Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Amé Amé: A Shop for Gumdrops and Raindrops

Singing in the rain
Good candy can make any day sunny. That's the philosophy Teresa Soroka stands by with Amé Amé, her new 9th Street East Village shop specializing in stylish rain gear and candy.
Tempting citrus jellies
Yes, candy. You see 'amé' in Japanese means both rain and candy. And if your wildest dream were to have the skies rain with candy, Amé Amé would be a good first start. Soroka came up with the idea while spending her teen years in Japan, as well as growing up in rain soaked Washington state.

Rows of softly backlit sweets from around the world are displayed in old fashioned glass jars. Licorice lovers: Soroka stocks hard to find varieties from Finland, Denmark and Holland. There's Dutch salty licorice, jelly licorice pretzels and even adorable shapes for the pet lover - black and red licorice beagles and kitty cats!

If you're feeling patriotic, there are green apple army men, military gummies, and friendly jet fighters made in the U.S of A.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
From England, how about chocolate coconut mushrooms, Jelly Babies or pink piggies? Or Hi Chews, the Starbursts of Japan? Mini cola pandas v. milk chocolate gummi bears? And if you're going local, she stocks Brooklyn's popular Nunu chocolates and ChristinEats gourmet caramels in heavenly pumpkin or sea salt.

And with Christmas around the corner, surely I'm not the only one thinking these make genius stocking stuffers. That includes the adorable rain accessories. Candy is $2.75 per 1/4 lb. Mixing is encouraged.

318 E. 9th St.
Between First + Second Aves.
646 867 2342

Monday, November 21, 2011

B.A.D. Burger: EVill's New 24-hr Breakfast Diner

Breakfast day or night on Ave A

It's finally here (said with a naughty grin).

A gut-busting menu of double patty burgers, big breakfasts, creamy milkshakes, and homemade desserts all available 24/7. Eat in or delivery. And free WiFi. That's the beauty - and  danger - of B.A.D. (breakfast all day) Burger, the new East Village outpost of the Williamsburg original.

After months of delays, doors opened last week.

A genial staff is eager to please and acknowledges there are kinks to work through in the opening weeks. The dining room is just as cheery as the team. Tunes, bright red benches, and b/w checkerboard tiles keep the vibe fun.

Shroom burger
So how's the food? It's a work in progress. The good news is the beef. Kobe beef ground in house yields quality, flavorful patties. The Shroom burger ($10), two 4-oz beef patties (or one 8-oz) topped with a portobello mushroom and creamy peppercorn sauce, works. But the Signature BAD with chimichurri sauce and jack cheese ($8) could stand to lose the cheese entirely.

Tasty pickle chips with chipotle mayo
We realized after the fact that lettuce, tomato and onions are available on demand only. But it would help if the servers offered them upfront.

The limp hand-cut fries needed another minute in the fryer. And the buns are on the soft, squishy side, not ideal for holding up a big burger. Pickle chips ($6), on the other hand, are perfectly fried morsels of battered goodness.

I applaud the easy-on-the-wallet prices. And the wide selection of vegan and gluten free options. And even the 18 homemade dipping sauces for a buck apiece, especially the mango chutney, a gingery blend that perks up the fries.
Coconut cake (b) and Red Velvet cake (f)

If you've left room for dessert, you'll have a full selection of fresh cakes, pies, sundaes, and even a choco-banana chimichanga to pad the waistline. Go ahead. You know you want to. The creamy coconut cake ($4) was moist; the Red Velvet cake ($4) was dry.

In a few weeks, I'm sure B.A.D. will have found its groove (a wine and beer license is on the way too). Cause I'm coming back for some apple, walnut, cinnamon pancakes.

171 Ave A
Between 10th + 11th Sts.
212 477 7727

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Miss Lily's Escape to Jamaica for Lunch

Try a jerk pork burger today. Yeah mon.

Miss Lily's is now open for lunch. That's good news if you want to avoid the hoards of beautiful people cramming in at night. And just want an escapist mid-day break to the islands. You will be transported. You will be well fed. You will leave recharged, maybe with a little reggae sway in your step.

It's hard not to be seduced by Serge Becker's (La Esquina, The Box) latest red-hot venture in the Village. Yes, the staff is beautiful in the diner-cum-bar, but so is the food. Truth be told, we went in prepared to try the signature jerk chicken, but got swayed by the Other White Meat. The jerk pork burger ($13), aromatic with allspice, was just excellent. The juicy, spicy patty is made even tastier with pickled onions, creamy avocado and mango chutney. A standout NY burger for sure.

A chilled afternoon
Wash it all down with a bottle of Ting, an all natural soda made with 100% Jamaican grapefruit.

Jerk chicken next time. Or maybe oxtail stew. Hmmm, curry lobster roll, anyone?

132 W. Houston
Between Sullivan + MacDougal Sts.
646 588 5375

Miss Lily's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ultimate Fusion Food: Korean-Uzbek in Brighton Beach

Braised meat-filled cabbage
Once a month I join fellow food blogger Yoshie Okabayashi and her hungry band of Ramen + Friends eaters to scour the boroughs in search of killer Asian cheap eats to experience together. Typical stops include Flushing, Elmhurst, and Chinatown. Today is a first in Brighton Beach for Korean-Uzbek-Russian food at Cafe At Your Mother-In-Law. 

