Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year's Wish

Happy and delicious New Year to you!
I've been spending the remaining days of 2010 reading all about food trends - what's in and what's out. And while the pundits are praising this and that, here's my simple New Year's wish to all my food loving readers:


Take time to sit down and enjoy them with someone. Whether it's eating a family meal, or organizing potlucks with your co-workers or Skyping over cookies with your long distance partner, just do it. Breaking bread with others is such a powerful connector. Be curious about what you are eating and embrace variety. Food is one of life's greatest and essential pleasures. Dig in deep. Happy, healthy 2011 to all.

And thank you so much for sharing your time with KikaEats.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Welcome to Goat Town

Hello, Goat Town!
Oh, what a welcome awaits at Goat Town. The kind of welcome that lured me back two days in a row. That's how much I love this new East Village restaurant from Nicholas Morgenstern, of Brooklyn's The General Greene.

Where in the world did the name come from? Apparently, it's the wry literal translation of 'Gotham.'

Bright and sunny by day, warmly candlelit by night, it's the kind of neighborhood restaurant that is perfect for any meal. It's all in the detail. The dining room is beautiful and kudos to the design team, brothers Evan and Oliver Haslegrave,who transformed the former Butcher Bay space. A weathered copper bar, the coolest white tiled booths and arched tin ceiling compliment the open kitchen and raw oyster bar centerpiece. Fresh amaryllis are everywhere. Even the loo has style. Not to mention the eclectic tunes.

Artful French toast
The American bistro serves a classic but creative menu from chef Joel Hough (formerly of Cookshop). Brunch highlights include a N'Orleans scramble with tasso ham and oysters ($13), and a semolina raisin French toast with New York maple syrup ($12). Dinner entrees feature arctic char with caramelized cauliflower ($22) and haddock fish + chips ($18).

Beer + burger special - a killer deal
A steal is the happy hour beer and burger special ($14). A generous cheese burger comes brimming with crispy thick cut fries, pickled onion and a side of delicious homemade horseradish-garlic mayo.

Goat Town embraces yard-to-table eating. The empty back yard is being converted into a vegetable garden (they may add a farm table for dining too) and there are plans to butcher meat in house as well. Even the desserts are made on site. Just come by.

511 E. 5th St, between Avenues A + B. 212 687 3471

Goat Town on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Today's Secret Ingredient: Dried Mint

Everyone knows the refreshing taste and aroma of fresh mint. In the winter months, dried mint is especially useful and tasty in hearty soups. The heat releases the heady scent and flavor of the leaves. My favorite winter soup is my mother's red lentil with dried mint. Simple, delicious, and beautiful.

Selva's Red Lentil Soup

Flavorful dried mint
Serves 2-3

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup red lentils (Whole Foods sells in bulk), rinsed thoroughly
4 cups water
2-3 medium shredded carrots
juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon crushed dried mint (rub in palms to crush finely, removing any stalks)
salt to taste

In a 2-quart pan, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil til soft. Add rinsed and drained red lentils, water and shredded carrots. Stir. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, until thick. During last five minutes of cooking, add the lemon juice, cumin and dried mint. Add salt to taste. Puree if desired. Serve immediately. Suitable for freezing.

Red lentils

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Best Hot Chocolate in Soho

Extra thick hot chocolate

It’s a good thing French confectionery MarieBelle in Soho sells edible treats and not priceless baubles. Otherwise, I’d be broke. Everything looks like an elegant gem, beautifully packaged and irresistible. One item worth every luxurious calorie is the prepared hot chocolate (you can purchase the cocoa mix too). Served in the tiny back room Cacoa Bar + Tea Salon, it’s a guilty pleasure to experience away from the maddening Soho crowd this holiday season.  Sit down and indulge. While they offer half a dozen tempting options including mocha and spicy blend, go straight for the dark 70% cacao. A small cup ($6.50) is more than enough, and so rich you eat it with a spoon. How’s that for pure indulgence?

484 Broome St., between Wooster and W. Broadway, 212 925 6999

Treats galore

Monday, November 29, 2010

8 Tasty Reasons to Love Union Square Holiday Market

Crepes galore
A big pleasure in visiting an outdoor Christmas market is finding ways to stave off hunger. Shop and eat. Eat and shop. Repeat. The Union Square Holiday Market is now in full swing through Christmas Eve. And if you go hungry, you'll have at least eight ways to snack well.

Bar Suzette - The perfect excuse to indulge in a freshly made Nutella crepe ($5). Or in the mood for savory? Try the hoisin duck ($12) or ham + Swiss ($8).

Sigmund Pretzel Shop - The popular East Village shop offers a selection of freshly baked sweet and savory soft pretzels ($3). And a giant sized one for $6. They are delicious.
Ultimate sweet-salty chocolates
Nunu Chocolates - Handmade in Brooklyn using chocolate from Columbia. The hand-dipped salt caramels have developed a loyal following. Box of 4 for $7. For the beer lover on your list, try the Nunu six pack ($12) made with real brew.  

