Category Archives: Eating my feelings and paying for it

Clam “strip” is like only getting half an egg in your ramen.

I truly don’t understand why you would order tough, rubbery, mostly-batter, fried clam strips.  I concede, there’s a really good, oceany pungency to them that tastes they way a found clamshell on the beach smells.  But that texture…  It’s just unpleasant.  I might as well make nuoc mam-flavored chewing gum.

Growing up, I couldn’t understand why you would fry clams at all.  Why take something so succulent and juicy and turn it into what tasted like bland-battered and deep-fried bouncy ball?  Clam strips don’t usually hold up in flavor well to how heavily they’re battered, either… and I do mean battered in every meaning of the word.

The clam belly platter at Flanders Fish Market

The clam belly platter at Flanders Fish Market

So long ago, when my mother-in-law told me that we were going to be stopping for fried clams on our way up to Maine, I had my doubts.  When she placed her order at Flanders Fish Market in Connecticut, she was very specific to order fried clam “bellies.”  I had no idea what this meant, but knew there must be a distinction.  The entire family sat out on the sunny deck and waited for our orders while “enjoying” the soft rock that was being pumped outside.  Hey, it’s Connecticut.  When the basket came out, it didn’t look like any fried clam basket that I’d ever had.

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Fried clam bellies, it turns out, just means that they’ve gone ahead and fried the entire small clam varietal, not just a shredded strip of a giant clam tongue (read: rubber central).  When done well, i.e. lightly battered so it fries quickly, the little clam doesn’t get overcooked and tough.  Instead, you break through crisp bready shell into a juicy and decadent clam center.  Hollaaaaaa.  Sprinkled with lemon juiced and lovingly dipped in horseradishy cocktail sauce, these little clam bonbons (vs. the clam mentos that I had tried and hated in the past, although regular mentos are great) engraved themselves into my food memory.  I nodded at my mother-in-law in acknowledgement of this food accomplishment and she nodded back.  A silent exchange of a common clam-belly ground.  Clam bellies – my solution to bonding with your in-laws.  Vodka doesn’t hurt either.

It looks like a little truffle that when bitten, pops with tender clam goodness

It looks like a little truffle that when bitten, pops with tender clam goodness

On our way back from Fisher’s Island, CT a few weeks ago, I made Chris call his mom from the drive for SPECIFIC instructions on how to get back to Flanders – the site of my clam belly inauguration.  Soft rock and sunny deck in place, we once again enjoyed an entire basket of delicious fried clam bellies with a side of fries, and then only slightly regretfully stared at our empty plate while contemplating the long drive back home.

Make sure to order extra cocktail sauce...

Make sure to order extra cocktail sauce...

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Ippudo… I hate to love you

Well, I finally made it back to Ippudo a few weeks ago.  And I only had to wait 10 minutes!  That’s because my friend, Angela, and I decided to have dinner at 6PM like a couple of old blue-hairs.  Actually, Ippudo was senior citizen-free as 20 and 30-somethings all over NYC are willing to leave work early to try and beat the hour or more wait for a taste of Ippudo goodness.

Ippudo1

I’ve tried several times to make it to Ippudo since I started writing this blog a few months ago, but every time I went, the hostess smiled as she informed me that I would need to wait about 90-minutes for a table.  During those months, I’ve had a lot of ramen and my resentment for not being able to get a table at Ippudo almost made me forget how much I love a bowl of Akamaru Modern.  Almost…

Once we sat down in our do-it-yourself-loveseat, which can be pushed together or spaced out depending on who you’re ramening with, I started to remember why I enjoy the Ippudo experience so much.  Ippudo is like swanky ramen – dark interior with giant booths or communal tables circling a driftwood centerpiece.  While I appreciate the ambience, I’m usually too pissed off by the wait to enjoy it when I sit down and usually curse the giant, red, sprouting wood sculpture and spacious booths filled with all of two people.  This time around, since there was no wait, I thoroughly appreciated the air-conditioning and elbow room so often compromised in a good ramen joint.

Ginga Kogen: Plateau of the Universe.  Indeed it is, whatever the hell that means.

