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Archive for the ‘Food Travels’ Category

I couldn’t leave New York City without making a trip to Greenwich Village for Magnolia Bakery’s Cupcakes. I have been their once before (and waited in a line that went around the corner the first time I stopped by) and was captured by the charm of the quaint bakery that has  a BIG reputation. For a Sunday dessert, my parents and I decided to have one last bite of NYC, and sample the cupcakes. We tried: Chocolate-Chocolate Frosting, Vanilla Butter Cream, Chocolate Butter Cream and White Cake Lemon Meringue. It was a sweet way to round out my Spring Break….and I always love ending on a sweet note!  Tomorrow it’s back to school, books, and HOME COOKING (missed it so much this past week!). Is it weird that one of my favorite things about coming home is the fact that I have to go grocery shopping? I can’t wait to be back in the kitchen!

Sweet Dreams,

Nora

What is your latest “food find” or favorite flavor combination?

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On our last day in New York City, it rained, and rained, and rained some more. BUMMER! We had a free afternoon, and were lucky enough to be able to take a tour of NBC Studios, and see Mama Mia! Both were so much fun, and we were happy to be indoors and out of the rain. Our eats reflected those of our first day: Deli Sandwiches and Pizza.

For lunch, we ducked into a place near Broadway to get out of the rain. It was another “tourist” type eatery, and although the food was okay, it wasn’ t spectacular and the dining environment was less than pleasurable. The dishes were spectaculars: oversized and overpriced. My brother ordered a turkey club, which had  well over a pound of deli turkey, a ball of bacon wrapped in tomato and lettuce, and was about a foot tall. Needless to say, he had an interesting time attempting to eat it. All of the tables were placed so close together, that I felt involved in other conversations. The service was slow, and after sending me the wrong meal, took an additional 25 minutes to deliver the correct dish. By this time, my entire family had finished their lunches and I was starving.

Wrong Sandwich

Right Sandwich

I ordered the Caprese Chicken Sandwich on Rosemary Foccicia. When our order came, the sandwich they gave me was a plain toasted sub roll with dry chicken, lettuce and tomato. Normally, I wouldn’t complain about a mix up, but this sandwich did not look appetizing. When my correct lunch came out, I was less than impressed. The bread was okay but not fresh, the chicken was dry, the tomato flavorless, and topped with plain iceberg. The mozzarella was the best part of the sandwich, but was minimal. The bread was dressed with balsamic, which ended up making the bottom piece of foccicia soggy. I had to add ketchup to it so it wouldn’ t be so dry! I NEVER do that to rather complex sandwiches because I like to taste their flavor, but this was so bland and dry I had to!

Dinner was an improvement! THANK GOODNESS! I hate leaving a meal unsatisfied, unhappy or wishing I had ordered something else. Lunch was one of those “unhappy” food moments, and I needed something for dinner to boost my mood. Since it was raining, we decided to grab food to bring back to our room. My brother wanted pizza, so we set out in search of some GOOD slices, determined not to make the same mistake twice. After looking at a few places, we found a small pizza place that seemed to be very popular. From their slices, to impressive dessert selection, this place was the “Taste of New York” we were hoping for. When I walked in, the first thing that caught my eye was the dessert case. It also caught my dad’s eye, and we ended up getting our favorite Italian dessert: Cannoli. I ordered a slice of Margarita Pizza and had half of a Plain Cannoli and half of a Chocolate Covered Cannoli for dessert.

Still in the box!

YUMMY GOODNESS!...yes, the plate is on a hotel bed.

My dessert ...on paper towel.

PIZZA PERFECTION!!! It was huge and had a thin, crispy crust. There was still a “doughy” texture on the top of the crust, and was dressed with the perfect amount of homemade sauce (heavy on oregano!), fresh mozzarella and Parmesan melted with garlic, and finished with fresh pieces of tomato and whole basil leaves.

