Monday, December 04, 2006

Yummy Mole Poblano

What is that brown, rich, thick, chocolatey sauce surrounding the sunny side up eggs??? Looks a bit like chocolate, doesn't it? Well, it is in fact a complex type of mole (the Mexican version of a curry) called mole poblano, a specialty of the city of Puebla which is about an hour away from Mexico City. Although I wasn't able to visit Puebla on this trip, mole poblano is readily available in other parts as well. Half of fifty or so ingredients in this extraordinary mixture are different types of chile, but the most notable ingredient is - yes, you guessed right, chocolate!. If you're cringing this very moment and wondering what this concoction tastes like, well I'd be the first to encourage you to definitely try it. And for the record, it tastes like spicy chocolate, to me anyway. Does that help, or still hard to imagine? Definitely yummy though. As with most authentic Mexican dishes, the tortilla cannot be far behind. Under the eggs is a layer of ham stacked between two tortillas, so it makes for quite a filling meal.

Another dish that I normally have for breakfast is huevos rancheros, which is fried eggs on a tortilla with hot hot red salsa. And of course, the ever-present staple of Mexican cuisine and invariable accompaniment to egg dishes - frijoles or beans. In this case the beans are served up mashed, as shown on the left side of the picture. I have to admit that the spiciness was quite addictive, and I've developed a liking for ranchero-style meat entrees. If ever you are in need of a jolt, just order one of them - easy on the sauce though, or your mouth will feel like its on fire, or better yet just be sure to have a tall glass of water or soda at the ready.

So, the next time you visit your neighborhood Mexican resto (NOT Taco Bell, duh), scan the menu and take a chance on mole poblano dishes.

P.S. For NYC and area residents, a good place for mole poblano is Pio Maya (Taqueria Mexicana), on West 8th St. near 6th Ave. It's a tiny joint doing most take-out business and not much to look at, but great for cheap, authentic and filling Mexican food.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Let Your Fingers do the Grocery Shopping

Yes, online shopping has definitely become part of the mainstream - people spend billions of dollars without batting an eyelash on books, music, travel, clothing, toys, and other stuff, but how about this one? Groceries!! Pointing and clicking for fresh produce, meat, seafood, and dairy products sound unthinkable?! Not to me!

Lest I be accused of extreme sloth, let me point out that lugging grocery bags from the parking garage to the 33rd floor ain't my idea of a picnic. And there has been many a time when I wanted to clear out entire sections of Whole Foods, but alas, the prospect of carrying my purchases while walking to the PATH station and then up and down the stairs has been too daunting, thus I have to practice self-control and keep it to twelve or so items at a time. This in turn leads to more time and effort spent schlepping to Whole Foods or ShopRite, which gets annoying really fast especially when the lines at the checkout counters resemble that of popular rides at Six Flags.

There MUST be a better way. Thankfully enough, someone actually did something about it - in the from of Fresh Direct. This is the new way to shop for food - just point and click, and voila, it's delivered right to your door the next day! Isn't this the greatest thing since sliced bread? :-) The website itself is very conducive to shopping, with vivid pictures that are guaranteed to make you drool and detailed descriptions of the wide array of specialty foodstuffs available. Moreover, I love the wide selection of organic foods (trying to eat healthier) and some hard-to-find favorites, like fruit yogurt drinks in different flavors and super yummy coffee creamline milk (no bovine growth hormones!) from Ronnybrook Farm, and bottled peach oolong (Fair Trade certified, to boot) and mint tea (ah, nostalgic for the good ol' days in Morocco) offered by Honest Tea.

Not only that, Fresh Direct has enlisted Chef Terrance Brennan of the renowned Manhattan restaurants Picholine and Artisan to come up with ready-to-eat meals, some of which look quite mouth-watering. Surely my next order will include some of them, probably the shrimp romesco with paella rice and chorizo. Hmm...or make that the equally tempting but quite pricey boneless rack of lamb with goat cheese orzo and ratatouille...oh, life is full of tough decisions. Sorry, was that your stomach growling in hunger? ;-P

Ok, back to my initial Fresh Direct experience. The delivery person arrived at 8:15pm, way earlier than the designated delivery time frame of 10:30pm to midnight and wheeled in three huge boxes which I unpacked excitedly. In a few minutes, I became delirious at the sight of all the food, helped along by the sweet aroma of the organic Fair Trade Nicaraguan Segovia coffee (double certification, hooray) which I can't wait to try tomorrow morning. Been quite a while since I've been this excited to wake up on a workday. The only minor quibble I have are the cracked eggs (only one of the half-dozen survived intact), but serves me right for including them in the order at the last minute. Now, excuse me while I get started on these organic zero-trans fat guacamole chips and garlic cilantro salsa.

