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Saturday at Smorgasburg!

I have to thank my fav restaurant buddy for introducing me to her colleague as “my friend with the food blog,” because this new acquaintance then went on to give me the scoop about SMORGASBURG (map!), a cool Brooklyn food fair that happens in Williamsburg every Saturday.

Curious about this weekly event (organized by the same people who set up the Brooklyn Flea markets), DH and I picked a glorious day to visit.

Ok, maybe not so glorious. Where's the sun??

The sky was not nearly as beautiful as in all the press photos, but I wanted to try those fried anchovies I had read about, darn it! So we braved the rain and gloom under a tiny umbrella while making our way east from the L-train stop, and thankfully saw that a good number of other people had also made the same trek for a chance to taste some good Brooklyn yums.

So many places to try! First stop: BON CHOVIE (omg, their website is great. I’ll never think of anchovies the same way ever again. Apparently they are the rock stars of the sea?)

Tiny oily fish are effin' metal, dude.

We weren’t hardcore enough to go for “heads on”, but no matter. They were delicious! That smoked paprika aioli on the side was pretty special too.

And to think, you guys could have been canned and sitting on the shelf of a supermarket somewhere for MONTHS. This is a much better fate for you, fishies, I promise.

After that tasty little appetizer, we were on the prowl again. This time, we wanted something carby, with a little more heft. Ooo, what’s that over there?

Pupusas? PUPUSAS.

A little background. Pupusas are a Salvadoran food – thick tortillas filled with any variety of amazing things. (Long confusing story short: the first time I tried them was in Scotland, homemade by a Taiwanese-American girl who learned about them while visiting Latin America. A truly global treat.) And now here was SOLBER PUPUSAS, dishing them out! We ordered a traditional pork one and a fish one. They came with curtido (pickled cabbage), tomato sauce, sour cream, and jalapenos. Then we also grabbed some juices at the Red Jacket Orchards stand.

Time for a bigger photo:

I really like the colors in this picture.

Ohhhhmyyygodddd. These pupusas were totally gold. The combination of the tortilla, meat/fish, and all the condiments was just the most amazing mouth-happy experience ever. Not only was there a good taste, but the curtido gave each bite an excellent crunch, so the texture was great too. We scarfed it all down like animals, it was glorious.

So now we totally had the hunger. More carbs and meat, please?

Hmmm, that BOCATA stand smells pretty good.

Who can say no to sausage on a roll? One please!

I didn’t get the combo, which would have come with a side of fried shishito peppers, but they let me have one as a sample, and it was very good! (On a later occasion I bought some fresh peppers and tried to make an approximation at home. It’s a great healthy snack/app!) The sandwich itself, though, was also top-notch.

*CHOMP* Mmm, chorizo sausage and manchego cheeeeese...

Now, what about dessert? We need a unique baked good:

A stroopwafel. Perfect!

This bit of cookie-caramelly goodness was courtesy of the nice lady at THE GOOD BATCH stand. I haven’t had a stroopwafel since my visit to Vandaag way back (has it been 10 months already??), and this was a good specimen. I also got some AMAZING iced coffee from GRADY’S COLD BREW to go with it.

I am such a fiend for well-brewed coffee. Tiny bit of milk, no sugar needed. ZERO BITTERNESS. That is what I need. NEED I tell you.

I was tempted to buy some of their concentrate. Enough great coffee to last quite awhile! Maybe next time, though.

These lads know their craft well.

And they gave us our change all in $2 bills! Is that so hipster? I think that's kind of hipster.

In case you were ever wondering what the back of a $2 bill looks like. It's the presentation of the draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress. NOT the signing. Factoid for the day.

Although I also really wanted to try a popsicle from the PEOPLE’S POPS stand, I was just a little too full and the weather was getting just a little too cold, so we had to pass on it. However, just a couple of weeks later I stopped by the stand at Chelsea Market (another foodstravaganza under one roof) and got my chance to sample their frozen goodies:

Roasted red plum. CHOCK FULL of fresh fruit. I had no regrets.

I would love to go back to Smorgasburg again on a better-weather day and try more selections. There were a lot of other choices that looked appetizing. If you want an opportunity to sample the new wave of artisanal, independent foods that are originating out of Brooklyn nowadays, this is a good chance to graze all in one place.

And after you’re done stuffing your face, you can open up your wallet at the vintage market around the corner!

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Hill Country Chicken – Cluck cluck! Munch munch!

I am all in favor of the recent fried chicken revival in New York City. Who doesn’t love an excellent bird well-spiced and fried crispy?

DH and I discovered HILL COUNTRY CHICKEN (map!) completely by accident one weekend. We were searching for lunch, and after stumbling around for many blocks, delirious with hunger, we saw the cheerful yellow and white striped awning by Madison Square Park and decided to give the place a try.  It’s not like the line for Shake Shack nearby was getting any shorter.

The front door handle is shaped like a wishbone. You "break" it when you open the door. Ha!

I was familiar with the name of this chicken joint, but had not given it much thought in the past. I had no idea that the inside was like stepping into a time warp!

Where are we?

