Archive for the ‘Tasting the World in NYC’ Category

Strauss Milky Pudding: Worth a Trip to the Holyland (Market)

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

I have a favorite Israeli store on St. Mark’s Place here in NYC, where I typically get my fill of Halloumi cheese and Labne, a sour soft cheese/yogurt best topped with olive oil and za’atar. The guys who own and work at Holyland Market are always so sweet, so gentlemanly, it really would be great if such individuals were running Israel today instead of the war mongers, money hungry old men who make the situation so impossible for their citizens and the surrounding Arab world. But I digress.

On my last visit to Holyland, I walked in while their supplier was unloading his goodies. We all started talking — he seemed to be very curious about where I had actually acquired my taste for Halloumi — then all of a sudden said “wait!’ and ran out of the store. He came back with a confection of four puddings — Strauss Milky. “Here, for you. Once you try these, you will be addicted.” The owner of the store confirmed his statement by disclosing that one of the reasons he opened Holyland Market was to be able to eat these delights, till now unavailable in the US.

So home I went, curious to taste this seemingly common combination of chocolate pudding and vanilla whipped cream topping. After lunch, I picked up one of the pudding cups and began my journey to heaven. TRULY. I mean, these things aren’t for the feeble-hearted, they are positively delicious. A superb combination of dark chocolate pudding and sweet vanilla cream, with just the right texture and consistency.

I believe the item costs about $5 for a box of four, when one actually has to purchase them, but I am now indeed an addict and once the last one will be gone — I estimate later today — I’ll run over to Holyland for my next dose. And I may even try the other flavors…

Top image courtesy of Wikipedia

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Alphonso Mango Flavor Now at Red Mango!

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

I’m a Red Mango addict. I mean, so much so that I’ll look for it wherever I travel and am known to go out of my way to get some, be it in NYC, Singapore or Dubai. While I do sometimes stray from the brand name stuff, it’s never for long and never, never, never quite as pleasurable. Yesterday, in a fit of frozen yogurt desperation, after having watched an advance screening of Von Trier’s latest Melancholia, I even tried one of the FroYo trucks in Soho. That was the epitome of disappointment right there… Mushy mochi topping, way too hard and large chocolate chips, just one flavor of yogurt, vanilla, equaled AUGH!

These days, Red Mango founder and CCO Dan Kim is enjoying some great accolades. His company was just named #1 Smoothie and Frozen Yogurt Chain in 2011 Zagat Fast Food Survey, huuuuuge honor. All well deserved of course. But what got me to sit down and write this little piece today is Alphonso, not Zagat. Yup, going back to my Indian-loving roots, the latest flavor at Red Mango is none other than fabulously sweet, fragrant and delicious Alphonso Mango. When I tweeted about how great the flavor goes with a pinch of cardamom, a-la real time mango lassi, Kim himself tweeted back “You’re brilliant!” Don’t be surprised to find this creation on their smoothie menu at a Red Mango near you. Just ask for the Nina Special…

Me, I’m on my way to some right now. All this talk of Red Mango got me hungry for some. With the perfectly sized chocolate chips on top, of course!

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Farhana’s Reflections: The 12th Day or How Pizza is the Center of My Universe

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

By Farhana Islam

The twelfth day was the most difficult. It is always the hardest day. I was starving. In the holy month of Ramadan when food and water, among other things were forbidden, it was a month that required piety, patience and pardon the term, ‘Zen-like’ grace, but I was miserable. I didn’t care who knew it. I was unashamed of my suffering. Like every Muslim child, I was taught earlier of the significance of this important month. I understood the gravity.

However, the daily compliance was arduous. I had long ago adapted the observance of fasting into my secular life. My co-workers were already well aware why I did not join them on coffee breaks. Oh, coffee. How I miss you! For me, the twelfth day of Ramadan was the equivalent of a marathoner’s ‘wall’. On the 26.2-mile journey if a runner is smart, he will have ingested enough carbohydrates (usually in the form of pasta) to be converted into glycogen by the liver and muscles. This, in turn will supply him with enough energy to endure the grueling length of the race.

When glycogen levels run low, the body must rely on stored fat as a secondary energy source, which coincidentally does not burn as well. Of course, a runner worth his salt will not have much of this auxiliary fuel and will therefore ‘hit a wall’ of extreme fatigue. Where was I going with this?

Oh yes, this twelfth day is my ‘wall’. You may argue the point that as I am not a runner, I must surely have a tidy sum of stored fat which my body can draw strength from. Yes, but I will counter the point that fasting is nonetheless exhausting.