UPDATE: After completing the Fresh Direct first-order feedback survey, they gave me a $25 off coupon code on my next order, if placed within the next 2 weeks. FREE FOOD GALORE!!!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Chowtime @ Crema

It struck me as somewhat odd that I hadn't had much occasion to sample the delights of the cuisine south of the border, not counting sporadically treating myself to the #5 Chalupa combo at Taco Bell. I totally miss the gorditas!. Of course no one seriously thinks the talking chihuahua is selling real Mexican food, so I was glad that my Meetup brunch group recently had brunch at the hip restaurant Crema in Chelsea. As you can see, the sign outside its doors proudly declares that it was voted "#1 Best Mexican" by Citysearch.

Our group immediately took a liking to the bright interiors which gave a light, welcoming vibe. The predominant orange hue reminded me of the similarly-colored shirts I used to wear to work that attracted quite a lot of raised eyebrows. LOL. As most of us were starved, we ordered from the brunch menu immediately and eagerly sipped the mimosas while waiting for the food to arrive.

Finally, the food came, and I managed to hold off the urge to dig in immediately, and took a few snapshots - all in the name of research not only for the readers of this blog, but also for my upcoming trip to Mexico (you heard it here first!!).

Top left: Huevos motulenos, fried eggs over a tostada with black beans, turkey ham, avocado penela cheese and fresh salsa
Top right: Taquitos de Huevo Al Chile Guajillo, rolled flour tortillas filled with scrambled eggs and guajillo chile paste; beware, the sauce is hottttt
Bottom left: Tortitas de Elote Dulce, sweet corn flan fritters with goat cheese and rojas poblanas
Everyone's verdict was: not only do the dishes taste great, the presentation is quite enticing as well. A second visit to try the other brunch menu items is in order. For more details about Crema, check out their website here.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sugar Fix @ Pasticceria Bruno

THAT is one of the sumptuous, delectable desserts at Pasticceria Bruno on Bleecker St., the dulce de leche cheesecake. I stumbled upon this place when I went on the Walking and Eating Tour of Greenwich Village, and after seeing Pasticceria Bruno included in the book "New York's 50 Best Places to Enjoy Dessert", it was a no-brainer. I had to take one for the team and devour sweet pastries in the name of research.

Pasticceria Bruno, along with its sister establishment Bruno Bakery, is run by the award-winning Italian pastry chef Biagio Settepani. He was named one of the best pastry chefs back in 2000 by Pastry Art and Design magazine. Both places have the works - all sorts of pastries, tarts, cakes, cookies, bisotti, etc. to make your mouth drool and ensure that choosing would be a tough proposition.

Finally, after peering intently at the items within the display case for ages, decided on both the dulce de leche cheesecake and mango mousse. I found the former to be a little too sweet, while the latter was simply perfect and something I'd go back for. (No surprise here, since I love mangoes). Will surely try the cannoli, zupetta, sfogliatella, and other Italian specialties on my next visit.

To learn more about Pasticceria Bruno and Bruno bakery, check out their website. Make sure to click on the "Pastry Shop" option on the menu to see their wide selection of pastries.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Run, Don't Walk, to L'Ecole

Would you let an apprentice barber cut your hair? Or do you prefer to watch Broadway shows with the understudy substituting for a lead star? Not that it matters. If yes, then you'd be right at home at L'Ecole, the restaurant at the French Culinary Institute. If no, after having a 5-course dinner there, you'd no doubt be impressed by the creativity and taste of the menu selections. Finding out that the same dishes were prepared not by top New York chefs but rather students of the institute would just add to your amazement.

As you can see from the photos during a recent visit, the food looks absolutely delicious and actually is. At $40 (increased from $35 recently) for a 5-course meal which includes BOTH a fish and meat entree, it truly is an amazing bargain. And the portions are not bite-sized, as the case most often is in Manhattan's French restaurants.

It is pointless to discuss specific menus here, as not only are the menu selections different for the 6pm and 830pm seatings, but they also change everyday (so you can conceivably dine there for an entire week without eating the same dish twice), but for more information check out the L'Ecole website here

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

La Carte sans Prix

Devoted readers of this blog no doubt would already have checked out the "NY Times Food Critic's Blog" (under Links), but for those who haven't done so, this recent post titled Disappearing Ink makes for some very interesting reading, not only the actual entry itself but more so the 100+ readers who have weighed in.

In a nutshell, the issue raised is that of menus which DO NOT show the prices of the food items contained therein. Why on earth would anyone request such? Well, consider this: If you happen to be taking someone to dinner on a date, and for some reason do not wish her to see how much money you're throwing away on her in the hopes of getting...never mind. Personally, I would opt for the opposing tactic. LOL

Here is the link again to the blog post.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Those farmboys in Omaha

Decided to skip my scheduled Brazilian group dinner and dashed home to load the latest shipment of Omaha Steaks into my freezer, of which is attached a snapshot showing some of the $158 worth of beef. Yes, it's fair to say that I've become a fan of their juicy, tender and most importantly, affordable corn-fed beef (Yes, I am aware of how destructive this is to our planet, and of the merits of grass-fed, free-roaming cows uninjected with hormones).

