Archive for the ‘New York City Eating’ Category

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Irving Farm Coffee

March 12, 2011

When I first moved to New York, it was pretty easy to get overwhelmed by it all. I don’t just mean its whole ever bustling metropolis vibe, but the small comforts that make me feel at home were hard to find. As you may have read in my Kiva Han post, having a welcoming place to go where I can sit and read, foamy latte in hand, is, for me, an important one of these comforts.

It can be hard to avoid the ubiquitous green mermaid, but New York has no shortage of alternatives. Irving Farm was one of the first cafes I came across in Manhattan. There’s no question that its 14th street location, less than a block from Pratt, is a major plus.

All of their tea and coffee options are wonderful, their pastry case is almost always stocked with a good selection of vegan (and non-vegan) baked goods and their staff is incredibly friendly.

While the space is not really designed for people to hang around or get work done, I would highly recommend stopping in on a sunny day and taking your drink and snack on a walk to nearby Jackson Square and enjoying some time among the greenery!

Until we eat again,

Caitlin

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Café Review: Athom Café (Brooklyn)

October 28, 2010

Happy Thursday all!

Today I’m here to tell you about this little gem of a café located in Bushwick, the Brooklyn neighborhood that Caitlin calls home. Anyone who’s been to Bushwick knows that there isn’t much there in the way of hip eateries, especially when compared to other Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Park Slope, Fort Greene, or Williamsburg. But this is slowly beginning to change, and Athom Café (located at Broadway and Dekalb) is leading the pack in helping to transform Bushwick into a future foodie hotspot.

Athom Café is a French style café, run by a genuine (and very friendly!) French baker. The fare is thus very typically French: croissants, scones, danishes, a variety of coffee drinks, and so on. The Frenchness of the menu also makes it quite thoroughly non-vegan, and the non-breakfast menu is mostly non-vegetarian. But breakfast is really where it’s at in my opinion, and with baked goods this good, I’m willing to break vegan once in a while. Here are some of the tasty treats Caitlin and I have enjoyed:

This plate includes some of my favorite things at Athom. At twelve o’clock is their classic plain croissant, a two-dollar slice of heaven in my opinion. The outside is crispy, the inside soft, and although I’m a huge fan of croissants whenever they come by way, Athom’s truly are something special.

Of course, the plain croissant may be a little simple for some, and for those who want a little more variety, Athom has plenty of other croissants on offer. On the bottom left of the above picture is one of their savory croissants: the Tomato, Herb & Goat Cheese. Wow is this good, and I’m not even that much of a cheese man. The croissant itself is as good as their plain, and the filling ingredients are the perfect compliment. What’s more, it’s not even overly filling; it’s just an all-around great breakfast treat.

Finally, on the bottom left of the picture is their apple strudel. I picked this on my third visit to Athom because I had never seen it on offer before, and although it was good, it wasn’t quite on the level of their croissants. But maybe this was one of the first times Athom’s baker was trying this out, and so for all I know, their apple strudel could be improving in my absence. But if you’re looking for a sure bet, get a croissant and save the strudel for later.

Athom also has sweet croissants, and many with nutella fillings! This is their Nutella Pear croissant, which is super good. This was actually the first thing I ever tried at Athom, and it made a great first impression. However, now that I’ve tried more of their menu, I definitely prefer their plain and savory croissants more. This sweet one is just a little too big with all its sweetness, and left me pretty stuffed. But for those with a sweet tooth, these sweet croissants are a dream.

Athom also has scones! This cranberry scone is simple but well executed, and while not as impressive as the croissants, still stands up well on its own. And though I haven’t tried their other varieties, I would bet they’re just as good.

Finally, Athom also has Yogurt Granola! This huge bowl, served with honey and raisins on the side, is quite the breakfast, and is a good alternative when you’re not in the mood for bread or other baked goods.

Before I sign off, I should add a note about Athom’s space and atmosphere. First: it’s cozy. Some would say small. May even cramped. There are only a couple tables available for eating in, but people don’t seem to hog them forever and so the turnover is pretty fast. But I definitely wouldn’t recommend going to Athom to do work, or really even to have a long chat with a friend. That being said, the space itself is pretty cute, and I always feel welcomed when I come in. So if finding delicious food is your main objective, nothing should stop you from visiting Athom; if you’re looking for an all-around café experience, you may have to lower your expectations. But now that you’re forewarned, you should definitely definitely check it out. (Did I mention that it’s also cheap?!) Happy eating.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Restaurant Review: Ayurveda Cafe

