Culturesplosion.


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Bosie Tea Parlor: My Introduction To The Ispahan Macaron

This is going to be a short post, as I want to focus on one particular item of yum: the ispahan macaron. Created by famed French pastry chef Pierre Hermé, it is a macaron made with raspberry, rose, and lychee. I was lucky enough to try one at BOSIE TEA PARLOR (map!) the other day, and it was as delicious as it was beautiful:

Almost too pretty to eat....almost.

I’ve been a lover of macarons for a long time, but have never had one this fancy. The little pieces of lychee hidden inside were delightfully surprising. (And look at that dewdrop on the rose petal!) This one here was made by Damien Herrgott, who actually worked at Pierre Hermé Boutique in Paris, so it’s quite authentic.

If you’re ever in the West Village and want to cool your heels a bit and nibble on a treat, give this place a try. It’s cute, quiet, and has a nice tea selection as well.

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Woofs of Approval at Bark Hot Dogs!

Bow wow wow wow wow wow! BARK Hot Dogs (map!) is good!

Ridiculously convenient for those trekking by subway.

It was a lovely spring evening and I wanted a good hot dog. Maybe it was memories of Iceland kicking in, or maybe it was just the terrific weather, but either way, I was on a mission and Bark quickly came to mind. You may remember from earlier that DH and I happened to spot the Hodgman at this establishment. I had vowed to return to the neighborhood and give this place a try. Perfect opportunity!

Bark’s menu was great, I wanted to try everything. We settled on the “NYC Dog” (sweet & sour onions with mustard, $5), the “Pickle Dog” (house pickles, mustard + mayo, $5.75), and a side of Disco Fries ($5.50). For drinks, “Sehr Crisp Pilsner” and “Righteous Rye” beers from Six Point Craft Ales ($6 each):

Ahh, lovely.

Behold, what you have been craving all day!

Everything disappeared way too fast. A perfect, flavorful meal that was just what I wanted.

Some may say that a hot dog does not need to be $5+, but I thought it was absolutely worth it. You get some nice comfort food with a twist in a well-maintained and comfortable setting (as opposed to the street corner next to a vendor cart), and the location is super-handy for public transportation. Seems quite economical to me. I just want to rub this shop’s stomach and say “good boy!”

Bye-bye, Bark! I'll be back to try the rest of your menu soooooon!


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The Breslin + Porsena: dimly-lit tasty lamby things

Let’s clap our hands for good lamb dishes! I confess that I am picky about my “baaaa!!” meat. For me, it needs to be fresh, well-seasoned, and paired with a good drink. Thankfully, the following two restaurants totally met the criteria.

I went to THE BRESLIN BAR & DINING ROOM (map!) with fav restaurant buddy recently and we decided on the “chargrilled lamb burger with feta, cumin mayo & thrice cooked chips.” Seeing it on all our neighbors’ tables helped us make up our minds, and we weren’t disappointed. So tender, so tasty:

I bleated with jubilation at the first bite.

Accompanying our meal were a side of broccoli with aged cheddar (wow, it should be a crime for vegetables to be this delectable), scallops with yogurt & mint vinaigrette (ahhh, the taste of the sea…), and a prime serving of some cheesy bruschetta thing (I forget the name, argh!) that was such a treat because it didn’t taste like a brick of sawdust like 99.9% of other examples I’ve eaten:

Soft and tasty, like a delicious pillow.

We ended with the brioche donuts with spiced maple butter, chocolate sauce, and caramel sauce. We had more sauce than there were donuts to dip! I was tempted to behave in an un-ladylike manner and just lick those sauce dishes clean:

Donuts donuts donuts

I must also take a moment to sing extra praises of the drink I discovered here to accompany my meal, and then returned to the Breslin soon after to have again. Behold, the Bitches Brew (mescal, tomato juice, fresh lime juice, spices, topped with beer):

Two for one!