They first came to my attention when my company, in a rare fit of good sense, decided to hand out Omaha Steaks gift certificates as a holiday gift, in lieu of those monstrous Harry & David fruit baskets that often just sat outside my apartment door for days, waiting for my arrival from some foreign country. Boy, those filet mignons were good! So decided to order some more - six 6oz sirloin steaks, to be specific. Threw in a key lime cheesecake as well to maximize the order value given the tiered shipping cost. Those were promptly devoured over a weekend.

That only meant one thing - time to ramp up the stakes and put that "Add to shopping cart" button to good use. Unleashing my carnivorous instincts (not that any attempt has ever been made to hide them), the following items were soon ordered and arrived within a few days inside a giant foam box filled with dry ice.

4 6oz filet mignons
4 8oz ribeye steaks
12 7oz top sirloin steaks

Heck, Omaha Steaks even threw in 6 hearty gourmet steak burgers, as some sort of summer grilling promotion. Now I only needed a grill to make that happen. Lamenting about this to my friend J., she suggested that I throw a party to consume all that meat, to which I replied, "Yeah, let's throw a burger-eating party and invite only 6 people". Seriously, what better time to go on the Atkins diet, now that the craze has died down and beef prices are sagging due to an oversupply caused by mad cow malady fears?

P.S. And yes, Omaha Steaks is based in Nebraska, and has been in the biz since 1917. Those folks must be doing something right. Check them out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Salsa is Hazardous to your Health

No, not the condiment - though that induces its fair share of burning throats and teary eyes. We're talking about salsa, as in burning up the dance floor while grooving to Latin beats. Don't quite see the connection? Let me explain.

For the past year, my Thursday nights have been reserved for salsa class in NoLita. (I wish I could say that my skills have progressed substantially, but my recent "demotion" from Intermediate to Pre-Intermediate class shows otherwise. Sigh. Another topic for another day). When the weather is nice or if I feel like it, I walk the mile and a quarter from the PATH station all the way to the dance studio, and inevitably pass by the numerous tempting restaurants, snack places, and food shops. (Two of them, Eileen's Cheesecake and Rice to Riches, were profiled in this blog previously).

Another of the unique snack places that has managed to entice me is Beard Papa, a Japanese chain offering ultra-creamy delicious out-of-this-world cream puffs (filled right before your eyes!!!), which took NYC by storm when it opened its first branch on the UWS back in 2003. Then, long lines snaked around the block for a taste of these heavenly ultra-creamy delicious out-of-this-world (did I mention this already?) cream puffs. Sadly, a bit out of the way for me, thus it was great that two branches have opened in Lower Manhattan - one in Astor Place and the other in the Village.

On the verge of hunger after an intense hour-long salsa workout plus the fact that I normally don't eat dinner beforehand, my defenses usually weaken and I surrender to the temptation of purchasing a half-dozen cream puffs (usually the regular flavor, but they also come in mango, strawberry, green tea, and others depending on the day of the week). Oh, the agony of holding the box in my hand as I wait for the train back home. As soon as the elevator dings on the 33rd floor, I rush out and once the door to the apartment shuts behind me, I rip open the box and shove a whole piece right inside my mouth (see pic in case you cannot visualize such barbaric behavior)and savor the sweet delight. Somehow a couple cream puffs usually lie untouched till next morning's breakfast. In a few cases, all six spend the night sleeping soundly inside my (rapidly expanding) belly - after all, the store recommends that the cream puffs be eaten within 24hours!. So much for all that salsa, walking, tennis and treadmill at the gym.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Walking & Eating Tour of Greenwich Village

This is a review of a 3-hour "Greenwich Village Food and Culture Tour" I took which visited several restaurants and food specialty stores in the neighborhood, with stops for delicious tastings along the way. Quite the must read for foodies, I have to say.

Due to copyright issues the full text of the article cannot be posted here, but click here to read the review on Associated Content.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Review: Masa (NYC) - 4 1/2 Oinks

Note: A longer version of this post appears in the Associated Content website. Click here to view

Restaurant: Masa
Location: NYC (UWS)
Cuisine: Japanese
Cost: Sky-high
Dress Code: none

Items Ordered: Masa has no menu. They only offer a $350 prix-fixe omakase menu, not including tax, tip nor drinks.


Yes, Masa's outrageous price begs the question, "Can any meal be worth that much?". In the guise of field research, your scribe snagged a reservation at the 10-seat counter (recommended for enjoying the experience rather than the dimly lit tables on the side) to find out if Masa has the game to back up his audacity.

The place has a spare, lightly furnished feel to it. The brown walls were somber, and didn't detract any attention from the star attraction: Masa and two of his acolytes who were center stage, with all the sushi and other ingredients ready at hand. Our front row seats gave us a great view of the performance (which is what it really is): how the sushi was sliced into thin strips, how the sauces and garnishings were carefully put in place, and even how real wasabi was ground up (most restaurants use the fake stuff - the taste is incomparable).

