Freemans

There is a type of magic to hidden nooks and crannies, when an unassuming entrance-way leads to a beautiful little corner that you would’ve otherwise missed. It reminds me of Narnia. Freemans capitalizes on that inner child in people, where we’d all like to discover secret treasure. You walk down a sketchy alleyway, and at the end you’ll find an adorable, charming restaurant complete with fairy lights and turquoise doors. Although, it really is an illusion of stumbling up hidden treasure because let’s be real here: we all came because we already saw on instagram, facebook, or the blogosphere exactly what Freemans looks like. Ah well, it’s a nice illusion to hold on to regardless.

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We came on the earlier side of brunch, and there was no wait at all. The inside goes for a rustic, farmhouse look, complete with beaten-up tables, rickety stairs, and lots of taxidermy. The stuffed bird next to our table definitely freaked me out.

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The hot artichoke dip is a must-order. If you get nothing else, get the artichoke dip. It comes out hot and gooey, perfect to slather on some toasted bread.

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We shared a savory and a sweet dish. The skillet eggs sit on a bed of spinach, topped with cheddar grits and bacon. A decent dish owed mainly to the grits and bacon.

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I was far less impressed with the lemon buttermilk pancakes. They were standard pancakes, not particularly fluffy or soft. For my favorite pancakes, head over to Friend of a Farmer in Gramercy. Those pancakes are somehow crispy on the edges and soft in the middle and have big, fat blueberries in the batter. The different textures between the outside and inside of the pancake make it sing. These Freemans pancakes fell flat though, so stick to the artichoke dip and the savory dishes here.

Freemans Restaurant
191 Chrystie Street #2F btw Delancey & Rivington, New York, NY 10002

Circolo

I had such high hopes for Circolo. It was new and chic and located on the adorably cobble-stoned Bond St. I was dying for some perfectly cooked pasta and so excited to eat here. It should’ve been a warning sign that the place was so empty, but it was still early for dinner, so I didn’t think much of it.

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The bread that came out was promising. Bits of olives dotted the darker loaf, and the butter was juniper butter. You can really taste the juniper. We were such fans that we asked for another plate.

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Sadly, that was the highlight of the meal. My friend’s spaghetti with black summer truffle probably fared the best out of all the entrees. Simple and clean without bells and whistles, it was a decent plate.

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The grilled halibut, which also came with a side of greek salad, was flavorless and underwhelming. It was sitting on a bed of lettuce? Very strange. I think the side salad might have been better than the actual fish.

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My choice was garganelli pasta in a scampi fish bisque. The pasta was undercooked. This was not al dente. It was just undercooked. I was so looking forward to a nice bowl of yummy pasta and was disappointed. I don’t think the juniper butter and olive bread is enough to bring me back again.

Circolo
45 Bond St (btw Bowery & 2nd St) New York City, NY 10012

Sugar and Plumm

Remember those gingerbread houses you used to make when you were little? They were always covered with frosting, colorful candies, and had candy canes and lollipops as doors and windows. Walking into Sugar & Plumm is like walking into a real life version of those gingerbread houses. Even the front door’s handles are giant lollipops.

Half of the place is a sit-down restaurant with a full menu of real food. The other half is a dessert counter and an entire candy store. The desserts, as you can imagine, are decadent and playful.

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A slice of Brooklyn Blackout that is literally glittering and sparkling pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee.

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The crackling baked alaska is a show stealer. Chocolate ice cream that’s layered with chocolate cake and whipped cream then rimmed with cashews and poprocks, sits in a caramel-chocolate sauce. The wait staff then douses the creation with a cognac flambe. My dessert was on fire. It was awesome.

Many of the other desserts look just as fun and exciting, like the Earthquake in a Fishbowl – must come back to try that one.

Sugar and Plumm
377 Amsterdam Ave (btw 79th & 78th) New York, NY 10024

Las Ramblas

There’s nothing like a meal with friends that can cure all bad days, especially when the meal involves tapas.

Las Ramblas is teeny tiny, which is the opposite of what La Rambla actually looks like, but that’s taking the name too literally. The brick walls and candles do their job well in transporting you to the winding alleys of Barcelona. It felt like you were dining outside, perhaps at a sidewalk cafe, enjoying the Spanish breeze.

Service was a bit brusque, but that was quickly forgiven when our pitcher of strawberry sangria came to the table.

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I also had my eye on the Banderillas con Chorizo de Pato…

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…skewers of duck sausage, quail egg, and onions. So cute! I’ve never had duck sausage before, and it was really cool. It tasted like duck but had a sausage consistency, and paired with the egg and onion, this was a perfect bite.

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There was also Chiporones Fritos, basically fried calamari. The sauce was a little sweet and tangy – delicious with the calamari.

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We continued with the seafood pattern with the Escalivada Catalana con Bacalao – salted cod, eggplant, and peppers on top of crunchy crostinis. This was tasty! The cod was great, and the veggies complemented it well. I could’ve eaten more of this for sure.

