Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Hello Piggy Friends!  I hope you all managed to weather Hurricane Sandy!  Turns out, I should have invested more into my Hurricane stockpile (cheese doesn't do too well when you loose power and a working fridge).  Alas...I do not look forward to tossing everything out from my freezer and fridge.  With power not expected to be restored for another couple days, Piggy KL and I have walked up to her place in midtown and now I have hot showers, hot food, and power! 

For now, here's an entry from calmer days...


I've been exploring the West Village a bit more recently and on one of my walks I passed by Fedora. Located on a cute street in the heart of the West Village, I couldn't resist coming in and giving this place a try!

Fedora in the West Village
It's a small restaurant, so I definitely recommend calling to make a reservation before making the walk over for dinner.  There is a long wooden bar on the left and a row of tables on the right.  Space was definitely tight, and my two dining compadres and I had to squeeze into a two person table (which they just turning sideways to make wider).  TIGHT.

Dining area, before the rush
In an attempt to loosen up, I of course perused the cocktail list and went with the Songbird (there's St. Germain in it how can I resist?!). 

Cocktail menu
I love drinks that come in this classic glass
Looking at the menu, it has a pretty limited selection so make sure to take a look before you commit to coming. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


Hurricane Irene Sandy is rolling through NYC right about now...what did you do to prepare for Frankenstorm?  Since I couldn't even get into any of the three grocery stores in the Union Square area yesterday, I'm making do with some popcorn and diet ginger ale from Duane Reade and a huge ball of fresh mozzarella cheese from East Village Cheese Shop.
My rations for the hurricane: popcorn, ginger ale, and a big ball of fresh mozz
I couldn't resist having one last meal, though, so last night I stopped by Whitehall in the West Village for a Hurricane Welcome dinner!

Front of Whitehall - look for "No. 19" on the awning

The name is not prominently displayed in the front of the restaurant so if you are a bit lost, look for "No. 19" on the awning.  The front room has a long bar area on the left and tables on the right side of the room.  If you keep walking to the back, there is another dining area with exposed brick walls.  Both areas are warmly lit and feature chalkboards detailing the specials of the day.

Front area of Whitehall
Back dining area
Love the large chalkboards listing the day's spec
As I take my seat, first order of business is the take a look at the cocktail list.  I looooove a great cocktail!  And when they come, they are served in huge glasses!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween 2012 Pumpkin!

It's pumpkin season again! Per my annual tradition, I decided to carve a pumpkin this year.  Luckily this year it was pretty easy to find a pumpkin - I just went to my local Whole Foods!

I always love roasting pumpkin seeds after carving my pumpkin.  This year was a disappointment though.  Sadly the pumpkin I picked barely had any seeds.  Any tips on how to pick a seedy pumpkin?

Here is my pumpkin this year - a witch's brew pumpkin!  Spooky isn't it?  I followed the steps outlined in my Pumpkin Carving Tutorial here.

Pumpkin carving - Witch's Brew Pumpkin

To create some different shading for the 'smoke', I thinned out the pumpkin meat from the outside.  If you remove the orange outer skin, it lets more of the light form the candle through, allowing for the appearance of a different shade.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Brunch: The Seahorse Tavern

I have had my eye on The Seahorse Tavern for a couple weeks now and finally had the chance to check it out for brunch recently.

The Seahorse Tavern on the Upper East Side
Located on the upper east side, this little seafood eatery was perfect for a low-key casual brunch. I loved the brick wall and simply decorated space!  Had a bit of a 'New England seafood restaurant by the sea' feel hehe.

Looking at the brunch menu, most of the items have a seafood twist to it which makes me super happy.  Even better?  You get a drink with your meal yayyyyyy!  While it's not a big menu, there is a pretty good variety including egg dishes, sandwiches, salads, and a burger.  Definitely something for everyone!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bar Veloce

Bar Veloce, an Italian wine bar in the East Village, recently underwent a renovation.  When I stopped by for a drink recently, I was so surprised at how the space has changed!  Still located in the same spot on 2nd ave between 11th and 12th street, Bar Veloce has redecorated as well as expanded into what used to be Bar Carrera next door.

When you walk in, you'll see its a much bigger space than it used to be.  It has a  modern yet cozy feel with interesting wine racks that go up to the ceiling.  There is seating around the middle bar area as well as long high tables along the sides.  I especially loved the lamps with aviators as the lampshade!

Lamp with aviator shades!
Vino Compadre and I snagged a seat at the bar as that's where it looked like all the action was.  We got a great view of the food prep station - loved watching them make everything fresh!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mozzarella Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Looking for a light hors d'oeuvres recipe that will also impress with presentation?  I made these adorable Mozzarella Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes while having friends over for pre-dinner drinks recently and they were delicious!

