Thursday, March 31, 2005

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria

Curious to try the thin crust pizza by Mario Battali, I dragged my friends a few nights ago to his restaurant, Otto, on eight street and fifth avenue.

I felt as though I was in a train station when I entered the restaurant. The tables had standing room only. A traditional timetable screen flashed your reservation indicating when your table was ready. Very cool.

Otto scored well on ambience and wine selection. The meal though was a bit of a let down.For dinner we selected from enticing options of antipasti, pizza, pasta, del giorno and gelato. Though the ingredients were of finest quality and one pizza (balsamic onion and goat cheese) was excellent, other dishes we ordered fell short of our expectations. For example, the arugula and cherry tomato salad was dressed inadequately so ended up being quite dry. Surprisingly, even the very basic Margharita D.O.C. disappointed. Somehow it lacked the usual aha we were all looking for. Feling a bit let down, we even passed on gelato.

I like Mario Batali a lot (from his T.V. shows) so I'm willing to give this place another shot. Maybe we ordered the wrong pizzas. They had so many dishes to choose from, it was hard to tell which would be the best. If someone has had a good experience at Otto, I'd love to hear about it.

One Fifth Avenue

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Buon Italia

Originally uploaded by lools.

For the best imported Italian foods in Manhattan, look no further than Buon Italia in Chelsea market. This store is a must-visit when I have to stock upon on EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, assorted Italian cheeses and of course, Cerignola olives.

What I love most about Buon Italia is the limited selection of best-in-class products. It's such a refreshing change to choose from a few high quality products (that you know are right on the money) rather than sift through dozens of olive oil or pasta brands each time you're in the store. As an avid consumer of gourmet foods, I'm particularly vulnerable to new packaging and products (that don't always deliver) so I rather like the limited selection.

I picked up some Cerignola olives when I was in Chelsea market this weekend. These bright green, almost supersized olives come to us from the Adriatic coast of Southern Italy. They're fabulous as a snack, especially at the bottom of a perfect martini. Cerignola olives also pair well with bite size chunks of Parmigiano.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Chelsea market

Originally uploaded by lools.

What was once an Oreo cookie factory is now a gourmet food lover's delight in the heart of Chelsea in Manhattan. Between ninth and tenth avenue at 15th street, Chelsea market's million square feet is shared by about twenty five top notch food retailers and housewares stores.

I spent a few hours this afternoon, wide-eyed and in awe, strolling from one shop to the other, mentally making note of all the goodies I wanted to purchase at some point. I felt transported to another era almost while shopping this way. It was such a refreshing change from the usual, sanitized grocery store with its perfectly ordered aisles and predictably eye-popping displays. At Chelsea market, part of the charm is in hopping from one shop to the next, discovering different items every time one visits. The merchants here are really savvy about rotating items and luring shoppers with daily specials so no trip to the market is like any other. I'll share more details on some of the most interesting shops at Chelsea market in my next posting. Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

GOOD for brunch

Originally uploaded by lools.

Greenwich Avenue in the Village is lined with more than thirty popular eateries including Soy Luck Club and Taqueria de Mexico. The best place for brunch among all these restaurants is a homey yet chic spot called Good.

We met my friends Shivani, Mahir and Uz for brunch at Good today. Uz got there at 11:00 a.m. sharp when the doors opened so was able to secure us a great table. Usually the wait runs over an hour I'm told! The place felt homely and comfortable. The brunch menu featured regular favourites like eggs, pancakes etc but with a Latin flair. For example, there were corn arepas (a traditional Colombian dish) with fried eggs and queso blanco. There were so many interesting items on the menu, I had a really hard time deciding what I was in a mood for.