I’ve never had a beer cocktail before, but now I’m a fan for life. If you like Bloody Marys, beer, and well-made cocktails in general, this is the drink for you. As the picture shows, it is accompanied by a can of Tecate beer for top-up (quite a nice deal for $12 total), and the slow transition from mezcal taste to beer taste makes for an excellent experience. I seriously heart this drink. Of course, what better to pair it with than more thrice-cooked chips. Om nom nom.

I was the prettiest potato....

As a final note, this place has really fun pig-themed decor. The restaurant is connected to the Ace Hotel next door, and you have to pass through the trendy hotel lobby to get to the bathroom. Everything is very hip and happenin’ and it’s a cool people-watching sort of place. Try not to dress like a hobo, unless it’s an ironic hipster hobo.

Onto the next! My visit to PORSENA (map!) was a rare example of solo dining, and I loved every minute of it.

Hello, hello! Would you like some awwwwwesome pasta?

Located in the old Village Mingala burmese restaurant space (which I had frequented in the past and really liked, so I was glad it got replaced by something good), Porsena has been noted for its excellent pasta, and I thought it was worth a visit. I arrived after the dinner rush and was seated right away. My waiter was attentive and cordial, and started me out with some bread and olive oil and a nice glass of colle moro red wine. I ended up choosing the “anneloni con salsiccia e rape” (ring-shaped pasta, spicy lamb sausage, mustard greens) as my entrée and it was fantastic!

More lamb at its finest.

The spicy lamb sausage packed a big punch of flavor, and the mustard greens were a nice contrast for the carbs. I rounded out the meal with a dessert of panna cotta and pistachio-chocolate bark and left feeling incredibly satisfied.

Notably, just a few days ago, I saw that New York Magazine chose the anneloni dish as the representative for Porsena in its “Pasta Porn: 101 of America’s Most Delicious Noodle Dishes” list. I am glad the NYMag peeps agreed, as this was some gooood pasta! Porsena is a candidate for many return trips, absolutely.


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M. Wells: Reason #2 to Take the 7 Train

As a current Manhattanite, I am pretty clueless outside of the home borough. I am figuring out Brooklyn at a respectable pace, with the various street names becoming more and more familiar as I trek out to eat new delicious foods. But Queens? Up until this point, my destination has only ever been Flushing to get choice dim sum or other good Chinese cuisine. That’s a long ride.

Thankfully, M. WELLS is just 2 stops from Grand Central! (map!)

A brilliant disguise! You'd never know they serve fois gras in there.

Hooray for Long Island City! There is no excuse for not taking the subway to this gem of a restaurant. It is probably a longer ride to Union Square from GCT, and the Hunters Point stop is right next to the restaurant for additional convenience. My aforementioned cluelessness led us to get off at the Vernon Blvd/Jackson Ave stop accidentally (oops!), so we had to walk through a semi-creepy and desolate block from the other direction, but all in all, it is really not difficult or scary to get to this place!

Once you’re inside, it’s like night and day. The retro diner decor makes you feel like you’re in a bygone era:

So many people! So much energy! So much food!

We had a bit of a wait since we were part of the mass wave of people following the footsteps of NYTimes’ Sam Sifton and the just-published Time Out New York review, but it wasn’t too bad and the hostess (who I think was the co-owner Sarah Obraitis, or least an amazingly good doppelgänger) was very nice, thanking us for our patience. I think we did ok without a reservation, but I highly recommend getting one since they only serve dinner on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays right now. Given the number of people coming through the door, it seemed tough for the restaurant to get everyone a seat at the exact reserved time, but those people were, of course, given priority once seats cleared up.

In the end, we got nice counter seats, and I actually recommend these over the booths/tables because you get to see the open kitchen action up-close. We chose a couple of cocktails, which I absolutely loved Loved LOVED. The menu descriptions are simple, but the taste and presentation were tops. High class yet casually fun.

There was the J.F.K. Harris (white rum, lemon juice, sugar, mint, red wine) in a coca-cola glass:

I'm a sucker for density-column type drinks. It's tasty science!

