Social Saturday – 13th Annual American Cancer Society Taste of Hope

On May 10, 2018, I attended the American Cancer Society 13th Annual Taste of Hope event in New York City. I purchased my VIP ticket at $275 which included a gift bag and early access to the food and festivities.  The event had two honorees:  Sarabeth Levine was this year’s culinary honoree and Chef Antonio Prontelli was this year’s survivor honoree.

My top 5 favorite savory tastings from the event were the:

  • The Smith’s Toasted Ricotta Gnocchi with White Truffle Cream
  • Calle Ocho’s Pastelillos Cubanitos
  • Jing Fong’s BBQ Roast Pork Pastry Puffs
  • Casa Nonna’s Siamese Agnolotti
  • L’Amico Fontina Cappelletti with Wild Mushroom and English Peas

My top 5 sweet tastings from the event were the:

  • Bonsai Kakigori’s Strawberries and Cream Kakigori
  • Loi Estiatorio’s Yiaourti Me Meli
  • Melt Bakery’s Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • Java Melts
  • Frose & Campari Popsicles

Below are images from the event.

There were a lot more stuff at the event. The event set up gets better and better every year. There were a lot of wine tastings, beer tastings and emerging food companies promoting their products.  More importantly a lot of the food tastings were on the healthier side; there were salad variations, ceviches, and barbecued dishes.

I can’t wait to visit these restaurants during the upcoming restaurant week if they participate.  Stay tuned.

Traditional Tuesday – Soup Dumplings

Happy Tuesday! As I was leaving the subway station I came across a Chinese restaurant in Queens that just opened up. The owner gave me the menu and after glancing the menu, the prices of the dishes appeared to be expensive. A few months after the opening, a family friend was raving about these black truffle soup dumplings ($12.75 for six). Even, Eater loved them. Therefore, I have to try them.

So what are soup dumplings?

Soup dumplings were created as a street food in Nanking, China in 1875. The dish traveled to other provinces throughout China and Japan. These dumplings are usually steamed filled with gelatin based soup broth, pork and vegetables.

Are they healthy? Well, the soup broth is high is saturated fat and sodium. However, soup dumplings are using dipped in a sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar and ginger. This concoction can be viewed a healthy combination as vinegar aids in digestion and lowers blood sugar while the ginger holds many health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants.

After completing my weekend 4-6 mile walk, I decided to reward myself with soup dumplings. The Shanghainese restaurant Shanghai Zhen Gong Fu appeared to be a small Chinese takeout spot, but inside there were a bunch of tables. One of their popular dishes were the soup dumplings, so we ordered the crab and pork soup dumplings, pork soup dumplings and the infamous black truffle soup dumplings. Well, let’s just say the wrappers of these dumplings were perfectly thin and folded very well. The crab and pork soup dumplings and the black truffle dumplings were so good. The overall soup dumplings especially the crab and pork soup ones were even better than the ones I’ve had in the past. The black truffle soup dumpling were so tasty and they even have real black truffles on top of the dumplings. One can even taste the truffle oil in the soup broth.

So if you’re in Elmhurst, stop in Shanghai Zhen Gong Fu and try those black truffle dumplings. They are the best bang for your buck for an luxury street food.

Flashback Friday – ATL Wings – Franklin Square

Over the past few weeks I’ve been craving chicken wings. According to the National Chicken Council, fried chicken wings originated in the South a long time ago. However, chicken wings became part of the food menu in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y. The popularity of chicken wings grew in the 80s and 90s to the point where it is now considered a staple for get togethers and game day gatherings, but more importantly it’s cost effective.

We recently heard of a chicken wings spot in the Franklin Square neighborhood in Long Island called ATL Wings. ATL stands for “All The Luv” wings. According to their website the wings chain started in 2012. The menu had a variety of sauces and rubs for the wings. I spoke and met with the manager Kisha who was so kind to provide us with her recommendations. We had a variety of flavors to try ranging from not spicy to spicy with fries and honey biscuits on the side.