I finally went with Shivani's recommendation of the breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs with green peppers, chorizo, pepper jack cheese and salsa) without the tortilla and the chorizo but with extra salsa. The waitress was trying to smile despite how complicated I was making it for her. I loved my dish - the eggs were cooked to perfection with the cheese and salsa adding just the right punch. The berry and banana juice I ordered with the eggs was a great accompaniment to my meal. Shivani ordered the same dish with a side of chicken sausages which she said was good. Uz loved her scallion, tomato and goat cheese omelette. Mahir ordered scrambled eggs with some veggies which he enjoyed. And Harsha (the most health conscious of us all) got a bowl of homemade, maple nut granola heaped with fresh fruit, which he said was extremely filling.

We all shared a bread basket that had some awesome house-made breads like cheddar cornbread, buttermilk biscuits and caramel pecan mini-loaves. Everyone seemed to be watching carb intake though so the bread did not vanish as fast as I had expected it to!

Good was not just good but a great place for brunch!

89 Greenwich Avenue

New York Style Pizza at Rossario's

Originally uploaded by lools.

Nothing beats a slice of New York style basic cheese pizza at 3 a.m. in the morning. Hard core New Yorkers will argue that nothing beats New York slice pizza period. But they're just being New Yorkers, arguing New York's supremacy in no matter what.

Pizzas from neighbourhood pizza parlors in New York tend to be much thinner than the famous Deep Dish Chicago pizzas. The thin crust allows for faster cooking but less dense toppings. Just the way I love my pizza. The crust is also usually prepared by tossing it up in the air and twirling it. It's quite a sight to see the acrobatics that are possible with pizza crust. Food Network even hosts an annual pizza tossing competition where the winner gets national bragging rights!

We stumbled upong Rossario's in the Lower East side last night after a friend's 30th birthday bash at The Skinny, a hip LES drinking hole. Craving carbs at the wee hours of the morning, slice pizza was just what we wanted. Rossario's mushroom and cheese pizza so hit the spot. They had other interesting toppings like thinly roasted eggplant etc which sounded delish!

Every true New Yorker has a favourite pizzeria which they are fiercely loyal to. Given I don't have one yet and am not that passionate about where you can find the best slice in Manhattan, I must not be a New Yorker as yet!

Roassario's Pizzeria
173 Orchard St
New York
(212) 777-9813

Friday, March 25, 2005

The novel in you

Originally uploaded by lools.

"Among publishers it's an article of faith that people no longer want to read books; they just want to write them. The old adage that everyone has a novel in them is being tested as never before, only this novel has turned out to be autobiographical. From television to the Internet, the confessional is rapidly becoming the de facto mode of expression. Everyone, it seems, wants to be heard."

I couldn't agree more with this excerpt from BlackBook's editorial in the latest issue. After all, it was my own inherent desire to be heard that prompted me to start blogging back in August 2005. Moving to a new city and trying to make it my home was just the perfect excuse! And now I'm even flirting with the idea of writing a book based on my experiences. This is something I would not have even wildly dreamt about before blogs happened.

I can see novels of different sorts authored by folks I know, unravelling one post at a time on their blogs Check these out and see for yourselves...

Cooking with Amy will be the first among those I know to publish a book. My bet is that she'll be writing on gourmet for dummies or something along the lines of making cooking more accesible!

Life and Food will be about an ex-journalist's musings on life after motherhood. I love Rumy's writing style and the subjects she chooses to blog on.

Margaritas & Miaows will become a no holes barred confession of a 29 year old married "babe" based in Bombay. Reading Nisha's hilariously honest writing has given my an entirely new perspective on what makes her tick!

Chumma Chumma will be a chatty commentary on life and socety in Bombay. I'm so proud of my father and how web-savvy he has become. I can't think of any other 50+ year olds who blog!

These are just some of the many blogs I read every day. Don't know about you guys, but I love reading blogs. They bring fresh perspectives on different topics and just so much more fun to read than the esteemed publications. In fact, I think that my consumption of commercial media may be in gradual decline given how many blogs I read everyday.

