Tuesday, July 28, 2009

the NEW (york) edition

Welcome to Nosh Shots in its brand new home

After four exclusively-photo-no-commentary posts on the CM Food Diaries, NoSh has opted to go independent as well as undergo expansion to better strive towards realizing its full potential. From here on out, you may notice some fiddling with format, content, and style, all in the hopes of making your visit more appetizing.

If you have been following NoSh, before today, you only knew three things about each food:
1) what it was called, 2) where it was from, and 3) how delectable it looked.

It only occurred to me later that this may not be enough.

Questions that may have arisen in your mind during previous NoSh viewings:
- What the hell is poke or açaí and how do I even go about pronouncing them?
- Of those 15+ cupcakes, which one was the best?
- Were those chicken strips from Friendly's really as good as they look? (Answer: Of course not.)

I apologize now for leaving you with so many unsettled queries. After all, NoSh is about enlightenment as much as it is about eye candy.

In this new generation, you can expect:
Super-macro photographs, names, and sources, as usual.
NoSh deliciousness rating of 1-7, 1 being a waste of calories and cash and 7 being "your life will not be complete without trying this".
A short blurb to define what exactly the food is, if it is not blatantly, universally obvious, and any other relevant comments I feel inclined to add.

To celebrate the launch of NoSh, the food in this issue are from a recent trip to New York City. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the house special: food for thought


vegetable pakora, garlic naan, spicy sweet onion relish
[himalaya india restaurant, manchester, ct]

So this isn't in New York. It was the first time two of my friends were eating Indian food, though, so it's still "new".

- Pakora is a South Asian battered and fried snack, in this case, containing onions, potatoes, and spinach. It's very similar to Japanese tenpura (which I opt to spell with an 'n', as that is how it's technically pronounced).
- Naan refers to a delicious, soft, oven-baked flatbread...but don't say "naan bread" because then you'll just be saying "bread bread."
- The relish: I'm not sure what the real term is – I've searched all over to no avail. Needless to say, all Indian restaurants have it as a condiment and it's bright red, onion-y, and delicious on pretty much everything.

(5) - I've had better, but it was tasty for a buffet and the naan was soft and garlicky. Couldn't beat the price of $7.99 either.


[moca asian bistro, forest hills, queens, ny]

vietnamese summer rolls with green papaya, carrots, onion, cucumber, mint, greens, and shrimp

- Summer rolls are not fried and are usually comprised of fresh vegetables and shrimp or pork enveloped in a rice wrapper. I think they're best served cold with some kind of sweet chili dipping sauce.

(3) - They were pretty to look at, but bland, bland, bland. Sadly, the sauce didn't help much either.

shrimp tenpura and avocado uramaki

- I assumer you've all eaten shrimp tenpura, aka lightly battered and deep-fried shrimp. As alluded to above, if you pronounce it "ten-poo-rah", not "ten-poor-a" and you'll sound that much smarter. 
p.s. Anything tenpura is awesome in fresh sushi...it adds a delectable crunch factor.
- Uramaki refers to "inside-out" sushi with the nori (seaweed paper) on the inside and rice on the outside. It's a type of makizushi (mah-key-zoo-shee), or rolled sushi. 

(4) - Average, ok, I've had better. I think I'm just spoiled from the quality of Hawaii's sushi, though.

Location note: Though the food is meh, I have to say that MoCA is freaking swanky. Neon lights light up the tables and walls, waterfalls and rotating statues surround you, and the bathrooms - well, I can only speak for the ladies' - is a destination in itself. I wouldn't go back for lunch, but I half expect the place to turn into a nightclub after dark.


[martha's country bakery, forest hills, ny]

red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting

- Red velvet cake is commonly associated with the South - which I love - and is said to have been originally dubbed as such due to the reaction the acidic buttermilk has with the cocoa that turns it a reddish-brown color. Same goes for devil's food (cue collective "ohhhhh"). That being said, I hold that a real red velvet cake contains cocoa.
- I judge a cupcake shop on its red velvet. I expect to have a very moist cake with fine crumb and dark red tint (not a fake bright red), and I have a soft spot for cream cheese frosting (a butter roux frosting is sometimes used). Either way, the frosting and cake should compliment each other well and not be sickeningly-sweet.

(2) - Don't let the picture fool you - the cupcake was just crushed in my bag, not devoured. I'm sorry, but it just wasn't good. Dry and tasteless with forgettable frosting - I can usually at least finish these little cakes, but it just wasn't worth it. I threw it out.

Location note: Down the street from MoCA, Martha's Country Bakery is adorable and out of place in the middle of Forest Hills, and as the pictures show, the decor, presentation, and selection are impressive. I wanted to like it, I really did. I guess I just chose the wrong thing?


