Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Merhaba (That's Hello in Turkish)!

We're finally back from Turkey, and I'm finally settled again at home. If you followed my tweets you'll know that Husband J and I really enjoyed our time in Turkey. Turkey has so much historical importance (especially to Christians and Muslims), unique scenery, and I didn't have a bad meal the entire time. It was also overcast and cold for our first SIX days. SIX days without sun! The previous week was sunny and warm there, and we got the short end of the stick on weather, unfortunately. That made me appreciate our last two warm, sunny days even more. I also say this so you won't wonder why my pictures are so darn dark. :)

I will admit to you that I had a hard time coming back home this time around. There have been a variety of things going on with me and my family. Don't worry. We're all healthy and safe (which is all that matters), but there are just so many things up in the air right now. Being away allowed for some emotional rest at the very least, even if our trip had a whirlwind moment or two.

I'll be writing a lot about Turkey in the coming weeks and also adding some things to my Facebook page that won't appear here, so make sure to check over there as well (and like my Facebook page...dude, I gotta plug it somehow! :) ).

Here's a little preview of what we saw and experienced in Turkey:

It's good to be back blogging again. If any of you have any special requests for posts on specific topics or want to know more about a certain pic above, just let me know in the comments section.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Food Porn Friday - Doughnut Plant

I've never really been a big donut fan. (By the way, do you spell it doughnut or donut? Please let me know.) I didn't like red wine either, and then I went to Napa and realized that it wasn't because red wine is bad. It was because I hadn't tasted GOOD red wine. Maybe that's been the case with doughnuts?Also I felt like one day all I was reading were articles about doughnuts. Perhaps the universe was sending me a sign. Off I went to Doughnut Plant in the Lower East Side.

First word of advice: Do not come here on a weekend. It's mobbed. I repeat there is a line out the door. It's really not that big of a space anyway, and there is no real seating, just some banquettes. Tea, coffee and milk are drink options. I brought my doughnuts home.

The menu is divided into yeast doughnuts, cake doughnuts and those with jelly fillings. I forgot this when I ordered and got more yeast ones than I intended, but I can always go back, right?

Yeast Doughnuts

Valhrona Chocolate

This is essentially a light, chewy donut with a chocolate glaze. This is great for someone like me who has her moments with chocolate (some days love, others not so much).

Glazed Doughnut
I was so ready to take a bite that I forgot to take a pic beforehand.

Just your traditional glazed doughnut but WAAY better. What was blowing my mind was the freshness of the doughnuts. Doughnut Plant makes its doughnuts right there in the store (makes you think of Krispy Kreme, doesn't it?), so I shouldn't be surprised. Also the fact that I wasn't clutching my jaw due to the sweetness was a major plus.

Creme Brulee

Creme filled insides

My people, this doughnut is pure brilliance. There is a coating that is a crackly glaze in the same way as a creme brulee dessert just replicated on a doughnut. Genius, I tell you!! The creme did not compete with the glaze and tasted like Boston Creme, smooth with an understated tanginess.

Cake Doughnuts

Tres Leches
Honestly, I think this one was my favorite. I am sucker for things like dulce de leche or which emphasize vanilla or sweet cream flavors. Being one of the cake doughnuts, this one was spongy yet soft with a minute bit of crunch when you bit into it. True to its name, there were drips of milk on the bottom of the doughnut. I should have gotten five of these.

I even found some cream inside.

These four doughnuts are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the names of these other flavors:

Peanut Butter Glaze with Blackberry Jelly

I think I'll need a few months before I go back and try some new ones. :)

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
New York, New York

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Sweet Retreat in Kerala's Backwaters

Hey, all. Here's another guest post. This time from my BFF, B. You might remember that I mentioned her wedding late last year. She and her new husband went to India on their honeymoon in January. They found a relaxing retreat in southern India's Kerala.