Oddly, today I was not craving coffee. No, today I was craving pizza. As I live in the culinary capital of the world, it was not just any kind of pizza that I yearned for. I was craving authentic New York style pizza: Flat, foldable and dripping with hot, saucy oil. I began constructing it on the most fundamental level, every aspect of this mythical pizza. The ratio of sauce to cheese was meticulously metered out.

To all of my non-Muslim readers: The simplicity of what I want to convey about Ramadan is that there is a point in the day when the core of my very being is obsessed with food. It could be of the meal that will be enjoyed forthwith; it could be a meal that is entirely elusive. Perhaps this is the true beauty of this important tenet of my faith. It recalibrated my focus on one of the most basic necessities in life: sustenance. Intrigue, drama, gossip all fall by the wayside in favor of nourishment with which to break fast when the sun sets. It may not be possible to have more clarity or focus in my life that at this time.

Nonetheless, it hits me at different times of the day every day. Today, it was at work sitting at my desk. Years earlier, when I lived in Midwood, Brooklyn I remembered this legendary pizza shop on Avenue J. The owner rolled his own dough, prepared his homemade sauce and with a sheer stroke of genius, he used scissors to cut the fresh basil directly on the pie that was nearly volcanic with three cheeses. When it came straight from the oven all hot, gussied and bubbly I would be nearly insane with anticipation.

It is rumored that perhaps the reason why New York pizzas are arguably the best in the world is because of the tap water that is used in the dough. Good dough will produce a base crust that can only be described as light and chewy at the same time. If, in the course of enjoying your pizza, your incisors are used to saw through the slick cheese, the moist, pillow-y upper layer and the charred, roasted crust then my friend; you are experiencing a true thing of beauty.

I walked into my neighborhood pizzeria, which is perhaps as famous as my beloved shop in Brooklyn. It is a family-run business and a favorite among the blue-collar crowd; therefore the setting is strictly no frills. The bright booths were clean and well stocked with napkins and condiments. Other patrons were talking with their companions in jovial tones enjoying the simple pleasure of eating delicious food in good company. I smiled as I observed the obligatory pictures of the proprietors with famous actors and athletes who schlepped from the outer boroughs to enjoy a heavenly slice; be it Grandma, Sicilian or regular.

I perused the menu. As this is a cash-only establishment and I had limited funds in my wallet, I frowned at the price of a large Grandma style pie. It was outside my range. Even the medium was. On any given day, truth be told, the Grandma style pie was my true love. It is earthy and rustic, not unlike the kind of pizza you would be served at a farmhouse in Tuscany. It is a lovely marriage of the portly Sicilian and traditional flat New York style pizza. However, as I had insufficient funds, I focused on the next best option: A large regular. At work, I had imagined that my dream pizza would have just one amazing topping. I thought of jalapenos, but in my older age my system is not as agile at absorbing violent stomach acid so I passed. Black olives would render the pie too briny. The green onion route struck me as too odoriferous.

After being asked twice how I could be helped, I smiled weakly shaking my head, indicating that I wasn’t ready yet. This was a very important decision that I was making. I settled on plump, white mushrooms. Yes, a large pie with mushrooms! I stepped forward, confident and giddy at the thought of my dinner. The handsome clerk explained: “It’ll be about 15 to 20 minutes, Sweetheart. We make our pies from scratch”. He added a cheeky wink for good measure.

I smiled and nodded. I took a seat the pub style table and chair against the partition of the restaurant. There appeared to be no strict enforcement of a ‘no cell-phone policy’ posted, so I proceeded to catch up on my texts and phone calls. There was a heady umami perfume in the air. I peered around the corner and I saw the cook roughly chop with his chef’s knife a small cube of butter into a black cast iron skillet. His dark, weathered hands then sliced delicate mushrooms in a thin, uniform pattern. He fanned them on the cutting board and attended to his sizzling fat to which he added dark green olive oil. After the pan started to smoke, the heat was lowered and the mushrooms were tossed in and sautéed.

I felt as if I was a part of an important ritual, witnessing my pizza being assembled before my eyes. It was the culmination of all that I had wanted. Perhaps, it was more.

After paying, I carried the hot cardboard box of pizza home and I thought of all the temptations I had avoided that day. I thought how, in a way my fasting had fostered a stronger bond with God and perhaps the universe. I thought of how incredibly lucky I was for having been born and living the good life that I do. Lucky that I understood how those who were less fortunate felt every day without food. I was lucky for being employed.