Here’s our food journey at ATL Wings:

We began our wings consumption journey with the mild garlic parmesan chicken wings. These wings had a lot of garlic and parmesan flavor and the taste was well balanced. I’d ordered them again.

Garlic Parmesan Dry Rub Wings

Next, we proceeded to the lemon pepper wings, which were considered popular among customers. I can see why! It’s the balance of the crispy wings with tartness of the lemon with a pinch of pepper that pop when I bite into it.

Lemon Pepper Dry Rub Wings

Then we moved on to the BBQ Wings starting with the sweet teriyaki wings. The wings were good and sweet, but it was not as exciting as the previous dry rub wings consumed.

Teriyaki BBQ Wings

Next we moved on to the spicy BBQ wings, which were the Honey Habenero wings. These wings were really good. The sauce was well balanced between the sweetness of the honey and the spiciness of the habenero pepper.

Honey Habenero BBQ Wings

Finally, we hit a crescendo with the Extreme Honey Habenero wings. These wings were good but spicy. The initial bite had the same well balanced taste and texture between the sweetness of the honey and the spiciness of the habenero pepper. After consuming three wings the spiciness dominated over taste, which was a turn off.

Extreme Honey Habenero BBQ Wings

To counterbalance the overpowering heat consumed from the extreme habenero wings, we ate the french fries. Although the fries could have been crisper, it helped a lot as the well balanced taste of oil and potato helped with reducing the heat from the wings.

Side of French Fries

Finally we hit dessert with the honey biscuit that hit the spot and almost eliminated the heat from the extreme honey habenero wings. This biscuit was definitely made with love – cinnamon, powdered sugar and honey.

Honey Biscuits

The food experience at ATL Wings was overall awesome and the staff was very accommodating. Their food was definitely made with love.

Our favorites were the garlic parmesan, honey habenero and the honey biscuit.

I would definitely return and take advantage of their Tuesday special – 75 cents wings.

Thank you ATL Wings for great food and service.

Throwback Thursday – Saigon Casa

Vietnamese crepe

Pho

Six weeks ago we decided to check out Saigon Casa, Vietnamese restaurant in Port Jefferson Station in Long Island.

The menu has limited options in comparison to what I’m used to seeing in other Vietnamese restaurants in Queens.

One of the dishes that we had to order was the pho. There were many types of pho, but we ordered the Pho Tai Nam Gau, which a beef soup containing rare steak, brisket and flank steak with noodles on the side.

The soup tasted good and we loved the fact that we can add the noodles at our discretion to our small bowls. I am still in search and experimenting recipes that replicated the best one I’ve had to date at the Pho Bang in Elmhurst.

Another dish I had was the Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe called Bang Xeo. This crepe was sold as a special item at this restaurant. The dish was huge and it is made of rice flour and tumeric stuffed with shrimp and pork. The dish was delicious and I want to make this dish.

I would like to return to this restaurant to try their other dishes.

Throwback Thursday – National Sandwich Day

Happy Thursday! First I want to congratulate the Chicago Cubs for finally breaking the curse and winning the World Series after 108 years. Anyways back to food it is National Sandwich Day. 

As I was watching world series history, the commercial for Subway came up with their promotion of buy 1 sub and drink get 1 free sub.  With all due respect to the bargain eats and listing of calories promoted by Subway, I am going to share two different sandwich experiences. 

Both sandwiches were purchased in the Financial District during lunch both were under $10 and it feels like eating a meal for two. Both sandwiches is a perfect quick meal as you consume protein, vegetables, with or without calcium and carbs in one shot. 

The first sandwich I had was a vegetarian sandwich from Num Pang, a Cambodian sandwich shop. There are six locations throughout the city. The shop had a great variety of sandwiches along with rice balls and drinks such as watermelon juice and Vietnamese coffee. All their sandwiches consist of freshly made semolina or quinoa baguette with pickled carrots, cucumbers, cilantro and chili mayo.  One of their cheapest sandwiches that appeared to be healthy yet very tasty was their Spicy Organic Tofu ($7.95). The sandwich was freshly made and served warm. The sandwich had a perfect balance of the firm tofu and vegetables, well worth the price.