And the M. Gibson (gin, dry vermouth, brine, orange bitters):

If you like dirty martinis, this is the signature cocktail of your mothership.

I need to try the rest of the cocktail menu. They were created by Zachary Gelnaw-Rubin at nearby Dutch Kills, so there’s a good standard at work here.

Onto the food. Deciding what to eat was agonizingly difficult. Everything looked really good. We decided to go with their Queens Clam Chowder, which was served in a huge tureen (maybe too huge, a small baby can probably take a bath in this thing!). Luckily, it contained about 3 servings, perfect for two hungry people.

*SLURP*chew*chew*chew*

We didn’t get it with the optional fois gras (extra $10), which was for the best because the soup was quite rich already. I’m starting to think I’m some kind of salt whiner, but the flavorful broth was a tad bit too salty in my opinion. The stuff IN the soup, however, was a totally different story. As someone who constantly suffers the indignity of barely-there clam bits in most of the chowders I consume in restaurants, this dish was like winning the clam lottery. The clams were BIG, PLENTIFUL, and FRESH. Did I just see a whole piece of mussel in there too? Oh my god.

Then we had the escargot and bone marrow, which was absolutely decadent:

I wish we had 5 of these...

As we ate, the speakers piped in some choice tunes. I never thought I’d be eating a dish of this level while listening to Snoop, but somehow it just worked.

Not wanting to have to be carted home in wheelbarrows, we finished up by splitting a slice of coconut cream pie, which was absolutely the right choice.

Can you handle my coconuttiness??

Ahhhhh! It looks so simple and benign, but once you dig in, it just hooks you. Not too sweet, not too gloppy puddingy, a crust that doesn’t overwhelm the cream, and just the right amount of whipped creme.

Stomach: What are you doing taking photos? Pie in mouth now!

We left feeling quite satisfied, but before walking out the door, what did I do?

I made a reservation for next week.


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A Brief Guide to the Blue Lagoon for Thrifty Germophobes

One of the things I most looked forward to on our Iceland trip was a visit to the BLUE LAGOON (map!).

Located in Grindavík, on the Reykjanes peninsula, it is roughly on the way from Keflavík Airport and Reykjavik (20 minutes from the airport, 40 minutes from the city). A very popular route is to stop by the Blue Lagoon either upon arrival on the way to Reykjavik or right before departing towards the airport.

We did both. High rollin’.

Aside from simply wanting to relax in the warm blue waters one more time, we also wanted to “do” the Blue Lagoon once more with the benefit of knowing how to navigate the locker rooms, showers, and water area itself. As luxurious and amazing as it all is, I found the pre-and-post dip rituals slightly confusing. Therefore, I’m just going to throw my experience and tips into the big internet pool and hope they will be of some use to someone.

Behold, my bullet list:

