Friday, November 9, 2007

Office Eats

Our grill guy at the office cafeteria makes it a point to let me know when my favorite special is on the menu. The Red Hot Buffalo Chicken Wrap is made of several breaded, fried chicken tenders rolled up in a wrap with lettuce, carrot sticks, blue cheese, and hot sauce. It's overly saucy, indulgent, and incredibly satisfying, especially with fries.

Do you have a decent office cafeteria? What's your favorite item on the menu?

The Uber Chef: Marco Pierre White

The Uber Chef- Marco Pierre White in Conversation with William Grimes, former New York Times food critic, and Thomas Keller
November 4, 2007, 92nd St Y

Last year I went to hear Danny Meyer speak at my alma mater. He was promoting his book, Setting the Table, a tome more about hospitality than about his restaurants (Meyer owns the Union Square Hospitality Group, which includes Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, and Shake Shack, among others). I loved Danny’s book, loved him in person, and thus, loved his restaurants even more. From that moment I declared myself a Danny Meyer groupie, and vowed to patron all of his restaurants (I have yet to try Tabla--- though I’ve been to Bread Bar--- and Eleven Madison Park).

Months ago I had planned to attend “The Uber Chef” talk, mainly to encourage myself to read The Devil in the Kitchen. I knew who Thomas Keller was, but wasn’t at all familiar with Marco Pierre White. I did not know what to expect from his book--- I unfortunately do judge by the cover and I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy Devil--- White appeared on the cover in a black-and-white photo, toting a butcher’s knife and wearing a menacing glare. However, it was a quick read (200+ pages) which efficiently detailed Marco’s rise from his humble Leeds beginnings to legendary status as a master of French cuisine (though having never set foot in France). Throughout the book, he assumes a know-it-all tone, and reminds you on more than one occasion that he has earned this right. His three Michelin stars (he is the youngest British chef ever to receive the honor) is proof of his expertise and his passion for, and obsession with, for cooking. The book ends with his revelation that being the perfect three-star Michelin chef isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, never having had the time to get to know himself outside of the kitchen. That epiphany led him to phone the Michelin guide to return his stars (pretty bold maneuver, in my opinion).

As the three panelists walked onto the stage, there was not a single doubt whom White was. He towered over the others in his large trench coat and, as my companion accurately pointed out, bore a striking resemblance to Sweeney Todd. He made Bill Grimes, with all this vast knowledge of restaurants (from the critic’s perspective, not the cook’s, as White would kindly remind us) look sinewy and meek. As each flawed response (at least, in his personal opinion) Grimes gave tumbled out, Marco quietly stared. The affable Thomas Keller, seated opposite White, established another interesting juxtaposition. Keller actually faced the audience while giving responses, while Marco focused on some distant plane and sighed heavily into the mic when not speaking. As the discussion progressed, the audience began to anticipate White’s snarky comments, and plain laughed out loud when delivered them.

Despite his unapologetic bluntness, White made some very interesting points about pursuing a cheffing career, and life career in general. When asked what it takes to become a good chef, White said the following 3 qualities were necessary:

-Accept that Mother Nature is the artist
-Everything you do should be an extension of yourself
-What you do should provide insight into the world you came from

This was some pretty sound advice from someone who appeared slightly crazy. For all his curt answers and standoffish mannerism, my friend and I had to admit that the talk would have been lacking without Marco Pierre White’s daring personality.

Next up on my 92nd St Y Food Talk list will be Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) in January 2008, discussing how to make healthy & delicious eating choices while limiting impact on the environment. Buy tickets at

The Devil in the Kitchen
by Marco Pierre White on

Weekend Damage: Staten Island Edition

I was required to ride the Staten Island ferry for a photography assignment. I’d never ridden it before; now was as good a time as any to see what went down in SI.

