I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Monday, December 19, 2011

Donut Quest: Taiwan Dispatch

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Why does food taste better when shaped as animals?

The Donut Quest has been going and this time, it went abroad. Donuts are not all made equally and thankfully, Dunkin Donuts does not reign all over…yet. One of the chain donut shops in Taiwan that is popular is Mr. Donut. Originally from Japan, I remember back in the late 90s when the first Mr. Donut opened up in Taiwan and remembered the line that snaked out the door. Now there are a number of Mr. Donuts in Taiwan and will mostly likely find on the any mall in Taipei.
Since there is no Thanksgiving in Taiwan, they got started early on the Christmas spirit and they had some Christmas themed donuts, such as their donut holes. 

You have to give it to them for presentation; these things looked like a box of chocolates. The little donut holes are all colorfully decorated and various coatings. One thing to mention is that though they do yeasted and cake donuts, they also do mocha donuts which give them a chewiness and difference in flavor or I at least think it is different. Each of these donut holes were colorfully decorated and had that odd pastel coloring too them and like all things from Asia, they looked cute and I am surprised it had no Sanrio characters donning it. Donuts after the jump!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dazzling Cafe

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Waitresses dressed in French maid outfits is not attractive, it’s kind of creepy

Cafes are all wildly popular in Taiwan and can be found in malls, streets and random alleys. These cafes are perfect places for one to come, order a coffee and waste the afternoon away either working on that “book” or to catch up with friends. However, there is one café that is so popular that you cannot really sit around and talk for the whole afternoon, because of the people that are lining up to get in and that is Dazzling Cafe that has multiple locations in Taipei, all of them to my knowledge, constantly busy. Luckily, while wandering the Shin Kong A11, we walked by it and noticed that no one was waiting and decided to go for it and go in, with a preface that everyone had to order a drink and that we could only stay for an hour and a half, sure we can play this game.
Dazzling Café is the most effeminate café and is trying to give off a classy Audrey Hepburn feel, like a breakfast at Tiffany’s but in reality it is like a between Barbie playhouse with a side of Asian knockoff that a good copyright lawyer maybe able to make a buck or two off of possible copyright infringement. The door knob is an oversized diamond ring and the staff is dressed in maid and butler outfits that are similar to the outfits that is typical of any Anime series. The café has 4 colors: black, white, raincoat yellow and an absurd pink splashes just to emphasize the feminine nature of the café, to a point I thought I was going to get cooties.

However, the color scheme and theme of the place is not what has made this place so popular, has been the honey toast box that has made it so popular. The Honey toast box is a square Pullman loaf that is hollowed out, and stuffed with sweet stuff, ranging from custards, fruits and ice creams. The innards of the loaf are toasted with butter and sugar making a faux French toast but not heavy. Think of it as a sweet bread bowl or in this case, a box. 

Though I could probably destroy a whole one on my own, you generally order one for the table so we went with the “Party in your Mouth” honey toast. It had strawberries, custard, ice cream and topped with a raspberry macaron and if not sugary enough, a side of honey. Everyone is required to order a drink so I went with an affogato, but it was not called an affagato. It was most certainly not served like any affagato I had in the past, as the scoop of ice cream was served in a martini glass with chocolate syrup and nuts. It’s okay; I can hear the wincing and hissing from all the Italians reading this. Despite the over the top presentation, it was a perfection respectable affagato because it is kind of hard to mess up a scoop of gelato/ice cream with espresso. 


The ‘Party in Your Mouth” toast looks impressive when it comes to the table and like most foods in Taiwan, the picture of it in the menu looks like what you get. You kind of have to look at it for a second and figure out how you are going to take this down, or if you stare at it blankly enough, a kind waitress will do it for you and the way she does it, is most likely the best way to eat it. Break down one of the walls, take a piece of the toast, shmear some custard or whatever on it and proceed. Overall, it was not bad. The outer walls of the toast were pretty dry and dull. The addition of custard, ice cream, fruit and other add on made it edible, the macaron was one note and nothing impressive. It kind of baffles me the long waits to this place because the food or the honey toast box is just okay. Honey Toast After the Jump!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Best Dan Dan Noodles in Taipei, Period.

