Sunday, October 31, 2010

No Sleep Till Brooklyn!

For all of you who care deeply about my personal life (let's face it, I know you do, you read this blog, don't you?) I recently moved to Brooklyn!  It's a glorious borough, and my neighborhood is very close to Manhattan, close enough to walk, in fact!  Yesterday I had planned to meet a friend in Chinatown and opted to walk there instead of taking the subway (it only took 1 hour and 10 minutes to walk, and it would have taken almost an hour with transfers on the subway anyway).  I walked across a bridge for the very first time to get there!  I'd like to say it was the Brooklyn Bridge, but if I said that I'd be a liar, because it isn't true.  It was the heavily graffiti-ed Williamsburg Bridge linking hipster-filled Williamsburg in Brooklyn with their hipster neighbors in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

On the way to Manhattan, I not only got some great views of the city, and a lot of much-needed exercise, but I witnessed an actual person dressed as an alien skateboarding by.  What a sighting it was!  Almost as thrilling as later in the day when I saw about 5 guys dressed as Ghostbusters parading through Lord and Taylor playing the Ghostbusters theme song out loud, and assuring all of us that they were "on it," no more ghosts of shoppers past!  It was a sight to be seen.  Oh wait, here's a picture!

Eventually, I made it to my first destination...

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles Inc.
1 Doyers St
(between Bowery & Chatham Sq)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 791-1817

These noodles were featured on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate.  They are most definitely hand-pulled on the premises.  What sounds like a face-pounding in the kitchen is actually the noodles smacking against the table as they are pulled and twisted.  Very loudly.  While a bit distracting to diners, it at least offers some comfort in knowing the noodles are super fresh.  I would have loved to watch the action, but our table was no where near the entrance to the kitchen, so no peeking for us!

We both chose to have the hand-pulled noodles in soup, as opposed to one of the stir-fried options.  My friend had hers with the pork-stuffed fish balls, and I had roasted duck.  The noodles were incredibly chewy, thick, and tasty.  I LOVED the texture, and I loved how when looking at the noodles they were all ever-so-slightly different thicknesses and not perfectly even, a testament to how hand-made they are.  The broth was also tasty and somewhat rich, with the addition of fresh spinach and scallions to add some brightness and to balance out richer flavors in the soup.  Free tea also helped cut some of the richness of our meal.  The fish balls were really interesting.  I had never had them before, but I honestly really enjoyed it.  The fish exterior was not very fishy at all, and the pork filling added just a nice bit of meatiness.  Although it sounds kind of weird, it's not really.  The roast duck was okay.  The pieces were all on the bone, which made it a little difficult to eat with chopsticks, and the once-crispy skin was now soggy in the broth.  The meat itself was moist and tasty, but I probably wouldn't choose the duck next time.

My only complaint is that there was practically no service to speak of.  We were handed menus, and then someone came and took them away before they ever took our order.  We then had to ask for them to give us new menus.  Later I asked for water, and the waitress never returned.  Never.  And it's a tiny restaurant, you can't really hide.  We had to just grab a bottled water out of the cooler so I could have something to drink other than tea, and then of course pay for it.  Fortunately it was only $1, but still.  You definitely come here for the food and NOT the service.

Hand-Pulled Noodle Soup with Pork-Stuffed Fish Balls $4.50

Hand-Pulled Noodle Soup with Roast Duck $5.75

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard St
(between Elizabeth St & Mott St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 608-4170

After our meal it was time for dessert.  My friend's favorite bakery didn't have the sweets we were seeking, so we ended up at this fabulous ice cream shop in the heart of Chinatown.  How fortuitous!  Even though it wasn't a warm day, that didn't stop us from indulging in an icy treat.  We shared a scoop of red bean ice cream and a scoop of almond cookie ice cream.  We loved them both!  The red bean ice cream was pink, and if found anywhere outside of Chinatown would have been mistaken for strawberry just by looking at it.  It wasn't.  Instead it had a very mildly sweet and delicate flavor.  Meanwhile, the almond cookie ice cream was much stronger in flavor and tasted of amaretto cookies.  Amazing.  Not only were these ice creams delicious, but they were light and fluffy as well, almost as if they had been whipped.  You could see tiny air pockets throughout the ice cream.  This lightness made the ice cream really stand out to me from other denser ice creams I've had in the past.  This was a truly delightful difference, and I know this ice cream will definitely bring me back to Chinatown for more!

