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.