The cannolis…..just look at them. There are no words. They were generously filled and topped with chocolate chips—I savored every last bite. It was the perfect way to end our trip to the Big Apple.

Vacation Complete,

Nora

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

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On Wednesday morning, I woke up to sunshine, a blue sky and mild temperature in NYC. My dad and I enjoy running, so we took advantage of the rare weather conditions, and ventured out to Central Park. In such a crazy and busy city, this plot of land provides some serenity. It was absolutely beautiful. When we got back to our hotel, I needed some fast fuel so I dug into my “travel food” stash and had a cup of Greek Yogurt, Bear Naked Fruit and Nut Granola, and a big Jonagold Apple.For breakfast the other days we found a small, family-run diner around the corner. It was charming, and one of the few places in the city that didn’t charge an arm and a leg for a bowl of cereal. I ended up ordering the same thing both times we went:  Spinach, Tomato, and Mushroom Egg White Omelet with Potatoes and Whole Wheat Toast.It was huge, but so delicious! Naturally I covered the omelet in hot sauce and ate every last bite of goodness! It came with 2 pieces of this toast (I had about 1.5 slices) which I smothered in Concord Grape Jelly. The potatoes were fresh, but a bit bland so I didn’t finish them. I am not big on hash browns/potatoes for breakfast, but I cannot resist the crispy topping that is generated when they are cooked in a skillet! This breakfast was simple, and had such a familiar, traditional taste.

The basketball games were from about 12pm-4pm and 7pm-11pm each day, so a variety of snacks found their way into my bag:

Fruit and Nut Delight (so hungry...needed a pre-picture bite)

PB&J LaraBar

How'd this get there?

Beer that comes with a pretzel...genius.

I love snacking on LaraBars and KIND Bars. They satisfy my hunger, are portable, and delicious. I also found a Haagen-Dazs Vanilla and Almonds ice cream bar in my bag…weird. My sweet tooth always needs tending to after dinner, so I had to buy one of these during a 7pm game. The last picture was a necessary 12pm beer for the Syracuse game. There was a place in the stadium that sold beer in cups with a pretzel in the handle. It was my only overpriced beer of the Big East Championship, but the pretzel TOTALLY made it worth it.

A few of the days we ended up having late lunches or early dinners. When I am not particularly starving for a meal, nothing is better than a satisfying salad. I had a

Rotisserie Chicken and Grilled Vegetable Salad for a light lunch.And for an early dinner, I had a Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, Arugula and Hazelnut Salad completed with a multigrain roll from the bread basket. I had to take a picture of the basket because I have never seen so much variety. It contained: sourdough, multigrain, rosemary, and fennel-raisin.I also had some of the fennel-raisin roll, and was shocked by the anise flavor;  it was interesting and amazing. A lot of the food that I tried on this trip has inspired me to try new flavors and varieties in the things I make at home. I wish I had more time to explore the eateries and markets while I was there, I love how much culture is contained in one place.

To Food Ventures,

Nora

In your opinion, what major city has the best food? Do you plan places to eat before you travel, or stumble upon them when you are there?

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Iguana

The Iguana Restaurant in New York City is Mexican done right… times infinity. I come from a family of differing tastes, and after our meal at Iguana we each left with words of praise.

The food was fresh, innovative, and extremely flavorful. The service matched the high standard of food; they were attentive and went out of their way to ensure that we had a pleasurable dining experience. A waiter noticed my father contemplating a dish on the menu and came over to explain it’s composition, and offered him the option to change the dish to accommodate his spice preference. This is something I consider to be extreme customer service. In a busy, popular restaurant this can be hard to come by, but Iguana demonstrated a high commitment to their patrons.

To start, we ordered frozen margaritas and house made guacamole. Our drink selection was rather difficult, because Iguana has an impressive 25 different flavors of mojitos and margaritas on their menu. We ended up ordering a pitcher of pomegranate margaritas, which were mind-blowing. I would never consider this flavor to make an exceptional margarita, but between the tequila, ice, juice and salt rimmed glass came an explosion of refreshing flavor.

