Nom-worthy Finds at Madison Square Eats

Beesting Pizza from Robertas Pizza at Madison Square Eats

[Note: This post was originally written in 2012 during the inaugural year of MadSqEats, but all of the vendors I mention below are still there and still just as good. Make sure to visit the official site for the most accurate, up to date information on all vendors and opening/closing dates]

Working in Flatiron or Midtown and looking to change up your lunch or dinner routine this week? Then you should definitely make it a point to check out Madison Square Eats before it closes for the season. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, nice weather = a lot of great food fairs, and Madison Square Eats is definitely one of them. Located in the empty space next to Madison Square Park where Broadway and 5th Ave. make weird intersections, you’ll find a ton of great vendors like some of my personal favorites: Arancini Bros. with their delicious fried rice balls, La Sonrisa who I raved about at Hester St. Fair, Calexico whose street carts in SoHo always have long lines for their delicious tacos and Mexican offerings, Asiadog serving tasty (you guessed it) Asian-style hot dogs, and Red Hook Lobster Pound serving New England lobster rolls, among others. It’s actually amazing that they are able to fit not only vendors but a good amount of shaded tables in such a small space, but I guess that’s the beauty of this city, huh?

Calexico Tacos at MadSqEats

One of the great things about fairs like MadSqEats is that they feature a lot of unique vendors who are located throughout Brooklyn (including some of the ones mentioned above), which makes it really convenient to be able to try out multiple places all in one stop in Manhattan. One place I was most looking forward to trying was Roberta’s Pizza, whose Bushwick outpost has become known not only for their delicious pizzas but for their warehouse digs and outdoor patio. We got their signature Bee Sting pizza, which featured tomato, mozzarella, soppressata which is similar to pepperoni, and chili oil, and then given a squirt of honey before being served. The entire flavor combination was absolutely delicious if you enjoy the contrast of sweet and savory, especially with the char on the pizza that was the result of the pizza being held directly over the wood flame during cooking.

Beijing-Ya Bun from Hong Kong Street Cart at Madison Square Eats

Other note-worthy items we tried were the pretzel dog combo from Sigmund’s, whose East Village shop has garnered praise for their authentically German-style gourmet pretzels. The stand at MadSqEats offered an awesome $7 beer/pretzel dog combo ($4 for just the dog), which makes a great pairing, especially with a nice German beer like Spaten. We also had a nice take on the standard duck bun from Hong Kong Street Cart, whose Beijing Ya bun featured both fatty duck and crispy minced shrimp in a steamed bun. All in all, with so many offerings at MadSqEats, you really can’t go wrong in finding something to suit your taste buds, so get over there before they close up on May 31st and try out something nom-worthy.

 

My (biased) account of why the Great GoogaMooga truly was “Great”

Longga Dog from Maharlika Jeepney

I had an absolutely amazing time this past weekend. I spent my entire Saturday dancing up a storm at Electric Daisy Carnival at Metlife Stadium (I literally lost 4 pounds in a day), which was perfect preparation for the fatfest that was the Great GoogaMooga on Sunday.

For everyone who’s all like “Googa what?,” first things first, if you live in the NY area go get a Twitter account already because you obviously aren’t on the social network if you haven’t heard of GoogaMooga before reading this. To put it simply though, GoogaMooga = epic food and music festival in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Why do I say epic? Because of all of this.

Now anyone who IS on twitter or reads any sort of NYC-focused publication/blog knows that there were many many complaints and grievances over the festival, which is honestly pretty expected given that it’s the first year of a festival. But here is a disclaimer on why this blog post is a completely and totally biased account of the festival: I somehow managed to be lucky enough to score a free pair of ExtraMooga VIP tickets courtesy of whatever angel manages their Twitter account, all because of this tweet:

The ironic part is that since I went on Sunday, I didn’t actually even see Aziz Ansari or James Murphy which was a bit of a bummer, but getting the $250 experience of ExtraMooga fo’ free still kind of made my life for the following reasons:

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Hester Street Fair is a Treasure Trove of Good Eats, Treats, and well, Treasures

It’s officially spring in New York City, which means one thing: outdoor eating and drinking! Yes, it’s that wonderful time of year when your favorite beer gardens become lively, that sunken-ship-turned-bar-and-grill on the Hudson has regular hours, and most importantly food-wise, all of the outdoor markets reopen. With choices like Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg in Williamsburg and New Amsterdam Market in the Financial District, there’s great options out there for trying out unique food vendors (especially some which only sell at the markets) while scoping out vintage and hand-crafted goods.