Ginga Kogen: Plateau of the Universe. Indeed it is, whatever the hell that means.

As I sipped my favorite Ippudo go-to beer, Ginga Kogen (a crisp, refreshing wheat beer that apparently means “Plateau of the Universe” in Japanese), I perused the menu pretending like I didn’t know EXACTLY what I wanted to order: flavorful chicken buns (which I actually prefer to the pork – go figure!), savory & tangy agedashi tofu, and a steaming bowl of Akamaru Modern – rich, porky goodness with a dollop of chili miso paste with an added marinated egg.  Oh, and I’d like my house-made noodles firm.

Chicken bun beats pork bun

Chicken bun beats pork bun

If you know me or are starting to understand me, you know that ordering chicken over pork is a rarity for me, especially when that pork comes in the form of pork belly.  I’ve loved pork belly long before it became a fad.  It’s bacon in its purest form.  So know that when I say that the chicken bun is better than the pork bun at Ippudo, it means that this chicken is damn delicious.  The problem with chicken normally is that it’s flavorless.  At Ippudo, the chicken is marinated and then pan-seared to salty, spicy, umami happiness before being tucked into a marshmallowy soft and squishy white, steamed bun and garnished with crisp iceburg (no nutrients, but it adds good crunch and lightness) and Kewpie mayo (God’s answer to mayo right next to your everyday Hellmann’s).

Agedashi it up, tofu lovers.

Agedashi it up, tofu lovers.

Agedashi tofu is basically tofu that’s been very, delicately battered in a light, watery tempura batter before being quickly deep-friend until the outside is just crisp but still pale (Asians like pale).  It sits in umami-full dashi broth and is topped with grated daikon, ginger, and thin slices of radish and scallion.  It’s so light, yet tasty, that if you were someone other than me, it would make the perfect light meal on a humid summer day.

delicious tofu in sweet and savory dashi broth

delicious tofu in sweet and savory dashi broth

With my second Ginga Kogen came my hot bowl of hakata broth ramen, its steam wafting up and spiraling around my face like a pork fat facial.  I quickly grated a small blizzard of sesame seeds on top and gave it a gentle stir to mix the miso paste into the broth.  Then I tasted just a small spoonful of the broth.  Damn.  Damn, damn, damn.  Damn you, Ippudo.  Damn you and your stupid hour-long waits for perfect hakata broth.  If you were a single person, Ippudo, I would kick you.  The broth is so rich, so flavorful, yet so perfectly balanced so that it’s not overly porky to that point where it almost gets fishy.  It’s not just about flavor, it’s about mouthfeel – Ippudo’s broth coats your mouth in a pleasing way that doesn’t leave a fat slick that prevents you from tasting anything else.  You enjoy its richness and then wish for more as it begins to fade and dissipates.  It coats, it scores.

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The house-made noodles are my favorite ramen noodles yet.  They aren’t mushy, curly, springy noodles.  They’re made in the basement of Ippudo and each, thin, chewy, square-width noodle has its own almost-meatiness to it.  When slurped, or pinched with chopsticks, they fall into a perfect waterfall.  Ramen noodles are made with an alkaline mineral water (according to Wiki-doodalah) which probably accounts for the depth of flavor in the noodles.  It may also contribute to a mildly unpleasant smell in the basement right outside the noodle room.  Bleh.  Luckily, unless you’re curious like me, you’re probably not snooping around the noodle room anyway, so order your noodles a little firm and then enjoy the mildly sweet, nutty taste and chewy texture combo  of the noodles.

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The sliced pork belly in Ippudo’s ramen is also pretty well-executed.  It’s sliced just thin enough and braised carefully to ensure that it’s as tender as it is flavorful.  The only drawback to the entire Akamaru Modern bowl is the sulfur yolk inside the marinated egg.  It’s so unfortunate.  The marinated “whites” of the egg (stained coffee-colored by the soy-based marinade) are the most flavorful of any egg that I’ve tasted, but without a delicious custard yolk, the egg disappoints me time after time.  Of course, I keep ordering the egg because I’d rather have the delicious whites and slightly sulfur-smelling egg (complete with green ring) than no egg at all.  <sigh>

green ringed-yolk.  At least it's a whole egg vs. just a half...

green ringed-yolk. At least it's a whole egg vs. just a half...

