Friday, July 30, 2010

In My 'Hood/Food Porn Friday - Trois Pommes' Gourmet Twinkie

Yes, Viriginia, there is a gourmet Twinkie. A gourmet Twinkie? Heck yeah!

I want to thank a friend, the lovely E (who I hope will do a guest post about her trip to pressure!!) for our conversation a month or two ago about the existence of a supposed gourmet Twinkie right here in New York City. I remember my packed school lunches with my lovely smashed "yellow cake with white cream in middle" treats. Some were better than others, but when it when it was was very, very good! After a super quick Google search I found that there was in fact a bakery right here in Brooklyn with its own version with, I am sure, a whole lot less artificial flavors, colorings, etc. (article here). Plus, the fact that this place is about a 15 minute walk away from me sealed the deal. Damn, I love my borough!

I know...enough with my yabbering. Here it is:

The verdict: Very Good. Not amazing.

The Twinkie comes in two flavors: almond (pictured above) and red velvet (can you imagine that?!) I really liked the almond flavor. It was not overpowering. If I could compare it to anything I would say it tasted like shortbread with a cake consistency and a tad bit more sugar. That being said the cake could get a little dry in certain parts, especially when you bit through the end pieces. E couldn't tell whether almond extract was used or not. Not being a big-time baker (and completely still intimidated by my Kitchen Aid mixer I received last year), I just nodded and smiled. :)

I will say that I thought that the cake and the cream made a really good team. The cream wasn't heavy and honestly took me back to the original inspiration Twinkie's version. This one obviously tasted much more fresh. The cake was much more moist where it interacted with the cream. E thought it was a little too sweet, but I personally liked the almond with vanilla action on my tongue. This is the kind of dessert you want at the end of a rich meal (or without a meal at all).

Overall, this is a serious bakery. Lots of baker-ish looking folks were hard at work in the background. There was a section for seating, but it wasn't that big. Don't expect a destination cafe where you camp out with your laptop.

I took a whoopie pie home too. I'm supposed to be eating better this week.....not happening. :( Trois Pommes also sells a variety of pastries and desserts including their own ice cream. I'm sad that I know where this place is, and I can easily get to it. Uh oh!

260 Fifth Avenue

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bali High - Exploring Central Ubud

Ubud, Bali's interior artistic center (and where Elizabeth Gilbert hid out for a few months), is a pretty compact area, but there is lots to see, eat, buy and explore including the Monkey Forest. Husband J and I had a great time just walking around central Ubud and taking everything in. Here are some of my favorite shots that I took during our trip.

Temple within Ubud Palace

Open air pavilion within Ubud Palace

The view down Monkey Forest Street. If you want to eat, drink, shop for crafts, relax at (cheap) local spas, and find accommodations you can find it on Monkey Forest. That being said, I think you can probably get cheaper crafts on other streets in central Ubud like Jalan Hanoman (Hanoman Street).

I loved the clothes in this store. I just wasn't in a shopping mood while in Ubud.

Among the many cool Buddha statues we'd see in the Ubud area and around Bali. This one is in front of Honeymoon Guesthouse, a lodge down the block from our hotel on Jalan Bisma.

A rice field on Jalan Bisma (Bisma Street), down the block from our hotel

Pura (Temple) Sarswati, the goddess of wisdom and beauty. The temple had cool moats surrounding it.

Steps from Jalan Raya Ubud (Ubud Main Street) to the the Campuhan River.

Many Balinese still use the rivers for daily tasks including bathing.

There you have it! So much to see and do without having to leave Ubud itself.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bali High - Babi Guling Ibu Oka (Did Tony B. Get it Right?)

By now, you all know that I have a weird, slight obsession with Anthony Bourdain. The man has my dream job; he's a curmudgeon New Yorker; and, so therefore he is somewhat of a kindred spirit. The idea that I would get to go to one of the same restaurants that he tried when he was in Bali was just too much. I was determined to go there, especially since we'd get one of those lovely "from a warung for less than $10 for two" kind of lunches out of it too.

