Thursday, March 31, 2011

New York: Artichoke Basille's Pizza & Brewery

Last year, my best friend and I did quite a lot of damage in the East Village (7 food spots in one day, yo). I thought my sister and I could beat my previous record, but I guess age is catching up to me. After hitting only 3 places, I was ready to call it quits.

The first place we stopped at was Artichoke Basille's Pizza & Brewery:

There's no seating inside, so prepare to eat on the go or grab a spot on the bench outside.

Artichoke is known for its artichoke and spinach pizza. A single slice will set you back $4.50:

It's quite a big slice, as you can see. After you place your order, they'll re-toast the pizza slice in the oven so that it's piping hot when it reaches your hands.

While we were on the subway, I tried to explain to my sister what the taste was like. The best I could come up with at the time was "soup on a pizza," to which my sister gave me a weird look.

But after she took her first bite, she understood my awkward description completely. Really. It does taste like having a creamy soup poured over a pizza. It's gooey and lovely and dangit, I want a slice now.

Don't scoff. Try one for yourself and then try to tell me I'm wrong.

Artichoke Basille's Pizza & Brewery
328 E 14th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 228-2004

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New York: Kati Roll Company

After the Daily Show, my sister and I met up with a good friend for dinner. On the way to her apartment, it suddenly started to hail. Not tiny-dipping-dots-hail, oh no. I'm talking BB bullet-size hail. And of course, my sister and I didn't have an umbrella. I think we were laughing a bit hysterically by the time we reached my friend's place. (I got pinged in the eye a few times. It was funny at the time, but looking back now I can only remember how much it stung.)

Anyway, we hung around my friend's apartment for a bit, getting to know her roommates. When we set out for dinner, the hail had stopped but the ground was covered in a layer of ice. Thanks to some careful treading, we made it to Kati Roll Co in one piece:

According to my friend, this is the late night Indian guy hangout for some post-bar/club grub. We were a bit early for that particular crowd, thank goodness.

Kati rolls are basically Indian flat-breads wrapped around meats and veggies. Because we wanted to try different ones, because my friend said one wouldn't be enough, and because 2 of the same roll is cheaper than a single one, my sister and I split 2 shami kabob rolls (2 for $9.50, 1 for $5.25) and 2 beef rolls (2 for $8.50, 1 for $4.75):

The shami kabab roll is filled with spicy minced mutton:

One word: LAAAAMB. Okay, so maybe I wasn't really expecting the lamb to be ground into a paste, but lamb is lamb is lamb. The meat was heavily spiced and the flat-bread was hot and delicious.

The beef roll was full of surprises:

After the lamb roll, I didn't expect to get such large chunks of beef. The meat could've been cooked a little longer, as it was a bit tough to take a bite without pulling out an entire piece of beef. The other surprise was not as pleasant. It was SPICY. Really spicy. Heavy breathing spicy. While I was gasping for my life, my friend was nice enough to run and buy a bottle of water. Saved my life, she did.

I'm not much of an alcohol drinker (understatement of the year), but I can see the appeal in grabbing a kati roll or two after a late night out on the town.

Kati Roll Company
49 W 39th St
New York, NY 10018
(212) 730-4280

New York: Amy's Bread

Wednesday morning, my sister and I had a late start. To waste time before the Daily Show (thanks again to my sister's new love of Twitter), we shopped around midtown and grabbed some chicken and rice from a halal cart (2nd time that week). Finally, we ran out of things to do so we headed over to the Daily Show studio.

Unlike the Colbert Report where you're expected to get there super early and stand in line, for the Daily Show, all you have to do is pick up your ticket number and come back when it's time to open the doors. We showed up a good hour and a half early and got tickets 209 and 210. Which is insane because they only pass out 216 or something like that. What time do other people show up to get their tickets?

Anyway, after we got our tickets, we were told to go away and come back later. I didn't know anything in the area except for Amy's Bread so there we went:

There's nothing more inviting than the smell of freshly baked goods the minute you walk through the door:

There were so many things to choose from, but we settled on two cookies:

The kitchen sink cookie sounded most interesting. It contained coconut, chocolate, pecans, oats, and cranberries. The oats added a great texture to the cookie and the cookie as a whole was subtly sweet.