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Last to come was the Pulpo con patatas – octopus salad with purple potatoes. The purple potatoes were intriguing and very yummy, while the rest of the salad didn’t fare so well. The octopus was extremely salty, while the veggies were tasteless, to the point of me stuffing my mouth with said veggies and gulping down water after eating the octopus. It’s ok though. Nothing a few glasses of sangria can’t fix 😉

Las Ramblas
170 W 4th St (btw Jones St & Cornelia St) New York, NY 10014

Restaurant week continues: La Fonda del Sol

Lunch during Restaurant Week is also a great deal, as you can get 3 courses for $25. You can also get away with not having reservations, which is what a friend and I did one day for lunch. La Fonda del Sol is a Spanish restaurant, serving tapas, but we came for the Restaurant Week menu. What I loved about this place though is the light. Located right outside of Grand Central Station, it had floor to ceiling windows that flooded the place with lots of light. Paired with bright decor of reds and yellows, the place just makes you feel so happy and light-hearted.

Calamari Salad

Scallop appetizer

We started off with two appetizers: a calamari salad with beans and arugula and then a scallop dish on top of cherry tomatoes. Both were outstanding and looked beautiful too.

Roasted chicken breast

Skirt Steak

Next course brought us a roasted chicken breast topped with olives and paired with a veggie medley. The chicken itself was a little dry, but the olives and vegetables were so good that it made you forget all about the dryness. Unfortunately, we weren’t so thrilled with the grilled skirt steak. The mango and peach party sitting on top were fine, but the meat was bland and dry.

Torta di Santiago

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Dessert then comes around with a Torta de Santiago, which I think was a lemony almondy Spanish cake with fromage blanc ice cream. The star of the night, though, was the panna cotta. Buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries. Absolutely amazing. We scraped that plate clean. 🙂

La Fonda del So
Metlife Building
200 Park Ave
New York, NY 10166l

Of New York and tofu

Spending my summer in NYC equals what? FOOD!

I’m here for 10 weeks for my internship, and I didn’t bother to bring any cooking-ware because I’m only here for 2.5 months and my luggage was already heavy enough. Therefore, I’ve been eating out. A lot! As in every single day, several times a day.

Additionally, I’m living in NYU dorms, and the building that I got randomly assigned to serendipitously ended being right next to Manhattan’s Chinatown. Oh boy. A blessing for my stomach but most certainly a curse for my waistline. Oh well. What can you do? Food comes first!

As for pictures, I left my camera cord at school, so I’m going to borrow one from a friend to get those pictures onto my computer. Right now, I only have some pictures taken from my phone. Definitely not the best quality, so I’m sorry. But this is all I have right now until I can borrow a camera cord.

My first meal in NYC was right after I found my dorm, dumped my stuff down, and ventured out to explore the surrounding neighborhood. I wandered into this restaurant called Shanghai Gourment (上海人家) and ordered the two things that I’ve been craving for since forever ago: soup dumplings and noodles with minced pork sauce (炸酱面). They did not disappoint. It was so satisfying, and especially so because I was tired and hungry.

Soup Dumplings

I got the soup dumplings with crab meat, but I think I like the ones without crab meat better because the crab really didn’t add much to it. It was still delicious though! Nice thin skin and lots of soup inside.

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The sauce for the noodles was out-of-this-world amazing because not only did it have pork, but it also had tofu chunks! Yes! I love dried tofu! And you know what the best part was? This huge bowl of noodles that lasted me three meals was only $4.50.

Yes, I was one happy camper.

Shanghai Gourmet
23 Pell St
New York, NY 10038

People Watching (NYC Part 4)

One of my favorite parts of this weekend actually wasn’t any of the touristy hot spots or the glamorous clothes but rather people watching. It’s really interesting to imagine what all of these people are like, where they’re going, what their stories are. We did see some weird, crazy people like that guy in the subway who asked for my address and the lady who kept talking/laughing to herself, but for the most part, I had a lot of fun just sitting in the subway or in Central Park, watching people go by.

We had our last full meal in NYC at Little Italy. We went to Novella and got a table outside. We got a table outside on a beautiful day, and the ambiance was great. Three of us (hahaha) got the Gnocchi al Pesto, which was pretty good. SS got the Gnocchi al Pomodoro.

Gnocchi al Pesto

Gnocchi al Pesto

Gnocchi al Pomodorro

Gnocchi al Pomodoro

Before we left NYC, SS and I just had to get some more bubble tea, so we stopped by Quickly, which had the most delicious bubble tea. Plus, you get a $.50 discount if you have a student ID. Quickly is apparently a bubble tea chain from Taiwan, but in NYC, they also added shabu shabu (Japanese hot pot) to make it an actual sit-down restaurant. They also sold these cream puffs, which AN and I wanted to try. We bought some to share, and they were SO DELICIOUS! They were nice and warm and the cream inside was actually kind of like egg custard. I was expecting something along the lines of whipped cream, but this was really really good. I want more!

Novella Ristorante

Little Italy
191 Grand St
(between Mott St & Mulberry St)
New York, NY 10013

Quickly

Lower East Side
237B Grand St
New York, NY 10002