Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Post-Workout Lunch at The Hummus Pita & Co.

The Hummus Pita & Co.
585 6th Avenue New York, NY 10011

I don't know why, but I've been having the deepest and I do mean the deepest craving for amazing hummus and falafels. After a work-out around 14th Street in Chelsea, Will and I were really hungry and decided to return to The Hummus Pita & Co.

The layout of The Hummus Pita & Co. reminds me heavily of Chipotle and how the ordering process is similar.

Falafel Bowl, Sweet Tea, and Pita Bread
I ordered a Falafel bowl and inside the bowl contains: Mediterranean rice, hummus, fried eggplant, lettuce, tomato, and falafels. My order also came with a pita bread on the side.

I really liked the variety of food in the bowl and it was really hearty and delicious. The fried eggplant could have used a little salt and pepper. The Mediterranean rice was tasty and had chickpeas in it too. The hummus was as smooth as butter and seasoned just perfectly!

The falafels were awesome! They were nice, golden brown, and fried to perfection. I really liked that it was crispy on the outside and on the inside, it's smooth and full of flavor.

Will ordered a gyro and inside his gyro was beef, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, corn, and a little hummus. I didn't get to try his order so I can't really say how it tastes. However, Will did say it was very filling.

I really like The Hummus Pita & Co. because it's just relaxing to eat here and plus, I love a good fix of hummus and falafel every once in a while. The Hummus Pita & Co. is definitely a place worth checking out if you need a semi-healthy, quick-fix lunch or meal and it will most definitely stuff you full.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dining in the Janet Lefler Dining Room at City Tech

Since Jessica told me she wrote a blog post about her experience as a captain in her dining room class on Tuesday, I thought it would be a great idea if I wrote a blog post and a review from a guests perspective.

This Tuesday my girlfriend Jessica invited our friend Faye and I to be her guests in her dining room class. Since Jessica was captain, she was allowed to invite two guests to sit and dine in her class and I was the first person she contacted to be a guest.

I arrived at 11:50AM as requested by Jessica. I was seated at a table with our friend Faye and the two marketing managers for Tuesday's class. I thought the lighting was a little too bright and the set-up on my table was very organized and neat.

I noticed our server didn't introduce herself to us, but she did greeted us. She took down our orders and it took approximately five minutes for our appetizer to arrive.

I had the New England Clam Chowder and it was seasoned perfectly! The creaminess in the clam chowder was just about right.

Before my entree arrived, Captain Jessica came to pour the wine for our table. For once, she allowed me to drink alcohol during the day since I didn't have to drive. I am no expert in wine or drinking wine, but I thought a white wine would have been a more perfect fit for this entree.

Basque Chicken with Creamy Polenta and Fresh Garden Vegetables
For my entree, I ordered the Basque Chicken with Creamy Polenta and Fresh Garden Vegetables topped off with pancetta, I believe. The basque chicken was perfectly moist and I really enjoyed the sauce. I wish I knew what was used to marinate the chicken or what was in the sauce. I also enjoyed the fresh garden vegetables and the creamy polenta too.

After I finished my entree, our server returned to collect the plates and utensils and took our orders for coffee and tea. I ordered a cup of coffee and unfortunately after I took my first sip, I noticed it was cold coffee. I was a little disappointed that the coffee was cold. The server didn't hesitate to offer me a cup of tea instead.


Rum Napoleon
Next, our desserts were brought out by our server. I really liked the swan, but I thought there was a lot of cream. However, I liked that the cream wasn't too sweet.

