I could be a vegetarian

Twice this week—TWICE!— I’ve thought to myself, “I could totally be a vegetarian.”

Not a vegan. No, not ever a vegan. I couldn’t give up ice cream and cheese. But vegetarian? I could definitely be a vegetarian.

Honestly, it’s a thought that creeps in all the time, luring me with its promises of health and skinniness, but then I smell bacon fresh out of the pan or  a take a juicy bite of a fat burger and I think no, nevermind, what was I thinking.

But then again, twice this week, I thought I could do it, based off delicious vegetarian meals (one vegan actually!) that didn’t make me feel like I was missing anything.

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American butternut squash bowl… cause not everything American is broken

Earlier in the week was a freakin’ great American butternut squash bowl from PureKtchn. Pretty much the kind of dish that begs to be Instagrammed, it was a big colorful bowl of soft butternut squash, roasted cauliflower, kale, chickpeas, lentils, walnuts and a surprise pinch of tangy, fruity sweetness from goji berries. People who force feed themselves salads in an attempt at being healthy, EAT THIS. It was good! It was healthy! There was no forcing of anything!

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Superiority Burger, sometimes vegan, always delicious

Then later in the week, a friend and I had dinner at Superiority Burger, a cramped little East Village spot whose menu tells people to ask because “everything is vegetarian, a lot is accidentally vegan.” Clockwise from the left hand corner of the picture, we shared the smashed spicy cucumber and brown rice  topped with some of the best damn croutons I’ve ever had, the Sloppy Dave, a delicious, saucey take on a sloppy Joe, the zesty and creamy tahini ranch romaine salad that made me forget how lame I think lettuce is and a rich, spicy burnt broccoli salad.

I might cut back on meat and dairy but realistically, I won’t likely ever become a vegetarian. (I’m a Libra, I’m all about balance.) But with meals like these, where I ended full and happy with not a single crumb of guilt or shame, (which isn’t the case when I polish off a pint of ice cream or a whole pizza) I can certainly keep daydreaming about it.

Hot and (wander)lusty

I think the fact that I made it to work today without cursing at anyone, without shoving a single woman, man or child (oooh, especially child) and without bursting into hot tears of pure aggravation should earn me a prize. That prize, for the record, should at the very least be ice cream.

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Thai iced tea ice cream, brief respite for the hot and wanderlusty

How, in this horrible, sticky, suffocating, swampy and oppressive summer heat, does anyone do anything that doesn’t involve just eating ice cream?

I long to be at the beach right now, under an umbrella eating ice cream. Acceptable alternatives include frozen beverages, cold beers, and basically anything that has either been in the freezer or contains ice.

Furthermore, as is always the case, I’d like for said hypothetical daydream beach to be somewhere far and exotic. Cause you know what else I feel during these trying summer times? Wander-freakin’-lust, man. I wanna go and I wanna go far.

But I just started a new job (eeep!) and I’m low on travel funds (booo!) and I have fun stuff that’s gonna drain my bank account planned for fall (hooray fun!)  so I can’t really go anywhere right this moment. What I can do though, is eat ALL the ice cream such as the above pictured, recently Hoovered, creamy, spicy deliciousness that is Thai ice tea ice cream from Odd Fellows, in addition to drinking all the drinks, (alcoholic and non, just as long as they’re frosty cold) and continuing to daydream the hot days away.

 

 

Thanksgiving in donut form

It’s a big surprise to absolutely no one that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. More than Christmas, more than my birthday, certainly more than Valentine’s Day (really, whose favorite holiday is that? No one.) Thanksgiving though, is seriously my jam.

And as such, I’ve been all sorts of excited in the weeks, now days, leading up to it. When I recently read about Zucker Bakery in the East Village and their seasonal Thanksgiving donuts, my head practically exploded. Thanksgiving AND donuts? Combined into one thing? YES.

They come in four flavors: cranberry turkey, turkey gravy, cranberry, and sweet potato. Due to a mix up with the order I placed (because duh, I placed an order) cranberry wasn’t available, but I made sure to get my grubby little fingers on the other three.

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My lovely selection of Zucker Thanksgiving donuts

For savory pastry lovers, the turkey gravy donut is the way to go. This spiced pumpkin donut stuffed with gravy and turkey is a definite departure from its glazed and frosted cousins of the donut world. It would make a great lunch paired with soup, in my opinion.

A donut stuffed with turkey and gravy? God, I love the holidays.

A donut stuffed with turkey and gravy? God, I love the holidays.