June 15, 2010

Hi, everybody! Today I’m here with yet another NYC restaurant review, this time from an Upper East Side Indian joint known as Ayurveda Cafe. Caitlin and I went here with my parents a couple of weekends ago, and I’m pleased to report that Ayurveda is definitely the best Indian place I’ve eaten at in the city. Granted, I haven’t been to all that many Indian restaurants here (and the ones I have been at have been particularly unpleasant experiences), but regardless, Ayurveda stands up well against the many other fine Indian eateries I’ve visited in the past, and so I feel confident in my recommendation. But let me explain more, and you can judge for yourself…

What really sets Ayurveda Cafe apart is its unique menu and approach. Ayurveda doesn’t have a menu that you offer off of, as do most other restaurants. Instead, the food served changes daily, based (I’m assuming) on what’s in season, on what the chef feels like making, and on what will work best with everything else. And so, instead of ordering a specific entree or anything, every diner just gets the same big platter, including the day’s appetizer, entrees, rice, bread, salad, chutneys, and dessert! (And did I mention that everything is 100% vegetarian?) It was definitely a different experience for me going out and not knowing what I’d be eating, but I will generally eat any Indian food that is placed in front of me, so I was eager to dig in.

Before our platters arrived, though, we ordered some drinks, and I got this Banana Lassi:

I’ve never had a Banana Lassi before, but this one was great! It was packed with lots of sweet banana flavor. Caitlin enjoyed a Plain Lassi, which, though too tangy for me, seemed to suit her taste buds very well. And then, in hardly any time at all, our platters arrived!

Sorry that this picture isn’t any better, but I’ll explain what everything is as best I can. Starting from the top and moving clockwise we have: raita (which I surprisingly liked—I’m usually not much of a fan), salad (a little too simple, but fine), some sort of curry vegetable dish (very good), rice (no complaints there), some sort of vegetable pakora-like things (very good), a sort of Indian white bean soup (delicious), and in the center, an Indian spinach dish (loved it). I liked how everything was neatly separated into little bowls, and I thought the portions were perfect—enough to get your fill of each dish, but not so much that you got too full on any one of them. Plus, from what their menu tells me, their platters are made with a healthy balance in mind, and always include all six tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, and pungent. I wasn’t able to pick out all these tastes myself, but I did appreciate the general variety!

Last but not least, we were served a petite dish of rice pudding for dessert:

Caitlin was very excited to see that this was the dessert du jour, as she loves rice pudding. I was a little less ecstatic—that is, until I tried it. Although I’m generally not a fan of rice pudding, Ayurveda’s take on the dish really hit the spot for me, and I happily gobbled it up!

As for the service, the staff were friendly and I had no complaints. The atmosphere, however, left something to be desired (namely a replacement of their creepy purple lighting), but it was by no means bad. I would eagerly return to Ayurveda any day, especially given their very reasonable prices: $9 for their lunch platter, and $12 for their dinner one. Plus, with their ever-changing menu, every visit is a new experience! So if you’re in Upper Manhattan and looking for a good Indian place to eat, check out Ayurveda—you won’t be disappointed.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Restaurant Review: Life Cafe

May 9, 2010

Hello readers!

After leaving Jacksonville, I stopped in NYC for a day to briefly reunite with Caitlin on my way back to Toronto. During my short visit, we decided to go out to lunch at a local place we’ve been meaning to try for a while: Life Cafe in Brooklyn. Here’s how our meal went…

As we first entered the restaurant, I was surprised to see that the atmosphere of Life Cafe was definitely not one of a cafe, but rather one of a bar. A little misleading, given the restaurant’s name, and a little disappointing, given our intention to stay there after our meal to do the New York Times crossword, since we could now see that this was not the place to do that. Anyway, we still had the food to look forward to at least. Or so we thought.

My choice was the Life Veggie Burger with an add-on of guacamole. I always appreciate when a kitchen offers an in-house veggie burger, and Life Cafe’s was a nice mix of vegetables, brown rice, black beans, and soy. The addition of the guacamole was definitely a good choice, and the whole wheat pita it was served in was an interesting twist. Overall, though, I’d rate this burger as fair: not bad in any way, but nothing particularly special either. In addition, the side of fries it came with was very disappointing in my opinion—and I’m not the kind of person to take a lousy side of fries lightly.

Caitlin’s choice was the Eggless Rancheros, Life Cafe’s vegan twist on Huevos Rancheros. It consisted of sauteed tofu, corn, onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and cilantro over some tortillas, topped with soy cheese and served with brown rice and black beans on the side. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of this dish. The soy cheese was not any good in my opinion (and this is not because I’m flatly against soy cheese—there are some I like and some I don’t, and this was definitely one of the kinds I don’t), and the rest of the plate was just average, and tasted more like a hodgepodge of things thrown together rather than one cohesive dish. As Caitlin noted, this was probably something she could make at home, only better, and that’s definitely not the sort of experience one wants when eating out.

