Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Rapturous NYC weekend and Miso-Ramen Noodles

I know that I've been talking a lot about the rain in my last few posts.  But we're getting A LOT of rain here in New York...we're drowning in it!!  I've started to get a little stir crazy since all I want to do when the weather is so dreary is curl up in my bed with a cup of tea with a good book and the Food Network on. The one bright spot is that I get to whip out Tyler's yellow rain slicker.
Ain't he CUTE?!!?!?  He puts up with it with that suffering look, but the sight of him makes me smile on any rainy day.

So when it looked like the rain had cleared for a bit this past Friday, I put away my rain boots and took out my heels and took the weekend off from cooking. Since Saturday, May 21st is supposed to be the day the world ends, I think I deserved to take the night off and just enjoy the food being served!  It also meant I was a bit lazy with my food shots at the restaurants, but bear with me. 

Friday night, I headed out with my friend Bijal to an old favorite: Motorino.  The end of the work week just seems like the perfect time to have a slice of pizza. And there are few pizzerias in the city that can beat the beautifully charred, thin crust Neopolitan-style pizzas they serve at Motorino. Their pizzas have won the best pizza title in America within the Eastern Division.  The crust is crusty and fluffy at the same time and the red sauce has this gorgeous sweetness of really good roasted tomatoes. 

We started with a perfect little plate of cockles cooked in a white wine-garlic sauce.  They were tender, not chewy, and tasted like it had just come out of the sea. We took a while to deliberate over which pies to order since Bijal had had their brussel-sprouts and smoked pancetta pizza in the past.  She had loved it, but we thought it would be nice to try something new.  The New York Times described it "like something from a magic act, a dog speaking BBC English."  I wish I had read the review before going because instead of getting that pie, we ordered the cremini and spicy sausage (pictured on the right) which in the same article is described as arriving "at the table ever so slightly watery, a little off-putting. Within five minutes it heals itself, and thus rewards the wait before eating."    While it was good, it was definitely not one of the best I've had there. I was much happier with it once I asked for some sea salt and sprinkled some over the top.

However, their daily special "ramp pizza" more than made up for my slight disappointment with the cremini and sausage.  I had ordered the ramp pizza last year around the same time which was also my first time there.  I clearly remember that my dining partner then had to be the one to tell me that it was cheeseless except for the sprinkling of pecorino cheese on top.  I had been so enthralled with the perfect pie that had been delivered to our table and my first perfect bite that I didn't even miss the oozing cheese which to me is always one of the best things about eating pizza...sweet red sauce enhancing the sweetness of grilled ramps resting on a chewy, smoky chargrilled dough.  Reordering the pie for a second time was equally delicious. I mean look at it...really? Enough said...

Our night didn't end there though. We decided to forego dessert at Motorino and head over for some coffee and sweet a few blocks down at an East Village post-drinking landmark that I had been meaning to go to for years: Veselka. Open 24 hours since 1954, this Ukranian diner supposedly serves up a mean bowl of borscht according to Mr. Ted Allen of "Queer Eye for Straight Guy" fame.

That night though, we were just after a good ol' cup of joe and some dessert to chase down our pizza. We scored a table immediately outside to enjoy the warm evening weather and people-watch.  We decided to share a cherry crumble pie á la mode which I still regret not photographing that night.  My belly was just too content from the night's over-the-top feast.  While the pie was good, it was not earth shattering.  But together with my skim latte (foamless! I'm happy to say since I forgot to ask them to remove it), it was the perfect way to end the night and a long work week.  I will be back to Veselka for some of their borscht and pierogies for sure!

A 25-minute bus ride home later shared with three loud, obnoxious drunken boys in their 30s (ah New York!), I was back home walking some of the night off with Tyler before we both tucked ourselves wearily into bed.

After my night out eating, I woke up early and peeked out my window to see SUN with not one cloud in sight in that robin blue sky. Hustling, in case I was dreaming and might miss any nice spring weather, I threw on some clothes, my Toms, one sleepy dog and headed out for the first time in a week to the park.  Before that, I headed over to Serafina's take-away café where I had discovered a few weeks back the closest Parisian-tasting pain au chocolat and flakiest scones in New York.  

Half-eaten almond croissant from Serafina cafe....ymmmm.

According to the sign above the counter, their croissants are baked fresh every day on-site using imported French flour.  I have no idea why an Italian restaurant was making such delicious French pastries, but it makes sense in the Franco-centric Upper East Side, and you will not hear any complaints out of me.  After grabbing an iced latté (large of course!) and a fresh out of the oven cranberry scone, we headed out to our spot on Cedar Hill to play a bit and enjoy our breakfast on an idyllic patch of lush green grass with the bright sun warming us up.  It was a wonderful way to start a Saturday morning.
We were happy to see that 6pm came and went and everyone was alive and kicking still.  Rapture bedamned!  Dinner that evening was at Daniel Boulud's newest restaurant concept, DBGB Kitchen & Bar that has been on my hit list since it opened.  Opened in the summer 2009 as a casual "beer and sausage" restaurant completely different from his other restaurants (including Bar Boulud which is still one of my favorite restaurants in the city), it is still constantly packed to this day. When I checked on OpenTable around 4:30pm that Saturday, the only available seating showing was still 5:30pm.  So despite my skeptical friends, we decided to brave it and see if we could walk-in and get a table.

