Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mar’s Oyster Bar - A Magnificent Po Boy It Was!

After a somewhat long hiatus, my We Heart Astoria colleagues and I met at Mar’s Oyster Bar for a team meeting and dinner. We always look for an excuse to visit Mar’s, as it never fails to disappoint and I was personally looking forward to trying something new that I haven’t had before. That little something ended up being the fried oyster po boy and it was fabulous. Let me tell you more…

Fried Oyster Po Boy – Served on a shiny, soft, sourdough bun, this sandwich was a thing of beauty, as it was both bountiful and colorful. It was evident that great produce was used, especially the tomatoes which were juicy and crimson red.

The stars of the show however were the oysters of course, as they were meaty, delicious and fried to perfection. Accentuated by a lemony mayo, the flavors in this sandwich were just right, reminding me of something I’d have on vacation. Even my dining companions remarked at how much I seemed to enjoy the sandwich, as I nearly licked the plate clean. You can see that the sandwich also comes with a little piece of grilled corn on the cob and Mar’s’ super crispy herb fries, which always induce major yum action.

Rocky Point Oysters – Not to be forgotten, Meg and I also shared a half dozen of these meaty Rocky Point Oysters. They were absolutely delicious and as fresh as can be. While they didn’t need much in terms of accouterments, a modest spritz of lemon rounded out the flavors even more. At happy hour prices of $1/oyster, these were a great deal and I highly recommend them.

Chocolate Torte – Although we were pretty full, Mackenzi advised that we shouldn’t ignore dessert, especially the dark chocolate ganache torte. While it was small in size, the flavor went a long way. I like that it was served chilled and that the dark chocolate was interspersed with bits of white and a little sprig of fried thyme on top. Leave it to Mar’s to give you something unexpected and interesting.

Service and Cost:
The overall service and attention we received on that evening was great, as the staff was most attentive but at the same time chill. They’ve really perfected this at Mar’s and I like to see that after about a year, they’re holding their own.

Costs are pretty high for a neighborhood joint, but you know you’re getting great quality and a fabulous atmosphere that’s hard to beat. For the three of us, including a separate entrĂ©e for everyone, apps, a few drinks and dessert, we paid about $65/person including tax and tip.

3 Mmmms

Mar's Oyster Bar - 34-21 34th Street, Astoria NY 11106

N/Q Train to Broadway or R Train to Steinway St

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ample Hills & Outer Borough – Instayums in Brooklyn

Spending a lot of time in Brooklyn lately, due to my involvement in Photoville, I’ve gotten acquainted with the street food scene, which is so easy to love. Aside from exploring the legendary Smorgasburg street food festival yesterday, I also got a taste of the famous Ample Hills creamery. Here are my highlights from these last couple of delicious Brooklyn weekends.

Ample Hills Creamery – Situated right across from Photoville on Pier 5, Ample Hills Creamery boasts a charming little waterfront outpost. I hear it makes for a much more manageable atmosphere than its original location in Prospect Heights, and after tasting their ice cream, I can see why it’s so treasured.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Ice Cream – After trying the chocolate covered banana flavor, I was expecting to be wowed but didn’t fall head over heels, so I instead tried the Mexican Hot Chocolate. I’m happy to report that it was a total win, boasting a perfectly creamy consistency, a dark chocolate rich flavor with a little tickle in the back of your throat from the cayenne. The spicy flavor is subtle but pronounced enough to surprise and delight you.

Outer Borough Taiwanese – Yesterday’s visit to Smorgasburg produced some serious sensory overload. With such a beautiful weather day, the place was packed to the gills with vendors and hungry visitors.

After making my initial rounds and scouting the place out fully, I knew I wanted to commit to the Outer Borough truck, which serves Taiwanese street food mostly in the form of flat scallion pancakes. Loving that the fresh pancake (fried on the spot) was just a vehicle for transporting other ingredients, I admired all the offered fillings and finally decided on the Chinese sausage and egg. It came highly recommended by the staff, as it promised something unique.