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Walking into random underground malls can be good

Sometimes it takes a little bit of effort and patience to get a near perfect bowl of noodles. My favorite place to eat in Taipei, is a small little place that is in my opinion, the best dan dan noodles and red oil wontons. I almost regret talking about this place because I want to be greedy and have this place all to myself…and the lines of people that are also waiting for these amazing noodles. Getting there is a bit of a find; it is located in an underground mall by the Zhongxiao Dunhua station. You will walk by this place at least once and in fact, those living in Taipei may have already walked by it multiple times without even knowing it. Even if you do find the stairs that lead to these awesome noodles, awkward hesitation may get the best of you and most likely you will walk away. There is no sign at first that awe inspired noodles are here, there are random clothing shop, some weird looking coffee bar, a random dull stall, all giving off signs of unwelcomed uneasiness and your conscience is screaming for you to retreat and find food elsewhere but you must hold your ground and if you show up there after 11:30 from Tuesday to Sunday, get in line. 

In the end of this uninviting underground mall is a noodle counter and has about 15 seats where people are waiting patiently for food. A man, his wife and daughter are all painstakingly and methodically preparing food. The space is the size of a newly grad kitchen and in fact, maybe even smaller. The noodle counter has exactly 3 burners and a crock pot of pork chops and eggs in soy that has been stewing for who knows how long. Jump for the food!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ba Bao Bing: Shaved Ice Goodness

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Since Ba Bao Bing is mainly water, it’s like low fat right?

It is no secret that I like all frozen desserts, especially ice cream. Actually, that is not true; I am not really a fan of sno-cones. The syrup distribution is never right so you end up eating half a chunk of ice like a special person and then finally when you reach the bottom, you get the syrup, but by then, you have brain freeze and a frozen jaw. However, in Taiwan, I am all about shaved ice here. Shaved ice is way different than a dumb sno-cone because not only it is finely shaved; there is also the addition of toppings and syrups, so you get a better distribution of awesome icy sweetness.
Ba bao Bing as it is called is popular like this place that is located on Yong Kang St. of the former home of Ice Monster. Here we got the mixed fruit shaved ice with mango ice cream. We also got a extra scoop of raspberry ice cream because so dumbass lady snagged our order like a greedy little—well, you get the picture, I profited from her greediness. The shaved ice is like a sundae but since you are eating shaved ice, which is well, water it does not weigh you down as much as an ice cream sundae. This shaved ice was topped with strawberries, kiwi and mango, and of course, condensed milk is a must. Shaved Ice after the Jump!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

1010 Hunan Pop Cuisine

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Pain never felt so good when eating chilies

Thousand yr old eggs and roasted chilies

Taiwan has a mix of Asian cuisines and one of my favorite places to go is 1010 Hunan Pop at the top of Eliste bookstore that as the name suggest, does Hunan food. Hunan food is similar to Szechuan food in their heavy use of peppers but they go easier on the chili oil and have a lot more dishes that are not chili focused. The resulting combination has the positive effect of not completely “paying for it”, the next morning or later in the evening. If you do not understand the previous sentence, then you clearly have not eaten overly spicy foods, actual spiced Thai food or got Indian food spiced the non-Gringo friendly way.  

Lychee drink, much needed

To start off, I got a lychee drink which had indeed fresh lychee, lime zest and crushed ice. It was sweet and tart and something that would be a nice cool down from peppery dishes. The menu here as well as at a lot of popular places do a Top Ten list or specifically mark the most popular dishes that people order, which I find is a plus because it narrows down the choices and allows me to bypass asking the server what is good here. To start off, we got the thousand year old duck egg with roasted chili peppers. It is a simple looking dish but the combination of that funk thousand years out egg and mellow heat from the roasted chilies wakes up the taste buds. 

Dong-An Chicken

The Dong-An Chicken, which is fun to say had chicken, chilies, sweet peppers and a good amount of ginger. This was a well balanced dish of hitting both sweet and sour. The chilies in this dish were quite tame but the ginger added a nice bite. One of the non-spicy dishes was the egg custard with clam. Think of it as a savory flan that was light and eggy with clams and a nice relief to onslaught of chilies. 

egg custard and clams

Pretending to be healthy, we ordered water spinach that was cooked with garlic. Sautéed vegetables here are extreme good here and are light, tasty and fully embrace the “breathe of the wok” flavor and something that cannot be recreated, even if you have a well seasoned wok and an insane burner. 