I am talking about Ibu Oka, aka Babi Guling Ibu Oka. Babi Guling is Indonesian for suckling roast pig, a staple Balinese dish. Since the overwhelming majority of Indonesia is Muslim (and they don't dig on swine), Bali is really the only place to get this dish in the country.

It's been disputed up and down the interwebs as to whether Ibu Oka, which is right in the center of central Ubud, really is the best out there. I decided to see what I thought for myself. If you ever plan on visiting Ibu Oka make sure that you get there early for lunch. They open about 11am and close at around 2pm or until the the pig is done. Once the pig is done, so are they.

They had just brought out a new pig to carve up as we left.

There weren't many options for dishes since the main event was really about the pork (as it should be, right?). After some research I realized that we needed to order the "Special." The Special is a essentially a little bit of each aspect of little Porky. Here it is below.

Counterclockwise starting from the bottom: green stuff = lawar; some crispy pig skin; actual roast pork, blackish looking stuff = blood sausage. There was also rice underneath it all.

So what did I think?


The pork meat - All I can say is that it was moist, moist, moist and juicy. I was expecting a tad bit more flavor, but it was there due to the added spices.

The lawar - Here is a description of what it is: "Balinese traditional spices such as kunyit, shrimp paste, salt and ground pepper, galangal and other roots; grated coconut, green beans, boiled young jackfruit and occasionally, singkong leaves, all chopped up and blended together."

The lawar had a great spicy kick and flavor and was a great accompaniment to the pork.

I don't remember what this is, but I liked it.

It's probably some horrible part of the pig, but frying it sure made it taste good.

Midlights (not a word or a concept that exists, but who cares)

The crispy skin

I've never been a fan of pork rinds, so I don't know why I thought I would be a fan of this. It was fine. It had a nice snap, crackle, pop when you bit into it.


The blood sausage - Let me just tell you that I am not freaked out by blood sausage. We have a version of it in Antigua that I used to eat growing up, so I am no stranger to this. (Learn more about blood sausage here) I didn't like Ibu Oka's version because of its dry, chewy nature. That being said, the taste was actually good. I even ate Husband J's portion.


Ibu Oka was good. In certain instances, VERY good. Amazing it was not. I wish the pork was a bit warmer and that the Special was a tad bigger (Is that the "Supersize Me" American attitude coming through?). Actually I take that back. I just wanted to eat more of the meat. I thought the food was flavorful, but you can tell certain elements like spices have been toned down due to the high level of tourist traffic that it gets. That being said, for a cheap lunch in central Ubud, I would definitely go back. This time I'll remember not to bring Husband J. Apparently, he doesn't like pork that much. Who knew?! (I didn't..ooops!)

Thanks for the tip, Tony B.!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Food Porn Friday - Republic, Bento Box #6

Sometimes I just want to post pics. Sometimes I got to places that are perfectly fine little spots where I just want to grab a meal and go. They're not really destination spots. Sometimes I don't feel like writing an entire post. LOL! But seriously. Welcome to the first edition of Food Porn Fridays! Here I'll be sharing pics of some pretty food and less of my banter. :)

This set of pics is from one of my go-to places, Republic, in Union Square. Why do you I like Republic? Well, it's fast, a pretty darn good value and consistent. Sometimes you just need a place like this in your life. It's not super authentic Asian food, but it hits the bases.

This time around I stopped in and tried their new bento boxes, which are available only Monday through Friday from 11am-5pm (and not for delivery). At $12, I thought the servings would be tiny. WRONG! The bento box was more than filling and much bigger servings than I thought!

Without further ado, Republic's Bento Box #6
Counterclockwise: Fried Calamari, Vietnamese Noodle Salad, Wonton Soup

Shrimp, pork & vegetable wontons, glass noodles, cabbage, Chinese greens, fried shallots, garlic & cilantro

Vietnamese Vegetable Noodles: Cold rice vermicelli noodles, mint, broccoli, celery, carrots, tofu, egg, shallots, bean sprouts and peanuts

Fried Calamari - covered in bread crumbs with sweet chili sauce

*The pic quality ain't so hot because this was taken with a Blackberry camera. Just FYI..

