Tuesday, May 1, 2012

EPIC Weekend in NYC and BOS

Cue Alicia Keys...

New Yoooooooooooooooooork
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of...
There's nothing you can't doooo...

So I caught a red eye Virgin America flight to New York and met up with Filipino Jay-Z himself Kuya Chip aka @angcolette and his wifey and my dear friend Pinay Beyonce aka Lara aka @spelles.  I had a pretty good sleep.  The last thing I remember was flying toward the border of California and Nevada and then waking up less than an hour from NYC.  Good ish.  Here is a recap of the good food we ate in the days we had in the Big Apple and the great eats I had on my solo trip to Boston.

Enjoy, my friends.

xoxo,
Jo

Friday, April 20, 2012 - Empire State of Mind


Talk about me hitting the ground and running! I landed in JFK at about 8:30 am and cabbed it from the airport over to our hotel on Madison near the Flatiron district.  I was lucky enough to get early check-in (thank you Carlton Hotel!!), so I got freshened up and waited for my companions to meet me.


We left the hotel at around 10:30 in time to beat the lines at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, which was only 2 blocks from our hotel.  While we were walking, I explained that it didn't hit me yet that I was in New York.  This was not my first time coming to New York, but maybe it was because I was already so comfortable being there.  I love NY.  The weather was great too.  Take a look at those tulips.  So beautiful.


Shake Shack - Flatiron - E 23rd Street and Madison (in the park) - Chip told me that Shake Shack was "life-changing."  Seriously?  Life-changing?  We were about to find out!  I was happy that the weather was nice enough that we could eat outside.  It's truly the ideal way to eat a Shake Shack burger.  One reason why I wanted to come here was because the characters in one of my favorite movies, "Something Borrowed" always went to Shake Shack. 


While Lara and Chip got a single and double, they told me to get the Shack Stack which is their 'Shroom Burger (crisp-fried Portobello mushroom filled with melted Muenster and Cheddar cheeses) AND cheeseburger in one sandwich.  Are you kidding me?!  My girl Steph from Lick My Spoon told me to get it.  Oh boy.  It truly was something.  I think it's a bit over the top for my taste, but it was delicious.  I was set with just eating half of it.  

So was it life-changing?

I don't know how to explain it other than, I wish we had Shake Shack in SF and now I am having a mad craving for it.  I loved the whole meal.  The meat on that burger has FLAVOR  and the crisp French fries were perfectly cooked.  We didn't even have a chance to try their desserts!  All I know is that when I do come back to NYC, I will definitely book the same hotel and eat Shake Shack for my first meal after getting off the plane.

So tell me, does that sound life-changing to you?


Eataly - Flatiron - 200 5th Street - Right across the street from Madison Park is Eataly - the project belonging to Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali, and Lidia and Joe Bastianich. Yes, I was in heaven.  Heaven.  Everything you need to make an incredible Italian feast is here for the taking from cheese to fresh pasta (check out that squid ink pasta!) to vino to cookware to produce...and everything in between.  I can spend the whole day here wandering around and noshing my way to each restaurant and wine bar.  It's really an amazing place if you love food like we do. 


Now since we didn't indulge in dessert at Shake Shack, we went for the gelato here at Eataly.  Each flavor we sampled was rich with flavor, but I couldn't pass up their special which was the "Ricotta Umbria" or ricotta cheese and almond gelato.  The sweet cream gelato was so pure in cream flavor - that was a close second.  Lara and Chip went for a double and chose hazelnut and pistachio.  All the flavors were amazing. 


Rice to Riches - Nolita - 37 Spring Street - After taking the subway and shopping at Supreme and Uni Qlo in SOHO, we walked over to Rice to Riches...as if we weren't already full from earlier.  I saw this place on the Food Network and I mean, doesn't hurt to try out the flavors, right?  "Coast to Coast Cheesecake" sound PERFECT.  From the Westcoast we came and arrived on the Eastcoast to enjoy ourselves.  If you like your cheesecake creamy (which I do), this is the ideal flavor for you.  Other notable flavors were the Fluent in French Toast, Take Me to Tiramisu, and "Category 5" Caramel.


Cafe Habana - Nolita - 17 Prince Street - As if we weren't full (again), we headed to nearby Cafe Habana where Chip said he got his inspiration for his elote, or grilled and seasoned corn.  The corn is roasted which leaves a lovely charred taste on the sweet kernels.  Then they spread on mayo, fresh cotija cheese, and chili powder.  Chip finished it off with a squeeze of lime.

Good?

Si si!

After wandering around SOHO a bit more, we headed back to the hotel to rest up.  More incredible edibles were on the horizon in the Lower East Side!


Maharlika - East Village - 111 1st Avenue - Y'all know that I am always on the lookout for Filipino food anywhere I go.   The Pinoy food scene here in NYC is booming.  Maharlika is one spot that is getting tons of press and it was definitely somewhere we had to hit up.  Their menu is very whimsical from the images of Filipino celebs to the names of their cocktails - care for a Pacquiao’s Punch or a Pops Fernandez?  

I got the "Gloria Diaz" which is simply Tang and sparkling wine.  Lara opted for the "Zsa Zsa Padilla" which is a concoction of Tang and Campari and Chip got the classic San Mig.  Instead of bread to whet our appetites, we received complimentary chicken chicharon.  Yes, fried chicken skin.  It was good dipped in their spiced vinegar.


When I saw the SPAM fries, I immediately thought of our friend Arnold aka Inuyaki.  We ate these in his honor.  Dipped in banana ketchup and eaten with a mouthful of their garlic fried rice - perfect.  The special of the night was their chicken and waffle plate:  chicken topped with bagoong butter over an ube waffle and served with macapuno syrup.  While each part of the dish is good, eating all of them in one bite is amazing!  You really get the flavor of ube in the waffle.  The bagoong butter caught me by surprise because I took a huge portion of skin and ate it.  The butter was delicious.  I would eat it over rice.


