Category Archives: Culinary Epiphany

Culinary Epiphany: Mr. Chow!!!

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Opened in 1968 (when the original London location opened) Mr. Chow fuses together fine dining and authentic Beijing cuisine. With 5 locations throughout the country (including two in NYC) it’s a mecca for people with deep pockets and an appreciation for a whole lot of swank.

I live right above (ok 5 floors up) the Tribeca restaurant and have had a little chip on my shoulder in regards to the place since I moved in. Mr. Chow is not my typical scene and I had very strong feelings about not wanting to ever try what I deemed “overpriced PF Chang’s.” But I’ve experienced a few surprises in the last few months and so I stopped turning my nose at this place, gave in and joined my friends who dine here every Sunday night.

The restaurant is slick and lavish with a polished black bar, giant cherry blossom trees, pressed white tablecloths, fine white china, and an energetic atmosphere. The service is very formal but not stuffy with bow-tied and white jacket waiters catering to your every need. The waiters are  pleasant and highly attentive, giving you space while also making sure every plate is cleared, every water glass is filled, every utensil is clean and that you are never without a cocktail or glass of wine.

The food is served family style and is absolutely superb and prepared to perfection. Back in the day they had no menus and just asked you what kind of meats you like and what you were allergic to. Nowadays, with us climbing out of a recession, there is a need for menus with prices ;). Pick whatever you want on the menu and they will portion it out for you and your guests so that everyone gets the same amount of food and can actually try everything.

My personal favorites are the soup dumplings (Shanghai Little Dragons), fiery beef (filet mignon cubes fried and drenched in a spicy sauce), crispy seaweed, chicken satays (in the famous Mr. Chow’s cream sauce), black squid ink rice noodles (hand made in house),  squab with lettuce wraps and beijing chicken. Do yourself a favor and bring non-discriminate eaters so that you can order a bunch of items (have everyone choose a few) and have yourself  a party with chinese delights.

I used to think that you didn’t go to Mr. Chow’s for the food, that you go there to see and be seen because it’s so trendy and chic.  And while the people watching is top-notch you can’t not give a shout out to the food. And let’s face it people wouldn’t spend this much money on crap food, no matter how swanky the place is. Yes it is ridiculously expensive and so it’s not an everyday dining destination  (at least for me). Any negative thoughts I had prior to my three recent meals have gone out the window and I’ll be back….when my bank account recovers 😉

Mr. Chow

121 Hudson Street (at North Moore)

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Culinary Epiphany: Fairway Market “Dinner with the Masters”

Earlier this week I was invited to an exclusive blogger dinner at the Fairway Market Cafe and Steakhouse on the Upper West Side. Dubbed “Dining with the Masters,” this event featured Cheesemonger Steven Jenkins and Sommelier Joshua Wesson pairing a few cheeses and wines together alongside a three-course meal.

Living in Brooklyn, I head to the Red Hook Fairway but I’ve been many times to the 74th and Broadway location and literally had no clue what they have hiding upstairs. Chef Mitchel London, Mayor Ed Koch’s official chef at Gracie Mansion for 7 years, helms the kitchen of the cafe/steakhouse and has brought his unique culinary style to the standard classics Fairway is famous for (have you had their meatloaf? its amazing). Open 7 days a week, they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and offer $1 off beer and glasses of wine from 3-6pm. It’s an impressive operation that has the luxury of being and arm length away from a bevy of fresh produce, specialty goods, cheeses, breads, meats and seafood.

The space is a little busy; hanging from the rafters are detailed posters of upcoming events or current specials, the acoustics aren’t the best for dining and it’s steps away from the organic checkout line. But this isn’t a 5 star restaurant, even though the food  is deliciously good so go in knowing that this isn’t the spot to have a quiet meal and conversation.

*Lollipop Lamb Chops with Eggplant Gratin*

*Peach Apricot Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream*

The wine and cheese pairing was really enlightening…I found some new favorite cheeses (a goat’s milk Leonora and a sheep’s milk Moliterno Gigante) and found that I do NOT like Moscato and Lambrusco wines. But the star of this event was the food that Chef Mitchel London served alongside each pairing. I nearly inhaled the peach apricot tart and when my friend Sarah pushed her tart shell aside (she ate the ice cream and fruit) I embarrassingly asked her if I could eat her remnants :)!

