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Archive for March, 2007

I went back for a work lunch and tried the Vegetable Enchiladas with Mole Sauce ($15).

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Definitely better than anything I had eaten there before. The sauce was nutty and layered, and I liked the vegetables inside the enchiladas – spring onion, zucchini, lots of green. My only complaint was that I wish there had been some more cheese…proportionally, the vegetables outweighed the cheese 3:1.

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Okay, we went to Mexican Radio in Soho. I think I’ll just post a few pictures and tell you that the food was nothing spectacular- for the price. It definitely wasn’t bad (unlike Panchitos) but I think the most disappointing part of the meal was paying $8.95 for a handful of guacamole.
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In Boston, at Ole Grill, guacamole is $8-9 dollars, but it’s fresh, and the quantity is huge. They make it at your table, so you see that they are cleanly slicing and scooping three avocados into the heavy stone bowl. They add other ingredients- tomatoes and cilantro among them, crush it all up until the consistency is chunky, and serve it to you. At Ole, you can make a meal out of drinks and that fresh green guacamole, though I usually end up ordering something else, like their mini turnover quesadillas filled with poufy white goat cheese and charred poblano peppers (yum!!).
Unfortunately, Mexican Radio was the opposite with guacamole- $8.95 for a pale, overly smooth green handful that tasted like sour cream! I was in shock!
The nachos were decent, but a smaller portion than I was used to:
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The spring rolls were also just okay- filled with corn, but most of the taste came from the peanut sauce:
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However, the Napolitos Salad- grilled cactus with apples, jicama, pumpkin seeds, and herbs with Tequila vinaigrette, was refreshingly tasty.
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Louise from work tells me that she loves the vegetarian burrito there- so I might go back and try that. She says it’s her favorite burrito in New York.

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I finally went to Il Laboratorio del Gelato. We went around 5 pm on Saturday and they were out of many flavors. We tried the avocado (it has celebrity status apparently, but who really likes to eat Avocado ice cream?). It was fine, creamy and a beautiful pea-green, but not unlike the avocado ice-cream at Christina’s in Cambridge. We tried a host of the available flavors- I was intrigued by the Blackberry-Port, – it was a beautiful red-purple and tasted strongly of port with the tartness of blackberries- but it was a sorbet, and I wanted something creamy. I ended up settling for the Coconut and Mexican Cinnamon, both of which were mediocre. My dad got the Espresso, which was fantastic! It tasted just like a cold cup of excellent coffee, and it was so satisfyingly creamy, without giving up on any of the flavor. My mom got tangerine, which I didn’t try. Anyway though, both my parents liked Cones on Bleeker St. in the West Village a lot better. So did I.

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I went to Chinese Mirch last Saturday with my cousins who were in town from Chicago. The concept of Indian-Chinese food in America was exciting, since its tastes vary so dramatically from regular Chinese food in America- food that to the Indian palate often seems to be overwhelming in sweetness and syrup. Indian-Chinese draws on other tastes more familiar to Indian cuisine- spiciness from green chilies, sweetness from onions instead of sugar, and full-bodied curry flavors.
In Bombay, my masi and cousins’ favorite Chinese restaurant is China Garden (which I think has a new location at the Crossroads Mall). There, we always order the same thing: thick sweet corn soup, piles of greasy scallion pancakes, and then crispy green beans, some veg. dish (I don’t remember), and always, the vegetable hakka noodles. The décor is palatial—giant round white tables and Chinese decorations hanging from the walls.
Chinese Mirch, located in Little India/Curry Hill/Murray Hill, at 28th and Lexington, has a recognizable sign- a big red chili substitutes for the letter “i” in Chinese. (My friend Allison, who lives in Curry Hill and walks by the restaurant every day, assumed that Chinese Mirch sold “”Chinese Merchandise” and that the owners had misspelled “”merch” as “mirch.”) Inside is airy and full of sunlight; two tables are downstairs and the majority are upstairs, where we sat. We had a sizable group- six of us: my cousin from Bombay who is studying at Cornell and who recommended the restaurant; my high-school aged cousins from Chicago, and their parents, my masi and masa. We started by ordering soups- my cousins from Chicago got the Sweet Corn Soup and the Hot and Sour Soup, both of which I did not try. I did hear my masi say that the hot and sour soup was not hot at all, so she added a bunch of hot chilies in vinegar to it. My cousin from Cornell and I shared the Spicy Lemon Coriander Soup, which was a clear tangy soup with shitake mushrooms. Although it was spicy and the lemon and coriander tastes were present, I thought there could have been more mushrooms floating around in the soup- then, perhaps I would have tasted them more?
For an appetizer, we got the Crispy Okra, which was basically okra tempura.dsc07928.JPG