Recently I was exploring Eater’s top 60 cheap eats in New York city right now. One of the restaurants listed was Grotto Pizzeria and Restaurant also located in the Financial District. This hole in the wall restaurant has been around since 1985. You have to go down a several stairs. As you enter the place looks like a regular pizza takeout spot where pizzas and sandwiches are separated and ordered separately. The guy behind the counter pointed me in the right direction to the sandwiches. I went with the sandwich suggested by Robert Sistema and Eater, which was the the sausage, broccoli Rabe and mozzarella sandwich. I waited and ate half of this filling sandwich ($9.75 with tax). This sandwich has to be eaten with all its components in it as it had the bitterness of the broccoli Rabe, the saltiness of the sausage and the creaminess of the cheese on a fresh roll. 

Although I am not a sandwich person, I do enjoy a really good sandwich once in a while especially from Katz, Carnegie or Russ and Daughters. Definitely want one check out other cheap eats listed on the Eater’s top 60 cheap eats. 

Throwback Thursday – Pizzeria Forno E Trattoria

Earlier this spring I decided to try a neighborhood spot in Maspeth NY called Pizzeria Forno e Trattoria. I always pass by during my bus ride to Jackson Heights or doing my walk. The restaurant felt cozy and homey. The food looked really good and fresh. I even got overwhelmed with the options that I had to get recommendations from the manager and owner. 

So my guilty pleasure is cheese, I love cheese so given my cheese craving that day everything ordered had cheese in it. Therefore is what I ordered. 

Top photo: CREPE DI SPINACI $8.50 Crepe stuffed with ricotta and spinach topped with white four cheese sauce. 

Overall the dish was to die for the stuffed crepe just melts in my mouth and tasted all five kinds of cheese. It hit the spot. 

Bottom photo: Half Sopressata and half Quattro Formaggi pizza pie $23.50 

The pizza pie was freshly made and the pie crust was perfectly thin. I did not feel guilty consuming four different cheeses and the spicy salami. 

Flashback Friday – China Grill

Happy Friday! It is time to take full advantage of the summer deals during my vacation.

One of these deals is the bento box lunch special from 12pm-4pm Monday-Saturday at China Grill in New York City.

Did you know that China Grill was around for almost thirty years? Well after one of the best fusion lunches I have had in a while, I can definitely testify to that.

Earlier this week, I caught up with a friend for lunch and both of us were definitely excited to explore the options.  So below are the two bento boxes we created.  Both of us ordered the Peking duck salad and wasabi mashed potatoes.  My friend ordered the dumplings and salmon teriyaki and I was on the noodle box and shrimp red curry.  Our bento boxes were “to die for”, presentation was beautiful but more importantly the taste was on point.  It was definitely worth the $19.87 spent on this meal.

In addition to the bento box, we decided order the popular salted caramel soufflé ($20), which has to be ordered ahead of time and it is served only on the lunch menu.

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Made to order dessert that serves two people available during lunch

After devouring the divine dessert, that was well balanced.  The sponge cake, plus the cream and caramel definitely hit the spot.

It was after 4pm and happy hour begins.  My other friend contacted me and informed me that I have to come here for happy hour.  It turns out she was right.  The menu offers a lot of options for drinks such as cocktails and bar bites from their appetizer menu.  So I settled for the lychee and cucumber cocktail ($8) with the lotus root dumplings ($7).  Both choices were delicious.

Overall service for lunch and happy hour were awesome.  My friend and I were satisfied and I can’t wait to share this experience with my friends and peers.  Cheers to China Grill and their continuing success.  See you soon China Grill!

 

Throwback Thursday – Fonda – East Village

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Also did you know that it is National Enchilada Day! Personally I have not eaten enough enchiladas at restaurants because I usually go for nachos, quesadillas and tacos.  However, two summers ago, I decided to take advantage of the summer restaurant week at Fonda an urban Mexican restaurant located in the East Village location.  They have two other locations, one in Chelsea and the other in Park Slope (Brooklyn).  The restaurant was a winner of the 2014 “Love New York” Awards and the 2015 winner for Diner’s Choice from OpenTable.  I recalled visiting the restaurant on a weeknight and they had a great deal on a prix fixe that included a margarita.  The items listed below are still on the menu.  Also, this was the first and only time I actually ordered an enchilada as recommended by my server.