There are some nice recipes online for this, but I didn't really follow any of them.  I kind of made it up along the way, here is my take on it:

Pre-dinner Cocktails and snacks: Mozzarella Stuffed Cherry Tomatos and Roasted Chickpeas

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brunch: Le Tarte Flambe

A friend and I stopped by Le Tarte Flambe for a quick brunch before darting up to the Bronx Zoo (for those of you who don't know, I LOVE the zoo!).  This cute spot on the UES offers your standard and non-standard brunch fare!

Cafe Flambee
When you walk in, you'll notice that its a small and narrow restaurant.  The brick wall and fun posters definitely warm up the space!

Funny posters on their walls!
During brunch, you get their regular menu, which features different varieties of their specialty the tarte flambee (bread dough rolled thin and covered with cheese and onions), as well as a brunch menu, which offers the more standard brunch items such as eggs, sandwiches, etc. 

Regular menu
Brunch menu

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Institute of Culinary Education: Techniques of Fine Cooking I

If you've noticed I've been quiet on the blogosphere lately, it's because I've got my learning cap on and have been busy with school (the cooking kind, as well as the more serious kind)!  The Hubby had the brilliant idea to enroll me in the Institute of Culinary Education's Techniques of Fine Cooking 1 as an Anniversary gift.  Smart, isn't he?  It's the gift that keeps on giving! He sure has been enjoying the new kitchen skills I've picked up lately.

The Institute of Culinary Education ('ICE') is located on West 23rd Street and offers career training for real chefs-to-be, and also holds a lot of recreational classes for people like you and me.  It's pretty fun walking by the real chefs in class and watching them in action.  There are recreational classes which range from just a few hours, to others that span several days like the one I took.  Check out their website, it's hard not to find one that doesn't pique your interest!  You can sign up for classes online so the whole process is pretty easy.

Photos from Techniques of Fine Cooking I
Techniques in Fine Cooking is a program which focuses more on teaching technique rather than recipes.  (Though admittedly, I've been loving practicing the recipes at home).  It is a 5 day course, with 5 hours each day.  ICE offers sessions which are either 5 days consecutively, or 1 day a week over 5 weeks.  

I learned how to truss a chicken, poach eggs, make mousse (hello, arm workout), wet and dry braise and work with mussels.  The list goes on and on!

The class introduced me to working with foods that I'm unfamiliar with, or had been intimidated of.  The techniques taught are not actually that complex, but I think the class gives you the confidence that you can do it!  There's also no better way to learn how to make something than to actually do it yourself. 

Though class sizes vary, my session of Level 1 Techniques had 16 students, along with a Chef instructor and a kitchen assistant.  Chef Anita was an energetic lady who sure kept us on our toes each day!  She has been teaching at ICE for many years so she's a true veteran and knows how to keep the class moving.  

We were in a nice sized kitchen and split into groups of 4.  Each group works together to prepare dishes.  I loved that Chef Anita structured the class so that for the most part, each group made everything in the curriculum - i.e., granted each group may make a different type of vegetable, we all learned how to blanch.  

Here are a few pictures of my group's accomplishments:

Monday, October 15, 2012


It always amazes me how a restaurant can really transport you outside of the city.  I stopped by Casimir for dinner in the East Village last week - once you step into this cute French bistro, you really do feel like you're somewhere in Europe!

Entrance to Casimir
Inside of Casimir (my pic is a bit dark, but I love the globe lights!)
The atmosphere was relaxed and filled with soft lighting.  I especially loved the simple decor, circular bistro tables, globe lights, and tiled ceiling.  This was all complemented with a great waitstaff, many of whom came with totally attractive French accents hehe

The menu offers all your standard French bistro fare, which means I've got some hard decisions to make!

Casimir's menu
To start, dining compadre went with the the Escargot Provencal and I couldn't resist the call of the French Onion Soup.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Looking for some cheap eats?  In a bid to keep costs down for a dinner out, my friend suggested Nyonya, a Malaysian restaurant just north of Chinatown (around Little Italy) she had been going to for years.  I'm so glad she introduced me to this place!

For appetizers, my friend and I shared an order of Homemade Roti Canai.  The pancake is flakey and crispy and the curry dipping sauce has some nice heat.  Love! Seriously, you won't regret getting this dish.

Nyonya is known for their Hainanese Chicken with Rice, a steal at $5.75! The chicken is served room temperature (not hot) in their chef's soy sauce.  It's served alongside a serving of rice flavored with chicken - ohmygosh I could eat bowls of this.  Oh wait, I did!  I definitely licked my rice bowl clean.  The chicken is delicious with the soy sauce, but it also comes with a side dish of some spicier sauce.