I’m afraid to report, not a whole lot (at 3PM on a blustery Saturday afternoon in November, at least). Strangely enough, for all the people who were on the ferry (many foreign visitors, weighed down by scores of Century 21 shopping bags), once we docked, there seemed to be NO ONE around. Where had they all disappeared to? The assignment never said we had to stay in Staten Island--- we could have just turned right back around on the same ferry, headed towards Manhattan. But the beau and I had already set foot on land, and so, armed with our visitors’ guide (to Staten Island??? Really?), we decided to survey the area.

Quick to sniff out a culinary adventure, I targeted an eatery on our map called The Polish Place. I had never been to a Polish restaurant, the beau is part Polish, and we were both ravenous--- it naturally followed that we should go! The Place was hardly busy when we arrived; the only people seated were the proprietors (we assumed), chatting quietly. Linoleum ceilings peeked through a wooden lattice overhead, and a sectional sofa and TV were in the rear of the dining room. We were essentially in the ground floor of someone’s home, which made me hopeful about the authenticity of the cooking.

We started out with a Tyskie (Polish Beer, $3 a bottle) while we waited for our entrees- opting to share the Kielbasy (served with a plate of beet salad, coleslaw, and sauerkraut) and mashed potatoes and the pierogies (filled with meat and served with sour cream for dipping). We could have not have ordered more typical Polish fare---this I realize--- but figuring we had already landed ourselves in a sketchy situation just being in Staten Island, we opted to stick with what we knew. The salads came out first. To my surprise the cole slaw was actually good (I normally hate cole slaw) and the beets were quite tasty. Next came a generous portion of kielbasy and two perfectly-shaped mounds of mashed potato- not soft and whipped, but a bit chunky- hearty, like it was made with a real potato (does that happen anywhere?). Last to arrive at the table were the pierogies. Soft and lightly pan-fried, they tasted excellent with sour cream (I never knew to eat them that way).

I felt very satisfied--- like we had finished a homemade meal (the pierogies reminded me of Mom’s Chinese dumplings). During dinner, we had been seated across from the kitchen and could see (and hear) the chef at work, which added to this feeling. Pictures from the restaurant’s grand opening lined the walls; the business card mentioned that The Polish Place was celebrating its 10th Anniversary. It was all very charming--- I imagined the owners closing the restaurant to the public while a local Polish family and friends gathered to celebrate a birthday or to toast a wedding party.

The only thing that didn’t quite fit with my romantic (and completely fictional) anecdote was the Polish techno music.

The Polish Place
19 Corson Ave
Staten Island, NY 10301
No website.

Weekend Damage: The Office Convention


Weekend Damage

This weekend the beau and I went to The Office Convention (yes, the NBC show with Steve Carell as the lead, playing Michael Scott- the bumbling idiot yet well-meaning boss of Dunder Miffin Paper Company). We love The Office and decided just a couple weeks before that it would be a good excuse for a mini-road trip (to Scranton, PA, where the show takes place) and an interesting people-watching affair. And of course, any road trip is a great opportunity to eat, this time, to visit some of the local favorites of the Dunder Mifflin staff.

Saturday, Lunch: Alfredo’s Pizza Café
In an episode from the most recent season (Season 4), the staff is deeply disappointed that Michael has ordered pizza from Pizza By Alfredo rather than Alfredo’s Pizza Café (APC). They claim that a slice of pizza from PBA (Pizza By Alfredo) tastes like ‘a hot circle of garbage’. PBA doesn’t actually exist (It exists on the Web at but the physical address of the shop is fictional), but in our opinion its pizza, or any other pizza we’ve tried for that matter, has to be better than Alfredo’s Pizza Café’s!!!

Dubbed ‘the good pizza’ by The D-M staff in the episode, the beau and I found APC’s slices far from. You would think that the people behind APC would have gotten their sh*t together for the deluge of Dunderheads descending on Scranton, either that, or the D-M staff has very low expectations of what a good slice is! The service was bad- I don’t think our waiter ever looked at us directly, nor was he able to produce a beer list (other than the 3 or 4 he committed to memory, two of which were Coors Light and Miller Light), claiming there was no list. We started with ‘Hot Shots’ as an appetizer- cherry peppers stuffed with provolone cheese and proscuitto, which sounded promising on the menu but ended up being a very oily mess. The peppers were doused with oil as were the cold proscuitto-wrapped chunks of cheese inside. I needed to drink a gallon of water after just the first few bites.

