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Vegetarian Dim Sum House

I don’t understand people who hate tofu and mock meat. Sure, fake buffalo wings and tofurky are kind of wrongheaded, but bean curd and gluten can be completely tasty, especially when transformed into dim sum. It doesn't seem unnatural.

I only ever seem to patronize Vegetarian Dim Sum House when my sister is in town. It was a hit on her last visit so a repeat performance was in order. This time we totally went overboard. What’s shown below is only about half of the food that was on the table, and even with five diners we all were able to take home leftovers. It’s easy to order wildly because you just check off boxes with the quantities you want and just about everything is $2.95.


Turnip cakes are the most like "real" dim sum. The only thing missing are the pork bits. These are served with oyster sauce, though, instead of sweet soy.


Lotus root slices were sandwiched between what I swear was mashed potato. The crunch and mush was a nice combo.


Ok, more potato. These were essentially fritters.


We had three varieties of rice flour rolls. White fungus and golden mushrooms are above. There were also mock ham and coriander and mock shrimp.


Fried dough blobs.


Buddha's bean curd rolls were a hit.


You never know if you're getting a sweet or savory. I thought these would contain lotus seed paste, but they were filled with crushed peanuts.


Obviously, these shark's fin dumplings didn't contain any endangered species. They did mimic the texture, though.


Pork buns are one of my favorite Chinese snacks. You might think faux ones would be a bust but they are fairly convincing. You can't completely match the sweet meaty, roasty flavor of char siu, yet these are respectable in their own right.


Tapioca dumplings filled with sesame paste were a little heavy. Half of one is plenty.


Classic shrimp dumplings minus the shrimp. I've always liked fake crab so mock shrimp isn't much different.


Honestly, I'm not sure what this was and if anyone actually ordered it. It seemed like one of those bland almond jelly desserts. Very blanc mange. The nuggets might have been mung beans even though they look like corn.

Vegetarian Dim Sum House * 24 Pell St., New York, NY

San Antonio Bakery #2

Yesterday was the only day I’ve gone to work in a week and that was a mistake I did not repeat today. Unfortunately, Monday I still felt like death and ended up having to leave early. I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it home.

I’ve always speculated about if you’re going to faint/barf/have heart failure in public is it better to be on the subway or the sidewalk. The conscientious person in me says the sidewalk and not just because of those if you’re sick, stay off the trains public service posters. I would much appreciate it if someone who was about to keel over (especially lady dieters) had enough wits to step off the train and spare me a tangled commute.

Last night my heart was beating so hard I thought I was going into cardiac arrest, I was gushing sweat so profusely that my jeans were wet and then my strenuous coughing fits caused me to start to peeing my already disgusting pants. Twenty-four hours later and I’m still dizzy, shaky and burning up. The remarkable thing is that still have a perfectly normal appetite. Frighteningly, I can always eat. If I were terminally ill I’d probably die obese.

And this weekend I plumped up with Chilean snacks. I’m not in Astoria that often so while reviewing perfectly nice Café Soleil, I kept thinking about San Antonio Bakery #2 on the next block. I could’ve left well enough alone. I was fortified enough by a black coffee and croissant for an afternoon showing of There Will be Blood, but I would be negligent if I didn’t stock up on dulce de leche treats for later.


Witness the alfajor. Alfajores mean many things to many people. Argentine versions are more like sandwich cookies. In Peru and Bolivia they use manjar blanco (a lighter caramel) as a filling. These Chilean goodies are substantial and consist of three thin cracker-like cookies slathered with dulce de leche and rolled in shredded coconut.


Similar flavors are brought together in wedges of panqueque, thin layers of sponge cake frosted with rich caramel. (This is an old photo that I swear I'd used in my previous San Antonio Bakery missive but it doesn't appear so.)


Empanadas are another one of those million of renditions foods. These Chilean pastries are big, doughy and baked. The crusts are stuffed with chopped beef, onions, hard boiled egg, raisins and one black olive. They’re heartier and more pie-like than the Caribbean-style turnovers more commonly found around NYC. (2/26/08)

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T.G.I. Friday’s

You can’t properly entertain a sister who has lived outside the U.S. for over a decade without at least one pit stop at a chain restaurant. Never mind that they have a T.G. I. Friday’s in Bristol, things are best experienced in their natural habitats.

We’d spent a killer day trolling around Bear Mountain (I had to squeeze in a bit of nature to appease the outdoorsiness in my sister and her husband. Some would argue that paved trails aren’t exactly super natural but that’s as rough as I get) and Woodbury Common (where I’d already been to the on-site Applebee’s enough times). All that cold weather open air outlet shopping really works up an appetite.

