29 January 2010

Top 10 Crave-worthy Foods

It's really no surprise that the next Top 10 post for me would be all about food. I love to eat out, try new things and although my stomach may not be large, I have the cravings of any true fatty. :) So many of the photos in my Facebook albums are food pictures so putting this together was easy. It's quality bonding time with friends and this list has some of the things that always have me coming back for more!

Hope you're ready to sit through some of the yummiest foods you've ever seen! Try not to drool all over your keyboard, k? ;)

10. As a kid, I never really had a sweet tooth. I preferred savory over sweets any day. It was probably in college that I started to indulge in things like chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva, pistachio macaroons from Paul, cheesecakes, fruit tarts... And then the cupcake craze took over the world. But still, just like all the times when I was a kid eating birthday cake or cupcakes, I'd leave the oh too sweet icing behind and just eat the yellow cake inside.

Last summer, Geo took me out for some ramen at Ippudo and we stopped by a teeny bakery called Chikalicious. She said I just HAD to try it. They had the cutest cupcakes but they weren't your typical oversized, topped with heavy buttercream frosting kind of cupcake. They were the perfect, fit in your hand, not too sweet, uber delicious cupcakes with the lightest, whippiest icing ever. With flavors like red velvet, s'mores and mocha, you just can't help but try every one. I'm in total agreement that Chikalicious is a must try. It will change the way you eat cupcakes -- forever!

Red Velvet Cupcake from Chikalicious {New York, NY}

9. Coming in at #9 for me is seafood. When I go out to eat, steak and chicken are usually the last thing I choose to eat if I'm at a new restaurant. Steak is too heavy and chicken gets boring. The first thing I always look at on the menu is seafood. I love salmon and white tuna sushi/sashimi, scallops, shrimp, lobster, crab... you name it. So if there's a dish I've never tried before, that's probably what I will choose.

I have two extremely yummy seafood dishes that I would highly recommend to anyone.

I'm a big fan of Spanish tapas and Cuban food so I was happy when our Kappa family dinner was at Cafecito in the city. I had never been there before and actually that day I wasn't all that hungry. I thought maybe I would have a sandwich. But BB convinced me to get an entree and I chose Camarones al Ajillo - shrimp with garlic, citrus and butter served with yellow rice and sweet plantains. I can't tell you how glad I was to have gotten that dish. It comes in a really delicious yellow soup. The pieces of shrimp come sitting on top of a piece of bread soaked in the sauce. If I had a bigger stomach, I would have eaten every bite, it was so good.

Camarones al Ajillo from Cafecito {New York, NY}

This next dish was something I ordered at Geo's birthday (shoutout x2 in the same post already! :P) at Basso56. It's really like nothing you've ever tried before. Faggotino alla Polpa di Aragosta - homemade crepes filled with a confit of fresh lobster, oven baked and served with a tomato and chive velute sauce. I was so surprised at how good it was and I was terribly sad when I finished. Haven't had a chance to go back again but cannot wait until the next time I get to indulge in this lobstery deliciousness.

Faggotino alla Polpa di Aragosta from Basso56 {New York, NY}

8. So I'm going to guess that most Asian people... or at least my Asian friends know what a 'dan ta' is. If you don't know it by name, it's definitely the most recognizable Chinese pastry out there and easily available at any bakery or dim sum restaurant you go to. I love egg so of course I like dan tas, Chinese egg custards.

Last May, when I went to Shanghai, I had no idea there was like an "ultimate dan ta" out there. Seriously, I thought they were all made the same and that was how they were supposed to be. They're usually cold when served and the custard center is a gelatin-y, semi sweet, with a sort of egg like taste to it. Room took me to the mall where we found a Lillian's. Queen of all dan tas, not even joking, you'll be flabbergasted that you were subjected to eat the crappy dan tas in the States. It's warm and sweet with the flakiest and fluffiest consistency... I love contrasting the sweet but salty flavor and the crispy but smooth textures. I'm telling you, your mouth will thank you. We went back there as many times as we could during my time in China, knowing we wouldn't be able to find it elsewhere.

Dan Ta from Lillian's {Shanghai, China}

7. I know that I said that chicken gets boring, but don't get me wrong, I like chicken... when it's made the way I like it. :) My favorite kind of chicken is wings! While I don't have any pictures to share, I've tried many a chicken wings so I can definitely give you some recommendations. I'm sure many of you have heard about the popular Korean fried chicken. It's good. I've tried them all -- Bon Chon, Kyo Chon, Chicken & Beer... The garlic soy at Bon Chon is yummy and the crispy skin at Chicken & Beer is addictive. Flavored wings are some of my faves! I've had Buffalo Wild Wings in Orlando. Pluckers in Austin was num, spicy ranch! Not to mention their fried pickles! Co and I are known for making chicken runs randomly... wherever we are (and over ordering!). Garlic parm is our fave!