Since I had some transportation issues with weekend subway construction (of course, it wouldn't be New York without that), I was happy to find my fellow diners already seated and waiting for me.  PLUS for DBGB since most restaurants in New York will not seat you unless the entire party is complete.  I will not do a full review of the restaurant for now since I didn't take pictures this time around and because I want to look into what I should have ordered vs what we actually ordered.  I definitely want to revisit it.  I would like to say that if you are a beer aficionado and have wads of money to spend on it, this is the place to go.  The beer menu is MASSIVE. Pages and pages of beers from around the world including an outrageous $450 Belgium beer.

We ended the night at Los Feliz in the Lower East Side, a 10-15 minute walk from the restaurant. Now I had eaten there before for a friend's birthday party before and I think I will continue dining at this cool, hidden restaurant that has below-ground dining available.  The Mexican food was good though not the best I've had in the city. But the environment is so fun! As for the lounge area, if you enjoy music thumping so loud that you can't hear the person you're talking to about 6 inches away from you even when you're screaming, I would not recommend it. After about an hour, I called it quits, said my farewells and hopped into a taxi quite happily.

Sunday morning I slept in a bit before heading out to brunch with my sister and her fiancé who had crashed in my apartment the night before.  All three of us were a bit lethargic between the previous night and the dreary, cold weather (yes, the rain was back!). After indulging in a delicious crab cake eggs benedict and a complimentary glass of bellini at Atlantic Grill, we all rolled out of there ready for a nap.  After giving Tyler the bone marrow I had doggy bagged from DBGB for him, I took a quick half-hour catnap while he amused himself.

Later that evening, I was still feeling lethargic...probably from my overindulgence the past few nights! So I decided to make something super easy and light for dinner.  Since it was still extremely chilly outside, I felt it was so appropriate to make myself a big bowlful of comforting ramen noodles to warm myself up.

Now this is no bland, limp Nissin instant ramen noodles that you can buy from Stop & Shop on sale, 20 for $1, which you pretty much lived on while in college and in your early 20s.  This is FRESH ramen noodles that you can pick up at any Asian grocery store along with just a few ingredients that you can pick up and find at your local super market.  It takes about the same time to make as those instant noodles, but loads healthier and definitely tastier. You can add meat or other vegetables to this ramen if you'd like.  Since my weekend was chockful of some heavy dining, I kept this simple in respect to Japanese culinary traditions of nice, clean flavors.

Those of you who have never used miso paste in your cooking before, it is really useful for a lot of things other than for making miso soup.  Miso is a fermented soy bean paste with a strong odor and pretty salty.  So be pretty sparing when you use it as a little goes a long way.  I've used miso paste in marinades for chicken and fish in the past which gives it a salty smokiness.  I would even replace the black bean sauce in my Asian skewers with a tbsp of miso paste instead if you don't have black bean on hand.  I love pickled vegetables in my noodles, but was completely out.  If you see the small packets of them in your local Asian grocery store pick up a few.  They last forever and really add a kick to the broth.   For the noodles, always pick up the one that doesn't look cracked and dry.
Serves 1

1 package fresh ramen noodles
2 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp miso paste (I used one that already had dashi, basic Japanese soup stock, in the paste. If you just have regular miso, add 1 tbsp powdered dashi.)
2 cups hot water (You can add more or less depending on how much broth you like for your soups, I enjoy broth.  Adjust seasonings accordingly.)
1 large egg
1 stalk green scallion, cut into small pieces
1 sheet dried seaweed (optional)
Dash of black sesame seeds (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper (optional, the broth should be salty enough with the miso paste)

1.  In a pot, bring water to a boil over high heat. Add noodles and using tongs or chopsticks, occassionally separate the noodles to prevent them from sticking.  Cook for just 3-5 minutes since they are fresh noodles. When you test the noodle, it should still retain a little chewiness. Drain noodles and put to the side.

Look at these lovely curly noodles!

2.  In the same drained pot, add half oil and then sliced garlic over medium heat.  When the garlic has browned a bit, add the miso paste and mix together for less than a minute.  Add the hot water and bring everything to a boil.

3.  While broth is waiting to boil, in a small skillet add the rest of oil over medium high heat.  When oil is sizzling, crack a whole egg into the pan and lightly pan fry. I like the top to have a small thin white layer of egg, so I put a lid on top of the egg to create it.  Fry for 3-4 minutes, no longer otherwise your yolk will be hard and not runny.  If you don't like runny eggs, cook it for another minute or two.

4.  In a large soup bowl, add the reserved noodles. Top with broth and then scallions. Put the egg on top of the noodle. Using scissors, snip thin strips of dried seaweed and finish with the black sesame seeds.  As easy as that! Doesn't it look slurpilicious?!

349 E 12th St (between 1st and 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003-7266
Phone: (212) 777-2644

144 2nd Avenue @ 9th St
New York, NY 10003-8305
Phone: (212) 228-9682

Serafina Café
1022 Madison Avenue (between 78th & 79th St)
New York, NY 10075
Phone: (212) 734-3165

DBGB Kitchen and Bar
299 Bowery @ Houston
New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 933-5300

Los Feliz
109 Ludlow St @ Delancey
New York, NY 10002-3240
(212) 228-8383

Atlantic Grill
1341 3rd Ave (between 76th & 77th St)
New York, NY 10021
Phone: (212) 988-9200

1 comment:

  1. What a great shot of Central Park! Such a cute dog.