When my husband and I chose to spend two-weeks in India for our honeymoon, friends and family thought we were crazy. Didn’t we want to go somewhere purely relaxing where we could lie on a beach and people could bring us beer and fruity drinks with little paper umbrellas? Our response was instant and unwavering - we were beyond excited to have an opportunity to spend 2 weeks experiencing through such a beautiful and unique country.

We found both excitement and relaxation in Kerala. We spent five days in Kerala, a region of India at the southern-most tip of the country. To say that it was one of the most beautiful and exhilarating places that I have ever visited does not begin to do it justice. We spent our first two and a half days at the Kumarakom Resort, a sprawling tropical resort nested deep in the Keralan backwaters. We arrived from the airport and were greeted in their open-air “lobby” with cool face towels and fresh coconuts. In contrast to how tight and packed everything had been in Delhi - or even how packed everything is in our home in New York City, our resort had no walls (except for the guest rooms). Everything from the restaurants to the spa was open, and I had the feeling of being on a remote island that had only recently been discovered.

I had been excited to try South Indian food, as I was much more familiar with the Moghul-influenced food of the north. The food was incredible! The most common foods/ flavors involved coconut, banana, and rice (three of my favorite things!) and everything was very light compared to northern food. Our breakfast buffet included both South Indian specialties such Uttapam (rice pancakes), idlis (steamed rice cakes) with a curry or coconut chutney, and Sambhar (a spicy vegetable stew), as well as traditional western dishes like pancakes. Afternoon tea, which they served everyday on the shores of the canals, consisted of chai, fresh coconuts, and various treats such as fried bananas.

We spent our final two and a half days in Kerala on a houseboat. I hadn’t known what to expect when I signed us up for a houseboat tour. I had seen pictures online of the various boats, and brief descriptions of the tours, but nothing had prepared me for how amazing the experience actually was.

We were on a houseboat with two hotel-room-sized bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and an open-air deck. For two days we relaxed on the boat, meandering through miles of backwater canals and watching a whole new world float by. The best way to describe what we saw is with pictures:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Witnessing a Transforming Society in China

Hey, all! I thought for some change of pace that I would invite some of my friends to write a few guest posts while I'm away. Please welcome my friend, E to blog. You might remember her as my dining partner from my Colicchio & Sons post awhile back. She and her husband went to China June of last year and had a chance to see many of the changes happening there.

Last June, we spent two weeks traveling in China, with stops in Beijing, Xian, Chengdu and Hong Kong. Each city was in a different province, and each one had distinct features. But the one thing they all had in common? Louis Vuitton. In a country where the average income was the equivalent of $3,650 USD in 2009 and the smallest Louis Vuitton purse costs about $300, there are 35 Louis Vuitton boutiques.

One of major changes in contemporary Chinese society involves the development of a consumer culture. Luxury goods makers appear to have a gold rush mentality in the country. We saw Armani, Cartier, Gucci, Hermes, Prada stores. All of them! We suspect in a market the size of China that is growing as fast as it is that the goal is to establish the brand now and let the sales come later. In fact, the importance of having any presence at all seemed paramount – even if that meant the famed jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels is next to a KFC! Surely, an executive would be fired if those two stores sat side-by-side in the U.S.

Chicken & Diamonds

Not to be left out, the Chinese are getting into the branding game themselves. But even there, we noticed the influence of Western consumer brands. There are at least three Nike wannabes, sportswear companies each with their own version of the iconic swoosh – Li Ning, ANTA, and Erke. Nike is definitely not alone.

Perhaps the most significant new consumer item in China is the car. The clogged, broad avenues of Beijing are full of shiny, new Volkswagens, Toyotas and Buicks. As a pedestrian, however, you should not stand and admire those new cars lest you be run over by one of them. Seriously. Pedestrians have no right of way in China. It seems that it's all about who gets there first! We saw countless instances of drivers jockeying to be first, even if that meant driving into a crowd of people crossing a street.