It’s a little hard to tell from just the photo, but the decor is a real throwback to a 1950s country kitchen. I was feeling a twinge of scenes from Back to the Future or Pleasantville, just with more fried chicken and pies.  The furniture is all retro, and the service/display area has mid-century kitchen cabinet details. Meanwhile, a comforting stream of softly twangy music is piped in from the tall ceilings. I was completely hooked.

Oh yeah, and the food was amazing too.

pies pies pies pies pies pies PIES

They have a pretty good variety on their menu, but it all focuses on what they know best: the chicken. We stuck to the classics and went for the special “Mama’s Coop”, which was suitable for 2 people with a thigh, breast, wing, and drum (mix of dark and white meat), two biscuits, two sides (we went for coleslaw and carrot-n-raisin slaw in a vain attempt to counteract some of the fattiness with veggies), and two mini-pies  (we got banana cream and double cherry).  We also ordered a mint ice tea to wash it down.

This tasted about 10 times as good as it looks.

Whoaaa, this was insanely delicious. The chicken was perfectly cooked, and the meat really did just fall off the bone. The pies were also excellent and tasted very fresh. (They put those 99-cent mini-pies you can get in a box at delis to shame!) It was the best meal for two ravenous city dwellers, and we happily munched away. In-between bites, I took a look around, and everyone else had the same ridiculously satisfied “I am eating awesome fried chicken” look on their face. Really, there is a face for that, and you can find it here.

Worth a return trip!


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Macaron mania at Ladurée!

The weather was beautifully sunny on Columbus Day, so it was the perfect opportunity for me and my mom (visiting the city for the day) to make the pilgrimage to the highly-anticipated and wellcovered LADURÉE (map!) in the Upper East Side.  I’ve always had a weak spot for macarons, so of course I had to come and pay homage to one of the greats.

Different from other pastry shops, Ladurée has a pedigree. Cue the wikipedia article! (“It is known as the inventor of the double-decker macaron, fifteen thousand of which are sold every day. They are still one of the best known makers of macarons in the world.”) And this was the first location in North America, woo! No wonder people were going crazy. I had heard about the lines from my friend who visited the first weekend the shop opened, and was sure that the excitement would have died down a bit by now, but no such luck. We arrived after 5pm, and there was still a respectable queue of eager eaters ready and waiting.

Yeahhh, we were about 20th in line. I guess it could have been worse, though.

Just look at those displays, tempting all the pedestrians!

While we all waited politely under the awnings, we took turns and passed back a menu of the selection that awaited us.

How can I possibly choose??

Finally, we got through the door and were greeted with? Another line! This time, a little shorter, but it was pretty much a “get in, get in line, buy your macarons, get out please, thank you” kind of deal. Completely understandable, given the amount of people waiting, but I had hoped to browse the store a little more. The decor is really quite gorgeous, with delicate pastel details. It is everything that you could expect from an authentic Parisian macaron shop. I snapped a quick photo before being given the “no-no” by a clerk, oops! Too late.

A little piece of Paris in New York City.

While waiting on the “inside” line, we tried to figure out the pricing. The macarons themselves are $2.70 each (I am curious to see if it rises in the future), and there is a semi-complicated set of prices for various fancy boxes in different sizes and designs. From what I gathered, if you buy 7 or fewer macarons, you will automatically get a little non-descript wax-paper bag, nothing special. If you buy 8, you get a little paper box that fits 8. You can also get a paper box that fits 15. And then there are sturdier keepsake-type boxes (aka “prestige” and “crystal” boxes) which I imagine would be used for gifts. It’s all a really fascinating system, but we were content to dole out the extra dollars for the eats and not the packaging this time around.

Not content to have to choose, we decided to go with one of each of the 13 flavors and double-up on the popular chocolate, caramel with salted butter, and raspberry.

Success!

Slim boxes, specially-made for 8 macarons.

Once home, I had a fun time with the unboxing:

Macarons are really such an art form...

I probably had a little too much fun setting up this shot.

Ok, last one. Onto the eating!

We were very precise and egalitarian with our taste-testing. Every macaron was split into quarters and shared among four people for a thorough taste-testing. Here are the unscientific results of all the flavors, on a scale of 1 (bleh) through 10 (yumtastic):

1) Lemon (citron) – quite yummy, not too tart but super citrusy – 8
2) Rose petal – “it’s like prancing through a spring meadow” but also like you’re just eating a flower – 5
3) Peanut – good nutty taste, but nothing mind-blowing – 5
4) Vanilla – like a crème brûlée in macaron form – 7
5) Cassis violet – wonderfully moist and berry-tasting, very memorable flavor – 9
6) Cinnamon and raisin – all that is good about this taste combo. It’s like essence of cinnamon and raisin bread, but without the bread! – 8
7) Orange blossom – a bit too meringuey, just kind of like orange some some flowers – 4

Super moist filling

8) Coconut – mmm! If you like coconut, you will like this. Has the chewy coconut bits in it for a full-textured experience – 7
9) Pistachio – a traditional selection, very good nut flavor. You can’t help but feel classy while eating it – 9
10) Coffee – uh, tastes too coffee-ish, like an espresso sugar bomb. It was too intense. We needed a palate cleanser afterward – 3
11) Caramel à la fleur de sel (caramel with salted butter) – they sell this caramel by the jar at this shop. It is pure decadence, but may be a bit too gooey-sweet for some tastes – 7

A second later and it would have fallen apart between my fingers. Very delicate...