Hey, what are you waiting for? Where's that novel in you? Start blogging!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Teas' Tea addiction

I'm totally addicted these days to a cold, bottled beverage that's nothing but purified water, high quality tea leaves and vitamin C. It's called Teas' Tea. This unsweetened (but somewhat sweet tasting), calorie free drink is a perfect complement to just about anything I eat at lunch. At $3 a pop, it really blows my budget but I rationalize by foregoing my regular Starbucks, non-fat, no-foam, chai tea latte in the afternoons!

Don't know if it's the antioxidants or my mind at play, but I do feel a sense of rejuvenation and a burst of energy after finishing a bottle of my favourite Green White, one of the many flavours available. On days when I'm not very hungry, I opt for a light sandwich and the Green Hoji, a roasted green tea whose toasty and smokey flavour just fills me up.

Teas' Tea is owned by the Japanese company Ito En, whose flagship tea store was voted by Zagat as the number one tea destination in the city. The company also owns Kai restaurant, which was voted Best Japanese by Citysearch in 2003.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Lucky Bamboo

Originally uploaded by lools.

Inspired by the lovely Lucky Bamboo plants at Shri's spacious and stylish Manhattan loft, I bought myself a Lucky Bamboo plant from one of the stores on 28th street (between 6th and 7th) in the Flower District. I read somewhere that Lucky Bamboo is "luckiest" if received as a gift - not sure though how much luck this plant is going to bring me given that I gifted it to myself!

Lucky Bamboo plants are really low maintenance and are just perfect for Manhattan apartments that may not get much sunlight. They don't even need soil in order to grow. Just some pebbles and some pure water every now and then is enough to keep them going. Hopefully I can keep this plant alive longer than my croton which died a slow death from lack of nutrition while I was on vacation in India.

Better Burger

Originally uploaded by lools.

I finally found the best veggie burger in Manhattan! While walking around this morning in our fabulous neighbourhood, Chelsea, we came across Better Burger, located on 8th Avenue at 19th street.
This upcale and chic fast-food restaurant is the brainchild of Louis Lanza, the chef-owner of well-known Manhattan eateries like Josie's and Citrus. The white and orange decor and vinyl booths at Better Burger is kinda like Johnny Rocket's red and white decor except it doesn't reek of grease and full fat whole milk!

This healthy food obsessed joint is a real treat for vegetarians like myself who have a really hard time stomaching the McDonald and Burger King versions of vegetarian food. Veggie or soy burgers come pan seared and sandwiched in organic, low-carb, whole wheat buns. For condiments, one can choose from from: All-American, Karma and Cajun Ketchup, Stoneground Mustard, Chipotle-Honey Mustard, 1000-Isle Style Dressing & Spiced Wasabi Sauce. I slapped on some Stoneground Mustard to my burger and it really enhanced the spiciness and juiciness of the burger experience.

Not in the mood for a burger? There's always Veggie Chili, Veggie Slaw or a range of interesting salads including the funkily named Zen Popeye Salad (baby leaf spinach, Asian seared tofu, roasted vegetables, chickpeas & avocado). Before you go off thinking this place is only for vegetarians, I should inform you that there's lot of choice for you carnivores and you may even feel better knowing that the meat and poultry used in the burgers is antibiotic and hormone-free.

Better Burger also has a lovely selection of beverages including fat free smoothies, soy shakes, lemonades and even flavoured coconut waters. Now if only the big brother fast food places would copy a thing or two from Better Burger, the world would be a much better place!

Better Burger Chelsea
178 Eight Avenue at 19th Street
New York, NY 10011

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

ñ tapas bar

Originally uploaded by lools.

I'm always amazed at how much in-the-know Sonya Darling is about anything and everything in Manhattan. She's my one-stop shopping-eating-partying guide to the city. A Sonya-recommendation of anything never fails to disappoint and when she graces us with her company, so much the better!