The rush of the Chinese driver mirrors the rush of China to develop. Unfortunately, some of the country’s charm and traditions may be lost in the future. In Beijing, for example, older residential neighborhoods were largely demolished to make room for modern residences and office buildings. Dating back many centuries, traditional neighborhoods contain mazes of very narrow alleys (“hutongs”) lined with doors that lead to homes surrounded by high walls.

A typical alley near our hotel

During our trip, we decided to get a better feel for these old neighborhoods by staying in a home that was turned into a small boutique hotel, Hotel Cote Cour, in one of the hutongs. In addition to being a lovely hotel that we highly recommend, we enjoyed staying in an actual neighborhood. Wandering through the alleyways, we saw people hanging laundry, cats lounging on tops of cars, and people shopping at closet-sized storefronts. Two weeks is not enough time to get to know a country as large and diverse as China, but staying in a hutong gave us a small glimpse of real life. Fortunately, there are some efforts to preserve the hutongs, in part, because the Chinese now appreciate the tourist value of these unique neighborhoods.

The interior courtyard of our hotel was a quiet retreat after long days of sightseeing.

The changes in China are not only material, but behavioral as well. Authorities have invested in public awareness campaigns to cut down on certain acts like spitting. Yes, modern, urban China frowns on loogies. This is good, because there is something unsettling about folks in public loudly gathering phlegm for discharge.

No bombs away

Our most unexpected sight, though, were the infamous “split pants” on almost every baby or toddler we came across. In case you don’t know, rather than wear diapers, little ones in China often wear regular pants except the pants are split to allow, er, eliminations – almost anywhere at anytime. We saw children relieving themselves in the street or on plants. We even saw a mother instruct her toddler to relieve himself against the wall by the airport baggage carousel, even though there was a bathroom right around the corner. Luckily, disposable diapers are increasingly catching on with urban, upwardly mobile parents. Just another change in China.

Next time we vacation in China, we might try more rural parts of the country to compare with our urban experience. But the urban centers are wonderful for demonstrating the rapid evolution of Chinese society.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Food Porn Friday - Eggplant Parm at No. 7 Sub

The area around the Ace Hotel has become somewhat of a food destination in the past couple of years. I've already talked about The Breslin and almost made it to John Dory Oyster Bar. Since I don't drink coffee too much, I didn't mention Stumptown Coffee either. There's one more place though, a gourmet sandwich shop called No. 7 Sub. No.7 Sub is actually the Manhattan outpost of a Fort Greene, Brooklyn restaurant, No. 7. Husband J and I have been to No. 7 before, but I think we are definitely due back.

It's a pretty simple set up. No. 7 Sub sells sandwiches and not much else. Actually that's not true. They sell pickles, potato chips, homemade soda and Coca-Cola (there's diet, too).

Also there's really not anywhere to sit. Just two counters where you can eat standing.

Also just know that these sandwiches are NOT cheap.

For some reason lately, I've been feeling guilty about eating meat. I eat it perhaps maybe once per week, but I was a pescetarian until last year (actually until I started this blog). I thought I would go back to my vegetarian-esque roots here. I was going to get this sandwich:

Sounds good, right?

Then I got to the counter to order, and these words came out of my mouth instead:
I'm supposed to be trying to be healthy here. Jalapenos & BBQ Potato Chips reeled me in.

No. 7 Sub Eggplant Parm Sandwich
Side view

Front view

I am going to say that this sandwich is comfort between two pieces of hero bread. It was a cold late winter day and having a warm sandwich made me feel at home even if I was eating while standing and still wearing my coat. I actually liked that there was no marinara sauce. The jalapeno peppers were not super spicy and really an unexpected contrast to the fried eggplant. I would never thought about BBQ potato chips on a gourmet sandwich, but it added smokiness and sweetness to what could have been bland fried eggplant.

