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Archive for February, 2008

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At Stir It Up, we found Caribbean fare for the vegetarians. The restaurant is located on a section of Atlantic populated by Pakistani curio and clothing shops and we visited on one of the chilly nights in January’s interminable stretch. Stir It Up shone invitingly from the lonely street where I was waiting for my dinner companions. Inside, it was orange and warm and relaxed. Our waitress was friendly and our food imaginative.

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We ordered tall, cloudy glasses of ginger beer in which the sharpness of ginger was mellowed by vanilla and cinnamon, producing an almost creamy taste. We wanted appetizers but they were out of the fried plantains so we started with the delicate roti skins instead, soft and elaborately wrapped around what seems like a powdery paste of ground chickpeas and garlic. It was so tasty that we started eating it plain but our waitress told us to wait for our main courses- the skins were just an accompaniment.

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Anthony’s entree of (vegetarian) Jerk Chicken– firm soy meat shaped into a surprisingly accurate replica of a chicken breast glazed with jerk sauce– was not only a visually stunning dish but also a fiery, smoky, palette pleaser. Gabe’s Ha Ha Chicken Balls (also veg) were delicious fried soy balls in a tangy tomato based sauce.

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The Steak Surprise I ordered certainly had the elements of a good dish- tender cubes of soy (I mean, steak) and loads of fresh vegetables seeped in a rich coconut curry- but it was so sadly mild that it became frustrating. I knew with just an addition of heat the dish would be much more enjoyable and I was correct- I doused my leftovers the next day with Tabasco and the savory Island spices suddenly started popping.

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Stir It Up is at 514 Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Roti Skins: $3; Jerk Chicken: $9; Steak Surprise: $8.50; Ha Ha Chicken Balls: $8.50

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I visited Balt’amour last weekend to spend time with three close friends from college. Lisa, Malka, and Elana picked me up from the always cheerful Baltimore Travel Plaza.

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We drove directly to Nacho Mama’s in Canton where we started sipping on these not-so-lethal hubcap margaritas. I’ve had many a discussion with friends about how the drinks in Baltimore are, for some reason, delightfully less deleterious than the ones in New York. I can drink without the fear of a terrible hangover the next day. Of course, Baltimore’s prices are kinder, too- these hubcap margaritas were $10 each, and we split that four ways.

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Nacho Mama’s menu is expansive but I prefer to stick with the nachos- tried and true, with proper cheese to beans to veggies proportions. The jalapeƱos were actually fiery. My friends ordered quesidillas that were overstuffed, with the tortillas baked to a dry crisp. Not exactly appetizing but with such a large plate of nachos, who needed more food?

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The next day we headed to Hampden’s roomy but odd Dogwood Cafe for lunch. We walked down a ramp to enter the large underground dining room and I felt as though I were entering a dungeon. The tables, lighting, and artwork were pretty fancy, yet, something seemed off. We sat next door to the kitchen and while the main dining room is perfectly presentable, I stared at the stretch of uncarpeted, shabby floor leading into the kitchen. I know it was a weird fixation, but that patch of floor was starkly different from the methodically decorated dining room and I started wondering why they hadn’t taken care of the floor everywhere and what this stretch of floor could portend about the kitchen beyond.

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If you’re making the trek down to Tribeca, stop by Mangez Avec Moi for vegetarian-friendly Southeast Asian cuisine with a array of soul (fake) chicken options. Mangez Avec Moi’s menu spans across Asia, hitting China, Thailand, and Vietnam, although I’m not sure which country is the lucky home to these Sticky Rice Pancakes.

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I approached these hefty pancakes cautiously, taken aback at their size. I didn’t know what a sticky rice pancake entailed and I was worriedly anticipating a rice cake. Thankfully, these were anything but boring; upon cutting a piece of one, fragrant steam rose from the glutinous rice. A coating of fried egg gave these pancakes a crispy, salty skin that contrasted appealingly with the chewy filling, and for pancake perfection, I crowned my piece with the scallions and a quick dip in the sauce. Sharp and sweet, these pancakes were packed with punch.

Mangez Avec Moi is at 71-73 West Broadway, near Warren St., New York, NY. (212) 385-0008

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A few days after the dinner at Blossom, I attended Zen‘s green tea dinner at Franchia, a multi-level Korean Vegan Teahouse that infuses tea into noodles and dumplings. Franchia’s interior is constructed with horizontal and vertical beams of dark wood that shine in the dim light. The overall effect is reminiscent (intentionally, I assume) of a peaceful Zen garden.

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We started with the combination pancake platter that included Sweet Corn Cilantro Pancakes, Spicy Kimchi Pancakes and Crispy Scallion Pancakes. Unfortunately, I was unable to identify the kimchi pancake, the one about which I was most curious, probably because we had to divide each pancake into pieces to distribute to everyone at dinner (about 7 people) and I got confused as to what I was eating. Oh well, it means I’ll have to go again.

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happy valentine’s day

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I hope spring comes soon.

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Blossom

I’ve never been one to seek out vegetarian restaurants for the simple reason that most of my friends eat meat. It’s not my style to impose restrictions on anyone’s diet because I’m all for indulging in whatever you crave, and I’m used to adapting, evaluating the tastiest vegetarian option among the usual few on most menus. Which is why, when Nina Paley of Sita Sings the Blues fame (really great movie; I can’t wait till my dad sees it) suggested we eat at Blossom, I was intrigued, and yes, a little bit wary.

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Pie on toast is a strange concept but it’s what I ate at Saint’s Alp Teahouse. The peculiar combination was only $1.90 so I had a hard time resisting it, especially with just $3 in my wallet. On the menu, it’s called a “Supreme Toast” with various “fillings”: apple, almond butter, garlic butter, coconut butter, and my choice, blueberry. Hmmm. Basically, bizarre junk food.

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As you can see, the toast was cut thick, “Texas-style,” according a friend. And on top? A thin layer of butter and blueberry pie filling. I love pie filling because it’s gooey and, when good, a little tart. With each inflated triangle of toast, I soaked up some blueberry pie and popped it into my mouth. Again, “junk food” passed through my mind, probably because the bread tasted like a blown-up slice of Wonder Bread.

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Also on offer: a long list of teas and bubble teas for which Saint’s Alp is known, milkshakes made with powdered milk, and deep-fried Asian finger foods like samosas, radish fritters, dumplings, and other non-veg options. Much of the menu was under $5, but most of the food looked as though it had been overfried….kind of like when someone spends too long at a tanning booth and doesn’t realize that she has turned orange and unattractive. Then again, I didn’t actually EAT any of the fried selections but my friend Carey did, and reviewed her experience on her blog, Chew and Swallow.

Saint’s Alp Teahouse is at 39 Third Avenue, close to Union Square. (212) 598-1890.

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