Cocktail: Frozen Rosalita Margarita $11; $7 happy hour

Appetizer: Guacamole $12.95 dinner; $7 happy hour

Entree: Enchiladas Suizas $19.95 dinner

Dessert: Morenitas $7.95 dinner

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I believed that the prix fixe was offered on either a Monday or Tuesday evening during happy hour.  The portion size were exact for one person.  The overall food experience started well and expectations was diminishing by the end of dessert.  My favorite items out of the four images were the rosalita and the guacamole.  The enchilada was on the greasy side and the morenita was way too sweet especially after the consuming the dishes I had prior.  I have not returned to the restaurant and yet to try the other two locations.  The happy hour and daily specials are appealing in the East Village location so since I enjoyed the drinks and the guacamole, I would definitely return on a Sunday night for the Guac and Cocktail Sunday Special.

As mentioned in my Sunday Game Plan – 1st week of May, I plan on making enchiladas to commemorate National Enchilada Day, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I decided to make this dish over the weekend – Mother’s Day weekend possibly.  Stay tuned!

NYC Restaurant Week Anticipation

It’s been a busy week but I have been reminiscing my happy days of eating out.  One of my hobbies to this day is taking advantage of NYC Restaurant Week.   NYC Restaurant Week is back and starting from January 18th – February 5th, participating restaurants will be promoting three course meals at a bargain price ($25 for lunch/brunch and $38 dinners) Mondays – Sundays.  Over the past 10 years, I have had the pleasure of eating at high end restaurants at a bargain price.  Ideally, the best deals for NYC restaurant week is lunch/brunch and one of my favorite restaurants, which took about two years to get reservations, David Burke Kitchen in Soho.  My very first experience at a David Burke restaurant was at David Burke Kitchen for dinner back in 2012 thanks to Celebrity Chef David Burke who I have had the pleasure of meeting at a library earlier in the year.  This very first experience introduced me to the famous Frozen Arnold Palmer created by Zac Young.  I loved the Frozen Arnold Palmer so much that I have to make one trip every summer just to have it.

During NYC restaurant week, David Burke Kitchen utilizes their current menu as part of their restaurant week menu.  In translation, this means that there is no separate menu for restaurant week, one can choose an appetizer, main entree and dessert from their regular menu.  As a result, reservations would sell out days after the promotions were released. During the past two years, I have had the privilege of eating lunch for restaurant week at David Burke Kitchen.  Food, service and staff were on point.  The first restaurant week lunch I had was at their Garden. For the appetizer, I ordered the Kale Salad, which was healthy and had a good portion serving; the dressing balanced the dish very well.  Kale and cashew are two of my personal favorite kinds of food. For the entree, I went hearty by ordering the Short Rib with Homemade Cavatelli Pasta.  The short ribs were tender and the cavatelli just melted it my mouth.

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NYC Restaurant Week Lunch 2013: Kale salad, Short Rib Cavatelli & Frozen Arnold Palmer

The following summer, I returned to the same restaurant for lunch and took advice from my waitress and went with the BBQ chicken dumplings for the appetizer and the classic Kitchen burger with fries for entree. For the dessert in both occasions, I always turn to the Frozen Arnold Palmer, the refreshing end to my meal.

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BBQ chicken dumplings

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Kitchen Burger

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Frozen Arnold Palmer

It is amazing how a year changes, and now I am excited to explore new restaurants such as The Wayfarer for restaurant week lunch to support E Squared Hospitality and David Burke.  In addition, David Burke will be hosting a Signature Chef Series at on Wednesday January 20th entitled “Tip to Tail”, it will be a 5 course meal of beef with wine pairing, I’m so excited to come and support David’s work.