Monday, March 28, 2016

A day out in the far west of London

Today was surprisingly good weather, so John and I did something surprisingly un-English. We went to a batting cage.

The batting cages were in Harrow, one of the more suburban areas of West London where you're surrounded by fields and motorways. It was unusually windy but we hit pretty well despite being blown away when walking back and forth to the car. Still, it felt pretty good to swing a good-ol'-American bat.

But the spring-time English weather crept up on us, and it wasn't more than 30 minutes after we finished playing that it started pouring rain. So being in the far west of London we decided to do what all good English people do after a sporting event. Have a curry! 

Being in a traditionally Asian area, we decided to explore a new place I'd never been to before that is well know for its Indian and Pakistani food: Southall. 

Using good old fashioned TripAdvisor, we looked up recent posts and found a place called Gifto's Lahore Karahi among the top 10 most recommended places to eat. When we walked up to the restaurant we both got a good feeling about it: there were naans being formed and baked right in the window, and you could see pots and pans of red, yellow and green curries being cooked on the stove. I do love a good open and exposed kitchen.

There were a lot of servers wandering around not knowing exactly what they were doing, or which tables they were responsible for, but apart from that everyone was friendly and the service was quick. One of our servers didn't speak English, which we took as a sign of authenticity. The other tables were full of Indian and Pakistani families, so we were definitely in the right place.

We ordered a new dish I'd never heard of before, and probably would have over looked if we hadn't asked what the family next to us was eating. It was called Karahi Chicken, a red tomato curry served in a piping hot metal dish that looked almost like a Chicken Tikka Masala without the cream, or a Bhuna with a little more spice. We also ordered a Papri Chaat as a starter (crispy wafers with chick peas, potatoes, onion, yoghurt and tamarind sauce), shish kebabs, a lentil dish with lamb and spinach and fluffy hot white naans. It was delicious, incredibly filling and we both wished we could be carried back to the car.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Welcome to London! Now what's for dinner?

In October last year, I moved from New York to London and there's so much to discover when it comes to food. I'm surprised by the diversity of cuisines, from Indian (well known as the best outside of India), Turkish, French, Spanish... the list goes on. The only food I've yet to find as good as the States is Mexican, but I'm waiting to be surprised.

However the British food is off-the-charts. On a recent trip to Notting Hill, John and I went to a restaurant called Bumpkin. It specializes in British dishes, made with locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. They go to such an extent to make things accurately, classically English that they wont use even olive oil to keep the food faithful to how it should be.

It was late on a cold winter evening, so we ordered two appetizers to share and opted for the same main: an enormous, perfectly cooked and juicy burger. Maybe it was the American inside of me that wanted to challenge the good old fashioned backyard barbecued burger on the grill with a farm-house style restaurant in central london, but I have to say it was far surpassed my expectations.

Some of the other highlights on the menu included St. Austell Bay mussels with garlic, parsley and white wine, veal pie with leeks, tarragon and mushrooms and rhubarb cake for dessert.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Back to the basics at Jack's Wife Freda

Jack’s Wife Freda is an intimate, unique and somewhat quirky restaurant with two locations in Manhattan: 224 Lafayette Street in SoHo and 50 Carmine Street in the West Village.

What kind of food is it? ZAGAT characterized it as, “‘delish’ American fare with a ‘Middle Eastern twist’” while New York Mag called it, “South African Israeli Jewish Grandmother Cuisine.” I personally have no idea where the “grandmother” vibe came into it, but it seemed to me like a menu that brought dinning back to the basics (vegetables, fish and meat) in a delightfully unpretentious way.

You’ll understand what I mean when you take a look at the menu. You can’t help but notice the drawings on their paper are simple sketches of individual items and basic cookware. And the vibe of the restaurant is classically café-chic with wooden tables, café bistro chairs and brass light fixtures. I looked over to our neighbors, two young women – one with a whole fish, the other with a burger and fries, each plate sparsely decorated with hardly any garnish. I appreciated that. It allowed the food itself to stand out on the plain white plates. And there was nothing trying too hard about it: nothing camouflaged in superfluous lettuce, herbs or sauces – just food on a plate.

My friend and I chose the spiced beet dip as our appetizer, which was pretty amazing. It was much creamier and sweeter than I imagined and was topped with crumbled feta cheese and herbs. The pita, which was served on the side, was warm and grilled, and consistently replenished until we finished our dip. For our entrees, we both ordered the same thing and loved it. The dish was called, Ground Lamb and Eggplant “Lasagna” – “lasagna” was in quotes since there was no actual pasta involved. Instead it was three layers of eggplant baked with a lamb meat sauce and presented in a white ceramic dish. The cheese on top was melted and slightly brown and tasted like a delicious moussaka – perhaps an influence from yet another region of the world. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A taste of Caracas, without the 5 hour flight

In the mood for something different? Last night, John and I went to a Venezuelan restaurant in Brooklyn called Caracas Arepa Bar. There are a few different locations in the city (one in the East Village at 7th and 1st, one in Roneria, Brooklyn and another in Rockaway), but we went to the location on Grand Street in Williamsburg.

