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Pure Thai Cookhouse (Manhattan, NY) – Pure Thai, Pure Deliciousness

May 25, 2012

Pure Thai Cookhouse is one of those restaurants I’ve loved from the very beginning. It opened a month or two after I moved to NYC, not far from my apartment. I remember when I first heard about it from a friend:

Friend: “The chef used to work for Jean-Georges, but now he cooks Thai food!” 
Me: “Wait, a Jean-Georges alum? And it’s reasonably priced? We should check it out…”

…Aaaand I’ve been hooked ever since.

The interior is warm and cozy, which has made it one of my go-to’s when I’m looking for a simple place to eat by myself. The staff is super friendly (even when you accidentally show up 10 minutes before closing).

I have my visits to Pure Thai down like clockwork; 99% of the time, I order the same thing: The Ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles and a Thai iced tea. Then I ask for a jar of their pickled chilis and drizzle the vinegar over the noodles for some extra acidity. And, if I’m feeling extra hungry, I’ll get the green papaya salad to start. (The other appetizers tend to lean on the smaller size, portion-wise.)

I can’t speak to much else on the Pure Thai menu, except for one thing: Their Krabi seafood noodle soup. The menu notes that it’s “not recommended for novices” and they’re not lying – that bowl had a funk that even I, a usually adventurous eater, couldn’t get used to.  Order with caution.

Pure Thai Cookhouse
766 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10019
(212) 581-0999
Website: http://purethaicookhouse.com/

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Mariscos Jalisco (Los Angeles, CA) – Avocados, Galore!

May 9, 2012

My coworker once told me, “I love California. They put avocados on EVERYTHING.” (He must have visited Mariscos Jalisco when he was there.)

(That IS a lot of avocado.)

The ceviche tostadas are a great deal. Fresh fish, citrus juice and, obviously, tons of avocado for $2.50. The fried tortilla on the bottom gets soggy from the ceviche’s juices if you don’t eat immediately; therefore, eat it immediately.

Although the tostadas are good, the tacos de camaron (i.e. fried shrimp tacos) are THE THING to get. They’re the reason why Mariscos Jalisco tied for 1st in LA Taco’s Taco Madness 2012! Shrimp stuffed in a crispy shell, topped with salsa and more avocado. Order as many as you want; they’re only $1.75 a piece. It will get messy (seeing how the salsa is just poured on top), so be sure to grab napkins.

Mariscos Jalisco
3040 E. Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90023
(323) 528-6701
Twitter: @mariscosjalisco

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King 5 Noodle House (Queens, NY) – A Taiwanese Breakfast Like Home

February 1, 2012

Everyone has meals that remind them of home; one of mine is a Taiwanese breakfast.

The family and I don’t dine out for breakfast very often but, when we do, we almost always go a Taiwanese restaurant called Yung Ho in the San Gabriel Valley, known for their soymilk and other Taiwanese breakfast eats. We only go maybe once or twice every year, at no particular time and for no particular reason, but I consider our inevitable yearly trip an unofficial family tradition.

Even though I now live far from the family, I like the idea of carrying on tradition (even if only with myself) so I found King 5 Noodle House in Flushing – a Taiwanese breakfast place to call my own.

———-

If you’ve never had a Taiwanese breakfast, let me give you the lowdown: Of all the things on the menu, I feel like there’s only one thing that you have to get, and that’s a bowl of hot soymilk.

When I was a kid, I actually hated soymilk. (I drank a lot of regular cows’ milk at the time so soymilk tasted funny in comparison.) I obviously learned to love it but, even now, I still prefer the sweet soymilk over the savory. Sweet soymilk is simply fresh soymilk sweetened with sugar while the savory soymilk is filled with bits of fried dough, shredded dried pork, pickled veggies and all sorts of other things. To this day, I’m still not fond of the savory version – the saltiness just doesn’t appeal to me.

Other than the soymilk, there’s a variety of foods you can order. My personal favorites are the following:

Fried Cruller (“you tiao”)

Literally just a long piece of fried dough, you can either eat it as is or get it sandwiched within a sesame pancake. I like giving them a quick dunk in the soymilk, just enough to get some flavor but not so much that they dough becomes soggy. (If you get the savory soymilk, pieces of it are already chopped up in the soymilk to begin with.)

