Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sweet Tooth: Crumbs..or Crumby?

Normally I don't like to post food from chain restaurants, but this is different. This chain is about CUPCAKES. Oh cupcakes.. the hybrid between a cake and a muffin. What could be better? At work we celebrated one more time for Kristina's birthday and Steph's leaving with these sugary treats.
Red Velvet
I have said this once, and I will say it again...red velvet cupcakes are my favorite cupcakes. "If I could, I would drape myself in velvet." (George Costanza). I would drape myself in red velvet...(is that possible?) 
Anyway I judge a cupcake by the cake and frosting separately, then together. The cake had no flavor what so ever. I mean AT ALL. I had no idea if I was eating cake or a sponge. The frosting was ridiculously sweet and to top it off it had sprinkles. Sprinkles are not a good thing, dried up chalky pellets anyone? No thanks.
Price: $3.75

Devils Food
I had higher hopes for this one, but cutting this revealed a marshmallowy center. This was ...confusing. Since when was there marshmallows in Devils Food? The cake? Again, dry and tasteless. The frosting was still way too sweet, but texturally a little better since chocolate crumbs and chocolate drizzle replaced the sprinkles. 
Price: $3.75

Rainbow Vanilla
Ugh, again with the sprinkles... I didn't even bother trying the frosting at this point and went straight to trying the cake. It was surprisingly a lot more moist than the other two I had tried, though it tasted like someone had mistakenly put 1 ladel full of vanilla extract than 1 teaspoon in the recipe. The better cupcake out of the bunch.
Price: $3.75

Cookies n' Cream
Just like the fate of the other cakes, this too, was dry and tasteless. I will let you guess how the frosting tasted...
Price: $3.75
Verdict: Crumbs could possibly be the most over-rated dessert place out there. Suitable for tourists, but for New Yorkers? I'd rather trek up to Little Red Hens in the UES instead and get some cupcakes made with love.
Various Locations

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dinner: Team Dinner with at the Bastard

My team at work love to find reasons to celebrate. Whenever we do, its always an excellent excuse to go out and eat together. This time it was for my coworkers birthday and my bosses going away. After rattling off various Italian restaurants, we ended up picking Il Bastardo. Some of you who know it as the place the City ( a brain dead reality show on MTV) was filmed.
Walking in, the place was very modern, spacious and even had a section in the back for bands and dj's to play.
As we sat down my boss Steph, ordered a bottle of prosecco to celebrate
Less dry than champagne, but just as bubbly!

They brought out olive oil and vinegar for the bread. However the vinegar sank to the bottom and we ended up getting another bowl just for vinegar... pointless that I mentioned this, but hey... its annoying when you are trying to get vinegar, and all you get is olive oil.. you know?!

Complimentary Bread
They gave 2 pieces of bread per person... Crusty on the outside, airy and doughy inside- this was dangerously addictive and hard to refrain filling up on!

Grilled Pizza bread
This was 2 orders, and was topped with grilled mushrooms, peppers and onions with gorgonzola cheese on an ultra thin crunchy crust. As Rachel ray would say.. Delish! The vegetables were soft, and mimicked the cheeses playful texture. The cheese was pungant and salty. But in a good way, one of my favorites of the night.
Price: $10.00 per order of 4 slices

Baked Eggplant
Layers of eggplant with fresh tomato sauce and a heaping pile of stringy mozzarella and parmigiano cheese on top. Yum.. This could easily be a replacement for a meal. The eggplant was soft and melted in your mouth, the sauce...like biting into a fresh tomato. One of my favorites of the night
Price: $10.00

Organic Mista
Some of the girls got the dinner special (served between 4-7 on the weekdays) for 20 dollars, you get an appetizer, main course and dessert. Being girls, they chose salads... The caesar salad looked pretty tasty though!

Caesar Salad

Carly and Steph ordered this one. It was made with the same tomato sauce as the eggplant, and with pieces of melted mozzarella on top. I stole a couple of bites, not the best gnocchi I have ever had. It could have used some fresh basil and a little more salt, but still satisfying.
Price: $14.00

Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops
Cherry ordered this one, it was in a balsamic reduction with endive and came with a radicchio salad. Looked delicious, but only 4 scallops??! 
Price: $22.00
Mixed Grill Seafood
So I guess I was so busy taking pictures of everyone else's food, that I forgot to take a picture of my own!  Imagine 2 tiny pieces of fish (one red snapper, one salmon) the size of a baby's palm, 3 little shrimp, and 1 scallop sliced in half.  Ripe off? I would say so! Over cooked? Yep. Tasty? Not really. Its okay though, the company I was in, and the delicious appetizers made up for it!
Price: $25.00

 Donna ordered this one, it was made with pesto and sun-dried tomato. It was part of the $20.00 dinner special, but they didn't seem to give a lot. I didn't get a chance to try this, but I presume it was very good since before I could bat my eye, it was in her tummy!