Harsha, Shri and I watched Sideways at Union Square Stadium 14 yesterday afternoon. What a thoroughly enjoyable movie. I can't remember the last time I've laughed so much in a movie. Seriously, this movie is a helluva lot of fun. You've got to see it. And quite predictably, we were totally in the mood for some vino (Pinot Noir in particular) after the film except we didn't know which wine bar was close by. Sonya to the rescue and before we knew it, we were heading to a place called PUBLIC. Unfortunately, PUBLIC was closed that evening for a Christmas party (hello, aren't we almost in Spring??) so we ended up at Vig Bar next door. After Sonya joined us, we followed her to this other "awesome and totally worth the ten blocks in the freezing cold" tapas bar.

N (pronounced "enyeah" like the Spanish alphabet) is a small but very stylish tapas bar. The long and narrow space reminded me of Dalva in SF but it was much better lit, had lots of bar stool seating and served yummy food. Our bartender was a bloke from Melbourne who got into an interesting chat with me about his city's superiority compared to Sydney, which I had just visited a few weeks back.

The sangria was lovely as were the assorted tapas plates we ordered. Shri and I being vegetarians, stuck to the mushrooms, spinach, potato tortilla espanola and assorted cheese plate. Even though the quantities were small, we felt pretty full after a few rounds of tapas. I have to say that the check was rather inexpensive despite all the quaffing and hogging we did.

BTW, I took special permission from Sonya to give away her secret place on my blog :) Hope you enjoy this place as much as I did.

33 Crosby St
Bet. Broome & Grand Sts

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Rave*SQ - new lifestyle magazine

Originally uploaded by lools.

I've been getting complimentary subscriptions to so many interesting magazines these days that I'm beginning to wonder which mailing list my name is on! Yesterday, I found a glossy, oversized, almost ad-free magazine called rave*sq in my mailbox. Upon further investigation online, I found that rave*sq is a new US-based South Asian lifestyle, culture and arts magazine targeted at young professionals who are fashionable, culturally savvy and well-traveled (ahem!). The sister publication is Rave, which has been published in India for over four years now and is well-known for promoting various lesser known artists and musicians.

Very much like Verve ,my favourite Indian magazine that I wrote about earlier, rave*sq celebrates South Asian women in the U.S. who are ambitiously following their passions and carving their own paths. There's a lot of inspiration to be found between the pages. I loved the article on Shazia Sikander, a young Pakistani artist who is receiving international acclaim. I was also excited to discover Rabbi Shergill, a sufi musician whose ambition is "to be a sardar playing rock to a packed crowd".

The magazine is currently very Manhattan focused as evidenced by "Upcoming Events" and "Restaurant Reviews". I have a feeling though that as the magazine gains readership, other U.S. cities with large South Asian populations will start featuring more. For me, the biggest reason to read rave*sq is to discover new artists, filmmakers, writers and be aware of interesting cultural events in the city.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Chaat gets popular in New York

Originally uploaded by lools.

Chaat, the lip-smackingly delicious Indian street food is now more easily available in New York city thanks to its growing popularity with Indians and non-Indians alike. The New York Times' Dining Section has a lovely article entitled Mumbai to Midtown, Chaat hits the spot. Here you can read all about this delightful type of food which comes in delightful flavours, textures and degrees of spiciness. I would choose any type of chaat, any time, any day over any other food. That's how much I love chaat.

I've eaten at Dimple's in Midtown but was not that impressed. Their pani puri doesn't even come close to Kailash Parbhat's in Bombay and their pav bhaji is a not a patch on the one I grew up on at Sardar's. I'll have to check out Sukhadia's Sweets though that is mentioned in the article and see how it measures up. I've heard that the chaat shops in Jackson Heights are where you get the best pani puris, papri chaat and pav bhaji. Now if I can only motivate myself to take the train there.

But since I live pretty close to the Indian Grocery stores on Lexington and 27th, I like to make my own chaat no matter how time consuming. All the ingredients are easily available (including readymade pani puris) so it's quite a breeze to whip up chaat once the grocery shopping is done.