This past weekend, I decided to check out the opening day of the Hester Street Fair at Hester and Essex St. in the Lower East Side. While the space apparently has a really long history, the outdoor market is now being run by a group which includes Suchin Pak, who you probably know from MTV News during TRL (RIP childhood). They’ve been acknowledged for curating vendors with quality food and goods, even getting re-created at Henri Bendel during Fashion’s Night Out. So when they announced their opening day menu, I knew I had to go. It was definitely crowded since I went at the peak time of 2PM, but waiting in a few lines was worth it for the really fantastic food I tried out (which you should too).

Shredded Beef Patacon from Patacon Pisao. Fried plantain bun! That is all.

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Healthy Meals for Busy People: Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Chicken Breasts in Poblano Sauce

Tonight’s post comes from something of an experiment. As a huge fan of Trader Joe’s and especially the Trader Joe’s frozen section, my fridge is pretty much always stocked with some form of food that can be prepared in less than 8 minutes, usually via microwave. So after coming home from work starving, I basically threw together a random assortment of food from my freezer and it actually ended up being super tasty, due mostly in part to the quality choices available at Trader Joe’s. Thus, I decided to start this new blog series, and just like the other blog series I started (which I haven’t forgotten about, I promise!). I’ll be documenting various meals I create (mostly from Trader Joe’s food) that are low in calories/fat/things that are bad for you and are also super easy to prepare.

Trader Joe's Salsa Authentica, Frozen Roasted Corn, and Reduced Guilt Chicken Breasts in Poblano Sauce - Only 395 Calories!

Tonight’s meal is focused on Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Chicken Breasts in Poblano Sauce. At 210 calories, only 2.5 grams of fat, and a price of a mere $2.99, this entree is pretty much a win-win-win. While it’s on the high side in sodium, the nice flavor of the poblano sauce and convenience of a 7 minute total cooking time makes it worth it.

Now personally, TJ’s “reduced guilt” entrees are almost never enough to keep me full. I mean really now, 210 calories does NOT equal a meal. So to add some filling fiber and to make things easy for myself, after defrosting the poblano chicken breasts for 2 minutes as per the cooking directions, I threw in a cup of TJ’s frozen roasted corn (pictured above) with 2 tbsp of water right into the container for the poblano chicken breasts. All of it cooked together in 5 minutes, and after mixing in 4 tbsp. of TJ’s salsa authentica and red pepper flakes to add more sauce and a bit of heat, the whole meal added up to only 395 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. And the most importantly, 3 hours later, I’m STILL not hungry (and I’m pretty much hungry every 3 hours, seriously). For those who need a bit more, you can always mix in some multigrain rice or quinoa as an option as well, or throw in some other veggies like TJ’s frozen pepper medley. If you try it out or have other ideas, let me know! Happy healthy eating you busy people, you~

Where to Eat, and Avoid, at Coachella Music Festival

Sunset at Coachella Music Festival - Photo (c) Jen Balisi

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to fly myself over to California and finally experience the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival firsthand. Needless to say, it was utterly amazing, super trippy Tupac hologram included. As an avid music lover, I obviously have my own opinions about who were the best acts, from almost crying after finally seeing Radiohead live for the first time, dancing my ass off to Swedish House Mafia and The Rapture, witnessing St. Vincent perform an entire song while crowdsurfing, thrashing around to At The Drive-In, jumping to the beat of Azealia Banks, and swooning as Jeff Mangum busted out Neutral Milk Hotel material. But I’ll leave it to the experts to write up extensive “Best of” lists for those of you heading out to the Indio/Palm Springs/Palm Desert area for the second weekend of the fest.