I really dislike okra but this was my first experience enjoying it- it wasn’t slimy like it usually is, nor was it burnt almost to a crisp (both are Indian ways of preparing okra). Instead it was fried like tempura, in a light golden batter, so that it looked almost delicate, and sprinkled with what the menu calls “smoky chili powder” but what I think was chaat masala. Eating that okra opened up a whole world of okra enjoyment! You could fry the okra like that, sprinkle it with chaat masala, and then mix it with onions and tomatoes for a real chat-pat experience. Yum! So the okra was a highlight.
For the main course, we ordered Chili Paneer, Vegetable Hakka Noodles, and the house specialty, Chinese Mirch Potatoes.
The menu describes the potatoes as “home fries fiery Szechwan style” but instead they were disappointingly bland and glistened disconcertingly on the plate. dsc07932.JPG
The Paneer looked okay, and the sauce was tasty if not fantastic- garlic and tomatoes and some scallions- but the paneer itself had a bizarre texture- it definitely wasn’t fresh and soft-creamy, and it wasn’t rubbery like the typical paneer in Indian restaurants. Instead it was a slightly crumbly on the inside and looked as though it had been frozen, thawed, and refrozen.dsc07929.JPG
The noodles were good, standard noodly fair.

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Oh, and we also got the American Chop Suey- a name evocative of my days at Fay when American Chop Suey meant a huge pot filled to the brim with a messy and strong-smelling meat that I then had to scrape off of peoples’ plates on the days I was a waiter. In Chinese Mirch, American Chop Suey was a nest of fried noodles top with this orange, syrupy-sweet sauce. While I definitely did not enjoy it, I think my cousins from Chicago did!

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My recommendation: Go to Chinese Mirch, order a couple beers, and then get the Okra with some cut onions and green chilies on a side plate. Enjoy your snack and be on your way!

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After work on Friday, Susan, Allison and I went to Ceci-Cela Patisserie for some cake and coffee. It was kind of a miserable Friday… ice poop was pouring from the sky and hitting our faces and it was windy and unfriendly. Susan and Allison were going to see The Namesake and needed to kill some time, and I just wanted some cake (I saw The Namesake last week and was highly disappointed…sorry Kal, it’s over now). I’ve always seen this French bakery…it’s right near the 6 train and sometimes I’ve stood outside, gazing in at the sweet tarts in the display window. But I never knew there was a seating area…which there is, if you squeeze through the narrow, tiny space where people line up to order their pastries to go, the store opens into a small little cafe with books lining the walls and apparently, cute boys everywhere (I missed them all, but Allison saw a bunch of them).
I got the Chocolate Raspberry Cake- a little pricey ($6.50) but whatever, it was a one-time, miserable Friday kind of thing:
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My cake was really good but also really heavy. It was also more “mousse-y” than cake…I don’t know if I liked that.

Allison got the Black Forest Cake, with brandy-soaked cherries (super soaked, I must say):
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And Susan got the “Financier,” a small, fruit-filled tart for only $2.50, which she said was delicious:
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I’ve been eating out a lot! So there is this place near my job called Soho Park and they have the best onion rings I’ve had in a REALLY LONG TIME. And I love onion rings and usually order them wherever they are served because I cannot resist them. And they usually suck. But these are great… even though my picture is not (but I took it with my cell phone, because I didn’t have my camera on me).
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Officially called “Herbed Buttermilk Red Onion Rings,” these crispy, hefty rings are so great. I love that they use whole, real, red onions (I once had the worst onion rings ever- there was no real onion, just this gross onion puree mush crap at the Peculiar Pub). Then, they are crispy and flavored nicely- I guess with herbs? You get a whole pile of them (this is the second time I’ve just had these onion rings as my dinner) and they come with two house made dipping sauces -I usually choose the Spicy Sambal Ketchup- it is this excellent spicy ketchup, and I’ve tried the Garlic Aioli (but it was too creamy for the onion rings) and last time I tried the Smoked Paprika Aioli, which was good but a bit wasabi-ish in its intensity. So go to Soho Park for the onion rings! I’ve also had the Grilled Two Cheese Sandwich, which is a gourmet grilled cheese, with gruyere and parmesean cheeses, and while it’s good, the onion rings are just definitely the stand-out menu item at this place (for me- there are burgers which I’ve heard are good, but since I don’t eat meat, I haven’t had them).