Water Spinach and garlic

The hottest dish and by far my favorite was the stinky tofu, intestines and chilies casserole. This was a hell broth that brought you to a sweat and thankful for those disposable wet towels that accompany many meals. There was a lot of funk going on in this dish from the intestines to the stewed stinky tofu. Stinky tofu has a distinct odor and the stinky factor and taste is usually tamed when it is fried but stewed like this, celebrates fermentation and unleashes an unapologetic, funky, tantalizing odor. The chilies in this dish were varied, from the dried to the fresh. The chilies had varied effects from heat, mouth numbing and sinus clearing. I have never used any controlled substances in my life, but the effect from eating extreme heat and chilies is something that is indescribable, a limbo state like Inception in which it totters on the euphoric and masochism. The best part is after we finished all the tofu and intestines, which was good; I continued to eat the chilies and leftover sauce. 
Stinky tofu, intestines and chilies

The final dish was the fish heads with green chilies or when you look at the dish, green chilies with fish heads because the amount of chilies in this dish was not like the way you garnish with a sprig of parsley. The fish heads were smothered with chilies, like they took a page out of the Curtis LeMay Dresden doctrine and carpet bombed the chilies onto this dish. The heats from the chilies were cut from a good amount of vinegar. Unfortunately, fish heads are not popular here in the United States but besides the usual Japanese method of grill it with some mirin, fish head with chilies is one of my favorite ways to eat it. Oh and future warning to all those dining with me, I automatically call a cheek, you if I do not get a cheek piece, there will be problems. 
Fish head with green chilies

Ending the meal was a simple dessert of almond jello and pineapple, which were fresh pineapples. Taiwan is a great place to travel in which you can try varieties of Chinese food styles all in one place and done very well. Also although I did not have it this time, you cannot miss out on the ribs which get a heavy dose of cumin seeds and plus, you get a glove to keep your hands sticky free!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Uncle Chang Burger

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: I still have no clue who Uncle Chang is, but the dude rocks New Balance Cross Trainers

In Tainan, the streets are filled with these breakfast lunch places that have a variety of sandwiches and such in the morning. As much as people eat congee and other things, sometimes they do not want that early morning starch bomb and just want a sandwich. One of these places, Uncle Chang Burger according to one of my cousins, has opened one or two locations in Tainan and from the times i passed it in the morning, looks busy and usually it seems like a fast food operation and I generally steer clear away from that but look at the man, he looks so happy and why would you not want a burger from Uncle Chang? Also as the signage advertises, there is indeed corn soup which is a great way to wash down a burger.

Thankfully, Uncle Chang does not have food time discrimination and serves a burger all day which is how it should be. They had the usual suspects of Taiwan breakfast foods of egg crepes, soy milk and various teas but I went with the chicken sandwich with eggs and the hamburger.

the chicken I later observed, was not really "chicken" but really smoked deli-like chicken. The egg I thought was going to be a runny egg like egg but it was scrambled eggs, but at least they were fluffy. Dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup and mayonnaise it was a okay sandwich. The deli-like chicken was a bit salty and the roll was soft but sweet, but compound that with the ketchup (ketchup produced in Asian countries, is generally distinctly sweeter) it was actually a bit too sweet for me.

The burger was the size of a dollar menu cheeseburger which I guess to the rest of the world is "normal" sized. It was topped with shredded cabbage, mayonnaise and ketchup. The bun was soft and sweet but it was not warmed or toasted. The burger patty can be best described as with a "huh". It is not cooled to order but upon inspection, you noticed flecks of brown stuff and it has an eerie sheen to it. Upon eating it, I realize that the flecks is actually bits of fried shallots and that the burger patty had a starchy consistency to it. The patty I suspect has probably little beef or no beef at all and it was more like a sausage patty. The patty had meat in it, I just was not sure what kind of meat it was, Upton Sinclair would most likely be all over this thing. The burger again, like most things in Tainan, a too sweet for my taste but the addition of the fried shallots in the patty almost balanced it out.

