Showing posts with label Cupcakes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cupcakes. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

En Vitesse: At Long Last, BabyCakes LA is open

Du du DUH! Finally kiddos, it's a reality! Priority for the week: Get downtown for the most delicious gluten-, soy-, egg-, and dairy-free baked goods you've ever tasted! BabyCakes is adding donuts to the mix here in LA (toasted coconut, chocolate dipped, and cinnamon sugar..) to shine alongside NYC favorites, their world-class cupcakes, cookie sandwiches, crumb cakes, brownies, macaroons and of course frosting shots! All guilt-free thanks to holistic ingredients like coconut oil, flax, and agave nectar.
Thank you Erin McKenna! LA ♥ you!

BabyCakes LA
130 East Sixth St. (btwn South Main and South Los Angeles St.) Downtown LA; 213-623-5555
babycakesnyc.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

En Vitesse: Babycakes LA Update

Well kids, we are promised our very own Babycakes this very month! Finishing touches on the downtown space are happening now. Check for updates at their site and via twitter. Happy Holidays to us!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Croquer: Akasha

Akasha Richmond, renowned chef and popular author, widely known for her vegetarian recipes prepares rich and flavorful food made with organic, natural ingredients from sustainable sources at Akasha, her neighborhood eatery located in the historic Hull Building in downtown Culver City.
Keeping the principles of sustainability in mind, the building’s original steel, wood, concrete and brick arches were restored while the design materials pair with a seventies modernity to create a warm and inviting contemporary vibe.It is immediately apparent that local, organic, and handcrafted ingredients are key in Akasha's mission to make great food. Their publicized purveyors include small family farms, organic growers, sustainable and fair trade companies, and artisan food makers.
From the first sip of their signature cocktail the Akasha (Crop organic cucumber vodka, organic pineapple and cucumber juice, martini style) you can taste the love. Like a crisp bite from a garden, this might be the most refreshing cocktail I've tasted all summer.My lunch date Janine ordered the Grilled Open Faced Tempeh sandwich - two slices of toasted levain each piled with tempeh, organic swiss, avocado, daikon sprouts, caramelized onion, roasted red pepper, smoked paprika aioli, with billy bob's rice-pimento cheese. A mighty handful of crunchy sweet potato fries came on the side. This was a delicious, HUGE meal. The tempeh, something I grew to love in Oregon but rarely see on LA menus, was perfection - savory and rich, with a satisfying nutty earthiness. The accoutrements just made it better. Enough for two! Split this!
I opted for the Spiked Turkey Burger - organic turkey mixed with green olives, jalapeño, red pepper, onion, with organic white cheddar and a house made pickle. Sounds great, right? The olives and jalapeño sold me.. But have to say, I was disappointed by the burger itself. I did not taste olive or jalapeño, but definitely the onion and red pepper, bringing to mind midwest meatloaf way before an inventive turkey burger. The bun was a bit thick and spongey for me as well. I ended up eating half of Janine's tempeh (and ALL of my sweet potato fries)!The first thing you see when entering Akasha is a gorgeous bakery case of delectables, so once we were finished with lunch, espressos and mini cupcakes it was! We got one that was vanilla cake with chocolate and a carmelized banana on top. The other was a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter and chocolate on top! Both delicious... What I will get next time (that I didn't see until my way out) is the Salty Chocolate Pecan Tart! Yessir!9543 Culver Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232; 310.845.1700
akasharestaurant.com

