Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Sometimes I find myself scrolling through Yelp to look for new neighborhood spots.  One that caught my eye with its strong reviews was Upstate Craft Beer and Oyster Bar in the East Village.

As their name notes, they specialize in fresh oysters and craft beers.  They get a good variety of both East and West Coast oysters delivered daily and the beer selection, which is always draught beer, changes frequently.  During happy hour, they offer a great special of six oysters and a beer for $12. 

Beer and wine list and selection of Oysters available
Beers available that day with the kitchen in the back
While I'm not a big oyster eater, I did enjoy the beer selection.  Upstate is great about giving you a tasting of the beer before you commit to one so don't be shy about asking!  And at $6.00 per beer, there is no guilt with ordering more than one!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Class: Flowers and Cake Design

Last October, Piggy KL and I took our first cake decorating course together at the NY Cake Academy.  There we learned the basics of cake decorating including how to use decorating bags, how to ice a cake with a smooth finish, and how to make basic buttercream flowers.  We had so much fun that we signed up for the second course: Flowers and Cake Design!

My final cake from the Flowers and Cake Design course!
Similar to the first cake decorating course, Flowers and Cake Design is taught over three classes and structured by Wilton.  And so, for the last three Saturdays, Piggy KL and I hauled all our supplies to the NY Cake Academy to further hone our cake decorating abilities.  In this second course, we learned:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Brunch: Almond

Happy Thursday!  With the weekend fast approaching (yay for 4-day work weeks!), I wanted to share with you a brunch spot I recently checked out.  Almond had been on my "to try" list for a while now so when a friend suggested it for brunch, I just couldn't say no!

When you first walk in, you'll notice that its a big and fairly bright open space - I likey!  No crowded tables in cramped spaces where you need to move the table in order to get in and out.  This is much appreciated as I am a bag lady and always seem to have everything I own with me. 

In addition to allowing reservations for brunch, Almond seated us before everyone in our party arrived!  Hurrah!  It just makes the morning so much nicer if you can enjoy a coffee while waiting for the stragglers. : )

As you are seated, an AWSOME basket of biscuits are set on the table.  These babies were dangerously delicious - all warm, flakey, and bite-sized for easy popping into your mouth.  Served with butter and jams mmmm.  I love bread basket with brunch! 

When looking at the menu, you'll notice a good mix of traditional brunch dishes such as Eggs Benedict along with some originals such as the House Made Pastrami & Eggs!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baking: Red Velvet Cherry Cake Roll

Lately, I've been into everything cherry.  I ran across a recipe from Food Network for a Red Velvet Cherry Cake Roll and just HAD to give it a go!  

Food Network's version of the cake (Pic from Food Network)

While my first batch wasn't exactly flawless, it definitely tasted delicious!  And my coworkers thought so too and obligingly polished it all off.  

My version of the cake - not bad for a first attempt!
The ingredient listing may look impressive, but since I was able to finish a completed cake roll (and on a weeknight!) I know you can do it!  I couldn't wait to share this recipe with you all...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Touch 'n Go Post: Stanton Social

Every year, its tradition that on Vday I have a lady-date with one of my bffs.  Last year, we went to Peter Luger's and Taureau (couldn't decide so we did both over two days!), the year before it was Chinese New Year so we took a hiatus, the year before that we went to our favorite bar (that sadly closed down) Telephone bar, and the year before that, well, I can't really remember that far back.  This year, we went to The Stanton Social.

Inside of Stanton Social (pic from yelp)
It was a great spot with gorgeous atmosphere and dark lighting so I didn't take any pictures of my dinner (for fear that nearby diners would dump my phone into my cocktail) so I'll just make this a quick post with pictures which I've pilfered from other sites and yelpers.  

Its menu is designed to be tapas/small plates style so my bff and I shared 5 items and a dessert:

French Onion Soup Dumplings (pic from yelp)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cooking: Eggs in Hell

On one of my staycation days last year, I caught an episode of The Chew (a cooking and food related talk show on ABC) where Mario Batali was making Eggs in Hell: eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.  

Not only did this recipe look simple enough for me to tackle, but it was pretty much an easy version of the delicious Shakshuka Moroccan Breakfast that I had at Virage!  If you are looking for a simple brunch dish that tastes delicious and looks impressive, this is definitely for you!

Eggs in Hell
Recipe from Mario Batali on The Chew

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cha-An Tea House - Part II (Tea and Desserts)

Happy Valentine's Day to my fellow Piggys!  

In my last post yesterday, I took you through my meal experience at Cha-An Tea House which had me walking away disappointed.  However, what really did blow me away at Cha-An was their tea and desserts!  If you are still thinking of last minute V-day plans, I think this is the perfect answer for you!

Cha-An has a pretty extensive tea list that goes beyond your standard black tea and green tea.  In fact, they offer five kinds of black tea, eleven types of green tea, three types of Oolong tea, two types of Pu-erh tea, two white teas, six herbal teas, and two special latte teas!  You can take a look at their full tea menu here

During peak times, there is a one order per person rule  However, this does not mean one tea order per person.  They are perfectly ok with you sharing orders of tea and dessert and Cha-An is VERY good about refilling your tea pot with hot water so that you maximize your pot.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cha-An Japanese Tea House - Part I (Meals)

I've been on a tea kick lately and have been loving all the new tea spots that I've finally been getting around to discovering!  One I've heard so much about for a while now is Cha-An Japanese Tea House.

