Sweet summer lovin’

I’ve hated summer my whole life, dreading its arrival each year and distrusting everything about it, but over the last couple of years, be it cause I’m getting older and wiser or just having better summers, I’ve started to change my tune.

While I still hate, hate, haaaate the heat, the rest of summer isn’t so bad anymore. I like the energy and vibrancy, the feeling of something fun always being just around the corner, the spontaneity in the air, the relief of a cold drink, impromptu picnics, last minute rooftop gatherings, new friends, new loves, new opportunities.

I was walking down east Houston in the Lower East Side, mid conversation with a visiting friend, when we passed Russ & Daughters and a sign in the window that caught my eye: babka ice cream sandwiches! We were on our way to lunch somewhere else but just like that, something new had been thrown into the afternoon’s plans, and after a late lunch a few blocks away, we doubled back for dessert on the bench outside the iconic shop.

Babka and ice cream are having a summer fling and I love it.

Babka and ice cream are having a summer fling and I love it.

A friend introduced me to babka a few years ago and I’ve been a fan of the traditionally jewish loaf-like cake ever since. Sometimes cinnamon, sometimes chocolate, I love the flavored ribbons swirled throughout, making it delicious and fun to pull apart and gobble. And ice cream? Well, ours is a life long love affair.

Russ & Daughters not only used the babka, cut into circular pieces, as the top and bottom of this dessert sandwich, but also in the creamy, cinnamoney ice cream in between. Wrapped up in the same wax paper used for smoked salmon or pickled herring, the babka ice cream sandwich had all the old school charm of this famed NYC institution and a fun, new take on a classic treat.

Like so much of summer it seems, it was unexpected and sweet, a welcome break from the heat, and another fond memory stored away.

Mission: perfect burrito

I’m not sure how I’m ever supposed to eat burritos again, not after the absolute-perfection-in-burrito-form I had for lunch today.

All other burritos will live in the shadow of the delicious one I had at Danny Bowien’s California style taqueria, Mission Cantina, in the Lower East Side, not far from his short-lived (but hopefully soon to be resurrected) Mission Chinese Food.

write something here

Mission Cantina’s carne asada burrito

Before bringing his restaurants to New York, Danny Bowien was a big deal in San Francisco, where phenomenal tacos and burritos are easy to find, and clearly he picked up a thing or two and brought it to the east coast, cause the burrito I had today was a 10 clear across the board.

write something here

So much awesome in just one handful

For starters, instead of being filled with tons of gut-filling rice, sad wilted lettuce and mushy tomatoes, this bad boy (easily shareable between two people if you don’t have a the bottomless pit of a stomach that I do) was stuffed, generously and evenly throughout, with  carne asada, beans, guacamole, crema, queso blanco and salsa fresca. The carne asada, which I went with on the server’s recommendation (other choices were lamb, carnitas, fried skate, veggie, chicken and al pastor) was oh-so-soft and juicy, tender and full of flavor. The guacamole lent a creamy freshness to balance the hearty, rich beans, and the cheese did what it always does, made everything better. It was a wonderfully messy, saucy affair with juices running down my hands and my cloth napkin working overtime, and I loved every minute of it.

write something here

Even the chips are delicious!

The tortilla which let’s be honest, no one ever cares about was more than just a vessel for burrito goodness. Tortillas are made in house, and it shows, because instead of being bland and rubbery, this one actually tasted like something you’d want to finish, or to use as a sponge for all of the burrito juice run off. And to really push itself into the realm of greatness, the tortilla had a slight golden crisp to it, from where the burrito had been lightly seared for a perfect finish.The burrito alone was enough to make me an instant fan but Mission Cantina really sealed the deal with its accompanying tortilla chips. Usually an afterthought or distraction, these were anything but. Each one was thick and crunchy, fried in house and dusted in a punchy, colorful blend of spices that made it impossible not to each every last crumb of them. Two salsas, a tangy, avocado filled green sauce and a thicker, smoky red one were served with them, but almost not necessary because of how good they were on their own.

Burritos of New York, I’m not sure things will ever be the between us. Mission Cantina, I’m all yours.

Mission Cantina on Urbanspoon

So I like veggie burgers

As much as I love a big ol’, juicy, meaty burger (and you should I know I love it a lot), I’m also and have been since way before this whole vegan challenge of mine a big fan of veggie burgers. I don’t equate one with the other but love them both separately. Sometimes I want a good burger, and sometimes I just want a solid veggie burger. That’s just how it is.

I’ve had some made from tofu, great ones out of black beans,  and others with actual chopped up veggies, but never until a few days ago, when I had the forbidden rice burger at Ni Japanese Delicacies in the Essex Street Market, had I eaten one made out of rice.

write something here

The tasty rice burger at Ni Japanese Delicacies 

Ni is a small place, really a tiny, walk up counter of vegan and vegetarian Japanese inspired bites and drinks. Their veggie burger, which usually comes on a brioche but can be replaced with vegan sprouted bread, has a “patty” of Asian black rice, maitake mushrooms, carrots, and kale and comes topped with baby arugula, pickled sweet peppers and vegan herb mayo.

write something here

No meat here, fake or otherwise.

This rice burger I’m sure without a doubt is better on the brioche, but even on the vegan-friendly sprouted bread, it was pretty good. The problem with a lot of veggie burgers is that they end up dry or crumbly, but Ni’s rice wasn’t either of those. It was soft and just moist enough to not be a dry ball of rice, and had a good, earthy delicious flavor. The pickled sweet peppers and the baby arugula added a little variety in the way of texture and veggie flavors.

All around meatless deliciousness, and something I’ll definitely be coming back to when I just want a veggie burger.