Pomegranate Margarita

The guacamole was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I am a guacamole and avocado aficionado, so this was a big deal to me. The guacamole is made table side to your heat preference, combining fresh avocado, white onion, cilantro, tomato, jalapeño, salt and lime with a mortar and pestle. The mix is served with a side of salsa and red, white and blue chips. The picture I have posted doesn’t do this treat justice, and it was devoured in less than five minutes.

For our main course, my mother and I ordered the Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quesadilla, my father ordered Chicken Tacos and my brother ordered the Chicken Burrito.

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quesadilla

Chicken Tacos

We were so infatuated with our meals, that silence fell as we enjoyed these creations. I had to take a picture of my dad’s chicken tacos, as well as my own dish, because the presentation was outstandingly appealing.

The Roasted Vegtable and Goat Cheese Quesadilla, was unique to any other I have ever tried. I couldn’t comprehend the divine flavors I was experiencing, they were melded to perfection. In fact, the term ‘quesidilla’ doesn’t do this dish justice. It was a single crispy tortilla, topped with sophisticated ingredients, bringing them out in all of their glory. The sweet corn and zucchini were paired with creamy avocado and goat cheese, and delicately flavored with salsa and jack cheese. I couldn’t stop raving about this dish, and even engaged in a heart-felt conversation with our waiter about my admiration for their thoughtfulness and dedication to providing excellent food. Honestly I am floored. My family came to the consensus mid-meal that we would be back the next night, and so we did.

Upon arrival, the staff remembered us from the previous night and immediately established the guacamole cart at out table. They jokingly asked if I brought my camera again, which of course I did. I usually am apprehensive about using my flash to take pictures of food in restaurants, but with their approval I did. After our guacamole was prepared to perfection, we decided to order a pitcher of Raspberry Margaritas. These were delicious, but my family agreed that we like the surprising flavor of the pomegranate margaritas a bit better.

Holy Guacamole!

Raspberry Margarita

For the main course my mom and I ordered the Ahi Tuna with Grilled Asparagus, Apricot and Jalapeno Chutney and Sweet Potato Fries, my father ordered the Rock Shrimp Tacos, and my brother ordered the Beef Tacos. Again, these meals did not disappoint.

Ahi Tuna

The Ahi tuna was perfectly seared, and the apricot chutney brought all of the “sweet and heat” flavors together.

We decided that dessert was a must this time, and split the Sopapillas and a Tres Leche Cake:

Sopapillas

Tres Leche

The light caramel and vanilla flavors were a perfect end to our full flavored meals. Iguana is a must try when in NYC, and I want to thank the staff for such a wonderful dining experience!!

Cheers to Iguana,
Nora

Have you ever had a restaurant experience that left you speechless? If so where?

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AHH!!! I’ve been internet deprived, but did not forget about my blog. I have a few posts from the last three days so keep checking back!!

DAY 1:

My family and I don’t travel to New York City often, so upon arrival we wanted two things: deli sandwiches and pizza. For a late lunch we stumbled upon what seemed to be a popular sandwich/salad/ soup establishment. My mom and I ended up splitting an Avocado, Turkey, Swiss Cheese Panini and an Eggplant, Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella Panini. Each sandwich was served on warm, stretchy pita bread and melted to perfection. I love the flavor combinations of Swiss/avocado and tomato/basil/mozzarella; they are staples in my diet, but sadly these sandwiches were only sub par. They were good, but not the authentic bite I was hoping for.

Left: Eggplant, Right: Turkey/Swiss

To add to my disappointment, later that evening we decided on a quick slice of pizza for dinner. I wasn’t very hungry since we had such a late lunch, but it was one of those “if you don’t eat now you will be starving later” moments. My mom and I both decided on the vegetarian pizza which was topped with spinach, onions, green peppers, tomato and parsley.

