Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Vegetarian’

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Bone-In Steak, Birthday Cake

Costata tomahawk steak

Costata Eating at two Michael White restaurants in almost
the same week is kind of odd. I’m not a fanatic or anything. But it was a
birthday dinner option and I took it (Maggiano’s in Bridgewater, NJ–don’t
ask–and Mission Chinese were also tossed into the ring. The Elm might’ve been
the best choice but I don’t like to pick my own special occasion meals) because
I was up for something meaty and I wanted to see if the room was all D.C. style
because I love corporate hotel chic (it’s not that bad) and if it was all
blobby blowhards in suits. No, strangely, there were lots of groups of 20-something
ladies in sausage casing Vegas/Meatpacking dresses drinking cocktails and
primping in the bathroom.

Costata duo

Get the tomahawk rib-eye if someone else is paying and skip
the pricey crudo (I’m not lumping oysters into that) even if they are. I don’t
care about pasta, so farroto with bone marrow and parmesan and the broccoli
rabe with fennel sausage worked as sides. Go wild and drink Spanish Rioja instead
of Barolo (I don’t care about expensive Italian reds either). Though dry-aged
for 40 days, the steak isn’t super funky. Some slices had that hyper-meaty edge
while others were mild and tender, maybe too much so. You don’t really need
black truffle butter, but after $118 for a slab of meat what’s another $3?

Cata razor clams

Cata After reading about the rising price of raw bar fodder,
and the $21 razor clams at Costata in particular, the shellfish sauteed with
garlic and olive for $14 sounded like a relative bargain while having a giant
pre-dinner gin and tonic flavored with kaffir lime leaves.

Cata kaffir lime leaf gin & tonic
Also $14, and though I recently boo hoo’d about
this cocktail price point, these drinks are long-lasting, not gone in four
sips, and potent as two normal gin and tonics.

Cheesecake duo

Cheesecake Factory Sure, you can go to Edison and discover
Indian food if you’re friends with Floyd Cardoz
, or you can eat at Cheesecake
Factory in the mall. I first stumbled upon this part of New Jersey (I have not
forgotten about the Post-Millennium Chains of Middlesex County, by the way) in
2005 when looking for America’s first Uniqlo
(which will soon be returning to
the Menlo Park Mall, plus Staten Island and that horrible Atlantic Ave. Brooklyn
shopping center with the Target) that served as a testing ground for Soho then closed. I prefer other chains over Cheesecake Factory (the
martini with blue cheese olives is three dollars cheaper at Bonefish Grill,
which is only one reason why I love Bonefish) but the Thai lettuce wraps are a
classic appetizer in all their glorious unauthenticity, and the fried chicken
salad was more demure than I’d anticipated size-wise (that’s not a negative).
And yes, there was a slice of turtle cheesecake involved.

Green symphony salad bar

Green Symphony is the bizarro Yip’s (R.I.P.?). It’s also one
block from my office like my former love, but this by-the-pound buffet is
greaseless and healthy and borderline Little Lad’s (also R.I.P.) even though
it’s not vegan or even fully vegetarian (there is organic chicken in various
guises). These piles include a cucumber salad, broccoli rabe with pine nuts,
curry chicken salad with fake mayonnaise, edamame salad, wild rice salad,
quinoa salad and some tofu mushroom thing. I can dig this.

Worst birthday ice cream cake ever

Baskin-Robbins The West Coaster in me wanted to blame
Carvel (Baskin-Robbins is also an East Coast brand, but ubiquitous–I’d never
heard of Carvel till later in life) for this ice cream cake disaster that
supposedly bears my name, but it was the handiwork of a Brooklyn
Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin’ Donuts hybrid shop. My name is not aes (?) for the record.