Fat kid reverie

If I could travel anywhere right now it would be to Thailand. It’s my dream destination these days, and part of it’s because I imagine gorging off delicious, cheap eats from street vendors and small, gritty food stalls. It would be hot, my hair frizzy and unruly, my skin shiny and sticky, but man, would that food be good.

Recently I was at Pok Pok Phat Thai,  Andy Ricker’s pad thai centric spin off of his more popular Pok Pok in Brooklyn, when I saw something on the menu that confirmed exactly what I imagine about my dream Thai vacation: Hoi thawt, a Thai specialty sold by street vendors at night markets. SOLD.

sdfsdfsd

In my wanderlust fueled reveries, I visit Thailand and eat stuff like this. And it’s damn near magical.

Served on a green banana leaf, hoi thawt’s an eggy creation made of crispy, thin egg crepe filled with plump little fresh mussels,  chives, garlic and bean sprouts, served with a side of fiery, tangy Shark sriracha sauce.  It filled my whole mouth with bright, colorful flavors and my head with even more delicious, exotic wanderlust fat kid daydreams.

My Thai vacation dreams are alive and well and until I make them happen, thankfully at least some street eats are just a couple trains away.

Mission (Chinese Food) Accomplished

Man oh man do I love the satisfaction that comes with crossing off things on my to-do lists. Even better still when that satisfying feeling of completion comes along with the happy, stuffed high of a great, big delicious meal.

Such was the case earlier this week when a friend and I finally, after talking about it over and over and meaning to go for the past year or so, went to Mission Chinese Food, the tiny, much-raved about Americanized Chinese food joint made famous in San Fran and now also located in the Lower East Side.

Dinner service starts at 5:30pm and hungry folks line up outside before the door’s even unlocked and neon sign turned on just to claim one of the few spots in the no-reservations restaurant. Right there in that line, was us, ready to scarf down our hipster Chinese grub version of an early bird special. Even though I hate early dinners, especially when the sun’s still out, I’d gladly do it again because the food totally, if you ask me, lived up to the hype.

Chili margarita

Chili margarita

To celebrate our success at A.) getting our acts together and finally making it to the restaurant and B.) actually getting seated right away, we ordered ourselves some drinks. The chili margaritas, with their orangey pink color, citrusy bite and toasted chili kick were the perfect way to start things off.

Mapo ramen

Mapo ramen

Food at Mission Chinese comes out as the kitchen finishes it and for us, first out was the mapo ramen, a generous bowl of fatty pork broth, seaweed, coddledegg, mapo tofu and ramen noodles. Like many of the dishes here, this one wasn’t shy about being packed with bright bold flavors and a fiery kick that had me breaking out in full on nose sweats. (You know, when the bridge of your nose beads up with spicy food induced sweat. Not exactly my best look.)

Continue reading

Life’s Boo Boos

For Life’s Boo-Boos? I’ll take it.

It’s been a quiet week or so here on the blog and it’ll probably continue to be that way for an indeterminate amount of time (though hopefully not too long) while I sort out some things going on in my personal life. While I don’t think these chocolate band-aids I  found at Economy Candy in the Lower East Side can fix what’s broken, I certainly don’t think they can hurt. They’re for life’s boo-boos after all, so maybe I’ll pick up a box or two, or twelve.

In the meantime, if anyone needs me I’ll be listening to this song on repeat and eating chocolate band-aids and other nonsense for dinner while obsessively watching the Olympics alone. Cause really, that’s all I wanna do right now. That is, until the creative juices start flowing again and I can go back to regaling you all with my stories of  gluttony. Until then, stand by.

Good breakfast is always a great thing

If there’s one thing I could eat tirelessly it would be breakfast. Well, no, really it might also be pizza, ice cream, mac and cheese, or pork buns but that’s besides the point. Today, for the sake of this post, it’s breakfast.

Eggs, bacon, pancakes, ALL of it— I. Love. It. And last week, on a day off in the middle of the week, I had a great breakfast (or brunch I suppose) at one of the best spots for it in town: Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant. On the weekends, people line up outside before the place even opens, but during the week, in the middle of the afternoon, you can just walk right in and help yourself to a table, which is exactly what we did.

Rosemary Salty Dog and Cucumber Cooler, fine company on a day off.

Drinks are a necessary part of the brunch experience so I went with the Rosemary Salty Dog, a rosemary-garnished, salt-rimmed mix of gin, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and rosemary simple syrup on the rocks.  It was citrusy and tart with just the perfect bit of herbal sweetness from the rosemary. Flaneur, always shying away from overly sweet drinks, went with the cucumber cooler, a crisp mix of vodka, cucumber puree, lime and mint with a refreshing bite to it.

Probably the best blueberry pancakes I’ve ever had.

Earlier that morning, Flaneur had rolled over in bed and said, “I want pancakes,” so at Clinton Street, which is known for its pancakes,  he ordered the blueberry variety. They were perfect in their soft fluffiness and had big fat blueberries throughout with a delicious bunch of more wild Maine blueberries on top. But what really had me literally licking my fingers was the delicious maple butter these came with. Instead of just traditional maple syrup, these pancakes came with warm maple butter, a ridiculously good concoction that was simultaneously sweet and just a tiny bit salty.

Southern breakfast in all its glory.

But because we had agreed to split something sweet and something savory, I ordered the southern breakfast: two eggs (ordered sunny side up because I go bonkers over runny, orange yolk), cheese grits, sugar-cured bacon and fried green tomatoes. Yes, that’s right, fried freakin’ green tomatoes! It’s not every day I see those on a menu, and with cheese grits no less! The only thing missing was a biscuit, but that was ok because the bacon more than made up for it. The ideal thickness and crunchiness, it had a sweetness to it that made me want to eat plate after plate of it.

After eating at Clinton Street, I get why people line up outsides on the weekend, which makes me even happier to have days off during the week.