Friday, March 30, 2012

Il Brigante

I used to put South Street Seaport into the same category as Times Square - avoid at all costs.  However, I recently stumbled upon Front Street, a small side street just off the South Street Seaport, and found that it is home to a bunch of great local restaurants and cafes. 

This particular night I was hungry for some pasta!  After browsing the Italian restaurants on the street, I ventured into Il Brigante for dinner.

Il Brigante's storefront - so cute I love it!
When you walk into this little gem, you are greeted with a cozy atmosphere filled with soft lighting, exposed brick walls, and a traditional open brick oven in the back.  This little trattoria evokes a relaxed old world type feel. 

Inside of Il Brigante - just asks you to come in and take a load off!
After perusing the menu, our group went with:

Pasta special of the night: Orrechiette with sausage and mushrooms in a pink sauce.  This was my favorite dish of the night!  Flavor was unbelievable with fresh mushrooms and perfectly seasoned sausages.  I wolfed it all down.  No sharing this dish!!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

[Revisit] Bonchon Midtown

I caved the other day and succumbed to a craving for crispy, golden delicious fried chicken.  Unfortunately for my waistline, BonChon Midtown is way too accessible for me, so there I went for a Sunday lunch.  I've been back many times since I first posted about them back in October. 

Since then, they have added a lot of items to their menu.  One dish which I particularly enjoy is the Egg + Scallion Fried Rice for $6.50.  It's listed as a 'side', but it's actually a very decent portion size, definitely shareable!

If you happen to make it to BonChon Midtown one of these days, believe me, you won't regret it!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flushing: Mala Xiang Guo (Spicy Stir-fry Pot)

There's a new shopping center called New World Mall that opened in Flushing just last year.  And its amazing.  Located on Roosevelt Ave right next to the 7 train, New World Mall is comprised of a full Asian supermarket, two floors of shops, a gorgeous restaurant on the top floor, parking garage, and an awesome food court in the basement.  Just like the ones you see in Taiwan!! 

I'm sure I'll be posting about my various trips to eat there, but in this post I'll be taking you through my experience at the Mala Xiang Guo station. 

Mala Xiang Guo station at the New World Mall food court
Located in one of the the corners of the food court (when you come down the escalators, keep going straight and it'll be in the corner on your left at the end), This definitely offers a unique experience that I've never had in the city.

In the simplest terms, Mala Xiang Guo is a spicy and fragrant stir-fry pot.  Its almost like a dry hot pot with only one flavor choice - spicy fragrant.  Not really getting what exactly this is?  Easier for me to show you!

When you come up to the station, you'll notice a large variety of raw veggies.

All your choices to include in your pot!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mai Sushi

Last week, a girlfriend and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice sit-down lunch.  We picked Mai Sushi located on that street in Midtown East with all the Japanese Restaurants (41st between Madison and 5th).  We had both been to the original restaurant when it was run under a different name, but have yet to give this new version a try! 

Mai Sushi for lunch!
Similar to the old restaurant, the front half of Mai Sushi offers a cold case of ready-to-go items.  Everything looked tasty and I was particularly attracted to the rice bowls (or anything with rice for that matter), but I usually prefer my hot food served hot (not cooked hot, then put in a cold case waiting for me to purchase chilled because the Health Department wills it so. poo).  Only select items such as the tempura and gyoza were in the warm window.  Sushi looked fresh though!

Cold case up front for quick grab 'n go meals
Warm case for select items

Friday, March 23, 2012

Orzo Salad with Avocado and Feta

We are totally soaking up the sun and loving this warm spring weather here in New York! Anyone else also craving ice cream, Italian ices, and summery salads?  Earlier this week, I made Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi over Orzo pasta which was fabulous! But I had a 1/2 lb of Orzo left that I wanted to use up.  I started looking up recipes for light, summery Orzo salads and stumbled upon one with some of my favorite salad ingredients - feta and avocado, yum!!

I was very happy with how it came out.  The feta, avocado, jalapeno, tomatoes and orange juice provides a very fresh yet flavorful combination. 