Then came our pizza- we ordered a half tray of Alfredo’s ‘famous’ thick (deep dish) pizza with extra cheese and pepperoni. APC was skimpy on the pepperoni (a carefully rationed row of 3 pepperoni circles was placed on each slice) and generous on the cheese, which under normal circumstances would be great, but was absolutely awful in this case. The cheese did not seem like good mozzarella cheese (if it was mozzarella cheese at all) and left a nasty slick coating/aftertaste our mouths. Granted, we did ask for extra cheese (but ended up scraping off about 75% of it before we could attempt to eat). The cheese completely outweighed the crust, is pretty difficult for deep dish pizza! We left more than half our order on the tray, then rushed to the adjacent drive-thru McDonalds for an order of fries and a Coke to wash down the memory of that meal. A warning to all you Dunderheads making the pilgrimage to Scranton--- avoid this place at all costs! But if you insist, try one of the strombolis (I had eyed one at a nearby table as we were waiting for our food- it looked like it would taste good) or one of Alfredo’s specialty pizzas (like the Bruschetta pizza) and let me know if I have been too harsh!

Saturday, Dinner: The Banshee

After the Cast Q&A at the University of Scranton (highlights were a reel of outtakes from this season and Ed Helms singing Abba and doing a dead-on Tom Brokaw impression), we hopped over to The Banshee, an Irish Pub and local favorite (I garnered the reco from When we went (around 7:30PM), the place was still pretty quiet, preparing for the Halloween festivities that night. Our server was Mouse (he insisted we call him Mouse), and he, unlike our waiter at APC, was able to recommend a beer to start from their Oktoberfest selection.

We were really surprised at how Scranton was not at overrun with crazed Office fans as we expected. I had imagined all the Office-mentioned and ‘local favorite’ joints to be packed… maybe because I’m a jaded New Yorker and waiting in line for anything popular seems to be the norm. The atmosphere and decor at The Banshee were very relaxed (low lighting, bronzed tin ceilings, library wall) and evoked ‘authentic Irish Pub’ at its most laid-back.

We started with a basket of seasoned fries with 3 different dipping sauces- one garlic, one dill, and another orange-colored one we couldn’t quite figure out, which the beau liked best. He had the buffalo chicken sandwich which came with a pickle and side of chips (Pennsylvanians really know their potato chips- among the best kettle chips I’ve had!), and I had a salad--- which, I admit, is not the most exciting choice (I was off-setting the bagel w/cream cheese I had for breakfast and extra cheese pizza for lunch), so I jazzed it up by adding the steak option for an extra $2. The salad was basically a mix of iceberg (seems like it could have come straight out of the bag), sliced almonds and dried cranberries, sprinkled with Pepperidge farm goldfish (charming). I expected a sliced steak and instead got four or five small steak cubes. In essence, it was no gourmet salad, but decent ‘light fare’ for someone trying to avoid gorging themselves.

For dessert the beau insisted we each get our own since we couldn’t agree. He got the uber chocolate chocolate cake (when presented with options, he always chooses the chocolatiest of them all). Torn between the caramel apple pie and the cinnamon apple crisp, I decided on the latter option (the one served a la mode- a key deciding factor). Like the salad, it was nothing amazing, but did the job. The sour cherries added a welcome tartness to the apple crisp. Thus far, the best dining experience of the weekend.

Nightcap: Poor Richard’s Pub at South Side Bowl
We were energized by the Scrantones’ rousing finale of The Office theme song after their concert at U of Scranton, so though it had been a long day, we were motivated to grab a drink at Poor Richard’s Pub (a favorite dive of the DM staff), housed in the South Side Bowling Lanes. Because it was Halloween weekend, there were quite a few people- locals, mostly-from what we could tell- who had come out for their Halloween festivities.