Monday, August 24, 2009

Croquer: Border Grill Truck

This past Saturday I headed to the Silver Lake Art, Craft and Vintage Fair at Micheltorena Elementary School for the sole purpose of finally catching the Border Grill Truck. Proceeded by quite the reputation, I was expecting some real BANG for my buck here! I began to get really hungry as I approached the sleek black truck, adorned with the festive, graffitti-like line art that has become an aesthetic signature of Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken's restaurants' decor.Thoroughly excited by the toothsome menu chock full of yummy-sounding Mexi-delights, my friend and I basically decided we must order one of almost everything.
The most intriguing section of the menu to me was titled "cones".We started with the Green Corn Tamal cone (sweet corn, crema, salsa fresca) and a Peruvian Ceviche cone (mahi mahi, lime, ginger, aji amarillo chile, pickled onion, corn tortilla cone).The sweet corn tamal was a tasty start, but after several bites on the palate resembled creamed sweet corn overwhelmed by crema mexicana in a sno-cone liner more than a good tamale.The Peruvian Ceviche cone on the other hand was the best item we sampled, the lime and ginger bursting open every tastebud to further taste each ingredient with added dimension. Delicious!The Yucatan Pork Taco ( braised achiote pork, black beans, pickled onion, orange jicama slaw) was a gorgeous site. The meat was tender and flavorful, but the bitter/sweet orange slaw was so distracting, it literally bisected the main flavors until almost opposing. "Weird" was our mutual review.
The Cilantro Chicken Taco (tomatillo, creamy salsa fresca) was tasty, although cooked cilantro never seems quite right to me. In the end, either way this taco nothing terribly memorable.Speaking of unmemorable, I unfortunately can't recall even tasting fish in the Crispy Baja Fish Taco (chipotle honey, creamy salsa fresca). The chipotle honey was a nice touch, but the creamy salsa fresca completely doused any other flavor or texture from the small bits of fish, fried dough being the most noticeable ingredient. The Carne Asada Taco (caramelized onion, salsa fresca, guacamole) was par, though the meat too had little flavor. The vibrant guac on top was the tastiest ingredient here.
One other unfortunate aspect, no fault of Border Grill (but apparently a rule made by the fair?) was that they could not sell their beverages out of the truck. This was especially saddening with items such as Watermelon Lemonade and Iced Mexican Coffee (cinnamon, star anise, orange zest, piloncillo syrup)... Bummer!
I also had high hopes for the Churro Bites (dulce de leche infused churros, cinnamon sugar, whipped cream), but at that point opted to stick with what I know and walked around the corner instead for Alegria's Cafe de la Olla (coffee simmered with Piloncillo and cinnamon sticks) and a Lark cupcake, feeling the $20+ we spent at the truck for our somewhat underwhelming lunch was enough.
Perhaps another day for the iced coffee and churros...

The Border Grill Truck can be found every Saturday at the Silver Lake Art, Craft and Vintage Fair. Other regular locations are listed on their site. For up-to-the-minute location, follow on Twitter.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

En Vitesse: Weekend Bites!

Thursday June 11
7 pm - 10 pm
Rum & Cigars on the Patio
Ciudad hosts a special four-course dinner of Caribbean-inspired dishes like star anise-scented duck confit each course paired with a different Zaya Gran Reserva 12-year-old Estate Rum cocktail. Goat's milk flan, a snifter of 12-year-old rum and a hand-rolled cigar are dessert!
Tickets are $68. Ciudad, 445 S. Figueroa St. Downtown; 213.486.5171

Friday June 12 - Saturday June 13
10:30 am - 2 pm
The Top Chef Tour bus rolls into LA!
Meet Top Chefs Hosea Rosenberg and Fabio Viviani, and stay for cooking demonstrations, gourmet tips, and tastings.
Free; seats will be available on the day of the show on a first come, first served basis.
Original Farmers Market, 6333 West 3rd Street (NW corner of 3rd and Fairfax)

Sunday June 14
2 pm - 6 pm
No Cookie Left Behind, as part of the Great American Bake Sale will peddle cupcakes, quiches, and cookies outside of Scoops for Share Our Strength, an organization that combats childhood hunger in the US. Vendors include Lark Cake Shop, CakeMonkey, Spork Foods (vegan!), Large Marge Sustainables, Kiss My Bundt Bakery, Whisk LA, Taste on Melrose, Laurel Avenue Bakery, and more!
Scoops, 712 N Heliotrope Dr. at Melrose, East Hollywood

Tuesday - Sunday
9 am - 3 pm
Sunset Junction French fave Cafe Stella now serving Brunch!
Bask in the long overdue sun from their prime patio location with Eggs Benedict, lemon-ricotta pancakes, brioche with clarified butter, fleur de sel and maple syrup, bay leaf blackberry mimosas, and coffee drinks made by the neighborly baristas at Intelligentsia.
3932 W. Sunset Blvd., at Sanborn Ave. Silver Lake; 323.666.0265