Though I most likely will not be getting a burger from Uncle Chang again, it is fun to see and try foods that seems atypical to what I used to seeing here, seen in a different light. However, next time I need breakfast, I think I'll stick to an egg crepe...maybe try the corn soup.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Street Market by the SYS Memorial Hall

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: You know when you are in a true street market when you have to watch out for incoming traffic, makes shopping for fruit interesting

Most people when they go to a country, want to look at museums, buildings and go shopping, me personally the first thing I look up is the markets in the area. One of my favorite markets in Taipei is by the Sun Yat San Memorial Hall. Markets in Taiwan are called “Tai Chi Ya” which is a street market, where people sell produce, food and other odd bits and ends. These markets differ from the more popularly known Night Markets in which Night Markets such as Shilin are just all about food and Xiao Chi, but it does not mean that you cannot get some food at the Tai Chi Ya. 

Walking by The SYS Memorial in the early morning is that you will notice it is basically old people time. They will be out and about in the streets and doing tai chi, weird calisthenics or just chilling rocking nothing but a low cut undershirt. If they were any younger, they could be mistaken for hipsters. On a side street and if you listen closely enough, you can hear the shouts and smells of a market. This Tai Chi Ya in particular is also an active street which if you are not already disoriented by the vast array of food, pushy grandmas and vendors egging you to buy their stuff, you also have to watch out for small cars and mopeds honking and buzzing through the market. The street markets are filled with people selling from either a cart they set up, an established looking awning or just a piece of newspaper laid out on the street. More after the Jump!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yong Kang Beef Noodle Soup

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: If you hear slurping over people’s voices, it is a sign of a good place to eat noodles

The Yong Kang Street Area is a maze of food and drinks that you could waste a whole afternoon, be gluttonously full and still not have eaten everywhere. Just off of Yong Kang Street is home to Yong Kang Beef Noodles, one of the most notable places to get beef noodle soup in Taiwan. Beef Noodle is one if not the most notable dish of Taiwan; I mean they have a whole entire festival devoted to it. Beef Noodle soup is to Taiwan what, pho is to Vietnam or what Ramen is to Japan, there is the core ingredient base but there are regional variations all over. Yong Kang Beef Noodle is as traditional as it gets and has been opened since the early sixties and the two floor establishment is rarely empty.
Eating here reminds me a bit like Katz where the facade is clearly old and worn and that is an establishment that is visited by both tourists and locals. I arrived here about 11:30 am for lunch and the first floor was already full and when I was seated on the second, it was quickly filled after I left. The no brainer order here is the beef noodle soup, the classic but I also opted for both beef and tendons in the soup. 

Also to start off, something that I notice at main other beef noodle shops is the order of a Mizheng rou, a concoction of intestines, sweet potatoes and something resembling couscous but learning later it is just broken rice. It is a mix that is traditionally of leftover bits of meat or in this case offal that people used to make a meal. However, it is warmly spiced and the intestines are slightly chewy and flavorful and have a subtle barnyard taste in a very good way and a comfort dish in my mind although I do not see this as a go to dish for main when they are down in the dumps.  If I was not about to combat a mammoth bowl of noodles, it would easily be a double order. Where the noodles at?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Peking Duck Pizza @Tainan Costco

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Fact, everyone in the world loves Costco Chicken

I have been behind on posts lately mainly due to the fact that I have been traveling and was in Taiwan so there will be a lot of Taiwan posts! In Taiwan I was in Taipei and Tainan so a lot of interesting stuff.

First up, is a quick post on my visit tot he Costco Tainan that recently opened. I went there with relatives and the place was packed. To answer the question that is burning in your mind is yes, you can buy bulk taquitos...and banana milk.

I of course had something to eat at the food court and besides also having the super deal of a drink and a hotdog thei also had a few other things that you cannot get at your local Costco. Clam Chowder which did not seem like an option in the 75 degree heat, beef bulgogi, a shrimp bake (too big for me to down, given I completed a Thai food chowdown), mango shaved ice and of course pizza. the pizza jumped out at me there was one slice I saw on the menu I needed to get: the Peking Duck Pizza. They had the pepperoni, the Hawaiian, a seafood and the combo but the siren call of the Peking Duck Pizza called my name.