A dish that is pretty well-known nowadays is sisig.  While majority of the sisig out there is primarily made with just meat, the version here is "Pampangan Style" on a sizzling platter.  It contains pig ears, snout, and belly, garlic, chilies, and lemon.  An egg is added last minute and it cooks in the heat of the platter.  To make ours extra-special, we added crushed up chicken skin, vinegar, more raw chilies, and Magic Sarap.  The texture of this type of sisig is a bit different because the pig face parts turn gelatinous as they cook.  I actually prefer that type of sisig over the version with just meat.
 

 I wanted to order this because Poqui Poqui is an Ilocano dish very similar to baba ganoush.  I remember the days Inang would stand in front of our gas stove roasting off long Japanese eggplants she bought from the farmers market.  She peeled them, mashed them up, and combined them with tomatoes and salted egg.  It really brought me back to my childhood.  I remember eating it with some sort of protein like tapa (marinated beef) or fried tilapia, but here at Maharlika, I was content eating it with the SPAM fries.  I would go back just for the SPAM fries, poqui poqui and rice. 


Big Gay Ice Cream Shop - East Village - 125 East 7th Street - The marathon eating continued on to dessert!  I follow Big Gay Ice Cream on Twitter and their conversations with Anthony Bourdain and his wife are hilarious.  This was a must-go for me.  I am so happy I came!  I had to have the "Salty Pimp" which is vanilla soft serve on a cone that is topped and injected with sweet caramel, then sprinkled with freshly ground salt, and finally dipped in their version of Magic Shell.  Essentially, the chocolate hardens on the cold ice cream creating a fantastic crisp coating.

Best. Thing. Ever.

There are so many sensations and flavors going on from the vanilla to the chocolate to the saltiness, yet they all work in the most amazing way.  I am so stealing this idea and making it at home.

I'm a self-proclaimed ho belonging to the Salty Pimp.


Japadog - East Village - 30 St. Mark's Place - Okay, this is another joint that Chip swears by.  On our way to Maharlika, we passed Japadog in  St. Marks Place and Lara and Chip's eyes lit up like it was Christmas Day.  After dinner at Maharlika, Chip claimed he didn't eat as much there so he would have room for the Japadog.  Uh-huh, sneaky sneaky there!  Japadog originated in Vancouver, Canada and the store in NYC opened back in January of this year.  Chip ordered their signature "Terimayo" with a Kurobuta pork sausage.  I denied a taste initially, but I was talked into trying it.  The mayo, teriyaki sauce, and seaweed strips were perfect with the juicy sausage.  Now I am craving this sausage again!  Good stuff!


What you don't see in between Japadog and this stop at Veselka is our time dancing at Drom - a club where Lara met a friend.  The DJ primarily played Latin and Reggaeton beats AND a band came out and sang covers of Selena!  Como la flooooooooor...  I absolutely loved it there!  Other than being incredibly sweaty and a guy spilling his cold drink down my back, it was ALL GOOD!  Don't worry, he apologized.  Ha!

Veselka - East Village - 144 2nd Avenue - After the club, we headed back to the hotel, but we saw this spot which claimed is a "right of passage" for NY club heads who waddle out of the club at 2 in the morning.  Veselka is the type of spot that you would not find in San Francisco.  NYC has a much larger Eastern European population.  So here, they serve Ukrainian food which is a delight to me because it's so new to my palate.  Lara got the latke, or potato pancake served with apple sauce.  I wanted something warm and comforting, so I got the Matzah Ball soup.  The broth, which also contained shredded chicken, was absolutely incredible.  It was clean and had so much flavor.  I dipped sliced bread into it and it made me feel so happy.  Chip got the Pierogis, which are Ukrainian-style dumplings that are served with sour cream, apple sauce and sauteed onions.  The fillings vary from cheese to potato to cabbage to beef.  They were delicious. 

And...when we got back to the hotel...we knocked out!

Saturday, April 21, 2012 - From the West to the East

Because Chip and Lara had a wedding to attend in Jersey on Saturday and especially since I didn't know the couple, I stayed behind in Manhattan.  I did, however, book a food tour of Greenwich Village with Foods of NYC.  We started the tour at around Noon and took in the sights of these awesome neighborhood.


Joe's Pizza - West Village - 7 Carmine Street - You can't go to New York without having a NY slice.  Joe's Pizza was our first stop and I was starving by the time we got there.  This slice is perfect from the luscious cheese to the tomato sauce.  We were informed that nothing is added to the tomatoes, so all you get is pure tomato flavor.  I, myself, am a thin-crust lover, so this was perfect.


O & Co. - West Village - 249 Bleeker Street - Our next stop was O & Co., a specialty shop that carries olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and other lovely treats from the Mediterranean.  The first bite we tried was a basil-infused olive oil simply drizzled over some bread.  The next was a cheese spread made with a little tomato and truffle.  It was to die for.  You can spend the whole day there sampling all their oils and vinegars.  I spotted a little bottle of truffle-infused oil.  I want it! 
  

Palma - West Village - 28 Cornelia Street - Our next stop was Palma. What was special about this place was that we were not going to eat in the main dining room. No no, the owners created a special dining area called the Carriage House, for their special guests in the back of the restaurant - hidden from the street. It almost looked like it could be part of someone's home kitchen. Very charming.


What was prepared for us was a nice saute of cauliflower, pine nuts, and currants.  I usually don't like cauliflower because I think it's pretty bland, but the sweetness of the currants added a nice quality to the dish.