Since music festivals are notoriously known for ripping people off when it comes to food, I figured that since I had this nice little food blog, I’d provide a few bits of advice on the best spots to spend your money while at Coachella (assuming of course, the food is the same). [EDIT 2/13/14 – Having since been to Coachella twice now, the food largely didn’t change the second year around, so take my word that all of the statements below should still hold true for Coachella 2014]

So here is my 9 point guide to food at and around the Coachella Music Festival:

1. Satisfy any pizza craving you have BEFORE you get to Coachella
A slice of pizza is SIX DOLLARS, I repeat, SIX DOLLARS at the festival. And this is for a PLAIN slice of pizza with no toppings. As someone used to the countless $1 pizza spots and $4.50 for a giant slice of the gut-busting pizza in New York, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that much for a thin slice of dough, tomato sauce, and cheese that would leave me hungry in an hour, no matter how good it smelled and even if it was slightly larger than your average slice. You’re much better off spending your money on something that will at least provide a good amount of filling protein, which leads me to…

2. The Carne Asada fries in the Heineken Beer Garden by the Outdoor Stage are amazing

Carne Asada fries in the Heineken beer garden food stalls at Coachella

A full plate of french fries topped with carne asada beef, beans, queso, guacamole, raw onion, cilantro, pico de gallo, and a side of hot sauce for $9. Enough said.

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Eating My Way through the WFC Food Truck Court, Part 1 ft. Taim Mobile

To keep me on track with updating, I’ve decided to start a little series and have appropriately titled it “Eating My Way through the WFC Food Truck Court,” where I document, you guessed it, everything I eat in the new World Financial Center Food Truck Court. For my “inaugural” post, I’ll be highlighting my favorite falafel in the city that is now on wheels, Taim Mobile.

World Financial Center Food Truck Court Poster

Now to give some background, I currently work in one of the towers of the behemoth office complex (and soon-to-be shopping mall) that is World Financial Center (WFC). Despite the tens of thousands of employees in this office complex, the food options prior to February 2012 were seriously lacking. There’s really only so many days I can eat the same Au Bon Pain soups and Cosi sandwiches, and I’m just not a big fan of spending $8-10 a day on a Devon and Blakely salad that will get me hungry in an hour – I don’t care how good they are or how much they chop the lettuce for ease of eating. What made it worse was renovations in the complex that eliminated even more places to try to get a decent lunch.

As such, when the news broke that a bunch of food trucks would be coming to fill the culinary void that is WFC, I kind of freaked and definitely made myself look like a complete fatass on Twitter. But it was for good reason – some of my favorite food trucks were finally going to be right outside the office instead of teasing me in their usual “Financial District spots” which are sadly so so far from WFC (I’m looking at you, Front St./Hanover Square/Governeur Lane). In any case, one of those favorites and the highlight of this post is Taïm Mobile.

Falafel from Taïm

Falafel Sandwich from Taïm (via Serious Eats)

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Rugged Maniac Post-Race

Resolutions, Restaurant Week, and Rugged Maniac

I’m afraid I’ve neglected this guy for a little too long, but with the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions, and one of mine is to follow through with everything I start. That includes my new workout regimen, cleaning my room, and of course, updating this blog.

Not that I totally meant to ignore this. Let’s just use my job as a scapegoat and say I’ve been too busy working on stuff like this. In any case, I’ve obviously still been eating, and have a Foodspotting profile to show for it.

Now on another note, if anyone knows me, they know I love Restaurant Week. I even wrote a guide to it when I first started this blog. Thankfully, it’s that time of year again when we New Yorkers have a shot at trying out some great restaurants at pre-fixe prices. I’ve already made reservations at Ai Fiori for lunch (thank you, MLK day) and SHO Shaun Hergatt for dinner, and plan to go to at least one more place so I can get that $20 statement credit. So you can expect some reviews on those places in the coming month.

Aside from the eating, there’s the “No Gut” portion of this blog, which I promise to also write about. I actually did another mud run in Brooklyn in November called Rugged Maniac, and while it was kind of a smaller, ghetto version of Warrior Dash, it was still incredibly fun thanks to some sick obstacles (like dumpster pools and a dead man drop onto a giant cushion) and unlimited beer post-race thanks to Thrillist Rewards. And since it was in Brooklyn = no mountain, so I was actually able to run the entire race despite basically not having worked out for over a month prior to the race (aka the opposite of my Warrior Dash training). In any case, 2 mud runs under our belts has us hooked, so we plan to do Warrior Dash in North Carolina in May (road trip, woooo) and some other races in the summer until we’re eventually fit enough to do Tough Mudder?! Maybe?! Regardless, can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store. Maybe I’ll finally get rid of my gut for good! Stay tuned~

 

This Year’s San Gennaro Has More Than Just Fried Everything

The booths at Prince and Mulberry Streets featuring standout chefs

The booths at Prince and Mulberry Streets feature standout chefs

I’ve been going to the San Gennaro Festival pretty much every year I’ve been in the city. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a town that had a sizable Italian population and an annual Italian festival, but there’s something about the always-crowded, often annoying street fair that still manages to get me to go (it may have also been the strange appeal of getting strawberry daiquiris in ridiculous plastic cups). Despite everything being overpriced, I’ve always enjoyed the typical fare of sausages with peppers and onions, calamari, zeppoles, and fried ____. This year’s festival, however, got a pretty nice gourmet upgrade that I felt was worth mentioning, especially since the festival ends on Sunday (aka check it out before it’s over, obviously).