Beers were reasonably priced (we bought 2 bottles for $6 or $7) and we hung out just long enough to finish them, as more Dunderheads started to filter in post-concert. Between us we purchased maybe a dozen branded beer cozies (emblazoned with the Poor Richard’s crest on one side and the mantra “Ain’t No Party Like A Scranton Party ‘Cause a Scranton Party Don’t Stop”) on the way out- a cheap $2 a piece for our Dunderfriends back home who were unable to join us.

Sunday, Breakfast: Fairfield Inn Scranton (Dickson City)
(I would highly recommend this hotel if you are planning to visit Scranton. It is a newly renovated, completely non-smoking hotel, clean rooms, comfortable beds, and free Wi-Fi in the guest rooms. It’s about 5 minutes from Downtown Scranton on I-81. I booked a room with two queen beds for $49 using Priceline and considered it a major triumph!)

The free Continental Breakfast bore a pretty decent spread- pre-made waffle mix and a waffle iron (so you could make your own), assorted toasts and bagels, cereals, fresh whole fruit, yogurt, and microwaveable Jimmy Dean sandwiches. I’ve always found the Jimmy Dean commercials with the sun and moon engaging, and had just happened to see a bunch of those same commercials at the hotel (sheer coincidence?), so I had to try one. A short 45 seconds in the microwave and it went from frozen to piping hot, but to be honest, I could not distinguish between the bacon, egg, and biscuit in the sandwich--- it was all basically the same consistency.

Sunday, Lunch: Farley’s
After touring The Office wardrobe exhibit at the Trolley Museum (yes, that’s a museum about the history of trolleys), we popped by Farley’s for a quick lunch. Farley’s was mentioned in the Season 1 “Basketball” episode, when the sales team challenges the warehouse guys to a game and the warehouse guys basically bully Michael to giving them the win (after Michael tries to make an extremely unfair call in favor of the sales team, of course).

I believe Farley’s is known for its steaks, but being that we were just there for lunch, I went for the French dip and the beau, a burger with bacon and cheese. Farley’s has a special called the Michael Scott (a burger dressed up with with provolone(?) cheese, red peppers and ‘sweet Maui onion chips’ on the side)--- though I’m not sure what makes it a Michael Scott--- it sounds good (the chips, especially).

The French dip was lacking (served on a toasted roll- the kind of light and airy bread that reminds me of Subway sandwiches and how not fulfilling they are, and no cheese… is that typical of French dip, or am I just being picky?), though again, the potato chips were outstanding. I would have been content with a bowlful of those and a light beer for my last meal in Scranton, but we had to go to Farley’s so we could say we did it, and close the loop during our whirlwind weekend in The Electric City.

Alfredo's Pizza Cafe
1040 S Washington Ave
Scranton, PA 18505

The Banshee
322 Penn Ave
Scranton, PA 18503

Poor Richard's Pub (at South Side Bowl)
125 Beech Street
Scranton, PA 18505

Fairfield Inn Scranton
949 Viewmont Dr
Dickson City, PA 18519

300 Adams Ave.
Scranton PA 18503

Bialys vs. Bagels

Last night I caught bits and pieces of Food Trip with Todd English where he visited some of NYC’s famed food emporiums, one of them being Kossar's, known for its bialys. I realized, I don't think I had ever had a bialy ever in life! Bialys are different from bagels- while bagels are first boiled and then baked, bialys are just baked. They resemble the shape of a bagel (in place of the hole in the center, there is a depression where onions and/or chives might be added) but have the consistency of an English muffin. They are actually of Polish origin.