This seemed to be a favorite among the group. 


Centro Vinoteca - West Village - 74 7th Avenue S - Next came Centro Vinoteca, a cool wine bar that serves Italian food with a modern twist.  This was a great place to go to because the places visited had a rustic or home-style touch to them.  For my drink, I got the "Fragola" - a refreshing mix of Prosecco and muddled strawberries.  


As for the bites, we were given a little sampler of their lunchtime "piccolini": bacon wrapped Medjool dates with gorgonzola, zucchini parmesan fritters with spicy tomato sauce, Rosario's truffled deviled egg, and an artichoke with grana padano cheese.


Milk & Cookies - West Village - 19 Commerce Street - Down the block and around the corner from Centro Vinoteco is Milk & Cookies Bakery. Oh my word. The aroma coming from this shop is uh-may-zing. 


If Bubz ever found out what kind of cookie I had, he would be totally jealous.  These chocolate chip oatmeal cookies came right out of the oven, so imagine - their edges were still crispy and the center was buttery and tender.  The chocolate chips were still warm and melty.  So good!  It would have been absolutely perfect if we had a glass of milk along with it! Great stuff, Milk and Cookies!


Faicco's Italian Specialties - West Village - 260 Bleeker Street - Our next stop was Faicco's Italian Specialties - a lovely lovely (mouth-watering) meat shop. If I had a kitchen in NYC, I would have picked up some meat from here and cooked them as soon as I got there. Don't those sausages look great? There is also a healthy selection of Italian condiments and pasta take-home entrees.


Here we tried the arancini, which are cheese and rice balls. If you have ever lived on Gellert in Daly City, you would know that Luigi's made great rice balls that were filled with meat. These, sans viande, are breaded and fried leaving a delightfully crisp outer shell that was not greasy at all.  Win.


Murray's Cheese Shop - West Village - 254 Bleeker Street - Murray's Cheese was actually our meeting spot for the tour and it was good to know we would be coming back to try their cheese eventually. We were informed that there are underground caves underground where their cheeses ripen. Amazing! Cheese caves in NYC? Who woulda thunk it? We had a choice of three cheeses - sheep, goat, and cow - as well as a cheese straw, salami from San Francisco, and green pitted olives.  I was pleasantly surprised with the olive.  I hate briny black olives (Jayla LOVES them), but these green ones ate like fruit. 


Scali Caffe - West Village - 245 Bleeker Street - It was sad to face it: we were at our last stop on our tour - Scali Caffe aka Scalinatella Trattoria Wine Bar.  Here we were in for a treat!  Dessert!  You can't come to NYC without having cheesecake, but this was a different type of cheesecake.  While NY-style is very dense and rich, Scali's is very light - almost had the consistency of flan.  I appreciated that it was on the light side because I was full!!


Okay, just kidding.  I wasn't THAT full.  We basically walked around for 3 hours, so I concluded that we worked off majority of what we had eaten.  Not only did we eat our way through Greenwich Village, we also visited notable apartments and buildings in the area including the narrowest apartment in NYC and the apartment from Friends.
 
Time for lunch #2!  I did want to explore, so I walked from the West Village over to the East Village.  I had two spots I wanted to hit up:  Baohaus and Momofuko Milk Bar.  I walked through NYU and Washington Square Park.  By the time I got to Astor Place, I got really tired, so I took the 6 up to Union Square.


BaoHaus - Gramercy/East Village - 238 E 14th Street - I heard of BaoHaus back in the day when they had beef with SF's Chairman Bao food truck regarding the names of NY's product and SF's truck title.  Eventually, SF's Chairman Bao truck had to change their name to simply "The Chairman."  I noticed there is a little TM on all of the bao menu items at Baohaus.

Anywho, all this drama did not deter me from trying NY's establishment out.  I love clamshell bao.  Knowing that I probably would be heading out for a late dinner...it was close to 4pm already...I only ordered two baos:  The Chairman Bao with a lovely slab of Braised All Natural Berkshire Pork Belly served with crushed peanut, cilantro, Haus Relish, and Taiwanese red sugar and The Adobo Bao™ of Braised All Natural Chicken and Pork served with cilantro, daikon radish, and cucumber slivers.

While the exchange of words between the East and West coast kinda hurt my heart, both bao made my tummy very happy.  While the pork belly was very good, the flavor of the adobo brought me back to my Inang's kitchen.  At $3 a pop, can't go wrong!  I was intrigued by the Linsanity Bao and their taro fries, but after everything I had just eaten, I had no business eating more than I ordered.  When I come back to NYC, I will make BaoHaus a place to visit again.


Momofuko Milk Bar - East Village - 251 E 13th Street - Down the street and around the corner from BaoHaus is David Chang's Momofuko Milk Bar.  When the folks of Milk Bar came to Hayes Valley and had a pop-up, SF foodies got in line for a taste of their Crack Pie and other goodies.  I heard some people waited for hours and did not even get to try the dessert because they sold out.  Since it was close by, I went in for a visit.  I came out with a Crack Pie and a Compost Cookie for Chip and Lara.  I waited for them to come back from the wedding to have dessert.  At first bite, the Crack Pie was way too sweet, but when accompanied by tea, it was very good.  I also scored a Lucky Peach tote bag as a keepsake.

Something happened to me when I got back to the hotel after picking up the treats from BaoHaus and Milk Bar.

I started to feel as if the energy had been sucked from my body.  I felt weak, tired, and I developed hives on my arms and chest.  Actually, everywhere that was exposed to the sun.

My sun allergy came back!

Bummer.  I stayed at the hotel for a couple hours to recoup and rehydrate.  At around 8 or 9 pm, something inside told me to snap out of it.  This is New York City for goodness sakes!  What was I doing in bed?!  Keat told me to go to Midtown to get chicken and rice from the Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th...