  • If you’re arriving on a bus tour or airport shuttle (ex: Iceland Excursions, Reykjavik Excursions), you can usually keep your large luggage on the bus or in a little locked luggage shed by the parking lot. Unless you have an unwieldy number of suitcases, though, I recommend taking your luggage with you. If would be a pain if you forgot to take along something you needed, and there are large lockers in the locker rooms once you get inside.
  • Try to have a separate tote bag packed with flip-flops, a beach towel (you have to pay to rent a towel otherwise), a rubber band if you have long hair, and your bathing suit. It will make things much easier rather than digging through your suitcase later.
  • You don’t need to bring a lock. Everyone gets a bracelet with a security chip in it so you can program your own lock and password.
  • Once you are in the locker room (for purposes of this guide, I am only talking about the women’s locker room, but I assume the mens’ have a similar layout), you will need to remove your shoes past a certain point. You can stash them inside a locker (you can use more than one, the bracelet will still work) or put them on a rack. I prefer the locker for added security.
  • If you’re shy about changing in front of people, there are a few changing closets you can use, or just duck into a WC. Also, there is more than one WC! There are some scattered by the shower area.
  • You must shower before and after entering the geothermal pool. The rules say you have to shower without your bathing suit. Again, if you are shy, there are individual shower stalls with doors in addition to the “hey everyone, we’re naked!” communal showers. Also, if you use the stall, it’s unlikely that the swimsuit police is going to burst in on you if you don’t strip down, so it’s really up to you whether to shower with or without a suit on.
  • ***If you don’t want to bring 2 towels, don’t want to pay the ~$5 to rent a towel, or are skeeved out by using your beach towel (especially after drying your salty self off with it outside), here’s how to get dry after a shower (you can’t be dripping and tracking water into the changing area, not allowed): before showering, take one of the free plastic bags available on a roll in the changing area, meant to stuff your wet bathing suit in. Stuff it with some paper towels from the WC (don’t go nuts using up the Blue Lagoon’s whole supply, but take a few handfuls, enough to dry yourself) then hang the bag on the outside knob of your shower stall. After showering, it’s right there, clean and ready to use!
  • During the “before” shower, load up on the free hair conditioner and slather your hair with it to leave in. Tie up your hair with the rubber band and then try to avoid dipping your hair into the water, as the salt will totally dry it out something fierce. Reapply then rinse during the “after” shower. The stuff is quite potent.
  • The silica mud for your face are in wooden boxes with ladles towards the far left area of the pool, not the slimy stuff you feel between your toes on the floor as you walk. I wouldn’t recommend reaching down for a handful of the latter.
  • If the bar is open, resist the temptation to buy a drink. They are not cheap and really, you are in one of the most relaxing places in the world, a beer is not necessary to enjoy it fully.
  • Definitely give the sauna, steam bath, and waterfall (again, towards the left) a try, but don’t be embarrassed to leave quickly if the steam is overwhelming (I lasted about a minute, sad to say).
  • Above all, take the opportunity to close your eyes and relax…..

When we finished, we also bought some postcards and stamps at the gift shop. The Blue Lagoon has its own stamp design, which is pretty cool, and there is a postbox for you to send them out right away. Convenient!

I can’t wait to go back again.


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Notable Eats In Iceland (aka The World’s Best Hot Dog And Other Things)

It’s time to take this blog international! DH and I visited Iceland in late March and had a great trip (with a favorable exchange rate!). We ate our way around various places in Reykjavik, took some glorious day tours beyond the capital city, and generally had a fab time exploring this Nordic country. I highly recommend visiting, either as a stopover to Europe or a primary destination.

As for the food, here were the highlights:

(1) BÆJARINS BEZTU PYLSUR (map!)

Hot dog stand of the gods...

Just ask about “the famous hot dog stand” in Reykjavik and everyone will know what you are talking about. Located in the downtown area on a random tucked-away corner/parking lot, this tiny shop always has a queue regardless of time or weather. We went there THREE times because it was so good. Our first bite was practically nirvana:

Magic in a bun.

The best way is to get it with the “works” (ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaði). The fried onion gives it an awesome crunch, and that sweet mustard is probably nectar of the Norse gods. Anyway, you chomp into it and then there’s silence because you practically want to cry at how good it tastes. Then the silence is broken by the full-mouth-garbled gasps of “oh.my.god.” And at 300 ISK (~$3 USD) each, you can come back for seconds, or thirds, sevenths, whatever.

(2) SÚFISTINN (map!)

A welcome spot to get out of the rain...

We stumbled upon this place on the 2nd floor of the large Visitor Centre on Lækjargata, a main street, while trying to get out of the gloomy drizzle. Craving a warm drink, I got a simple latte, never imagining I would find my favorite drink of the whole trip:

All lattes should come in bowl-sizes!