I was inspired to try a bialy, but because I couldn't make it to Kossar's, I snagged one from the office cafeteria. I sampled it with scallion cream cheese--- however, at the suggestion of the cashier, it seemed to work much better with butter and raspberry preserves (My hypothesis is this is because the butter & jam better are able to seep into the nooks and crannies, like they do on an English muffin).

Sometimes I love a good, thick bagel, but I can see myself enjoying a bialy as a lighter, yet carb-satisfying alternative for those days I don’t want to have a big bagel.

Which do you generally prefer?

Kossar's Bialys
367 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002

Thursday, October 25, 2007

...avec moi, ce soir...Hudson Valley Camembert

One evening coming back from work, I became incredibly excited at the thought of a homemade apple and brie sandwich. I knew already had crisp apples waiting at home (picked fresh from Meadowbrook Farm), so I decided to pass through Murray's Cheese in Grand Central Market to find the 'perfect match'.

I loooove cheese, and I'm a Valley Girl (Hudson Valley, that is) at heart, so it was no surprise I was attracted to Hudson Valley Camembert, from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. The HV Camembert is made from a blend of sheep's milk and BGH-free (Bovine Growth Hormone) cow's milk. It had so many things going for it--- its reputation ("Best Cheese in America", 2001 United States Cheese Championship), its shape (a curiously square slab--- making it stand out all the other Camemberts), and its size (a modest 4 oz.-small but big enough for one person).

But I digress. Getting back to the subject of cheese, ahem, the HV Camembert was soft and spreadable, making it a great pairing... for my sandwich. Though you can eat the rind, I would recommend discarding it because it imparts this rubbery/metallic flavor that could spoil the whole experience. You wouldn't want to ruin your first time ;)

Hudson Valley Camembert
$6.99 for 4 oz. at Murray's Cheese.

Murray's Cheese (various locations)
Grand Central Market
Entrance on Lexington side of Grand Central Terminal
43rd & Lexington Ave.

Bon Appetit Supper Club & Cafe

For those who've grown tired of frequenting the Halal stand on 53rd and 6th for lunch, I'd suggest dropping by the Bon Appetit Supper Club & Cafe in Midtown Manhattan. Open weekdays starting today, and only through November 2, guests will be able to enjoy special lunch items (sandwiches, soups, salads) created by celebrity chefs like Cat Cora, Giada de Laurentiis, Emeril Lagasse and Michael Mina, as well as the chefs behind Bon Appetit Magazine. There will also be various tastings and demonstrations throughout the week. Exclusive BA Supper Club dinners are available to Visa Signature cardholders only. Visit for more details.

Bon Appetit Supper Club & Cafe
221 W. 57th Street
Between 7th Avenue and Broadway
New York, NY

Monday, October 22, 2007

Weekend Damage

Today officially marks the beginning of yet another attempt not to eat SO much (as opposed to 'diet'). After last Thursday's tapas binge, Friday I kept low-key with a turkey sandwich for dinner, only to derail my turnaround with...
Saturday, lunch: Jalapeno & Cheddar stuffed soft pretzel at Starbucks (I was tutoring and had no other option than to eat what was available at Barnes & Noble)
Saturday, dinner: Hotdog and movie popcorn while catching Gone Baby Gone (hotdog- eh, movie- excellent!)
Sunday, brunch: Truffled eggs on pane pugliese and roasted rosemary potatoes, Bellini at Rue B (Avenue B).
Met my aunt for brunch w/ the beau, who had been here before and recommended the place, and the truffled eggs.
However, they seemed to be having an 'off' day, as service was horribly slow and the eggs were not as wonderful as expected (it also seemed to be lacking bacon as part of the dish, which I swear the menu had promised!). For $12 (brunch + cocktail), here it seems you get what you pay for. The intermittent 80s music couldn't even make up for it!
Sunday, dinner: Wedding dinner for a co-worker friend at aja Asian bistro at 58th and 1st. I wouldn't call the food amazing (many posts on dubbed it a 'wannabe Tao' for the most part), but I ate so much I thought my stomach was literally going to burst. Appetizers included edamame, vegetable dumplings, spring and summer rolls, and peking duck rolls (the best of the rolls), as well as a sushi platter with California, Eel, Shrimp Tempura, and Spicy Tuna rolls. I had the Chilean Sea Bass as a main and the beau had the Mongolian Steak. Both were fine, but not outstanding. Tartufo (2 kinds- vanilla/chocolate and hazelnut) was a surprising ending to the meal (for an Asian bistro). The hazelnut flavor was a nice twist.