Entrance to Cha-An Tea House
Located just a block off from St. Marks, this little haven is tucked away in a totally zen second floor space. Just as the sign in the picture below says, when you walk into the Cha-An space you really do "leave your cares behind" and "just feel the quiet moments" as you relax and enjoy their tea house setting

Inside of the tea house

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Almond Tofu

One of my favorite desserts from childhood is Almond Tofu.  A surprising fact that I recently learned about it - there is actually no tofu in Almond Tofu!  Second fact I learned?  It's super easy to make!

While my mom was able to tell me what ingredients I would need and directions on how to make, she's pretty old school in terms of giving measurements (just a pinch here, swirl or two there...).  Sooooo, I pulled up a basic recipe from and incorporated a few alterations based on user reviews and my own trial-and-error.

Also, as I'm not a huge milk fan, I substituted the milk (which gives the Almond Tofu its opaque-y white color) with soymilk!  The end result is a great blend of almond flavor with a touch of soymilk and the combo is surprisingly wonderful!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Mermaid Inn

Last week, in the middle of my glorious gluttony, this little piggy (and two fellow piggys-in-training) had a ridiculous dinner at The Mermaid Inn.  By ridiculous, I mean it was DE-LI-CIOUSSSSS.

I hav been to the East Village location a couple times and enjoyed it, but wanted to switch it around this time so I gave the UWS location a go!  Upon entering, you are greeted with a relaxing and cozy atmosphere with one wall of ceiling to floor windows.

One of the best things about Mermaid Inn is their "Happy Hour and a Half" specials from 5:30pm-7pm!  They offer East Coast oysters for $1 each and West Coast oysters for $1.75 each.  Also, there is a selection of appetizers and drink specials of course! 

Monday, February 6, 2012


When I moved up to Midtown East, I didn't expect to find a little bit of St. Marks (my college days!) in my neighborhood.  St. Marks has a strip of hole-in-the-wall "izakaya"-ish (Japanese food and drinking) spots which are really popular for college students.  Many late nights were spent over bottles of sake and lots of little Japanese noshes.  I've aged out of that crew a few years ago so it's been a while since I've been spotted there at 1am and beyond.  Wondering where the older people go? We go to the Midtown version of St. Marks!  Sure enough, there are a handful of authentic hole-in-the-wall restaurants in the East 40s/50s Streets. 


My second favorite izakaya spot is Donburiya located on East 47th Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenues.  It's open late, and the later you go, the more packed it gets with groups of friends relaxing over their ## bottle of sake.  It's a good sign when you see lots of Japanese people there too!

Sake! Just chillin'...

Friday, February 3, 2012


Apiary is one of those restaurants that I always walk past and has been on my 'to try' list ever since it opened.  This week, I finally checked the box!

This is not a great picture, but it really is so cute when you walk past!

As you enter, you can't help but notice how beautifully decorated the restaurant is.  It really is a perfect mix of chic, trendy, and elegant.  The walls are decorated with these interesting textured flowers and the lights along the walls are made of this clear material that casts a chandelier shaped shadow on the wall!

Bar area
Dining area
Clear light fixtures that casts a chandelier shadow! So clever!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rickshaw Dumpling Bar

Midtown Manhattan has an abundance of good lunch spots, and Rickshaw Dumpling Bar decided to join in too! They opened up a branch on Lexington Avenue and East 45th Street last year.  Walk by during lunch time and you'll often spot a crowd milling around the tiny corner store.  It's take out only here, as there are no tables (except for a 6 foot long ledge along the window).

I've known about Rickshaw Dumplings for years but it wasn't until their food truck made an appearance at a holiday party last year that I actually tried it.  Wonder why it took this dumpling lover so long? I've heard very mixed reviews, with negative comments coming mainly from friends who have grown up eating authentic fresh made dumplings like me.  I wasn't wowed by the dumplings I had at their food truck, but I chalked it up to the limited facilities they had working out of the truck.

I've visited the Midtown branch a couple of times since they opened.  While I'm not impressed by the dumplings, it's a nice break from the regular soup/salad lunch options and is still light enough since they're steamed.  I've tried the Pork and Chive dumpling and also the Szechuan Chicken one.  The skin is nice with medium-thickness, but the meat fillings can tend to be a little dry and lacking flavor.  Each order of dumplings comes with a little container of sauce which varies depending on the dumpling you order.  The sauces are tasty and unique!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hill Country BBQ

It's one of those weeks where I somehow find myself with dinner plans every single night. I tell people that it's exhausting, but really I'm just excited about all the dinner reservations!

One of my dinners earlier this week was with a group of girlfriends from high school.  Actually, come to think of it, we all met when we were in the single digit age range!  And to celebrate, we decided to meet up at Hill Country for some BBQ!

Hill Country is a pretty big space filled with wooden tables and loud country (and sometimes Polka) music.  When you walk in, you definitely feel like you've left NYC and are eating somewhere where the BBQ is fabulous.