The winner of the day, however, had to be the double chocolate pecan chubbie, which was recommended to us by the lady behind the counter. How can anything called a "chubbie" go wrong? I have to say that the double chocolate pecan chubbie was the best cookie I had in New York this trip. Hands down. It was so intense, so rich, so chocolate-y that it tasted more like a brownie than a cookie. UH-MAY-ZING.

My sister and I are apparently not very good at wasting time, because we ended up back at the studio with lots of time to spare. We had such a great time at the taping. The stand up comedian opening for the show wasn't as good as the one at the Colbert Report, but the Daily Show itself was hilarious and Jon Stewart was HOT. I love how much fun Stewart had throughout the show. He never messed up once, but he would bang on the desk in laughter while he watched the pre-taped segments. He also handled his guest Richard Lewis astoundingly well, considering how Lewis was a mess and made absolutely no sense during the so-called interview.

If you want to watch the show we were at, check out the March 23rd episode with Richard Lewis.

Amy's Bread
672 9th Ave
New York, NY 10036
(212) 977-2670

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New York: Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

After pizza at Grimaldi's, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (per my friend's request) and then took a short subway ride back to Chinatown, where we got dessert at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory:

I first found out about this place on a TV show...but I can't remember which. The array of flavors available was just as impressive in person as it was from a TV screen:

There were the usual flavors and then there were the more "exotic" Asian-inspired ones, such as almond cookie, egg custard (dan ta), black sesame, and wasabi.

I was immediately drawn to the lychee ice cream:

I can't help it. I love lychee and this ice cream had actual lychee pieces in it. Love at first bite.

My sister wanted the pistachio:


We all wanted to try more flavors, but the chick behind the counter was very impatient. I had just asked for my first tasting when she barked at us, informing us in a very obnoxious tone that we were only allowed 2 tastings each. After that, we were all slightly afraid of her. We quickly placed our orders, carefully watching her facial expression the entire time. She even huffed when my friend asked to get her scoop in a cone instead of a cup. Needless to say, we all shuffled out as soon as we could.

I actually remember that chick from the show I saw. She was waaaaaay nicer on TV.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 608-4170

New York: Grimaldi's

We were more than ready for some food after walking up and down the Statue of Liberty. After running through our options with my friend's friend (who was going to meet us for dinner), we decided to go with pizza at Grimaldi's:

I managed to get us on the subway going the wrong direction, but in the end we still got to Brooklyn and found the restaurant. Luckily for us, there wasn't much of a line at all. When I came to Grimaldi's 2 years ago, the line had been atrocious. Sadly, because we were missing a person in our party, we couldn't be seated and as a result we remained "first in line" for quite a while until my friend took it upon herself to sweet talk the owner (I assume he was the owner because he had an Italian accent and talked big).

The three of us were allowed in as long as we promised to order immediately. I loved the Frank Sinatra memorabilia lining the walls. But the coolest thing about Grimaldi's is the open kitchen:

Grimaldi's doesn't have any pre-made creations. You're given a list of toppings and basically told to have a field day. Which we did.

As we promised, we ordered while we were waiting for my friend's friend to get there from work. We decided on a large pizza with red sauce, Italian sausage, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes:

The gooey mozzarella bound everything together:

The sausage was some of the fattiest and most delicious that I've ever had. The basil that came with the red sauce added a nice touch (I'm crazy about basil) and the sun-dried tomatoes contributed a hint of sweetness.

I think we did good.

19 Old Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 858-4300

Monday, March 28, 2011

New York: Joe's Shanghai

After a quick calculation, we figured we had enough time to fit in lunch at Joe's Shanghai before catching our 1:00pm ferry to the Statue of Liberty:

This post is only about the soup dumplings...because that's all we ordered. For some reason, the three of us decided that we needed to order 3 steamers of soup dumplings. That's 8 per person. Which doesn't sound that bad...until you actually start eating.