NibMor - Vegan, gluten-free, all natural and organic chocolate for the ultimate purist.
Don't forget to sample the truffles
No Chewing Allowed - A secret family recipe prevents these French sellers from disclosing the cocoa content of these tasty chocolate truffles from the Loire Valley. But free sampling lets you try before you buy. Just make sure you don't chew the morsels. Just let them melt in your mouth. Box of 25 truffles for $10.99. They as
also sell thick hot chocolate ($4) to double the choco fix.
Da Throwdown Wafel - enough said
Wafels & Dinges - Experience Da Throwdown Wafel ($6), the heavenly house specialty that beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay at his own TV challenge. Served with spekuloos (moreish creamed gingerbread spread - they gladly offer samples) and whipped cream. And if you can't live without the spekuloos afterwards, the jar is for sale ($7). If you only eat one thing at the market, this is definitely it.

Stuffed Artisan Cannolis - Hard to resist the pretty little cream filled pastries from this Lower East Side pastry shop. The liqueur-filled Mud Slide is the best seller, but why try only one?

Cereal + Milk
Milk Bar - A few cult favorites from the Momofuku line are for sale including either a slice ($5.25) or a full crack pie ($44), assorted cookies (six for $10) and even the cereal milk mix ($5). For David Chang fanatics, aprons and his cookbook are also on sale.

Market open daily from 11am - 8pm through Dec 24th.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Growlers and Good Times at Good Beer

The East Village block of E 9th St between A and First Aves. is hopping (no pun intended) these days with new foodie finds. Sandwiched between Whitmans, a favorite new burger joint, and Olivia Bistro, a pretty new Med eatery, sits two-week old craft beer shop aptly named Good Beer.

Affable owner David Cichowicz quit his job in publishing and opened the inviting retail shop-cum-gourmet hangout because he "loves beer." And it shows. Cichowicz aims to carry a selection of 900 ever-changing bottled beers. For now the store is brimming with 450 types including rare finds such as Tampa's Cigar City and McNeill's from Vermont. A dozen brews on tap ($6) rotate and currently include Hercules Double IPA, Hop Crisis IPA, and Dogfish Head Chicory Stout. Or taste a flight of 4 for $8.

Growlers and draught brews
Just as exciting is Good Beer's use of growlers. Thanks to Whole Foods and a few pioneering beer shops in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, 64-oz. growlers are slowly catching on in New York. Good Beer sells the eco-friendly glass jugs for $6.99. Or bring in your own to refill at no extra charge.

Cichowicz knows that beer tastes better with nibbles, so he's compiled a greatest hits menu of sweet and savory. All are organic, heritage and/or local. On the savory side, kielbasa - both spicy and cheddar filled, organic hot dogs, vegan sausage, various meat and cheese plates. There's even beef jerky to graze on. The sweet stuff at Good Beer comes with a twist - bacon buttercrunch toffee, hot rod pretzels dipped in chocolate and chili nuts, and beer corn - caramel popcorn studded with candied mustard seeds and pretzel bits. Nibbles and plates range from $3-$15. Good stuff.
Beer heaven

422 E 9th St, between Ave A and First Ave. Hours Mon-Sat, 11am-10pm; Sun, noon-7pm

Good Beer NYC on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Hype on Lotus of Siam

Tasty Nam Kao Tod Crispy Rice at Lotus of Siam

New restaurant hype is such a double-edged sword. Expectations are built up so high and tolerance for error is so low. Take the debut of Vegas-based Lotus of Siam, billed as the "single best Thai restaurant in North America" in Gourmet magazine.Talk about setting the bar high. It opened last week, so, drum roll, please...

It’s a letdown in so many ways. Just knowing it came from Vegas, I expected at least some glamour and wow factor. On the contrary, the corner space on Fifth Ave. at 9th St. is so sedate, it looks leftover from former restaurant Cru. The walls are mostly bare, the Italian china is floral and the rice is served in traditional bamboo baskets. It just doesn’t really gel. Neither does the pared down menu.

The starters sounded really exciting on paper, but not on the plate. A som thum traditional green papaya salad ($9) lacked texture and layered flavors. Only heat and soggy papaya taste came through. The pik khai kra pao krob ($8), crispy fried chicken wings in chili garlic sauce, were bland. The only starter that delivered full ,complex flavor was the nam kao tod crispy rice ($9), with bits of Thai sausage mingling with hot chilies, crunchy rice, peanuts, and red onion, in a ginger lime dressing. Moving on to the main course, the kang dang with beef ($18), traditional red curry with chilies and bamboo shoots, tasted completely average. The fancy prices don’t fit the unmemorable fare or the lackluster service. Apparently, they still serve the 6-course $65 tasting menu promoted opening week, but you have to ask for it as it’s not on the menu. Probably for the best.