So in the end, Ippudo strengthened its hold on my belly while its repulsive wait times continues to anger my heart.  Ippudo is the bad boy of ramen joints: he’s slick; when he pays you attention, you feel like gold; but he sometimes leaves you waiting for hours or just stands you up entirely.  But you keep coming back…  By the time we left, the almost empty lobby that greeted us at 6PM was now PACKED with hungry and anxious ramen addicts who stared longingly at us as we stumbled towards the door, bellies painfully full of delicious ramen.

i've seen it twice as packed.  no, four times as packed!  nay, twenty times as packed!

i've seen it twice as packed. no, four times as packed! nay, twenty times as packed!

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Egg. It’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, & dinner

I’ve been meaning to post about Egg in Williamsburg FOREVER and now finally have a chance, but my husband just told me that I’m a little late – it’s apparently being featured in every cab in NYC.  Late to the party as usual, and most-likely, underdressed.  Regardless, I have to sing the praises of this wonderful restaurant while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Here’s my disclaimer: I rarely go to Brooklyn.  Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Brooklyn and wanted to live there when I first moved to Manhattan.  My husband, however, is not a Williamsburger.  So we moved to the Upper East Side where my husband and his 70 year old friends feel more at home.  No, my husband’s not actually 70, but he’s almost 27 going on 68 at the very least.  I don’t make it to Brooklyn because I’m lazy and I hate transportation.  I know, it sounds weird, but I do.  I hate driving, busing, subwaying, ferrying (sailing is OK because it’s more like a sport than commuting), training, flying, vanning, shuttling, mono-railing… whatever.  I hate it.  I love to travel in the sense that I like being in other places, but I hate the act of getting anywhere.  Yeah.  I have issues.  Way ahead of you there.

I almost picked and ate these as an appetizer...

I almost picked and ate these as an appetizer...

But after my husband, my bro-in-law, and me dropped my cousin and her friend off at the airport, we decided to head to Egg for a late lunch, early dinner.  It’s an unassuming place with a lot of character.  Aren’t those the best types???  Egg is small, but its substance is deep: they only use local or organic supplies – some of which they grow themselves!  After we realized that there wasn’t really a wait even though a do-it-yourself wait list board was sitting out front, we quickly grabbed the very front table so that I could sit next to the grape tomato plant that was growing in the window, nay, the table box on the sidewalk.  Tell me the last time you dined al fresco in the company of a good grape tomato plant!  Thanks to my husband and my bro-in-law, I refrained from picking and eating said-grape tomato for fear of embarrassing them.  Had I been on my own, however…  Oh, and before I forget — I need to give a shout out to Mr. Reginald Andre, aka Big Man In Williamsburg (BMIW), for introducing me to this extraordinary dining establishment.  It’s too bad that even though he’s my good friend, he never reads this blog or else he could receive his kudos pseudo-directly.

ham & cheese biscuit with a side of the best grits I've ever had

ham & cheese biscuit with a side of the best grits I've ever had

Anyhoo, when you go to Egg, there are certain things that you MUST order.  Either you order a biscuit, fried chicken, a milkshake, or ALL THREE.  Normally, I recommend all three.  However, since we weren’t quite at dinner time and this little excursion counted more as a snack than anything, I stuck to just one out of the three and ordered a biscuit… or rather bisuitS… yup, I ordered a ham & cheddar biscuit with grits PLUS a side of biscuit in sausage country gravy.  Don’t judge.  Go ahead and tell me that biscuit with a side of biscuit doesn’t sound appealing and I will go ahead and call you a communist.  It’s your God-given duty to love biscuits as an American.  If you’re not an American, thanks for reading my blog… now go find & try a biscuit and learn to love it.  Oh!  And to keep you occupied while you wait for your order, they provide crayons for you to doodle on your paper tablecloth with.  The people next to us drew amazing sketches of eyeballs while I just practiced writing my new last name: Lvoff… sooo many consonants.