Sandwiches are not usually my thing. Now I'm on a quest to try all of these sandwiches. No. 7 Sub sells a highly regarded brussels sprout reuben sandwich and a fried clam sandwich, too.

No. 7 Sub
1188 Broadway (between 28th + 29th Streets)
New York, NY 10001

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hometown Tourist - Flat Stanley Visits NYC

My sister-in-law is an elementary school teacher and asked for my help for one of the kids in her class. Apparently, her students are learning about different communities in other states, and she was hoping that I would help one of her students who wanted to study New York. NO problem, except I didn't realize that I would have to tote around a friend...a paper friend that is.

My sister-in-law's students are learning about different states through the eyes of Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley is a children's book series that follows the global travels of a little boy who gets flattened by a bulletin board (sounds a little violent, LOL!), and his new easy to maneuver shape allows him to travel all over the world. The book has developed into a wonderful teaching tool for opening up the world of travel, geography and diverse notions of community life to kids.

Since I was running around doing some errands one day in Manhattan, I took Flat Stanley with me and snapped some pictures of him in places that someone might want to visit during their first time in NYC. I think Flat Stanley enjoyed it, too.

Here's what we saw and did that afternoon:

Flat Stanley reads the paper on the subway.

Flat Stanley liked seeing Radio City Music Hall from the outside.

Flat Stanley was a little disappointed to not see too many people ice skating when we passed by Rockefeller Center.

Flat Stanley in front of the New York Public Library. He wanted to see where Carrie Bradshaw was supposed to get married, but I hurried him along. Uh...I had to finish my errands!

Flat Stanley in front the of the Flatiron Building

I think I enjoyed my afternoon with Stanley waaay too much, but I love the idea of teaching kids about how others live in different communities. Here's a link with more information about the Flat Stanley Project. :)

If and/or when I have a child or two, one of the things I hope to instill in them is a wonder and awe for the larger world and a thirst to know how others live.

Were there any books, tv shows or school projects from your childhood or teen years that made you interested in travel, geography or different communities?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Where to Next? - Turkey

Every time I think about the fact that I am going to Turkey, I think of two things:

1) An actual turkey


2) This classic song, "Istanbul" by The Four Lads. It's been in my head on and off for the past month. "Even old New York was once New Amsterdam..."

By the way, if you've never heard the song I'm referring to, click below. There are nice pics of many of Istanbul's famous sights, so listen and enjoy the views.

Husband J and I leave from Turkey later this week, and I'm really looking forward to it. At the same time, I'm a little nervous. Even with all of my meticulous planning (hopefully it was meticulous), for some reason I am worried about possibly screwing something up. Did I plan the flights for the right days? Will we get to the airport shuttle okay? Don't ask me where this is coming from 'cause I'm usually not like this. Maybe this is because this trip is one of the most logistically challenging trips I've planned all by myself? It wasn't too hard to do. It just took a lot of note taking and brain power (which may be why I'm freaked. Ha!)

Just based on what I've read in our guidebook so far, Turkey's historical significance is much more than I realized and its cuisine so extensive that it apparently ranks up there with Chinese cuisine in terms of breadth and variety. There will be lots to learn and most importantly lots to EAT!

I think I'm most looking forward to Cappadocia.

If the Cappadocian countryside looks like this in pictures, I can only imagine what it looks like in person. Hot air ballooning is a pretty popular activity there.

We'll also be making a short stop in Ephesus. Paul (He wrote a good chunk of the Bible's New Testament) wrote to one of the early Christian churches here. Ephesus is the site of one of the best preserved Roman cities next to Pompeii in Italy (at least that's what I've read).

Celsus Library, Ephesus

I'll be around this week, but posting will be light next week. I may have a few surprises for you while I'm gone. :)

Does anyone have any recommendations, suggestions or travel stories about Turkey? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Eat to Win with Charlie Sheen

So part of me knows that I shouldn't even be giving this man a platform. Charlie Sheen is going through all kinds of craziness in his life right now, if you haven't heard. Part of me felt bad for him in part because it's sad to see someone's life implode daily on national TV. I admit I have not watched any of his interviews (just snippets here and there), but the news articles are enough for me.

