June 30, 2011

Pancake Prowess: CSBC

A friend I'd not seen in ages came to visit the other weekend. We had reconnected on FB & Twitter, and she was coming to enjoy a sunny, funfilled weekend after too many cold, chilly days in her San Francisco home. She mentioned she'd LOVE some pancakes, and that meant really only one stop to me: Clinton Street Baking Company. It's a bit of a shlep to get there, but my WORD..these pancakes! And I'm not even really that INTO pancakes!

I started with the must-have blueberry pancakes--these are crammed full of wild Maine blueberries, dotted with them, and then the gorgeous dish comes with a side of maple syrup butter. Yes, times 10.

Ali gamely agreed to share dishes--she ordered their potato pancakes (aka latkes) which came with applesauce and cinnamon sour cream. CINNAMON. This was a really nice change-a-roo--not sweet, just a hefty hint of cinnamon. Win! The latkes had a decent dose of onion in them---a tad salty but to my liking. Not as good as my mutha's, but pretty darn close.

Ali's friend Jon met us there as well; he ordered the country breakfast, which came with some grilled ham, poached eggs, and their famous homemade biscuits. He kindly shared a bit of the biscuit and it was good, but a little dry for me. Granted, I was getting the very edge. I would definitely go back just for some biscuits and jam, aka carb overload.
And speaking of jam, their raspberry jam is bright, citrusy, and so so deliciously raspberry-y. My biscuit-to-jam ratio was egregiously in favor of the jam. ;/

Sure, there is almost always a line, but it moves pretty quickly, and it gives you a chance to sit outdoors and visit with friends--or make new ones while you're waiting! I also believe CSBC is one of the few 'hyped' places in NYC that I feel backs it up with delicious proof!

Clinton Street Baking Co.
4 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002
(646) 602-6263

June 25, 2011

Foodbuzz: Nabisco Fruit Thins

While it's true that free stuff is fun, that doesn't mean it's always tasty. However, the free samples of Nabisco Fruit Crisps I received as a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher were quite nommable!

I wouldn't equate these exactly to a cookie, and they're not so thin that I think they're like a crispy flatbread. The best summation I can give is that these taste and feel like animal crackers for grownups. Remember those delicious, vanilla-y bites that came in the cardboard box (shaped like a railcar? #datingmyself)? Yep, these are quite snackable, with chewy, sweet-tart bits of dried cranberries in them.

I shared these with a friend and we both agreed they were tasty, not too high in calories (a serving size, 3 cookies, is only 140 calories), and are great on their own or with a shmear of low-fat yogurt, cream cheese, or cheddar! Add a handful of grapes or sliced apples and you have a yummy snack.

The cranberry version was good, but in a quick search of the web I see they have other flavors, including fig & honey--gotta find some of those. I would definitely pick up another bag or two--these are great to keep on hand when you want something crunchy and tasty, but don't want to raid the candy bar section at the office vending machine.

I actually hadn't noticed any commercials or print ads for Nabisco Fruit Thins before the tasting, but now I see them everywhere--even in magazines I'd leafed through already! I wouldn't have expected these to be so tasty, and would never have tried them on my own, so I'm glad Foodbuzz came to the rescue!

June 24, 2011

Cheap & Tasty Thai

A trio of us were looking for a quick, tasty, and of course, affordable lunch spot the other day. My friends took me to Ghang Thai on Smith Street in Brooklyn. As I walked in the building I had a powerful feeling of deja vu, but dismissed it, as I knew I'd never been anywhere called Ghang. It wasn't until we sat in the back that we saw the old doors to Miriam, propped up in the outdoor seating area. Miriam (the Court Street location) was a former favorite spot of mine. Apparently Ghang took over the spot when Miriam (oh, how I loved the shakshukah, which inspired this meal) closed.

The lunch special there is ridiculously affordable. A salad or soup, appetizer, and entree for 7 or 8 dollars (depending on your protein: shrimp, beef, chicken, and tofu and 'vegetarian duck,' aka seitan). For less than $10 bucks? Yes, please.

It was a muggy, muggy June day, so I started with a glass of Thai Iced Coffee. This was delicious--strong coffee flavor, just enough sweetness. Sometimes it can be TOO sweet, but this was perfectly balanced and oh-so-refreshing.

We all started with the house salad, a lovely mix of greens and veggies and fried tofu with a scrumptious peanut dressing.

