Latkes fingers

Chicken finger and latke hybrid

Chicken finger and latke hybrid

I love love looove the holidays. I like the presents and the lights and the parties, but really— to no one’s surprise, I’m sure— my favorite part is the food. Egg nog, candy canes, panettone, mulled wine, sugar cookies, hams, all of it.

In recent years, I’ve also become a big fan of potato latkes, which is why when I read that Sticky’s Finger Joint had added latke fingers to their menu of specialty chicken fingers, I had to try them. Latkes, a food usually associated with Hanukkah, are delicious little potato pancakes made with grated potato, flour, egg and seasoning, and traditionally served with sour cream and apple sauce as side toppings.

All the things!

All the things!

Sticky’s latke fingers are plump, juicy chicken strips, coated in the grated potato, four and egg mix, and fried to a crunchy, golden crust. In a word: delicious. Sticky’s also offers a whole menu of dipping sauces but the latke fingers, as tradition would have it, come with both sour cream and apple sauce. I put a little of each on every chunk I cut off making for one of those perfect mouthfuls that has a little bit of everything: tender, moist chicken, crispy, crunchy crust, little bit of potato, tanginess of the sour cream, and the sweetness of cinnamon-sprinkled apple sauce.

They’re big enough that one or two, with a side order of fries, is a good sized meal, and maybe now one that I’ll look forward to adding to my list of holiday favorites every December.

Lunch amongst the lucky ones

The four years I spent in Gainesville, Florida during college were filled with a lot of the same when it came to food: pizza (of the cheap, greasy, late night variety), burgers, pitas (Pita Pit what what!) and all manner of microwaved garbage when I ate at home.  So earlier this week, when I passed a large group of kids in Greenwich Village who I assumed were in town for NYU orientation (the purple “Class of 2018” stickers gave them away…and also horrified me), I thought about how nice it must be for them to have so many amazing food options, manycontrary to popular beliefnot even that expensive.

Think of it as the burrito's Indian cousin.

Think of it as the burrito’s Indian cousin.

Case in point: the cheap and so very delicious lunch I had at The Kati Roll Company on MacDougal Street, in the thick of all things NYU.

Quick, easy and tasty, what's not to love?

Quick, easy and tasty, what’s not to love?

Kati rolls are an Indian street food of sorts, basically different meats, veggies and other fillings rolled into crepe like flatbreads called paratha. I ordered the unda shami roll, a delicious rolled up mix of minced lamb, lentil croquettes and a thin layer of beaten eggs. The paratha was thick enough to hold everything but light and soft in taste and texture, and didn’t take away from the heartier, spicy filling inside. The spices in the lamb and in the lentil croquettes made for bright, rich flavors and the egg was just enough to give it a softer, almost buttery flavor without making it taste like a full on breakfast wrap. (Though I might point out that I would gladly eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner.)

If I could do college all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing (because crappy pizza aside, my days in Gainesville were some of my favorite) but man, would it have been nice to have delicious things like Cambodian sandwiches, Ukranian pierogis, italian bomboloni and now Indian kati rolls. I hope all these new kids in the city know just how good they have it.

 

The Kati Roll Company on Urbanspoon

Oatmeal will make it all better

Seriously, when it rains, it pours… and if you’re me it sometimes also turns into a God-forsaken “wintry mix” and then you get locked INSIDE your apartment (yes, it’s totally possible and yes, it’s a COMPLETE fire hazard) and then everything’s broken and nothing’s fine and you end up crying alone in your apartment stomping your feet on the ground and pouting about the world sucking. So, uhm, yea, that was my Monday.

Which is why today absolutely called for something happy, fun, and comforting, and because I’m obviously talking about food, tasty too. Enter OatMeals, a cute little Greenwich Village shop specializing in jazzed up oatmeal, both sweet and savory (which I’d never heard of) and lots of toppings and ingredients to choose from.

Looks like dessert but really it's fig and Gorgonzola oatmeal

Looks like dessert but really it’s fig and Gorgonzola oatmeal

I, for one, love a good bowl of oatmeal. There’s something about soft, warm food that just soothes me, and after the harrowing Monday I had, calming comfort was right up my alley. (I’ll psycho-analyze myself here and say this is probably some deep-seated association going back to baby food. What do you think?) At OatMeals you can have a water base or a milk base, you can go the traditional route with something like brown sugar and cinnamon or fruity with something like pineapple and mango topped oatmeal in coconut milk, you can call it dessert with graham crackers, dulce de leche and whipped cream or make it a meal with something savory, which is exactly what I did.