Eaten, Barely Blogged: Spicy, Meatless, Horseless

Brooklyn taco duo

Brooklyn Taco The Saturday afternoon pop-up housed
inside Williamsburg's Donna was a pleasant surprise. Happy hour drinks
practically call for a little stomach padding. Guacamole (for god’s sake, never
say "guac"–do I even have to tell you not say "marg?")
always bores me to death and is overpriced to boot (I’m fine enjoying the
two-dollar's worth of raw materials in my own home) but for reasons I don’t
understand everyone always wants to order a shitload for the table, so I was a
mildly amused that the usual crowd-pleaser was fiery enough to elicit dismay. I'm
not even sure where they heat was lurking in the green mash. Same with the
tacos; those who went for the vegetarian version got dosed with a blast of
chile heat. Maybe the meat-avoiders were being punked? The cabeza was spicy,
not brutally so, and I was happy to have a chewy, substantial choice instead of
some stewed San Loco/Calexico blahness.

Blossom I probably wouldn’t have chosen a vegan
restaurant out of my own volition (though animal-free dishes are a step above
raw foods) but others’ birthdays are like that. And the
pistachio-and-pepper-dusted tofu was better than the sum of its parts. Probably
because of the foundational crepe stuffed with a root vegetable puree and the thick
lemon truffle sauce. It was more rich than austere. My camera photo was hideous enough that it decided to leave it out–I hate to give vegan cooking an even worse image.

Qi Bangkok Eatery I’m really not obsessed with Qi
even though I do get a kick out of the Williamsburg location (I'm pretty sure
I've mentioned it at least twice). It turns out that I now work a block from
the one on Eighth Avenue so I had to take a peek. I was surprised that they
also have a menu by Pichet Ong a.k.a. the “Bangkok Selection” (and that there
are still peep shows in Times Square) but it’s not the same as in Williamsburg,
no Ovaltine ribs, etc. and only available after 5pm. I just had the lunch
combo, steamed chicken dumplings that were kind of boring but not bad and
chicken basil chile stirfry that was spicier than expected for not having to
ask for extra heat. $7.95 isn’t a horrible price (you could pay $13 for a
takeout salad over here) for two dishes in a non-frenzied setting. I'll probably go back and just get a larb and a glass of Riesling (drunk lunch is my new midtown M.O.–don't tell anyone) You don't
like chandeliers in lucite boxes and Louis Ghost chairs during your lunch break?

Bonefish grill april duo
Bonefish Grill Ok, well, I am obsessed with Bonefish
Grill. Twice in one quarter is a lot even for me. This is a weirdo location in
Paramus that instead of sharing space with a fellow OSI brand like Carrabba’s is
attached to a Crowne Plaza next to a mall. So it felt like I was on a vacation.
There was no trout for my grilled fish with pan Asian sauce (pretty much soy,
ketchup and oyster sauce
) so it was scallops and shrimp instead. They did,
however, have a new appetizer, white tuna, a.k.a. escolar, a.k.a. shit fish
sashimi (that's seared) which I ordered because I’m wild that way. The seasonal sides have
progressively gotten more creative. I don’t mean that chickpeas, spinach and
turkey sausage is Michelin-worthy, just that it’s trying a little harder than the
usual mashed potatoes, rice or steamed vegetables.

Ikea Horse-free, I think, not that I would be
bothered by a little horse meat (apparently, the Swedes aren't either). I
haven’t eaten in an Ikea cafeteria in years—when did they replace the boiled
new potatoes with mashed?






Dirt Candy

As much as I love me some Little Lad’s, there are occasions that require vegetarian food that's a step or two above homespun cafeteria fare. Tiny Dirt Candy with its half-cute/half-unappetizing name (I much prefer the concept of dirt candy over nature's candy, which is an exceedingly lame euphemism for fruit. I'm not crazy about 85% of fruit, though, so I'm biased) seemed like a better place for a birthday dinner than say, Angelica's Kitchen. That’s too much earthiness for me, and I'm an Oregonian. So is Jessica, the dining companion who had turned another year older, now that I think about it. No brown rice or sprouts will be allowed on my dime, no way.

Dirt candy portobello mousse

I felt compelled to try the signature-ish portobello mousse appetizer. At first glance you kind of think the plating is fun, then if you scrutinize each component they start to become eerie. The floppy tangle of sliced mushrooms looks very fleshy like indeterminate offal. I'm an organ-loving carnivore so this wasn’t a detriment. The block of mousse is so perfect and reflective that you have to resist the urge to smash it down with a fork and mess up the geometry. We decided it would be a cruel joke to tell a kid this whipped mushroom cube was chocolate (less cruel than trying to pawn off fruit as nature's candy, though) and watch them bite into it.

