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

Beach bum tacos

The beach was nice, but I was there just as much for the tacos as the fun-in-the-sun.

The beach was nice, but I was there just as much for the tacos as the fun-in-the-sun.

I’ve lived in New York over five years now and have spent six summers in this city, and in all of that time, never once, up until last week, had I gone to the beach here. Crazy, right?

This year though, I finally decided to get my act together, throw on a bathing suit, and head to Rockaway Beach, the official beach of Brooklyn hipsters and cool kids alike.

However, dear reader, I have to tell you I’d be lying if I said I was entirely motivated by any desire to feel the sun baking my already brown skin while damn near naked in public. A stronger motivating factor was tacos. Delicious, summery tacos from Rockaway Taco, the small, whitewashed stand just a few blocks away from the beach that draws crowds just as much as the ocean does.

So, yes, I went to the beach and did the whole sun-and-sand thing but once that was done and crossed off the bucket list, I went and had tacos. After roasting in the sun for a few hours, first on my list was something cold, in the form of a fruity, refreshing pineapple and mint juice.  It took everything in me not to guzzle it in big, greedy gulps.

Pineapple-mint juice and tacos: perfection on a summer day.

Pineapple-mint juice and tacos: perfection on a summer day.

To go with it, I had two tacos, one fish and one chorizo.  The  fish taco had a plump, perfectly-golden-on-the-outside and tender-on-the-inside hunk of fried fish and a delicious spicy mayo type sauce that I licked off my fingers like a gross little animal. The chorizo taco, topped with thinly sliced radish and zesty cilantro like the fish taco, was juicy and flavorful, and consequently gone in just a few bites.

Rockaway Taco was the perfect end to a fun, relaxing summer beach day that I should’ve had dozens of times already and not just once. Guess that means that as the summer quickly starts to wind down, I’ll have to make up for lost time and squeeze in as many trips as I can to Rockaway Taco… and the beach, of course.

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.)

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A delicious welcome

Four and a half days wasn’t nearly enough time for me to do all the eating I wanted to get done in London. I mean, it was a good little chunk of time and let me tell you, I made the best of it, but really, I needed days more.

I knew that going into it though, which is why as soon as I had dumped my bags at the hotel, I headed straight out the door, hopped on the tube (which by the way, is precisely a million times better than the rat-infested NYC subway) and made my way to Fergus Henderson’s St John Bread and Wine across the street from Spitalfields Market just in time for lunch.

While musing over the menu, wondering how many plates I could order by myself and not blatantly give myself away as a fat American on vacation, the server came by with a plate of bread and butter. I’d show you a picture of what was a stack of beautiful, thickly sliced fresh-baked bread with a pale yellow butter so perfectly rich and salty I wanted to dig into it with my fingers, but I was so famished that I hoovered it before I could think to pull my camera out. So yea, sorry about that.

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Crispy pig skin, for the record, is a fantastic way to start a vacation

St John’s is all about nose to tail eating, the idea of not wasting any part of an animal and using all the odd bits for making delicious meals, so I felt the crispy pig’s skin was an obvious choice. And this folks, turned out to be an excellent example of phenomenal decision making, because that damn pig skin was de-freakin’-licious. Crispy, crunchy strips of fried pig skin mixed in with tangy, sweet cooked red onion, sweet and slightly bitter chicory, all tossed in a spicy, mustardy dressing made for the best welcome to London lunch I could’ve ever asked for.

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Good looks to match its deliciousness

To go with it I also ordered the goat’s curd and mint, a gorgeous green heap of big, fat mint leaves drizzled with a bright green, spicy olive oil (not that it had spices in it, but just spicy in that way of really good, new olive oil) all on a thick, creamy spread of tangy, cream cheese like curd from goat’s milk on a crunchy slice of toast. Vibrant, bold, fresh flavors and a great mix of textures made me one very happy fat kid on vacation.

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A most delicious end to a great first lunch

To be completely honest, I could’ve easily put down another plate or two but I was feeling a bit self conscious as it was, sitting at a table alone, so I just skipped to dessert  and at the suggestion of the server, ordered the rhubarb and ice cream. Any hesitation I’d had (and there definitely was some since bread pudding and butterscotch sauce was also on the menu) disappeared when the server said it would be a few minutes while the kitchen prepared the brioche. YES, I thought, there’s brioche involved? YES YES YES. Not long after, she came back with a fat scoop of creamy, spiced ice cream, a small dish of warm, rosy, poached rhubarb and a golden, glistening, perfectly-toasted brioche. I chomped into it, making it ooze with a mix of butter and honey, and then spooned some of the rich, creamy ice cream and the tangy, warm rhubarb into my mouth, and well… there were fireworks going on in my head.

I can’t say enough how much I loved this place. Simple, unpretentious and casual, and with food so good it made me weak in the knees,  I think I’d go here once a week if I lived across the pond. I was really looking forward to eating at his other restaurant, St John, the first one in the bunch, but like a moron I showed up when they were closed. (I forget that outside of New York places actually close from time to time.) But really, St John Bread and Wine was so good and I loved it so much, that it might just be enough to hold me over until the next time I get over to London.