This beats the hell out of the instant stuff I usually make at home.

This beats the hell out of the instant stuff I usually make at home.

With ingredients like bacon, manchego, and truffle oil, all of the savory options seemed good, but I went with the Fig & Gorgonzola oatmeal in the Mama Bear size. (How adorable is that? Instead of small, medium and large, they have baby bear, mama bear and papa bear.) My creamy milk-based oatmeal was covered in a chunky layer of Gorgonzola crumbles, dried figs and a thick swirl of syrupy balsamic vinegar. It definitely wasn’t the peaches and cream or brown sugar and bananas I’m used to, but I liked it. The Gorgonzola gave it a salty, cheesy flavor and the figs and balsamic glaze added a tangy, sweetness that wasn’t too sugary or dessert-like but reminded me of risotto almost.

Did it fix the crapfest that was Monday? No, not really, but it was a tasty distraction and just the right, subtle reminder I needed that everything wasn’t actually broken.  Just some days require a little bit of oatmeal and a cathartic cry, that’s all. Bring on the rest of the week.

OatMeals  on Urbanspoon

A cheeky start to the year

For me, 2013 didn’t officially start until sometime in the early afternoon of January 4th. That’s precisely when, on my first day off of the new calendar year, I walked over to Perla, the Greenwich Village restaurant I had been food-lusting over since opening last year, and ate one of the most outrageously delicious sandwiches I’ve had… possibly ever.

BAM! just like that, 2013 was suddenly off to a phenomenal start and I could feel it in my bones that everything was going to be ok this year. It would all be more than ok. It would be delicious and amazing.

This will probably remain one of the top meals of 2013, you wait and see

My edible omen came in the form of Perla’s open-faced beef cheek sandwich, a mountain of tender, braised meat on thick toasted bread with porcini mustard, all topped with two eggs, of the glorious, sunny side up variety, and a heap of crispy shoestring fries to go with it.

Beef cheek, which apparently tends to be tough, is braised or slow-cooked to really tenderize it. This particular beef cheek went through that and then some. It was some of the juiciest, softest meat I can remember eating, almost just falling apart in the best way as I shoveled it in my mouth. Add rich, thick egg yolk and a slight, but spicy, kick from the mustard and you’re looking at a serious foodgasm waiting to happen. (No really, think the “I’ll-have-what-she’s-having” scene from When Harry Met Sally. No faking.)

It was one of those meals where I walked out of the restaurant with a little pep in my step and a smile on my face. If I could whistle, I would have. This year’s gonna be good, I thought to myself. My full, happy stomach was telling me so.

Perla on Urbanspoon

Cheese, cheese and more cheese

I used to imagine that being allergic to shellfish would be pretty damn awful because it would mean you’d never hold a soft, warm lobster roll in your hands or taste the velvety sweetness of lobster bisque on your tongue, but recently, because of a friend who is lactose intolerant and gets horrible gas when he eats cheese, I have to change my answer. Not being able to eat cheese would be the worst thing EVER.

Which is probably why my lactose intolerant friend does what I would do in the same situation, and that is completely disregard his body’s inability to deal with dairy (and his friends’ inability to deal with his flatulence) and eat it anyway. If your friends love you, they’ll love you even when you’re gassy, I suppose.

All of this crossed my mind last week when a friend (of the lactose tolerant variety) and I ate at  Murray’s Cheese Bar, the restaurant/bar spinoff of perhaps my favorite store in all of Manhattan, Murray’s Cheese Shop. Murray’s, which I’ve proclaimed my love for before, is basically a cheese wonderland. They have every color, smell, texture and type of  cheese you could ever want and the new Cheese Bar, just a couple of doors down, showcases a lot of those cheeses in different forms including cheese plates, dips, spreads, sandwiches, desserts and more.

Ellsworth Creamery Buffalo Cheese Curds… fried cheese with more cheese. YES.

My friend and I started with the fried Ellsworth Creamery buffalo cheese curds, quirky, squeaky chunks of solid, soured milk that go into the cheese making process.  These looked like tater tots or boneless chicken wings in their bright reddish orange coats of tangy, hot buffalo sauce and to complete the look, they came with celery sticks and a thick, chunky Black River blue cheese dip. The way I see it, you just really can’t go wrong with cheese-on-cheese action.

