New (to me) kind of ramen in my old neighborhood

During the four years I lived in Williamsburg and even the year before that when I was nearby in Greenpoint, I was always aware of the small, tucked away Japanese restaurant known as Okonomi by day and YUJI Ramen by night, but I never went. It was supposed to be great, everyone told me. Tiny, with only a few seats. No reservations. Great Japanese breakfasts till 3, then a new name and awesome ramen after 6. It was even on an episode of Master of None last year which is pretty much a stamp of approval from cool people in the food world.

But every time I walked by there was a crowd outside, people reading books or scrolling through their phones, all killing time till their tables were ready. So I kept putting it off, pretty much for four straight years, until my very last week in the neighborhood. On a random night in the middle of the week, alone as I made my way back to my mostly packed up apartment after a day of work and errands in the city, I thought on a whim, to see if there might be a spot for one.

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It didn’t look like any ramen I’d ever had but it immediately became one of my favorites.

And whaddaya know? There was. There were two actually, right at the bar, but almost immediately after I walked in, someone came in after me and took the other one, and not long after him several others popped in to be added to the waitlist. I hadn’t even ordered yet when I heard someone quoted 40 minutes for a table.

The menu was brief, which I, as someone who suffers from chronic menu indecision, appreciated. Pretty much just a couple of appetizers, a selection of ramen and a selection of mazemen, or ramen without broth.

Now, I love ramen, especially when the weather’s cold, or grey, wet and dreary like it has been for the past week here in New York. But the night I stopped by Yuji, a few days before Labor Day weekend, it was still steamy and hot outside and the idea of a brothless ramen sounded pretty perfect.

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The last couple of bites of a really delicious bowl of mazemen.

The bacon and egg mazemen I ordered was a beautiful bowl of yellow, ribbon-like noodles, thick-cut hunks of bacon, onsen tamago (pretty much a Japanese poached egg), mustard greens and bonito flakes (super thin dried, cured fish shavings). Before stepping away to let me fully geek out over my meal, the server had recommended that I stir everything up before digging in. I went for the egg first, poking it with a chopstick and letting the orangey-yellow yolk ooze out, seeping into the little spaces between noodles and bacon, sliding around the greens and bonito flakes that seemed to wiggle and shimmy in the heat rising from the bowl.

In the absence of broth, the yolk kept everything from being too dry and gave the noodles a silky, almost custardy consistency. The greens, meanwhile, added a green, peppery bite and the bacon, as it always does, a rich, fatty flavor. I wanted to savor every delicious bite and never reach the bottom of the bowl, but with no one to distract me and several people waiting for the very spot I sat in, I also couldn’t help slurping down every little bit of that mazemen in what felt like entirely not enough time.

My only regret at this point is letting all those years go by without trying this whole other type of ramen or without wolfing down a few more bowls of the particular bacon and egg version I had that night. I might live in a new Brooklyn hood these days, but I can tell you right now I’ll be back for those eggy, delicious noodles.

(Check out a little clip of the mazemen swirling action on my Instagram!)

A little charcoal to set myself right

You know, this business of eating all the time so I have material to write about (both here and on my new blog-specific Instagram account that you should definitely follow and aggressively like if you don’t already) is serious work.

I mean, no, not work work, because sadly no one’s paying me to do this (just yet) but a lot does go into it… and by “it” I mean my body. A lot goes into my body. A lot of food and drinks constantly go into my body.

And don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, but every once in a while, especially if it’s after a busy weekend or time spent out of town, I feel the effects: tired, bloated, a little more snug in my skinny jeans, and if I go for a run, leaden.

I try to clean up my eating, cut back on the bad stuff, and guzzle water, but sometimes I need a little something extra. This week, coming back from a long weekend in Miami, I turned to charcoal. Not the kind they use at the hospital to pump your stomach (because, shit, I’m not that bad) but the kind I’m starting to see more often these days, usually in drinks, which is how I had it.

According to what I’ve read on the interwebs— and by all means, please do your own research cause I’m far from a pro— activated charcoal, which you can take in capsule form or as an ingredient in something else, attaches itself to bad stuff in your system, be it toxins, gunk in your GI tract, booze, chemicals, etc. and helps your body flush it out, making it handy for detoxing, kidney filtration, bouncing back from a hangover or just cleaning the pipes after too good of a time had.

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When I saw a bottled charcoal chai on the menu at Inday, where I was ordering my lunch from earlier this week, I was immediately on board. Without fail I hit a proverbial wall every day around 2pm and with all the face stuffing, running around and not sleeping enough that I’ve been doing in the past week or so, I knew I was about to slam into that wall again.