It was awful. I am a believer that there is no such thing as bad pizza, but this was bad. The crust was the consistency of cardboard and the flavor was semi-sweet, reminiscent of wine crackers. The toppings were all of the frozen sort and were dry when baked. I ate the whole piece but I have to admit, it was not enjoyable. My mom ended up leaving about half on her plate, unable to endure the poor flavor any longer. My college cafeteria pizza might be….no, definitely is more appetizing. Major ‘ Big City’ let down.

To Better Food Ventures,
Nora

What has been your most disappointing dining experience?

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Lately, I feel as if I have been bitten by the travel bug. I constantly think of the foreign lands I want to adventure to, the sights I want to see and the food I have been dying to experience. I have read about European cheeses, French wine, distinguished Italian flavors and Greek cuisine but feel that I can not truly define their essence until I have  traveled and immersed myself in their societies. One day I will plan this dream trip, but until then, I will just have to let it influence the foods that I try locally. This morning, I took a little inspiration from Europe, integrating Crofter’s Europe Superfruit Spread into my overnight oats.

Crofter's Superfruit Europe

Overnight Oats

In the bowl: 1/3 cup steel-cut oats, soaked in 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1/3 cup Greek Yogurt and cinnamon overnight. In the morning add 1 TBS  Almond Butter, 1-2 TBS Crofter’s Europe Superfruit Spread and 1/2 of a large banana.

The Europe spread was amazing! It is composed of black currents and pomegranate blended with morello cherries and red grapes. The black currents are the star of this spread. After mixing my bowl together I continuously found whole currents, and each bite provided an explosion of  tart/sweet, decadent, and concentrated current favor. I love this in my cold oats, but think it would be even more amazing heated over ice cream, or pancakes!

Traveling Through Food,

Nora

Do you enjoy trying global cuisines and “traveling through food”? What is your favorite?

**REMINDER, CHOBANI CONTEST ENDS TONIGHT AT 10pm!!**

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I find the extent to which food differs from culture to culture extremely fascinating. No two have the same staple flavors or ingredients in their defining dishes, yet they never fail to provide comfort and warmth. When I have the opportunity to try new foods I always jump at the chance. Not only am I excited to try something new but I also enjoy engaging in cultural experiences.

I’ve been wanting to try Pho (Vietnamese noodle dish) for a while now. I have seen it featured on various food websites and in magazines(even more so in the winter months) and was curious about the elements that make this dish so prominent. Whenever I have something for the first time, I always make sure it is as close to authentic as I can get, so that I am REALLY immersing myself in the heritage it originated from. After looking through many reviews, and speaking to local residents who are Vietnamese, I found a small family owned restaurant not too far from my apartment.

I dined with two of my closest friends and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was a quaint place and the atmosphere was both comfortable and welcoming. To start, we each ordered fresh spring rolls which were comprised of thin strips of pork and shrimp, vermicelli noodles, mint leaves, wrapped in rice paper and served with a side of peanut dipping sauce. For our main course we had “Pho Ga” aka chicken pho. It is the coldest night of the year thus far, and this could not have been a better choice for dinner. It was a gigantic bowl filled with delicate rice noodles, tender pulled chicken and onions in warm broth carefully flavored with chives and cilantro. It was served with a plate of bean sprouts and lime juice to be added at one’s preference. I added a mound of bean sprouts, 2 lime wedges and sriracha chili sauce to give it a bit more kick (Hey, it’s cold!). The bean sprouts absorbed the broth and still maintained a crunchy texture, and the lime was a perfect accent to the cilantro in the broth. This dish was amplified by the chili sauce. I added it after analyzing all of the flavors and tasting the dish in pure form. Let me tell you, unlike most hot sauces, the sriracha did not mask any flavor, it enhanced it. Each bite was soothing my cold bones.

I will PHO be back,

Nora

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