Slightly sweeter, thanks to a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and some cranberry filling, is the cranberry turkey donut. If you’re like me, and enjoy the mixing of sweet and savory flavors, this could be for you. The cranberry sauce is tangy and just subtly sweet, and goes great with the turkey and gravy. (In case you somehow had never had a Thanksgiving meal and didn’t already know that.)

Turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce... all inside a pumpkin donut.  Uh huh, that's right.

Turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce… all inside a pumpkin donut. Uh huh, that’s right.

But because I’m a complete sugar junkie, my favorite was the sweetest of the bunch, the sweet potato pie donut with marshmallow filling. Like the pie itself, the sweet potato part of this isn’t super sweet, but the delicious glob of fluffy marshmallow cream inside? Well that’s pure, sugary perfection… especially warm and just out of the oven the way I had it.

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My fave, the sweet potato donut. (And how bout my nails? Pretty spiffy, no?)

Thanksgiving donuts, a new thing for me to give thanks for this Thursday!

The downtown chef scientist strikes again!

After an amazing holiday dinner at Wylie Dufresne’s wd~50 a couple of years ago, I was really excited to recently hear that the mad scientist chef had a new, more casual restaurant named Alder in the works.  Even though it’s been open in the East Village for a few months now, I just this last weekend got around to checking  it out.

It had lots of the cool kitchen tricks and fun twists on things you think you know along with a relaxed but buzzy vibe, fun music and servers with cool striped aprons. Wins all around! Wylie’s done it again.

Pub cheese

Pub cheese

First out, was Alder’s take on pub cheese, that kitschy spreadable cheese you smear on crackers or bread. Mixed with sherry to give it a purplish hue, and jazzed up with a pistachio and white fig crunchy brittle, this particular pub cheese came with “chips” made from Martin’s potato rolls that had been smushed down and run through a pasta machine before being baked to a crisp. Am I alone in thinking this is really fun and cool? Doubt it.

Fried squash blossoms

Fried squash blossoms

Next out was perhaps my favorite dish, the fried squash blossoms. When I lived in Florence, these were some of my favorite, but here I rarely see them (though Da Silvano has delicious ones!)  so I had to get Alder’s… and man, did they come through! Plump and creamy with smoked shrimp and dill, these summer squash blossoms were fried just enough that they were golden and crispy yet still soft on the inside. Eating a couple of plates of these would have been no big thing.
Pigs in a blanket

Pigs in a blanket

After, came another playful spin on a casual food, “Pigs in a Blanket,” except instead of crescent roll wrapped mini hot dogs, Alder’s were little chunks of Chinese sausage, smokey and dense, wrapped in a crunchy shell and served with polka dot-like plops of horseradishy japenese mustard and sweet chili sauce. It would be dangerously easy to throw back a dozen or so of these.
Chicken liver toast

Chicken liver toast

For the next dish I was glad to be out with one of my more adventurous eater friends because we decided on the chicken liver toast. Looking more like a wedge of pie than a piece of toast, this dish was made up of a thick smear of bright and tangy grapefruit marmalade on which sat a layer of cornbread topped with chunky, chopped chicken liver. Plopped ontop was the decorative and tasty garnish of chicken skin. Yes, chicken skin. The best part of fried chicken.
Beef tongue

Beef tongue

In keeping with the things-my-other-friends-wouldnt order theme, we went with the beef tongue as our last savory dish. Unlike the thick, chewy tongue my mom used to cook (and torture us with) this tongue was thinly sliced into ribbom-like pieces that were meaty and flavorful and served on what we first thought was potato but turned out to be smoked yucca, another recurring food staple of my childhood. Pickled cippolini and a bit of chimichurri and cilantro, gave everything a bright, colorful flavor. Sorry mom, your beef tongue wold never stand a chance against this one.
Root beer pudding

Root beer pudding

As a lover of root beer and pudding, Alder’s root beer pudding was the obvious dessert choice. Silky smooth and creamy, with a just-right taste of root beer that wasn’t cloying or overpowering, this was a light, sweet way to wrap up a great dinner. Crunchy, crushed smoked cashews peppered things up with a different texture.

Wylie Dufresne can do no wrong in my eyes and this new restaurant of his only reinforces that idea.

Not those kind of balls

Some people like to kick off the weekend with drinks, and while I’m usually right there with those people, this weekend, which for me officially began at 3:30 this afternoon, started off with balls instead. No, not those kinds of balls. Octopus balls. Yea, no, still not those kinds of balls. Jeez, c’mon, an octopus doesn’t even have those kind, does it? Either way, we’re getting off topic here. I’m talking takoyaki, delicious fried Japanese savory snacks.