[piu bello gelato, forest hills, ny]

irish cream cookie gelato

- Gelato is similar to ice cream, except is often made with milk rather than cream and therefore has a lower butterfat content (<5%)>10%).
- Other liquors and alcohol are also used in gelati as flavorings, including amaretto, rum, Kahlua, and even whiskey.

(6) - I love irish cream, and the chocolate cookie pieces plus the chocolate Ruger-like wafer pieces made this gelato heavenly. Nomnomnom.

Location note: The selection here is huge...I think I paced back and forth in front of the glass display cases for a good ten minutes before deciding. If you're indecisive, be forewarned. They have as many sorbetto flavors as gelato, and they also offer table service, baked goods, and drinks.


"tropical paradise bar" with coconut and passionfruit
[starbucks, east village, ny]

- I, being a sucker for all things lilikoi (that's passionfruit in Hawaiian), decided to grab one of these bars despite my previous history with Starbucks' food (read: overpriced and unexceptional). I also love how anything with "tropical" or "paradise" in the name can be automatically assumed to contain coconut, pineapple, lilikoi, and/or mango.
(3) - Not good, not horrendous, not lilikoi-y enough. Not worth the 300 calories, the 16g of fat, or the swipe of my gift card.


[chikalicious dessert club, east village, ny]

s'mores cupcake

- This cupcake fulfilled its title with a chocolate cake, chocolate-filled center, and browned marshmallow topping. I suspect they smooth it on and then torch it...mmm, toasty. 

(6) - I ate this a day after I purchased it, and it was still delicious. I don't usually like chocolate cake, but it was moist and with the truffle-like filling and that darned marshmallow pillow on top...let's just say there was much licking of fingers.

red velvet cupcake

- My second try at red velvet for this trip. See above for history of the cake.

(5) - It was smaller than the last, but cheaper - and SO much better. Moist, slightly chocolaty, and the icing was nice. Not bad. I think the catastrophic nature of the last one made this seem that much better in comparison.


[cafe habana, nolita, ny]

grilled corn mexican style

- This Mexican, or Cuban-style street food is also known as elote. It's smothered in mayo, rolled in cotija cheese, generously dusted with cayenne chili powder and served with lime wedges. Butter or sour cream and other spices and herbs are sometimes substituted or added.
- Cotija is a hard cow's milk cheese from Mexico that is quite salty - if you're making your own elote but lack cotija, you can substitute parmesan.
(5) - Hot from the grill, my snazzed up cob was sweet from the corn, salty from the cheese, spicy from the cayenne, and smoky from the charred edges all in one. I'd pay $2 for this any day (you get 2 for $4). And I swear I didn't know it was mayo.

enchiladas de mole poblano

- Enchiladas are corn tortillas wrapped around some kind of meat, bean, vegetable, or combination thereof, served hot and smothered in a tomato-chili pepper sauce. I think they're best with some kind of cheese on top.
- Mole poblano is a Mexican sauce made from dried chili peppers, ground nuts, spices, Mexican chocolate (which contains sugar and cinnamon), salt, and sometimes onions and garlic. Mole poblano is what you probably think of when you hear "mole" in the US - in Spanish, mole actually refers to many generic sauces. And it's pronounced "mo-lay", but you knew that.
Note: Cafe Habana makes their own mole in-house, sans the chocolate.

(4) - I wanted to try this because of the mole, but for a chicken enchilada, it was just - a chicken enchilada. Nothing special. Maybe I'm just not an enchilada connoisseur?

tlacoyo de tres marias

- Tlacoyos are oval-shaped masa (cornmeal dough - the stuff corn tortillas and tamales are made from) cakes, often stuffed and served as a side. 
- I assume the "Tres Marias" refers to the Brazilian city and perhaps their version of tlacoyos: stuffed with goat cheese, black beans, and sun-dried tomatoes.

(6) - Intense goat cheese flavor, but I love goat cheese, so it was amazing. The sun-dried tomatoes added flavor and sweetness, and the fresh salsa, guacamole, and sour cream on top made sure the masa "boat" was never dry. I usually have no taste for Mexican rice, either, but I finished it all. Burp. 