Monday, April 27, 2009

Voyager Bien: 1.5 days in LA

A friend told me this week that I should probably get paid to introduce people to LA as a personal tour guide. It is one of my favorite things to do - driving from neighborhood to neighborhood, pointing out the best hidden strip mall treasures, James Beard award-winning taco shacks, legendary rock n roll monuments, haunted hotels, gorgeous apartments I tried to rent, best city views, secret beaches, design boutiques, specialty food markets, treat shops, and margarita cantinas. I sure exercised my guide muscle this past weekend, with a new challenge. Two of my best friends who reside in Portland came down for a grad school visit/whirlwind "get to know you, LA" trip - A 36 hour kinda whirlwind. The clock was ticking and I was set on doing my best to traverse common misconceptions of the City of Angels and thoroughly impress them!
Here's a rundown of some top hits from the schedule:

• In lieu of a pricey cab, I had them take the $6 FlyAway Bus from LAX to historic Union Station downtown and chill on Olvera Street until I could get out of the office and down to meet them. I was greeted with smiles and a bag of candied whole limes stuffed with coconut and fragrant chili dusted tamarind balls.

• After freshening up we hit Mexico City in Los Feliz for a satisfying dinner of sopes, carne asada, delicious mole poblano and of course margaritas. We walked down Hillhurst to Alcove to pick up dessert to go, selecting a molten chocolate souffle and pb&j cupcake. Grabbed a 75 cl Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue) on the way back home and enjoyed our indulgent gatherings.

• An early rise called for hand-shaken Iced Angelenos at Intelligentsia pronto!

• After leaving campus, our leisurely lunch hunt landed us at M Cafe de Chaya for winning salad The M Chopped (organic hearts of romaine, mixed greens, avocado, cucumber, chickpeas, herb-baked tofu, scallions, ume-pickled radishes, carrots, beets, tamari-roasted almonds, crumbled tempeh “bacon” and tofu-peppercorn ranch) and a celeb sighting or two. Followed by a Laurel Canyon/Mullholland drive and brisk walk partway down Runyon Canyon.

• A serene drive out Sunset Blvd to the PCH and north along the Malibu coast to Point Dume for a late afternoon seagazing landed us at the Malibu Pier Club on the way back down for cocktail hour. Our Royal Hawaiians (Mai Tais) and Canyon Margaritas were accompanied by tasty french fries sprinkled with ground dried Japanese seaweed and a creamy sriracha dipping sauce. Yum!

• Back in Hollywood, our original plan of making a taco dinner after such a long day sounded daunting, so we pulled over at La Brea and Wilshire and settled into Luna Park for a casual supper of sausage pizza, spinach salad and beers. Recalling a previous mention, my guests requested one last stop at Scoops where we savored their signature ice cream flavor, Brown Bread. I quite enjoyed the Goat cheese Fig and Coffee Molasses flavors as well.

We fell into our beds Saturday night deep in sun and comfort food comas. I could only imagine my friends' flight at dawn continuing in the same fashion (and judging from the photos, I was right).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

En Vitesse: Babycakes LA Update!

Still my favorite NYC (or anywhere) cupcakery to date Babycakes - which I've definitely mentioned before - has been promising LA its very own organic and delicious wheat, gluten, dairy, casein and egg-free YUM factory for quite some time now. After several lease swaps and multiple delays, finally, some bittersweet but promising news!
L.A. people: this is going to hurt, but only for a second, ok? We all know that the economy has taken a turn for the worse and is affecting millions of people's lives. In lieu of these challenging times, Earnest Sewn has decided to abandon the project on Beverly Blvd. I know, I know. We are right there with you, we had a good group cry for almost the whole week.
But don't freak, there is excellent news: we have signed a lease on a location in the historic bank district of Downtown Los Angeles! The new BabyCakes NYC will be nestled on one of our favorite blocks and we are so excited to be there. We've got a great team of people working overtime to get this opened super fast, so please don't worry. We know it has been a bumpy ride so far, and are so grateful for your patience. We will have more news soon, compete with a grand opening date, so just hang in there for a tiny bit longer.
Another score for my favorite neighborhood these days..!
You GO, Downtown!