In conclusion, it was a great experience and I know everyone in the class was trying their best. I really enjoyed the food and felt it was well-prepared. The only thing I wished was that my coffee was served hot and the lighting could have been more dim. I certainly look forward to come back as a guest of the Janet Lefler Dining Room at City Tech if the opportunity arises.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cheap Eats: Vanessa's Dumpling in LES

Vanessa's Dumpling
118 Eldridge Street New York, NY 10002

Two Saturdays ago, Will and I went to a Lunar New Year's dinner on my Dad's side of the family in Chinatown. After my Culinary 1 class, I was hungry, but didn't want a heavy lunch otherwise I wouldn't be able to eat dinner so we were thinking of where we could possibly eat that was cheap, but also not heavy and all of a sudden Vanessa's Dumpling popped into my head.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Vanessa's Dumpling, it's basically a hidden gem in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and it's just one of those food places that's really famous for one and one item only and in this particular establishment - it's dumplings (my favorite)!

There aren't a lot of seats available in Vanessa's and if you can avoid using their restroom (not in the best condition). Basically, you order and pay first and on your receipt there is a ticket number. When one of the workers calls out your number, your order is ready to be picked up and devoured!

$10.00 for all this good stuff!
Okay, so I usually don't save the receipts of when I go out to eat, but I decided to take a picture of this receipt for you so you can see just how cheap it is to eat at Vanessa's.

Will and I ordered two fried pork and cabbage dumplings ($2.00 per box for a total of eight dumplings), a honey green tea to share, and two sesame pancake - Peking duck sandwich. How much for all of this deliciousness? $10.00 baby! I couldn't believe it, but then again it ain't my first time eating here.

Honey Green Tea
The Honey Green Tea wasn't too special and lacked green tea flavor.

Fried Cabbage & Pork dumplings
So this is one of  the main reasons why we decided to stop in at Vanessa's Dumpling for lunch. So, typically the fried dumplings are sold with four in a box for $1.00, but because we each got 8 dumplings, it was $2.00 for a box of eight dumplings.

The dumplings were hot, juicy, and delicious! It's been a really long time since I had Vanessa's Dumplings and oh man, it was awesome. Nice meatiness inside the dumpling! My only little complaint is that it wasn't crispy enough on the bottom.

Sesame Pancake Peking Duck sandwich
Will ordered the sesame pancake - Peking Duck sandwich for me to try and also because he was afraid we wouldn't be full. He's tried it and according to him, this is the best sesame pancake sandwich ever.

I actually liked the sandwich a lot, but again I wished it was more crispier and a little more Hoisin sauce would have been great. The duck was really moist and delicious! Will was right about everything about this sandwich.

Vanessa's Dumpling has another location in Union Square on 3rd Avenue and 14th Street in New York City. Prices may be a little more expensive compared to the original one in Chinatown and they also serve sushi and Teriyaki dishes which I find a little weird.

I hope this review opened your eyes to that even in a big,busy, and expensive city like New York, there's still cheap and delicious food you can enjoy and savor.

Tip: You don't need to pay tips at Vanessa's Dumpling.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Leading & Dining in My Class

This Tuesday I was one of the captains in my Dining Room class and it wasn't hard, but it wasn't easy either.  It was almost like running a restaurant, except I am sure running a restaurant is a lot harder then what I had to dealt with on Tuesday. I basically had to put the leader hat on my head, learn how to open a bottle of wine as well as serve it properly, and run the show. I was utterly nervous especially when it came to serving the wine, but somehow I managed to survive the class.

Every Tuesday after the dining room service finishes, we all gather around and eat and discuss strengths and weaknesses of the day. The amazing aspect of all this food that's served is it's made by students and made for students and the Hospitality Management faculty. 

Luckily I was able to take quick pictures of what was served/we ate:

Hard Rolls & Herb Bread
This was the bread that the Baking & Pastry Arts class made for us. The breads of the day were hard rolls and herb bread. I especially liked the herb bread because the power of the herbs adds an aroma to the bread. The herbs used were dried oregano, thyme, and basil. We had butter on the side to spread on the bread and it was delicious!

New England Clam Chowder
The soup of the day was New England Clam Chowder. Honestly, this was probably one of the best New England Clam Chowder's I've ever had because it was seasoned just perfectly and the best part was that it wasn't too creamy.