What is in this latte!! I know coffee culture has hit Iceland hard, but I didn’t expect to find espresso of this caliber in just a little visitors center cafe. Wow. There was zero bitterness and the milk was perfect. Even with most good espresso drinks I usually feel a tiny urge to reach for the sugar, but here, I think it would have practically been a sin to add anything. The fact that it cleared away the little twinge of onion breath from previously consumed hot dog just won me over completely. Needless to say, I returned later in the trip for a second round.

(3) NOODLE STATION (map! oh man, had to use a different map site. Googlemaps is somewhat fail-pants for Iceland…)

Noodles in Reykjavik? Come in, come in!

Even with the good exchange rate, Iceland isn’t cheap. When we wanted a quick and inexpensive meal (i.e., under $20 USD per person), it was actually a little tough to find a good place. Noodle Station saved the day, though, with a really tasty (if somewhat salty, eh, they have free water) noodle dish.

Eat meeee!

You can get noodles with beef, chicken, or veggies. We chose one beef and one chicken. The noodles seemed fairly utilitarian at first, but then we bit into the meat and it was TENDER CENTRAL. Both the chicken and the beef were so flavorful and soft they just fell apart in your mouth at first bite. Uh, can we just buy some of the meat to-go? I wish we could, because I could see myself putting it on top of white rice to cut the salt a little bit and just be in meat-and-rice heaven. You’ve got potential, Noodle Station. I like you. Thanks for the 930 ISK meal!

(4) GULLFOSSKAFFI (Gullfoss Café) (map!)

When we visited Gullfoss during our Golden Circle tour, we stopped by the cafe and gift shop by the upper parking lot (up a staircase from the falls). The tour guide was totally raving about the lamb soup (Íslensk kjötsúpa), and at first I was skeptical, but we got a discount by being part of the tour, so for roughly $10 USD (as opposed to ~$13), I figured I’d give the soup a try.

All lambs should aspire to be made into this soup.

Seriously, isn’t that just gorgeous? First of all, it smells awesome. I accidentally spilled a little bit while trying to move it to take a picture and was kind of devastated. The taste is as good as it looks. Very flavorful meat, not too salty, with a really homemade taste. What is it with Iceland and touristy stuff actually being good and not money traps? And then after filling our bellies with tasty soup, we got to see some natural wonders:

"ROOOOAAAARRRR!!! I'm a waterfall!"

(5) VOX Restaurant at the Hilton Nordica (map!)

Do you have ANY idea the amazing food that awaits you within these walls?

I had my eye on VOX for a long time as I was planning this trip, but the actual dinner menu always seemed just a little bit out of reach price-wise. Next best thing: THE LUNCH BUFFET. Or more specifically, the BRUNCH buffet. We went on a Sunday, so they included breakfasty things (tiny pancakes!) along with the usual fare, and it was just the best. Go and pay the 3150 ISK (~$30) and prepare to have your socks knocked off.

Did I just hear angels singing?

One day I’ll do a longer post about why I love buffets like a mouse loves cheese, but the primary “duhhh” reason is the selection. As much as I love regular restaurants, once you select a dish, you are kind of wedded to the limited amount of food on that plate. If you don’t like it, either order something else for more money or let it go to waste. With buffets, you just pick a little of all the dishes that look appealing, try them out, and if you like something in particular, you just KEEP GOING BACK FOR MORE. AND MORE. AND MOAR. How awesome is that? And if you happen to like everything, well, it’s just Christmas then, isn’t it?

And that’s what VOX was like. Christmas. I mean, can we get some close-ups on this spread?

Shrimp with pearl pasta, bowties, plus cured AND smoked salmon. Be still my heart. And the dishes keep going beyond the perimeter of this photo.

Wait wait wait, that's creme brulee in a baking pan, and I can eat as much as I want??

The amount of smoked/cured salmon and creme brulee (along with everything else) I consumed probably bordered on obscene, but if I’m going to get it this good at this price, I am going to enjoy it to the max.

:D

Juice and a whole pot of coffee is included too! I love Iceland.

So tell your friends, tell your neighbors! There’s awesome food in Iceland and you should go to nom there too!