So all in all, Life Cafe gets low marks in my book, and will likely not be getting a repeat visit from either of us any time soon. Although we appreciate finding nearby Brooklyn restaurants with vegetarian friendly menus, this is not an unconditional appreciation. If you’re looking for a place to grab a nice vegetarian lunch and perhaps spend some of your afternoon, I’d suggest avoiding Life Cafe—and check out Little Skips instead.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Sacred Chow, Again (PLUS A Pinkberry Surprise!)

May 3, 2010

Hi everybody!

While I was last in NYC, Caitlin and I met up with one of my Toronto roommates and his boyfriend, who were visiting the city at the same time I was there! It was fun to have the opportunity to show them around, and it also gave us the chance to take them to some of our favorite restaurants. And so, for brunch/lunch, we went to the Sacred Chow, a place both Caitlin and I have much enjoyed before. What delights did this visit offer us? Plenty! Let’s begin…

We started off with a nice little Olive Dip platter with toasted crostini. Sacred Chow’s dips and pates are all delicious, and even for me—someone who is not an olive lover by any means—this dip was very good. Admittedly, it doesn’t beat out their Sunflower Seed & Lentil Pate, but I don’t know what could.

We also got beers while we ate; mine was this nice Blue Point Toasted Lager. Sacred Chow’s beer and wine list is all sustainable, Kosher, and Vegan, with many drinks also being organic and local, which is always nice to see.

As for main courses, Caitlin and I split this Shredded Tofu Spa Salad Hero, which was basically a delicious tofu salad sandwich, filled with tasty dill-y goodness. Mmmmm… dill…

Our other main course came from Sacred Chow’s brunch menu: an Italian Frittata—that is, a rolled-up tofu omelet filled with Sicilian tomato sauce. This was good, but I wasn’t in love with it. I think all the tofu and vegan cheese was just too much for me. However, you see those sauteed greens peeking out in the background? Absolutely delicious!

My roommate’s meal, which I did not try but did snap a picture of, what another brunch item: Tempeh Hash, or as they describe it, “crumbled seasoned tempeh with hash browned sweet potatoes and browned onions, topped with diced fresh tomatoes and parsley”. It sure looked and sounded good, and from what I could tell from my roommate’s reception, it tasted good too!

And that was my second (Caitlin’s third?) visit to Sacred Chow. This restaurant still rates high in my book, although I admit that I enjoyed our first visit here more I think. However, the menu is so large and diverse that I’m sure I’ll be tempted to come back again soon, especially seeing as I will be living in NY this summer, and taking classes mere blocks away from this place.

Finally, at the end of our day, Caitlin surprised me by taking me to Pinkberry (warning: site will play horrible music at you, extolling the virtues of frozen yogurt—but bonus points to them for fitting the words “succulent mango” into a song). This was my first time going to this little frozen yogurt joint, and Caitlin and I shared a tasty little cup of their original yogurt with lots of tasty toppings:

Our toppings included mochi, dark chocolate crisps, honey roasted sunflower seeds, and “succulent” mango. This was a great combination, and I really liked how yogurt-y the dessert was—nice and tangy, and not too sweet. I will look forward to coming back here again over the summer as well!

Oh boy. I’ve just realized how fat this summer is going to make me. Deliciously, deliciously fat.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Restaurant Review: Stir It Up

March 2, 2010

Hellooo readers!

So, have you checked out the results of our Nut Butter Contest? Caitlin and I were really excited to hold it, and we hope you all were excited to participate—thanks again to all those who entered!

Anyway, moving on to more current matters, I am extremely backblogged. I still have 2 or 3 posts to make from my time in NYC and I’m already start to amass photos from the things I’ve been cooking this past week in Toronto. Please bear with me as I play catch up for my next few post. Don’t worry—there will still be plenty of deliciousness to share. Case in point: today’s post, and the little West Indian restaurant known as Stir It Up.

First, a lesson: West Indian food is food from the West Indies (don’t worry, I didn’t realize at first either). This means it’s packed full of lots of Caribbean flavors and Caribbean spices and, of course, hot Caribbean heat.