Selection of Korean salads
Brighton Beach has long been one of my favorite foodie destinations for the afternoon. Now dining at the Cafe is one more reason to go. It's just steps off of Brighton Beach Ave., the main street lined with delectable gourmet shops.

The dining room is bright and clean but sparse. You go for the food. Owner Elza Kan is Korean from Uzbekistan, a minority population brought to the country by Stalin. So borscht and savory blinis share the menu with an assortment of kimchi. Actually the Korean styled pickled salads are well worth trying. Our salad samplings ($3.49 - $7.99/lb) included a delicious eggplant hye, Korean carrot, soybean sprouts, and something called fish hye, a fermented raw tilapia in a vinegar, garlic, and chili sauce. I ate the entire bowl myself. They sell the salads in to-go containers, too, in case you need to take some home.

Classic Uzbek plov
On the Russian-Uzbek side, the plov ($6.50), lamb chunks cooked in seasoned rice, was hearty and rich. The lamb-stuffed cabbage rolls ($4.99) were tasty. And you can wash it all down with a pitcher of compot ($5), a stewed fruit juice. If that proves too sweet, you can always buy a can of 99 cent Ukranian lager around the corner and bring it in. It's BYOB.

Delicious fish hye
Before you leave the neighborhood, be sure to hit Brighton Beach Ave., to stock up on some gourmet goodies. Vintage Food Corp is a must for bulk dried fruits and nuts of every kind. Definitely end the afternoon with a giant mak, the famous Russian poppy seed sweet roll ($1.25), from nearby Gold Label Deli. Look for the woman selling them from the store's bakery window. Fresh from the oven, it makes for one happy ending.

3071 Brighton 4th Street
between Brighton Beach Ave. + Oceanview Ave.

Elza's Fancy Food on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Best $10 Meal Deliveries in the East Village

A shish kebob feast from Cafe Rakka

Memo to my East Village Neighbors:

Feeling the autumn night blues yet? It's colder and darker. You're suddenly hungrier and just want to stay in for the evening.

While there's no lack of places that deliver in the East Village, it's easy to fall into two traps: draining the food budget or delivery burnout from the same place.

Last fall New York magazine ran an article on the best food deliveries in each neighborhood and the EV was woefully underrepresented. Mom + pop shops are everywhere and some offer outstanding value and deliciousness (that's a real word) at under $10 a pop.

Here are some worth dialing up:

Pernil asado complete with crackling from Gena's Grill
Gena's Grill - I overlooked tiny Gena's for an entire year before stepping inside. Now I go weekly. It's Latin home cooking, and the ladies at Gena's serve it up with a big smile. I recommend take out as they show you the daily specials. Sizes come in small (plenty for one) or large. The pernil asado (roast pork; $6.45) is a favorite. Tender, flavorful hunks and a portion of crackling. Meals include beans of the day and rice.The seasoned roast chicken with sides is a mere $5. A small counter seats five if you can't wait to take dinner home. 210 First Ave.

Cafe Rakka - With two EV locations, it's an authentic standby when craving Middle Eastern. The Egyptian team turns out top-notch shish kebabs grilled to order. The smokey babaganoush is luscious. And the mujadarra (lentils and rice) is better than my mom's. Platters - meat or vegetarian - are generous and come with warm pita. Even the falafel ($3.50) and chicken kebob ($5.50) sandwiches are deliciously filling. Make sure you ask for hot sauce and white sauce on any meal. A feast. 81 St Marks Pl, and 38 Ave B

Oink if you love pastrami from This Little Piggy
This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef - The roast beef is delicious but the pastrami sandwich ($9.50) is the bomb. Sandwiches are piled with soft, juicy slices of beef, coated in a thick spice rub, and topped with creamy slaw and spicy brown mustard. Might as well go whole hog and add a chocolate suicide ($4.50) to the order. 149 First Ave.

Peruvian chicken from Senor Pollo
Senor Pollo - It looks like a very clean fast food joint but tastes so much better. If you're a fan of crispy skinned Peruvian rotisserie chicken (the bird is all natural and hormone and steroid-free), you'll be satisfied diving into the quarter chicken with two sides ($7.50; half chicken at $9.50). Thirteen side options include creamy mashed potatoes with spinach, quinoa, and fried yuca. Orders come with two homemade sauces on the side including a garlicky chimichurri and Peruvian hot sauce. 221 First Ave.

Tallgrass Burger - Organic, hand-pressed and grass-fed burgers for under $8. A burger you can feel good about eating. Burgers come with all the fixin's. I'm partial to the Classic with cheddar and horseradish-mustard sauce, but the Fire Rock adds some pow from jalapenos, blue cheese and chipotle BBQ sauce. Plain or sweet potato fries, buffalo wings, chicken sandwiches and big salads round out the menu. There's even a seasonal pumpkin spice shake for $4.50. And beer. 214 First Ave.

Burger + fries from Tallgrass
There's more if you're looking for variety. The EV outpost of Xi'an Famous Foods offers hearty, hand-pulled noodles with robust, chili spiked sauces, and everything is under $10. Tiny Minca offers some of the finest Japanese ramen in the hood, with most at $10.50. And Mama's Food Shop, well, nothing beats Mama's hearty selection of comfort food in the winter. Plates start at $12.50 but portions are supersized. The new menu kicks off today, so look for bacon-wrapped meatloaf and seasonal sides such as Brussels sprouts, and roasted root veggies. The new Williamsburg location has a soft opening starting Thursday.