sausage country gravy & biscuits

sausage country gravy & biscuits

Here’s the thing – I wouldn’t have totally gluttoned-out except for the fact that I wanted country gravy to dip my ham & cheddar biscuit into.  At Egg, country gravy is made TO ORDER vs. sitting around in a giant pot over a water bath all day to develop one of those attractive, crusty skin layers on top.  Once that was explained to me in what seemed like an attempt to discourage me away from the side of country gravy, I stubbornly made my gravy stand and just ordered the entire biscuit & gravy appetizer.  What would you have done???

tell me that you wouldn't have done the same???  ham & cheese biscuit WITH sausage country gravy.

tell me that you wouldn't have done the same! ham & cheese biscuit WITH sausage country gravy.

Once my biscuits came, I knew that I had made the right decision.  You may question the logic behind a biscuit+biscuit afternoon snack, but I stand by my logic!  Once I was able to top dense, crispy-on-the-outside biscuit filled with salty ham & pungent cheddar, with a giant chunk of sausage smothered in perfectly peppery country gravy, I knew that my ordering had not been in vain.  Sure, my arteries went into instant contraction, but the buttery, salty, spicy, meaty melting pot of flavor that I experienced was surely worth blockage.  And while I’m no expert when it comes to grits since I’ve never had them south of Philadelphia, I will say this: these were the best grits that I’ve ever tasted.  Speckled with little bits of corn, these grits were mild on the palate (the right balance to the super-savory ham biscuit) and then sweet on the finish.  Normally, I just *like* grits but at Egg, I worship them.

Eggs from Egg... wish I had tasted this bite vs. just photographing it.

Eggs from Egg... wish I had tasted this bite vs. just photographing it.

My husband’s sunny-side-up eggs and chorizo with raspberry jam looked pretty damn appetizing as well, even though I never got a taste…  The color of his farm eggs was a vibrant marigold vs. the pale yellow Food Emporium eggs that I’m used to.  I *imagine* that they were delicious based on how quickly he consumed them, only pausing to allow me a picture, but stopping his generosity just short of an actual tasting.

Now THAT'S a tablescape!!!  My glass of chilled Muscadet was the perfect compliment to a savory summer's meal al fresco.

Now THAT'S a tablescape!!! My glass of chilled Muscadet was the perfect compliment to a savory summer's meal al fresco.

I’m sure you’ve seen the taxi advertisement on how great Egg is, but please allow me to reiterate: Egg is incredible.  It’s more than eggs, it’s reason enough to move to Williamsburg… or at least hop the L train over.

The Brothers Lvoff trying to ignore me as I hop around and take pictures like the blogger monkey that I am.

The Brothers Lvoff trying to ignore me as I hop around and take pictures like the blogger monkey that I am.

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Philly: It’s not just about cheesesteaks

I had to go to Philadelphia last week for just a few hours, but I knew that while I was there, I had to make time to eat.  No, I didn’t visit Tony Luke’s, Pat’s, Gino’s, or Jim’s.  After living in Philadelphia for about 9 years, I know exactly where to find the best food.  At a Vietnamese restaurant called “Nam Phuong,” tucked a way in the corner of the Wing Phat shopping plaza on Washington Blvd.

Vietnamese soups always come with veggies & limes.  If you see lemons or nothing at all, leave.

Vietnamese soups always come with veggies & limes. If you see lemons or nothing at all, leave.

While I was there, I definitely didn’t appreciate how amazing the Vietnamese food at Nam Phuong is.  In fact, I was annoyed that every time my parents came to visit, they only wanted to go to Nam Phuong.  Not once would they try Amada by Jose Garces or one of the many, amazing BYOBs in the city!  Nope, just Nam Phuong.  Spoiled as I was by the spot-on flavors of all the Vietnamese fair, I would sigh and begrudgingly drive to Wing Phat, fighting off the sea of Asian drivers all battling for 1.5 parking spaces in which to park their cars… diagonally, of course.

Vietnamese restaurant with a Vietnamese/Chinese zodiac placemat -- always a good sign.  I'm a monkey... shocking, I know.

Vietnamese restaurant with a Vietnamese/Chinese zodiac placemat -- always a good sign. I'm a monkey... shocking, I know.