For my entree, I picked the drunken noodles with chicken, and a single spring roll as my appetizer. Crisp green beans, bell peppers, and deliciously sauteed onions were tossed with glass noodles and chili peppers. I asked for somewhere between mild and medium, and they hit it right on the mark. It was also an insane amount of food--I barely ate half of this, leaving mostly noodles (and eating all the chicken/veggies first).

This was as tasty as it was cheap. The service was friendly and quick without making us feel rushed. Ghang is a new one to add to my list of cheap eats in my favorite borough!

229 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

June 18, 2011

Icy Goodness: High Line Treats

Have you visited the High Line on Manhattan's West Side? I did--THREE weekends in a row, at the height of the summer's heat. It's a formerly rundown train track turned into a lovely sightseeing oasis. There are places to sit, stroll and people watching. I personally need to take a break from this urban escape, but if you've not visited yet, you should go!

Make sure you pick up some hydrating liquids and cooling sweet treats, too--especially People's Pops. You can find them inside Chelsea Market, half a block from where the High Line begins. These treats are delicious, artisan popsicles. Forget the classic cherry, grape and orange (although those have a place in my heart, too)--flavors here include hibiscus, grapefruit, rhubarb, Stumptown Roasters coffee (cream & sugar, said the sign!) and more.

People's Pops can also make you a refreshing shaved ice (check out that huuuuge block right there) on the spot in 2 delicious, daily-featured flavors.

I ordered the Stumptown coffee pop. I don't normally put sugar in my coffee, so this was sweeter than I would have liked, but it was strong coffee flavor, and super cold & refreshing.

My friend Kwame got the sour cherry & plum pop, and said his was pretty good, too. It was soooooo so so so hot out that they were melting the second we walked out the door!

I found myself eating faster than normal just to keep from losing the delicious treat to the evaporation/melting process!

Trust me--it is HOT up there as you walk amongst the newly-repurposed tracks and trestles and whatnot. You are going to need some cold water, a popsicle or two, and maybe....ice cream?

Parked not far from the 14th street entrance to the High Line we spotted the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream (VLAIC) truck. I'd been hoping to run into them for ages. It was getting on in the day, so they clearly had run out of a lot of flavors.

I was fortunate enough to snag one of the last servings of their hazelnut blend-- a lovely chocolate/hazelnut mixture that absolutely melted like sweet, sweet velvet on my tongue. Bliss.

You have to get there early to get the most popular flavors at VLAIC, but even if it's later in the day and your options are dwindling, they are sure to be delicious. Small-batch, high-quality, locally-made deliciousness. So help yourself to a popsicle, shaved ice, or ice cream before strolling the High Line--just don't expect to see me anytime soon. The High Line and I are taking a break for a bit. ;)

For more info on The High Line, go here!

June 15, 2011

Jackson Diner in NYC

Kwame & I were on a quest one sunny Sunday for some Indian food. I took him to Cafe Spice, only to find it was now an outpost for Jackson Diner, one of the most-lauded Indian spots in Jackson Heights, Queens. Their new spot in NYC boasted a 9.95 all-you-can-eat buffet. Not a bad price! I pushed aside my disappointment that the amazing chicken Korma Carlota & I once shared was gone, and we stepped in for lunch.

The buffet offers a fair split of vegetarian and non-veggie items. The traditional lentil and veggie dishes are there, the ever-popular chicken tikka masala, a curried goat, and a fresh, vibrant salad at the end.

It was hot as Hades that day, so I opted for water, water, and more water, though I saw other people ordered Lassis, and they do still have a full bar. We were also happy to see a basket of naan bread arrive almost magically--no extra charge (even more magical)!!

I grabbed a bit of almost everything (not the goat): tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, some fried peppers, fluffy rice, lentils, and more. Not a bad spread! Everything was good, but the tandoori chicken was EXCELLENT--tender, juicy, and finger-licking-good (is that still copyrighted? Hope not)

I had some green salad with oil & vinegar as well. I grabbed a few too many cucumbers, but I did the best I could.

There was a serving dish full of rice pudding, and Kwame & I made a trip for some of that. He didn't care for the texture, but I loved it. It was almost more like a thickened rice soup instead of a more cohesive pudding. This had wonderful almond flavor to it, and plenty of cashews. I don't normally dig the desserts at Indian places, but I ate every bite of this!