And being happy.
And being in love.

I thought perhaps the thirteenth day would be better.

I thought: tomorrow, I want Greek.

Top image courtesy of Gaby’s Pizza

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Kanwal’s Healthy Corner: Cipriani Dolci, NYC

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

By Kanwal Ullah

I recently found out that Grand Central terminal in NYC has so much more to offer than transportation!  Earlier this month, Nina and I shared a wonderfully delicious dinner at Cipriani Dolci, located in the heart of Grand Central Terminal, right here in the Big Apple.

Cipriani Dolci offers delicious Northern Italian Cuisine with a wonderful view of Grand Central’s bustling main terminal. Yes, you do see the bustle of people running to make their train, but are immediately calmed by the warm bread with butter and some great conversation, while awaiting your delicious food.

Nina and I both sipped on the famous Cipriani house drink, refreshing peach Bellinis, and enjoyed appetizers of Mozzarella di Bufala with fresh tomatoes and a warm seared scallops salad. The mozzarella was extremely tender and fresh, paired perfectly with vine ripened tomatoes and fresh basil. The scallops were juicy and sweet, cooked perfectly!

For our main course, Nina and I both ordered the Filet Mignon “Al Barolo”. This was delicious! The meat was very juicy and flavorful and melted in our mouths like butter! Lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, sitting on top of a delicious wine-infused gourmet version of gravy, my opinion is that this meat is best enjoyed medium-rare. Our filet mignon also came with a side order of steamed veggies — asparagus, cauliflower, oven-roasted potatoes!

The best part of our evening was served with dessert. Nina ordered the Triple Layer Chocolate cake, which was very rich and dense, full of chocolate and dark chocolate flavors. I ordered the Vanilla Creme Meringue cake, which was very light and moist.  Each layer infused with sweet cream.  A vanilla meringue frosting topped this cake to perfection!

Cipriani Dolci is a win win place to go! You’ve got the great atmosphere, absolutely wonderful service, the food is to die for and you can’t beat being in one of New York City’s great landmarks!

It is recommended to make reservations before heading out to Cipriani Dolci. The restaurant is in high demand and with the rush of traffic at Grand Central, you want to make sure you have a seat with a great view. They are currently also offering a special menu for NYC Restaurant Week, which runs until September 5th.

Cipriani Dolci
89 East 42nd St.
New York, NY 10017

All food images by ©Kanwal Ullah, top image courtesy of NYC.gov

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Give Me Fresh (Juice) or Give Me… Nothing!

Monday, July 11th, 2011

As much as at times I curse this wicked city I live in, NYC is indeed a mecca of wonderful restaurants and inventive eateries. And there is no beating the Big Apple when it comes to healthy food options.

One such option is just blocks from me and serves up the best and freshest fruit juices this side of Beirut. Yup, you read right. The former world capital of political instability (now seemingly tame when compared to the revolutions of the Arab Spring) is the one place on earth where I learned that a good fresh fruit juice can feel a lot like a walk among the clouds, in heaven.

Thankfully, Liquiteria is just around the corner and serves up such delicacies as Watermelon juice (now in season), Pear and Mixed Veggies, which tastes amazing with The Hot Shot (a combination of lemon, ginger and cayenne).

But don’t take my word for it. Drop by anytime between 7 a.m. (8 on weekends) and 8 p.m., seven days a week and try it out for yourself.

Liquiteria is located at 179 Second Avenue, on the corner of 11th Street, in the East Village in NYC.

Image courtesy of EasyJuicerRecipes.com

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Luck = Alphonso Mango Lassi All Year Round

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

My favorite thing about April in Bombay is Alphonso mangoes at every corner. And with mangoes comes mango Lassi, a yogurt drink which brings out the best in the fruit’s flavor but also refreshes like nothing else on a hot, humid day in the Maximum City.

But since I’ve been stuck in NYC this Spring, and anyway, the time for my beloved juicy, rich and creamy mangoes would be done with anyway, in comes my favorite store — Trader Joe’s — to the rescue. Their newest item: a fantastically nutritious and delicious Alphonso Mango Lassi in a bottle, ready-made! Not just any mango, made with the king Alphonsos themselves!

At just $ 2.69 for a quart, and with only 130 calories per serving, this is one indulgence I don’t plan on doing without this summer. Try it as a refreshing drink on ice, or have it with muesli in the morning, as a super delicious alternative to milk! N-joy!