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On The Road - Good Stuff Eatery, Washington, DC

Hey, all!

I was sitting writing a post, and then I thought to myself "Am I boring them with all of these Bali posts?" :) No seriously, I thought I would take a break from writing about Bali to let you all know about my trip to the Good Stuff Eatery in Washington, DC. Good Stuff is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood steps away from the Library of Congress and the House of Representatives office buildings. It's a burger joint emphasizing quality, local, mostly organic ingredients in an effort to produce the quick, tasty comfort food we all enjoy. Good Stuff was founded by Chef Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef's Season 4 in Chicago. He's also in the process of opening a pizza place that will be next door to Good Stuff called We, the Pizza. DC folks, I expect reports! ;)

Thanks to Ms. C of US Meets UK (or Mrs. D'Orsay for those of you who read for introducing me to Good Stuff as well as Husband J's friend (and my friend too!), Davey, for accompanying me on my second trip. By the way, I'm supposed to mention Davey's business, Blue Stone Logic. What you do for friends. :)

I lived in DC pretty briefly several years ago and didn't really make it over to Capitol Hill much, so I am now glad for an excuse to get over there. Yes, that's right. I love Good Stuff so much that I think I will probably have to find a way to go there each time I'm in DC.


1. Good Burgers

I am still not there yet on eating ground beef, but luckily Good Stuff will make turkey burger versions of all of its burgers. If you want simple and delicious go for the Farmhouse burgers like Ms. C and her dear husband did, which have the basic toppings of lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle served on a bun with "Good Stuff" sauce (not sure what that is, really). Bacon and cheese are optional.

Personally, I like my burgers with STUFF on it. The more the better. Pile it on. It was hard to choose though from amongst the Original burgers group, but I went with the President Obama burger (a turkey, not ground beef, version) both times I went. This burger's got Applewood bacon, onion marmelade, Roquefort cheese, and horseradish mayo sauce. I added some ketchup on there too. Not much is needed though because the toppings are more than enough.

Here it is in all its glory

So the first time I went to Good Stuff, when I quickly tore into the wrapping I thought: "This is it? It's so small." My friends, that's a good thing. As Davey and I discussed during our visit, we are tired of burgers that make you feel like you need a new jaw after you're done eating them. I call the Good Stuff burgers "pre-smashed" to perfection. All I can say is that all of the toppings on the Prez Obama worked into this mini-chorus of all of the things you'd want on a burger: a hint of smokiness from the bacon, sweetness from the onion marmalade, a little kick from the horseradish and lots of saltiness to highlight the meat.

Davey got the Spike's Sunnyside burger with Applewood bacon, a fried egg and Good Stuff sauce.

Davey's Spike's Sunnyside Burger from the inside out

Davey told me that his burger was "super good" and that the fried egg worked well on the burger. Sometimes fried egg just kinda slips and slides around, but Good Stuff's version seems to work. While I didn't taste Davey's version for myself, he says that it's up there with many of the better burgers he's had.

2. Good Sides

The first time I went to Good Stuff, I was hungry. I'd been on an overly long bus ride with no lunch. I didn't really care if my meal was going to be kinda large, since I pretty much had an empty stomach. Given the circumstances, I managed to have my own fries and not feel overly full. The fries come in a couple of varieties with just sea salt or some with additional thyme and rosemary.

My suggestion to you is to get a few of the bad ass aioli-like sauces that are right next to where you pick up the ketchup. I tried the Old Bay and the Sriracha, which made me fall in love with it, a nice combo of not too much hot spice and creaminess. If you are looking for crispy fries, I would move on, but these do the job well being not too greasy and small enough to pop in your mouth by the very large handful.

My fries with aioli

On my trip with Davey, we ended up getting the chili. I've already mentioned my occasional worries with ground beef, but I dug in anyway. There was definitely BEEF in there, hunks of it. I'm not a big chili person, and even I was won over. The chili also came up with warm, moist corn bread sweetened just a touch.