The picture looked better than the slice, the slice looked like....well a dark, wet mess. I guess you can classify this as a New York Neapolitan if you want to play that game but it is like your typical Costco pizza. the Peking Duck Pizza is comprised of duck, hosin/plum sace, scallions and yes cheese. Thankfully, I am happy to report that this is a "white" pie and has no tomato sauce. I have a tough stomach, but I do not think I would be able to eat it if it had tomato sauce on looks alone. The pie, despite on the wet side was actually tasty. There was actual pieces of duck on it and the slice was slightly crispy and chewy that gave it a great texture. In fact, I will go as far to say that the pizza construction here taste better than the Costco I have been to in the US. Underskirt shot in fact shows an actually browning underneath.

I am happy that looks are very deceiving. Sure pizza purists and anybody on the VPN certification board is calling blasphemy on this right now, but hey this is Taiwan they are doing things differently here and if you do not want the pizza when you are here, there is always the clam chowder.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Minetta Tavern- We are not worthy of the burger

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: If the Black Label burger had an entrance song, it would be Jay’s Public Service Announcement.

I joke about foods that are game changers, but the black label burger at Minetta Tavern is the epitome of a game changer, like Steve Jobs, wrapping things in bacon or Koreans playing StarCraft. This is the kind of burgers that ruin other burgers for you for you, and all other burgers seem pedestrian, I know some will disagree with me on this, but I guarantee this is a burger that you will not be forgetting. For my birthday this year, I decided to go and see if the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern is truly the best burger in New York and in not, the world.

tl:dr- Yes, yes it is.

One thing that McNally restaurants has going for them, is that they are able to transform a space into some place entirely different like Balthazar is a French Bistro, Minetta Tavern takes you back in time to a speakeasy Americana joint that you would expect Sinatra and Ratpack Co. would be eating well into the night. The place is constantly busy and thankfully, I snagged an impossible reservation and allowed me to forgo the 45 minute wait time at 6pm, an hour after they opened for dinner service. More burger and then some after the jump!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Taiwan Dispatches: Shilin Night Market

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Lines in Asian Markets are always a good sign, we are impatient people. See a line, get in it immediately, you can figure out what they are selling later

Lady on Bottom Left- looks like she means business

I have not really written a lot of entries on Taiwan, but I figured that since I will be heading back again this year, I would recount my last visit to one of the most notable markets in Taiwan, the Shilin Market. Taiwan has an underappreciated foodie culture that has just the same fanatic food devotion in any other Asian countries. Taiwan night markets although you could shop for clothing and shoes that may have questionable copyright infringements; the focus if you ever visit a night market in Taiwan is the food. One that everyone hears about is Du Giang-long Market or Snakehead Alley and on instinct and the alluring name, you want to head there and hope for a Blade Runner-esque experience. What you will find there is a lot of tourists some food and cases of snake that do not taste very good and Taiwanese proprietors, waiting to overcharge the happy Mei Guo Ren in eat weird and chewy snake. There is nothing wrong with this, it is just the equivalent of going to Time Square and wanting a Dirty Water Hotdog, you do not really see any New Yorkers really doing this and you are buying a really expensive hotdog. You are much better off of going to Shilin Market, which can be just as touristy, but the food is good and still is frequented by all. 

Baked Bao Zi dude
Shilin Market is a bit of a hike to get to but thankfully the Taiwan subway/metro system was created in Japanese precision, it is clearly marked on the maps and has the names of the stops in English. Getting off the Shilin station, you are disoriented by the massive amount of people, strings of bare lights and stalls and people that are hawking food, tissues and other things at you. Shilin Market area has 2 parts to it, there is the actually market area that is covered, and open during the day and is basically a food court of multiple stalls. There you will find your Taiwanese street food staples like the fried chicken cutlets, meat is tube form and the oyster omelets just to name the popular. However, if you are like me and like the experience of eating on the street in a sea of people, let the bright lights and the throngs of people guide you to the street part of the Shilin Market. 

Pan Fried XLB innards

One of the first things that you should hit up, and jump in line for is the pan fried xiaolongbao (XLB). You will know you are at the right place with the line of people out this stall and pans of XLB being bathed in hot oil. The pan fried XLB are noticeably different not only by the lack of refined folding but it has a thicker skin and a crunchy bottom. The pan fried XLB are designed and made for street eating. They however do not lack any soup qualities as my first bite left me with roof mouth burn and soup dribbling down my neck. 