I've had a lot of New England Clam Chowder before, but not in a fine dining restaurant. The New England Clam Chowders I've had were always very creamy and not well seasoned. This particular clam chowder that I had was just perfect and there were bits of bacon in the soup too which gave the soup a nice smokey flavor to it too.
Deviled Egg
Now I can finally say I've tried a deviled egg. Somehow I thought the taste would be weird, but it was actually not bad. The yolk was flavored with mustard and seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and a little cayenne pepper.

Cold Broccoli, Sunflower Seed, and Raisin Salad
I was a little hesitant about trying this salad because it didn't sound very appealing except for the broccoli part because I do love broccoli. Any way, the portion size of the salad was rather small. The salad wasn't the best salad I've ever had, but I did like vinaigrette.

Basque Chicken with Creamy Polenta and Fresh Garden Vegetables
I was really excited to try this dish for some reason. The sauce used for the basque chicken is from a family recipe of one of the chefs that teaches the Culinary 2 class. What's in the sauce? No one knows.

The basque chicken was excellent! It was cooked just perfectly and the meat was rich and tender. I wasn't too thrilled with the fresh garden vegetables because they were a little too salty. The creamy polenta was tasty as well.

We served a red wine today - 2010 Cappezana Barce Reale Di Carmignano. I'm not a fan of red wine, but this one actually tasted really good. For dessert, we had assorted French pastries - swan, rum napoleon, and financier. I don't know how often I can post photos of the food I will be having in my dining room class, but I will do my best to snap pictures.

Overall, I had a great experience as being a captain and being somewhat in charge. Looking forward and hope I can share another dining experience in-class with you soon!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Family Dinner at Ken's Asian Taste

Ken's Asian Taste
40 Bowery Street New York, NY 10013

Last month before Chinese New Year arrived, my family and I had an early and mini Lunar New Year's eve dinner in Chinatown.

Ken's Asian Taste is a mid-sized Chinese restaurant that we visit occasionally when we have family dinner. We originally didn't want to come to Ken's Asian Taste after hearing the owners switched and heard from a relative that the new owner was a little cheap with portion size of the food.

The portion size of the food wasn't a problem, but there was a problem with the amount of tables and occupancy level. It was definitely a lot crowded and they definitely added an extra table.

Fish Soup solids with Tofu
My family and I often order a fish soup which has a light fishy scent to it, but otherwise it's quite delicious. Sometimes different chefs and restaurants add a slight splash of heavy cream/milk to the soup to give it that rich and creamy taste to it.

Along with the fish soup, there's a plate of the solids used to give the soup it's substance and flavoring. There's tofu, pork, baby mushroom, fish, ginger slices,and I believe Chinese broccoli.

Stir-fried fish fillet with sweet peas and mixed vegetables
Next, we ordered the stir-fried fish fillet with sweet peas and mixed vegetables. The fish fillet is from the same fish used for the fish soup. This is actually one of my favorite Chinese dishes because the colors of the vegetables used are vibrant and there's a little sweetness from the sweet peas. The fish fillet was light, moist, and tasty.
Garlic crispy skinned chicken
We also ordered the garlic crispy skinned chicken. The skin has a slight garlicky flavor to it and is lightly crisp. The meat was cooked perfectly moist and tender.

House Special Stir Fry
Next dish we ordered was the house special stir fry which I also really like because there's sauteed calamari, different vegetables, and macadamia nuts which gives this dish a nut-like, buttery flavor.

Lamb and bean curd stick in clay pot
Ah .. one of my ultimate favorite dishes - lamb and bean curd stick in a clay pot! I absolutely love lamb especially the way it's cooked in Chinese cuisine because there's a rich bean sauce and hint of star anise. The lamb and bean curd stick clay pot also has slices of water chestnut and sometimes chefs include slices of sugarcane.

I love this dish because it's really hearty and especially good to eat during the winter and chilly days. It really warms you up.

Lobster with Ginger & Scallion
And... here's an all-time, Chinese family favorite - lobster with ginger and scallion. Absolutely meaty, lobster goodness!

