Thursday, September 30, 2004

Handbag fetish

Originally uploaded by lools.

It's so hard to walk on the streets of Manhattan and resist the urge to splurge! Especially if you're a woman and want to have matching accessories for all your latest fashions.

I've found that shopping off the streets is a great way to stay trendy while not breaking the bank. For example, I bought this great baby blue coloured handbag from a Nigeran vendor on 23rd and Park Avenue South. I was thrilled to seal the deal for just $20 and you can't imagine how many of my friends have asked me which designer I bought it from!

The only trouble is when you start buying too many of these and there's no place to store them in the already jam-packed Manhattan flats. Harsha is very annoyed by how much closet space my handbags alone take up so I imagine his wrath everytime I'm tempted! So now I've become an earring junkie cause they take up less space but are good for accessorizing as well..

If you're in the mood for a handbag spree, head down to Union Square where many of these Nigerian fellas set up temporary shop at the street corners. Good luck in a keep a tight rein on those purse strings!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Le Pain Quotidien

Fond memories of France
Originally uploaded by lools.

I walk by Le Pain Quotidien every day on my way to work and back home. On many occasions, I've been tempted to step in and succumb to any one of this charming, old-style French bakery's many sinfully buttery temptations including apple turnovers, chocolate croissants and caramel tartelettes. But my internal carb-o-meter has always prevented me from taking the plunge.

Today, I had a big carb craving at lunch and was thrilled to know just where to go. When I walked in, I realized that Le Pain Quotidien was not only a bakery but also a restaurant. I was drawn to the front of the space that was dedicated to selling different baked goods and other typically French gourmet items from hazelnut chocolate spread to black olive tapenade. I resisted the urge to spend on something other than lunch but I could not help make a mental note of all the goodies I wanted to buy for my pantry.

The lunch menu is handwritten in chalk on blackboards that hang behind the counter. One can select from a delectable array of sandwiches and salads made from real bakery bread. And then of course there are plenty of pattisseries for dessert.

I bought a 3 mustard Gruyere Sandwich that came with mesclun salad and some pieces of fruit. The minute I bit into the sandwich, memories of France came flooding back. When I was an exchange student perfecting my French in Tours, "un sandwich au fromage" was my lunch de jour on a regular basis. It's amazing how food can trigger so many memories. My mind wandered down memory lane as I recalled my favourite food experiences in France. And, no surprise, many of them involved cheese!

I wanted to eat my sandwich at one of the communal tables at the back and soak up this quintessentially French atmosphere but work beckened and I had to get back to the office. I'll have to come back when time is not of the essence and I can kick back and delight all my senses.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Hookahs @ Horus

Originally uploaded by lools.

Alphabet City is the place to be at night these days. Packed with lots of interesting bars and restaurants, this is where the nightlife is most exciting.

One of our favourite hang-outs in this area of town is an Egyptian cafe called Horus, named for a famous Egyptian God.
We first chanced upon it a few months ago when we ditched a plan at Le Souk nearby (also a Middle-Eastern bar/cafe) when they were charging $300 entry because there were long lines of party-goers dying to get in! We walked around trying to find something else and were thrilled to find Horus, an unassuming cafe which actually turned out to be a terrific find and now we like it even better than Le Souk!

The atmosphere is fantastic and the service is excellent. The Egyptian owner, Mohammed, and the main server, Ali Baba, are very charming and friendly. They go out of their way to make sure their guests have a fabulous evening. The decor is pretty typical for this type of restaurant - a mix of table and floor seating with lots of colourful decorations. Belly dancers charm the crowd every few hours. The music system belts out Arabic, Punjabi and Spanish hits. They even have outdoor seating which is very popular.

The food is ok (standard Middle-Eastern fare with limited choice for vegetarians) but the hookahs are great. They have over 20 flavours to choose from. I recommend the double-apple and the peach hookah. Stay away from the cappucino flavoured one which tastes like soap!

All in a all, a great place for fun-filled, raucous evenings with large group of friends.

Horus Cafe
Middle Eastern

93 Avenue B, New York 10009
Phone: 212-777-9199

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Intimate champagne bar in midtown

Flute Midtown
Originally uploaded by lools.