After I spent the summer in Vietnam and then moved to New York, I realized why my parents had been so addicted and devoted to Nam Phuong.  It’s not fancy and you could basically go in your PJ’s (which are worn quite often around the streets of Vietnam) to dine.  When you walk in, there are giant round tables everywhere and all you can hear is the frantic sound of plastic chopsticks on ceramic bowls and slurping of noodles through hot soup.  You can see steam rising up from below the hunched over faces of the guests who on occasion, look up from their bowls to breath in cool air, blow their running noses, or sigh deeply to try and make room for the next bout of noodle-slurpage.  In short, it’s wonderful.  It’s a symphony of food joy.  It brings tears to my eyes to see people enjoying their food in such an honest and loving way.  There’s no discussion about plating, no talk of seasoning (go on, season and garnish it yourself with your plate of bean sprouts, mint, thai basil & limes), and little talk at all except for those deep, labored sighs that only accompany food so good that you can’t stand to leave any leftover.

banh xeo - it's an eggy crepe filled with shrimp and pork that's served with pickled veggies and herbs to be wrapped in lettuce

banh xeo - it's an eggy crepe filled with shrimp and pork that's served with pickled veggies and herbs to be wrapped in lettuce

So when my mom and I found a parking spot right in front of Nam Phuong in the middle of the day, and then walked in to find it uncrowded with no wait… it was like a little pho miracle sent from Buddha.  We shared a banh xeo that was so good wrapped in lettuce and garnished with mint, thai basil, cucumber, and pickled carrots & daikon (although nothing beats the banh xeo made and served in Danang).

assembling your banh xeo lettuce wrap

assembling your banh xeo lettuce wrap

For our entrée, we didn’t even have to ask each other what our orders would be.  My mother is from Hue and I inherited her spicy, salty Hue blood (read that however you like).  These two Hue girls ordered bowls of Bun Bo Hue – spicy pork and beef broth soup served with spongy, round rice noodles, thin slices of brisket, and congealed pork blood.  The flavor is intense.  The heat is intense.  The spiciness is intense.  This soup is not for the weak or the ignorant of palate.  If you don’t like this soup, if you can’t handle the heat, then you need to train yourself to enjoy it or risk dying a bland and boring life.  I could say, “it’s OK, to each their own…”  But I just don’t feel that way.  When it comes to Bun Bo Hue, there is no other right answer.

bun bo hue - savory, spicy, meaty and perfect.

bun bo hue - savory, spicy, meaty and perfect.

We squeezed fresh lime juice into our giant, steaming bowls of bun bo, and then added additional bean sprouts, mint, and thai basil.  There’s only one size: warrior-portion.  For baby & sissy-portions, go elsewhere.  I used to not be a fan of the congealed blood, but I was young and stupid.  It has the meaty, nutty, gamey flavor of liver with a little marrow, and its mellow earthiness is perfection with the spicy, tangy broth.  The spongy, round noodles are fun and happy, like skinny udon noodles, and have the right amount of slurping slipperiness.  My mom and I barely spoke as we focused intently on the mission at hand: eat, savor, & enjoy.  Of course, our silent enjoyment was only broken when one of use would need to come up for air and a break from the steam to blow our nose or breath out to make room for more noodles.

yup, it's congealed pork blood and it's delicious

yup, it's congealed pork blood and it's delicious

Had there been time for dessert, I would have gotten a shaved ice, coconut milk, mung bean, and pandan jelly noodle dessert, but alas, our time in Philly was short this go around.  But Nam Phuong… oh Nam Phuong… I can’t wait to visit you again (cue the dreamy, Vietnamese string music, mist, and then… fade out).

do you see that red clay color???  if you order bun bo and it doesn't look like this, push the bowl away from you and ask for the check.

do you see that red clay color??? if you order bun bo and it doesn't look like this, push the bowl away from you and ask for the check.

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Blogged Lunch

Since Tam works in midtown and it’s on my way downtown to Soho, we’ve been having our own little midtown lunch.  Our lunches are filled with yummy foods and picture-taking madness, followed by slow waddles to the subway and our jobs, still lamenting not having ordered one more thing to try.