Also, this is from a long time ago, but Mags and I went to Watch City Brewery in Waltham, MA, over…I don’t even remember when, and I got onion rings there, too. I seem to remember them being pretty good:
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Maggie and I also sampled a few beers:
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We went to Brick Cafe for brunch this morning. It was a struggle to get out of bed… I was so sleepy (and I slept till 11:30!). But fortunately, Brick isn’t far…just a few blocks down from me at 33rd st and 31st avenue. I’ve passed it a few times and been tempted to check it out… the exterior is a lovely yellow and it looks really…hip? cute? rustic? So I googled it and found that it was known for its brunches. Then I looked up the brunch menu and saw that it was relatively inexpensive (french toast is $5.95; omelettes are between$5-7). I feel like my perception of what is expensive/inexpensive is skewed now that I live here. Anyway, it’s small inside, and cramped and really busy, but the staff was really nice and the ceilings were some carved tin, charming material, and we were seated right away. While waiting, the waitress brought some crusty french bread with this reddish-brown olive spread to the table. The spread was salty and nutty and easily spreadable. Then they brought us coffee and cream- also good.
I ordered the French Toast:
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….which looked like that, messy, but it was great! The toast was NOT drenched in syrup like most french toast I’ve had- instead it was crispy and slightly sweetened on the outside, soft and warm inside, also slightly sweet, and the strawberries and cream on top were perfect- the strawberries a little tangy, a little sweet, and the cream just a luxury. It also came with a side of potatoes:
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These were fantastic potatoes. Nicely spiced, they tasted like they had a little lemon on them, unlike the usual half boiled/over fried homefries, and they were the perfect salty complement to a not-too-sweet dish. And all this for $5.95!

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Last night, I went to Artisanal, a French cheese restaurant.
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Really nice inside, very classy, red walls, full of people and chatter. I went because I wanted fondue and I heard that in New York, Artisanal was the place to go. It was a really nice evening- we got wine at the bar while we were waiting. I got an Italian Chianti -Sangiovese, and my friend got a Bordeaux- I can’t remember the specific name. Once we were seated, the very nice waiter brought us some bread with this really yummy, soft butter- it tasted like it was very subtly infused with garlic- though that might have been the wine affecting my tastebuds.
We ordered a basket of the Gougeres- I didn’t know what they were, but on all the reviews I read, I heard they were famous and amazing. It turns out that they are mini cheese puffs, and they were tasty, but I didn’t think they were amazing.
Then we ordered the Classic Swiss version of the fondue- they also have other options, like the Artisanal Blend fondue, which the waiter explained as being their “mildest” and “most popular” version. But I wanted Swiss fondue so we got that. While it was definitely good, there were some problems:
1. The bread wasn’t hard/stale/crusty enough, as it should be for fondue. The bread should be a little dried it so it can absorb the cheese better- so the cheese really has a chance to soak through the bread. This bread, while fresh and delicious, just wasn’t the right bread for fondue. It was too chewy and soft to really absorb the cheese as it should have.
2. There just wasn’t that much fondue in the pot- for the price that we paid. Fondue for two is $23. At the Melting Pot (a chain, I know) fondue for two is $14, and I just think it’s better. The temperature is hotter, the consistency is slightly thicker (this fondue wasn’t watery by any means, but I thought it needed to be just slightly thicker), there’s more of it, and it’s tastier. I don’t know- maybe I am a knucklehead for thinking that the Melting Pot’s fondue is better than Artisanal’s… since Artisanal is a French bistro and all… but I just remember it as being more satisfying. I’ll check again in April, when we go down to Baltimore, because I think we’re planning a Melting Pot dinner at some point.
Then I ordered the Pumpkin Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Truffle Essence and my friend ordered the Prime Hanger Steak Filet.

Pumpkin Risotto:

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The Pumpkin Risotto was rich and pretty good. Very creamy, I could taste cheese and little bursts of sweetness in the small orange pieces of pumpkin. The wild mushrooms were amaaaazing- so flavorful, like juicy bits of earth! And the truffle essence was good, too. Overall, the combination of everything was enjoyable, but rich.

My friend’s steak:

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The steak was reported as good, but maybe a little too cooked- instead of medium well, my friend wishes he just ordered medium. He didn’t like the salad- he said it tasted too strong? Bitter? and he gobbled up all the fries.
We had no room for dessert! Though, if we did, I would have ordered the salted caramel ice cream… because salt and sweet sounds lickable for sure.

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