come to just suck it up and cook it myself. And by 'myself,' I mean with Kelli there to document each hilarious step.

Growing up in MA, lobsters were definitely a part of family meals, except I was still a prissy, picky little eater who would play with the lobster before it got cooked, even name him, and then watch other people eat him. I had no interest in seafood in my younger years (oh! How I would shake the younger me and enlighten myself about the deliciousness of succulent lobster meat, dunked in a dish of drawn butter. Alas...)

I ordered the lobster earlier in the week, and by the time my Saturday morning delivery arrived, I'd forgotten all about it. Until I started unloading the groceries and one of the bags MOVED! Yikes.

Kelli was standing by with the camera while I summoned up the wherewithal to PICK UP THE LOBSTER WITH HIS BIG SWINGING CLAWS THAT SEEMED SO HUGE AND UP IN MY FACE. At one point Kelli said "Don't swing his claws at me!" That made me laugh--and I completely shared the sentiment.

I picked up the lobster (Kelli named him Bob even though we agreed there would be no naming!!!) and when he started to squirm, I started to shriek. Yeah. Like a little girl. That's when I remembered my tongs (yay!) and used those to transport this 2-pounded to the pot of boiling water. CLANG! In a flurry of frantic flailing (more by me than the lobster), it was done. Bob was in the water and cooking away for the next 15 minutes.

While the lobster boiled, Kelli made the green beans. She buttered the pan, added some minced garlic, salt, and copious amounts of black pepper. She cooked these for just a few minutes, so they'd still have crunch and nutrients!

We made a simple green salad with romaine, cucumbers, gorgonzola dressing, and more black pepper. Crisp and refreshing (and low carb!)

This dinner was DELICIOUS, and total cost (with ingredients from FD and Trader Joe's) was about 17 dollars for TWO people---a lobster dinner for two! Delicious and affordable! I noticed the lobster is still on sale this week at FD..I think I'm going to snag a few more and take this lobster craving all the way! Wicked Good.

May 24, 2010

Foodbuzz Daily Special: Grilling Baskets!

The fabulous foods at are offering 25 percent off of today's special tool--grilling baskets! I have to say, grilling is probably my weakest area (yes, even more than baking!) ABF & I plan to do a lot of grilling this summer. Has anyone used this basket, either this brand or another one? Let's hear your feedback--what do you think? What is your favorite food on the grill?

Note: photo is not mine

May 23, 2010

Dim Sum!

I had never eaten dim sum until moving to New York, but it is easily one of my favorite, affordable ways to eat out with a group of friends. Don't you haaaate those big group dinners where they split the check 'evenly,' and yet all you had was a salad and maybe an app, but somehow you're footing the bill for your tablemate's 4 martinis? Yeah, me too. You never have to worry about that with dim sum. If you've never had it before, it's basically a bunch of small plates. Women push the carts around the dining room, and you point at whatever you want. They mark your order card with each order, and you dig in! It's great for a group--you get to try lots and lots of different things all at once.

My friend Yoga Jen's BF, Tom, wrangled up a quick group of us to hit Dyker Heights' East Harbor Seafood Palace on a cloudy, muggy Sunday. A group of 8 or 9 of us met there, amid the lines and lines of people, and only had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. One of Tom's friends, Sandy, speaks Cantonese, so we had an ace at our table--an ace that could actually explain to us what we were eating!

Before you GET to your seat, however, you must get the call from this man (photo above, left)-- the MC of East Harbor. We were one of two tables there with non-Asian occupants, and a big "E" was written by our table number, so the host knew to call out our numbers in English.

Our first dish was something I would never have ordered on my own--it was a vegetarian dish with basically a fried dough in the middle surrounded by soft noodles. A tangy brown sauce was drizzled all over the top. It was crunchy and smooth and surprisingly delicious. I had two bites of this!

My second sampling was of the pork shumai--I ate at least 2 of these, quite possibly 3 (things moved very quickly, people, and I did not ask a lot of questions!), and they were deeeeelicious. Big chunks of perfectly-cooked pork, veggies, and goodness. A slathering of hot Chinese mustard and my belly was sooo happy!

These beauties were another winner: packed with shrimp, crispy scallions, and spot-on flavor. These were a wonderful bite of contrasting textures, and a must-have at East Harbor.

I definitely had two of these. Yum. More mustard and hot sauce.

These spring rolls were about the only thing we recognized right off the bat. These were perfectly fried, not greasy, still crispy, and super flavorful, with a filling of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and tiny shrimp.

See? Yumminess!

This tall shot to the left was of short ribs, I believe. They don't waste a single cut of meat, I will tell you that. I had a small sampling of this, but didn't take much of it. I'd already had similar noodles in the first dish, and I was ready for the next snack!