Pan fried XLB making

Any trip to Taiwan would not be complete without eating a bao zi, basically a meat filled roll and steamed. They can be found pretty much anywhere, but what you won’t find everywhere is baked bao zi that is done up in like this. The bao zi are baked in a tandoori-like oven and on closer inspection (after a few dirty looks from people in line), the process is similar to making nann, in which the bao zi is stuck to the side and the when they are ready, are peeled off. The result is a crispy slightly smoky exterior and a soft meaty interior. 

multiple oyster omelet making
Of course any trip to Taiwan would not be complete without an oyster omelet. It is not an omelet by your local diner standards and is a bit more similar to a crepe. It is a eggy mixture that is combined with oysters, eggs and a starch component that is blanketed over Taiwanese bok choy and smothered in a reddish gravy. The resulting combination of this is a textural and taste symphony that is unlike anything you have consumed. What makes the pancake is not the eggy crisp, sticky, gooey egg and oyster combination but it is that red gravy. The gravy is different from place to place, each putting something different, but they are all consistent with tomato/ketchup (Asian style Ketchup) and sweetness and maybe a slight amount for heat. The sweetness works magically and pairs wonderfully with the slightly bitter bok choy. 

Oyster Omelet

Another unique eat is the big sausage little sausage. The big sausage is composed of gluten rice and peanut sausage that has the similar composition of Cajun boudin and the little sausage is a plump, plum sauce sweet Chinese sausage. The big sausage is butterflied and the small sausage is shoved in and thick aged soy is squirted on top. To compare it to a hotdog is unjust and would not even be comparable, this thing is in a league of its own. 

Big Sausage little Sausage
Of course you’re in Asia, so dumplings are available and everywhere, and can get a bowl full for less than 1 US dollar. Be sure to add a good dose of hot sauce. 


Finally, my favorite street treat, and I guess the most adventurous eat is Pork Blood on a stick, Offal fans, take note. Most of the vendors that have pork blood on stick vendors are not brightly advertised and showing off their goods. You can recognize them by a simple rectangular wooden box that has wisps of steam permeating from the sides. The transaction feels a bit shady, as the vendor reaches into his box and pulls out a skewered rectangular block, but if this is wrong, I don’t want to be right. The block of blood is then coated in peanut sauce, a drizzle of aged soy and in my case, a bit of hot sauce. Surprisingly it is only slightly porky and does not taste minerally at all. The Pork blood is steamed with rice in order to give it some body and results in a gooey, chewy meaty stick and the texture kind of reminds me of being like extremely soft nougat. The crush peanut coating offers a slight sweetness and textural crunch and if you are all for textural foods and can embrace the love of gelatinous textures that Asians are so fond of, then give it a shot, besides, it cost less than a dollar and uhh good source of iron?

Pork Blood on a stick- Mobile Offal

Of course there are many things that I missed or did not take pictures of, like the oyster noodle stew or fried chicken cutlet but I was cursed with only one stomach. For first timers in Taiwan, Shilin is an experience that you should not mix. Despite the sea of people, locals and tourists alike, eating there is not as frantic as you would expect. There are bubbles and moments of serene eating as you stand in a pocket of free space between a juice bar and a Puma store eating a pan fried XLB. Though I am unsure if I will be making the ride out to Shilin Market this time around (got to try the other ones) there is no better way to immerse yourself into Taiwan and see firsthand what a food fanatical country is like. Oh by the way, the dudes with the surgical masks are not performing discount surgery, they are cooking stinky tofu so either steer clear or run towards it your choice, though I think you know what I would be doing. 

Yeah, insert your own inappropriate jokes here

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Spotted Pig

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Spotted Pig is not only a gastropub, but an art gallery for meat and pork centric art

I have never been to an April Bloomfield restaurant until this past weekend. I feel a bit ashamed given that the food at The Breslin, the John Dory and The Spotted Pig is everything that I like, which is fat and pork and in the case of the Dory, fat, pork and seafood. So for my birthday I decided to do brunch up at The Spotted Pig, where it all started. Located in the West Village the Spotted Pig is the original OG when it comes to the gastropub. They were doing the whole gastropub before it was like, cool. The Spotted Pig is still frequented by locals and tourists alike and on a Saturday at noon, there is still a sizable wait for a table. Onward Food!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Xi’an Famous Foods

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: What sounds more appetizing? The Chinese name of a dish or the literal English translation of the dish?