Thankfully, there are no big meals on the horizon this week. However, I'm sure that I'll report on some interesting bites on the Scranton trip this weekend!

Rue B
188 Ave B
New York, NY 10009-3627
Phone: (212) 358-1700

1068 First Ave
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 888-8008

Friday, October 19, 2007

Top of the Tapas

Met a friend for a late dinner last night (I had to watch the new episode of The Office first- one day I'll get DVR...) at Las Ramblas on W4th in the Village. It's been unseasonably warm in the city, so we were fine to sit outside at high top on the street, zero wait (Las Ramblas, like most tapas bars, has a no-resy policy). Even though it was late, the restaurant still looked abuzz from the outside; I didn't get the chance to peek around because by that time I was hungry(!) and wanted to focus on the menu.

The food was great, but the thing I will also remember about this place is the great service. Our waitress excitedly explained the specials, all of which we were prepared to order, even after having already selected several plates---the tortilla espanola, chorizo con alubias (chorizo w/ sauteed cannellini beans and onions), piquillos con morcilla (red spanish peppers stuffed with morcilla- a sausage stuffed with pig’s blood, rice, onions and spices- popular in tapas, saffron rice, and manchego cheese), and the boquerones (white marinated Spanish anchovies). We added the following specials: fried shittake mushrooms with tomatoes and aioli(?) (described to us as a Spanish take on french fries) and a sliced duck dish.

The food came out very quickly- we toasted (him a beer, me a medium-bodied Tempranillo) and eagerly descended on the plates first brought before us. The tortilla was first. Though not normally a favorite of mine (it's a squishy, textural thing), I found this tortilla to be sufficiently firm, with thick, warm chunks of potato topped with a mayonnaise- a delicious and different comfort food. Whatever broth the onions, cannellini and chorizo was sauteed in (or maybe it was just the juices from the three ingredients?) was especially good for dipping the rolls which accompanied our meals. The broth was sour, but sour in a good way... it 'woke up' what could have been a bland dish and added a 'bright' flavor.

After finishing our respective apertifs, we ordered a pitcher of Las Ramblas' sparkling strawberry sangria to keep us fueled through the rest of the meal. The boquerones were next-wonderfully briney yet lemony and fresh (I think anchovies are generally underappreciated Stateside, and these were a treat). The shiitake mushrooms were also very good. I generally am not a fan of mushrooms in general--- too earthy and fungi-y for me, but fry them and I'm willing. The batter was light, and the aioli was the perfect, well, oily accompaniment! The piquillos were each placed atop a slice of bread and bursting with morcilla. With each bite, you could taste the assertiveness of the manchego cheese. I have to give credit to our waitress for highly recommending our last plate, the sliced duck. I'm not sure exactly how it was prepared but it was simply tasty.

Though at this point we, like the piquillos, were bursting at the seams, we pushed forward. I was adamant on ending our meal with cheese and roped my dining partner into ordering the plate (you can only have queso by the plate here), which included manchego reserva (aged 12 mo.), tetilla, mahon, and cabrales, and a small plate of tiny green olives. I was a little buzzed by this point, so honestly couldn't distinguish in detail between the tetilla and mahon, and the manchego was good (as usual). The flavor of the cabrales (a blue cheese) was very acute--- the first couple of bites were sharp and enjoyable, and after that, diminishing returns in the form of a saltiness which stuck in your mouth.