As soon as my shift ended I walked over to the tiny Otafuku in the East Village, known and loved for their takoyaki and other Japanese street eats, and got an order of octopus takoyaki.  Otafuku has them in three varieties— octopus, cheese and plain— but from everything I read online (i.e. a million and one gushing reviews) octopus was the way to go.

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Octopus tokoyaki from Otafuku. The weekend has officially begun

For $6 I got half a dozen golf ball sized, fried-to-a-golden-brown-on-the-outside-and-gooey-hot-on-the-inside balls filled with octopus, scallion and pickled ginger. The guy at the counter handed them to me naked and asked what I wanted on them so I asked him what was good. His answer? “Everything.” Letting him go to town on my balls (you’re loving this ongoing balls thing, aren’t you?) I watched him dress them up in a drizzle of mayonnaise, a generous all-over pour of okonomi sauce (a thick, tangy, sweet brown sauce), a dusting of aonori ( crushed up seaweed) and finally a topping of bonito flakes (bonito being a type of fish).

Always a fan of mixed textures and tastes in my food, I liked that the octopus balls were slightly crunchy on the outside put softer and a bit creamier on the inside. The sweetness of the okonomi sauce also paired well with the tanginess of the mayo, both making for a thick, tasty sauce to go with the subtle flavor of the octopus.

The only thing that could’ve made my start to the weekend even better? A frosty beer to go with my balls.

Otafuku on Urbanspoon

Giving thanks for the Thanksgiving croissant

In all its glory: the Thanksgiving croissant

To say that I’m completely giddy, bouncing-around-in-anticipation, so-excited-I-could-squeal over Thanksgiving would be a tiny bit of an understatement. I’m beyond that. Way beyond it.

And I’m especially beyond it since FINALLY having the Thanksgiving croissant at Momofuku Milk Bar. I’ve been trying to get my grubby little fingers on one of those buttery, flaky, fat croissants of deliciousness since last year, and every single time I’ve ever gone, both last year and this, they’ve been sold out. Last week, on one of my days off, I went first thing in the morning and snagged a couple (because yes, I bought one to take home after the one I ate immediately on the spot).

So much Thanksgiving goodness in one croissant…

All joking aside, if you live in New York and haven’t had a Thanksgiving croissant from Milk Bar, well, you’re insane. You need to stop dilly-dallying and go get yourself one. Stuffed full of juicy chunks of turkey meat, stuffing, gravy and a tart bit of cranberry sauce, this croissant just needs pumpkin pie to be the perfect pastry embodiement of all that is wonderful about Thanksgiving.

They’re pretty much the best thing ever, and your life will be better for having one, so go on, go get one. It’s the most delicious thing to happen to November since the pilgrims and the indians got together for dinner.

I’m a Puddin’ person

I don’t know what it is about pudding— maybe it’s the smooth creaminess, the variety of flavors, the way it takes me back to childhood and packed lunches—I don’t know, I just love it. Always have and always will. At the ripe old age of 27, I still buy Snack Packs and Jell-O pudding cups. (There’s Jello-O creme brulee rice pudding in my fridge, as we speak.)

Chocolate pudding, whipped cream, and butterscotch pudding. A classic is a classic for a reason.

A few months ago when I heard about Puddin’, an East Village shop specializing in— yup, you guessed it—  pudding, my inner child and inner fat kid high-fived each other, and then we all made plans to go.

The way it works at Puddin’ is you can get  simple cups of pudding in all the classic flavors, including chocolate, vanilla and  butterscotch among others, or you can add toppings into the mix (sweet add-ins like salted caramel sauce, candied nuts, or red velvet cake to name a few), OR if you’re like me and you get semi-overwhelmed in the face of so many tasty choices, you can opt for one of Clio’s signature parfaits. (Clio, in case you were wondering,  is the brains behind this whole Puddin’ operation. I kind of want to be her friend.)

The Banana Cream Dream: the stuff dreams are made of. (Or is that just mine?)

My boyfriend, like a lot of adults, I suspect, only feels lukewarm about pudding. Sure, he’ll eat it if it’s there, but he won’t go out of his way for it. So I dragged him anyway.  Playing it safe, he ordered the classic parfait with layers of thick, cool chocolate and creamy butterscotch pudding alternating between fluffy layers of whipped cream. I, with my ever raging sweet tooth, ordered the banana cream dream, which with its layers of real banana pudding, soft chunks of banana bread, crunchy graham cracker crust crumbles, and airy whipped cream, was absolutely every bit as dreamily delicious as its name implies.

So I guess, really, I do know why I love pudding so much.  Cause plain and simple, it’s awesome. And if you need a reminder of that, a visit to Clio’s Puddin’ is the perfect place to start.

Puddin' by Clio on Urbanspoon