Now usually, West Indian is fairly meat-centered. But Stir It Up is different, offering a nice number vegetarian options also with their other entrees. Needless to say, Caitlin and I were intrigued. And so our meal begins… (apologies for the photo quality)

We started our meal off with two homemade juices: the fruit punch for me and the ginger beer for Caitlin. Both were really good, although I’d never be able to drink the ginger beer myself. It’s an acquired taste, I guess. But even I could tell that it was some good ginger beer.

Our first entree was their Veggie Jerk Chicken, a fiery hot platter of faux meat slathered in smoky sauce. You may not be able to tell from this picture, but the faux meat they used was actually shaped in the form of a chicken (or maybe it was closer to a turkey). It was weird. A little too close to chicken. Still, it was a tasty dish, even though its spiciness was off the charts!

Our second entree was what they call the Sweet Source: a mix of veggie steak and vegetables swimming in their “island style” sweet and sour sauce. I liked this dish a lot more, but perhaps that was because it didn’t take away all the feeling from my taste buds! But seriously, this sauce was mighty tasty and worked well with all the things with it.

So how did Stir It Up rate in our book? Overall, we agreed that the major downside to the meal (and to their menu in general) was their heavy use of all the faux meat. So if you’re into faux meat, this place is definitely for you. But if you’re like us and like your vegetarian meals a little lighter, Stir It Up will not have many options for you. That being said, however, their kitchen can whip up some very tasty sauces, and it’s rare to find these Caribbean flavors in vegetarian contexts, so we definitely appreciate what Stir It Up has to offer.

One final note: Judging by our experience, Stir It Up is not the most happening dine-in joint. By which I mean, during the entire one and a half hours that Caitlin and I were there for our meal (on a Saturday night, from 6:00 to 7:30), not a single other person or couple or group of people were dining with us. A few people did come in to pick up call-in orders, and a few employees went out to make deliveries. But be forewarned: dining in may leave you feeling awkward and isolated. That is, of course, unless you like listening to Bob Marley CDs that have been on continuous loop for so long that they’re starting to skip.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Restaurant Review: Siggy’s Good Food

February 21, 2010

Hi all!

We’re back again with yet another NYC restaurant review, this time from Siggy’s Good Food in Brooklyn Heights! Caitlin and I went here Friday night and had a wonderful meal. Siggy’s bills itself as “The Universe’s First Organic Diner,” and as that slogan suggests, it is a hip little restaurant that offers an entirely organic and seasonal menu. It’s not strictly vegetarian, but it does have a number of vegetarian/vegan options on its menu. But most importantly: this place is delicious! Here is a rundown of all the lovely things we ate.

Our meal started off with an unexpected but much appreciated plate of complementary bread and olive oil. I love it when restaurants do this sort of thing, but I never feel like they do it enough (at least not in the restaurants I tend to go to). Moreover, the plate they gave us included some seriously good olive oil and some seriously good bread. In short: this meal was off to a good start.

Quinoa Spinach Cakes

The menu at Siggy’s includes several scrumptious looking appetizers, but for our meal Caitlin and I decided to go for these Quinoa Spinach Cakes, which were definitely a popular choice at the restaurant that night (we saw many other tables enjoying them as well). These were topped with a tasty Tomato Pepper Cilantro Salsa, but honestly I could’ve eaten the quinoa spinach cakes our their own. They were simple and effective, and baked for just the right amount. Highly recommended!

Sesame Fried Tofu & Onions Salad

For our second course, we got a salad, and what a salad it was! Probably the highlight of the meal for me, this salad was perfect in every respect. So much so, in fact, that it deserves another picture:

This salad included delicious fried tofu fingers which were unlike any other tofu I’d had before, nicely caramelized onions, a bevy of sesame seeds, a subtle flavor of soy sauce throughout, and a tasty tamari ginger dressing. Awesome.

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous

Our main course was the vegetarian special for the night, Moroccan Vegetable Couscous. This bountiful dish included so much goodness: chickpeas, butternut squash, turnips, carrots, cabbage, celery and parsley, all over some very good whole wheat couscous. It also came with some spicy harissa sauce and pickled tomatoes on the side:

This was my first time trying harissa, and I was a big fan. The pickled tomatoes were interesting, but neither Caitlin nor I really took to them. The dish on the whole, though, was very good.

So how does Siggy’s rate? I give it high marks all around. All our dishes were very good, and I appreciate the restaurant’s commitment to organic cooking. The space was a little cramped, but not noticeably so. The only real downsides were: (a) I wish they had more vegetarian options, and (b) I wish parts of their menu were cheaper. Our salad was very reasonably priced at $9, but the couscous was a little pricey at $15. Still, overall our dinner at Siggy’s was wonderful, and you should definitely check it out if you’re in the area!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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