We got one order of crab and pork:

And two orders of the pork:

I like to eat my soup dumplings by taking a bite out of the skin and then pouring vinegar directly into the dumpling. This shot was taken pre-vinegar bath:

In hindsight, we shouldn't have ordered so many dumplings, especially after sharing 6 donuts. To make things worse, my sister tricked my friend and I into believing that she'd already eaten her 8 dumplings, forcing the two of us to finish the 4 that were left. Ugh...we left in pain. But delicious pain.

The soup dumplings at Joe's are really good, but not as good as what you can get in Taiwan. They were pretty my 5th one I felt like I had an entire baby pig in my stomach. I shouldn't complain though. Where else can you get 8 pork dumplings for $4.65 and 8 crab and pork ones for $6.65?

We ended up getting to the ferry terminal before our scheduled ticket time, but we forgot to calculate in the massive line that wove around the block. Where do all those people come from? Don't they have anything better to do on a Tuesday afternoon? We managed to get on the island in time to be the last ones up the statue to the crown, but we didn't have enough time to explore Ellis Island. Bummer.

On the upside, I think the 300-some stairs up to and the trip down from the crown worked off...umm...2 soup dumplings. Sigh.

And I still think they should invest in a lemonade stand at the top of Lady Liberty. They'd make a killing for sure.

Joe's Shanghai
9 Pell St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 233-8888

New York: Doughnut Plant

Tuesday morning, my sister and I met up with a Chicago friend who was also in New York on spring break. The plan was to storm through Doughnut Plant and Chinatown before tackling the Statue of Liberty.

First stop was the Doughnut Plant:

What's really cute about this picture is the lady hiding behind the counter. She saw me take out my camera and without another word immediately ducked out of view.

As you can probably tell, we went a little crazy on the donuts:

Feel free to just scroll through the pictures. I think they speak for themselves.

One of my favorites is the creme brulee donut:

It's crackly on the outside and custard-y on the inside:

My sister picked the pistachio:

No filling, but the nutty pistachio flavor more than made up for that.

Here's the peanut butter glaze and blackberry jelly donut:

The glaze was thick and creamy, and the jelly tart:

Then there was the blackout cake donut:

Dense and decadent:

And finally, the tres leches cake donut:

Another one of my favorites:

Not the cheapest donuts around town, but it's okay to treat yourself once in a while. Or that's how I justify it.

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 505-3700

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New York: Ippudo NY

Thanks to my sister's new obsession with Twitter, we managed to score 4 tickets to the Colbert Report. My sister did some research on the Colbert fan forum early in the morning and her findings led us to arrive at the studio 2.5 hours before the doors were to open in order to get in line. Two of my friends came to meet us in line later. Fortunately, one of them came bearing a box of Magnolia cupcakes. Those cupcakes were enough to carry us through the show, but by the end of the taping, we were all famished.

I'd heard a lot about Ippudo and had wanted to check it out last year when I visited New York, but didn't get the chance to. Luckily neither of my friends had tried Ippudo yet and both were open to giving it a go:

Reviews online caution about the crazy long waits. Everyone says to go at an "odd time." I tried asking around to figure out what qualified as an "odd time" but got no definite answer. I figured that 9:30pm on a Monday night would be odd enough. I was wrong.

We ended up waiting close to an hour before we were seated:

Love the decor of Ippudo. Modern with slightly funky touches. The kitchen is completely open, allowing you a peek behind the scenes. There are a lot of communal tables, but we were lucky enough to be led to a private booth.

None of us wanted to share a hirata bun, so we each ordered one of our own:

The hirata bun is essentially a steamed bun wrapped around your choice of chicken or pork, lettuce, and Ippudo's own spicy sauce. We all went with the pork:

Spicy, yes, but so very delicious. The fattiness of the pork and the flavors infused in the meat were enough to make me forget the pain on my tongue.

My sister and I split two bowls of ramen. One was the akamaru modern:

The other was the shiromaru hakata classic:

I preferred the pork belly chashu of the akamaru modern over the pork loin chashu of the shiromaru hakata classic (pork belly is fattier), but I liked the soup base of the classic more than that of the modern. My sister liked the soup of the akamaru modern more, which worked out well for us.