Chicken and Beer {Cliffside Park, NJ} & Pluckers {Austin, TX} -- Photos courtesy of touch of sunshine & c'est la vy

6. Although I was never crazy about baos, I've had pretty big cravings for different kinds of baos lately so I'll share them with you. I'll start with the infamous Shanghainese xiao long bao. Joe's Shanghai is the most popular and I've known people who will find any excuse to make day trips to NYC just to have it. These soup filled dumplings can take a couple tries to learn to eat but you have to be careful too as usually they come piping hot and also in two varieties, pork and crab. When I was in Shanghai, Room took me to Din Tai Fung which is world renowned and on New York Times' Top 25 restaurants of the world! A little more petite than I'm used to, the skin is the perfect thinness while keeping all the juices in.

A second addictively yummy find in Shanghai was Yang's Fried Dumplings, also known as shen jien bao. Although these buns get pretty oily, this vendor is supposed to be famous and super cheap so the line during lunch gets wicked long. Luckily, I went during a shopping pit stop and not many people were out eating.

Bao is the Chinese term for bun. And while roast pork buns are quite common, Ippudo has the most amazing Hirata buns. It's moist and tender with just the right amount of flavoring, wrapped in the softest rice cake. It's probably what I crave most because it's not fried or oily at all. Just delicious!

Recently, when I went out for dim sum at Jade Asian Restaurant in Flushing (and while I was trying to avoid an awkward situation), I think we mistakenly ordered chicken meatball buns rather than roast pork buns because they look exactly alike. Once we tried the chicken bun, everyone wanted another one and sharing bites of the tiny bun wouldn't suffice. It seemed to be mixed with a bunch of things but I definitely think I prefer it over the more regular kind. Sorry roast pork bun! :P

Xiao long bao from Din Tai Fung & Shen jien bao from Yang's {Shanghai, China}

5. Finally halfway through the list, noodles come in at #5. I love noodles! Ramen noodles, Thai pad see ew noodles, Chinese crispy pan fried noodles, Vietnamese pho noodle soup... My favoritest noodle ever is Chinese-Korean jjajangmyun! It comes covered in a black bean sauce with chunks of beef and some chopped up veggies. Usually, the noodles are made fresh in house at the restaurant. While jjajangmyun jips are hard to find in NYC, (they tend to easily come and go for some reason), it's something I'll go out of my way to find and eat.

Last week I met up with S and C to do some catching up and they were nice enough to allow me to satisfy my jjajangmyun craving at Te Min Quan in Palisades Park, NJ. This variety was the spicy kind and although I'm not used to these noodles being spicy, it was indeed still just as delicious. Oh how I wish we could have jjajangmyun delivered, just like they do in the Korean dramas. :P

With S at a restaurant whose name I forget {Seoul, South Korea}

4. So in Boston, there is this one hot pot restaurant that is FAMOUS. Everyone and their mom, dad, brother, friend, sister and dog goes there. You will always see someone you know there and Kappas especially are very well known to have every birthday and get together at Shabu Zen. The waiters are used to our super specific orders of veggies and sauces. Whenever you visit Boston, you know you have to get your shabu fix. Those of us who don't have the luxury of Shabu Zen whenever we want crave the fish paste, sesame sauce, spicy kimchi broth... I actually never had hot pot before Shabu Zen but it's hard to beat when I go anywhere else.

Except, when I went to Shanghai and met up with my sisters... we tried Dolar Shop. Ah-mazing! The have a sauce BAR! You can choose any or everything! There's like 40 different options and no having to bug your waiter to bring you anything. Their meat/veggie menu is extensive. Pages and pages of fish and cuts of meat that I've never even heard of. And they have the BEST fishball! Our table was covered with plates of food. It was quite ridiculous but definitely delicious.

Sesame sauce with fried onion and Barbeque paste + sesame oil + hot oil + cilantro & Roe stuffed fishball {Shanghai, China}

3. My favorite thing about weekends is most definitely brunch. Any good weekend must include brunch in one form or another. Whether it's dim sum or IHOP. I love getting together and relaxing with friends after a night out or a long week to catch up and eat yummy. The best foods are served at brunch -- eggs and crepes! I love savory crepes, sweet crepes, eggs benedict, eggs over easy, quiches, you name it! All scrumptiously delicious to me! Here is a photo of my two most favorite things. This was at News Cafe in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. The crepe was stuffed with yummy mushrooms and a bechamel sauce and I swapped with S to try some of the eggs benedict with salmon! Even the salad, perfect with its fresh olive oil, pepper and shaved parmesan was a great complement!