Halal Guys - Midtown West - 53rd Street and 6th Avenue -  ...that's exactly what I did.  Since the sun was gone, I was safe.  I took the 6 back up to Midtown and got in line.  You can't miss them.  Several people were already in the queue and I joined in.  I got two chicken and rice platters for me, Chip, and Lara to share.  People might think that I was somewhat crazy to venture out on my own at night.  In retrospect, the sun allergy probably clouded my judgement, but I am glad I went.

The way Chip scarfed down the chicken and rice and the way Lara hugged me made me believe that they enjoyed it.  That red sauce is lethal! Be careful with it!  So was my excursion out to Midtown worth it?  Oh yeah. 


Since I was so close, I decided to check out Times Square.

The last time I was in NYC, I stayed near Bryant Park so Times Square was just a stones-throw away.  It was great to be back, especially at night.  There were so many people out!  I <3 NY!

Sunday, April 22, 2012 - Our Last Day


Maison Ladurée - Upper East Side - 864 Madison Avenue - It was our last full day in NYC and it was pouring rain!  Talk about bi-polar weather!  I got heat stroke the day before and now I was at risk of catching a cold!  BUT!  That didn't stop Lara and I from going to Ladurée for French macarons.


Laduree is so pretty inside.  What I wanted was that Hello Kitty gift box that houses 8 lovely macs.  I got almond, chocolate & kalamansi, vanilla, orange blossom, cassis & violet, caramel...and I forget.  I apologize.  But aren't they pretty?  After Laduree, on the 6 we went to Chinatown!


Hop Kee - Chinatown - 21 Mott Street - Lara and I braved the rain and the crowded streets of Chinatown and met up with Chip's family at Hop Kee.  You might have seen this spot on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations; however, Chip and Co. have been coming here for years even before Tony visited.  From the looks of it, I think we even ate at the same table he did!

What was so dope about this place was that the waiters can spot a Filipino a mile away.  They talked to us in Tagalog!  Seriously!  He uttered words like "ma-init" -  "mami" - "salamat" - "masarap" - "manok" - So awesome.  Since Lara and I got there a little earlier than the rest of the clan who were traveling from Jersey, we started off with a little soup - pork noodle for me and some fried won ton strips with sweet and sour sauce.  When the rest of the fam came through, our feast began!


It was a special occasion because it was Chip's mom's birthday! We ordered her a plate of the crispy noodles with seafood - noodles are served on birthdays to signify good luck and a long life - as well as kang kong (which Bourdain got), walnut prawns, Peking pork chops, and crispy fried chicken.  This is what I love about having dinners at Chinese restaurants:  the family-style presentation, the old school flavors, and just how each dish hit the spot.  So glad we came here.


Krystal's Cafe 81 - East Village - 81 E 7th Street - After our very filling meal, we were crazy enough to go back to the East Village for some drAnks before heading for another filling meal in Brooklyn.

Disclaimer:  Before you read any further, please make sure no one under the age of 17 is reading this.  If you are 17 or under, look away and scroll down until you get past the next food picture.  I am not responsible for any corruption done to your brain if you do indeed read the following.

The reason why we came to Cafe 81 was because of Chip's cousin Kuya Ron Ron.  He tweeted us on Saturday and he said, " yo cuz take to that flip joint that serves "peck peck" juice on 7th..."

PECK PECK JUICE?

Okay.

Explanation:  peck peck or pek pek is a slang term for a female's lady parts.  So pek pek juice?  Did we really want to try it?  From the looks of us getting on the subway and walking through the rain under our umbrellas, we sure as hell wanted to.

- scene -

So Jo, Lara, Chip, and Joey walk into Cafe 81 and sit at the bar.  They get handed their menus.  Jo looks at the food menu and notices dinuguan, mongo, silogs.  She wishes she had a second stomach.  Chip and Joey look at the bar selection.

Chip (whispers):  Yo...there's no peck peck juice on the menu...

Jo:  Aww...Really?  (disappointingly)

Chip (to bartender):  My cousin told us to come here.  He said something about peck peck juice?

Bartender:  Ohhhh...are you talking about the STP?

Chip:  STP?  What's that?

Bartender:  Sweet tight p*ssy!

Everyone bursts out laughing.  Best believe each of us had a glass of that STP.  It's absolutely delicious with it's mix of peach schnapps and melon liqueur.  We tasted no alcohol.  Dangerous.  I adored how the drinks paid homage to Filipino food favorites like the Choc-nut and the Buko Pandan.  Here in the Bay Area, we have a resto called Attic in San Mateo.  I get a Weng Weng there 90% of the time.  I had a nice one on my birthday, so I thought it was time to relive that night.  The Weng Weng is pretty much known all throughout bars in the Philippines.  Let me just say that this particular one was STRONG.  I got buzzed in no time.

Cafe 81 - we will be back!! I am looking forward to coming back and watching the bartender shaking the martini shaker while chanting "pek pek pek pek pek pek pek..."  Good times!!

On to Brooklyn we go!!

Purple Yam - Ditmas Park, Brooklyn -  1314 Courtelyou Road - Honestly, Purple Yam deserves its own blog post, so I will migrate the following content onto an individual post when I get done.

I was somewhat starstruck coming to Purple Yam.  The owners of the restaurant, Amy and Chef Romy, are spearheads in the Filipino food movement.  Every Filipino cooking class I have attended, their cookbook is present.  Every conversation I have about preserving Filipino food in our country, Amy and Romy's names are mentioned.  So every time I corresponded with Amy on FB, my stomach fluttered a bit.  They are IT when it comes to promoting Filipino food in NY.