Things started off with six courses of appetizers which included clams, caviar, and blowfish prepared two different ways. (If not mistaken, this highly toxic fish which is prized as a delicacy in Japan causes instantaneous death if the chefs do not prepare it in the proper manner - ah, the hazards one must endure). Another notable appetizer was uni (sea urrchin) risotto, unfortunately the serving size was minimal. My personal favorite were the three pieces of hamachi (yellowtail) and two pieces of foie gras which were dipped in a boiling pot for the briefest of moments, and then dipped in sauce before putting into your mouth...quite superb.

The main course consisted simply of twenty pieces of sushi (I counted, and the chef confirmed it). The chef carefully prepared each one, put a small amount of soy sauce on the top, placed it in the plate in front of us, and then told us what type of fish it was. We were meant to eat it with our hands, no further dipping required. Each piece of sushi was of a different fish except for a few, for instance a raw sweet toro, and then cooked toro which was my favorite. Sea urchin sushi wrapped in leaves was another one that stood out.

Overall Rating: 4 1/2 Oinks (out of 5). Overall, a very unique experience with uniquely prepared appetizers and sushi. Highly recommended for sushi connoisseurs, those who want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and those with too much money.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Re-Inventing Rice Pudding

Regardless of whether you enjoy eating it or not, you'd have to agree that rice pudding ranks right up there as one of the most boring foods ever created. Good for a quick nutritious snack, most people (like me) just pick up tubs of Kozy Shack at their local supermarket whenever its put on sale.

Well, this being New York City, it comes as no surprise that someone has come up with a better mousetrap. Rice pudding has gotten a makeover, thanks to the folks at Rice to Riches ( As you've probably already guessed, they sell one thing and one thing only - rice pudding - but in 21 different flavors! Sounds like a silly concept, but judging from the crowds on both of my visits, it's all the rage.

First, the hip-looking storefront in Nolita with the cylindrical-shaped window allows great views into the brighly-lit and colorful store, attracting passersby to come in and sample the goods. They did a great marketing job as well, giving the different flavors fun-sounding names, ranging from the playful (Chocolate Chip Flirt) to the romantic (Take Me to Tiramisu) to the Jimi Hendrix throwback (Sex, Drugs, and Rocky Road). Moreover, the pudding is served on colorful (e.g. orange, green, etc) disposable cups that look straight out of the Ikea catalog.

On two separate visits, to the detriment of both my wallet and waistline, I tried four different flavors: Pistachio Protest, "Category 5" Caramel, Chocolate Chip Flirt, and Coast to Coast Cheesecake - and I had to admit all were pretty good. Among them, my favorite was the Pistachio Protest (but then I love pistachio ice cream). I asked the two baby boomers eating at the same communal counter what they were having, and they raved about the Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road (although they might just have been nostalgic about their youth LOL).

A few flavors as also available in take-out packs (see picture) - in case you don't want to consume all the sugar in one sitting - they make a really great breakfast (trust me) and makes you forget that at the end of day, what you're eating is just rice pudding.

Rice To Riches on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Update: Notes about Links and Upcoming Posts .

Hello readers,
Sorry I haven't posted much lately - delay is due to my pre-occupation with my other hobbies (salsa, going out, writing articles), studying up for an exam which was given earlier this afternoon, and I admit, a touch of laziness. Don't worry though - I have a couple of new discoveries (hint: two dessert places) that I will share soon, I'm just going back and sampling more of their offerings before making a full report - to the detriment of my waistline and finances.

Also in the works are reviews of 3-hour walking 'n eating tours: one in Greenwich Village which I went on last weekend, and another one of Chelsea/Meatpacking District that I'm joining this Saturday.

Please note that I added a new link (under Links) called "NY Times Food Critic's Blog". In addition to the weekly restaurant reviews in the Times' Wednesday Dining section, Frank Bruni also shares his thoughts on several issues related to the restaurant industry on his blog. His posts are enjoyable and interesting reads, especially the one when he samples the culinary (and visual) delights at Hooters :-).

Please leave your comments or email me

Monday, February 27, 2006

Do You Want Learn Chinese or Lotto Numbers with your Fortune?

Not really big on purchasing food online, unless the day comes when you can have KFC fried chicken delivered to your door within an hour of keying in an online order. However, in the course of surfing other peoples' blogs (most of them woeful), I stumbled upon this site which provided such a laugh-out-loud moment that I am compelled to share it with everyone.

I came across Cookie HQ by accident, an online purveyor of all kinds of cookies you can send to your loved ones on any occasion imaginable (in fact, their motto is "Cookie Gifts for Life's Occasions"). But what really put me in hysterics was the section "Giant Fortune Cookies" - they offer around 30 varieties of beautifully decorated fortune cookies which weigh just under 1 pound and are almost the size of a football (refer to pic of the M&M Madness). At $27.95 each, these are somewhat pricey, but hey - can you name a more imaginative, unique and quirky food gift item around? It cannot be determined though if the cookies came with that thin strip of paper holding a cliched fortune.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Cookie HQ, nor have I ordered any of their items. Thus I cannot attest to the quality, flavor and freshness of their products.