Charcoal drinks can be offputting in appearance and this one was no different, looking pretty much like the water that fills my tub when I hand-scrub my sneakers after a few months of outdoor runs. But thanks to masala chai and honey, it had a mild, smooth flavor that was gently sweet and almost silky in consistency. I was full from lunch when I drank it some time after, and whether placebo or not, I it made me feel better, less full, more hydrated.

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Then this morning, as I ran out the door with beads of sweat all over my face from my sweltering apartment, I started to have an internal freak out thinking about what the subway was going to be like. To soothe my brewing anxiety and honestly just cool off a bit, I popped into Grass Roots Juicery for something to sip on the train. (Side note: a sign on their door said they were hiring and for a nano second I thought about it because I really do love them so much.)

Still feeling good about the charcoal chai, I picked up Grass Roots’ black lemonade, another inky beverage of activated charcoal, lemon, honey and cayenne pepper. Gimmick or not, this is one of my favorite drinks there and a real thirst-quencher that never disappoints. Unlike Inday’s subtle, softer drink, the black lemonade is bold and bright in flavor, with a little kick from the cayenne pepper and lots of sweet tang from the lemon and honey.

Yea, this could just be the latest “it” drink, another fad in the health world, but again, even if it only works as a placebo, it still works, right? Both drinks are good and I’ll definitley have them again when I’m feeling stuffed, heavy and overindulged… which I suspect won’t be too far in the future for me.

The wonder elixir for… well, everything

No one tell my parents but as a longtime proponent of the mind calming, rest inducing, achey muscle soothing, anxiety easing, all-around-good-time promoting, healing properties of weed, I’ve been pretty excited about CBD’s recent rise to mainstream popularity, especially in food and drinks. (Even if it’s not the legalized marijuana I’d really like.)

As a very brief, very basic explanation for anyone who might not already know: the two main chemical compounds in pot are THC, the stuff that makes you goofy and giggly and weird, and CBD, the stuff with the medical benefits for people dealing with anxiety, sleep problems, pain, and nausea amongst other things.

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I mean, I feel better just looking at this tasty drink.

So again, for the people in the back: products containing only CBD will not get you high and are completely legal,  even in states like NY where weed’s illegal. Hear that mom and dad? (Just kidding, my parents don’t read this. And if they did, my mother would be lighting a candle for my soul while my dad would say this is why I’m unmarried in my 30s. But we’ll save all of that for another time and perhaps a therapist…) Continue reading

How I’d like to survive summer

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Hello, summer.

How any of us musters the will to do anything at all in this sweltering, suffocating, New York city summer heat is beyond me. Showing up to work, going to the gym, running errands, riding the God forsaken moving sweat lodge that is the subway— I don’t wanna do any of it.

All I feel like doing from now till October is sitting in the shade with a frosty drink in my hand and a spread of summery food in front of me and some good company to enjoy it with. That’s not so much to ask for, is it?

It’s what I did recently at Red Hook’s Brooklyn Crab and let me tell you, it was pretty freakin’ spectacular. It was what every summer day should be like.

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THIS! This is how I wanna do summer.

A couple of friends and I sat on the top deck of the open seafood shack, where there was enough sun that we needed sunglasses but also a breeze coming off the water to make it bearable. We had frozen margaritas out of bendy straws, a cold pitcher of beer and lots of delicious, garlic-buttery seafood: a whole platter of Alaskan king, Snow, and Dungeness crabs, and lobster, too, with coleslaw, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes and jalapeño cornbread to go with it. There were oysters and peel-and-eat shrimp and fried calamari, as well, because sometimes, well… it’s summer and you have to celebrate.

It’s too hot to do anything else, really.

Where pies go when they die

“This must be where pies go when they die” reads a small hand-painted sign next to the door at Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Park Slope. And truly, it must be.

It’s also not far from what I imagine one version of heaven might look like either, depending who you are. If you like a pie shop that’s simple and cozy, just perfectly worn in and charmingly old fashioned, where you can sit at an old wooden table and be wrapped in the smells of butter and vanilla and coffee while you dig a fork into a wedge of pie so good it feels like God himself might’ve slipped it down to you through a break in the clouds, then yea, you must be where pies go when they die.

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Pecan pie’s never been my favorite but this bittersweet chocolate pecan could change my mind.

I know I tend to speak in hyperbole when it comes to food, but the pies at Four and Twenty Blackbirds are deserving. I’ve had seven or eight different kinds, sometimes at the shop on a little white plate with a metal fork, other times in a to-go container when I couldn’t stay, and sometimes from the plastic packaging they come in when you order from grocery delivery service, Fresh Direct. They’ve all been delicious.