Busan Eel Bowl

Busan Eel Bowl

Our most recent Blogged Lunch was at Busan on 53rd St. between 2nd & 3rd Ave for some Korean fare.  When I met Tam there, the window walls in front were wide open and Tam had picked a table that allowed us complete access to the outside world, and great natural sunlight for lots of picture taking.  The wait staff was incredible attentive and the atmosphere was very sleek, which may explain the high price tags relative to Korea Town.

Busan salad

Busan salad

I needed something substantial and decided on a rice bowl with broiled eel while Tam ordered a hot bowl of rice cake soup.  Both were presented beautifully and came with HALF a battered & fried egg and two little tempura asparagus spears.  What’s up with this half an egg stuff, people?  And to go to the lengths to batter and deep fry only half an egg…  Why?  Why not just give us a whole egg?  And while the HALF egg and asparagus were lovely, there was NO KIMCHI.  Yeah, I kid you not… an absence of kimchi.  Nor were there any fun little condiments or a small deep-fried fish like at BCD Tofu House, just a small salad that was oddly dressed with unagi sauce, which was a little too sweet just dumped onto plain salad.

Tempura asparagus spears on HALF a fried egg

Tempura asparagus spears on HALF a deep-fried egg

This is what a deep-fried half egg looks like

This is what a deep-fried half egg looks like

Luckily, the flavor of the eel rice bowl was pretty damn good, but what rice slathered with unagi sauce isn’t, right?  Under the eel, there was a good amount of sautéed peppers, onions, and zucchini that were needed to compliment that earthiness of the eel (although kimchi would have also done that better).  And the rice wasn’t just plain white rice, it was this delicious wild mix of purplish rice that had a nice nuttiness to it.  The half an egg wasn’t bad, either, but it wasn’t anything special… especially not special because it was only half an egg.  I do wish that the rice had been cooked-til-crispy on the bottom, but it hadn’t, and I was left wishing that I had something more.

Busan eel

Tam and I decided to get shaved ice with red bean and coconut milk.  We have a similar dessert in Vietnamese cuisine, so we thought it would be a comforting way to send us back to work.  Ladies & gentlemen, this is where Busan shined.  Where they saved money on only serving half a fried egg, they splurged on topping our red bean shaved ice with plenty of strawberries & blueberries.  The red bean was also surprisingly balanced, not sticky sweet the way red bean can sometimes be.  The shaved ice, coconut milk, red bean, and tart berries made for a fabulous dessert that was refreshing, not heavy.  It was the best way to end a warm summer’s lunch.

Busan shaved ice with coconut milk, red beans, & berries

Busan shaved ice with coconut milk, red beans, & berries

busan dessert 2

In the end, while I enjoyed dessert, I think I’m going to keep my Korean meals to Korea town.  But I can’t wait for my next Blogged Lunch with Tam!

Tam photographing our dessert

Tam photographing our dessert

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Mad for Macarons

IMG_4541.JPGHave you ever been asked whether or not your a sweet or savory person?  You know, what do you prefer as a treat, a salty pretzel or a piece of chocolate?  I hate that question.  It depends.  It always depends.  I don’t like hard pretzels – they remind me of being an idiot teenager who knew squat about what “carbs” were and ate dry, brittle pretzels by the bag to lose weight.  And I like chocolate, but it has to be dark chocolate (ideally around 70%) and it can’t have the words “milk,” “white,” or “Hersey’s” anywhere near it.  Not interested.  I’ll take the pretzel if it’s that or white chocolate.  Oh, but if you dip that pretzel in some form of dark chocolate, or maybe a jar of nutella, then you have a snack that’s pretty tempting (and you also have what I religiously ate as a train snack while backpacking through Europe).

salted caramel perfection

salted caramel perfection

Today, though… This day that gave me hope… If you asked me that question today… I would say that I was a sweet person (obviously meaning that I want something sweet as that word and my demeanor have NOTHING to do with each other).  Today, I walked into work and my friend, Kim, offered me a salted caramel macaron from her friend’s soon-to-open shop, bisousciao.

raspberry lightness

raspberry lightness

Little did she know that I have a small OBSESSION with macarons and have been on a hunt to find ones as delicate and ethereal as those of Ladurée.  Bouchon, Payard, La Maison du Chocolat and even Kee’s all left something to be desired.  They were fragile, but each and every one of them was overly sweet and made me instantly thirst for bubbly water to get rid of the clawing syrupy feeling that you get at the very back and top of your mouth where that little hangy thing is.  You feel like you have to swallow a thousand times to try and get rid of it.  And I’m not sure that Bouchon’s macarons even count as macarons since they’re the size of frisbees.