Please leave your comments or email me

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Review: Minado - 3 1/2 Oinks

Restaurant: Minado
Location: Morris Plains, NJ; Little Ferry, NJ; NYC
Cuisine: Japanese
Cost: Moderate ($16.50 lunch/$27 dinner buffet - weekend prices)

Items Ordered: eat-all-you-can buffet

Comments: Struggling to load a barely used treadmill into a U-Haul truck on a Saturday morning was not my idea of fun. However, once we had finished loading the remaining pieces of furniture, one of the hungry guys suggested having a big lunch at Minado (Morris Plains), a much-talked about chain of Japanese buffet restaurants.

Had heard of Minado from different sets of friends who've tried the branches in Little Ferry (always mobbed) and NYC, and feedback had generally been positive. The branch at Morris Plains was huge and packed with mostly Asian clientele who came not only for the sushi, but also a wide range of hot Japanese dishes. Also counted ten different types of salad, of which I tried and liked two: soba salad and ceviche salad (very spicy!). Sushi wise, among the highlights of the varieties I sampled were the inari roll (sweet tofu with rice filling), salmon skill roll, volcano roll (hard to decipher what's inside but delicious), and crispy salmon roll (ate 6 pieces). One of the special rolls, seafood volcano, was liked by several members of our group but the taste wasn't to my liking.

After we stuffed our faces, it was tempting to take a nap but we remembered we had a truck to drive to the new house and unload stuff from.

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 Oinks (out of 5). A good choice for indulging your Japanese food craving. Quality of sushi is good, nothing great. Do not eat for 24 hours prior to your visit (jk).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dessert Favorite: Payard's Patisserie (NYC)

Pictured is the Chinon, one of the delicious signature pastries found at Payard's Patisserie on Lexington Ave., between 73rd and 74th St. After lunch at Orasy, we decided to take a brief stroll around the neighborhood, and as the snow started to fall, Payard's was the place that came to find for refuge. As usual, it was packed with early-afternoon snackers who've heard of this place's reputation for finely made desserts.

The Chinon, according to, is made of pistachio dacquoise, with wild cherries on a chocolate wafer. Sounds fancy? It damned well tasted great. Pistachio and cherry combination is a must-try for everyone who has a sweet tooth. Despite my expanding waistline, I also ordered the Japonais (milk chocolate mousse, yuzu citrus cream, and sacher biscuit) - initially while munching on the outer edges of the Japonais I thought it was too "chocolatey", but when I got nearer to the core it was totally different! The citrus flavor provided a perfect complement to the sweet mousse, and the taste was quite heavenly, a verdict shared by my two friends.

With the display cases containing a multitude of tempting desserts, and the pictures on the menu all looking so delectable, it was hard to make a decision on which pastries to choose. Perhaps repeated visits have to be made to sample the full range of offerings at Payard's. In the meantime I shall content myself with drooling over their website's pics.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Review: Orsay (NYC) - 4 Oinks

Restaurant: Orsay
Location: NYC (UES)
Cuisine: French
Cost: Moderate

Items Ordered: escargot, petatou, hanger steak, tuna belly

Comments: My friends decided to treat me to a birthday lunch and suggested this neighborhood brasserie. The escargots with garlic and parsley butter were delicious, as the case was also with the other appetizer, petatou. This is a mixture of warm potato and goat cheese - a little bit heavy due to the portion size and cheese. I had never tried nor heard of it before, but ordered it because the menu highlighted it as a "Chef's Suggestion". An adventurous choice that turned out pretty well.

The tuna belly was wrapped in bacon and came with bordelaise sauce. Again, a "Chef's Suggestion" that proved to be on the mark. The frites that came with the hanger steak were soggy.

Overall Rating: 4 Oinks (out of 5). A solid choice for French cuisine in a classic brasserie. A return visit is planned to sample other intriguing dishes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Filipino Food Favorite: Perlas (Queens)

Got a text message from J., asking if I wanted to go to Perlas for lunch. He hadn't had Filipino food in a while - given last week's crazy eat outings at Bouley, Nobu, JoJo, and Masa, I agreed that a return to some native food was in order so we decided to meet up there, along with R.

"Perlas" is actually Perlas ng Silangan (Pearl of the Orient), one of the better and more authentic Filipino restaurants in NYC. It is located right under the elevated #7 line in Queens, on the block where all the businesses seem to cater to the needs of expatriate Flips, including a bank branch for remittances, air cargo delivery for those sending home huge boxes containing assorted "imported" goods, a mini-grocery to buy Chippy and Clover Chips, and a few restaurants (five, at latest count) satisfying the cravings for high-cholesterol dishes the way we remember and want them.

We actually like schlepping all the way out to Queens just for the food - we ordered our usual favorites - crispy pata, chicharon bulaklak, sisig, and ginisang mungo with chicharon. (Sorry, am unsure about English translations). Crispy pata (Pig's legs?) was tender and succulent, the deep fried skin was to die for. Sisig (pig's ears?) is always something I personally crave for, and it is consistently well-done here. After an extended pig out session (literally, as all our dishes contained pork), thought of having some special halo-halo for dessert, but I simply would've exploded right on the spot (or at least, my pant buttons would have).