It’s a real shame I can’t take more advantage of what the UWS Fairway has to offer but I’ll always keep the place in the forefront of my mind when up there and will definitely be recommending the place to others. Check it out…they have a great mediterranean lunch special for $11.

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Culinary Epiphany: Vegetarian/Vegan Eats at Village Natural!!!!

My dinner at Village Natural was months in the making with two friends I met through my volunteer work at God’s Love We Deliver. Fellow volunteer Andrew and I wanted to celebrate the promotion of GLWD employee Em but synching our schedules proved to be nearly impossible, until this week. Tuesday night we gathered in the Village to hang outside the four walls of GLWD  and enjoy a night of culinary epiphanies (on my end). With some dietary restrictions here and there Village Natural was chosen and I happily obliged. As someone who basically eats for a living, sometimes my body just begs for something healthy, and of course, Em is always on board to help me with that.

First off, this place is a West Village institution, it’s been there for 20+ years.  Just below the ground in a sort of English basement-like space, the restaurant plays made me feel….relaxed with quiet classical music, comfortable wooden booths, and a menagerie of different plants and gourds populating the space. A sweet old-school place that has a simple nice vibe.

This is the place to eat if you live a mostly plant-based diet, as the menu is all vegetarian and/or vegan. The menu is huge (like five pages) and has something for everyone….. enjoy meals in a variety of cuisines like Mexican, Italian, Chinese and American. Basically, you name it, they carry it.

With this whole gluten-free thing going on in my food space, I had limited options as many vegan and vegetarian diets feature grains chock full of gluten. So I went with the BBQ veggie riblets with mashed sweet potatoes and steamed greens. From the photo above it’s not too hard to see the size difference between the main and sides I was served. The veggie riblets paled in comparison tot he sides but I didn’t mind as the mashed sweet potatoes were outstanding (they had this great bite to them from the use of heavy pepper) and the steamed greens (a mix of celery, kale, broccoli and bok choy) made me a very happy eater.

I was skeptic prior to this meal (would I be hungry after? Would anything taste good?) but knew Em wouldn’t steer me wrong. I literally ate my thoughts/words as my meal was surprisingly good and satisfying. I will definitely go back (after my gluten-free trip is over) and check out the menu items I wanted to try but couldn’t. Post-meal I talked to my vegetarian friends and they all loved the place. More meat eaters should check this out for a little change of pace. For those not in the know, Village Natural is definitely under the radar, literally as it’s underground, but shouldn’t be….it’s a great spot to put some healthy food back into your body.

Village Natural

46 Greenwich Street (between Perry and Charles Streets)

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Culinary Epiphany: North Fork Clam Bake!!!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending my very first clam bake on the North Fork of Long Island with the boyfriend and some of his friends. While I am told clam bakes are a New England tradition, the Stein family shows the North Fork how its done (our hosts for the night). Pete (David’s friend) had spent all day preparing for this feast and his hard work was clearly evident.

We arrived in the late afternoon after a long day of sunning ourselves on Shelter Island and to be honest I had no clue what to expect. For those not familiar with a clam bake… apparently it’s a New England tradition where you cook a brunch of sea foods together and supplement them with a variety of other ingredients such as corn, potatoes, sausages, etc. You often hear of cooking a clam bake in a pot but the clam bake I experienced went above and beyond!

We walked up and were immediately welcome into the Stein family fold. The world really is a small place because I had met Pete earlier this year with a friend and spent a day with him noshing on foods at The Hester Street Fair. Needless to say I was happy to see a familiar face! The entire Stein clan had descended on what I would like to call “The Stein Compound,” an amazing enclave tucked away into a small bay right on the south side of the North Fork. After weeks of being holed up in Southampton David and I were pleasantly surprised with what the North Fork was like and immediately took a liking to the place.

With a drink in our hands we found a spot to sit and watch the magic of the clam bake unfold. Pete had assembled an amazing set-up…a large cauldron layered with coal, seaweed, burlap sacks, corn, potatoes, lobsters and clams. I was in awe of the spectacle before me…I couldn’t have picked a better place or more friendly group of people to celebrate my first clam bake with.