Rigatoni Eggplant
Kristina ordered this one, it was made with tomato, eggplant, ricotta and basil.  It smelled pretty yummy. This was also part of the prix fixe menu.

Mango Sorbet
This was the dessert of the day from the prix fixe. The fragrance was intensly mango and so was the taste. Not too sweet, but could have been a tad more tart.

Chocolate Mousse Ice Cream
This was served with whipped cream and a raspberry drizzle. Really addicting..spoonful after spoonful, I had to remind myself that other people wanted some too! The raspberry sauce was tart and complimented the creamy chocolate perfectly. The cookie was a nice added crunch, although, not really necessary. 
Price: $8.00

Chocolate Lava Cake
Since it was Kristina's birthday, we had to get another super chocolatey cake with a candle! This was a cake like brownie with hot melted chocolate sauce on the inside and a scoop of peanut butter ice cream. Need I explain the tastiness of melted chocolate on top of more chocolate with peanut butter flavor as an accessory?? I don't think so. Did the fat child inside me come bursting out? You can figure that one out.
Price: $8.00

Apple Strudel
Obviously being a table full of girls, a third dessert was necessary. Duh. This was more like apple pie the raisins on steroids. My favorite part of this was the caramel sauce and pie crust dough. Not being a big fan of raisins, I sort of neglected this one.
Price: $7.00

Our Awesome Team 
(From Left) Carly, Me, Cherry, Kristina, Stephanie, Ana, and Donna. 
It was a happy AND sad day, since Steph was leaving, this was the last time we were all going to get to eat out together. We will miss you Steph! 
Verdict: Go for appetizers and drinks, this place is fantastic for large groups and people who are generally claustrophobic. Also the bathrooms are open and unisex, so beware!

Il Bastardo
191 7th Ave
New York, NY 10011

Friday, June 25, 2010

Lunch: Never Take a Suggestion from a Body Builder

I over heard a guy at work raving about the best pasta he has ever had. Being a fan of both pasta and "the best of", I asked him where he got it from.  "Cafe Metro" he replied. Okay, if you are not from New York, Cafe Metro is a huge chain where they make generic sandwiches, wraps, salads and "hot plates" usually purchased by people who are worried about calorie content, or just plain don't care how delicious their lunches should be. Mainly purchased during lunch hours to over worked Midtown employees. I asked him what he got. " Oh you know, whole wheat pasta, chicken and marinara sauce, vegetables."  
So this got me thinking... could Cafe Metro actually be tasty? I mean I never like to eat at chains (with the exception of Panera Bread) but maybe I have been to harsh? After all thousands of people go to Cafe Metro everyday!  
Good thing I had a 10 dollar gift certificate, so off I went!
Whole Wheat Pasta with Salmon
When I got there, everybody seemed to move at warp speed; people were flying past me, grabbing their food and jetting by. I hesitantly walked over to the pasta section. You had two choices; either get their "seasonal pasta" or make your own. I decided to make my own.  
Without even giving me time to think, the guy behind the stove glared at me: "What do you want?"
Me: "Umm.." frantically looking at their menu board." Whole wheat penne?"
Angry Man: " What else? " Throwing the pasta in the frying pan with force
Me: In a frenzy, looking over their topping selection " Basil marinara sauce?Salmon?..umm...peas?  broccoli?...is that eggplant?"
Angry Man: gives me a look like I was born yesterday " YES"
Me: " Okay and eggplant."
He shoves the pasta pan over to the poor cook who has already 4 pans to monitor and pack up.  After about 5 minutes, its done and I head over to the cashier.
Cashier:" 11.75".  Okay, first of all, some of the best pasta I have ever had cost this much, and you want me to spend 11.75 at some chain fast food place in Midtown??! I reluctantly hand over my gift card and the rest of the change.