We ended the meal with a Grand Marnier Creme Brulee, accidentally brought to the table (he wanted the brulee from the start, and I the cheese- we thought we had settled on one, but the waitress did not catch that part of the conversation). We were fortunate for the mistake, because it was outstanding--- one of the best creme brulees I have ever had(!)--- so different from your typical Tahitian (ironic, isn't it?) vanilla. I couldn't do it justice by describing it here but recommend that you visit Las Ramblas to experience for yourself.

Overall, it was a delicious, casual and fun dining experience which merits a repeat visit.

I left so full I haven't had anything to eat yet today, and it's almost noon :O

Las Ramblas
170 West 4th St (btw. Cornelia & Jones)
Online at:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cheap Indian Food--- Cheap Because...You Can't Take It With You

Yesterday I had lunch with a work colleague; we ventured outside the office to a 'hidden' Indian restaurant on Greenwich Avenue. There is a lunch special where the plates range from about $6-$9. It's not what I would call exceptional, but for less than $10 and an excuse to diversify from the usual cafeteria fare, it's worth it. She had the saag paneer, I had the chicken saag (we weren't very adventurous, I admit); we ate about half of our entrees each and when we asked for doggy bags, we were denied. Our server said that they "don't wrap up for lunch", and that the reason they were able to offer lunch special prices was somehow attributed to the fact that they don't do doggy bags. How absurd is that?

If that's the case, next time I go, I am sharing a plate, and they will get only half my business. Less waste, plus more money in my pocket for tomorrow's lunch--- at the office cafeteria.

107 Greenwich Ave
Greenwich, CT 06830

Monday, October 15, 2007

Snack Time: Doritos Collisions!

We stopped for gas on our way up to the reservoir and picked up some snacks at the Mobil Mart. I was in the mood for something salty. Enter Doritos Flavor Collisions- featuring two different Dorito flavors in one bag! (Though this may not seem like a major innovation, because I work in Marketing I would guess that this was probably considered a revolution from the Doritos brand team's perspective.)

I've eaten an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting, so it was in our best interest to grab the 99-cent bag to share. It combined Zesty Taco with Chipotle Ranch-flavored Doritos. Of the two, Zesty Taco was more memorable (definitely zesty, in a good way!) but Chipotle Ranch wasn't far off the mark (it did taste a lot like Cool Ranch--- again, not a bad thing).

Missy Elliot was chosen to help launch Doritos Collisions (also available in Hot Wings & Blue Cheese Flavors)--- the campaign plays off of Elliot's penchant for music mash-ups (combining different styles/genres, not unlike this Doritos proposition of combining flavors). What will those clever Marketing people come up with next? ;)

Food + Foliage

This past weekend the beau and I went on a hot air balloon ride over the Hudson Valley! We had to wake up hella early (me, 40 minutes before departure, him, 5 minutes) and it was freezing, but absolutely worth it! We launched from Sprout Creek Farm and floated over the Taconic Parkway, observing patches of changing leaves, moving fog, and a rising sun. Growing up in the Hudson Valley, there was always amazing foliage; I've only started to really appreciate it now that I don't live at my parents' house and am not surrounded by it daily (instead, I'm surrounded by the concrete jungle of NYC). Now I try to make a dedicated trip each year to see the leaves at their brightest.

After the ride, we stopped by a local farm (Meadowbrook Farm in Wappingers Falls, NY) for apple cider and fresh cider doughnuts. Because we'd been up so early, we snatched up the first fresh dozen of the day. It was absolutely worth being up that early. The doughnuts were warm and chewy (rather than cake-like, as most of us know doughnuts to be) and I could have easily eaten five of them, but limited myself to three ;)

In the afternoon, we drove up near Kingston around the Ashokan reservoir. Because the weather has been kind of funky and summer has kept coming back, the leaves haven't really changed as much as they should have by now. However, there are some pops of color against the rolling hills of green. We arrived at the pedestrian walkway over the reservoir just in time for sunset.