2 Scoops (Almond Cookie Ice Cream and Red Bean Ice Cream) $5.75

So light and airy!

After our afternoon indulgence, we did a bit of wandering.  I wanted to find some Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, and after reading all the recipes that Maya at Foodiva had posted on her site recently, my mouth was watering.  She suggested I try Chinatown, and since I was there already I knew this would be the perfect time to seek them out.  After trying some Chinese produce shops with no luck, I ended up at the giant Hong Kong Supermarket at Hester and Elizabeth Streets.  This is where my search ended.  I purchased 2 beautiful, large purple sweet potatoes, each weighing well over a pound.  I can't wait to use them!!  This supermarket had so many items that I've never seen anywhere else, including durian fruit, which if you recall was one of my Chopped secret ingredients in my recent game of blogger tag.  I guess I know where I can find it now in the unlikely case I want to purchase it!

Okinawan Purple Sweet Potatoes!

Durian Fruit
Rice to Riches 
37 Spring St
(between Mott St & Mulberry St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 274-0008

I had heard nothing but great things about Rice to Riches, and as a rice pudding lover, it had been on my list to try for a while.  Although we had dined upon ice cream not longer than an hour earlier, when we approached Nolita on our walk uptown, I insisted we make dessert a 2-parter (in my defense I had already walked about 4 miles, and needed the "energy" to make it through the rest of my long walk).  Rice to Riches not only offers an extensive rice pudding menu with optional toppings, but serves their sweets with a side of attitude and humor.  Signs on the storefront and within proclaim things like, "No Skinny Bitches!" and "We Got Your Weight Watchers Right Here." Don't even get me started on their hilarious disclaimer on bathroom usage.  See the photos below :)

We tasted a few different flavors of rice pudding before we selected one.  The coconut and pecan pie flavors were delicious, but I couldn't resist the tiramisu flavor!  It tasted just like tiramisu with occasional chewy bits of rice within, loved it!  We went with the "solo" which is intended to serve one, but it was more than enough for the two of us!  I highly recommend sharing!  They also serve their rice pudding in reusable plastic containers in funky flying-saucer type shapes, with lids that snap on, and futuristic spoons.  I saved mine and plan on using it in my kitchen sometime :)  If you love rice pudding, I definitely suggest you try Rice to Riches.  It isn't super cheap, even for a small, but seriously consider the small enough to feed two people, and the price seems a lot less steep that way.

Solo Tiramisu Rice Pudding (no toppings) $6.75

This is quite possibly the greatest "don't use our bathroom" sign I've ever seen! Bravo!! Hahaha!

After dessert #2, we continued our walk uptown and briefly stopped in at the Union Square Greenmarket.  As I was already carrying some heavy purple sweet potatoes around, I didn't want to buy anything else and drag it around the city for the rest of the afternoon, but I did fall in love with the potato selection at one of the stands.  I will be going back soon to pick up some purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes, because I'm just in a purple potato mood, I guess!

After a lot more walking I ended up at Central Park for even more walking (by the end of the day I had walked 10 miles!).  I really wanted to see the pretty foliage in the park.

161 N 7th St
(between Bedford Ave & Berry St)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 218-7607

Back in the 'hood, on my way home I picked up a quick bite for dinner.  Oasis is located just outside the Bedford Ave stop on the L line, and it was of perfect convenience that I stop there for some falafel.  Oasis is the definition of cheap eats.  I'm sure if you looked in the dictionary under "cheap eats" you would see a giant picture of a falafel ball with $3 written next to it, because that's all it costs for a falafel sandwich at Oasis.  3 FREAKING DOLLARS!  For 3 freaking dollars you get a pita stuffed with hot, delicious falafel, tahini sauce, pickled cucumbers, pickled onions, pickled red cabbage, and pickled hot peppers (from what I could tell as I inhaled it).  Hummus, baba ganoush, chickpeas, or parsley will cost you 50 cents extra for each, but at that price it makes very little difference to your wallet.  This is definitely a great, cheap spot in Williamsburg - North Side for quick Middle Eastern fare that will satisfy your belly and your wallet just fine.

Falafel Sandwich $3

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