Bibb Lettuce Salad: healthy without having to sacrifice being delicious

In a half-hearted attempt to be healthy, my friend suggested the bibb lettuce salad from the greenmarket portion of the menu. If all salads included juicy nectarines, fat, crunchy marcona almonds, fennel, Rogue Creamery smoky blue cheese  and perfectly crisp pieces of prosciutto, everyone would eat more salads and I’m pretty sure the world would be a better, happier place because of it.

Rarebit cheddar burger

Rarebit cheddar burger and pour-your-own beer-cheese sauce

To round out the savory part of our meal, we also split the rarebit cheddar burger, an openfaced, fat hunk of Ottomanelli meat topped with a thick, dark sauce made of  Prairie Breeze cheddar and Left Hand Milk Stout (beer AND cheese? GENIUS.) which came in a little gravy boat of sorts so that it could be poured on to your heart’s content. (My heart was well beyond content and I’d be lying if I said the thought of pouring the sauce directly down my throat hadn’t crossed my mind.)

Coeur de Creme: a creamy sweet, cheesey ending

Finally, for something sweet, we shared the coeur de creme, made with Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery creme fraiche Ben’s cream cheese, and at the very bottom, a jammy, tart, red currant curd.  The dessert had the consistency of a thick, whipped cream cheese (which I prefer over the regular kind) and the creamy, sweetness of cheesecake, sans the crust. The red currant at the bottom of the glass was just enough to give a very subtle, fruity swirl.

All in all, a great cheese themed dinner in a fun, cute new restaurant (also good for grabbing a drink, by the way). But the best part? Being able to enjoy it without the unfortunate gastric consequences of stinking up anyone’s air.

Sweet and dandy and damn good

The Sweet & Dandy

I’m not all late-night cookie runs, pizza binge fests and mountains of pork belly. Sometimes, believer it or not, the things I obsess over are actually… healthy! Gasp! Yes, I know! Insanity.

My latest food crush, for example, is neither chocolatey nor from any part of a pig, it’s totally vegan and made fresh the day I buy it, and get this, it’s ridiculously delicious. I’m craving some just thinking about it. I’m talking about the beautifully colored, bursting-with-flavor, oh-so-freakin’-good “Sweet and Dandy” at Melvin’s Juice Box.

You can get lots of healthy, fresh, fruit and veggie juices at this colorful little Greenwich Village juice bar attached to Miss Lily’s, but ever since I tried the Sweet and Dandy, I just can’t bring myself to buying anything else. A rich, deep fuchsia color, it’s a perfect blend of beets, carrots, apples, pineapple and ginger. They all come together to make a vibrant, sweet drink with a subtle ginger spiciness that’s so good I swear I could down a gallon of it in one sitting.

At about $8 a juice, it is a bit on the expensive side but when I think about how good it tastes and how healthy and natural it is, and how I won’t have to spend 3 hours burning it off at the gym like I would if it were a chocolate shake, I don’t mind spending the money. (Milkshakes, I still got love for you, though.)

When two desserts love each other very much…

Is it just me or does everyone have freakin’ baby fever these days? Good grief, babies are popping out everywhere! From friends, coworkers, old classmates, celebrities (Blue Ivy anyone? What what!),  even on the damn PATH train! But not from this girl. Not with my fear of stretch marks, cracked nipples (oh, the horror) and screaming children with steaming diapers.

But recently, I did meet a love child I was excited about: the sweet love child between a cupcake and creme brulee. Yea, I know. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it, when two great things come together to make a really fantastic thing. That’s what happened at Molly’s Cupcakes in Greenwich Village, where I first had the creme brulee cupcake.

Oh baby! Creme brulee cupcake, yum.

 Now, this particular cupcake isn’t a creme brulee flavored cupcake. It’s not a cupcake with a mound of icing that tastes like creme brulee. It’s an actual cross between the two sweet treats to make one new and improved super dessert.

Creamy custard core? Yes, please.

 

Instead of the usual plop of frosting on top (which I have to admit is usually my favorite part), this particular cupcake has the same sugary shell that creme brulee has, made from caramelized sugar, and with the same oh-so-satisfying snap when you crack it with a spoon. Underneath is a moist, buttery cake, much like a traditional cupcake, and to tie everything together a sweet core of creamy custard with the smooth silkiness of a creme brulee.

Now, that’s a bundle of joy.