It only took a few short minutes to cook up, which came as a welcome surprise (given the horrid experience I recently had at the Blend LIC food truck). Even though it was smaller than I expected, the rolled up pancake was stuffed generously with the salty, smoky sausage and bits of fried egg. Although the egg was a little overcooked, it still complemented the sausage nicely and served as a yummy brunch snack.

Service and Cost:
I’m happy to report that the service at both establishments was wonderful – quirky but definitely pleasant and super fast. The folks at Ample Hills were especially interesting and made a lot of effort to engage Angela and I in conversation.

Costs are affordable, given its street style format at $3 for a small ice cream at Ample Hills and $9 for the delicious pancake rollup at Outer Borough.

I hope you visit one or both of these places next time you find yourself in Brooklyn Heights.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dominique Ansel's Take on the Lobster Tail

Last week, I finally had the opportunity to try Dominique Ansel's sweet lobster tail, which is more of a summertime dessert, but hey...it still feels like summer so I thought, "why not?!"  I went in half expecting it to be sold out, as is the case usually with his specialty desserts, but luckily it was available.  This undoubtedly made me unapologetically giddy, and I couldn't wait to enjoy the still warm lobster tail confection.

Lobster Tail - There are many delicious components to this dessert, including the warm pretzel bread that's stuffed with peanut butter and butterscotch stuffing and then sprinkled with coarse Maldon salt.  I love that the latter brings out the flavors in the dessert without taking away from its sweetness.  The crust is slightly crunchy which is nice, and I love the little fin that sticks out at the end, and is super crunchy.

There's a little pot of brown butter honey sauce, which comes on the side and the portion is quite generous.  So plentiful in fact that I saved mine for latter, as I was only able to eat only about a quarter of it.  The butter was delicate and soft and spread so nicely on the slightly warmed bread.  It melted on top and seeped into the delicious contents of the lobster tail, which made it that much more interesting.

Service and Cost:
Since I went in during an off-peak time, the wait was pretty much non existent and I was done with my transaction in a matter of 3 minutes.  I took this as an opportunity to eat inside the bakery and even take advantage of their quaint little backspace, which has a part that's covered as well as a portion which is completely outside.

Not surprisingly, this dessert comes at a premium at a whopping $8 a pop, but it's definitely large enough to share with a friend.  I brought half of it home for Dan and he was grateful.

3 Mmmms

Dominique Ansel Bakery - 189 Spring Street, New York NY 10012
E/C Train to Spring Street


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Apple-Pomegranate Tarte Tatin for Rosh Hashannah

Today marks the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashannah which is always a great time to get together with family and  indulge in delicious food.  This year was extra special since I got to see my whole extended family including my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, in-laws and of course my immediate family - Mami, Oci, Peter and Dan.

Since my mom was taking care of all the savory foods, she asked for some help with the dessert, so I decided on this interesting apple, pomegranate tarte-tatin, which I saw in Bon Appetit.

Apples are important for this holiday, as you're supposed to dip them in honey to symbolize the start of a sweet new year.  The pomegranate too is very meaningful in Jewish tradition, as it's a symbol of abundance, fertility and good luck.  It's not uncommon to find a pomegranate on a Jewish wedding invitation for example.  But I digress...

I made the whole tarte from scratch and even rolled out the crust, which came out quite rustic because I couldn't find my rolling pin.  Using a wine bottle instead, it was a tad uneven and even a little messy, but since the style of this dessert is very rustic, it's quite forgiving and you can mend the dough with your fingers.

Soaking the apples in the pomegranate juice gave them an element of surprise and something a little different - a deeper, richer flavor.  While you have to have patience to make this dessert, it's totally worth it - especially to start your year off right.

Apple and Pomegranate Tarte Tatin, recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Half Off Froyo Today at Fresk'o + Maple Bacon Donut

Image by Fresk'o

Fresk'o, one of the newer froyo places in the neighborhood on 30th Avenue has caught my eye lately, especially with the announcement of their unique flavors and deals.  Sure it may look like any other brightly lit, neon fro-yo shop, but there's a few special things that makes this one stand out:

Flavors: Include all your standard favorites such as peanut butter, chocolate, berry etc but also innovative flavors such as Maple Bacon Donut (OMG), Angel Food Cake and Irish Mint.