Location note: This place is small. And popular. I'm not sure if you can make reservations, but I'd recommend doing so. And no, I did not eat all of this by myself - I split it, something I'd recommend doing so you can try more dishes. Also: the fried plantains are amaaazing. They're caramelized and dark on the outside and almost buttery on the inside - not the prettiest dessert, but your mouth trumps your eyes on this one.


matcha soft serve
[kyotofu, midtown west, ny]

- Matcha is a finely-powdered Japanese green tea traditionally mixed with hot water for chanoyu, or Japanese tea ceremonies. Depending on the amount of powder used, the tea is classified into either usucha, "thin", or koicha, "thick".
- More recently, matcha has been utilized as a flavoring and topping, as it is here in this soy soft serve. The best green tea ice cream I've had is from Dave's Ice Cream in Hawaii, which I always get if I don't order the pineapple sherbet at Tanaka of Tokyo (which, for the record, is so much better than Benihana).

(5) - Smooth, creamy, matcha-y - soy? The namesake ingredient, found in practically everything, makes the dessert menu seem like Iron Chef: Tofu Edition. Some might be put off by tofu in their dessert, but hey, if it's healthier and tastes this good, I think a lot of people will be changing their minds about bean curd.


chicken pesto pita melt with red bell peppers
[trolley's deli and pizza, union square, ny] (I think)

- The difference between pita and naan is that pitas do not contain yogurt and are often marked by their pocket. However, this may very well, then, have been a naan wrap as I don't recall seeing a pocket; the flatbread was also very soft and chewy, as naan tends to be. Either way, it made a fantastic on-the-run lunch: handheld, filling, and freshly toasted in a panini press. 
- Pesto is amazing. Take five ingredients: basil, pine nuts, olive oil, parmigiano-reggiano, and LOTS of garlic - and you're a blend away from one of the best pasta, bread, and meat toppings in existence. There are lots of variations, but this classic is my favorite.

(4) - The unnamable, yet oh-so-familiar opaque "cheese" holding all the grilled chicken and pesto in was strangely comforting in that Where-have-I-eaten-this-before? kind of way. It was hot, the bread was soft, and the portion was generous - good enough for me.


spinach, garlic, tomato, feta, ricotta, and mozzarella pizza
[red rock café, storrs, ct]

Sorry, also not in the Empire State, but thought it qualified as "new" as it was my first ricotta pizza.

- Ricotta is made from the whey of cow or goat's milk. Whey is the liquid left over after curds are separated out from milk to make cheese - you know, the liquid in cottage cheese. (That's right, Little Miss Muffet was just sitting on her stool eating cottage cheese.) Ricotta isn't technically a real cheese though, since it's not made from whole milk. It is used for both sweet and savory purposes: I love it in both lasagna and cannolis.

- Feta is a Greek cheese, traditionally made from sheep's milk and up to 30% goat's milk. In the US, what is called feta is commonly of the cow's milk variety, which in Greece would be called telemes, not feta. It's a brined, aged cheese, contributing to its salty and dry characteristics. Great in small doses on Greek salads and spanakopita (a savory spinach and onion-filled phyllo dough pie).

(3) - It came out hot and smelled amazing, but it turned out to be quite small and far too lumpy for my tastes (haha, that's what she said). I know now that curds have no business in my pizza...they might also be to blame for the mozzarella getting disconcertingly stiff as it cooled. I miss Boston's and T's, and, well, real New York style pizza.


slow-roasted warm turkey sandwich with cranberry mayo
[carnegie deli, foxwoods casino, ct]

- Also not technically in New York, but the original Carnegie Deli is in midtown Manhattan and has a huge menu, with a version of this sandwich that is named the "Nosh, Nosh Nanette": hot turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce, served open-style with French fried potatoes or baked beans and creamy cole slaw. I've never been, but I understand that "The Woody Allen" is the famous sandwich with pastrami and corned beef literally a foot tall...for $18, you could probably make three meals out of it. I'll make it there someday.

(4) - Got there right as they opened so everything was fresh (or so I hope) - at least the turkey was warm. I opted for the poultry because the pastrami and corned beef sandwiches didn't come with lettuce or tomato and I felt like having veggies. Though there was a large layer of turkey, the cranberry mayo got lost in it and it was more of just a typical turkey sandwich with extra turkey; I ended up pulling a good amount out. The best thing about the meal? It surprised me too: the coleslaw. I'm not usually a fan as I find most too acidic or swimming in mayo, but this one was just - creamy. Literally. I think they use heavy cream and no vinegar, and the result is a cold, crunchy, and surprisingly decadent salad. If it's anything like the stuff they serve in the City, you can bet I have a new source - and taste - for slaw.


I hope you learned something NEW - about me, about you, about food.

Cities like New York are ideal for trying all sorts of cuisines - there's always something you haven't tried yet. For me, that's exciting and overwhelming simultaneously - I'll never get bored but I'll never be done.
I guess that just means I'll have to do more eating, and soon.
And that, of course, means more blogging.
Won't you join me?