My favourite source for recipes is Tarla Dalal's "Chaat", a fabulous cookbook just like all her other zillion ones. Here you'll find all the famous recipes ranging from the simple ones like bhelpuri and dahi vadas to the more elaborate hariyale tiki aur chole. You'll even find a recipe for the famous North Indian kathi rolls. My mouth is watering just writing this post!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Simple khichdi

Originally uploaded by lools.

Khichdi is a delicious Indian one-pot dish made from rice and daal. It literally means to mash everything up. You can get real fancy by adding vegetables and all sorts of spices but I like my khichdi at its bare minimum, especially when I'm home sick nursing a chest infection. And take-out from a Manhattan restaurant is not appealing at all.

I haven't been motivated to cook these past few days but my mom reminded me this morning while I was chatting with her that it is amazingly simple to make khichdi. I had forgotten about how she used to feed me this dish when I was sick so often as a child. I quickly dug out my pressure cooker and got to work before my energy drained.

Take 1 cup rice, 3/4 cup moong dal, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp salt. Add to pressure cooker along with 2+ cups of water. After three whistles, remove from heat. Mash up the cooked rice and moong dal adding a bit of warm water if you need to. Heat some ghee or butter in a small pan, add jeera (cumin seeds) till it gets brown and you can smell its lovely aroma. Pour on top of the khichdi. Serve hot.

One bite and I could already feel my energy coming back...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Originally uploaded by lools.

My friend Larry recently showed me his stylish, tres cool and very ingenious tea maker that he bought from Adagio Teas, an online purveyor of gourmet tea. Admitted, this segment doesn't make a dent on billion dollar brands like Lipton, but gourmet tea has a loyal fan following that is steadily growing. And we have Starbucks to thank for this actually as it was Tazo that first ignited Americans' passion for better quality tea.

Larry generously allowed me to sample some of the teas from his collection and to try out his new tea brewer which sat proudly on his desk. I had some rooibos earl grey (despite Larry's warning that it smelt kinda weird) that actually tasted a lot better than it smelt. It was robust with a hint of bergamot, just the way I like my earl grey.

The ingenuiTEA brewer is truly an innovation that simplifies the whole process of tea making (not that I don't like cleaning the tea strainer!) and makes it super-convenient to brew different types of tea all day long. Check out the video demo on Adagio's website to see just how stylish and fun this tea brewer is.

Given my obsession for tea, Adagio's website was pure delight. The easily navigable site seamlessly draws you into the worlds of many varieties of tea. Assam Harmony seems perfect for the mornings while chowing down cereal and catching the headlines on the WSJ before scurrying to work. Almond is premium black tea from China flavoured with slivers of roasted almonds that would be an ideal post-lunch pick-me-up. And Ginger promises to unwind all the tension at the end of a long working day.

Don't know if you guys agree with me that there's something magical when you sit down with a cup of tea that you just don't get with coffee. Tea seems versatile enough to get you going, soothe your nerves, help you destress and even get you ready to fall asleep. Coffee seems nothing more than a rude wake-up call in the morning.

Anyways, if you're as into tea as I am, you'll love all the banter and wisdom to be found in the community space at TeaChat. Be sure to browse through the TeaMap to find the nearest tea rooms in your neighbourhood.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Gates in Central Park

Originally uploaded by lools.

I have to shamefully admit that I did not make the effort to go see the art on display in Central Park even though I had sixteen days to do so. I can easily blame on it on my travel schedule or the freezing cold. But it was just lack of intiative and I really regret not having made the effort, especially now that the gates have been taken down.

That Christo and Jean-Claude's artistic ambition was realized after 26 years is testimony to the old proverb on perseverance and its role in success. When you read about all the obstacles this couple overcame in order to see thier dream come true, you really understand the power of staying true to your cause without wavering.

Here are a few links if you feel like reading more about this amazing endeavour:

New York Metro article on Christo and Jean-Claude's Gates

The Food Section's post on the Gates - Food Section is a New York Food Blog I read often