Hainanese Chicken with Rice at Nyonya

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Over the summer after a delicious dinner at Gwynnett St. in Williamsburg, my friends and I stumbled on a bar just up the block called ba'sik.  It's a cozy place with a great neighborhood feel to it.  Apparently there is also a sizable outdoor patio in the back, but unfortunately I didn't know to scope it out at the time.  More reason to return ( spring *sob*)!

[courtesy of]
We grabbed some seats at the bar, and I'm glad we did because the bartenders were really nice and friendly.  They have a small cocktail menu but they are all creative.  Of the ones we tried (Picket Fence, and how, Poppa's Pride, o.v.c.), they were all delicious!  Oh darn, I just realized that was 4/5 of the menu, now I'm just bugged that we missed one.

Most importantly at $10 a cocktail, it's a steal compared to NYC prices!

Not only do they have cocktails, but they have a food menu too.  We were pleasantly full after dinner, but in order to do some due diligence for you (or at least that's what I tell myself), we ordered a little snack to help the cocktails go down.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rai Rai Ken

With the weather cooling down, my roommate and I were on the look out for a big hot bowl of ramen.  Our usual choice (and apparantly everyone else's usual spot) Ippudo was quoting an hour and a half wait, so we decided to give Rai Rai Ken a try. 

The original location was a small space with only 12 seats.  It always looked so crowded so I never made it in, but they've recently moved two spots down to a bigger shop with more space!  Yes - there are now tables for seating (in addition to counter space).  Note that its still cash only. 


Looking at the menu, I was really excited to see that there were a lot of different options including non-pork choices!  Key for me! And "We use no MSG" is in all caps right on the top of the menu.  I like that!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Meatball Shop's Spicy Pork Meatballs

A few months back I visited The Meatball Shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and stopped in for a "quick snack".  Famous last words... of course the meatballs disappeared from my plate before I got a photo for you guys.  I need to stop doing that!  

One order of meatballs comes with 4, and you pick the sauce you want on top.  They also have sliders, heroes, and meatball sandwiches on their menu.  I just wound up getting meatballs that day, and my favorite was the spicy pork meatballs topped with classic tomato sauce.

When we got the bill, they also gave us a little recipe card as a souvenir - and luckily it was for their spicy pork meatballs! Yay!!

I wound up trying out the recipe for a special occasion dinner at home.  I followed the recipe exactly and used good quality ingredients which really made a big difference!  Try and make the extra effort to get good quality ground pork.  Comparing the two instances I made the meatballs: the freshly ground pork I got from the butcher at Eataly resulted in meatballs SOO much better than when I used regular ground pork from my local supermarket chain.  The meat from Eataly resulted in juicier and lighter meatballs, so worth it!  

For the sauce, I made tomato sauce from scratch using a recipe from Scarpetta, Scott Conant's famous Italian restaurant. I LOVE the freshness of homemade sauce, but you can definitely just go with canned tomato sauce to save time.  I'll save Scarpetta's recipe for another post :)

Spicy Pork Meatballs [recipe from The Meatball Shop]

Check out the delicious recipe below courtesy of The Meatball Shop.  It has a hint of heat from the hot cherry peppers, and the fresh white bread (as opposed to breadcrumbs) helps make the meatballs less dense. Great recipe!

Spicy Pork Meatballs Recipe from The Meatball Shop

Friday, October 5, 2012

Asian Pear Picking

It's Fall!  And that means apple picking!  Well, for my mom and me, that really means Asian pear picking!  Have you been?
Look Ma, I'm on a ladder!
If you've never had an Asian pear before, they're round in shape (looks like a huge apple) and is brownish/yellow in color with speckled skin.  When you bite into it, its crispy, white, and very very juicy on the inside!

There are two places in NJ where I go with my mom: Evergreen Farms and Lee Orchard Garden (both approx. 1hr 15min drive from NYC).

Lee Orchard Farm
This is a small family owned farm in Cranbury, NJ.  When you drive up, it looks like you're driving to someone's house (and yes, the family does live there) but after you park and head on back to the orchard, you'll see that its a lot bigger than you think!

Grab a bucket and take the short walk to the pear orchard.  Its a beautiful sight!  With the pears round and full of juice, they're definitely heavy so the trees are supported by these metal railings.  As you walk through each row of pear trees, it feels like your walking under a lush green canopy.  Just gorgeous!