The best part of Bear Mountain were the zillions of ’60s-seeming educational signs dotting the park.

Of course, not enough of an appetite to finish an appetizer and entrée (let alone dessert too, though I was pleased to see they were offering the three courses for $12.99 promotion which probably doesn’t exist in NYC). But that’s not the point. James and I know the excess game–that’s what take out containers are for. Despite not being truly European, British are freaked out by leftovers.

While dwelling on our monstrous portions and Japanese hara hachi bu (wise, certainly. But if I stopped at 80% full, I would never get past the appetizer course) we ordered pink fruity cocktails like the Cosmo ‘Rita. Minor trouble erupted when our waitress asked for ID, “My manager makes me card everyone under 40.” and neither out-of-towner had any on them.

I started having flashbacks to my 22nd birthday with my dad and stepmom at a place called BJ’s Roadhouse. It wasn’t my choice (while chain loving now as an adult, I couldn’t see the humor in the early ‘90s). I hadn’t brought my driver’s license and they wouldn’t serve me beer, not even an O’Doul’s, which I didn’t want anyway. These annual occasions were tough enough to slog through with a few drinks in your system.

I’m fairly certain this was the same birthday where we stopped at a grocery store afterwards and picked up a watermelon (I’ve hated melon since birth) and a sugar free cherry pie. I mean, it was my birthday and I could produce insulin normally so would it kill them to buy a real dessert? (technically yes, but diabetes wouldn’t my render my father a fatal blow for another ten years)

Thankfully, we looked old and haggard enough to have the ridiculous rule waived at T.G.I. Friday’s.


Nachos on the half shell. They evoke traditional topping on individual chip rather than pile of toppings on slew of chips, yet these aren’t chips.


Yeah, I noticed that cheesy bacon cheeseburger was separate from the regular cheeseburger but I didn’t read the fine print. The cheesy was cheesy alright. A whole half-inch round of breaded and fried provolone was sitting atop the patty. Whoa. I should’ve taken a cross section photo but I was in a state of shock. It almost looks like a chicken sandwich from this angle.

We passed on the Cinnabon cheesecake and picked up a dozen doughnuts at Dunkin’ across the parking lot (I’m not a doughnut-crazed person, but British folks seem to like them because they don’t really exist in the U.K.), then called it a night.

The next morning I arose to find a note from my sister left on the dining room table. “Dave is afraid of the leftovers; you can have them.” Oh, foreigners…there’s nothing to fear. Even our cheerful waitress told us that the gooey spinach artichoke dip could be brought back to life in the microwave.

I did wait until later that evening, after I had a few drinks in my system (and the brother-in-law had gone to bed) but you know that I devoured that second-hand hot Tuscan dip and red corn tortilla chips along with the help of my sister. We re-warmed the deep-fried breadsticks we’d brought home too. Anything else would be un-American.

T.G.I.Friday’s * 5 Centre Dr., Central Valley, NY

Mickey Finn Meet Ruby Tuesday

Drink_spiking_common Ack, I’m home sick for the second day in a row (I just spent the week entertaining my sister and her husband who were visiting from England. It was all fun and good, despite their vegetarianism, until I caught the creeping crud or whatever virulent bug they brought with them from Europe. As if it wasn’t enough that our dollars are chump change to them. I can barely hear, breathe or swallow and was convinced I had a deadly fever but my temperature is only 97.1. I hate when people say they have fevers and it’s not true so I wanted to make extra sure before declaring one) and have no typing energy.

But I can’t ignore stories involving chain restaurants, especially ones involving Ruby Tuesday, roofies and vigilant waiters named Colt.

Heavens, I don’t want to live in a world where single women with master’s degrees aren’t even safe in family restaurants.

Mickey Finn Meet Ruby Tuesday

Drink_spiking_common Ack, I’m home sick for the second day in a row (I just spent the week entertaining my sister and her husband who were visiting from England. It was all fun and good, despite their vegetarianism, until I caught the creeping crud or whatever virulent bug they brought with them from Europe. As if it wasn’t enough that our dollars are chump change to them. I can barely hear, breathe or swallow and was convinced I had a deadly fever but my temperature is only 97.1. I hate when people say they have fevers and it’s not true so I wanted to make extra sure before declaring one) and have no typing energy.

But I can’t ignore stories involving chain restaurants, especially ones involving Ruby Tuesday, roofies and vigilant waiters named Colt.

Heavens, I don’t want to live in a world where single women with master’s degrees aren’t even safe in family restaurants.