Toppings: Sure they've got the usual suspects such as cookie dough, fresh mochi, brownie bites, pretzels, toffee, etc, but you can also pair your froyo with Belgian waffles.  Gluten Free options are available as well, which is great.

Packaging: There's these lovely separators you see above, which I think are really handy - especially to avoid getting all those flavors mixed up.  First world problems at their fullest!

Special Deal for Today: They're offering 50% off a child's yogurt today (Wednesday, September 24th) with the purchase of a cup during after school hours.

Check them out and let me know what you think.  I can't wait to get a bite of the Maple Bacon Donut and will report back.

Fresk'o - 31-19 30th Avenue, Astoria NY 11102

N/Q Train to 30th Avenue


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Trying the Blend LIC Food Truck

A few weeks ago, I noticed the Blend LIC food truck parked just a few blocks away from my day gig.  Happy to discover this little piece of LIC in downtown Manhattan made me excited to try it for lunch one day.  

The Truck:
Clearly recognizing the Blend brick-and-mortar influences in the truck motif, it boasts the same color profile and a similar menu, although obviously simplified for mobile service.  The truck itself is pretty tricked out, as it comes with a fancy sound system that blasts beats during lunch as well as a built in ATM machine.  There's about 3 people that work inside the truck, including someone taking orders and two folks who cook and serve up the food.

Because I wasn't overly hungry, I went with an order of the crispy arepas with slow cooked pork and all the fixins such as guacamole, pico de gallo, lettuce and white sauce.  The portion was small but surprisingly filling, especially due to the hearty arepas, which had a nice crispy texture on the outside.  The whole dish oozed freshness and looked gorgeous with all those bright colors.

Service and Cost:
Unfortunately, the service at the truck was a total bust.  What I thought would take about 10 minutes to serve up took nearly 25, which I think is unacceptable (especially for lunch).  Even though the staff was nice, they didn't acknowledge the situation and that didn't sit well with me.

Costs are inexpensive and included $5 for those 2 little arepas, $6 for 3 tacos, $7 burritos, $3 empanadas and so forth.

2 Mmmms

Follow Blend on the Go on Twitter to learn about their weekly locations

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Lemon Ice King of Corona Reigns with Excellence

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure to check out the Maker Faire at the NY Hall of Science, which is all about innovation, creativity, technology and loads of fun.  I've never been before and was looking forward to checking it out, along with taking a stroll around Corona on an unseasonably warm day.

Parking was naturally a nightmare, which is why I parked further out (but conveniently close to Nixtamal) and got to explore the neighborhood.  Coincidentally, I walked by the famous Lemon Ice King of Corona, which is of course a Queens legend as far as frozen treats are concerned - and needless to say, I had to try it.

Located on the corner of 108th Street and 52nd Avenue, it's hard to miss this place, as it serves as an symbol of pride in the neighborhood.  At any given time, you'll see people gathered around waiting to order ices, or just folks lingering and enjoying their frozen treats.

The facade is simple and nostalgic and I like how proudly it displays its name - as if saying "I am King, and you better take note."  There's a window counter up front where you order and where you can also see the flavors of the day, which I'm told don't change much.  I like that what you see is what you get and although old school, it's very charming, friendly and has a special quality about it that makes you instantly happy.

After some deliberation, I chose a combo fruit flavor of banana/strawberry.  It looked pretty and colorful and I loved the little swirls it created.

The flavor was fabulous and very fresh.  It was obviously made with real fruit and fruit juice, as I noticed little chunks of strawberries inside.  While the banana was on the smoother side, the flavor was intense and reminded me of a delicious banana/strawberry smoothie.  Also, the small cup was just the perfect way to get your sweet fix without overindulging.

Service and Cost
Just like the overall atmosphere, the service is also quick and no nonsense.  It reminds me of the somewhat surly waiters you'd encounter in a classic establishment like Peter Luger's for example, but it's all a part of the charm.

Costs are awesomely inexpensive and include $1.50 for a small, $2.50 for a medium, $3 for a large and $3.50 for a super.

3 Icy Mmmms

Lemon Ice King of Corona - 52-02 108th Street, Corona NY 11368
7 Train to 111th Street/Roosevelt Avenue


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