The cold weather is coming in which means that lines at ice cream shops are shorter and eating bowls of hot noodle soup hits the spot. I remember when I was little and I attempted to describe the pure awesomeness of noodle soups to my very Caucasian friends, they looked at me like I was nuts, soup and noodles? Isn’t noodles suppose to be smothered in a red sauce or cream? Soup? What is this weird Asian kid thinking? Well guess what guys, while you were stuck at home eating cans of watery condensed chicken noodle soup, I got legit noodles that it was okay for me to slurp and actual bits of meat and soup…who is the weird Asian kid now? (still me I think)

Lamb Noodle Soup

Lamb Burger-no supersize
Anyways, Xi’an Famous Foods that originally started off in a small stall in Flushing has invaded Manhattan in the past year opening multiple locations so you can get you Northern/Mongolian Chinese foods like Lamb face salad and hand pulled noodles without the 7 train trek. I can think no better way to beat the incoming cold than a bowl of lamb noodle soup from Xi’an. I went to the St. Marks location in the late afternoon and it packed. I opted to get my order to go. I got an order of the lamb noodle soup and the lamb burger. 

The noodles are made to order as well as the other menu items so it may take a while but the food is worth it. By made to order, I mean they are hand pulled before getting a quick dunk in boiling water. The noodles travelled well and still had a bit of chew to them when I finally started eating them. The broth was flavorful and meaty and although I decided to not get it spicy, it still tasted good, though I added a bit of sambal sauce in it and will most likely get it non-Gringo spicy next time. The lamb burger is a nice treat and is not really like a burger. If burger by definition is meat in between a bun then yes, it is a burger but not something you are finding at Shake Shack. The Bun is a Uighur flatbread that is split open and filled with shredded lamb that is heavily spiced with coriander, cumin and chili. The result is a robust and flavorful sandwich that will make a lamb eater out of anyone.
Xi’an Foods is not really a sit down and have a calm dining experience. It is the Far East version of a turn and burn operation, but like most turn and burn operations, they depend on volume and in order to get that, they need to turn out good tasting food which they are. Xi’an is also very Gringo friendly which they have pictures on the wall and vending machine lettering system so ordering is not hard at all. If you plan on eating there, just be prepared to get cozy with the people around you, and like always, slurping is okay.

Xi’an Famous Foods
81 Saint Marks Place
New York, NY 10003

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lets do Brunch: Union Square Cafe

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Sharing is caring, but when bacon is on the table, screw that

Dining in New York, it is unavoidable to try and avoid eating a Danny Meyers ran operation, and beside who would want too? Shake Shack, Gramercy Tavern and others from fine dining to jean casual all his food is top notch and enjoyable for whatever mood you are in. Before he had his stark empire, he had to start somewhere and in 1985 he opened up Union Square Café, a New York classic eatery and up until recently, started brunch service. I went with the family to check it out and covered the menu pretty well. Union Square Café is located well, as the name says by Union Square and tucked away on the side away from the bustle of the Green Market. Stepping into Union Square Café, you feel as if you stepped into someone’s house and somewhat reminds me of the Beard house. It has that classic Americana feel, maybe the show room of a Huffman Koos. My quip with the space in Union Square Café is that if you are seated in the lower level, it feels a bit cramped with the low ceiling, and I was unconsciously watching my head every time I got up from my seat.
Regardless of the space, the most important thing is the food. 

Bread basket like whoa
The bread basket was promising with 3 kinds of bread: a crispy rosemary flatbread, a mini baguette and a country sourdough bread which were all good and with a side of cured olives that had a hit of orange zest, there was almost no need to order any starters or snacks. We started with two snacks, the bacon and eggs and the polenta crisps. The Bacon and Eggs was a favorite snack that I have ordered 5 more off and called it a day. It was a play on chips and dip in which the bacon was the chip and the eggs were scrambled into a creamy consistency that became a dip. Enough bread, Food after jump!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shopsins: The Castles

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: First time I have been to Shopsins, and finally saw Kenny cooking in the kitchen. It was a good day.