24 Fifth Ave. at 9th St. 212 529 1700

Lotus of Siam NY on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Perfect Homemade Crumb Cake

Confession: I have a weakness for those boxed supermarket crumb cakes that have a shelf life of weeks. I don't buy them regularly but if one magically appeared before me, I would dive right in. I created an easy alternative to satisfy that sweet tooth and not make me feel guilty about putting loads of preservatives in my belly. And with a topping of chocolate chips, nuts, brown sugar and coconut, it tastes rich and amazing.

1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped nuts - walnuts or pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1 cup low fat sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Topping prep:

In a small bowl combine flour, brown sugar, and butter. Mix well with fingers or fork, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar. Add morsels, nuts and coconut and stir to blend well. Set aside.

Cake prep:

In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar and vanilla, mixing well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add the flour mixture alternatively with the sour cream. Fold into a 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter.

Bake 45-50 minutes and enjoy. Note cake freezes beautifully, wrapped tightly.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Winning Korean Fried Chicken in East Village

There's only one thing I love more than fried chicken...Korean fried chicken. The problem is I have yet to taste any in NY that rival the best of the best - a KFC temple called Crisp in Chicago. If you're ever in the Windy City, put it on your to do list. Rich, bold flavors. The meatiest, most succulent wings. Lip-smacking magic in your mouth.

But that doesn't mean NY can't serve up a great alternative. Turns out it's now here in the East Village at the new Mono + Mono restaurant. Owner MJ Chung has not only given the former Jeollado space a splashy new makeover, but he's also injected some clever personal touches - like his private collection of 30,000 jazz LPs that adorn the walls and rotate through the impressive sound system.

Now back to the food. Obviously go for their "Famous Korean Fried Chicken." Double fried means the fat melts away leaving a crunchy, paper-thin skin. Two sauce choices - a satisfying soy garlic or hot spicy  - give the juicy pieces a slick, sticky coating. My one let down was the pieces are small - small enough to single out. A 10-piece order ($16.95) includes two drumsticks and a mix of 8 petite drumettes and wing portions. The serving is accompanied by a refreshing side of traditional pickled daikon radish, and small corn salad. If you order the chicken, get the Mexican corn appetizer ($7.00), too. The hot grilled cob is smothered in just enough cotija cheese and paprika to make it sinfully delicious, and a great compliment to the chicken. The Mono + Mono salad ($8.95) is also a fresh and light prelude to the main event. Coated in a ginger dressing, succulent Asian pear, pickled beets, asparagus and smooth avocado give the spinach salad a satisfying zing.

The food was consistently delicious, service was excellent and the vibe is very East Village. What's not to love? Next time I'll grab a group or a hot date, and check out some of their sophisticated special rolls (our server said the Angry Salmon roll is to die for).

116 E 4th St. (between 1st + 2nd Aves.). Sun - Wed, 4pm - midnight and Thurs - Sat, 4pm - 2am.

Mono+Mono on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

London's Hottest Italian Gem

Weeks before my recent trip to London, my English foodie friend Emma gave me the heads up on Polpo, an Italian bacaro. Unanimous rave reviews. Amazing value. I must go.

Delicious selection of cicheti
Polpo means 'octopus' in Italian and I wish I had eight hands to wrap around all of the food on their exceptional tapas-styled Venetian menu. Located on popular Beak St. in the heart of Soho, it's about a year old. Polpo has just spawned a sister restaurant called Polpetto, also getting raves, and a third offspring is expected next spring. All in Soho.

Flank steak with porcini cream
The owners are on to a good thing. It's my idea of a perfect dinner spot - small, buzzy restaurant, impeccable tapas, beautiful people eating greedily...and offers great value. 

Oh, does Polpo deliver. There was a short wait for our table, made very civilized with a glass of Prosecco by the bar and a constant parade of the food to come. My friend and I could not stop ordering, not because we were still hungry, but because we wanted to taste everything - and it wouldn't break the bank.

Roast pumpkin, prosciutto + ricotta salata
The seasonal menu starts with two-bite cicheti such as arancini, decadent fried rice balls (£1.5), anchovy and chick pea crostini (£1), and fig, prosciutto + mint (£2).

A short but extremely appetizing selection of meat, fish and vegetable plates follows. 

Beetroot, rocket and walnut pesto
Our choices included the polpette, three savory meatballs in a rich tomato sauce (£5), a show-stopping roast pumpkin, prosciutto + ricotta salata (£6.5), and a perfectly grilled flank steak with porcini cream (£7.5). These plates was followed by a superb mackerel tartare with horseradish cream (£5.5), flavorful mozzarella, bobby beans + cobnuts (£6.5), and beetroot, rocket + walnut pesto (£5), among the best beets I've ever eaten.