Orzo Salad with Avocado and Feta

However, I must share one important life lesson I learned while making this:  Wear gloves when working with jalapeno chiles!!
Sidetracked and in a rush, I seeded and minced the jalapeno bare-handed.  Ugh, worst idea ever! Two hours later, I finally put two and two together and realized why my fingers were burning.  (Yes, two hours.  I swear I'm not usually THAT slow!). Washing my hands repeatedly in hot water was another dumb idea - perfect way to open up the pores for that hot chile oil to seep in even deeper.  Thanks to Google, we finally found out milk is the remedy for jalapeno burns.  Hubby JL made a late night milk run to the grocery store to save the day, relief finally!!

Luxurious milk soak to ease the burn.  Instant relief!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Minetta Tavern

Oh Minetta Tavern...why do you make it so hard for us to meet?  It's a good thing I enjoy eating dinner early, especially since a friend of mine managed to snag a 5:30pm dinner reservation.  And so, at 5:30pm with the sun still bright and shining, I entered into the hush hush world of Minetta Tavern.

Surprisingly, its not what you would expect inside Minetta Tavern.  From the outside, all the windows are covered with heavy curtains so you can't look in.  When you step in, it's a retro yet classy old-school feel with its checkered floors, red leather booths, and wood bar (which, interestingly, is the original bar from when the restaurant first opened in 1937 and refinished by Keith McNally when he took over). 

Bar area when you enter (pic from
Since it was so early, I'm pretty sure it was still officially cocktail hour so who could resist order a cocktail?!  There were a couple unique cocktails on the menu so I was excited to try.  And I was pleasantly surprised at how great they were!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi

One of the things I look forward to everyday is an email from  As I'm scrolling through and deleting the 80+ shopping emails, I stop and read which recipe has picked out for my 'Dinner Tonight'.  It's my daily treat, and sure takes the guess work out of looking for new recipes.  If you haven't already, make sure you sign up for their daily 'Dinner Tonight' newsletter!

That's how I came across this recipe for Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi.  The great 5-star reviews it got sealed the deal, I definitely wanted to try this!

When I think of shrimp scampi, I automatically think of butter, loads of it! Which doesn't fit well into my attempt to eat healthier these days.  However this recipe doesn't call for much butter; all in all, I think I used 2 1/2 TB for 4 servings. 

This recipe also differs from the usual ones as it calls for Orzo instead of long pastas.  It had fantastic flavor and is a healthier take on many of the shrimp scampi's out there.  Easy and quick too, check out how mine came out!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Halal Guys

The Chicken and Rice cart by Rockefeller Center is pretty much a NYC institution.  This is not the same as all the other street meat carts you see all over NYC.  This cart is run by the Halal Guys. Yes that's right - they even have a website!

More commonly known as Chicken and Rice, these guys are located on the corner of 53rd street and 6th ave 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Which corner specifically you ask?  Just look for the corner with the long line (and there is always a line!).

My view from the back of the line...
This line moves very fast though, so don't be intimidated!  And while you're waiting on line, you can think about what you want to order.  Well, to be honest, I'm not really sure what they offer as I've never seen a menu but I'm pretty sure your choices are either chicken or lamb (or mix of both if you can't choose!), and either in a platter (with rice, salad, and pita) or a sandwich.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Maialino (Brunch)

If you are the type of person who thinks it is never too early for pasta, you'll love brunch at Maialino!  I'm still itching to check out the dinner menu, but I did go for the brunch scene and was pleasantly surprised. 

Brunch at Maialino has a very relaxed feel; there were tables with people reading the paper over fresh-baked bread and coffee, and groups of friends lingering the afternoon away over wine and good food.  It didn't seem like the restaurant was rushing people out the door, which is very appreciated when you just want to be lazy and catch up with friends on the weekend.

While waiting for our table, we sat at the bar and ordered two cocktails, the Caterina de' Medici and the Claudia ($12 each).  The Caterina was bubbly and not too sweet (which I prefer!), and the Claudia was refreshing - the Limonata in it had us craving summertime.  Great start to the meal to come...

The menu has a variety of brunch and lunch food to choose from - eggs, pancakes, salads, sandwiches, pastas.  It was perfect as some of us were craving breakfast food, and others of us were drooling over the pasta.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Baking: Paula Deen's Not Yo Mama's Banana Pudding

On a quiet Friday night, I decided to have Paula Deen keep me company.  A friend recently posted a delicious looking picture of homemade banana pudding so I decided to follow suit and make one of my own. 

Paula Deen's recipe for Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding came highly rated so I gave it a go. Wow!  Not only was this easy to make, but it goes down like crack!  DE-LI-CIOUS and get this - I don't even like bananas! 