So on the pasta. As I opened it at my desk, I was pleased to see that it is over flowing with food. Good. Enough for tomorrows lunch as well. I sprinkle the side of parmesan cheese they gave me and take a bite. The pasta could not have been more overcooked if they tried. It had an almost bitter taste. I move on to the salmon. Surprisingly moist with its own natural flavor along with the eggplant and rest of the vegetables being winners. The sauce tasted canned (but what do you expect?) I ended up eating only the veggies and fish and leaving the sad over done pasta to the trash can. I guess there won't be any left for lunch tomorrow.
Price: $11.75

Garlic Toast
This came with the meal. Stale. Garlic Powder. Waste Basket.
Price: Free
Verdict: Never take food recommendations from a body builder who drinks Muscle Milk as a snack. My suggestion if you somehow are delirious and DO end up here for lunch is to get one of their salads. At least with a salad, you know your aren't going to get anything impressive, but hey...at least you got your daily dose of vitamins in!
Cafe Metro
Various Locations

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sweet Tooth: Dessert at Winnie's Le Bus

After dinner, Buddy and I wanted a change of atmosphere, so we decided to go to a different spot for dessert. We picked Winnie's Le Bus; our favorite breakfast spot when I went used to go to college around the area. The place was spacious and had had a corky, paintery feel. Memories of delicious cornbread, pancakes, and yummy iced teas came flooding back.
Buddy's beer and newly made friend. I think his friend was already a little tipsy when he got there; judging by his drunk smile and diluted eyes...

Sweet Potato Fries
These were kind of a disappointment. They were very tough and dry, inside and out. There was not much flavor to them, but came with a side of yogurt cream sauce. The sauce was not that flavorful either, other than the almost sour cream taste, but helped moisten the dryness of the fries ...his friend however; seemed to really enjoy them
Price: $3.50

Banana Bread Pudding
When this first arrived at our table, I thought it was french toast! Well it wasn't ,but the flavors of french toast were sure there (especially with the generous sprinkle of cinnamon on top!) I couldn't taste much banana and the bread itself was very rubbery and lacked depth. The sauce however, was sweet, creamy and thick; reminiscent of melted custard. We didn't want to have leftovers so we polished this off,leaving it to expand in my stomach and boy ..was I STUFFED.

Buddy and I decided to buy some of their cornbread to go since we had remembered fighting each other for it when they served free pieces during their breakfast hours. I couldn't wait to open it up and have it with their delicious jam for breakfast!
Price: $5.00

Winnie's Mixed Berry Jam
I was so excited about this...their jam as I had recalled was some of the best jam I have ever had. Ever. When Buddy was purchasing this, the cashier asked if we were getting it as a gift. I guess she thought it was absurd that we were getting this for our own greedy tummies. Oh well!
Price: $7.00

Well, obviously we couldn't wait til the next day and decided to open the cornbread and jam up at night at ohhh... approximately 2 am. It was sad to say that the cornbread tasted vastly different from what we had remembered. There were actually pieces of corn in it this time and not as sweet. It was almost flavorless, which was very disappointing. The jam however, was amazing with whole chunks of raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Not too tart, just enough to make you pucker, but still sweet and soupy. The definition of a perfect jam. If only the cornbread matched the jams standards, this would have been the perfect midnight snack!

Verdict: Their strength is definitely breakfast, and I would continue to come for that. Maybe we just didn't pick the right dessert, or the right fries this time, but I still have faith in this place, not just because of the charmful atmosphere, but also the many great memories.
Winnies Le Bus
4266 Main Street
Philadelphia, PA 19127-1609

Dinner: Hey Mambo, Mambo Italiano!

Oh Manayunk..its a love hate relationship with you. In a sea of yuppies, college meat heads, slutty underage girls trying to get free drinks, and wannabe "bicyclists"... is neighborhood has some fairly decent restaurants. Buddy and I decided to go back to Bella Trattoria, a place we very much loved coming to when we used to live in East Falls.
Martini Straight up with 2 Olives
Nice mix of Vodka and Vermouth...could you tell I was looking forward to this drink? It was Friday night after all!
Price: $9.00
Long Island Iced Tea
Buddy ordered this, but from our last experience with long islands, I was extremely terrified to have a sip. It was actually quite sweet and tasty. Though, a little too sweet for my liking.

Complimentary Bread Basket
This came out fresh and hot, the plain bread was bland and not worth eating. The "doughnut" shaped ones were like garlic knots.Crunchy on the outside, and hearty in the inside...a bit oily as well. It was pretty tasty,and dangerously addictive.
Price: Free

Farfalle Bianco
This was bowtie pasta, chicken, mushrooms, and onions in a butter wine sauce. The pasta was a little over cooked, and the sauce was soupy. However, the over all taste of the sauce was delicious. It had the earthy tones of mushrooms mixed in with the butter. The chicken was stringy and way too over cooked. 