I came, I saw, I stuffed my face

Back in Italy, the people of Napoli (i.e. the original guidos and forefathers of the American breed) revere San Gennaro as the patron saint of their southern city. Here in New York, you might say Saint G is the patron saint of zeppole, sausage sandwiches and the absurdly un-Italian fried Oreo.

Every year for a week in September, the Feast of San Gennaro fills the streets of Little Italy (what few haven’t been completely consumed by Chinatown) with dozens of vendors selling these carnival foods and more, along with all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs. (T-shirt reading “Not only am I perfect, I’m Italian too?” Yea, file that under treasure.) Everyone and their mother seems to go and it’s kind of a crowded mess, but starting last year, the fine folks at Torrisi Italian Specialties took it upon themselves to bring a little bit more of a gourmet edge to the Feast, by offering eats from actual restaurants.

Below, my highlight reel, with food so good San Gennaro himself would be getting in line. (A small miracle in and of itself, since Italians struggle with the concept of forming lines.)

Pork tonata from The Breslin

First stop was at the trifecta of awesomeness, the temple to April Bloomfield: the stand from The Spotted Pig, The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar. The pork tonnato, a sandwich made of thinly sliced roast pork and creamy mayo with tomatoes, wispy slices of onion and arugula, on a fat, round, flour-dusted bun.

Cucumber cooler
 To wash down the hunky sandwich, and to provide some refreshment on what turned out to be an unexpectedly warm afternoon (damn you summer, will you just go already?), was the bright green cucumber cooler. Made with what looked like straight cucumber puree and seltzer water poured over ice, it was an interesting drink with a bubbly, soothing coolness.  The only thing that might have made this drink better was alcohol, maybe an ounce or two of gin. (Even my conservative drinking beau agreed.)
April Bloomfield’s jelly doughnut
Also from the Bloomfield crew, what could be the textbook definition of a superb doughnut: one of the most perfectly spherical, wonderfully delicious, plump full of rich, ruby red strawberry jelly and sparkling in the afternoon sun in its coat of sugar. I could eat these till I keeled over dead of a sugar overdose.

Brrrwich from BYGGYZ

Finally, there was the one thing my friend and I loved, but my Italian boyfriend and her Italian husband hated (further proof that Italian men are in fact, crazy), the Brrrywich ice cream sandwich from BYGGYZ, a coming-soon sandwich shop from Dewey Dufresne. Made with shockingly minty ice cream, the same sparkling white as freshly fallen snow, and dark, crumbly chocolate cookies, this was the ice cream sandwich version of a York Peppermint Patty on steroids. I love the combination of mint and chocolate, so this thing blew my mind.
I’ve never followed saints much before, but I think San Gennaro might’ve made me a believer this year.

Chicken soup for the soul, but pho for a cold

Move over chicken noodle, this is MY cure for a cold!

I started to feel it Thursday, the watery eyes, the slight tickle in my throat, those familiar symptoms that could only mean one thing. Then Friday it was officially there: a cold. Saturday, though, I managed to take it one step farther. I woke up with a cold and a hangover. And I had to work. Needless to say, it was a very long day, full of coughing fits, dozens of balled up tissues, and maybe about 25,000 sneezes.

As I sat there at work, my nostrils like two little cherries from being rubbed raw every time I blew my runny nose and my mouth gaping open to breathe in the place of my congested nose, I knew exactly what I wanted. While most people would seek comfort in a bowl of chicken noodle soup, the quintessential drink-when-you’re-sick soup, I wanted something just slightly different. Continue reading

Goodness gracious…

I’ve never been a big meatball fan. I never had a grandma with a secret recipe for them, never been one to order a meatball sub, and after a couple of years spent in Italy, the thought of spaghetti and meatballs together is almost sacrilegious. Yet last fall when I read about the opening of The Meatball Shop, a small Lower East Side restaurant centered solely around meatballs, I was intrigued. It’s been on my “list” ever since but it wasn’t until this weekend that I got around to finally going.

And let me tell you, I should have made going (again and again and again) a top priority.

There are a few ways you can have your meatballs, but the best and easiest, what Flaneur and I went with for our Saturday night dinner there, was the a la carte option. You pick what kind of meatball you want, what sauce you want on chosen meatballs, and finally what side you want either with or under them.

Spicy pork meatballs with spicy meat sauce on polenta

Meatball choices were classic beef, spicy pork, veggie, chicken and the week’s special: buffalo chicken wing. As curious as I was about a ball of chicken wing, I went with spicy pork instead. Then from my choices of classic tomato, mushroom gravy, spicy meat sauce and parmesan cream, I went again with the spicy one. Sides were divided into two categories: “stick to your bones” and “greenmarket.” Stick to your bones sides were risotto, spaghetti, rigatoni, polenta, mashed potatoes and white beans, while greenmarket, as the name might suggest, were different salad options and steamed, sauteed and roasted veggies. The logical choice for me, the one that jumped out at me when I first picked up the menu, was polenta, which I asked for underneath my meatballs.

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