The vibe was super relaxed with tea light candles, green wood tables and unfinished walls. The bar in front channels the vibe of an old shack decorated in plywood and a tin roof. The back room hosted the main dining area with walls of art showing city views of Caracas. There was a 15 minute wait which to me is always a good sign of great food and a popular spot, plus the host offered us waters and kept a close eye on our table so that our experience wasn't too painful.

On top of the atmosphere, the food was great. They specialized in arepa, which are sandwich buns made out of 100% corn flour giving them a grainy but soft texture. They had a ton of arepas to choose from on the menu - about half were vegetarian.

We started with an order of guacamole and chips, made out of dried sweet plantains. They provide you with a small bottle of sweet and spicy sauce which is really to die for, so don't be put off by the plastic bottle. We were smothering it all over our food. I'm only now regretting that I didn't ask for the recipe...

For our main meal, we ordered one arepa each. Our server recommended 1-2 per person, but since we also ordered the appetizer we thought it would be enough. We were right. I chose the first one on the menu called, De Pabellón: shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains. The savory and sweet combination was amazing, and the beef tasted as if it had been marinated for days. It left me full and deliciously satisfied.

"De Pabellón" arepa: shredded beef, black
beans, white cheese and sweet plantains
John chose the special: pork shoulder, sweet plantains, cheese and jalapeño. It was recommended by our server, but unfortunately wasn't a great choice. John said the only thing he could taste was the jalapeño, which dominated the flavor so much that he couldn't taste the meat... or anything else.

That said, we were on our way to a concert at Brooklyn Bowl and wanted a casual meal that wasn't your typically predictable dine and dash chain (i.e. Chipotle or Chop't). This was the perfect change to our normal dinner out and I would definitely recommend stopping by. There was so much more on the menu to try, so if you go -  please let me know if you find a new favorite dish!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cold Temperatures Call for a Warm Soup

Despite the fact that it’s March, temperatures still dip well below freezing in New York City. In honor of this endlessly frigid weather, I wanted to do a post on a soup that I’ve been mastering throughout the winter and share it with you while it’s still acceptable to eat warm and hearty meals.

It all started with a post I read on Smitten Kitchen about carrot soup with crisped chickpeas. I never quite got the chickpeas right (so if you do, you’re a better cook than me!), but I was able to get the soup down to a creamy, sweet and hearty texture.

And then, I changed the recipe - it's become a lot spicier, sweeter and less like a puree. Here's what I did, but let me know which one you think is better!

(Read on for the recipe...)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Moustache - Middle Eastern

Moustache Pitza is the perfect Middle Eastern restaurant for a casual dinner for two or three people. It’s a small hole-in-the-wall place that fits about 10 tables. The food is served on small plates that are designed for sharing.
Our favorite items on the menu were the hummus, babaganough (I love anything with eggplant!) and the Moustache Pitza. The chicken and lamb kebabs were also great to share, but were fairly unseasoned and could have used more spice.

The place is so small and cute that there is almost always a wait for dinner – so expect at least a 20-30 minutes. But it’s worth it.

Oh yeah, it’s cash only.

Choose one of three locations: East Village, West Village and East Harlem.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A New Year, a New City, a New Meal

It's been a while since my last post... okay nearly a year... but a lot has happened that makes me want to start blogging again. 
My boyfriend and I are in New York City now, and there are so many restaurants, bars, grocery stores and farmers markets to explore that it's given me great material to start writing and the best encouragement to start tasting new foods and eating at new places.

For me, there’s nothing better than trying a fantastic new restaurant with a cute atmosphere and a delicious entrée, but I’m feeling more than a little overwhelmed with the selection here. To be honest, I have no idea where to even start looking for a good place to eat in this city. (So if anyone is reading this and has a suggestion… please, please, please leave a comment so I can go immediately.)

Therefore, because of the plethora of restaurants available, and my unfortunate lack of food geography, I will share my ups and downs in an attempt to better learn what food this city has to offer.

I also hope this blog might help anyone visiting or living in New York, so that they may have a new list of places to try, and not waste their time (and calories) on mediocre food.

One last note, before I write my first post actually about food: John and I have just moved into a new apartment with a wonderful, newly renovated, never been used before kitchen!!! That means lots of opportunities to cook and try new recipes, which I will share in great detail on this blog.

So, with that said, I'm resuming my posts and beginning to write, cook and eat (well I was always doing that) again!