Cafe Culture


Japanese creations never fail to amaze me (I’m still marveling over cucumber Pepsi and vending machine costumes as camouflage against rapists) and sometimes they double whammy me within minutes of each other.

First, I heard about Butlers Cafe where Japanese women can be treated like princesses by cute western men. Kind of Disney and creepy yet intriguing.

Shortly afterward, I was skimming Cha Xiu Bao and became even more astonished by Café Edelstein, a dreamy restaurant where geeky girls are served by faux well-bred, boarding school-educated gentlemen. The types of gay-ish boys featured in Shōnen-ai manga.

I think this is awesome because freakish fantasy services typically seem geared towards males, cosplay restaurants in particular. They just don’t do this type of thing here, at least not for grown women. Little girls have over-the-top American Girl Café but beyond grade school weirdo role playing restaurants certainly aren’t acceptable.

We just get stuck with Medieval Times.

Crave on 42nd

No more truffled mac and cheese (10/29/08)

Ah…Valentine’s Day. Food-wise mine is already over. Tonight I will probably just watch Lost and turn cold leftover white rice into fried rice for dinner. Romance is not dead; it can be kind of strange, though.

Last year I was happy to start doing Valentine’s dinners on dates that weren’t the 14th. This year the trend was continued with a meal on the 13th at odd choice, Crave on 42nd.  If anything it was a reminder that two people with very different ideas regarding just about everything can remain amiable after eight Valentine’s Days.

If I were to pick a Top Chef restaurant, which I wouldn’t, I would definitely lean towards Perilla. Nothing I read about Dave Martin’s restaurant inspired much confidence, and frankly I was kind of scared. I was also scared to take interior shots of the room lest the chef think I was trying to snap photos of him. I'm not one for such antics.

My hesitance wasn’t allayed by the blustery stroll to Twelfth Ave from Port Authority. Walking five avenues in heels (I wear flats 90% of the time because I’m overly practical and paranoid about falling down stairs) on the rainiest day of the year made me nervous. I thought I had seen the last of this block abutting the Hudson River when I made the trek twice last fall for my Chinese visa.

The location at the base of a large condo complex and across from the Chinese Embassy is kind of unfortunate. From a distance, you might think the restaurant would be a dry cleaners or dentist office, but then you’re thrown off by the white Christmas lights dolling up the edges of the windows.


Yeah, it’s suburban feeling, spacious, inoffensive, and I’m ok with all that. Embarrassingly, it marries all that I love about chains with a Manhattan address, which is to say that many New Yorkers would hate it. The food is benign: comfort-y with twists. Burgers and pizza are prominently featured. It’s not a place for tasting menus and wine pairings.

The overall style is the opposite of that Citicard commercial that I hate. The one with the tired cliché “the food was tiny.” Maybe this elf food joke was funny in the ‘70s when nouvelle cuisine was, uh, new? Amusing only to me, I Googled “the food was tiny” and this very site came up ninth place in reference to Megu. Quite fitting since that was a Valentine’s dinner from three years ago.


The first thing you notice upon entering the room is the distinct aroma of warm cheese and truffle oil. The windows were steamed up, it was like stepping into a sauna made of fontina. I refused to go with the flow and order the famous truffled macaroni and cheese, but that didn’t stop James. I did appreciate the crispy top on the two bites I took, but I’ve never been a mac and cheese person.


Instead, I ordered the sea scallops with vanilla cream and smoked tomato butter. The vanilla was subtle and worked with the smokiness. Apparently, smoke is the chef’s thing as my next course also used that descriptor.


Smokey rubbed filet mignon with groovy gorgonzola, sweet onion rings and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. No, the groovy isn’t my addition, I’m just giving you a taste of how the titles are written. I don’t usually order beef so I’m not sure what got into me. Maybe I was just going for the traditional spirit of Valentine’s Day and ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. It was meat and potatoes with blue cheese; it’s kind of hard to ruin that combination and clearly it did its job because I ended up eating the whole thing even though I didn’t plan to. It's hard to tell from the photo, but for some reason it was in two pieces.


Sassy sea bass with adobo honey butter and couscous. James ordered the girl dish. It was sassy, after all and he’s the opposite of that adjective. The glaze was sweet, which was pleasing to me because I like candied flavors.


I’m anti-chocolate molten cakes and am generally underwhelmed by panna cotta, so the only dessert possibility was the warm apple turnover. Definitely better than a fried McDonalds pie.

Our wine pick, an Australian Chardonnay, Slipstream, Arcade Hills 2006, was probably an off choice for my steak but that’s the beauty of a place like this, no one is going to care. Admittedly, I was thinking more about my scallops when I picked this white wine.