Orchard - picture doesn't give it any justice!  (pic from here)
 There are a few ladders around so if you can snag one, the best pears are at the top!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pearl Meatballs

I've stumbled upon a show on the Cooking Channel called 'Easy Chinese' featuring Ching-He Huang and now I'm a fan!  Ching is Taiwanese but has an adorable British accent from her upbringing.  She travels throughout the US exploring Chinese eats and also cooks up food with local ingredients.  For those unfamiliar with Chinese cooking, she definitely makes it look easy and approachable.  Try and catch 'Easy Chinese' on the Cooking Channel! But if you can't, check out her recipes online.

On one episode she cooked up 'Pearl Balls' which are essentially steamed pork meatballs rolled in sticky rice.  Sounds delicious!  I don't often cook Chinese food using a recipe (afterall, Dad always taught me how to cook with "a little of this" and "just enough of that" and his recipes are killer!), but I was really eager to test out Ching's version.  

Pearl Meatballs, using Ching-He Huang's recipe on Cooking Channel TV
I followed her recipe almost exactly and I was so pleased with how it came out!  I made a few very minor substitutions which I've noted below.  Check out Ching's recipe, reposted below courtesy of Cooking Channel TV, and follow along with my pictures.  This one's a keeper, and it's pretty easy!  


12 oz. Ground Pork (or a boneless, skinless piece of pork belly)
2" piece of fresh Ginger, peeled
1 Shallot
1/2 cube vegetable bouillon (I substituted with chicken bouillon as I had it on hand)
1 tsp Cornstarch, plus more for rolling
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 tsp Shaoshing rice wine
Sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 large egg yolk, beaten
1 scallion, chopped fine (my addition, not in Ching's recipe)
1/2 cup glutinous white rice (sticky rice!), soaked overnight in cold water and drained

Optional dipping sauce: Black rice vinegar, chili oil, or soy sauce

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bread & Tulips

With a name like Bread & Tulips, how could I resist going in?!  Located in the Hotel Giraffe, Bread & Tulips occupies the space that used to be Barna. 

I arrived a touch early to snagged a seat at the bar to wait for my dining compadre (with a cocktail and my Kindle to keep me company of course).  Bartender was friendly and the bar area spacious.  Also great - you can transfer your bar tap to your table (its surprising how many restaurants won't do that...).

Cocktail menu
Cocktails and Kindle!  Loveee
As dining compadre and I were shown to our table, I did see fresh tulips on every table!  The rest of the space was simply decorated with an open view of the pizza oven.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Slice of Brooklyn: Pizza Tour!

Over the summer Hubby JL and I were invited to go on a pizza tour run by A Slice of Brooklyn.  I hadn't heard about it before, but any mention of a food tour and you can count me in!  At 11am on a Sunday, we showed up at the designated meeting spot near Union Square.  We didn't have any expectations other than to enjoy a low-key day eating pizza, but by the end of our afternoon with Tony (a true Brooklyn native, the founder, and our tour guide!) we were pleasantly surprised by how much fun we had!

A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour: TV screens in the tour bus
Right on time, Tony's very comfortable bus rolled up and all of us pizza-lovers filed on.  I'm guessing there was under 20 of us in the group, so (thankfully!) it didn't feel like we were a giant herd of tourists, though tourists did make up a good chunk!

View of Brooklyn Bridge and the NYC skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park
Visiting Brooklyn Bridge Park and a close up of Brooklyn Bridge
First up, a little driving tour of DUMBO and a walk around Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fulton Ferry Landing.  The weather was beautiful and the view of Manhattan from the Park was awesome!  It's a great place to snap pictures of the Manhattan skyline and the nearby Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge.  Brooklyn Bridge Park is also home to the newly restored Jane's Carousel.  Sitting along the Brooklyn waterfront, it's a great addition to the park with the carousel music playing and the pretty horses prancing about.

Jane's Carousel
All the pretty horses go 'round and 'round....
Keeping in mind our mission of exploring Brooklyn's pizza... nearing noon, we wandered just up the street to Grimaldi's, famous for their Neapolitan-style pizza.  You'd think going to Grimaldi's was cool enough, but what was even exponentially more awesome was walking right past the queue of people lined up outside waiting for the open and straight in to the tables reserved for Tony's group.  Yes that's right - as a guest of Tony you've got the VIP fastpass!  We each got 2 slices of regular pizza and a soft drink included in our tour.  Definitely go for the Olde Brooklyn sodas which come in glass bottles!  I've had Grimaldi's pizza before, and while the pizza was as good as always, this trip definitely upped the cool factor up a bit by skipping the line :).  The pizza is cooked in a brick oven so the crust has a lovely crunch to it, while the cheese is gooey.  So yum!

Grimaldi's Pizza
Olde Brooklyn Orange Soda