Also, check out this incredibly charming video preview for the Babycakes Cookbook coming out May 2009! (Ladies, if you don't want Babycakes brainchild Erin McKenna's hair after watching this video, there's something wrong with you).
BabyCakes, the Book of Recipes: It's Here (Almost)! from BabyCakes NYC on Vimeo

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Vintage Halloween Treats


These festive Americana party treats always reminds me of a more innocent time when caramel apples and unwrapped candy could safely be accepted by trick-or-treaters. And since I tend to prefer my Halloween in vintage style, try these recipes to add some old school charm to your masked soiree.

Goblin Gorp
My favorite! And more than just a kiddy mix to eat out of dixie cups. Last year for a Halloween-themed dinner party that I co-organized, cellophane-bagged Goblin Gorp sat on each plate as a festive place holder and take-away.
I've updated the classic recipe with a few twists of my own.
Makes about 4 qts. of mixture.

Ingredients
2 1/2 qts. popcorn or kettlecorn
2 c. mini pretzels
1 c. salted peanuts
1 c. plain M&M's or Reese's Pieces
1 c. candy corn
1 c. Good & Plenty candy
1/2 c. sunflower meats (not seeds)

Directions
In a large bowl, mix and toss all ingredients together. Serve in dixie cups or wrapped in clear cellophane party bags.

Online I also found a zesty taco-flavored version with pumpkin seeds that intrigues the midwesterner in me..

Pumpkin Punch
My version of this simple (adult) witches brew, served in a real pumpkin shell.

Ingredients
1 large pumpkin
1 part real apple cider
2 parts ginger ale
1 part dark rum
vanilla bean ice cream
nutmeg
ice

Directions
Cut a large opening in the top of the pumpkin using a knife and scrape the inside until it is clean and smooth (don't throw away the seeds! See recipe below). Wash inside if desired (though I prefer to let the pumpkin essence meld with the punch). Fill with rum, cider and ginger ale. Add enough ice to keep it cold and top with scoops of vanilla ice cream. Once the froth forms on the surface grind fresh nutmeg on top and serve.
And if you wanna get REAL crazy add some dry ice for effect (always use heavy gloves to handle the dry ice and place on a plate in the bottom of your pumpkin).

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat oven to 300°F. Remove seeds from pumpkin using large spoon. To separate seeds from pumpkin fiber, place mixture in large bowl and fill with cold water. Stir mixture, and seeds will float to surface. Remove seeds with slotted spoon and pat dry on paper towels. Place seeds in bowl and coat with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Spread on foil-lined baking sheet, coated with non-stick spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I sometimes make several batches with different flavors: chili powder for a kick or curry powder for an exotic twist. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Goblin Cupcakes
My mother used to make these for Halloween carnivals and bake sales when I was a kid. I loved the texture, and the ridiculously brilliant marriage of cream cheese and chocolate.

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. grated orange peel
2 drops red food coloring
2 drops yellow food coloring
1 c. chocolate chips
Combine cream cheese, sugar, egg, salt, orange peel and food coloring in a small bowl. Beat until smooth. Add chocolate chips. Set aside.

Cupcakes:
1 1/2 c. unsifted all purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. vinegar
Combine ingredients in order listed. Blend well on low speed. Fill 24 paper muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Spoon about 1 tablespoon cheese filling onto each cupcake. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Happy Gobblin'!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Voyager Bien: The Big Apple


It's no secret, my absolute favorite city to dine in is New York City.
Every trip to Gotham has lead me down a different culinary rabbit hole, delving into exciting territories unlike anything I have experienced before. Sure, Portland has the quality of product, San Fransicso has the reputation and Los Angeles has its share of hidden gems.. But there's a certain magic in New York that makes it simply.. different.
This is not the first time I've blogged about NYC as a gastronomic metropolis. A couple of years ago, I detailed my day-by-day, meal-by-meal dine-tinerary for all nine days of my stay which the lovely Catherine Cole later posted on her Portland lifestyle blog a fly on the wall (Bookmark that and be sure to check in on Catherine's charming musings and misadventures in the City of Roses).
You can jump to this first chapter of my NYC meal manifesto here.

Last Fall I found myself back in the city for some much needed revisits (Freemans, Moto, Diner, Babycakes) as well as some treasured introductions. Though I vowed to return with a stricter budget (the first thing people ask upon reading the prior post is "How did you not go broke?"), I found that the dining experience was more important to me than taking cabs or stocking up on I *heart* NY t-shirts.