Fungus rendered rich and creamy and topped with a few chewy ribbons of mushroom worked well together on toast. A pear compote might seem too sweet for those two but the addition of fennel lent just enough savory contrast.

Dirt candy onion soup

Onion Soup with farmhouse cheddar and kumquat marmalade looks very hearty for a brothy soup but I did not try this.

Dirt candy crispy tofu with green ragout

Crispy tofu with green ragout and kaffir lime beurre blanc would've been my entrée choice on paper. I think it was the lime and butter that grabbed me more than the bean curd. But it was Jessica's birthday and this was her pick. I don't like to order the same thing as someone else at a table unless it's a burger, bbq or similar singular item.

Dirt candy stone ground grits

Based on the menu description I’m looking at now there were pickled shitakes in this but I don't recall tasting those at all. I'm certain huitlacoche was mentioned when the dish was presented to me. Maybe there was a shift in fungus. I love the musky, dirty flavor of huitlacoche and the ingredient makes perfect sense with thick corn-speckled grits and what seemed like (I have a problem remembering verbal descriptions—if I don't see something written down I forget it) a crumbly, salty queso fresco. The lightly battered, fried egg made the dish, though.

I'm swayed by the charms of a liquid yolk. Though if I'm correct, it was the egg that turned Jessica off of this dish. I'm not sure if she's creeped out by the yolk, the possibility of runny whites or something else altogether. A fried egg makes everything better, if you ask me.

I semi-randomly chose a bottle of Thurnhoff Goldmuskateller 2007 from the small wine list because I wanted a white and this sounded vaguely German and austere. It turned out to be Italian from Alto Adige, and very crisp apple-like with just a little sweetness and power.  I must've been tipsier than I realized (I blame the pre-dinner gin and tonic minutes after having two vials of blood drawn) because these photos that I edited right after getting home are a bit more washed out than usual. Even in the best of circumstances my eye for color and contrast could use help.

Dirt candy popcorn pudding

Normally, I'm indifferent to pudding and popcorn but served together plus caramel and hazelnuts, grabbed my attention. The smooth and crunchy, salty and sweet was irresistible. Last weekend when I mentioned (I can’t bring myself to say twittered or tweeted) Van Leeuwen’s hazelnut gelato being bland, I didn't meant to imply it was bad but merely too pure and subtle for my taste. I like desserts where a lot is happening.

Dirt Candy * 430 E. Ninth St., New York, NY

Dang Lai Palace

1/2 I accidentally took part in meatless Monday this week. Eating a vegan lunch and near-vegan dinner in the same day isn’t my usual M.O. It just turned out that I had the mid-day urge for Little Lad’s when I’d already planned to eat at Dang Lai Palace later.

I’ve only eaten at Zen Palate once (when I first moved to NYC, my sister, mom and grandma all converged here at the same time and my sister wanted to go to Zen Palate. My grandma made a stink about it being too expensive and how she’d just as well eat the Chinese food near my apartment on Fresh Pond Road. Well, somebody keeps those one-per-block takeout joints in business and the Union Square Zen Palate did go out of business, so maybe she was on to something) but that one visit was enough that I can see Dang Lai Palace is drawing heavily from their menu, right down to the names of dishes.

You kind of have to dig fake meat to appreciate this style of cuisine and there are plenty of people who would rather just shun flesh and not mess with blobs crafted from wheat gluten and bean curd. I happen to like the taste of mock morsels (though I’ll never understand the logic behind substituting Ritz crackers for real fruit in an apple pie). However, I’m not convinced that there’s anything particularly healthy about pseudo-meat from either a well-balanced diet or caloric perspective.

Dang lai palace sampler

This is the Dang Lai Platter, which is meant to be an entrée, but functions as a perfectly nice starter to share. It’s a lot of food for two, though. The meatloafy rectangles are vegetarian duck, which taste nothing like poultry. I have no idea what makes autumn rolls fall-like; they’re crisp-fried just like a spring roll but the skin is made from bean curd sheets that happen to be red for some reason. Mushroom and cashews is a take on cashew chicken. Sesame protein in sweet and sour sauce is a fairly obvious rendition of sweet and sour pork but the chunks are pliable and soft rather than battered and fried. 