After walking through the wet weather again, we found ourselves at Purple Yam.  The restaurant I looked most forward to on this trip.  Our work here in SF is done out of passion and it is always a pleasure and often times an honor to be around those who have the same goal as we do.  Amy and Romy started their business a long long time ago.  If you have heard of Cendrillon, that was their restaurant.  While us the kapaMEALya krew started our events less than a year ago, Amy and Romy are true veterans and their drive and love for Filipino cuisine has been around way longer.  You can call them mentors to us.

We were seated at the rear of the restaurant near the back door to the patio.  Amy and Chef Romy arrived a little while after us and to our surprise talked and ate with us throughout the entire meal.  I was not expecting this at all...and I mean that in the most positive way...meaning while most restaurant owners talk and chat with their patrons, majority of them do NOT eat with them.  This just made this meal so special.  To share a meal and to talk about Filipino food and our love for it was incredible...especially when the ones you are eating are so influential in the Filipino food community.


Our first dish was "okoy"  - a fried shrimp fritter almost that was served with spicy vinegar.  I love fried things with suka!  Next came "Cua Pao" clam shell bao filled with pork belly and cilantro.  Two pork belly baos in one weekend?  Score!  No words to describe how good these two dishes were.


Next came mustard green wraps and they were filled with a spicy ground beef concoction, pickles, and fried taro root.  These are a fun take on your usual lettuce wraps.  So much robust flavor!  The "Pa Jun" was special - it is a Korean onion pancake, but here, Chef Romy used ramps!  Ramps are available for a very limited time during the year!


The next two entrees were out of this world.  Check it.  Confit duck adobo and shortrib adobo with burnt coconut cream.  Talk about extravagant.  I never had duck adobo before, but I absolutely loved it.  I love duck.  I love adobo.  Perfect.  The shortrib blew our minds away.  Lara did the honors and served all of us.  The meat was so tender and the bone was clean as a whistle when she was done portioning out the meat.  So incredibly tender and flavorful.  Adobo CAN be beautiful.  Look at those plates!


As if we weren't already wow'ed by everything that was put in front of us.  Chef Romy did a table side presentation of sinigang soured with green nectarines and topped with leek crusted fish.  The use of the green nectarines was genius.  I bit into one and the tart fruit was still a bit crisp even in the soup.  Sinigang doesn't have to have tamarind.  Nectarines, guava, and calamansi can be used to sour your soup.  Gorgeous.


We had to have some classics, so the kare kare and sisig were must haves.

The kare kare was accomanpied by a nice serving of bagoong which is a shrimp paste to add another dimension of flavor.  Amy saw that we had a bowl of plain steamed rice and asked me if I wanted to make it bagoong rice.  Um, if you are at Purple Yam, please do the same.  It was the perfect pair.  The vegetables and oxtail were tender and the peanut butter based sauce was amazing.

Let's talk sisig.

I have had many different types of sisig in my life.  This version is one of the best by far.  They used pig cheeks, ears and snout and seasoned it with lime and chilies.  This is just MY opinion, but I don't think sisig should just be all muscle meat.  It has to have some sort of face part in it.  Sisig has a distinct aftertaste from the melange of fat, meat, and cartilage and it can be found here.  Sisig is also supposed to be easy to spoon and eat.  There shouldn't be huge chunks of meat and cartilage.  The mix should have a nice uniform dice and have good flavor. 

THIS is how sisig is SUPPOSED to taste like.


Dessert!  We were so full by the time we reached dessert, but we couldn't resist.  Starting at the top left corner going clockwise:  kalamani meringue pie with guava sorbet, buko pie with macapuno ice cream, bibingka made with two cheeses, trio of ice creams: chocolate truffle, avocado, and purple yam (can't leave without having purple yam at Purple Yam!) and mango tart with mango ice cream.

Every dish here was phenomenal.  My top two were the bibingka and the purple yam ice cream.  I loved how the cheese in the bibingka added nice richness to it.  I am also happy to report that they make all their ice cream in-house.  The purple yam ice cream was to die for!


Talk about an EPIC meal.  Here I am pictured with Yahaira of Tweets Cakery, Lara, Amy, Chef Romy and Chip.  I was smiling to myself on the train back to Manhattan.

I can only be grateful to Amy and Chef Romy for being so hospitable and generous to us.  Chef Romy is an incredible chef and Amy is an awesome storyteller.  I am so happy to have met them both and to have the honor of eating their food.  Their cookbook is next to my bed and sometimes I just peruse through the pages.  I have never seen a book that makes Filipino food look so amazing.

Thank you again Amy and Chef Romy!  You are the BEST!  Bar none!

Monday, April 23, 2012 - Sometimes You Wanna Go...

The morning of my departure had finally arrived.  Chip and Lara caught an early flight back to SFO and I was left alone in the hotel room.  I debated if I should go to Les Halles, which was just 2 blocks away, but my laziness and melancholy state (and the extremely comfy bed) prevented me from doing so.  I waited until the very last minute to get up.  I was terrified.  Terrified of going to Boston by myself.  Terrified of the trip.  Terrified of getting lost.  Terrified of everything...but I had to do it.  My plane trip back to SFO was from Logan Airport, so I had to get there somehow.

I failed tri-fold when it came to breakfast.  Like I said earlier, I debated about going to Les Halles, but by the time I got up, there was no time.  First fail.  I just got ready, packed, and headed for Penn Station.  I failed again when I forgot to go to Donut Plant.  I completely forgot about it.  Boo.  Fail #3 was my breakfast.  It was an Auntie Anne's pretzel and a bottle of Coke.  Yeah, I know.  Here's a semi-fail.  I couldn't get a window seat and I fell asleep on the Amtrak, so I didn't take pictures of the beautiful scenery of Connecticut and Rhode Island.  I went back to sleep because I was...you guessed it...terrified.  From my aisle seat, I did see the shore and the woodlands.  It was gorgeous.  Maybe it's meant for only me to remember.  I was going into uncharted territory (in my book), and I needed to relax.  Seriously.