The first thing on my mind after trekking to Brooklyn from JFK, plopping on my host's bed, luggage at my feet was "where will we eat tonight when she gets off work?" Luckily, Diner is a relatively short walk and a common answer to such a question for her and her boyfriend. It was a bitter cold autumn night and the wind from the East River nibbled away at our ears as we hurried alongside the majestic base of the Brooklyn Bridge to the tiny old school diner car that houses the aptly named restaurant. We settled into a cozy vinyl booth within the candlelit cable car and glanced over the simple menu. The cold night left us only one option - All three of us ordered burgers and Chimay.
By now my passion for margaritas and mexican food should be apparent.. But I haven't even begun on the Burger yet. The most overlooked art form on any menu, a burger will tell you what kind of establishment you are dining at (Naturally my favorite all-around restaurant also makes my favorite burger). Already trusting Diner's ability to impress, I ordered soundly and enjoyed my beer and company. As expected, this burger did not disappoint. The thick and juicy grass-fed burger was perfectly cooked to my liking, dripping with mustard, mayo, gruyere and pickled onions. After a long moment of silence, my friends and I resumed our conversation with full mouths and happy hearts.
Day two (Halloween, as it were), I met my friend outside of the New Yorker where she interned. Our aimless catch-up walk landed us on 7th Avenue and we ducked into the nearest place as it her lunch hour was waning. The food at Salsa y Salsa Mexican Kitchen (206 &th Ave) was less than impressive - and I know you're probably wondering what an Angeleno from Tucson was doing getting Mexican in NYC, but know that a couple of my top Mexican picks are in this city, including Diner's sister restaurant Bonita. I picked at my lunch and strategically saved some appetite, for once I sent my friend on her train back to Times Square, I quickly made my way toward Chelsea.
After some gallery hopping and a stop at the artiest bookstore in existence, I was ready for my treat. I crossed 9th Ave, passing a waist-high flock of trick or treaters and followed a small coven of witches into Billy's Bakery. Notorious as competitor and offshoot from cupcake behemoth Magnolia Bakery, Billy's is actually a very modest and tiny 50s vintage themed bake shop. The staff sweetly handed candy to masked children before serving patrons cupcakes and coffees. The best part? There is no line around the block. I ordered a delightfully simple yellow daisy cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting, which perfectly hit the spot - and added the late afternoon sugar rush I needed to stroll back through the neighborhoods of jack-o-lantern guarded and cobweb-wrapped Bownstones back toward midtown.
By evening, with my gracious host in tow again, we made our way among costumed freaks and business people to a small familiar alley in the Lower East Side. Freeman Alley is one of the magical places I speak of that this city keeps, a dark little gem buried unbeknownst at its end. We pulled open the door at the end of the alley and were greeted with warmth and pleasant aromas (a trend I am finding). I had peeked inside Freemans once before, on a prior visit - They were booked for the night and closing the following day for a 3-month renovation! Upon first entering the dim Lynchian dining room everything looked the same (taxidermied deer and swan even appeared in the same spots), but a trip to the restromm unveiled several additional rooms at the back, including a gorgeous wine cellar-cum-banquet room. My friend and I cozied up to the bar, as it was early yet for dinner. The bartender read our minds and mixed us a round of Freemans cocktails (rye, pomegranate molasses and orange bitters). Thoroughly enjoyable (though a little sweet), for the next we opted for the simple but balanced Buffalo Bill (rye, applejack). Feeling peckish with some bourbon in our bellies, we ordered the famous hot artichoke dip - a gooey, mayonnaisey delight served with grilled cheddar toast - and the fittingly sinful(boo!) Devils on Horseback (bacon-wrapped, stilton-stuff dates). Delicious! Once the chefs behind the line (dressed as prisoners!) started firing up the grill and the formal diners (NOT in costume) started filling the front of the house, we looked around at our bar of festive characters and realized it might be time to move on before this perfect moment was tainted. We said our goodnights and thank yous (including one to a male server dressed in a Hooters outfit) and bundled up, back out to the quiet alley and off into the chilly, witchy night.