Another positive for Perlas are the relatively reasonable prices. Total damage came to around $13/pax. Best to go with a group to sample different dishes and indulge yourself in the artery-clogging Philippine cuisine.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cheap Eats: New Pasteur (NYC)

Restaurant: New Pasteur
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Location: Baxter St. (Chinatown)

Along with its neighbors Nha Trang and Thai Son, these are a formidable trio of cheap yet filling restaurants on Baxter St. across from the courthouse.

The place is quite small, and nondescript. Ambiance is non-existent. Service is extremely efficient. The few times I have dined here, the food has always been excellent and remarkable for such a low price (rice dishes are roughly $4-5, huge bowls of pho around $4.50). The last time I had "Com Suon Bi Cha" (barbequed pork chop and shredded pork, steamed egg with white rice) which was a wee bit more expensive at $5.75 but a very satisfying meal (especially for someone starving after burning off calories in a salsa class). The curry shrimp ("Com Tom Xao Cary") is very spicy.

A dessert worth trying is Rainbow Ice, a sweet mixture of three kinds of beans and milk. Hard to beat New Pasteur when dining on the cheap, as tons of jury duty hopefuls have found out.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Dessert Favorite: Eileen's Special Cheesecake (NYC)

Behind that unassuming little storefront in NoLita, Eileen's Special Cheesecake serves one of the best cheesecakes in NYC (Veniero's and Juniors are no match!!). I first tried their plain cheesecake and blueberry mouse tart, and those were simply amazing. Since then I've been recommending the place and bringing my friends over there to sample some of their heavenly selections. Luckily, the studio where I take salsa classes is literally across the street from Eileen's, so after burning off those calories I head over and put them on again! LOL.

For out-of-towners, or those wanting to share with their friends, Eileen's also sends cheesecake via overnight express to anywhere in the US. You can check out pictures of their delectable cheesecakes at their website,, as well as ordering and shipping information.

Also, Eileen's has been voted as one of the "Top 50 Places to Enjoy Dessert" in the city, so it's safe to say that it's ideal for pigging out in NYC.

Eileen's Special Cheesecake on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Review: Nobu (NYC) - 4 1/2 Oinks

Restaurant: Nobu
Location: NYC (Tribeca)
Cuisine: Japanese-Peruvian
Cost: Very Expensive
Dress Code: none

Items Ordered: Since this was our first time at Nobu but had heard so much about the restaurant, we opted for the 8-course omakase menu ($120) to be able to sample a few signature dishes.


A few years ago, Nobu was one of the hip restaurants which helped put Tribeca on the restaurant map and developed a reputation as a celebrity hangout. These days, the dining crowd is more mainstream - divided among couples on date, families with young children, star searching tourists - but the food has remained top notch.

The tasting menu comprised these items, with some comments alongside the notable dishes:

a) salmon tartar with caviar dipped in wasabi sauce
- strong wasabi flavor accentuates but doesn't overwhelm the salmon, it was fun drinking the sauce on its own once you get used to the taste
b) kumamoto oysters with soy and ginger
- fresh, refreshing after taste
c) yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno and greens
d) black cod with foie gras
- simply excellent!
e) striped bass tiradito style
f) miso soup with clams
g) 5 pcs assorted sushi
- nothing extraordinary, I suspect this is meant to fill up the diner's stomach
h) warm Valrhona chocolate souffle cake with ice cream
- the best dessert I've tasted this year, worth coming back just for this

With most of the dishes unique and delicious, it was hard to pick a favorite but if pressed, I would go with both the black cod/foie gras and kumamoto oysters. Portions were Japanese-sized (euphemism for tiny), but at the end of the meal our stomachs were full. Service, as expected, was prompt and courteous.

Overall Rating: 4 1/2 Oinks (out of 5). Overall, a very good experience. Food is first-rate. Definitely will come back as budget allows.

Nobu on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 30, 2006

Review: Mr. Tang (NYC) - 3 1/2 Oinks

Restaurant: Mr. Tang
Location: NYC (Chinatown)
Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: Cheap
Dress Code: none

Items Ordered: An 8-course lauriat was ordered for Chinese New Year celebration. Dishes include fish maw with crab meat soup, Peking duck, beef with curry sauce, salted fish fried rice, Buddha's delight, steamed sea bass, sauteed mixed vegetables.


The highlight was definitely the succulent Peking duck. A second plate was ordered to satisfy everyone's craving. The sauteed vegetables were popular as well (although I didn't touch it), and though swimming in oil it wasn't as heavy as it looked. I personally loved the beef and ate most of it, as well as the salted fish fried rice. Fish was ok, looked somewhat smaller than usual. The Buddha's Delight for some reason still not fully explained (unless you count, "the chef forgot") did not contain tofu.
"Service - fast and curt, when you could get their attention".