Top image by ComfyTummy.com

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Kanwal’s Healthy Corner – Culturally Food Savvy

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

By Kanwal Ullah

Taste of China and Italy

New York City in itself is a cultural melting pot of food. Within just a few blocks, you can enjoy authentic Chinese fare and then move onto decadent, homemade Italian desserts. I’m talking about downtown NYC and exploring Chinatown and Little Italy. Nina and I decided to explore these two areas and check out the food offered.

We started off in Chinatown where we enjoyed some fabulous bubble tea at Teariffic. This was such an adorable hot spot. It’s a great place to come to when you’re looking for some tasty snacks, cool drinks and a light atmosphere. Nina ordered the cold almond milk tea and I ordered the cold coconut milk tea. Soon, we were both sipping on tall glasses of milky goodness filled with black tapioca pearls. The tapioca is a great surprise when sipped up through your chunky straw, providing a chewy texture. Both of our teas were refreshingly light and sweet with a strong flavor of almond and coconut. While sipping on our teas we both shared an order of Skewered Yakitori Chicken, which is thinly sliced chicken, skewered and grilled. The chicken tasted slightly sweet and smoky. We also enjoyed an order of Steamed Vegetable Dumplings. These were little, delicious purses of steamed dumplings filled with shredded carrots and cabbage.

After some wonderful conversation and delicious tea and appetizers, Nina and I decided it was time to move onto something sweet! Luckily, we were minutes away from Little Italy (it was right down the block!). So, we decided to enjoy some authentic Italian desserts at La Bella Ferrara. This is where we sat in the evening breeze and had some truly decadent Chocolate Vesuvius Cake and a Coppa Mascarpone. The Chocolate Vesuvius Cake had a chocolate cake base followed by a layer of cheesecake with a ganache chocolate decoration and topped by milk chocolate mousse. Now, if that does not get you drooling, the Coppa Mascarpone will certainly do the trick. The Coppa Mascarpone has a layer of rich chocolate sauce, followed by creamy mascarpone and topped with chocolate shavings and a malted crunch. These two desserts alone will make you feel like you’re in heaven!

So, who says you can’t enjoy a wonderful evening out and explore the food of two countries in one night?!?!? This time our adventures brought us to Little Italy and Chinatown, who knows what will come next… maybe we will explore India and go to Curry Hill! Stay tuned…

Teariffic
51 Mott St.
New York, NY 10013

La Bella Ferrara
108 Mulberry St.
New York, NY 10013

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Kanwal’s Healthy Corner — Eating at Shabu Tatsu, NYC

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

By Kanwal Ullah

Taste of JAPAN

Last week, my dear Nina and I had a LONG overdue dinner date.

Sometimes, just being in the company of a good friend is all you need to lift your spirits and this is what Nina does for me! Nina and I decided to go to a Shabu Shabu restaurant. For those of you who don’t know, Shabu Shabu is where you are served thinly sliced raw meat and veggies, which you cook yourself in a wok of boiling water. When the meat is held with chopsticks and slushed around the wok, the Japanese think it makes a sound like “shabu, shabu” — hence the name. As you are cooking the meat and veggies in the boiling water, you are also making a flavorful broth. This is a great alternative to Korean BBQ. Shabu Tatsu in the East Village is one of the best restaurants around, for quality and service.

Our kind waiter sat us down and unveiled a square burner embedded in our table. He placed a wok filled with water and turned on the burner. Within a couple of minutes our meat and veggies were ready to be dunked! Nina and I ordered the beef tenderloin for two (the cheaper version on the menu, which is also less fatty) which was thinly sliced and given to us on a large platter. We were also given a large plate piled high with assorted veggies such as cabbage, carrots, and scallions. We also had tofu and noodles to cook in the broth. To accompany our meat we had two dipping sauces: one soy sauce based and one peanut/sesame based.

As soon as all our food was out and the water was boiling, Nina and I started dunking our meat and veggies. To add flavor to the broth, we began with the veggies first. As our veggies were being cooked we added small amounts of meat, which cooked in less than a minute. As the meat and veggies cooked, we pulled them out and enjoyed them with our sauce, over a bowl of fragrant rice. We also placed the noodles and tofu in, towards the middle of the cooking process.

We casually continued this process — dunk, cook, eat, repeat — and once all the meat and veggies were done, we had an extremely flavorful broth to enjoy! I love Shabu Shabu because truly, nothing goes to waste! I also loved this because it is such an interactive meal. As you’re having great conversation, everyone is enjoying cooking their meal!

Once our Shabu Shabu meal was done, it was time to move on to dessert.