I discovered Flute Midtown yesterday when a friend invited me to a business networking event she was hosting. I thought the this was quite an odd venue for a very social gathering as Flute struck me as the perfect spot for a wonderfully romantic and mellow evening...

The bar was designed by noted industrial designer Jean Pierre Rosseau. The ceilings are low and there are little alcoves with coloured velvet couches and ottomans that can house small groups of friends. The champagne collection is, of course, the finest one can find in the city. I was feeling a bit cheap mid-week so just stuck to a one of my favorite sparkling wines - the Piper Sonoma Blance de Noirs which was quite delicious actually.

205 W 54th St.
New York City

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Rachel Ray's Sesame Green Beans

Rachel Ray's Toasted Sesame Green Beans
Originally uploaded by lools.

People say that they don't entertain or prepare foods that much at home in Manhattan because there are a myriad restaurant options. But that doesn't explain why we have so many gourmet food stores popping up at the corner of every block in the city! So many such establishments exist that we now have a Zagat guide to help us navigate our way through local markets including bakers, caterers, florists and wine shops - it's called the 2005 New York City Gourmet Marketplace Survey.

You can read more about Zagat's Marketplace Survey here.

My gourmet shopping experience this weekend was actually online at I ordered plently of groceries, vegetables and fruits from the comfort of my couch on Sunday evening. They promptly arrived at my doorstep at the appointed hour on Monday evening! I was very impressed with the website's simple design and ease of use.

The fresh greens that arrived looked so succulent that I wanted to make something right away. I turned to my favourite chef, Rachel Ray, for inspiration. Luckily I chanced upon an interesting recipe for Sesame Green Beans in the Chinese and Thai section of Rachel's new book - Veggie Meals. I was especially delighted that I could use my leftover toasted sesame seeds from when I had made fig jam!

Use 1 pound fresh green beans, washed and trimmed, 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, juice of 1 orange, 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, course salt to taste and soy sauce for the table.

The recipe is very straightforward - steam the beans and then toss in the wok and stir-fry in the oil for a few minutes. Squeeze the orange juice evenly over the beans, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and season with salt to taste. You can drizzle the beans with soy sauce if your tastebuds are craving more sodium :)

Serve over a bed of jasmine rice or as a side-dish.

Serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a side.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Bar wih patio and garden in the back

Originally uploaded by lools.

We went to a birthday party at Revival last night. The bar itself was nothing special to write about but I LOVED the charming little garden in the back of the bar. They had five to six tables with candles and lots of bench seating. The scene reminded me of a San Francisco Victorian back yard with all its charm. It felt so good to be enjoying nature in the heart of Manhattan. I can't wait to uncover more such hidden gems..

When you're looking for a mellow, romantic night out where you can feel the wind in your hair, check out Revival soon before it gets too cold!

129 E. 15th St, between Third Ave. & Irving Place, (212) 253-8061

Saturday, September 18, 2004

The Greenroom

Originally uploaded by lools.

Although Harsha hates flowers, I'm quite thrilled to live in the heart of the floral district in Chelsea.

I discovered an unusual place the other day, right around the corner from where we live. It's called the Greenroom and is a live jazz bar cum cafe cum plant store. Here one can sip a glass of fine wine and pretend to be in the rain forests of South America! There are gigantic plants scattered throughout the restaurant that give the place a real natural feel.

I couldn't walk away empty-handed given all the gorgeous plants that were begging for adoption. So I gave in and brought home a baby croton plant that I'm nurturing in the living room!

The Greenroom
765 Sixth Avenue (between 25th and 26th Streets)
New York, NY 10010

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Provencal paradise in Meatpacking

Originally uploaded by lools.

I finally discovered a charming French restaurant that has not only a terrific ambience but also plenty of vegetarian options. Paradou, located in the Meatpacking district, has a cozy bar, a tiny dining room and a sprawling garden. The bar and tables are constructed from vintage wine crates creating a rustic atmosphere. The candles at every table create a super romantic aura.

We had dinner with a small group of friends on Friday night and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Try the kir as an aperitif followed by red or white french wine you can select from many many options. The food is pretty casual - this place is best known for its grilled sandwiches, crepes and salads. I'm told that their weekend brunches are to die for.