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 Oinks (out of 5). Overall, a satisfying, filling, reasonably priced meal to bring in the Year of the Dog.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Review: Bouley (NYC) - 4 Oinks

Restaurant: Bouley
Location: NYC (Tribeca)
Cuisine: French
Cost: Very Expensive
Dress Code: Business Casual (lunch), Formal (dinner)

Items Ordered: Since this was our first and perhaps only time to dine at a top end restaurant by David Bouley, we opted for the 4-course lunch tasting menu ($48) to be able to sample a few signature dishes.


Service staff were formally dressed, gracious and well-trained, as can be expected from an establishment of this caliber. At times it seemed like there were too many of them, since we had numerous servers bringing the food or taking away the dishes from the last course. Perhaps that's the reason why the price of admission is steep.

While not distinctive from the outside, the aroma of apples in the tunnel leading to the entrance of the restaurant provides a nice welcome into the uniquely designed interior. The walls and curved ceiling were painted dark red, and the effect was somewhat similar to dining in a fancy cave.

My tasting menu selections were as follows (to the best of recollection):

a) sashimi quality tuna
b) salmon with orange sauce
c) slices of duck
d) warm pineapple meringue

I liked most of the dishes, especially the excellent medium rare duck. On the other hand, the salmon was so-so and the orange sauce overwhelmed the fish. The portions were a bit small, and were devoured almost instantaneously. Bouley also has a nice assortment of bread which are rolled out in a cart to your table - I tried the pistashio bread which was quite tasty.

Overall Rating: 4 Oinks (out of 5). Overall, a good upscale dining experience at a high price. Probably will come back on a date or special occasion.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Review: Lounge 11 (Hoboken) - 3 Oinks

Restaurant: Lounge 11
Location: Hoboken, NJ
Cuisine: Italian
Cost: Moderate
Dress Code: Business Casual

Items Ordered: fried calamari, chicken francaise, vanilla gelato

Comments: This place is more of a bar, with several tables added in for diners. At the back there is a lounge where a DJ plays live music starting at 10pm or so. It surprised several Hoboken natives in our group that the place serves dinner at all, and it came even more of surprise to the organizer that there were quite a number of diners at 730pm, since according to him, "the place is usually dead". Guess Restaurant Week helped in drawing a bit of a crowd.

The fried calamari appetizer lacked flavor. The chicken francaise was well-executed but fairly standard. The waiters weren't well-trained either, as they kept asking which dish was ordered by whom as they were brought to the table.

Overall Rating: 3 Oinks (out of 5). Nice bar/lounge with yuppie crowd, but don't come for the food. Service could use some improvement.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Review: City Lobster (NYC) - 3 Oinks

Restaurant: City Lobster
Location: NYC (Midtown)
Cuisine: Seafood
Cost: Expensive
Dress Code: Business Casual

Items Ordered: lobster bisque, tuna carpaccio, pan fried lobster, key lime pie

Comments: We went to City Lobster two years ago for Restaurant Week and loved it, so we decided to come back and order pretty much the same food items (their Resto Week menus seemed to stay the same). Lobster was good but a bit dry and ultimately disappointing due to our great experience in the past, and I've certainly had much better lobster in Roatan (Honduras) recently. The lobster bisque was well=liked by all, and I enjoyed the tuna carpaccio as well. Dessert was disappointing - key lime pie didn't have the same sharp, tangy flavor but tasted more like custard.

Overall Rating: 3 Oinks (out of 5). Nice atmosphere, but food not as good as before.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Review: Oddfellows (Jersey City) - 3 Oinks

Restaurant: Oddfellows
Location: Jersey City, NJ
Cuisine: American (Cajun)
Cost: Entrees between $11-18
Dress Code: Casual

Items Ordered: chicken fingers, blackened codfish, warm bread pudding

Comments: Couldn't resist trying this spot for Restaurant Week. There are bars on two levels as well, and a big dining area. Chicken fingers were hot and crunchy. Blackened codfish was ok, the salsa topping was very tasty though. The side of beans reminded me of canned pork n beans from childhood. Maxine had cinnamon cheesecake for dessert, which didn't taste anything remotely like cheesecake. My bread pudding was good, even if I don't like raisins.

Overall Rating: 3 Oinks (out of 5). Nice after work hangout. Food is pretty standard.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Review: Kwan Thai (Pearl River) - 4 Oinks

Restaurant: Kwan Thai
Location: Pearl River, NY
Cuisine: Thai
Cost: Entrees between $7-$10
Dress Code: Casual

Items Ordered: tom kha gai, chicken curry with crispy noodles

Comments: Was brought here by colleague who raved about the place. Food lived up to its billing - tom kha gai soup was EXTREMELY spicy, causing me to break out in a sweat (in winter time!). Chicken curry was good too, portions were more than adequate. Everyone liked their dishes, one colleague said that the pad thai noodles were one of her best meals in a while. Soda is a bit expensive ($2) but they give you a huge glass (not a can) which comes in handy as you try to extinguish the flames inside your mouth. Place is a bit drab, but the great food and friendly service make up for it.

Overall Rating: 4 Oinks (out of 5). Recommended for cheap filling lunch specials. Sure to become a favorite being close to work.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Life is Easy with Online Reservations

Hopefully after checking out (talked about in previous post), you've already decided which restaurant to visit, when to dine out and who your companion will be. Now, for the hard part - making reservations.

