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Posts tagged ‘crab rangoon’

Thoughts No One Asked for On Two Things I Read Related to Bon Appetit Two Weekends Ago


I still remember the first time I saw that photo in Bon Appétit of a line of beautiful people patiently waiting outside a low-lying, barely marked building, a tree blooming out front. It was a spoon-fed fantasy — that you, too, could be one of the good-looking regulars — and I wanted all of it.

Me too, despite being over two years ago, because two of those “beautiful people” were women not being skinny, something always surprising to see in a lifestyle publication not specifically featuring a larger woman because they have to i.e. she is being profiled. Interestingly, the image on has been cropped to erase one offender (the other was already hidden behind a pole).

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This wasn’t so much reading–if you call tiled blurbs and captions reading–as page-skimming and absorbing, though that’s all it takes to have an “It Me” moment with Peter Meehan. Crab rangoon is my favorite junky snack food in the whole world, and the only dish I miss when not doing a traditional Thanksgiving is the stuffing (ok, and pecan pie but there are no guarantees there will be a pecan pie).

Eaten, Barely Blogged: French-ish, All-American, Mexican Mash-Ups

mimi trio

Mimi The mark of a good restaurant is one where you leave feeling better than when you arrived (despite young men good-naturedly but firmly asking you to move down six inches so their lady can have more room even though you’re already arm-to-arm with the older-but-not-old man waiting for his lady on your right, being there first [the first customer period to avoid this situation because you know your limits], the isosceles triangle napkin placed by a server establishing your plot of land at the bar). That’s not a lot to ask, though it’s scarcer than it seems. Mimi succeeds. The sliced madai in brown butter with lemon curd and dried seaweed was like candy, or more accurately, caramel corn, fish caramel corn, which sounds dubious but is brightened by the citrus and amazing with nice bread and butter. I would go back and have this as a bar snack with sparkling wine in a second.  Don’t play around with it too much or else the sauce will start to cool and congeal. Peppery calves liver, rare and steak-like, is served with boudin noir-stuffed eggplant, studded with golden raisins, and also blended sweet with savory well, potent and energizing in the same way as the crudo without being heavy, matchingwith a glass of equally bold French red wine that I vowed to remember without taking a photo  and promptly forgot (comped, I realized later, which occasionally is a benefit–at least at a certain type of casual-polished place–of dining on your own) Even approaching fullness, I was never bored.

emmy squared duo

Emmy Squared I forget if this is supposed to be Detroit-inspired or Detroit-style pizza (which I did try last year for the first time in a very different setting i.e. one that doesn’t threaten a $25/per person fee for no-shows because you just show up and eat pizza). The slices are square, the crust thick but not Chicago deep, with crisp edges and plenty of cheese. I will take any excuse to eat Hawaiian variations in an acceptable manner. Here, that would be ham and spiced pineapple on the Lou-Wow. I’m also a sucker for pretzel buns, which hold together Le Big Matt Burger, the formerly semi-secret double-pattied, white american cheese, and sambal-spiked mayonnaise monster that’s now formally on the menu. Split a burger and pizza if possible. Both are good but you’ll probably leave feeling more or less the same as when you entered. 

mission cantina trio

Mission Cantina is as good a spot as any to unintentionally stumble into on a weeknight. The whole operation from service to menu feels haphazard, and that’s not a criticism (though I almost ordered a drink special because it was green until I parsed that it contained  Midori, god no, which the server thought was cucumber liqueur). It’s a perfect place to knock back micheladas and marvel at more fried chicken than would seem imaginable for $26. That would be masa-crusted, spicy, honey-drizzled, and tarted-up with pickles and pickled jalapeños in a vaguely Southern/South of the Border/Korean way. Like pretzel rolls and Hawaiian pizza, I will always order crab rangoon if I see it. There was an undercurrent of what I thought was curry powder in these fried wontons, which you have to be in the mood for, and then the next day while sweating on a walk home it hit me that the abrasive seasoning was likely Old Bay, with celery salt being the offender.  Limey, lightly funky mussel tostadas, chosen instead of a side vegetable that was practically insisted upon, were more guacamole than anything.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Pine Nut Ricotta, Paneer, Cream Cheese