Mushroom crepe & eggs benedict with salmon at News Cafe {Georgetown, Washington, D.C.}

2. As I already mentioned, I LOVE seafood. I especially love things like fresh raw oysters and steaming hot crab legs that I can break open and dip in butter. I went to my first clambake at my last co-op and it was the best thing ever, serving us New England clam chowder, corn, mussels and clams, chicken, strawberry shortcake and of course a whole lobster for each of us! It was so much food but you couldn't not eat all of it. And while I tend to love crab more than lobster, I never thought I'd find something I love even more!

On our August trip to Orlando last year, our friends took us to New Orleans Seafood for crawfish. I was a little anxious I have to admit because I get kind of weary about having a full bodied animal ready to eat in front of my eyes. I don't even like breaking the legs off shrimp and would prefer to have it shelled before served. I even request this with my lobster, that it be broken up for me so I don't have to do it! Fish, I can deal with and crabs aren't bad because you usually just get the legs. But with crawfish, it comes whole face, body, legs and all. And the only way to eat it is if you just break apart the poor thing. I have to say though... it is sooo good. Two pounds sounds like a lot but I actually got through all that by myself in the first sitting that I ever tried it. It takes a while to learn how to get down to the little piece of meat but it's so worth it. It is messy though and probably not a good date food. Something that you have with someone that you're comfortable with. I had hot oil and garlic ALL over me. It was quite the scene. Now everytime I'm back or think of Orlando, I can't help but crave this flavorful deliciousness!

Crawfish at New Orleans Seafood {Orlando, FL}

1. Okay, here we are! We finally made it down to #1. I'll keep it simple. Flor de Mayo. Chicken & Green Rice. My absolute favorite thing ever in the whole world. Every time I came down to New York City from Boston, my first stop would be to this restaurant. It's owned by a friend's family and is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian food. We never really order from the Chinese menu and we've tried everything, even a few things made special that aren't on the menu. They have a yummy appetizer eggs with spicy sauce that we like with our bread, shrimp with garlic or red sauce... Ceviche and calamari, lomo saltado, porkchops and steak, seafood soup... It's all SO good. If I had to choose my one last meal ever in life, it would be at Flor de Mayo. Hands down, no doubt about it.

Chicken & Cilantro rice, Flor de Mayo {New York, NY}

Okay, so I know this is supposed to be a Top 10 list. However, after putting together my post, I realized I had 11 things! (There's actually more than that because some posts feature multiple things, too!) Anyway, I couldn't settle on taking one out so I'm just going to give you a bonus #11 crave-worthy food.

11. Burgers! Who doesn't love a good burger? Burgers are probably one of the best comfort foods. You have them at summer barbeques, McDonald's, Sonic, In and Out, Five Guys... I've tried them all! While you can't go all that wrong with a burger, there are plenty of ways to get 'em oh so right. For instance, with an egg -- it's just genius! Or you could pair it with a heart clogging fried portabello mushroom oozing with mozarella a la Shake Shack style. Yum! Or, my favorite burger craving comes from Cheeburger Cheeburger where you can customize your burger any way you like... ranch sauce, bbq sauce, sauteed onions, bacon, guacamole, jalapenos, anything! And they have the best milkshakes in the funnest flavors like bananas foster or oreo mint! Everyone will surely find something to satisfy that craving. Mmm, delicious!

Top - Cheeburger Cheeburger {somewhere in Maryland}, Bottom Left - Shake Shack {New York, NY}, Bottom Right - Kraze {Seoul, South Korea}

This post was exhausting! Took me ALL day... actually it's been a week! The things I do for food. :P Happy weekend!

27 January 2010

Top 10 in 2010

Hello blog world! It's a late start to my year (I can't believe it's almost February!) but I thought it would be fun to do a Top 10 series being that it's 2010. Corny, probably. But hey, it's something new to try. Plus, I'm not good at favorites so being able to choose the 10 things I like is the next best thing!

{I couldn't decide which blog to post this on... so it's on both! :P}

Thought I would kick things off with my Top 10 favorite moments of 2009!

10. After I graduated last May, I was lucky enough to have the chance to travel a bit. My favorite part about traveling isn't always the sightseeing. I don't like doing things that are cliche and even worse I'm not a fan of crowds of tourists. What I do love, is eating where the locals eat, walking around doing things that locals do and discovering something I never expected. I was definitely well taken care of in Seoul and loved every minute being in my motherland. One of my favorite moments was finding Ssamziegil. The cutest little shops with a couple of the sweetest girls I know.