I hate to say it but I’m experiencing some serious gastrointestinal distress this morning. So much so that I decided it was safer to work from home today (I would be surprised if any office mates read this but if you do, just know that I’m writing this on my lunch hour and not goofing off, thanks). Maybe the gorgonzola was too groovy? I’d like to blame it on escolar, the much blogged about Ex-Lax fish, but bass and salmon were the only fish on offer.


There’s nothing more romantic than the warm glow of a tow truck hauling away an illegally parked car outside your window.

Crave on 42nd * 650 42nd St., New York, NY

Who Needs a Sugar Daddy When You Have Splenda?


I told you 2008 was going to be my year. First I found out that fruit, my least favorite foodstuff, has little nutritional value. Then I was completely shocked to discover that cocktails brimming with cream, juice, chocolate and/or liqueurs are caloric. Thankfully, mudslides and white russians aren't part of my drinking repertoire.

And now I’ve read about two studies in one week that allow me to feel (minutely) superior in my choices. Disgusting things: diet soda and saccharin-sweetened yogurt, make you fat. I thought we had already decided that aspartame was evil. I never touch either so god only knows what my flabby excuse is. General excess, I suppose.

I’ve always wished I had something small and radical I could cut from my diet like chips (salty and boring) soda and juice (water has always suited me fine, which might be the most un-American thing about me) or milk and sugar in my coffee (I’ve always taken it black) and not things like bread, alcohol, pork products or candy (I actually have stopped snacking on sweets since January to infinitesimal results).

I am still waiting for the miracle study linking bacon to heart health and general svelteness. That's not so outrageous–isn't lard healthier than shortening?


It’s interesting to see what dining choices will arise when a group of relatively like-minded (music vaguely being the common bond not food) people decide it’s time to eat after a few rounds of drinks.

Kate’s Joint, San Loco, sushi on St. Marks, ramen…no, hell no, maybe, sure. Ultimately, the gathering split into multiple directions based on culinary preferences. I won’t make a fuss if Japanese noodles are suggested, though I’m hardly a connoisseur. Not even close. All those northern Asian countries (ok, mostly Japan and Korea) are out of my typical scope. I’ve never been to heavy hitters like Setagaya or Minca.

Sapporo was just around the corner from Hi-Fi, our starting point. Not to be all old-timer but I do appreciate that chunks of the East Village have been resistant to change, and this popular no-frills joint with great prices feels grounded in a less flashy era.


Ultimately, I ended up with a bowl of udon, possibly because I’m still missing my chicken udon from Yagura even though I haven’t worked in the area for two years. My one mistake is always slurping too soon. It’s been forty-eight hours and my tongue still has all the taste burnt out of it.

I know I was recently bemoaning how battered fried seafood makes me hurl, but I do like shrimp tempura in small amounts. However, I’ve never quite understood why you would put something crispy into broth since all the deep fried goodness turns to immediate sog. I still like it, though.


Crispy oysters served with “sauce” a.k.a. Worcestershire and some other condiment that was thin and flavored with sesame oil. Lest you think I was tempting fate with all this fried food, these fritters were not mine.


I can’t remember which ramen this was; not miso or salt broth but the other one and topped with sliced pork and fish cakes. I would probably get this next time.


I get excited when I see the word tendon on a menu. Alas, this isn’t Chinese food and no chile oil and Sichuan peppercorns were put to use. It’s don as in over rice. I guess ten must have something to do with that irresistable shrimp tempura.

Despite no feeling in my tongue, I feel invigorated. The Japanese restaurant I’m really keen on trying is Hakata Tonton, which looks to have just fallen victim to the DOH. I need pigs’ feet so they had better get it together pronto.

Sapporo * 164 First Ave., New York, NY

The Red (Sauce) Badge of Courage


Pointlessly thinking about neighborhoods past is almost forcing me to give a nod to my current situation. Nice as it is, I rarely have anything (positive) to say about Carroll Gardens. Maybe the reason I feel knocked into silence is because it is so nice. Comfort is a snooze.

But I couldn’t ignore the little bit of local color reported on Time Out NY’s The Feed. It appears that the owner of local restaurant Marco Polo has been named as a defendant in the recent mafia brouhaha.

Not terribly shocking, no. But now I’m finally intrigued enough to pay Marco Polo a visit. James has been dying to try this restaurant since we moved here four years ago, and I’ve always been too spoilsporty. I do get a frequent eyeful of the white stones and brick arches from the elliptical trainers at my gym directly across the street. Perhaps the time has come for me to get over my fear of  red saucey Italian-American food.

More from the New York Post.

Photo from tokenygaard on Flickr.