PicMonkey Collage

Avant Garden. I didn’t think I’d be eating vegan food on a Friday night (you know, totally Tuesday fare) and yet there I was with a friend sharing plates, drinking wine (from a more conventional list than expected) like I was on a pretend date. It’s all very now (non-basil-based pestos, toasts, grains, pickled produce) and very tasty (the absence of dairy doesn’t register at all). Strangely, the standout was a toast. Strange because the descriptions don’t always sell the dish. Fennel hummus, Castelvetrano olive, orange, walnut was a delicious autumnal combination, rich and almost buttery, while I was resistant to the beets, mango, avocado, black sesame, tamari, tobanjan, lime not because of the long ingredient list but because the mango and avocado read too nuevo Latino, which clearly this round stack of food wasn’t considering the double dose of fermented bean products. Stick with the more outre combos i.e. smoked macadamia, maitake, and crispy leeks rather than seemingly familiar blends like tomato, basil, and almond ricotta.

artichoke slice

In a delayed Big Mac Attack-esque move, after too many drinks at my late ’90s staple Boxcar Lounge, I found myself at 2:30am crouched in a doorway with an enormous, molten artichoke slice dripping with dairy. It wasn’t until I woke up the following afternoon with a charred, ripped-up roof of my mouth (that still hurts three days later) that I even remembered taking a photo. Good going, drunk self.

lupulo duo

Lupulo. Despite the prominent bar, I find NYC places like this tricky to dine in alone because you can eat a cobbled together light meal by spending $24 on two small plates (shrimp turnovers, creamy and fried like haute junk food and duck hearts skewered with pickled mango and shishito peppers) or outlaying the same amount on a more substantial dish to receive less variety. And then despite reasonably spaced stools and well-defined place settings, after the loud male half of a big-spending older couple has had numerous samples of beer followed by multiple full glasses on one side and a single Manhattan has been consumed by a young lady on the other, limbs start splaying, elbows thrust, and personal boundaries become encroached upon until you quietly leave still vaguely hungry. 

samudra duo

SamudraBoth a vegan and vegetarian meal within 48 hours is highly unusual. Samudra is great, though, for chaat and South Indian carbs like the super light dosas filled with spinach to be healthy and hefty uthappam I always get stuffed with paneer. The best, though, might be the vada, perfectly deep-fried chickpea flour doughnuts, crackly on the outside and fluffy in the middle, served here with mild coconut chutney and sambar.

kitchen 79 geoy hor cheese

Kitchen 79. Not enough cheese yet? Let me introduce you to geoy hor cheese a.k.a. Thai crab rangoon. With sweet chile sauce? Amazing. And that doily only helps matters.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Queens For a Week

I have now been a official Jackson Heights resident for exactly one week. It’s good getting back to my chowhoundy roots. Of course, it’s hardly uncharted territory; this neighborhood and environs have been well tread by Joe DiStefano, Dave Cook, Jeff Orlick and Robert Sietsema, among others. And yes, there are even some women on the scene–just tonight there was an event featuring a discussion between two Queens cookbook authors, Andrea Lynn and Meg Cotner.

I’ll do what I can. Right now that means eating everywhere within walking distance. I’m afraid I’m turning into a bachelor (also that I’m gaining a pound a day in baked goods and ghee.) The newness will wear off soon enough, real fall weather will kick in, and I’ll eventually settle back into home cooking. Maybe?

saw shack takeout

Saw Shack It’s Chinese takeout with rough wood beams instead of primary colored Formica that would feel more at home on Smith Street or Vanderbilt Avenue. On the counter, there’s water chilling in a giant spigoted Mason jar with cucumbers and limon (sometimes cantaloupe) but you can still get a can of soda with your sesame chicken combo meal in a Styrofoam container. Minus the mock meats, there’s nothing radically different about this menu; it’s not upscale or elevated. The pork in the double cooked pork tastes like pork, the sauce isn’t sweet or greasy–in fact, it’s spicy as was asked for–and includes nice thin slices of that smoked tofu that looks like gouda. Pink and green flecks imply there is actually scallion and crab (or at least krab) in the rangoon. You’ll get duck sauce, and also an earthy chile oil that I want to believe is homemade. It’s mostly shredded cabbage in the spring roll, though a meaty strip of shiitake also lurks. This is not a destination restaurant, just a boon for locals.