This is definitely worth a trip back. All-you-can-eat is a rarity in NYC, and even more rare is tasty AYCE! I only made one trip, but I got to sample a little bit of everything. I would have even gone for a second bite of tandoori chicken if I hadn't consumed a pitcher's worth of water during my first plate! 9.95 for all that is more than a bargain! It's also a nice, roomy spot with lots of light and the staff doesn't rush you on your way. Two forks up for this spot!

Jackson Diner
72 University Place
New York, NY 10003
(212) 466-0820

June 13, 2011

Cupcake Combo

Strawberry & Cardamom—why hadn’t I thought of it before? CHOW’s latest email had a recipe for this flavor combo in a cupcake, and I quickly filed it in my recipe folder. Then my friend Jen A forwarded me the same exact email, saying if I came to visit her on Sunday, we might just have to bake these! Yeah, that worked. ;) I would have come anyway, but cupcakes never hurt!

We made the batter step by step, and even accidentally switched up the eggs (adding the whole eggs before the single egg whites), but we kept going forward. Soldier on, bakers!

I’m glad the CHOW folks warned us the batter would look curdled, and not to worry, because it looked really curdled.

While we ate a delicious dinner (Jen’s BF Tom made us a feast of grilled salmon, sinful scalloped potatoes, chicken sausage, and a spinach salad), the cupcakes baked to a golden perfection.

We deviated from the CHOW recipe here--we skipped the filling and made our own frosting, riffing off a cream cheese frosting recipe Jen found. The secret ingredient in this batch? All-natural strawberry extract.

Jen had picked it up on a whim and we figured this was the perfect recipe to take it for a test drive. It SMELLED like a field full of fresh, ripe strawberries. Wowza.

I had some Trader Joe’s strawberries, which I sliced nicely and used to top the cupcakes. We also paired the cupcakes with some white port (have you had white port??? You must try it—light, delicious, and yes, sweet) and it was dessert perfection. Dreamy sigh.

Strawberry & Cardamom--a new favorite flavor combo! I'll have to try this in smoothies, cocktails and more. I'm learning to savor this summer!

Get the Chowhound recipe for these cupcakes (and more summer treats) by clicking THIS LINK!

June 10, 2011

Cubana Cafe--Brooklyn

I can always count on Jen A to be up for a good meal, drink, or walk through Brooklyn. I met her after work one sunny day for Cuban food on Smith Street--Cubana Cafe!

I enjoyed the look and feel of this spot--including the colored tile floor!

I definitely enjoyed their Wall o' Jarritos--colorful and delicious! Jarritos is a brand of soda made in Mexico with real sugar (no corn syrup) and lots of bright, fruity flavors. I got hooked on this in Tulsa & Houston and only recently have I been spotting it around NYC!

We were early for dinner, so we got a primo spot right by the open front of the restaurant, taking in prime people watching and enjoying the warmer weather. We started with a half-pitcher of red sangria ($15).

It was sweet and refreshing, and you couldn't really taste the alcohol. It wasn't too strong, and I would have liked more fruit, but it's still a good deal for the price.

We were hungry, so everything looked good. We decided to share a soup and a salad, you know, spread out the calories and the choices!

We shared the tortilla chicken soup. This was a huge, hearty portion--juicy shredded chicken, chunks of avocado (maybe a little underripe but still yummy), and tons of veggies.

Another must-have according to Jen A is the chickpea salad: a generous portion of seasoned chickpeas with greens dressed in a light drizzle of a creamy-garlicky dressing. This was deeeelish.

It was also a big portion--easily enough for 2 people.

We also shared the chile relleno, stuffed with seafood, cheese, and rice. There was something about the cheese sauce that I wasn't wild for, but the seafood (shrimp and calamari) was well-cooked, tender, not rubbery, and the rice and beans were really, really delicious.

After our sangria, we each got a mojito, too--a requisite for any Cuban spot. I ordered the original version--I rarely mess with the basic rum, lime juice and seltzer. This was crisp and cooling; not too sweet. Jen A ordered the strawberry and wasn't crazy about it.

Dessert was only three dollars (THREE!), so we decided to split the tres leches cake. There was something about the texture of this cake that I didn't enjoy--a little mealy instead of spongy, I guess? The flavors were nice, though, lots of cinnamon, drenched in the milk mixture. I'd probably opt for a mojito instead of dessert next time, though.

It was very slow that day, so it did take a long, long time to put in our order, and an even longer time to get the check, but we were happy to sit and visit. Definitely not the place to be if you're in a rush, but do stop by and enjoy the food, the prices, the atmosphere, and the mojitos!

Cubana Cafe
272 Smith Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 858-3980 ‎

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