I got to Boston and arrived at South Station.  In retrospect, I should have gotten off at Back Bay because the place I was staying at was in the South End.  Me, the idiot who didn't research the subway enough, hauled ass from South Station to the Downtown Crossing station.  Yeah yeah, NOW I know there is a connecting train from South Station to Downtown Crossing.  I was given a crash course on the T as soon as I got there.  Fortunately, the subway system is incredibly tourist friendly.  I loved how the station on the Orange Line by the apartment is only 2 blocks away.  Score!  Massachusetts Avenue is beautiful with all its brick homes.  My hosts Thiago and Niles and their lab Ginger were amazing.  I loved my cute room!


Brasserie Jo - Back Bay - Colonnade Hotel - 120 Huntington Avenue - After spending a little time getting familiar with my new room, I headed over to Brasserie Jo where I met with my Twitter friend Rob Marais!  We had exchanged messages over the last few weeks and it was good to meet up with someone I *knew.*  Talk about vanity when I say this: I wanted to come here because it's MY restaurant!  Brasserie Jo in Boston?  C'mon!  It's meant.  Rob, on the other hand, has been coming here for years and it was refreshing to dine with someone who loves their city so much!  I had a lovely beef tartare and we shared a bottle of a red called Chanson to accompany our also shared cote d beouf which came with frites and aioli.  It was on the well side, but that was probably because we took our time eating and talking over our first course.  It did have nice flavor however.  Next time, less talking!  You might notice that we did not have dessert and here is why:

Bar at Clio - Back Bay - 370 Commonwealth Avenue - Rob took me to the Clio Restaurant where his friend and mixologist extraordinaire Todd Maul was creating drinks only a mad scientist would.  While Todd can pass for a hipster with his tattoo-clad arms and swagged out spectacles, something told me that he is more than just a mere hipster bartender.  Something was going on in his brain.  I don't know about you, but the air in Boston makes you believe everyone has a high IQ.  Blame Harvard, MIT, and Boston U, but Todd is a genius.

You may also notice that I do not have any pictures and here is why:

I put the blogger in me aside and just enjoyed the moment for what it was.  Sometimes we miss things when we try to take a picture looking through a lens.  I just let the moments happen.  Todd was making drinks by painting the sides of the glass with various reductions he concocted.  He pulled out decorated ice cubes infused with different flavors by using a pipette.  The last time I heard the word "pipette" was in my college chemistry course! 

The drink we enjoyed that night was what Todd tweeted as his "Random Drink Monday" called the  Capetown - Swedish punch, lemon, sherry, orange bitters and white port paint.

That was one dangerous drink.  I could drink 5 of those in one sitting.

"Give me your finger..." he told me as he took out a small bottle and dropper from his chiller.  He proceeded to put a drop of a clear liquid on it and I instinctively placed it in my mouth as soon as I can.  Crazy, I know.  It could have been Visine for all I know...I just met the guy.

Then the sensations started to happen.

While I relished in the flavors, he explained what was occurring on my palate.  He had somehow made an elixir that mimics how chocolate and mint molecules react when they reach the tongue.  He made this all with liquor.  Pure chocolate and mint flavors.

It was absolutely amazing!  Just as I was getting off my bar seat, I told Todd, "Can I call you every night before I go to bed so you can dictate your entire bar menu to me?"  He smiled.

I was dead serious. 

Then I turned to Rob and said, "I am going to sleep happy tonight."

And I sure did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - ...Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Boston. Mass.

I was really here.

I woke up and again, a nervousness came over me.  Thank God the public transportation here is newbie-friendly.  Once I got on, it was very easy to navigate.


I took the Orange Line from Mass Ave. to State and headed toward Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market.  I love how Keaton sent me there because it's all food related.  It's a nice spot to grab a bite to eat definitely.  It's also a nice place to get your Boston souvenirs and if you want to high-5 Carla at Cheers.


Boston Fried Dough - I saw Duff eat fried dough on television, so when I saw this little stand by Quincy Market, I stopped in for a little taste.  Besides, I hadn't eaten breakfast yet.  So they're kinda like a donut but kinda not.  The dough itself is not particularly sweet, but the powdered sugar.  My sister would have loved these.

PS:  Why do the men here remind me of Kurt's father from Glee?


I had a little time before I had to meet up with my Boston Foodie Tour group.  Our tour focused on the restaurants and eateries along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, so I went to the Long Wharf and took in the views.  It was slowly sinking in here that I was where I was.  Boston plays a huge part in United States history and I was happy to be there.

Our group met at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf and I was surprised to see there were only 3 of us and our tour leader Audrey.  You will see that having a small group is not a bad thing at all.


Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese Truck - Our first stop was this awesome truck which participated in Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race."  What was dope about the food tour was that Audrey took us around Boston and if she saw something good, it automatically became part of the tour.  Because there were only three of us on the tour, it was easier to be flexible with the schedule.  Roxy's IS usually on the tour itinerary but since they were leaving early that day, she switched the places around and we came here first instead of second or third.


The boys on the truck are beyond charming...and cute.  Talk about gasms on all levels.  The first sandwich that they hooked us up with was the "Mushroom Melt." Baby Swiss, mushroom duxelles, and scallions were melted in between two pieces of bread spread with mayo on the OUTSIDE. This ensures a crispier bite.  The second sandwich was the "Mighty Rib" with fontina cheese, braised short ribs, and caramelized onions. Both were incredibly delicious and rich!