Broccoli with Deep-fried Shrimp & Walnuts
Finally, another one of our favorites - broccoli with deep-fried shrimp and walnuts. I always love the deep-fried shrimp and how it's so moist, tender and slightly sweet from the mayonnaise sauce that's used. Broccolli is usually blanched and the walnuts are delicious and glazed with sugar and sesame seeds.

There were a few other dishes that we had, but I didn't have a chance to snap a picture of them. Overall, this was delicious family dinner. I thought every dish we had was perfectly cooked and delicious. It looks like our relative was wrong with the portion size because it seemed to me that every dish was full and complete.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Friday Afternoon Lunch at Hill Country Chicken

Hill Country Chicken
345 Adams Street Brooklyn, NY 11201

Hill Country Chicken is one of the newest additions to the restaurant row at 345 Adams Street in Downtown Brooklyn. It's situated next to it's sister restaurant Hill Country Barbecue Kitchen.

It's really bright and inviting in Hill Country Chicken. The staff are very friendly and happy to assist customers. Very spacious and comfortable seating.

About two or three weeks ago, Will and I came to Hill Country Chicken for lunch. We ordered two pieces of chicken each and two sides to share.

Our meal
Fried Chicken
I haven't had fried chicken in such a long time. The fried chicken from Hill Country Chicken was slightly different from the fried chicken I've had before. It was fried to perfection, crispy, and crunchy. The taste was slightly different. As I took my first bite into the fried chicken (drumsticks), I detected a little sweetness in the batter that was used to fry the chicken. It was different. The meat was smoking hot, moist and tender.

Pimento Mac-N-Cheese
I ordered the pimento mac-n-cheese and somehow I thought it would have a kick of spiceyness in it, but it didn't. I don't think there was anything quite special about this appetizer. It could have used a pinch of pepper for a little spicyness.

Cheesy Fried Mashed Potatoes 
Will ordered the cheesy fried mashed potatoes. This side order wasn't anything too special, but I think it would taste a lot better if there were a bits and pieces of bacon. What do you think?

Salted Margarita Pie
For dessert, I picked up and brought back to the office a salted margarita pie. It's a miniature pie. The crust was buttery and flaky, but I wasn't really liking the salted margarita itself because in my opinion, it was a little tart to the point I couldn't really finish it I think it would have tasted better if it wasn't too sour.

The experience at Hill Country Chicken was well. We didn't feel rushed and we actually enjoyed our small lunch. There really wasn't any food that popped out at me. I haven't been back for almost a month, but will definitely go back to Hill Country Chicken at some point in the future.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Lunar New Year Celebration

Happy Lunar New Year everyone!

Hope the first day of your lunar new year was awesome! Lunar New Year is probably one of my favorite time of the year because of all the warm, bright, cheerful colors and festivities that take place.

In addition, there's just a lot of delicious foods to eat. I wish I took a picture of every food that we eat or make for lunar new year, but didn't have a chance.

Lunar New Year Eve's Dinner
On the night before Chinese New Year, most families have a huge feast. I always look forward to this meal because it's a huge feast and somehow every year when my mom cooks this feast - everything is consistent and always tastes the same, if not better each year. It was just my parents, me, and my sister so there were leftovers enough to last us for 2-4 days.

This feast consists of the following dishes: steamed chicken, vermicelli, stir-fried vegetables with squid, crispy roast pork, shrimp, mushrooms/lotus/red dates/tofu skin (soup solids), and pan-fried fish. Everything truly delicious and savory!

Good Luck candy, oranges, and flowers
Yau Gok
Last week on Chinese New Year - my dad, sister, and I spent 2-3 hours in the kitchen folding these yummy, crispy, and sweet fried dumplings. These aren't your typical dumplings because they are sweet and filled with shredded coconut, brown sugar, sesame seeds, and crushed peanuts. Super crispy, crunchy, and sweet!

How was your Lunar New Year? What special foods did you eat?