Byggyz Beef Sandwich (via NYTimes)

Byggyz Beef Sandwich (via NYTimes)

Now as a disclaimer, I’m actually exhausted from work and the NYTimes just wrote up a review that pretty much encompasses everything I was planning on saying, so I’m going to let them do most of the talking. All I have to say is that Byggyz beef sandwich is bomb (check out Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 and his Dad manning the stand in my pictures) and for some really yummy Turkish food and one of the best pieces of baklava I’ve ever had, find the Mmm… Enfes stand (there’s a big “Homemade Turkish Food” banner). In the meantime, check out more food porn and other photos below, read the NYTimes article, go to San Gennaro, and stuff your face. Salute.

Brooklyn Ikea: Particle Board Furniture with a Side of Cheap Eats

In life news, after growing accustomed to the Union Square/St. Marks area of the city the past 4 years, I’ve relocated to be closer to work and moved into a new apartment in the Financial District last week. Luckily this new location also makes the always necessary, post-move-in journey to Ikea that much easier, as the free* water taxi to the Brooklyn Ikea is just a few blocks away. (*weekdays it costs $5 each way, but just give your water taxi receipt at checkout and get $5 merchandise credit on a minimum $10 purchase, so it’s basically free)

Olmos enjoying his $5 Swedish meatball combo

Olmos enjoying his $5 Swedish meatball combo

Our trip to Ikea ended up being a bit last minute, so having caught the 8PM ferry to Ikea and knowing the last ferry departed at 9PM (which we still ended up missing), we went with a gameplan: Swedish meatballs and shower curtain rings (among other small purchases). Anyone who has ever been to Ikea knows that you can get stuff for CHEAP (our TV stand was $20!). This, of course, includes food. From 99 cent breakfast to 50 cent hot dogs to their ubiquitous Swedish meatball platter (which was $5 for 10 meatballs, mashed potatoes, garden side salad, and a drink), food at Ikea comes at some of the lowest prices you can find (and it’s actually good).

Kid's Combo with Garlic Bread

Kid's Combo with Garlic Bread

I was actually not starving, so to get my fix while saving a couple bucks, I opted for the Kid’s Combo of 5 Swedish meatballs that comes with either mashed potatoes, fries, or mac and cheese, as well as a drink. Add a side of garlic toast, and you have dinner for a ridiculously cheap $3.

Overall, with non-Swedish food options like salads, pasta, and chicken, all at super low prices, the Brooklyn Ikea is a great dinner option even for non-furniture shoppers, especially for those living near Pier 11 where the free water taxi departs. A boat ride with views of the Manhattan skyline and dinner for $5? Not a bad idea at all.

Alfred nomming on 40 cent garlic toast

Alfred nomming 40¢ garlic toast

$2 Chocolate Cake

$2 Chocolate Cake

So Much for No Gut – Frozen Artichoke Pizza will now be sold at Supermarkets

Frozen Artichoke PizzaAnyone living in New York City probably has a love/hate relationship with the absolutely orgasmic pizza from Artichoke Basille’s Pizza & Brewery. Love because, let’s face it, it’s probably the most delicious thing to have after a night of partying and is always worth the line that may even stretch to Nowhere (you know what I’m talking about). Hate because the next morning, when you’re hungover and trying to remember the night before, you come to find that all too familiar pain of having burnt the roof of your mouth from not waiting for your pizza to cool down, and thus realize that your diet has basically gone to complete sh*t.

Well folks, looks like the guys behind Artichoke Pizza have made it even easier to ensure that you will be spending the next day at the gym enjoying their delicious pies all at the convenience of your home, as it was announced on Eater that they have a deal to sell frozen versions of their pizza at your local supermarket. Which means no more waiting in long lines or taking a cab all the way to the West Village or 14th street when you’re in the Lower East Side. Bye self control, it was nice knowing you.