Nina and I both enjoyed a bowl of fresh ice cream. I had the green tea, which was sweetened just right, made from real matcha powder and Nina had the chocolate, which probably tasted better than any other chocolate ice cream you’ve ever had. Nina confirms…

As we completed our meal, Nina and I went to sit outside — the East Village location has this lovely bench where to linger a bit — and we noticed a tall, burly Italian-looking man in a light suit. In a characteristic accent that made him sound like he had just arrived from Brooklyn, he shared his own wisdom: “Shabu Shabu, you can’t go wrong — it’s the Asian fondue!”  Yes, my friends, I leave you with his wise words and a strong suggestion for you to try Shabu Tatsu on your own.  This is truly an experience you will never forget!

Shabu Tatsu — East Village
216 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 477-2972
Website

All images ©Kanwal Ullah

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Kanwal’s Healthy Corner – Edible Arrangements

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

By Kanwal Ullah

Taste of HEALTH

One of my most favorite gifts to give someone is fruit. Why? I think it’s a delicious, healthy alternative to chocolate!! Fruit baskets, especially those arranged in an adorable affair are so sweet, nutritious and eye catching. This is why I was thrilled to learn that my friend opened up an Edible Arrangements on 56th Street in NY.

What’s even better about this particular Edible Arrangements is you don’t need to go in there to get your wonderful fruit arrangements, but you can stop on by for a delicious fresh fruit smoothie. These smoothies are extra special because they aren’t sweetened with sugar, but instead with the low glycemic index of all natural agave! This is seriously cool.

The other day I stopped in and bought a crustless banana cream pie. Think about it: freshly sliced bananas topped with whipped cream, white chocolate sauce and shredded coconut. This was so enticing that I asked the sweet lady behind the counter to forget putting the lid on it — I was ready to devour right then and there and that is exactly what I did!

As you can see this wonderful franchise is loaded with so many healthy options. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing smoothie on a hot summer’s day or some fruit to go with your breakfast or lunch, or even some chocolate covered strawberries to bring to a dinner party, Edible Arrangements on has it all! Stop by for all the great things offered!

Edible Arrangements

Located: 1756 Broadway (at 56th St)

New York, NY 10019

Phone number: 646-490-4000

All images courtesy of ©Kanwal Ullah & Edible Arrangements

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Kanwal’s Healthy Corner — Korean BBQ

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

By Kanwal Ullah

Taste of KOREA

One of the things I love about NYC is there is so much culture! If you are looking for ethnic cuisine, the possibilities are practically endless! My dear friend Nina and I have tried out raw, Indian and Middle Eastern food. Last week we ventured out to find some good Korean BBQ. There are many places in the city to try this out, but there was no other place than Korea-town to satisfy us. Korea-town, located on 32nd St. between 5th and 6th avenues has all things Korean, even a full on Korean grocery store.

Although there were many places in Korea town to try Korean BBQ, Nina and I decided to go to Hangang. The atmosphere was beautiful and relaxing and the service was wonderful as well. We were greeted and seated and then immersed ourselves in the menu. Nina and I, both being health conscience, opted for the lean bulgogi beef and chicken BBQ. We also ordered a side of shrimp shumai. Little did we know we ordered too much!

Once our order was placed, our waiter quickly brought out six little dishes of appetizers, ranging from kimchi to tofu. As we were indulging on our delicious appetizers and great conversation our protein came out. The waiter quickly took the beef and placed it on the grill, quickly turning the meat when needed. Within a few minutes we were eating deliciously seasoned grill beef. Bulgogi is usually marinated in garlic, soy sauce, sugar, honey, and fruit juice and sesame oil. You could definitely taste the light sweetness of the marinade.

As soon as we finished our bulgogi, our waiter quickly changed our grill plate and started on the chicken. Within a few minutes our chicken was being grilled to perfection. Soon, we were indulging in moist, tender, marinated pieces of chicken breast. The chicken was delicious, but I did find the bulgogi tastier.

As we were munching on our chicken and appetizers, we noticed our little shrimp shumai calling us for attention. As stuffed as we were, we did have at least one, you know, just so the shumai did not feel neglected… :-p

As our meal was coming to an end, we were given wedges of orange which was the perfect end to this meal! The light citrus cleansed our palettes, letting us enjoy our Red Mango!

Hangang is definitely a place I would go to again. If you are interested in good Korean BBQ and happen to be in the area, please do check this out.

Hangang34 west 32nd St., New York, NY 10001, phone (212) 736-0099

All images by Kanwal Ullah ©2011

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