On our way home, we decided to stop for dinner in Rosendale, NY. We decided on Red Brick Tavern, for a casual bite. For an appetizer we had the Chipotle Mango bbq wings- saucy & sticky- just how I like them... and a generous portion (a dozen for about $7) and for mains, the beau went for the Sticky Chicky sandwich (battered chicken cutlet w/prosciuitto and a sticky honey sauce/syrup on a roll) and I had the 'West Coast' pasta (angel hair with olive oil and garlic, with sauteed shrimp, chicken, peppers, eggplant, and sun-dried tomatoes). I was deciding between this and a similar one in a parmesan cream sauce. In an effort to remain healthi-er (than I have been lately), I opted for the West Coast (foregoing the parmesan cream sauce). Unfortunately, the angel hair pasta was less garlicky and oily than I had hoped and more bland and watery. I also thought that both chicken AND shrimp was a little ambitious--- I would have focused on either shrimp or chicken only. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Red Brick had more to offer than just the standard pub eats and was nearly full after my share of the Chipotle Mango wings anyway.

Later that night I met with girlfriends, one of whom brought an apple pie she had made with apples she picked at a local farm. The apples were delightfully tart and the crust crunchy and flaky. I went to bed late, but very full and quite content!

Meadowbrook Farm
29 Old Myers Corners Rd.
Wappingers Falls, NY 12590

Red Brick Tavern
388 Main Street (Route 213)
Rosendale, NY 12472

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pink(berry) is the new Tasti D

The shop owner next door stood outside to watch the queue next door spill out onto the street in front of his space. Judging by the New York women in line, with their Dior sunglasses, Gucci fanny packs, expertly lined lips, and manicured tips--- one might have thought they were there to welcome a new shipment of Birkins. That is, until, the shop owner lamented, “People, it’s only frozen yogurt!”

The new temple of frozen yogurt is a West Coast transplant called Pinkberry. With its Avro-Ko-esque design, pure flavors and natural toppings, it proves an interesting juxtaposition with our (not for long?) beloved Tasti-di-Lite counters. I couldn't imagine a queue flowing past the bins of God-knows-how-old neon candies and random assortment of stuffed animals. Pinkberry makes Tasti D look like a fro-yo liquidation outlet.

Pinkberry’s proposition is simple- pure flavors of soft-serve frozen yogurt (only 2 options- original yogurt and Green Tea) and natural toppings (fresh fruit, almonds, granola, carob chips and even Cap’n Crunch). Cups come in 3 sizes (5, 8, and 12 oz.). There are also two flavors of smoothies available (I did not see anyone with a smoothie).

The beau and I went for an 8 oz. cup Original with 3 toppings ($5.50--- $5.95 total including tax), raspberry, blueberry, and chocolate chip. Having come from a rather filling ‘brunch’ at Viceroy (meatloaf for him, Thanksgiving turkey + mac & cheese for me) , we weren’t sure we’d be able to tackle the treat. However, on this particularly warm New York afternoon, we were especially thankful for the refreshment. The yogurt is different from most frozen yogurts- more sour, and truer to natural yogurt’s flavor, which may make it an acquired taste. However, I think it's the perfect base to balance the natural sweetness of the fruit. The texture was not too creamy, not too icy, yet stayed cold and held its own against the heat.

While I’m not sure that it’s really its novelty justifies its price (yogurt + fresh fruit- can’t any of us make this ourselves at home?) , I think Pinkberry will be a welcome addition to the New York snack/dessert scene. It has the potential to raise the profile of fresh-fruit-and-yogurt-as-indulgence. In many countries I’ve visited, fresh fruit is often the dessert of choice on the menu. Why is it that in the US, it’s more often triple chocolate molten lava cake?

Could Pinkberry wield its trendiness to generate a social movement and help Americans- namely New Yorkers- get back to dessert basics?

Nah... it’s only frozen yogurt.

Pinkberry (Various Locations)

160 8th Ave
New York, NY
No website.