I only had half the cream cheese called for in the recipe at home, so I just cut the whole recipe in half.  But next go around, I'm definitely making the full recipe.  Its just so tasty!  I hope you give this quick and easy recipe a try.

Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding
Recipe from Paula Deen via Food Network

2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
6 to 8 bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Walking around Nolita one day, I stumbled upon a really pretty and trendy restaurant called Tartinery.  I had never heard of it at the time, but the food looked yummy as I was gawking at people's dishes sitting by the window (yes, I have no shame!).  When I got home and checked out their website, I was definitely curious.  Open-faced sandwiches, bread flown in from France daily... yes please!

A few weekends later, I made my way back for Sunday brunch/lunch.  There are two floors, the upper one being a cute little area with a long bar and small tables by the window.  It feels like you're sitting in a little Parisian bistro.  We noticed that other parties around us were European - two groups speaking French and another group of Italians.  For a minute, I could almost imagine that I wasn't in NY.  In one word, I would describe it as "Frenchie", in the best way possible!

The menu has an interesting assortment of appetizers such as Duck rillettes, Burrata, or ravioli with truffle oil.  They also offer a big variety of Tartines (open-faced sandwiches) so you can definitely find something to your liking. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brunch: Stone Park Cafe

I'm ashamed to say that I'm pretty much a newbie to restaurants in the Outer Boroughs.  Brooklyn though - I'm totally loving Brooklyn lately!  Other than my one bad experience, I've been having some amazeball meals in Brooklyn.

This past weekend, I stopped by Stone Park Cafe in Park Slope for brunch.  First sign that it was going to be a fabulous brunch - a bulldog puppy was waiting outside!  Second sign that it was going to be fabulous?  A 45 minute wait even at close to 2pm.  Must be good if people wait!

And so, a walk to Prospect Park and 45 minutes later, we were finally seated and ready to get brunch started!  Stone Park Cafe offers a simple yet all encompassing menu.  So much to choose from!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

kin shop

kin shop has been on my list of places to try for a long time, probably over two years.  It serves contemporary Thai cuisine with really powerful flavors.  No ordinary Pad Thai here! They definitely pack a lot of heat in their dishes, so be warned that this is not the best choice for the mild spice lovers. 

Located in Greenwich Village, the decor of the restaurant seemed washed out and dull, which doesn't reflect their vibrant flavors at all.  The service was mediocre - nothing glaringly bad, but our waiter seemed a bit grumpy, and at times borderline unfriendly.

For starters, we had the Spicy Duck Laab Salad and the Fried Brussells Sprouts with Chinese Sausage.  On the menu, the Spicy Duck Laab Salad has with not one, but 3 asterisks next to it denoting its level of spiciness.  They're serious about this! It has some serious heat.  The first few bites were enjoyable, especially because we love spicy food, but after that our tongues started losing all sense of feeling and soon everything we ate (the brussells sprouts, water, our cocktails, etc.) tasted like the intensely spicy duck.  The dish started out great, but it quickly became overwhelming.

I was disappointed in the Fried Brussells Sprouts, and it wasn't only because all I could taste was the spicy duck (though that didn't help...).  I was expecting to have nice crispy sprouts with lightly browned leaves.  Unfortunately these were soggy, and they just got softer as they bathed in the sauce.  There were a handful of crispy ones which I enjoyed very much, now if only there were more...

Fried Brussells Sprouts || Spicy Duck Laab Salad

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pulqueria and Apotheke

On a small street deep in Chinatown, there exists a hidden Mexican restaurant called Pulqueria and its sister cocktail bar Apotheke

Doyers St in Chinatown - can you find Pulqueria?
Not sure what you are looking at or where you should be looking?  Well that's because there are no signs outside that tell you which door leads to where (for you Chinatown savvy readers, Pulqueria is on Doyers St).  A bit Alice in Wonderland if you ask me as you try each door until you find the right one...

Apotheke is on the left and Pulqueria is on the right!
Where Doyers St starts to curve, you'll notice the two entrances above.  The wooden one on the left leads to the cocktail bar Apotheke and the blue and white entrance to the right leads down to Pulqueria.  The stairway down is also touch sketchy and when you get to the end, you again face a choice of a couple ominous looking doors.  Pick the one on your right lol.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Locande Verde

Some days, the only way to make it through the work day is to stare at my calendar and schedule things that I can look forward to.  Usually, that means I make dinner reservations and schedule my friends so that I'm not the only one getting plump.