el gran uruguaya duo

La Gran Uruguaya I accidentally wandered here first, thinking it was La Nueva, the more storied bakery. Both are equally busy and at least on the surface have similar racks of baked goods that would take me months to get through if I tried one item a day. The beef empanadas were fresh from the oven (otherwise, you can have them warmed), super flaky and more rich than you’d expect from a baked version. For me, anything stuffed with dulce de leche is dangerous because I like my sweets sickly sweet, and that sums up most of what’s on offer (except the naked, dry-looking twisted things closest to the register)

la nueva trio

La Nueva Bakery So far, I’ve only sampled a ham and cheese empanada that seemed all shredded ham, and a classic beef empanada that was heavier on the olives and lighter on filling than La Gran Uruguaya’s. The crust was also more bready than flaky, which may be more correct. I will have to do more taste testing.

rajbhog sweets mithai

Rajbhog Sweets I said I like my sweets sweet, right? Half a pound of mithai equals more or less six pieces (pistachio burfi, those round syrupy things called cutlets and a mystery silver-leaved white oblong stuffed with what I think is sweetened cheese), enough for a family or enough for me to finish in less than 12 hours. While senselessly watching Requiem For a Dream, I saw myself in Ellen Burstyn’s character caressing her box of chocolates. And we know how she ends up. The only remedy will be if I stay in my part of the neighborhood and avoid the Indian section.

el chivito d'oro parrillada

El Chivito d’Oro I was going to marvel at how much food you get for $38 until I realized that on my last visit the parrillada for two (teaming with short ribs, sweetbreads, sausage, morcilla, skirt steak and veal) plus two sides cost $10 less. Ok, that was eight years ago, so it’s still a marvel. The meat will probably be well-done. No one will likely ask if you wanted it otherwise. If you’re not fussy, a $19 bottle of Malbec isn’t a bad addition either. Fries and salad, my extras, share billing with less South American rice and beans and tostones. A lot of people order the potato salad. A very long Happy Birthday song might be played. On weekend nights, this and its nearby competitors, all have lines out the door. If you haven’t set up your kitchen yet, you will have leftover meat to eat for a few days and that’s a good thing.

pollos a la brasa mario chicken

Pollos a la Brasa Mario Somehow there are three of this mini-chain in a ten-block radius. There’s certainly more than rotisserie chicken, but I’ve never ventured deep into the Colombian canon (that will have to change soon). The soupy beans (not pictured) are seriously porky and kind of amazing.

kitchen 79 pork knuckle

Kitchen 79 I will say more later (I’ve been twice already) but for now this strangely glossy Thai restaurant is an area standout. You can have your pork knuckle, fish maw and wild boar or bring friends who’ll both order curries with tofu and eat them like entrees and it will be ok (love you guys). Despite the bar with taps advertising Yuengling and Sapporo, it’s still BYOB.


Would You Rather? Chinese Edition

Would you rather:

Photo via

Photo* via

Eat Beijing burgers in NoMad?


Crab rangoon and Brooklyn Lager in Shanghai?

*I’m 99.9% certain that’s not the chain in question, as it appears to be a one-off in Qingdao that serves chicken sandwiches. In fact, there’s no (English-language or crappy Chinese Google translate) online evidence of the existence of an Uncle Sam Fast Food in China. I would ponder if this was just an elaborate hoax, but some teenager in Brooklyn did win an Uncle Sam’s logo contest–at least according to China Daily, which may or may not be a legit publication.



Cheesecake Factory Westbury

At the Westbury Cheesecake Factory nothing was as it
seemed or should be.


Cheesecake factory vietnamese tacos

The Vietnamese Tacos were buns.

Cheesecake factory kale salad

The kale salad was frisee and radicchio with a few errant celery
leaves. I was just curious how kale would play in the suburbs, and apparently,
it doesn't. I ordered it because I like sweets and nuts with my roughage and this
one also contained dried cranberries, apple and marcona almonds (at least those
were legit).