Risotto Pescatora
This was made with clams, mussels, squid, shrimp, scallops, capers, parsley, tomatoes, and saffron arborio rice. All of the seafood was a little over cooked and bordering almost tough. The risotto, however was thick, and creamy. The sauce was delicious, not too sweet, and with chunks of smooth tomatoes.
Verdict: Buddy and I used to love coming here, we had remembered the food being excellent, but now it only seems satisfactory.  Perhaps my palette became spoiled after eating at so many authentic Italian restaurants. I was also disappointed that our waitress neglected to tell us the specials,I am always a sucker for specials and when I miss them, i feel like I missed out on something. With that being said, the good parts were that the portions were huge and the atmosphere warm and inviting. We might come back sometime, but maybe not in the near future.
4258 Main Street
Manayunk PA, 19127

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dinner: My Attempt at the Art of Sushi making

Since I am kind of a cheapo,  I subscribe to about 1 zillion different New York and Philadelphia deal websites. This time I got a deal from the Dealist. 25 dollars for a sushi making session at Satsuko in the LES. Sushi making?? Only 25 bucks?! I had to drag my friends, Janet and Priscilla with me.
Sake Bomb
When we first arrived, the very charming bartender talked Janet into doing a sake bomb. This is essentially a car bomb, but super asian. They use Japanese beer (Sapporo) and the house sake. Balancing the sake ever so delicately on chopsticks, you pound your fists down and scream "ichi...ni...san..SAKE BOMB!!!" The chopsticks go FLYING and you chug your little heart out.
Price: $5.00 all night special

Chardonnay and Nigori Sake
Janet got the Chardonnay, but I got the Nigori Sake. Nigori means "unfiltered", so the rice residue is still in the drink. It gives it a milky look and creamier texture. I really enjoy unfiltered sake, and this one was particularly sweet and creamy.
Price: $8.00 (per drink)

They started to bring out our "tools". A bowl of water and a washcloth....later on in the night, these turned out to me by be my best friends.

Sushi Rice
Hot and fresh from the pot, my stomach was already rumbling. Half from excitment, and half because I was hungry!

Our ingredients
4 slices of tuna, 4 white fish,4 yellowtail, 4 salmon, 2 shrimp, 2 crab sticks, 4 avocado, cucumber matchsticks and carrot shreds. 
Rice Demonstration
She was trying to teach us how to properly put the rice onto the nori( seaweed). You first have to get your hands SUPER wet, I mean drench those suckers or else sticky rice will get everywhere!

Success so far. I added avocado, crabsticks and cucumbers. The teacher was impressed at how pretty it looked!

After rolling....okay so it looks a little less pretty. And maybe I added a little TOO much avocado. When you roll, you have to keep it tight, only roll half, then release and roll the other half.

Okay...so maybe sushi making isn't my forte...maybe it looks like a bull dozer ran over it.Repeatedly. My asian ancestors are probably rolling over in their graves.
Since trying to cut it made it even worse, I decided to eat it like a wrap. It was still edible after all! (By the way, I don't think I ever picked up my chopsticks that night, but sushi IS a finger food!).

Okay, so just to point something out. I am ALWAYS surrounded by other asians upstaging me. They are somehow always smarter, faster, or better in everyway possible than I am. I will forever be the lesser.
Anyway with that being said... the girl sitting next to me was whipping crazy sushi skills left and right, I asked her how she learned so fast. Her reply? " Oh, I make sushi all the time at home"....cricket sounds...then why are you here?!?! Obviously to make me feel stupid.
  However, she was kind enough to give me some pointers. First off, the nori was too short, which gave me less room for stuffing. She suggested I flip the rice to the outside so that I have more room for filling. I did this, and added my array of yummy fish.
Success!! No gushy innards coming out! I then added spicy mayo on top, but that just ended up making it look like puss was coming out of it....

The sushi expert sitting next to me also said to wet the knife when you cut to make the rolls and to wipe it clean every time.  They almost look professional! (Other than the failure in the upper left corner and the gross spicy mayo poops on top!) I ate these th next day for lunch at work, it was actually very tasty and the fish was fresh.

Priscilla, Janet, and I

Sake Shot
In the end, with all our hard work, we got a free sake shot. This one was filtered and a lot more dry then the sake I had been drinking that night.
Verdict: If you are seriously trying to learn how to make sushi, this might not be the thing for you. The sushi making demonstration was very short and not too informative. The teacher only told us how to put the rice onto the nori, but didn't teach us any tricks or gave any tips. We were also packed in a very tight space. All the important information I learned was actually from the girl sitting next to me. I think that next time, I would spend the 25 dollars on prepared sushi! This deal is normally 42 dollars, so I would suggest finding another place to learn how to make sushi.
245 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002