9. In addition to Korea, I also spent about 3 weeks in Shanghai. Room moved there to be with A and I got to help her adjust and visit my girls R & P at the same time. We ate yummy & cheap and saw a lot of great sites. But there's something about kicking back and just hanging out with my girls that I just love. Sometimes the greatest things are the things unplanned. We were in a dingy and probably very dirty dormitory but a couple of cheap pijiu's and we were good to go. Nothing beats qt and laughs with my girls.

8. Okay, so maybe I traveled a LOT more than I had planned in 2009. Much of my time was spent with my newest little sis, a charter from the University of Texas. To get to know her better, I went and visited her in Austin. We got down and dirty and they treated us to the greasiest, most delicious food you can find in the South. We had a blast with them! Poor litto was on her detox diet, but Rudy's was a must and she was a trooper as she sat by and watched us all eat.

7. Last winter was my first time trying snowboarding. It was a bit of a painful experience but nonetheless absolutely exhilarating. It's the kind of pain that you know is worth it. To be speeding down the hills and to feel the fresh cool air hit your face, it was something I knew I would keep trying and grow to love. This particular time was at Camel Back during one of my better runs. We stayed on the green trails but went up high as the sun set. I made it down feeling good and catching a beautiful view.

6. I have always wanted to visit California and I've really been wanting to move there for the longest time. We have a couple of friends in San Francisco so there was no doubt that we would visit the first chance we got. It was the quickest, most eventful, inside joke happy, craziest sightseeing packed two days ever. While I can barely remember every single thing we saw or did, I remember every moment we laughed with each other and I know it's because I was with the best company you could ask for.

5. While there are just so many days and hours that S & I spent together this past year, each moment, though trying and exhausting at times, brings us closer and closer together. I will always cherish our culinary endeavors, playing titanic, karaoke nights, chicken & beer with best friends, discovering Georgetown, endless days and nights driving everywhere... she's my other half. ♥ you S!

4. Things don't always go as you might expect and I definitely didn't expect to meet (or be with) someone like him. He was a refreshing breath of air and I felt much happiness in getting to know him and spending time with him. We didn't make it into the new year like I might have hoped. If things were different, then perhaps we could be different. It could be for the best or maybe not but either way we remain there in each others' lives. And I always said that we weren't perfect but that might have been what I liked most about us. Such a handsome and sensible guy, he was my guy and a big part of my 2009.

3. Ever since I saw photos from a wedding that Tony shot in Jamaica, I had been dying to go. It was the perfect destination for our senior year spring break, a great way to celebrate the end of our college years. We got plenty of warm sun and R&R and made sure to take advantage of the inclusive all you can eat and drink portion of our package. I was happiest when we finally got to take a tour of the Rockhouse Hotel, which is where we saw breathtaking sights from the cliffs of Negril. And remembering the pictures where I first laid eyes on these gorgeous views, it was even better than I had imagined.

2. I spent a lot of 2009 in the sunny state of Florida. My little brother moved down there for school and of course I had to fulfill my big sister duties and help him get acquainted. I have some of the prettiest and happiest friends I know down in Orlando so I was excited to get so much quality time in with them making sure that R felt comfortable and had people to turn to. But the best part about Florida was making the trip down with R & my best friend P. It wasn't the most exciting roadtrip ever but we had our share of laughs and silly moments. The most important part was that I was with two people that I love unconditionally. I know that it will be hard to find time with them like that again. They mean the world to me and I honestly don't know what I would do without them.

1. Many of the moments in this list are post-graduation moments. It hasn't been an easy road for me since I graduated from Northeastern even with all the traveling and fun I've had. Growing up and figuring out what I will be doing in life hasn't been as simple as I once thought. It's been a challenge to start a career and my motivation has faltered more times than someone with my ambition is supposed to. But I have hope that this year will bring clarity and reassurance. And although I always thought of college as a very normal and expected step in my life, what I didn't expect was the gratification of finishing school and getting a degree. I was overjoyed in the last days of class and finals. Feelings of relief and fulfillment kept a smile on my face, a constant happiness that I hadn't known for so long. It was bittersweet and things since then haven't been the same but it's what's to come that keeps me going each and every day.

Note to self: Do not include less than + 3 signs in blog posts and attempt to edit your html. *Smacks forehead* Anyway, I didn't think it would be a difficult post but narrowing down an entire 365 days to just 10 moments is a lot harder than you would think. I was even thinking about doing a two part best moments post, one for more sentimental events and then the crazy fun memories. In most cases, you can see what made each of these memories so special are the people that helped to make them happen. But along the way, I've come up with a few more ideas for future posts so keep a look out for those!