Cheesecake factory crab rangoon

I would be surprised if the crispy crab wontons,
a.k.a. crab rangoon, contained real crab meat, but that's not the point. Fried
cream cheese is.

Cheesecake factory white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake

The macadamia white chocolate cheesecake (recommended
my our server and nearly the highest-calorie cheesecake on the list–I would
tell you just how much but nutritional info isn't on the site) was kind of a blondie
with stuff on it. Ok, it was a cheesecake–and a damn fine one if you like violently sweet desserts.

At least my martini, The Well-Mannered Dirty Martini,
was a martini, the only non-sugared choice of the ten on offer. Most chain
restaurant cocktail menus will throw in one drink with blue cheese-stuffed olives
to appease sweet-resistant fat-lovers. (I love cloying desserts–see above–but hate sweet beverages.)

And I must say that the suburbs are for spacious booths,
not two-seaters inches from a banquette of birthday partiers playing music
aloud on their phones. I could stay in NYC for that experience.  When our server mysteriously disappeared for
what seemed like a universe in chain time, we contemplated up and leaving for
Grand Lux Cafe down the road–it's supposed to be classier, right? I will have
to get to the bottom of how once town can have both a Cheesecake Factory and a
Grand Lux Cafe when so many others have to do without.

Cheesecake Factory * 1504 Old Country Rd., Westbury,

The Cheesiest

Trader vic's crab rangoon

It’s rare that I use the Goodie Obsession tag anymore. I guess I don’t gush over particular foodstuffs like I used to. Even so, crab rangoon, a.k.a. cream cheese wontons, play a prominent role in my favorite junk foods repetoire. In fact, I ate two-thirds of a box of frozen, bakeable cream cheese wontons from Aldi (NYC’s only location is now in Rego Park, you know) for dinner last week.

So, I was very excited to see the snack featured as part of Serious Eats’ “Tiki Week.” I’ve totally made them with fake crab, myself. No need for the real stuff unless you are able to procure a can of Phillip’s lump meat from Costco and think your friends deserve it.

Also today I learned about a Latino take on the cream cheese wonton served a Patacón Pisao, a Venezuelan shop in Elmhurst. The tequeño is essentially fried, dough-wrapped cream cheese and is practically as inventive as using fried plantains in lieu of bread as they do in their namesake patacón.

Photo from Chicago’s Trader Vic’s, New Year’s Eve 2010.

Jade Island

How much you enjoy the food at Jade Island will have a lot to do with your feelings on maraschino cherries and sweetened flaked coconut on savories. And whether you’re ok with canned mushrooms, pineapple and lychees. Otherwise, soaking up the throwback cocktails and tiki décor and may be more palatable for those with more refined tastes than mine.

Jade island booths

Weekend Valentine’s Days are dangerous and romance should be avoided at all costs. That’s why I ended up on a Polynesian-themed double date in Staten Island on Sunday.

Jade island coconut kiss

I quickly got into the mood with a coconut kiss, their take on a pina colada. You’d better be able to abide Malibu rum.

Jade island pupu platter

You cannot have tiki without the pupu. I am still a bit disconcerted that crab rangoon did not make the cut. Instead, make due with shrimp toast, curry beef skewers, fried shrimp, chicken wings and spare ribs with hot mustard and duck sauce.

Jade island sesame noodles

Cold sesame noodles were also a starter.

Jade island prawn rangoon

The closest you’ll come to rangoon is a dish called prawn rangoon, which involves neither wontons nor cream cheese. Prawns are butterflied and coated in what appears to be flat out egg, not egg batter, and pan-fried, creating a squishy, puffy coating. The tail-on seafood blobs are surrounded by mushrooms, snow peas, lychees, carrots, pineapple and enough maraschino cherries to create a pink-tinged pool of sauce.

Jade island volcano chicken

But that really has nothing over the volcano chicken, akin to sweet and sour with an emphasis on sweet. This is where you’ll find that flaked coconut…and more cherries. I wouldn’t be surprised if an entire bottle was used on our meal alone.