Locande Verde is one of those spots where it usually works in your benefit to make a reservation as early as possible.  And so, one of those days at work, I counted 30 days in advance and made my reservation!

Usually a full house every night, Locande Verde was no different on the Friday evening my friend and I went for dinner. 

Its a gorgeous space with lots of seating available and a decent bar space for drinks while waiting for your table.  In the back, you can look right into the kitchen.  Oh how open kitchens seduce me!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Colicchio & Sons (Main Dining Room)

I originally declared last Friday night "off duty".  The plan was to enjoy a dinner without my obtrusive picture-taking and mental note-jotting.  But as the night went on, I wound up being more and more impressed by Colicchio & Sons that I gave in! Out came the iPhone, and I managed to snap some pictures of the entrees and dessert. 

Set in trendy Chelsea, Colicchio & Sons is decorated beautifully, with high, open ceilings and an impressive wall of wine.  From the moment we walked in the door, we were not only wowed by the decor but also the friendliness at the hostess stand.  We were greeted warmly and cheerfully, quite rare in NYC!

Our server also did her part in continuing this friendly environment.  As we each gave her our order, she in turn told us how each of our dishes were uniquely prepared.  The additional descriptions were welcomed and made us feel great about our choices.  If we weren't sold on them before we ordered, we certainly were then!  Throughout the meal, she was very attentive, but in a quiet manner.  The service was unpretentious yet refined.

Unfortunately I was still sticking to my "off duty" bit when appetizers came out so I don't have pictures.  But take my word for it that everything was delicious! Among my group, we ordered the Hamachi, the Roasted Octopus, the Lobster Salad, the Butter-Poached Oysters, and the Beet Pappardelle.

For second courses, we went with the Halibut, and the Roasted & Braised Red Wattle Pork.  Both were amazing, A+ on both!

Halibut with Truffled Celery Root Agnolotti & Glazed Rutabaga

Monday, March 5, 2012

For the Love of Grandma's Dumplings

Hi Piggy friends, have you missed me? I know I’ve missed you. I’ve been off the radar lately and took a hiatus from my Piggy duties to focus on my #1… my Family.

It’s been a roller coaster month of loss and heartache, but also of love and fond trips down memory lane. You see, I come from a long line of piggys whose favorite pastime is busily whipping things up in the kitchen, and it all comes out of love. I dare say that the food we create may be the thing that some of us (especially my Grandma) are most fondly known for.

I’m so fortunate to have learned how to cook with my family throughout my life, even when I wasn’t tall enough to reach the kitchen counter. As a child, I remember my dear Grandma would take over the kitchen and make big batches of wontons or dumplings at a time. I have memories of Grandma teaching me how to make these lovely specialties. Our hands would be dusted with flour, egg wash and meat filling. I was always amazed at how quickly and effortlessly Grandma’s fingers moved, folding and pinching the dumplings and wontons closed in such a beautiful way. I was never able to recreate her perfect pleating, but her face always lit up in approval anyway and she would hand me another dumpling to work on. Slowly but surely, we would fill up tray after tray of dumplings. As they steamed, the kitchen would brim with a savory smell that left you hanging on each minute until they were done.

This post is dedicated to my Grandma. She dedicated her life to family and making the most extraordinary buns and dumplings. I’m so grateful she gave me this gift that I’ll never forget. Here is my recent attempt at carrying on her legacy…

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cooking: Mussels, Clams, and Shrimp in Spicy Broth

My new thing seems to be making Sunday dinner at home.  Is this a sign that I've been watching too much Jersey Shore? 

Either way, I've come to enjoy scouring recipes during the week and planning my menu for Sunday dinner.  Most recently, I stumbled upon an excellent seafood recipe on Food Network courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis.
Mussels, Clams, and Shrimp in Spicy Broth
Super easy and super impressive, I'm pretty sure this dish is going to become a new Sunday dinner staple in my kitchen.  I hope you will enjoy it too!

Mussels, Clams, and Shrimp in Spicy Broth
Recipe from Giada de Laurentiis at Food Network

1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
24 small Littleneck clams (about 2 1/2 pounds total), scrubbed
24 mussels (about 1 1/2 pounds total), debearded
20 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined, butterflied
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
Warm crusty bread