The best part is the ramen noodles:

The soup can be a tad salty, but the noodles are perfectly Q (some Taiwanese slang for y'all). You can ask for extra servings of noodles for $2.

At $14 a bowl, I expected a lot and I can't say that I left disappointed. Definitely worth the wait, but hopefully I'll be able to figure out what constitutes an "odd time" before I go back again.

It was a long day, but we were all too busy geeking out over seeing Colbert in person to feel tired. If you're ever in New York, go watch a taping! He's hilarious both in and out of character. If you want to watch the episode we were at, look up the March 21st one featuring Steve Martin. Maybe you can catch a glimpse of us in the audience.

Ippudo NY
65 4th Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 388-0088

New York: Cafe Zaiya

To kill time before the Colbert Report, my sister and I walked around midtown. We hit up Times Square and Grand Central Station and...Cafe Zaiya:

Cafe Zaiya is a Japanese bakery/cafe:

We skipped all the bento stuff and went straight to the bakery section for this:

My best friend introduced me to Cafe Zaiya's mochi doughnut during my last spring break in New York. I'm not a big fan of Mister Donut in Taiwan, but this mochi doughnut is fantastic. It tastes like a sweet you tiao (Chinese doughnut), but with a chewier texture.

Love it.

Cafe Zaiya
18 E 41st St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 779-0600

Friday, March 25, 2011

New York: Shake Shack

Before my sister and I headed out for the day, my friend looked up Shake Shack's custard calendar for us. We were very disappointed that we'd missed the afternoon tea flavor by a day, but my sister and I decided to go anyway:

Why does it always seem to rain when I'm in New York? Ugh. Is nice weather too much to ask for?

There are two lines at Shake Shack (one is for custard only):

There's a small area for seats on the ground floor, but there's also a small rec room downstairs. Luckily we went a bit earlier than the usual lunch crowd and were able to score a table downstairs.

We started off with some fries:

My sister wanted the Shack Burger:

Whereas I wanted nothing less than the Shack Stack:

A Shack Stack is basically a cheeseburger plus a 'shroom burger. The 'shroom is the best part. It's a fried portobello mushroom stuffed with muenster and cheddar cheese. How great does that sound?

Oozing cheese galore:

Even better, we found out that we could order yesterday's pint...which means AFTERNOON TEA CUSTARD:

Best custard ever!!! (Totally deserves the exclamation marks.) It was actually refreshing. The perfect palette cleanser after a greasy burger. It included shortbread chunks and tiny raisins, which contributed little bursts of tartness. My sister and I started our meal with the custard and ended it with the custard. So gooood!!

Shake Shack is a must when visiting New York. There's simply no excuse for missing out on a good burger when you're in town.

Shake Shack
366 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024
(646) 747-8770

New York: Amy Ruth's

My 2nd day in New York was spent chillin' with my friend and my sister. We explored the Costco in Harlem and then went back to my friend's apartment to veg out in front of the TV. We did manage to peel ourselves away from the TV and get out of the building for dinner at Amy Ruth's with our other friend from high school:

There was a line as usual, but we actually didn't have to wait very long before the bouncer at the door waved us in.

Upon sitting, a basket of cornbread was placed before us:

One of my friends and I decided to share 2 dishes. We started off with the 3 sides platter and after much deliberation decided on fried okra, mac and cheese, and cheesy grits:

The mac and cheese was a little bland for my tastes, but the fried okra were good.

My friend and I feel the same way about grits. We want to like it. We always give it a chance, thinking that our past bad experiences were only the result of subpar grits. And we always end up disappointed. I don't understand grits.

We also shared the Rev. Al Sharpton:

Of course I asked for dark meat. The fried chicken was lightly fried and so, so juicy. The waffle was decent.

My sister ordered the fried catfish sandwich and chose the string beans as her side:

My friend claims Amy Ruth's has the best chicken and waffles in New York. As I've only ever had chicken and waffles at Amy Ruth's, I'll have to say I agree with her. The only thing I enjoyed more than the food was the chance to catch up with old friends in an exciting city.

Amy Ruth's
113 W 116th St
New York, NY 10026
(212) 280-8779
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