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I picked up the pale, cream-colored macarons and was delighted by how light the meringue felt in contrast to the dense salted caramel pressed between each cookie.  I love when the filling contrasts in both color and flavor to the that of its meringue cookie.  My first bite gently cracked through the delicate crust of the meringue before slowly pushing through the chewiness of the softened meringue and the salted caramel.  The nutty meringue and perfectly savory caramel were not overly sweet at all, but perfectly balanced – just sweet enough to be complimented by a cup of tea, but not too sweet to beg for a strong espresso.  Kim offered me another one and before she could finish her sentence, I dove in and retrieved a vivid yellow, lemon macaron.  This would be the test.  Lemon macarons are tricky.  Too often, they taste like they’ve been bombed by lemon essence and sugar cubes, like sucking on a lemon drop.  This lemon macaron, though, was unlike any that I’d EVER tried before.  This is perhaps the BEST lemon macaron that I have ever had.  The lemon cream, made with fresh lemon juice and zest, TASTED like actual lemons, not like what lemons are “supposed” to taste like.  They had an organic, natural taste that was actually refreshing.  This macaron tasted as light and refreshing as sweet spring air.

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At the moment, bisousciao. has an online business where Tanya, the owner, will ship (deliver within NYC) these memories-in-the-making macarons to you.  I never would have ordered because I hate ordering any food in the mail that I’ve never tasted before.  You can’t return it if you hate it and I have that whole thing where once I order food, my body expects it, and I’m ruined until that food is actually infront of me, ready to be consumed.  If that happens at a table in Chinatown in the 2-3 minutes it takes before your first dish flies out of the kitchen and is dropped (sometimes literally) on your table, then can you imagine the nightmare that I would be for my husband if I had to wait 3-5 business days to receive my food-package???  I bet he’s shuddering as he reads this at the thought.

pistachio and chocolate ganache

pistachio and chocolate ganache

Yet depending on how long it takes for bisousciao. to open a storefront this Fall (hopefully!), I may have to cave in and buy these incomparable macarons to share with my macaron-obsessed friend, Angie.  In fact, these macarons are so dainty and opulent that I am tempted to throw a tea party or the like centered around these magnificent little treats.  I love to live in jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, flip-flops, and basically anything that doesn’t require dry-cleaning, ironing, or hang-drying.  These macarons, dainty and just-crisped on the outside but chewy on the inside, are so sweetly colored that I instantly feel the urge to don my frilliest dress, my most colorful and ornate pair of heels, and lounge in someone’s parlor whilst taking gentle nibbles of just-kissed-with-sweetness macarons… pinky in the air, of course.

you can't tell from the picture, but my pinky is definitely in the air here

you can't tell from the picture, but my pinky is definitely in the air here

How good are these macarons?  Well, Kim had given the rest of the macaron box to our friend, Sabena, for a party she was going to later.  When I asked Sabena if I could take a few pictures, she eventually said yes, but insisted on first counting the number of macarons in the box to make sure that I didn’t steal any in the process of picture-taking.  While I was taking the pictures, she came by to then make sure that I was not “man-handling” them and told me that she would chase me all the way to China if I tried to take one…  Yup, they’re that good.

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Lolita is bringing nightlife to “the country”

Whenever we head to Chris’s house in Connecticut, he and his family always call it “the country.” I don’t know that I would call Greenwich “country,” but it definitely feels like taking a mini-vacation when we get out of the city and start driving through the windy, tree and boulder-filled landscape. This summer, we’ve been heading to the suburbs country more than usual to make use of Chris’s most recent, and now that I think about it, only purchase… ever.  A sailboat.  Yup, he bought a sailboat.  Granted, it was on major sale/discount, so you know I appreciate that.  Still… he bought a boat.  When you marry a guy who basically never imposes on anyone and never asks for anything, you just can’t say “no” the first time he has a request.  I’m just happy he didn’t ask for a space shuttle or something.