Day three, I met up in the morning with a friend and her newborn at Cafe Colonial, a charming Brazilian bistro just off Bowery at East Houston. We settled into a cozy corner window table and she removed a small wooly hat from the Baby Bjorn bundle on her chest revealing a small pink head covered in brown hair. "Meet Winston Churchill" she joked about the chubby cheeked, blue eyed beauty staring up at me. "The two of us come here all the time, know everyone on the block" she told me as she glossed the menu. She ordered her usual, the Traditional Brazilian Breakfast (bowl of fruit salad served with pao de queijos - Brazilian cheese rolls) and I opted for a more hearty Brazilian Omelet (with onions, black beans, salsa and sour cream). The fruit selection was incredible and the pao de queijos tender and delicious. The omelette was perfectly cooked and refreshingly not too heavy of a meal to start the day. We took a stroll around the neighborhood after breakfast (and sure enough, everyone came out of their storefronts to visit with small Poppy). We decided to swing by one of my favorite NYC institutions (where my friend happened to start bookkeeping after my previous visit), the hidden gem of the Lower East Side, Babycakes bakery. As we approached I couldn't help but notice a life-size cut out of Marilyn Manson in the window (their Halloween decor?). Inside I learned that it meant so much more - along with their seasonal pumpkin cupcake was the Marilyn Manson cupcake: a chocolate cupcake filled with "blood" and topped with purple "vinyl" frosting. There was only one leftover from All Hallows Eve, and as tempting as it was, I stuck with the pumpkin. What makes babycakes special, or rather different from the many cupcakeries in town is that they are actually somewhat *a hem* GOOD for you. Common allergens (wheat, gluten, dairy, casein, eggs) are cut out altogether from the completely vegan delights and there is not a granule of sugar or chemical replacement sweetener in the entire place! Agave nectar fills in the gap (along with some honey offered for the coffee/tea). You might be thinking blech, but you'll find that actually the decision between gluten-free and wheat-free cupcakes to be a pleasantly difficult one. I favor the gluten-free lemon cupcake as a stand-by.. The tangy, rich and sweet frosting balancing perfectly with the moist, off-sweet cake. The frosting is sooo good infact, that they offer "frosting shots" for $1. Woohoo! There are also single tupperware-like cupcake caddies for sale in case you want to send a babycake to a loved one (they work!). As we gathered our booty of cupcakes, cupcake tops, perfect cookies and coffee, my friend introduced me to Erin McKenna, Babycakes' charming owner. I immediately clarified the debate over the Los Angeles location opening (a 'coming soon' sign had flown over a raw space on Beverly for several months before disappearing last year). She assured me that it was still happening. Now I see the site boasts a West Hollywood opening early Winter 2008. Yesss! After walking my two babycakes back to their apt, I kissed them adieu and strolled back toward midtown, buzzed - I guess not on sugar - but on contentment.
Day four, I met a friend in Tribeca on his lunch break and had a fantastic meal at Takahachi, a minimal elegant space that for me evoked 80s NYC yuppie lifestyle. The food was delicious however, my Enoki Beef (pounded beef wrapped around enoki mushrooms and leeks then grilled) was a refreshingly different bento-box-style lunch.
Upon meeting my host at the end of her work day midtown, we debated which direction to walk. She felt like a small bite, which was about all I could imagine eating (my lunch still with me) and so we headed to the Lower East Side to a little Venezuelan "sandwich" place she liked. Among the dark brownstones on a quiet residential block of East 7th Street appeared a quaint bustling storefront. Inside Caracas, I saw there were only four tiny tables (and I'm talking 1.5 x 1.5 foot tiny!). A couple by the door stood to leave so we snagged their oil-cloth-covered apple crate and approached the counter to order. These "sandwiches" are called Arepas, and start with highly nutritional corn flour wheat-free bread of sorts (like and english muffin meets a pupusa) that is stuffed with various tasty things, from pork shoulder in spicy mango sauce to sweet plantains and avocado. The decision is imposible to make, but since they are small, we decide on a few to sample. We ordered the Los Muchachos (grilled chorizo, spicy white cheese with jalepeños and sautéed peppers), De Pabellón (shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese & sweet plantains), and La Sureña (grilled chicken and chorizo, avocado slices and the classic and always enigmatic oregano based sauce chimi-churri) and a couple Negro Modelos. As we wait, two more people come in from the cold street and begin shedding their hats and jackets.. and it happens to be two of my closest college buddies - a friend of mine from Portland who is in town visiting grad schools and the New Yorker intern I lunched with two days previous. What are the odds! I realized that this obscure understated Arepa bar must be magical indeed. They squeeze into the table next to us in the window and order several more arepas. When our food arrives, we all sample each one, savoring every delectable spicy-sweet and savory bite.. I can't recommend Cara Cas enough.. It might even sneak up as your most memorable meal in a long time.