In the past, one would need to look up the restaurant's phone number either in the Yellow Pages or by doing a search on Google, and then trying to get through to the reservations line. But if you're someone like me who dreads talking to strangers on the phone, or making repeated calls and getting a busy signal, now there exists a better alternative. A new website called Open Table offers the ability to make free, instant online reservations to over 4,000 participating restaurants all over the United States.

The way it works is simple. Just select a restaurant and date/time, and the number of diners, and availability (or lack thereof) is instantly displayed onscreen. If you decide to make a reservation, it will be instantly confirmed and stored in the restaurant's reservation system. Can't get easier than that. In the event that your plans change, cancelling or modifying your reservation is also a snap. Needless to say, I've found this site to be very handy in making Restaurant Week reservations!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Manhattan Restaurant Menu Sneak Peek

Let's say you wanted to dine out on a special occasion, like a anniversary, birthday, and the like. Or maybe you want to impress a client and wanted to take him to a high end restaurant. So you're thinking, "Wonder how much it would cost? And what entrees do they serve? Do they have vegetarian options?".

Well, if the restaurant of your choice happens to be in Manhattan, one of the most diverse dining capitals of the world, then you are in luck. One of the most invaluable resources I've discovered is MenuPages, which lists the menus of over 4500 (and counting) restaurants in that part of NYC. Moreover, you can search for restaurants by neighborhood and cuisine. For avid foodies, there is also an "Advanced Search" option which will surely hook you up with the right matches.

Probably the most useful feature is the ability to read customer ratings in four categories: food, service, value and atmosphere, as well as the essay reviews. Sometimes the conflicting reviews adds to the fun (and uncertainty), but in most cases it is worth the trouble to find out what feedback other diners have written.

To check out Menupages, click here. Happy pigging out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Review: Sushi House (Hoboken) - 4 Oinks

Restaurant: Sushi House
Location: Hoboken, NJ
Cuisine: Japanese
Cost: Moderate (Entrees from $11-$18), sushi/sashimi prices reasonable
Liquor: BYOB
Dress Code: Casual

Items Ordered: salmon sushi, spicy salmon roll, tempura roll, miso soup, fried green tea ice cream

Comments: Miso soup was delicious, with a more pronounced flavor than other restaurants. Sushi was fresh and delicious, and portions were generous. Spicy salmon roll a bit too spicy. Service was speedy and courteous. Highly recommended is the fried ice cream which comes in two flavors: green tea and red bean.

Overall Rating: 4 Oinks (out of 5). Recommended for delicious, reasonably priced sushi.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hudson Restaurant Week

Well, after years of being overshadowed by NYC, the restaurants by the waterfront in New Jersey decided to get into the act and hold their own Hudson Restaurant Week. This two week festival is held on the same weeks as its NYC counterpart, on the weekdays of Jan 3 - Feb 3 (coincidence? I think not).

So, for those who get sick at the mere thought of schlepping into the city for great eats, you might want to check out the list of participating restaurants here. With some of them literally a couple minutes walk from my doorstep, I'm simply salivating!!! Any reviews you wish to share will be welcomed, so go out there and pig out!

NYC Winter Restaurant Week is here

As in years past, New York's finest restaurants are serving up three-course prix-fixe lunches and dinners at a fairly reasonable (all things considered) price for TWO WEEKS ONLY (Jan 23 - 27, Jan 30 - Feb 3) this winter. Yes, prices have gone up: $24.07 for lunch, $35 for dinner - not including beverages, taxes and tips. The good news is that it still affords us unwashed masses probably our only chance to sample the cuisine at these fine establishments without breaking the bank.

Click here for a full list of participating restaurants. I personally am looking forward to it, and trying to get friends together for some delicious meals. What's great is that reservations can be made online at Open Table, though not for all participating restaurants. Among the restaurants I've tried in the past are Compass, Django, City Lobster, Inagiku, and Aureole. Most have been pretty good, some border on amazing. So take a look at the list, make those reservations, and let's pig out at the NYC Restaurant Week!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Welcome to Pig Out NYC!

The inspiration for this blog comes from my brother's upcoming visit to NYC later this month. In preparation for his arrival, we have been exchanging emails to plan our culinary adventures at some of the city's top restaurants, and excitedly making the reservations. So while driving home today, I thought, "I should create a blog about this". A few moments later, it struck me: I should create a blog not only about the pigging out that will occur during his 4 days here, but about ALL of my interesting food experiences. And not only mine, but also my friends', some of whom eat out way more often than I do, surrounded as they are by numerous temptations.

So this blog will mostly chronicle my eating adventures, and thus contain restaurant reviews and recommendations. About good and bad experiences, in cheap hole-in-the-walls and upscale jacket-required restaurants alike. Mostly in NYC, some in Jersey. And some from wherever destination I travel to. Contributions from my friends stuffing themselves will be featured as well. So without further ado, grab your forks and let's eat!