Then I stopped the other day and realized that this man is either "crazy" or "crazy like a fox". I honestly think he's crazy like a fox. I think to some degree he knows exactly what he is doing, and at this point it's more about trying to keep the public's attention rather than a real display of who he truly is. Perhaps this is the cynic in me speaking, or maybe I am just not well versed enough in the effects of mental illness and drug abuse. I don't take what he is doing lightly, and I hope he gets the proper treatment to deal with his personal issues.

Either way, I am quite amused by Mr. Sheen's attempt at a cooking show. It's pretty funny even if his current life is not. I guess he's got a lot of time on his hands now that he's no longer on Two and a Half Men?

So what do you think of the video? Is Charlie very ill or taking us, the U.S. consumers of entertainment, for a ride? I suspect it's a little of both.

Good luck to him.

Happy Weekend to you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Night of Firsts at Peking Duck House

With all of the Chinese food I've eaten over the course of my life, I was pretty surprised to realize that I had never had quintessential Chinese Peking duck. Luckily, a friend from college was in town, and I was able to catch up with him at Peking Duck House in Chinatown. He's currently doing a diplomatic tour in Afghanistan. Needless to say he and his partner, Husband J, Roo Mi (you remember her) and I were up for a full Peking duck FEAST.

If you've got at least four people in your dining party at Peking Duck House, you definitely have to take advantage of the Peking Duck Dinner. We had five people, which allowed us to have a whole duck for ourselves as well as soup, appetizers, three entrees AND dessert. Not a bad spread for about $27.50 per person (add some for drinks, etc.).

Our soup course:

House Special Duck Soup
Miso, bok choy, tofu and duck.

This was nice introduction to our meal, but I honestly would have preferred a little more salt and seasoning (so says the Salt Addict).

Some meat on a stick, a dumpling and a spring roll

Definitely your regulation mainstream Americanized Chinese apps, but all still very good.

After appetizers, the waiter brings out the duck to show us. I guess so we can admire it? Not sure, but thanks for showing us. :) Afterwards the chef gets to carving it, and he does so super quickly I might add.

After all of that cutting and plating, our duck was ready.

The duck is served with light pancakes (sorry for the odd angle. We were at a large table, and I was too busy stuffing my face to get up and get a proper one),

celery (I think it's celery) and scallions,

and add some hoisin sauce (I lurve the salty sweetness of hoisin sauce so much that I was putting on some of our appetizers).

The duck: Perfectly crispy skin, juicy and seasoned quite well. The skin really was one of the highlights of the dish. Is it bad that I could have eaten the skin separately?

Oh, yes, we had other entrees (I was already half way full!):

Sliced Beef with Scallops

Fried Sliced Prawns with Chili Sauce

There was another main dish, but I was too busy stuffing my face. I had purposely saved my stomach and calories that day for this meal. Apparently, even after all of this we were STILL not done. I don't think I've ever had dessert at a Chinese restaurant other than ginger ice cream, but tonight was a night of firsts.

Fried Banana with Walnuts

Caramelized, everything was caramelized. That crispy coating surrounding the banana was such a nice touch and added another texture to what could possibly be a boring dessert. This was definitely not the cade. How do I do this to my bananas at home. Anyone know? I'm used to fried plantains (remember those from last week?), but fried banana was just as good.

Considering the smorgasbord of food that we got, I think this was an amazing value. I'd be interested in trying Peking duck in some other local Chinatown restaurants for comparison as I wonder if PDH is spiffed up for non-Chinatown regulars like me. Hmmm.....

Have you ever tried a new dish in a cuisine that's familiar to you?

Peking Duck House has two locations. We went to the Chinatown location.
28 Mott Street
New York, New York 10013

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