Dang lai palace tofu salad

We had to get some greens in so a fresh kale and tofu salad fit that need.

Dang lai palace spring comes to world

Spring comes to the world. It’s strange because real ham wrapped around vegetables would never appeal to me in a Chinese context but this dish was very satisfying. Strands of enoki mushrooms and zucchini slivers are wrapped in vegetarian ham and fastened with a black mushroom knot. The soft and crunchy textures were nice and the ham was very hearty. The sauce is very light and comes with wedges of tomato and gingko nuts. I gave it a boost with chile oil because it was almost too delicate for me.

Dang lai palace beef with broccoli

Orange-flavored beef with broccoli wasn’t mine, but the one bite I had was appropriately sweet, lightly spiced and gloopy. I mean that as a compliment, it’s like takeout but with springier blobs of protein.

I’m not clear on the alcohol situation. When I showed up Sherri already had cracked open a bottle of Malbec she’d been OK’d to bring in, then towards the end of our meal our waiter mentioned that we could have a free glass of wine. Huh? I wouldn’t assume you could byob if they had a liquor license and then I wondered if they meant “wine” in the same way they served “meat.” No pomegranate mock wine for me, thanks. But no, it was real red wine of some sort. I don’t turn down free drinks, even house wine.

One thing I’ll say about this type of food is that it’s filling as heck. Granted, we ordered a lot to eat and I ended up taking some home, but by 1am I was still so full I could barely fall asleep. The next time I eat vegetarian Kosher (did I mention it’s Kosher too?) Chinese food I will be less gluttonous.

Dang Lai Palace * 180 Third Ave., New York, NY

Little Lad’s

Nooooo! Little Lad's has packed up its basket and is moving to Delancey St. I can't walk there for lunch. (8/16/11)

Last month James mentioned some half-secret subway passage he’d discovered that connects the M train at Broad Street to the 4/5. I’m still not convinced that that’s true (would it be the 4/5 at Wall Street or Fulton? Neither seem that plausible). I work a block from the M but that still doesn’t do me any good since I live on the F/G. I’m always trying to find ways of streamlining my commute and will stop at nothing. Even after a year-and-a-half at my present job I’m still in denial that four subway stops can take 40 minutes (an experiment of two F stops, then a one-block walk to the R, then another two stops took me 50 minutes this morning, I’m dead serious. I left home at 9:15 and didn’t get to my desk until 10:05).

I was more interested at his description of a dated subterranean greasy spoon that time had forgotten. Really? I envisioned 99-cent patty melts and woodgrain formica. Maybe you could even smoke at your table.

But I have a tendency to disbelieve people, James in particular because he’s not very observant. All he thinks about is work and his high maintenance mother. I might mess around in a subway passage during the middle of the day (actually, I wouldn’t either—I tend to use my lunchtime to write crap here but haven’t even had the time for that in the past week) but he wouldn’t. It must’ve been remarkable enough that he noticed at all, so a lunch meet up was in immediate order because this sounded good.

We entered the subway station on Nassau Street, below the Chase building. I can’t recall how many levels we descended or how many twists or turns we took, but we ended up in a narrow passageway that no more than two people could fit in at a time side-by-side. And then we were there.

Little lad's exterior

Hmm…faded, kind of like a Denny’s that hadn’t been remodeled since 1981. And photo murals and stained glass too? Even more perfect, the restaurant was called Little Lad’s. There didn’t seem to be menus, no one greeted us when we came in and there didn’t appear to be a counter or cashier. We sat in a booth-for-two and waited. This didn’t seem right. It wasn’t even close to crowded at prime lunch time either. I made James peek around the corner.

Little lad's interior

As it turned out, we came in the back door; the main dining room was on the other side of the L-shaped room and the centerpiece was a small buffet. Signs indicated that whatever you could fit into (no, overfilling) a Styrofoam bowl and plate on a plastic tray would be yours for $3.99. Yes! People mock my $5-or-less weekday lunch rule but it’s really only so I can splurge on dinners–they just don’t see me during the evening.