Thankfully growing up in New Jersey, I never was deprived of sliders with legendary spots like the White Mamma and White Rose system to just knowing that White Castle exists. One of my favorite places that make sliders is Shopsins. Say what you want about them, but when it comes to a burger or sliders, they make a damn good one. Better yet, they have found a way to make sliders an acceptable breakfast treat by simply adding eggs and that is why on their insanely long menu, the castles is worth ordering, eventually because the amount of times I have been there, still have not been able to try everything that I have wanted on there. For some reason, the name the Castles makes me think of Castle Grey Skull from He-Man and eating this makes me feel awesome and makes me ride on top of a tiger…with a hell of a lot more clothes on than He-Man, its fall and it’s kind of cold.

The Castles is an order of their sliders, and fluffy eggs and a glutton amount of cheese is piled on top of it. This is the meal, well for a big eater like me, a snack of champions. For a few bucks more, you can add some hatch chilies on it but not necessary in my opinion because when you got their hot sauce (it’s a proprietary “housemade” blend for you Brooklynites!) that basically makes everything taste good. If you want tasty sliders for breakfast and make it look socially acceptable, get at the Castles at Shopsins.

Also, screw everybody, I think it is a requirement to get a milkshake or an egg cream with an order of sliders or just anytime i you come here. I noticed that the slutty cakes is now in milkshake form so you can get a tasty peanut butter and pumpkin milkshake at 9am, how is this not awesome?

Essex St Market
120 Essex St

New York, NY 10002

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Doughnut Plant Fall Flavors and Trois Pommes

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: there is no way I can ever limit myself to just getting one doughnut

Oatmeal Donut

The Doughnut Plant is always a place that is a must stop for me regardless if I am under time constraints. Meeting up with people in 10 minutes? I got enough time to grab a doughnut…or two. The opening of their Chelsea location, I noticed that the lines at the original Lower East location have noticeably died down and a lot more tolerable. This is good that I do not have to wait so long for doughnuts, bad because I buy more doughnuts. Yes, such a horrible Catch-22, something that totally relates to the Joseph Heller novel. 

I like that they have their standbys like the tres leche and jelly doughnuts but they bake seasonally and being fall, had of course a pumpkin doughnut. I picked up a raspberry and the green tea doughnut as well and the oatmeal doughnut that debuted with the opening of their Chelsea location but I have not had the chance to try it until now. 

I got all cake doughnuts because I just like cake doughnuts but they also offer the pumpkin yeasted as well. The pumpkin was good with hits of candied seeds on top, i would have liked a bit more pumpkin-y flavor to it though but good pumpkin fix overall. The raspberry was moist and had a weirdly electric magenta color too it that somehow matched the tartness of the raspberries. The matcha doughnut thankfully tasted better than it looked, it was a dark green, like Ninja Turtle green but the earthy grassiness of matcha came through and for those of you that like green tea, and do not want sugar bombs, this is your doughnut. The oatmeal doughnut that is now on their regular lineup was definitely not what I expected, in a good way. Oatmeal made pastries in the past usually taste gritty and paste-like and thankfully, this was not the case. The oatmeal doughnut had the warm taste of nutty, oat flavors of an oatmeal raisin cookie and had the perfect crumb, lightness and density. 


The previous week, I went out to Trois Pommes, all the way out in Park Slope and sampled their weekend doughnuts. Trois Pommes is a neighborhood bakery just making wonderful cookies and pastries and on the weekends, they have their jelly filled doughnuts. They come in either a regular sized or mini, so I did the smart thing, I got both of them. The doughnuts are dense and chewy and have a sticky glaze on the outside. First bite is an explosion of sweet and tart raspberry jam that lazily oozes out. The mini doughnuts are like candy and addictive because you can just pop them in your mouth in one whole bite. I definitely like the mini ones, but maybe because mini things have the illusion of tasting better.

Jam filled Donuts from Trois Pommes

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
New York

Trois Pommes
260 5th Ave # A
NY 11215-1927