3. Good Shakes.

Okay. I've only had the toasted marshmallow shake the two times I went. I usually don't get into hyperbole here, but it's about to end right now. OMG! These shakes are the best shakes I have ever tasted in my entire life. It's like God sent down a perfect milkshake from heaven like manna. Okay. Hyperbolic moment over! Just imagine slurping the right amount of sweet cream, with a hint of butter and just enough sweetness to make you swoon and add in some smokiness from the real toasted marshmallow.

I thought about this shake for days afters. Okay fine...for a week after. I just want to say that if care anything about your caloric intake, then definitely get the child-size version of the shake because the regular size is its own meal. I'm not even kidding. My stomach hurt after eating a full meal and THEN having a super behemoth shake. My advice is to plan your meal with the shake in mind as they are not to be missed.

The child-size Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake

A close up

Overall, I do loves me some Good Stuff! Ms. C did mention that as a frequent Good Stuff customer the quality can vary depending on the visit. Look, I'm just happy that this place is far away from me in DC even though I encouraged Chef Spike, who was there on my first visit, to open one in Brooklyn. Hold off, Chef Spike! I want to be able to fit into my clothes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bali High - Two Days, Two Lunches

Bali can be many things to many people. For some, Bali is about being at a luxury hotel on the beach and fine dining. For others, it can be a spiritual haven while staying a basic homestay. I definitely experienced this kind of contrast on different days during two different lunch experiences : "local" Bali and a little more "touristy" Bali.

Eating at local and authentic restaurants in Bali occurs primarily in local warungs, or open air restaurants where locals eat a variety of Balinese dishes ranging from crispy fried duck to roasted suckling pig. I didn't want to leave Bali without at least having the opportunity to eat totally in the same manner as the people who live there.

What I'm going to call our Warung Lunch #1 happened when we went to view Gunung (Mount) Batur and Lake Batur.

Gunung Batur is an actual active volcano. There have been multiple eruptions in the 20th century including one in 1917 that killed a thousand people; one that started in September 1963 and ended in March 1964; and the most recent in 1994 which apparently still happens from time to time (glad I missed it this time around). It's not always a full lava flow though, so don't worry if you're planning on making a trip there.

Right next Gunung Batur is Lake Batur.

Purty, ain't it?

On our way up to the Mount/Lake Batur area, I asked our guide for the day NOT to take us to any buffet or anything like that, which is readily available to tourists who make the trip to that part of the island. Instead, I asked for a local, cheap and presumably good warung. So did I get the authentic warung experience? Let's see...

It's got a great view of Lake Batur.

Well let's get a checklist going:

-open air - Check!
-a plastic covered menu - Check!
-no pictures, descriptions or translations of the food - Check!
-plastic tablecloth - Check!
-waitress that didn't really speak much English - Check!
-a few flies buzzing around - Check!

A Balinese warung experience...priceless.

A happy me

Husband J's choice for lunch was Cap Cay, a vegetable casserole with a chop suey-like consistency that often includes chicken, seafood, beef, tofu or pretty much any protein you want. It is influenced by Chinese cooking although it's a pretty common Indonesian dish. Husband J's version was spicy and as you'll soon see not his first Cap Cay of the trip.

For me, I had the Ikan goreng bumbu bali. So how did I pick that? Well I know the "goreng" means fried, and I took a quick look at our guidebook and realized that "ikan" means fish. I wasn't sure about the rest, so I figured that I'd just be surprised.

I knew I was getting fish, but I was pretty shocked to see a whole one. I guess when your warung overlooks a lake, fish is pretty easy to come by? I loved the fish. Underneath all of that sauce, was a nice crispy fried fish (what kind I couldn't tell). The sauce was of a thick spicy peanut variety, and a welcome level of fiery flavor from what we'd be getting from more tourist oriented places. Yay! Real Balinese folks' food. Woo hoo!

I didn't take me long to get through it.