Our next treat was over the top! Sausage poutine. Yes. Dear Lord. Fries topped with cheese curds and sausage gravy. I bet Keat is looking at this and shaking his head thinking, "You don't even like sausage, Jo!" let's just say that this dish made me like sausage. I couldn't bear parting with it, but I had too because we had to move on to the next spot.  This was just MY portion. After indulging in those two sandwiches, actually I ate a forth of each sammie, I had no business eating this poutine.  But damn, it was good.


Blue Inc. - Financial District - 131 Broad Street - Our next place was Blue Inc. which was located just across the street.  There  we met Chef Brad who made two yummy milkshakes for us.  I looked at the menu and saw that there was a butterscotch and truffle shake, but I was told they weren't serving it for the time being because they went back to trying to perfect the recipe.  Phooey.  Still, the root beer/marshmallow and blue raspberry shakes he created for us, complete with liquid nitrogen, were delicious and so unique.  The blue raspberry once totally reminded me of all those ICEEs that Tatay and Inang would get for me as a child.

PS:  I told him to just give me a "taste" of each milkshake.  God knows I didn't need a full serving.
 

As Chef Brad was preparing to make us his shakes, I checked in Foursquare real fast and saw that someone has suggested the "Anorexic Model." That totally intrigued me.  So I asked the really cool bartender what it was.  He proceeded to tell me lychee, cognac, St. Germain, among other things then he just said, "I'll make you one."

This is what I got.

Supposedly the chef of the restaurant has a fixation with Twiggy, who is a [really thin] supermodel from England.  You might have seen her on America's Next Top Model.

The bartender just gave me a sampler of the drink, but it was the perfect size.  I didn't need a whole drink.  Remember how I said that the tour can change at a moment's notice? Well, this drink was definitely not on the tour.  Free alky.  I totally lucked out on this one.


James Hook & Co. Lobsters - Waterfront - 440 Atlantic Avenue - I swear, I would have been happy if the tour had ended right then and there.  Audrey and my tour companions headed over to James Hook & Co.  There we had an essential Boston dish: lobster roll!


I made it a goal to have a lobster roll on this trip and I was going to get it! So stoked!  This was the most perfect lobster ever.  The chunks of meat were huge and so sweet. Nothing says "Welcome to Boston!" more than a good, fresh, lobster roll.



Trade - Waterfront - 540 Atlantic Avenue - As though we weren't stuffed already, we went to Chef Jody Adams' Trade.  The food here is reminiscent of the cuisine in California.  Fresh seasonal ingredients are used to compose flavorful dishes, one being their mushroom and fig flatbread which also has gorgonzola cheese, sage pesto, and walnuts. 


They made it to order and it took absolutely no time bake in their oven.  I'm not a fig person.  I'm not a stinky cheese person...But the combination works so well.  The sweetness from the figs cuts the funkiness of the gorgonzola.  Win.


Another bonus: the dessert given to us is usually not on the tour, but they gave it to us anyway.  Win again!  This was a rhubarb fool.  I can't even tell you what was in it.  All I know was that it was really yummy.


Clover - Downtown - Right when I thought we were done with the tour, Audrey rounded us up again and we headed toward South Station.  Hey, this place looks familiar.  Yup this was where I hauled ass the day before when I got lost.  Then the terrain all made sense to me.  I adored how walkable Boston is.

Clover is a vegetarian food truck that posts right in front of South Station.  Other times I passed by, I saw Bon Mee and other food trucks there as well.  We were each able to order something, but since we were so full, we shared an order of the parsnip fritters.  6 come in an order, but I could only eat one because I was stuffed.  They were sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. After I got over the initial heat, I realized that I did not notice the vegetable.  If someone told me parsnip was in there, I woulda called foul  because it ate like a dessert!


Crumbs Bake Shop - Financial District - 176 Federal Street - ANOTHER surprise came as a visit to Crumbs Bakery across the street from where the food trucks posted.  The flavors they have in this cupcakery are ridiculous. I was debating between the milkshake, Earl Grey, and cookie dough THEN I saw the Boston Cream.  How can you come to Boston without having Boston Cream Pie?  The chocolate ganache that graces the top of these perfect little cakes looks uber rich, but for me as a girl who isn't too much into chocolate as most, it was delicious.  The cake was what won me over.  It was moist and tender.  How all cupcakes should be.  While I wish they were a bit more generous on the custard filling, this cupcake made me very happy.


Doc Popcorn - South Station - Another surprise came when Audrey led me to South Station.  Ahhhh, familiar ground.  I was so panicky when I got off Amtrak on Monday that I did not even care to see the great eateries inside the station.  Here we visited Doc Popcorn.  I sampled the jalapeño and the kettle corn, but I came out with the sweet butter popcorn.  It's the perfect hybrid of buttered popcorn and kettle corn.

We finally made it to our last stop on our tour...not like we wanted it to end.  We had spent a full 3+ hours with each other and it was bittersweet to say goodbye to my companions.


Miel - Waterfront - 510 Atlantic Avenue - Miel is a French restaurant that is housed within the InterContinental Hotel.  It is just steps from the site of the historical Boston Tea Party!  Here, we sat down at a window table where we took the chance to unwind and chat before the end of the tour.


Again, we were given the opportunity to order any dessert from the menu, but one of my companions and I shared the honey pear tart because we were still so full and after all, "Miel" is "honey" in French.  They harvest their honey from bee hives located on the roof of the hotel.  Talk about using local ingredients!  Miel is such a gorgeous place and perfect for special occasion meals.  Yes, our tour was surely a special occasion.