Day five I meet up in the morning with my friend in Williamsburg a grab Saturday brunch at his favorite local mexican joint Taco Chulo (that apparently has replaced Bonita as his standby). The stark and minimal red-walled interior left something to be desired, and made obvious how newly opened it was. But the thin crispy chips, pico de gallo and complimentary (gasp!) brunch cocktail (one per meal) made up for that quickly. I ordered a michelada which was expertly mixed, spicy and satisfying. My Queso “Benedict” -though a little odd sounding- was extremely tasty! The two poached eggs with spinach on toasted green onion-cheese cornbread, topped with a "queso Velveeta Sauce" made for a flavorful and indulgent meal.
Saturday night was to be a big night out, reuniting as many Oregonian-NYC emigrants as possible. My host opted for the easiest group setting restaurant she could think of (the last time I was in town we chose Gobo, and though INCREDIBLE it was a several hour wait for a group our size) and so we met at the modest Village Mingala Burmese restaurant on another quiet strip of E 7th Street. I had never tasted Burmese cuisine before, but from what I was told sounded like a lighter Thai.. Which to be honest (being in the food mecca of New York) sounded only slightly enthralling. Happily I was impressed. I can't recall exactly which dishes we got (there were MANY), but among them some incredibly fresh and tasty salads, noodle dishes, and the extremely pleasing coconut steamed rice. Naturally there is a strong Thai influence (curry, peanut, lemongrass, mint), but the dishes are broadened with infusion of tropical and citrus fruits (pineapple, mango, coconut, lemon) and Indian suggestions like 'Nun bread' and 'Samusas'. I do recall the tasty Green Tea Leaf salad (Burmese green tea leaves mixed with sesame seeds, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, split yellow beans, peanuts and lemon twists) and the Mohinga Thoke (thin rice noodles, carrot, cabbage, lettuce, coriander, ground peanut and tamarind sauce served room temperature). The rich Rangoon Night Market Noodles (egg noodles with tender duck meat in a light garlic sauce topped with scallions and crispy onions) were also delicious. I believe I finished off the coconut rice, dressed only with traces of a duck curry sauce, really all the lightly sweet heaven-stuff needed. The group left happy and satisfied - with plenty of cash left for the night ahead.
Day six was my last day in town, and no trip to New York would be complete without a stop at my favorite hiding spot in the city, the adored and elusive Moto. This time for brunch, I knew we had a wait ahead, but it was no worry.. I was reuniting with a couple of close friends in the cozy wedge-shaped corner entree, smelling the delicious food being served to diners in the church pew to our right, round marble tabletops covered in espressos, cheeseplates and votives. What first won me over about Moto my previous visit was the time and place transportation (You can read about it in my previous NYC blog entry). Entering Moto was like stepping into a late 1800s French underground speakeasy, a cramped solemn band playing chanson française between the coat rack and the heavy red curtain surrounding the entrance, and a small horseshoe bar dotted with locals sipping Black Velvets (Guinness and Champagne) who might as well be Absinthe-drunk artistes. It was quiet and dark that first night, but this Sunday morning some of the curtains were pulled back, allowing grey light to filter through the cloudy glass panes into the crowded room. We finally were seated tightly between two other groups and were immediately served a round of perfect cappucinos and a charcuterie plate. I ordered the baked eggs in a light tomato broth.. a simple and elegant meal, served with baguette toasts and a spot of mesclun greens. Regarding the menu, I might have preferred visiting Moto for a secluded late night dinner over wine.. but in my book this establishment of taste can do no wrong. It was a splendid last meal in the city (followed by a walk to the wine shop and a languid afternoon spent the best way possible).
You can be sure that the next time I take on Gotham, you will hear all about it, one crumb at a time..