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Coffee custard pie with fresh whipped cream. A dream.

Their chocolate chess pie was velvety and rich, the chocolate custard like a perfect pudding cozying up to a buttery, flaky crust. The Salty Honey pie was pure decadence, all butter, caramelized sugar and honey, sea salt sprinkled on top like snowflakes. The matcha was silky and calming, the bittersweet chocolate pecan gooey and indulgent, the coffee custard like a perfectly, creamy coffee in pie form.

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Lemon lavender pie, not at all floral, just creamy, summery sweet.

Every time I’ve gone to the little shop on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, I’ve wanted to stay for hours. And every time I’ve had a mouthful of Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie I’ve thought, “My God this tastes like heaven.”

Reads and eats… cause it beats the news

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Drink up and cheer up.

know I’m not alone in feeling this way but man, is everything absolutely the worst these days or what? We have an idiot madman running our country straight into the ground, the news seems like one giant loop of death and disaster, and on a personal note, I’m starting my hunt for a new apartment which is an absolutely depressing process. I’ve broken down in tears at some point during each and every apartment search in the past, and it’s doubtful this time around will be much different.

Sooo…. instead of adding fuel to the dumpster fire, I thought I would resurrect something I used to do here on the blog a few years ago and share some fun food related links in an effort to distract, entertain and maybe lighten the mood.

 

Sounds tasty no? Here’s some of what’s caught my eye lately… and maybe made my stomach growl.

  • United seems hellbent on winning the title of worst airline, what with all the bad media they’ve gotten recently and all (hello, dead pup in the overhead?) so it made me laugh when I read they were getting rid of Stroopwaffles. These are some of my favorite snacks so silly move, United.
  • Sometimes I miss the weirdest things about Italy, and even though I can definitely make this here at home, I miss eating beans like these, prepared like this from Emiko Davies’ lovely blog.
  • I was interested when I read in NY Magazine about this cool sushi spot that opened in Brooklyn called Okozushi, but when I found out it was the tiny and adorable restaurant just a couple of blocks away from my apartment that I saw during a recent walk, I was straight up giddy.
  • Thinking about a new apartment also has me thinking about updating some of my art and decor. How cute is this Aperol spritz print?
  • I’ve been daydreaming about moving to New Orleans for the better part of the last six months, pretty much since my last trip there during the holidays, and I would be lying if part of the reason wasn’t so I could somehow befriend Joy from Joy the Baker, one of my longtime favorite blogs. I imagine we would be best of friends and sit around eating delicious things like this bomb looking cheeseburger fried rice. I mean, come ON.

 

Ready for sunshine and lobster rolls

Knowing myself, I have no doubt that I will very soon regret ever having said the following statement, much less putting it down in writing, but I’m gonna go with it, regrets be damned: I am ready for summer.

:: Sigh ::

I know, I know. It’s not the oppressive humidity I’m ready for, nor the ever present trickle of sweat running down my back on the subway on my way to work, nor the aggressive growl of my AC window unit adding to the cacophony I already deal with, and it’s definitely not the constant stench of garbage baking on the sidewalk. I’ll never be ready for any of that.

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Is it summer yet?

But after a recent sunny (yet still crisp) early spring Saturday spent walking around Red Hook, I’m ready for something other than grey skies, heavy coats, and frigid gusts of air drying out my eyes and turning my nose into a cherry.

I want long afternoons and late dinners after sundown. I want to hide behind sunglasses and feel the sun on my shoulders. I want to throw on a dress, slip on some sandals and be ready. And after lunch at Red Hook Lobster Pound, I want frosty beers to wash down pink, perfect hunks of lobster meat toppling out of warm buttered buns. I want to lick seasoning spices, butter and mayo off my fingers, and think, “Mmmm, tastes like summer.”

Red Hook is one of my favorite parts of town, mostly because be it summer or winter, it always feels quiet and far away, a break from the rest of the city. When you do find a pocket of people and activity, it still feels laid back, cool without trying super hard. That my favorite lobster roll in the city is also found there just makes Red Hook that much better.

While I know I don’t have to wait for summer to go down there and have that buttery, delicious lobster roll, if there’s one thing to make that experience better, it’ll be just a smidge of summer, a warm, sunshiny day and maybe a light breeze. Yup, that’s what I’m ready for.

 

*Note: Yes, I did skip right past spring, because spring in New York is mostly just Winter Lite. It also lasts all of about five minutes, while summer stretches out and feels like an eternity by the time fall rolls around.