And after this fantastic dessert, we said our goodbyes.  If you are in Boston, please check out Audrey's tours at Boston Foodie Tours.  You will not find yourself hungry at the end of the tour.  Thank you Audrey for the awesome day!

Of course, my day did not stop there!  More touring lovely Boston!

Off to the North End I went!


Neptune Oyster - North End - 63 Salem Street - After consulting my very helpful mobile map app, I made my way toward the very Italian section of Boston.  The North End's narrow streets gives it an old school feeling.  I walked past so many restaurants and specialty shops, but I was there for a particular eatery:  Neptune Seafood

I copped a spot at the bar and watched one of the ladies behind the counter shuck oysters and crack stone crab claws.  Like I said before, you cannot come to Boston without having some sort of seafood.  I treated myself handsomely here.

My quartet of oysters included Wellfleet, Island Creek, Katama Bay and Thatch Island which are all Massachusetts oysters.  I did want to stay in the New England oyster realm even though my sweet kumomoto oysters from Washington State were on the menu.  When in Boston, do as a Bostonion would do!  NE oysters are way saltier than our NW oysters.  I was not complaining though because I didn't break out too much!

I admit.  I have an allergy to shellfish.  Yes, I know of the repercussions, but I'M IN BOSTON.



Another dish one must have here is of course, Boston Clam Chowder.  Here is the difference between the stuff I usually get and the one I got here at Neptune.  BTW, Neptune is known to have the best chowdah in Boston.  Uh-huh.  At first bite, all I got was cream and clam.  That's all you need.  Fresh cream flavor.  Not gluey or gloppy.  Clean, creamy, and smooth.  And!  You get humungous clams.  Not diced up rubbery clams.  Here you get the whole clam and they are tender as can be.  Perfect.  Finally, I asked for a stone crab claw.  For kicks...because...I'm in Boston, b*tch!

Go big or go home!

 Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - Already Feeling at Home

My last day in Boston was sad also.  I did not think that I would be so attached to this place.  Like I said before, I was terrified to come here alone.  Everyone I met here on this trip I had met for the first time.  I was a stranger at first, but after riding the subway like a pro and maneuvering my way through town, I got so comfortable.  I did not want to come back to San Francisco.  Some part of me even wanted to miss my plane on purpose.

But I had to get up.  Sadly.



Flour Bakery + Cafe - South End - 1595 Washington Street - For breakfast, I headed to the South End and grabbed a sticky bun and Earl Grey tea at Flour Bakery.  As you probably saw, Chef Joanne Chang, the owner of Flour beat Bobby Flay in a sticky bun Throwdown.  Bonus: it was just 4 blocks away from the apartment I was staying at!


The sticky bun was all the carbs and sugar I needed to get me through the morning.  Call me crazy, but I took ANOTHER tour at Noon.  Yeah yeah yeah, my flight was at 4pm.  Totally pushing it, huh?  It was just a goodbye tour before heading back home.  The bus tour took us back to North End, Paul Revere's House, along the Greenway, up to the USS Constitution, through Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Downtown, South Station, and back to the Aquarium and Waterfront.


Our driver was very knowledgeable about the area.  Crash course in US History.  He said he had been doing this for more than 20 years. I stayed on the bus longer until it made another round back to the North End.

Why?


Modern Pastry - North End - 257 Hanover Street - I HAD to get a cannoli to smuggle back to San Francisco.  There is an on-going debate on whose cannoli is better - Modern Pastry or Mike's.  Because I was pressed for time, I only visited Modern Pastry.  Next time I will try Mike's!  They did lose some of their integrity en route to the west coast, but I stuck them in the fridge as soon as I got home.  When I pulled them out, I was so happy.  The shell did get less crisp, but the filling was absolutely delicious.  I promise to do a head-to-head when I get back and I promise to eat them there while they are fresh!

Before I knew it, I was rolling my overweight luggage to Logan International Airport.  I swear, the subway is incredible.  I got a Charlie Card pass when I first got to Boston, so all the public transportation I took was essentially covered under that pass.  Unlimited ride for $15.  Can't beat that.

Turns out that Virgin America only has one check-in counter at Logan as opposed to SFO having an entire terminal dedicated to Virgin.  Also, it weirded me out that TSA screens happen right before boarding right next to the check-in counter.  I am so used to walking miles from check-in to boarding, but everything is done within a close vicinity, that I had time to shop and catch a quick meal before entering the plane.


Legal C Bar - Logan International Aiport Terminal B - This is a spot from the same guys as Legal Sea Foods at the Waterfront.  We passed Legal Sea Foods on our food tour, but we didn't get to eat there.  When I saw the airport restaurant, I knew I had to take that chance. While I was tempted to get the clam chowdah, I opted for something lighter. Ann's Baked Boston Scrod was perfect. Scrod is just another name for cod.  It was like eating a fried piece of fish, but not. The crispy crumbs on top of the fish gave the illusion that it has been fried. After roasted tomato, Jasmine rice, buttered broccolli, and a nice squeeze of lemon and I was set for my plane ride back to SFO.  Oh yes, their rolls were surprisingly very good.  Warm and crusty as I like them.

The plane ride was pretty painless. I fell asleep right after take off and I woke up as we passed Nebraska. Watched American Idol on Eastern time. Neener neener, Pacific Time. When I got to the airport, it was raining!

Who else can say they felt rain in three different cities within four days?

I can. It feels the same.

Wet.

I admit, while the trip was epic, it was nice to be back home. I am so happy that I did it, especially the portions of the trip where I ventured out on my own. This travel bug has bitten me quite hard. I seriously cannot go back to the airport and fly somewhere else. Thank you to all my friends who made this trip possible. It has been life-changing for the greater.

xoxo,
Jo

PS:  I believe that the Bruins lost that night because they lost me that night too...