I loved the roasted beet salad with herbed Chevre and the Mushroom, Asparagus, Pecorino & Truffle Oil crepe which was truly divine. Best of all was dessert - nutella and banana crepe! How could I possibly go wrong ;)

Paradou NYC
8 Little West 12th Street
Between 9th and Washington Ave
NY, NY 10014
Phone: 212.463.8345
Dinner: 7 Days a Week
Brunch: Sat & Sun

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Lucky to get in at Nobu!

Nobu dining room
Originally uploaded by lools.

My colleague, Carmen, returned to London after a 3 month stint in our New York office. She was dying to eat at a nice Japanese restaurant before she left. We had heard about Nobu as it is one of the top-rated restaurants in the city but also knew that it would be impossible to get reservations there. So we decided to pop in to Nobu Next Door where reservations are not needed. But it turned out that they were full and we got incredibly lucky in that Nobu had one table for a walk-in so we grabbed it before it would be gone!

Nobu is ajoint partnership between Robert DeNeiro, Nobu Matsuhisa (a celebrity chef) and Tribeca Grill restaurateur Drew Nieporent. The decor at the restaurant evokes the Japanese landscape with birch trees and wood floors. The light orange and peach colors work well with the subdued light. The place was packed with investment bankers, lawyers and other hotshots in Manhattan.

The food was superb. Being vegetarian, I never have trouble at Japanese restaurants but I was especially delighted with the food at Nobu. The waitress offered me several options not listed on the menu including a tofu sashimi which turned out to be the finest Japanese small plate I've had. The tofu was unbelievably tender and just melted in my mouth. The soy sauce had ginger and some citrus flavours with a hint of green chillies to add the extra oomph. The maki roll was excellent as well. We ordered a plate of zucchini tempura which was nice and crunchy.

Japanese is my new favourite cuisine these days. I find that vegetarians have quite a few healthy options to choose from including miso soup, seasweed salad, vegetable gyoza, tempuras and all sorts of sushi rolls. I read somewhere that there are more highly sought after Japanese restaurants in Manhattan than even Chinese. A sure sign of changing times!

105 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10013

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Monday night at the U.S Open

Monday night at the U.S Open
Originally uploaded by lools.

Our friend Joy had secured two tickets to the U.S Open and had invited Harsha to go. Knowing what a big tennis fan I am, Harsha very sweetly suggested I go with Joy instead of him. That's how I ended up going to Flushing Meadows for the first time in my life.

We took the 7 train from Grand Central Station to Flushing, passing the famous Jackson Heights (Indian neighbourhood) on the way. It would have been so great to stop for some pani puri but we were running a bit late so decided to give it a skip. We got to the stadium in 30 minutes flat. The grounds were fairly crowded as folks from the morning session were just making their way back home. I was totally excited to be at the stadium. I was keenly on the lokoout for tennis stars bit did not have much luck. Don't know where they were all hiding out!

Joy was devastated to find out that Federer was not to play as his opponent had pulled out due to a bad ache. We go really lucky though as the rescheduled game was Martina Navaratilova/Leander Paes vs Maria Sharapova/Max Myrni. Leander did India proud and really stole the limelight. Martina played well too - I can't believe that this was her 27th year at the Open! Sharapova, dressed in a tangerine tank top and skirt could not find her rhythm at all and Max tried his best and served up some 130 mph serves but clearly that was not good enough. Leander and Martina won easily in straight sets mostly due to their brilliance at the net.

The second featured match was Nadia Petrova vs. world number one, Justine Henin-Herdenne. Petrova was on fire and knocked out Justine in straight sets.

Overall, I felt so lucky to be a part of this sporting event. It's so nice to watch the matches live rather than on T.V. We had to strain our eyes though as we were at the far top of the stadium. In hindsight, we should have taken binoculars. Throughout the evening, I kept reminding myself that watching the U.S. Open every year is yet another advantage of living in Manhattan!

Monday, September 06, 2004

Dim Sad

Originally uploaded by lools.