Even the selection of fresh breads such as wild mushroom piadina (£5.5) should not be missed. Tapas portions are very generous and easily serve 2-3. Sadly, there was no room for dessert this time, but be assured next time, I will be savoring a slice of the chocolate salami (£2), maybe two. I can't wait to go back.

Note reservations accepted for lunch only. 41 Beak St. at Carnaby St., Soho. W1F 9SB

Polpo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The World's Greatest Food Market

Borough Market

London's Borough Market is one of my favorite food destinations in the world. And my visit last week reconfirmed why:

1. It's brimming with the best traditional British purveyors (exceptional international vendors too) - demonstrating why London's food scene is world class. Gorgeous pork pies, famous English produce, mouthwatering artisanal cheeses and traditional game. Classic Britain.

2. The maze-like setting oozes charm and history. It's located in the shadows of Southwalk Cathedral, and originally dates back to 1276. Go hungry and get lost in time.

3. Cool British films like "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," "Bridget Jones' s Diary," and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" were shot here. It just looks like a movie set.

4. The sights, smells, tastes and variety are out of this world. One stall in particular just sells French Comte cheese. That's it. And it's incredible. Then there's the famous cheese shop Neal's Yard Dairy. Take one whiff inside and you're floating in cheese heaven. Tasting is encouraged so take advantage of it. Vendors are excited to share their passion and knowledge.

5. Every corner holds an edible work of art. Even hanging rabbits and pheasants look like a still life masterpiece.

And if that's not enough....

Here are a few more mouthwatering reasons why it's unmissable:
A giant vat of Thai green curry

Fish and prawn wraps from Applebee's Fish Shop

Grilled chorizo sandwich from Tapas Brindisa


Anything from Roast To Go

Monday, October 18, 2010

Picking the Best Apples in the Hudson Valley

Garden of Eden?

It's one thing to buy your apples from a farmer's market. It's an entirely elevated experience to pick them yourself at an orchard in the glorious Hudson Valley. This weekend's visit to DuBois Farms in Highland, Ulster County, was such a treat. Plucking a ripe apple off an abundant tree is a sheer delight. They crunch and snap and explode with extra flavor when you pick them yourself. They just do.

The apple season at DuBois Farms runs daily through November 7th, but it's best to call ahead to make sure there are apples left. Current available varieties - all at .99/pound - include Fuji, Empire, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Lady. Rent an optional apple picker for $2 to catch the high growing fruit. Enjoy the weekend barbecues, pumpkin picking and tractor-pulled wagon rides. And don't leave without trying one of their freshly baked donuts.

DuBois Farms may never have existed. A few years ago it was an abandoned orchard, land targeted to be sold for development. Thankfully Dave and Jolee DuBois had a different vision when they bought it and transformed it into one of the most popular pick-your-own farms in the Hudson Valley.
Quick Apple Crisp Recipe Courtesy of DuBois Farms

Peel and slice 4-5 large apples into a baking dish. Sprinkle with a crumb topping of 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Tractor-pulled wagon gets you to and from the orchard

Fall bounty at DuBois Farms

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fonda Nolita Heats Up Taco Truck Wars

Taco + VW Combi = Tacombi
Dario Wolos knows how to one up the current food truck craze: bring it indoors. Not just the concept, the entire truck. The Monterrey, Mexico native recently moved to NYC to open Fonda Nolita. And brought his beloved vintage VW bus - dubbed Tacombi - along. Tacombi, a blending of 'taco' and retro Volkswagon model Combi, is his culinary brainchild, and since 2005, it's been one of three mobile taquerias he set up in seaside town Playa del Carmen.

Now in its new Nolita home, a transformed 2,100 sq. ft. former clothing store, the same chilled beach shack vibe is recreated indoors - down to the festive strings of lights, metal chess tables, and tropical plants. Oh, and the Tacombi sits in the center of it all, serving up fresh, tasty tacos day and night. The staff is charming, making chatting with the cooks part of the dining pleasure.

On a recent visit the seasonal taco menu (all at $4), included a flavorful short rib, generous roast pork with red cabbage, and corn and poblano, which could have used more kick. Ingredients are locally sourced, including the homemade salsas on each table. Locally brewed house brand beer (liquor license is pending) and sodas are also on offer. For breakfast tacos, try the chorizo/potato or cactus/poblano. It's a seductive little hangout, perfect for meeting up with friends (bring a deck of cards), lazing and grazing on tacos and beer for a few hours. As the weather only gets colder outside, there's comfort in knowing Fonda Nolita offers an endless summer inside.

267 Elizabeth St. below Houston. Open daily, 8am - 2am.

Tacombi at Fonda Nolita on Urbanspoon