You know what confuses me?  I grew up outside of the NYC in a town in New Jersey.  We called it a suburb.  Why is Greenwich, “the country?”  Is that just fancy-speak for suburb?  I don’t think anyone heading into Jersey calls it, “the country.”  In fact, I know they have worse names for it (my husband has a couple of choice nicknames for my beloved Jerz that I’m going to pretend I forgot).  Oh well, I’ll continue to play along.  So we usually catch a late train out of the city, which tends to jazz us up a bit, only to spit us out into a town where the bar looks like a J.Crew catalogue photo shoot just let out and all the models are running for booze to drown their madras sorrows.  Confession time: I have madras, seersucker, preppy wear, etc. and I like it – not the point here.  All I’m saying is that I want a chill place where I don’t feel like my only options are to kick back with my boat shoes and wrinkle my polo.

Lolita menu

Once again, the Suarez family (I think I should just start calling them a Food Dynasty) steps in to address a food void.  They just opened up Lolita in Byram (Greenwich), a quick walk away from the Port Chester train station.  Open until 2AM, the EPIC tequila menu and beautiful bar area have answered my swanky booze-prayers.

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If you can make it a little earlier, you can partake in the full Mexican menu at a table either inside or in the garden/patio area – perfect for summer.  Chris and I basically ordered our weight in food, enjoying some spicy guacamole, queso fundido, carne asada fajitas, fish tacos, and a side of zocalo corn.  There was a lovely “welcome granita” made with pink grapefruit juice and topped table-side with a swirl of tequila blanco.  Next time (and there will be a next time), I’m going to try my hand at the bistec tampiqueño – all 18oz of that bone-in ribeye.

Zocalo Corn

Zocalo Corn

Lolita Fish Taco

Lolita Fish Taco

And don’t worry, eating at the table doesn’t mean you have to miss the bar  – it comes to you.  Should you choose to order a margarita with your meal, a gorgeous young lady in a black, fitted, asymmetrical dress (FYI – this place is STACKED with beautiful people) will wheel the margarita cart over to your table and custom blend your drink to order.  That cart is also prepped for tequila shots if you’re in the mood.

have margarita, will travel... to your table (that's Chris in the background checking out his menu and not our margarita-chica -- gotta love him)

have margarita, will travel... to your table (that's Chris in the background checking out his menu and not our margarita-chica -- gotta love him)

the Lolita Margarita

the Lolita Margarita

As my dad-in-law and I toasted tequila shots from one such cart wo-manned by a particularly stunning young lady, he noted that smart restaurants need two things to be successful: steak-and-sizzle.  Lolita definitely wins big on both fronts offering carne asada and bistec served to you with a side of are-those-waiters-or-models sizzle.  Those model-esque servers just happen to be SUPER-attentive as well – I think our table was visited by no less than 5 different, beautiful people.  I also really dig the diversity of this stylish staff; something that isn’t always represented out in the country.

Carne Asada

Carne Asada

So if you’re too old to do the “home from college for the summer” bar and too young (either in age or spirit) to call it a night at 9PM, Lolita is calling.  Complete with bongo players, you feel like you’ll either stumble out of Lolita onto the streets of NYC or out onto the beaches of Miami.  Just do me a favor and call a cab if you’ve hit that tequila cart too many times – a disaster I may be, but a drunken-fool-behind-the-wheel I am not.  Thank you, Lolita, for bringing a little nightlife to the country.

Oh, and they brought a massive cotton candy mountain to each table that had a nice surprise of little pop rocks speckled throughout.  Chris and I picked the pop rocks out like monkeys grooming our cotton-candy-monkey-baby.

Oh, and they brought a massive cotton candy mountain to each table that had a nice surprise of little pop rocks speckled throughout. Chris and I picked the pop rocks out like monkeys grooming our cotton-candy-monkey-baby.

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Filed under Eating my feelings and paying for it