The food was odd, though. One section appeared to contain cold salady items and the other cart had what I guess you could call main dishes. Two pots of soup sit off to the side with a bag of hearty multigrain bread between them. I then noticed that meat seemed suspiciously absent but this wasn’t even ordinary vegetarian fare. Frankly, everything looked kind of boiled like prison slop. After I heard the girl restocking the blobby dressing respond, “that’s tofu, we don’t serve cheese” to a flirtatious inquisitive customer, I realized everything was vegan.

Maybe the clientele would give me further clues. There seemed to be large number of black patrons, office ladies in groups and solo gentleman. Ok, so this um, soul food? Not like I’ve ever seen before. Or maybe like a rasta vegetarian thing? But everyone was too clean cut. Should I be here?

Well, there were some white people who looked like the types who work in the Financial District but insist on commuting by bike. And a youngish Indian dude in skintight flared slacks, shades and sporting muttonchop sideburns and a pompadour. The staff seemed bizarrely mellow and polite. Too polite.  Something religious, kind of Amish, was definitely at play and I hoped I wasn’t going to be sucked into a modern day cult.

There also appeared to be a window where you could order food cooked on the spot. I wasn’t sure what to make of the first item on the list called a “handburger.” Or the “haystack” at the bottom of the sign. I’m guessing a handburger is a meatless sandwich, but they probably shouldn’t use such a fleshy word in the name. I’m still not sure what the hell a haystack is.

Little lad's lunch buffet

The food has grown on me during my two visits. It’s not really hippy but more bastardized Midwestern. I mean, three-bean salad and raisin-carrot slaw? I'm surprised they don't have animal product-free jello (I guess that would be agar agar, which is the base for crazy-pretty SE Asian desserts). The strange thing is that many of the items taste kind of pickled or fermented. The zucchini was tart and fizzy, so too the tomatoes. Mushy is the overriding texture. I like the beets, tofu dressing and how all the scoops of mysterious substances blend into a big wholesome blob. Their flyers and signage make all sorts of health claims. I don’t fall for hyperbole but my wild blood pressure and elevated sugars can use all the help they can get.

Little lad's entry way

The foyer in what I think is the main entrance has a tv playing sermons and lots of baked goods and fresh fruit on display. On my second visit, I picked up a naturally sweetened apple-cherry pie and James grabbed a bag of lemon herb popcorn. We were rang up by a clean cut middle aged white man that seemed very bible belt and extremely un-NYC. We didn’t get proselytized, just asked, “How did you find us?” A good question.

I later found out that the restaurant is Seventh Day Adventist. I didn’t think that they had any particular dietary restrictions so that is peculiar. The only Seventh Day Adventists I’ve ever known were the family who lived kitty corner to me growing up. I’m certain that I’ve mentioned them before. They stood out, not simply because they were the only African-Americans in our neighborhood but also because the wife had multiple sclerosis and rode around on a motorized scooter, baked cakes from scratch (which my mom thought was outrageous) and the husband was a male nurse. I’m still not sure why male nurses are such a strange concept to people, but they most definitely are. Same for guy librarians.

Part of the appeal of Little Lad’s is that going there feels like I’m snarking out. My favorite book in middle school was Daniel Pinkwater’s “The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death” because I was/is that kind of a dork. The misfit teens would sneak out at night to watch schlocky movies and find places like hidden beer gardens constructed of abandoned railroad cars where they also served baked potatoes.

I guess I can’t truly call Little Lad’s excursions snarking out because out of the blue during a recent company dinner an office mate started talking about the vegan restaurant she goes to every week. It’s definitely a secret, though. When I mentioned that I wanted to write about it she begged me not to and I completely understand why. Luckily, my audience is infinitesimal enough that a mad rush at Little Lad’s will never ever occur as a result of this missive.

Little Lad’s * 120 Broadway, New York, NY

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

Kate’s Joints


This is a place I've only visited twice, which coincides with my sister's
past two visits to America. She may be vegan, but she loves her junk food in
the way only a Garcia girl can. I suggested Angelica Kitchen this time
'round (though only halfheartedly), and even she wasn't keen on the earthy
prospect. Give me the grease and fakery, right?

Kate's Joint * 58 Ave. B, New York, NY