Monday, March 23, 2009

calexiville taverna

Three restaurants/ food places on my radar for the last bit of time here in NYC, and some additional places of note:

Snack Taverna

#1 Calexico is a taco cart in Soho (they have a couple other locations) on Wooster and Prince. It's run by a few guys from Southern California, was delicious Mexican. It's only open for lunch, starting at 11:30, until they run out-about 3 or 4. Caley and I visited this tasty spot for lunch a couple weeks ago, and I managed to get back for another meal by myself. We had burritos-mine was black bean, cheese, shredded cabbage, vegan avocado crema (probably just mashed up avocado), and pico de gallo all wrapped in a big tortilla, then grilled on the cart. Caley had the carne asada burrito with beans, rice, cheese, salsa (she claims it was "NOT chunky", because it lacked "gross tomatoes"). These were delicious burritos, definitely one of the best I've had in a really long time. I love the fact that it was grilled post-assembly to make it a little crisp and nicely pressed together. I highly recommend Calexico. Get there as early as you can, because the second time I went they were out of everything but bean tacos or burrito bowls-out of flour tortillas. The tacos were also excellent. 3 bucks a pop, and about 4 or 5 bites each, with the same fillings as burritos. They also make rolled quesadillas, grilled corn on the cob, and sides of beans, rice, chips, and salsa. I would go for the burrito again if I could. 

#2 Westville is a tiny West Village restaurant on W 10th and Bleecker that serves Market fresh American classic type food. Burgers, fish, salads, sandwiches, and a huge list of side dishes that change seasonally. My favorite part of this restaurant, especially as a vegetarian, is the option for a dinner made of sides- 4, to be precise, for $13. The regular menu is printed out and offers some easy standbys: caesar, cobb, greek salads, steaks, veggie burger, grilled cheese, salmon sandwich, etc. etc. The exciting part of the menu is a photo copy of a hand scribbled menu of specials, which includes at least 15 side dishes made of seasonal ingredients. The first time I went to Westville, I ordered the Market 4: roasted beets with goat cheese, grilled asparagus with lemon and parmesan, mashed sweet potatoes, and soy glazed green beans. The mix and match is fun, because the meal is less of a focused and straightforward experience, and more like a tasting or tapas kind of thing. I love having 4 different things that share no common thread, but are just plain good. The market 4 is perfect for a person who, like myself, can never choose between the items on a menu that all sound too good. Although I would have expected loving the beets or asparagus most, the soy glazed green beans were my favorite. They were sweet and salty, nice and crunchy, and perfectly cooked. No stringyness to be found. The mashed sweet potatoes were a little too mushy and sweet for me. This may sound odd, since it was mashed sweet potatoes, but they just weren't seasoned properly and over pureed- a little like baby food. Despite that drawback, I was excited to go back to Westville again, and repeated the beets and green beans, then added roasted zucchini with mozzarella and cherry tomatoes and one other side...that seems to have not been memorable enough. I did thoroughly enjoy all of it. 

#3 Snack Taverna is a Greek restaurant in the West Village on Bedford and Morton. The food here was fantastic. I spent at least an hour before having dinner there looking at the menu online to narrow down my options for the meal. For an appetizer, we shared scordalia, which is a roasted garlic and yukon gold potato puree with olive oil and lemon juice. It was garlicky, creamy, tangy, and delicious on warm grilled pita bread. Two of my other compadres shared a special lamb phyllo triangle appetizer and some kind of fried cheese appetizer-it was conceptually the same as a mozzarella cheese stick, but made of a Greek cheese, and fried in a thin flat disc. The bite I had was bubbly hot cheesy goodness. For my meal I had fava, another meze, made of yellow split pea puree atop a tangy and robust tomato sauce. This came with more grilled pita, and was a favorite of the table. I also had the Greek salad- crisp cucumber and sweet red onion with a bite, fresh chunks of tomato, kalamata olives (which I proceeded to remove), and a big brick of feta topped with some fresh ground pepper and a lemony dressing. Two people had calamari for their main and another diner enjoyed some kind of meaty pasta casserole (Patitsio). This restaurant had a great atmosphere and was a fun place for a small group dinner. It was absolutely one of my favorites in NYC. 