Sadly, I don't even know the name of this place; but if you're in Kintamini on the road overlooking Mount Batur and Lake Batur, definitely stop in. For a basic meal for two including drinks for 88,000 rupiah (about $9 USD), it was pretty darn good.

From super cheap where the locals hang to a more well-known tourist friendly restaurant in the heart of Ubud, Husband J and I stopped in for lunch at Cafe Wayan. Cafe Wayan is very much an institution in Ubud having pioneered the art of making authentic yet tourist friendly Indonesian dishes. This place even had a write up in Food & Wine magazine (I guess I should now divulge the fact that I have been a Food & Wine subscriber for over 7 years just in case I mention it too much.) I don't blame tourists for wanting to come here. Wouldn't you want to eat somewhere that looked like this?

Yes, folks, this is a restaurant.

Each individual hut/"bale" has one to three tables.

Husband J never really got used to sitting on the floor.

Oh yeah, we actually ate too. :)

Husband J's Cap Cay, similar taste as the warung's version just much less spice. To me, it was more like a stew/soup, and I made sure that I sneaked a few bites for myself.

I had Cafe Wayan's version of Nasi Goreng (fried rice). Just like mie goreng, you can find nasi goreng all over Indonesia. Again, as with most dishes, everyone has their own way of preparing and serving a dish. Cafe Wayan's version includes shrimp crackers, chicken satay and some very interesting fritters (I think they were vegetable), and what seemed to be a potato salad. The fried rice was very light and nothing was too spicy. I was a happy tourist, but I definitely added some sambal (chili sauce) to the rice for extra kick.

Chicken satay

What sets Cafe Wayan apart from many other restaurants in central Ubud is their wonderful selection of pastries. They are known for their Death by Chocolate cake. I'm not a big chocolate person, but this worked for me totally. No cloyingly super sweet chocolate here. Just moist, rich cake with a pretty decent frosting made even better some chocolate sauce on the side. I highly recommend it.

So there you have, two very different ways to have a great lunch Balinese style!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bali HIgh - I See You, Cheeky Monkey

Having been on a safari and seen animals outside of a zoo, I thought I'd be okay with getting up close and personal with the monkeys of the Monkey Forest, part nature preserve and part sacred shrine to monkeys, in the heart of Ubud. I can handle this, right?

Husband J in the Monkey Forest

One of our monkey friends. I think he's posing.

Well, I'll definitely say that it was an experience. For parts of my trip to Bali, I couldn't shake the distinct feeling that I was slowly but surely being eaten alive by bugs. Even when there was nothing on my skin I STILL felt like I was some lovely Balinese bugger's lunch. (I had a special relationship with some bug repellent with 35% DEET.) Actually that was the case during our very short jaunt in the Monkey Forest except in addition to bugs I had to also think about these cheeky little monkeys. But they're so cute, right? Hmm...

At least the babies are. :)

Families are cute too!

While they are cute, knowing that these very quick and known to be occasionally unfriendly animals were essentially right next to me didn't always sit well. We'd heard stories of the monkeys grabbing food (hey, they get hungry too!), sunglasses, and other objects not stapled to your body.

I mean there are just so many of them. You feel kinda surrounded.

Some of them were up to a little monkey business..okay, I had to. :) But seriously I noticed several monkey couples searching each other's fur. I think that maybe they were searching each other's fur for ticks or maybe cleaning each other? What do you think?

There were other things in the Monkey Forest besides...monkeys.

Cool statue..with a monkey

A closed off temple area

So Husband J and I are close to the exit, and we're thinking that it wasn't so bad. We've made it through the Monkey Forest. The next thing I know I feel something on me. It's a monkey! I'm thrashing about, and the little cheeky monkey finally jumps off of me. The whole episode took about 5 seconds, but it felt like a whole lot more. They're super quick. Don't believe me? See below.

This wasn't the monkey who jumped on me, but it was probably his cousin.

Thanks to the Monkey Forest, I've definitely had my fill of monkeys for awhile. :)

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