I so badly want to experience pure vegetarian dim sum, the little Chinese delicacies that are meant to "touch the heart". Unfortunately these small morsels which look so enticing and are supposed to be filled with vegetables are also filled with foods I'd rather avoid like minced pork and shrimp :(

A large group of us landed up for brunch yesterday at H.S.F Dim Sum in Chinatown. A few early warning signs should have screamed at me that this was not a place that understood the concept of vegetarianism.

The entrance to the restaurant has large fish tanks in which crabs, lobsters and an assortment of other creatures hang around biding their time. The staff, with the exception of the hostess and a few managers, spoke only Mandarin and Cantonese. Most of the patrons were Chinese families enjoying a leisurely Sunday lunch.

Anaka, Naval and I waited patiently as plate after plate of shrimp har gow, pork dumplings, fried egg rolls,chiu chow fun gor, steamed spareribs etc were brought to the table. We momentarily got excited when Aditya swore that we should try the fried taro cake but Sonya quickly confirmed that it was stuffed with pork as well!

We tried to order some vegetarian side dishes, not part of the dim sum fare. Forget that! Firstly, these side dishes are never a priority at these cheap dim sum places. Secondly, they take a long time to show up. And most importantly, they'll never be edible anyway! The eggplant in spicy sauce that we ordered came on a bed of shredded chicken. Even Buddhist's Delight (a medley of freshly steamed vegetables) misled us into thinking that we would be spared beef broth!

I kept dreaming of how delicious vegetarian dim sum could actually be. If any of you know of places in Manhattan where I can enjoy a meal, please, please, let me know!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Slow roasting tomatoes

Originally uploaded by lools.

I recently discovered (thanks to Fine Cooking magazine)that slow-roasted tomatoes can be an amazing special ingredient to summer meals. It's so very simple to make once you have the right ingredients - ripe beefsteak tomatoes, freshly chopped thyme, extra virgin olive oil, thyme, Kosher salt, a bit of granulated sugar and some blasamic vinegar. Just dress up the tomatoes and throw into the oven while you putter around the house on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking tray with foil and a layer of parchment to avoid the spilling of oil. Grease lightly with some olive oil. Wash and cut tomatoes from the equator(not the stem). Arrange the halves, cut side up, on the baking sheet, turning to coat their bottoms with some oil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and sugar on each tomato half and follow with a few drops of balsamic as well. Evenly distribute the thinly sliced fresh garlic and chopped thyme. Pour a cup of extra virgin olive oil over and around the tomato halves.

Roast in the center of the over for about 3-4 hours depending on the ripeness of the tomatoes. Let it cool for at least 10-15 minutes and then serve warm or at room temperature. You can store in the fridge for a week or freeze upto a few months.

You'll see that the slow-roasting concentrates and carmelizes the tomatoes giving them an absolutely intense flavor. The best part is the versatility of this dish. There are more than a dozen delicious ways to use the roasted tomatoes in sanwiches, pizzas, summer salads, omelettes, pasta sauces or simply as antipasto.

Happy slow-roasting!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Bombay Dreams on Broadway

Originally uploaded by lools.

Lush. Extravagant. Melodramatic. Spectacular. Bollywood on Broadway. These are the words and phrases that came to my mind while I watched the hit-musical, Bombay Dreams, last night. The show is an Andrew Lloyd-Weber production with music by A.R.Rahman.

This was my first experience seeing a Broadway show so I was understandably excited. I have to admit that it took me a while to get into the show though. The first few songs were not that great and it takes a little getting used to the loudness and garishness of it all. Once I let go of my expectations though, I started enjoying the show and appreciating all the amazing efforts that went into creating it.

The stortyline is pretty straightforward - a typical rags to riches story. General themes covered are the spoils of success, true love, loyalty to family, never forgetting one's roots etc. The most thrilling part of the 3 hours for me was the water scene, which is usually the steamiest part of any Bollywood film. During a song-dance sequence with Ayesha Dharkar at her sizzling best, the stage suddenly turns into a beautiful water fountain that rises to quite a height and thouroughly drenches the dance troupe and even some folks in the audience! The whole manner in which this water scene was pulled off was terrific.

All in all, I was impressed by the superb performance by Manu Narayan (hero), the excellent production qualities of the show and just the whole extravaganze of it all.

A must see for sure!