Additional places:

Grey Dog Coffee- I've gone here for breakfast-free coffee refills in the cafe, delicious melon and berry salad, nice staff, cool place, all around yummy food.
Yaffa Cafe- Really delicious, lots of veggie options. I had a homemade veggie burger that was on top of a warm pita with cheddar. It came with a salad with an awesome carrot ginger dressing. Perfect sized portion. I had a really hard time deciding what to eat with so many good sounding things. 
Doma-Eastern European cafe in the West Village. I've had breakfast here- good coffee, really good toast and scrambled eggs. 
Sacred Chow- Vegan restaurant with lots of good menu items: daily special hummus, grain, protein, soup, plus their usual options of salads, sandwiches, rice and bean dishes, meze type appetizers, and other excellent veg food. I had a salad with greens, beets, carrots, apples, and crunchy yuba strips. Very tasty. 

Tomorrow I'll be leaving NYC to head back to the west coast and resume my normal college routine. I will continue my blog from the NW, hopefully shifting focus to more cooking from home and experimentation, with the occasional restaurant post. There maybe more New York content to post, after I look through my stash of take-out menus and think through all my meals. I hope you've enjoyed. 
Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Peanut butter and more.

Greetings Readers,
It has been awhile since my last post, fortunately not for lack of material. My focus of this evening's blog will be two meals that stick out the most in my recent memory. 
1) Cowgirl: A restaurant in the west village with southwestern/ southern style food. The portions here were bigger (Texas-sized) than an average NYC meal and the menu had quite an expansive selection. I ordered the veggie trio, which consisted of a baked potato, veggie chili, and a fantastic southwestern Caesar salad. The salad had some corn, tortilla chip strips, red peppers, and a peppery caesar dressing. The main dish was very enjoyable at Cowgirl, but the dessert is what sticks out the most prominently in my mind. 
I had read up on Cowgirl before attending to learn that they have one of the best brownies in the city. I don't know if it's true, because it's the only brownie I've had in the city, but I know that it was incredible. It was hot and fudgy and dense, not cakey at all, and amazingly chewy. It came with a huge dollop of homemade whipped cream on the side that was as thick as yogurt. Three of us split this brownie along with another dessert- red velvet cake. I've never been much of a red velvet cake eater, but I'm glad that Caley ordered this piece. It was OUTRAGEOUS. The frosting was perfect- cream cheese, not overly sweet, and spread in a perfect layer that didn't weigh the whole cake down. The cake was moist and light and had a good crumb to it. Those desserts sent me into a sugar high/ coma that lasted a good hour and a half. I would go back for more, but decided to give up sweets for lent. I feel good about this decision, mostly because these desserts were my last before the lenten season began. 

2) My next eating adventure was one I had been excited to try since I'd heard about it: Peanut butter and Co. I ordered the Elvis- a grilled concoction on wheat with creamy PB, sliced bananas, and honey. Pretty much my favorite things altogether in one jumbo sized sandwich. Caley ordered the Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Sandwich. This one has cinnamon raisin peanut butter (One of the company's signature varieties) with vanilla cream cheese and crispy green apples. We traded halves and had both. Peanut butter lover's heaven right there. Although I don't think I could've eaten a whole cinnamon raisin sammy, due to the sweetness of the vanilla cream cheese. It was delicious, do not be mistaken, but very rich. If we get PB and Co. again, I might go with the standard PB & J, Ants on a Log (not a sandwich, but the traditional celery), or Jerry Seinfeld's special: toasted bagel with PB, honey, and cinnamon. PB & Co. even has a special weekly sandwich. If I wasn't on a dessert break, I might go for a PB brownie or Death by peanut butter Sundae. This combo of "3 scoops of ice cream on a bed of Cap n' Crunch, topped with peanut butter, whipped cream, Reese's Pieces, peanut butter chips, and peanut butter sauce" really does sound like a heart attack. Probably best to stick with my favorite sticky stuff on my morning english muffin. 

Next food excursion is TBD, but be on the lookout. More to come soon enough.