The dish above was hands-down one of the best there. It was fried squid, salt-and-peppery goodness, and holy cow. I'd go back just for this dish. Saaacrilicious! The squid was chewy but not rubbery, seasoned and salty, and I just couldn't eat enough of this. Well, I could. And I probably did. But I still wanted more!

And what, pray tell, might this photo be? Oh, just your everyday beef tendon. Which I ate. As Tom put it, 'tastes like meat jell-o!' I can't say I'm a huge fan, but I did manage to eat it without making a scene. You're welcome. ;)

And how do you like that little carrot butterfly? THAT is attention to detail, folks. Bravo!

The fried rice was good, too. It had some meat in it, but there wasn't any in my bites. Just good, sticky goodness with a sprinkling of peanuts (which I didn't eat).

I didn't not sample these savory treats to the left, but ABF did--you'll have to ask him his thoughts, but I am pretty sure he enjoyed them.

I normally avoid dessert when it comes to Chinese food--they're usually not tasty enough to me, but I gave these egg custard tarts a try. The shells were super flaky, and the custard was good, but it was barely sweet at all. Anyone expecting a chess-pie sort of experience would be disappointed, but I enjoyed these. They are about the size of a silver dollar (does anyone know what those ARE anymore!?) and just the right size for a mouthful or two of something almost-sweet.

But I was much more looking forward to these babies (the server is cutting them in two with her scissors in this big phtoo). One of my favorite things at dim sum is always the sesame treats. Go figure, considering I don't really like sesame seeds on bagels, or anything else. Sesame paste, aka tahini? Love it. But the seeds, toasted, no. It tastes too burnt and smoky to me. Put them on a gummy, pasty, ball and I'm in love. I don't know exactly what's in them, I only know that I really, really like them. These are not 'sweet' by American tastebud standards, but I think they're the perfect way to end a meal.

Guess how much this feast cost us? 15 bucks each. TOTAL. INCLUDING a generous 20 percent tip. Holy cow. I had read some reviews saying this place wasn't cheap, but moderate. I consider 15 a person, with more food than we could finish, to be super affordable, thus earning this spot a Cheap Eats label!


This is the first time I've ever been STUFFED after dim sum. Usually I get enough to eat and I'm fine but not stuffed--this time I think I went a little nuts with the sesame bites. Oh well. : ) It was delicious, I'd go back in a heartbeat (very easy to find, right off the N train), and maybe you'll come with me!

May 21, 2010

The Fabulous Ferrara's

My friend Jenny was in town a few weeks ago, and visiting Little Italy was among her 'Must-Do's' on this trip. I was only too happy to go along for the visit. Yes, Little Italy's getting smaller and smaller, crowded out by Chinatown and souvenir shops and yes, it's 'touristy' and not hip and blah blah blah, but it's also home to one of my favorite restaurants (Da Nico) AND the city's best cannoli, which you'll find at Ferrara Bakery & Cafe on Grand Street.

You can't miss Ferarra's--the glowing sign stands out for blocks. It's conveniently close to the N/R and the D train stops, and while there is almost always a line, it moves quickly. Almost too quickly for you to decide what you want. Or maybe that's just me.

I mean so many choices! Look at these adorable mini wedding cakes! They're about 6 inches tall and cost 15 dollars! Too cute! If only I could have taken them with me to OK for Jenezuela's wedding! They wouldn't have survived the flight though--and I don't mean they would have gotten smushed.

I have a weakness for 7-layer bars/rainbow cookies/crack snacks, so I had to get one of those to sample. They were good, but not great. These have raspberry preserves instead of apricot, and while I love raspberry, apricot usually goes so much better with the almondy background of this cake/cookie. I also have a friend who makes THE BEST RAINBOW COOKIES in the WORLD, so these just don't come close to hers!

The Napoleons (Mille Feuille) are really what you need to try here. So good! I got a mini one, which is basically bite size (full size are about 3-4 inches long). Soft but slightly crispy layers of puff pastry filled with a not-too-sweet custard, all topped with a layer of vanilla icing swirled with chocolate. They're fresh, not hard, and one bite doesn't make the entire top layer come off at once. This is the sign of a great Napoleon! I wish I'd gotten two of these!

ABF got one of their awesome cannoli for his to-go box. He graciously gave a bite, and I was delighted to find they were just as fresh and flavorful. The cream filling is soft and smooth, not like dense frosting, as some cannoli are.

I also tried a mini eclair (about an inch long), and it was spot on--soft choux pastry, sweet cream filling, and rich dark chocolate icing on top! This was too, too easy to eat. :)

If you don't want to go inside for a taste of their colorful, rainbow's array of gelato, they usually have a separate stand outside, too.

If you're in Little Italy, or even Chinatown, pop over for a delicious dessert before heading home. You can visit over some desserts and coffee in the cafe, or get it to go like we did. You'll find something for everyone--fruit lovers, chocoholics, pastry fiends, you name it, Ferrara Bakery & Cafe won't fail you!

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