12) Raspberry – little crunch seeds, with a great fresh raspberry flavor. Not cloyingly sweet, just right – 9

Raspberry macaron says "eat me!" At least, that's what I imagine it saying.

13) Chocolate – this is the only one that made me audibly sigh. The fudge in-between tasted like perfect chocolate, a teensy bit on the dark side, with an incredibly smooth and creamy texture – 10!

Ok, so it really shouldn't be a surprise that the chocolate one is the best. I mean, come on, if they can't get chocolate right then they totally don't deserve their accolades! No disappointments here!

So did we end up slouched on the couch with macaron crumbs on our faces and shirts when we were done? Uh, yeah. That Ladurée cranks out some pretty good stuff.  It’s not all perfect, but the fruit-flavored and chocolate macarons are really excellent and a notch above the rest. Must go back again soon for more of the favorites!


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The Village TeaRoom + Formosa: Gems of almost-upstate New York

Sometimes, the noise and craziness of NYC gets to be too much and a short getaway becomes necessary. When this happens, DH and I take a train ride on Metro-North and head up to the leafy glory of Dutchess and Ulster counties. When we get there, what else do we do but eat?

First stop upon arrival, FORMOSA CUISINE (map!) for some fab Taiwanese food.

Don't let the clip art deter you. There's good food here.

Located across the road from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, this restaurant has a pretty unassuming exterior, but there’s quality where it counts. Inside, the Asian-styled wooden decor, complete with ceramic pagoda tiles above the bubble tea bar area, is clean and cozy.

Try everything.

They have an extensive menu, but for the uninitiated, I highly recommend sampling the “Taiwanese Deli” selections on the first page, which has a number of popular Taiwanese staples. Here’s a rundown of my favorites:

Popcorn chicken with crispy basil!

Omelet with scallion pancake

Homemade Taiwanese style sausage

Steamed small minced pork buns (aka soupy dumplings!)

Oyster omelet (a gooey treat for the adventurous!)

I also really like a couple of traditional dishes from the main menu:

Taiwanese beef stew noodle soup

Taiwanese style mei fun. Sooo delicious.

And finally, we can’t forget the sweeties:

Strawberry, mango, and ice cream over shaved ice. This was an insane dessert, enough for 4 people.

ICE CREAM bubble tea. Maybe I just don't get out enough, but I've never seen this selection even in NYC. And there are duckies on the cup! Bonus points!

The prices are incredibly reasonable so you can try lots of different things, and it’s perfect for those who want good food on a budget. I can see why the place is popular with the college kids, but it’s a terrific spot for anyone.

Not content to stick to the east side of the Hudson, we make our way by car across the Mid-Hudson Bridge and head north to New Paltz. There, we stop at THE VILLAGE TEAROOM (map!) for some light fare and a good cuppa!

Tucked away from the street a bit, it's alll about the country farmhouse style...

Cute chalkboard drawing near the entrance. This is a popular place among the locals for afternoon tea.

Also right near the entrance. CAKES! And wait, what is that in the corner...?

....OMG, IT'S A HONEYBEE CAKE! Ok, we're eating that later.

We are seated upstairs, which I imagine is a good place for private events, and we happen to have the area all to ourselves! The waitress, who is super sweet and probably has calves of steel after running up and down those stairs all the time, happily explains all of our menu questions. We decide on the Ploughman’s Lunch (Cabot Sharp Cheddar, Organic Multi Grain Bread, Cornichons, Stone Ground Mustard, Seasonal Fruit, Lamb Pie, Plate of Cookies & a Pot of Tea) and choose the Lapsang Souchong tea.

All this for $16! I love non-city prices. Also, it seems silly to get excited over mustard, but that was some REALLY GOOD mustard.

The lamb pie, also amusingly called a "dingle pie", is perfectly spiced and very tasty. I would come back just for this.

The tea, with a great smoky flavor, goes perfectly with the savory food. We even get a little hourglass timer at our table to make sure the tea steeps long enough before drinking. Too cute!

And of course, we finish up with some of that awesome cake:

Bzzz! The bees are made of chocolate with almond wings. Genius.

Meanwhile, as we munch and sip away, a slight warm breeze drifts in through a side door and I hear the faint chirp of birds outside. I am feeling some serious relaxation, just what I was looking for! This is terrific.

After all this eating, we also stop by the WATER STREET MARKET (map!) for a little stroll to walk off some calories. There is a great antiques shop there, full of fun curiosities, but we also enjoy visiting a shop called “The Cheese Plate” to buy the obvious (mmm, aged Canadian cheddar).

There are more good places to share, but I’ll have to save that for another post. In the meantime, if you ever want a break from the city madness, just hop on the train and you’ll know where to go!