Rice  Roll (“fan tuan”)

The rice rolls also come in both a sweet and savory variety; I only order the savory. It’s essentially a fried cruller wrapped in shredded dried pork and sticky rice, and sometimes includes pickled greens as well. It’s been so long since I’ve had a sweet one that I’ve forgotten what they’re even stuffed with! (Sugar? Red bean paste? Sesame? Honestly, I have no idea.)

Egg Roll (“dan bing”)

The last thing I always get is an egg roll – a soft green scallion pancake with a egg fried on it.

Besides the dishes shown above, you can also order for breakfast anything from sesame pancakes stuffed with beef to pork and/or  vegetable dumplings and buns to beef noodle soup. As you might have noticed though, most Taiwanese breakfast foods are heavy in carbs; therefore, as long as you don’t let your eyes order for your stomach, you’ll be good to go!

King 5 Noodle House
39-07 Prince St.
Queens, NY 11354
(718) 888-1268

King 5 Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Best of 2011

January 11, 2012

If anything was made apparent to me in 2011, it was this: I am supposed to be in New York.

I may have only lived here for 14 months but I already feel like NYC is turning into home. I may have been born and raised in LA but, every time I went back to visit this past year, I became bored and antsy and only wanted to be back in the city. There’s something about New York that makes me feel so alive; here, I feel like I’m slowly becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be.

My best of 2011 list reflects a similar perspective as my life; as I created a home for myself in NYC, I immersed myself in food that reminded me of home. It’s surprising how many places I didn’t eat at in 2011: I only had one fine dining meal (Del Posto, for my birthday). I missed out on most (if not all) of the big name restaurant openings. For a girl who prides herself in trying new restaurants, this year was definitely not the norm.

Even though I may not have indulged in my typical extravagant fooding adventures, I feel like my time this past year was spent wisely. I discovered casual eateries and hole-in-the-walls and reignited my love of comfort food. I found some of my favorite restaurants in the entire city this past year – places that I will go to over and over again, no matter the season or occasion. So what if this year’s list may be a bit tame compared to years past – I have all of 2012 to eat!

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The Food Ledger’s Best of 2011

(If you’re not aware of my “Best of” policy, this list only includes restaurants I ate at for the first time in 2011. Carryovers from prior years not allowed.)

I Can’t Live Without

(I’m somewhat obsessed with knife cut noodles at the moment.)

  1. King 5 Noodle House (NYC) – If I’m headed to Flushing, there’s a very good chance I’m going so I can eat here. The only place I know of that serves an authentic Taiwanese breakfast, King 5 Noodle House reminds me of the restaurant the parents used to take me on Sunday mornings.
  2. Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles (NYC) – When I think “Chinese comfort food”, I can’t help but think of beef noodle soup. I was at the edge of death (or maybe just severely hungover) the first time I came here but by the time I was done with my bowl, I was feeling almost 100%. I’ve been coming back here ever since.
  3. Rockaway Taco (NYC) – I love fish tacos. I NEED fish tacos. I found a fish taco place in NYC that actually compares to LA fish tacos. ‘Nuff said.

One Bite and I’m Yours

(It’s a fig cupcake with prosciutto and a balsamic reduction. These are the cupcakes of your dreams.)

  1. Robicelli’s (NYC) – I am not a cupcake person but I will travel long distances for a Robicelli’s cupcake. Once, I traveled from Manhattan to Brooklyn, just to eat ONE of their cupcakes. That’s right – I rode the train there, bought one cupcake, ate the cupcake, then rode the train back. Their flavors are unique, inspiring and absolutely incomparable.
  2. Dough (NYC) – Dough’s light, fluffly pillows of fried dough haunt my dreams. Forget those other doughnut shops (*cough* Doughnut Plant *cough*), none of them have the airiness of Dough’s.
  3. Del Posto (NYC) – My goat cheese, celery and fig dessert was easily the best formal dessert of 2011.

2011’s Favorite Restaurant Group

(Sadly, Totto Ramen doesn’t count for this year’s list since I first tried it in 2010. Luckily, its sister restaurants are just as good!)