Jade island mei fun

Not all the food is big top brash. Mei fun (pictured) and chow fun with pork were soothing in their tameness. That’s a lot of noodles, now that I assess this meal. My pick was the prawn rangoon. Happy Valentine's to me.

Previously on Jade Island.

Jade Island * 2845 Richmond Ave., Staten Island, NY

Trader Vic’s

So, tiki bars (Painkiller) and restaurants (Hurricane Club) will be the new hotness in 2010? Oh really? (My fingers don’t want to type o rlly.) Because I ushered in the new year at Chicago's Trader Vic’s thinking I was indulging in retro kitsch when I was really being very forward looking. Hopefully, I can maintain this edge till at least 2011.

Trader vic's interior

This location at the base of a condo building (with availability—could you imagine a tiki bar in your lobby? The promotional video calls the neighborhood “Little Manhattan” so you know it’s great)  is only a little over a year old, reinvented tiki. The original Chicago Trader Vic's in the Parker Hilton served its last zombie New Year’s Eve 2006 after nearly 50 years in business. There are the requisite bamboo flourishes, fishing nets and Menehune swizzle sticks, yet there is a clean, smoothness to everything, upscale muted and corporate like a Hyatt (I am more Sofitel or Le Meridien as far as chains go).

My main mission was to eat crab rangoon, plain and simple. I am still mad at myself for never trying Elettaria's happy hour version because the restaurant no longer exists and because I don't feel right claming to be an aficionado having never tried theirs. It has become a lonely, sorry-for-myself Christmas Eve tradition to order cardboardy, oil-saturated cheese wontons from Wing Hua at the north end of the same Court Street block where the more attention-grabbing Buttermilk Channel resides. This year rangoons didn't happen because a gift of soft, washed rind cheeses from Murray's and a loaf of lard bread from Mazzola filled that holiday fat-and-carb void.

Dana hotel room service menuI got an extra surprise at our hotel (the so-so Dana Hotel—I should’ve just stuck with the Sofitel) when I noticed that crab rangoon appeared on our room service menu, a sure sign that Chicago was the right New Year's Eve choice despite the single-digit temperatures. I vowed to order the novelty along with the "Japanese ranch dressing" poutine, but never ended up being hungry enough in the middle of the night to warrant such snacking. 

Trader vic's scorpian

Drinks. This is a scorpion (rum, brandy, orange juice and I think Amaretto). Next to crab rangoon, cocktails are the most important item at Trader Vic's. I expected the food, particularly the entrees, to middling and pricey, and so they were. As long as you know what you're getting into, it's fine. I expect to overpay for fun on New Year’s Eve. (Originally, I had 6pm reservations at the bizarrely booked-months-in-advance Topolobampo—Bayless has insane star power and Twitter savvy. He even DM'd me to say hi to him when I tweeted my NYE plans. When it came down to it, though, crab rangoon trumped the $125 per person early dinner.)

Trader vic's crab rangoon

Here are my little crisp-fried dumplings, served on a silver, light-radiating pedestal, almost angelic.  It certainly beats a waxed paper bag. The texture was more delicate than Brooklyn takeout, though the filling was still predominantly cream cheese, despite Dungeness being invoked on the menu. I’ve never had a particularly crabby crab rangoon. However, I do cling to the notion that they contain a trace of crab or crab-like product unlike lobster sauce, which is only crustacean in name.

Trader vic's appetizers

They are served with traditional Chinese-American ketchup and hot mustard in a dish shaped like a butterfly. We also had a plate of tender bbq spareribs.

Trader vic's queens park swizzle

I was steered away from non-sweet libations and was even given an unsolicited rock sugar stick with my crushed ice Queens Park Swizzle (made with dark rums not the light ones I see at more modern bars) and the explanation that it might be too strong. I can only guess the warning stemmed from face to face market research. I picture an after work crowd looking for happy hour bargains not cocktail mavens consumed by mixology.

I wasn't sitting at the bar, but I would be very surprised if fresh juice and ingredients were being used. After all, the city really only has one we'll-call-you-when-we-have-a-table, vodka-shaming den, Violet Hour (and it was just way too smooshed on my Saturday night attempt to gain entry—clearly there is a need waiting to be filled). The serious cocktail is still gaining traction. Trader Vic’s would really steam Rick Bayless (I swear I am not obsessed with him) who was recently Twitter-distraught over a fruit punchy Singapore Sling at Raffles. Syrupy and pre- mixed, sure, but worth doing once (I did it) just like Trader Vic's.

I've always wanted to try one of those mid-century curries you often see in old cookbooks. Madras curry powder is always called for, as well as a whole slew of nonsensical accompaniments like peanuts, shredded coconut, bananas, apples and raisins. More like vaguely healthy sundae toppings. And Trader Vic's had this! With your choice of meat. Er, but they were out of lamb and I got the distinct impression that they didn't want us ordering any rendition period. Like I said, this isn't fine dining. In fact, everywhere we ate in Chicago (even The Publican with great food and gracious service) had inexplicable gaps between courses.

Trader vic's peking duck

So, I went for the peking duck because I was certain the wood fired oven fusion-y mains with wasabi mashed potatoes and the like would be disappointing, plus their claim, “Our ovens can be traced to the Han Dynasty” made me wonder. I had to stop the tableside preparation half-way through because the meat shredding meant to be theatrical was more like mauling. I'm quite certain the staff had had more than a few celebratory swigs of hooch. And well, at this point, I too, had enough rum in my system to halt the presentation and not concern myself with the dryness of the dark meat. Nothing that a little hoisin, a pancake and another cocktail couldn't fix.

Trader vic's pino frio

Pino frio is a simple refreshing pineapple juice and rum (and sugar, duh) concoction.

Trader vic's fried rice

Fried rice is fried rice, though it made it up for a sad main. A sweet-glazed grilled pork chop topped with a pineapple ring, James' entrée, isn't pictured and it's for the best. Despite being told it would be medium, the thick opaque cut of meat was dense and devoid of any moisture. Must’ve been those old Han Dynasty ovens.

Trader vic's midnight

I’m not sure where all these people came from at midnight. Everyone moved to the bar for a champagne toast. The dining room crowd skewed older and more sequined (I was about to comment on the level of sparkle on middle aged women but was mildly guilty, myself) with the exception of the one rockabilly couple you knew would have to be there.

We moved on to Zebra Lounge, a tiny piano bar, not so much because we wanted to hear American Idol-esque belting-outs of Beatles tunes, but because it appeared to be the least scary place i.e. stumbling, screaming young men in doorways, in the immediate area.

One thing that struck me about the bars, or maybe just the bars I saw, in Chicago was their heterogeneous nature. Much age diversity, something I’ve become acutely aware that NYC lacks as I follow my sequined lady path. My half-baked theory is that educated New Yorkers tend to have kids well into their 30s and 40s, keeping them responsible and entertaining at home until they are senior citizens. Whereas if you’d had kids in your 20s like an average American, the children would already be teenagers by your late 30s and you’d be back out having fun by 40. Not that the grown children necessarily approve or that I would know this first-hand or anything. Ahem.

All my Trader Vic's photos.

Trader Vic's * 1030 N. State St., Chicago, IL

‘Tis the Season to be Crabby


Once again I find myself celebrating a solo Christmas (despite little love for religion, I find the generic happy holidays thing kind of ridiculous. No one really celebrates Kwanzaa [and please set me straight if you do] and Hanukkah is long over. I know it's hard to believe if you live in the N.E. or pockets of Florida, but only 2% of Americans are Jewish) which can only mean one thing.

No, not a Home Alone marathon (though I do tend to watch shittier fare on TV when no one's around. However, I can promise that I'll never be so bored that Jon & Kate plus 8 will be considered acceptable entertainment. With every aging woman using fertility drugs, are multiple births really a novelty anymore?). I'm talking about crab rangoon, my biggest guilty pleasure. I've come to associate the cream cheese filled wontons with solitary end-of-year snacking.

There's something irresistible about fried and starchy encasing tangy and creamy. I don't think there's actually any crab in the things, just scallions. And dipped into a duck sauce/sambal oelek blend? Perfection.

Previously in crab rangoon:
Crab Rangoon #1
Crab Rangoon (half-assed & trashy version)
Rangoon Run
Wanton Wontons