  1. Yakatori Totto (NYC) – Two words: Chicken liver. I have never had chicken livers as creamy as the ones at Yakatori Totto. Order more than one skewer – you’re going to want as many as you can get.
  2. Soba Totto (NYC) – Soba Totto is like the best of both Totto worlds. Their yakatori is of the same quality as Yakatori Totto’s and their soba noodles in broth is as comforting as a bowl of ramen fromTotto Ramen. This is my go-to restaurant on the east side.

One Step Closer to a True New Yorker

(See that pizza on the counter? That was MY pizza.)

  1. Di Fara Pizza (NYC) – Everything they say is true. The waits will be long. The crowds will be impatient. The pizza is worth it.

Almost…But Not Quite

(A ceviche tostada for less than $5. You can’t get anything like this in NYC.)

  1. Marisco Jalisco (LA) – One delicious fried shrimp taco covered in slices of avocado – less than $2. That would have easily cost me $5+ in NYC. (NYC Mexican food just cannot compare to LA Mexican food.)
  2. M. Wells (NYC) – Brunch at M. Wells was amazing. Sadly, it closed too soon to try anything else on the menu.
  3. Shopsins (NYC) – Order the Mo’ Jemima: poached eggs, bacon and mac and cheese pancakes. Yes, macaroni and cheese pancakes. This is epic breakfast food.
  4. Neptune Oyster (Boston) – The best lobster rolls I’ve had to date. If you go, just remember – butter is better!
  5. Tia Pol (NYC) – Their tapas are delicious and affordable but their fried chickpeas are easily the most addicting thing on their menu.

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…Well, look at that. I’ve been so busy reminiscing about 2011 that I’m almost two weeks into 2012! Into the new year we go!

Caracas Arepa Bar (Manhattan, NY) – Arepa, Arepa!

November 7, 2011

In December 2009, Caracas introduced to me to the arepa.

…Wait, let me be perfectly accurate: In December 2009, Caracas introduced me to the Venezuelan arepa. (I just didn’t know that at the time.)

I make the distinction because…well, honestly because I have another post in the works I talk about different types of arepas. However, I’m also making the distinction because I know more than I did in 2009. Before Caracas, I had never heard the word “arepa”, let alone that there were different types of arepas. Now, I know better. That’s one of the reasons I love food – a single bite can open your eyes to something completely new.

…But I digress. This post is about arepas. Venezuelan arepas.

If you’ve never had a Venezuelan arepa, think of a corn flour disc that is grilled then baked until it’s relatively crispy the whole way through. This hard arepa shell is then cut in half and stuffed with fillings that range from meat and seafood to avocados and plantains. It reminds me a little of an authentic Mexican gordita, but baked and without the breadiness in the middle.

Caracas serves 12+ varieties of arepas at any given point in time, which can be a bit intimidating. (Even more so when you consider Caracas also serves appetizers, salads, empanadas, shakes and desserts…) If you’re not sure what to order, you can’t go wrong with a combination platter – I usually order “La Popular” because it contains two of my go-to’s: The “Reina Pepiada”, which has shredded chicken mixed with avocado, and the “De Pabellon”, which has beef, black beans, cheese and plantains. The weekend special arepas are also good; one of my all time favorite arepas was the seafood arepa special with grilled squid.

No matter what filling you choose, make sure you try a bite with the yellow house sauce. (There’s a bottle of it on every table.) I don’t know what’s in it – it’s “a secret” – but I do know it’s like crack. Tangy, slightly fruity with just a touch of spiciness, I douse everything I order in it.

Lastly, a word of guidance: Arepas may look small but they’re actually much more filling than you would think. Order 1 if you want a hearty snack, 2 if you’re really hungry and 3 if you want to feel like you’re giving birth to a food baby. Whenever I order 3, I always curse myself for ordering that last one. Seriously, 2 will fill you up just fine.

(Btw, I apologize for the quality of these photos. Caracas’ food is great but its lighting…not so much.)

Caracas Arepa Bar
93 E 7th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 529-2314
Website: http://www.caracasarepabar.com/
Twitter: @caracasarepabar

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