With a loca brew in hand, I was ready to get my hands dirty and help out in any way I could… Pete obliged my request and gave me the vessel to hold while they picked out the ready to eat clams.

*Happy as a CLAM!*

Laid out on the top of the glorious pile lay the clams that were ready first. The bowl hit the table and everyone went to town! Sure butter is a nice accompaniment to any clam, but these were so fresh, so briny, so good that I just dug in to the insides and slurped them down.

The attention to detail and care Pete and his family put into this process was unbelievable… I need to learn the practice of patience before I do this on my own. Watching them was completely mesmerizing, I could barely focus on anything else going around me (which was a bunch of cute little kids enjoying their last days of summer and friends laughing and enjoying the beautiful afternoon)! With the clams done and eaten, we focused on the next step… the lobsters, corn and potatoes. Lifting the burlap sack an amazing sight unfolded…. bright red lobsters nestled on top of a bed of meaty potatoes and husk fiber-free corn (Pete and his family had removed the husk fiber from each piece of corn earlier in the day and then replaced the outer husk to cook….I mean wow!). I was salivating and could not wait for our meal to begin.

*Isn’t that a glorious sight!?*

With the clam bake in full swing we waited with bated breath and salivating tongues to eat. With everything ready to go, we grabbed plates and attacked the buffet table with excitement and a desire to satisfy our hunger pains. I went straight for the female lobsters because they had the good stuff going on…. the roe! Some people may find it disgusting, but the “nasty bits” are almost always my favorite parts (this includes the green “tamale”). I implore you to try the roe and tamale as well  when you next get the chance (it’s the best!).

*JACKPOT!*

No summer dinner is complete without the presence of pie….so we finished with a berry pie a la mode and spent the rest of the evening cooking s’mores by the fire next to the dock. I didn’t want the night to end… it was a perfect ending to the summer.

I cannot thank the Stein family enough for their generosity and hospitality. Last Saturday night was nothing like I thought it would be and everything I wanted and more. They definitely made my Labor Day weekend; it’s a shame I came to experience my first clam bake at the end of the summer…. but you better believe I am going to tackle creating my own next year (inviting the Steins of course!)!

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what grandma said is true…the way to a man’s heart IS through his stomach.

My assignment in class last week was to write a personal food essay and immediately I knew there was only one story for me write. It’s been a few years since this epiphany of sorts happened, but it’s just as fresh as ever in my mind. Writing this was pretty tough; I found myself tearing up just explaining the story to friends. It may have taken me a few days to put finger to key but in the end I am happy with result.

This is for my grandpa, who gave me my pretty blue eyes. xo

*blue-eyed babes*

The Thanksgiving of 2006 can only be remembered for one thing…biscuit-gate. Just days after I had declared my intention of attending culinary school I attempted to make buttermilk sage biscuits from scratch to
serve as at our Thanksgiving meal and in doing so made my family seriously question my aspirations of being a Chef. I did absolutely nothing to help my culinary cause in serving up a platter of dense hockey puck-like flour and baking soda mounds that after cooking resembled exactly what they had looked like before they went in. So in 2007 I made it my mission to redeem myself and show them that the past year I had spent at The French Culinary Institute had transformed me into the 26-year old equivalent of Julia Child.

So the next year, in 2007, with weeks to go before graduation and days before Thanksgiving I called my beloved 89-year-old grandfather (who is now 92) and inquired as to what he wanted me to make. This
guy is nothing but consistent in his daily meal of half and half and Special K for breakfast, a Stouffers microwaveable meal of some sort for lunch, and his regular meal at the few restaurants he frequented which included the neighborhood bistro, home kitchen and country club. The Mahoney’s have never
been picky in regards to meal time or snacking but grandpa Al’s preferences are always accommodated and put first. So when he asked for me to make cod fish, that is what I would make.

His presence in a room is obvious even though he is quiet and reserved. He is the kind of man who rarely speaks, but when he does you know you should be listening. In my 27 years of life I have never heard him
say,” I love you,” even though I know he does. His conservative and emotion-less demeanor isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think he adopted it because being the sole male in a family full of strong-willed and opinionated
girls required it. He is the voice of reason and is the man I compare all of my would-be suitors to. Finding someone like him in this day and age is nearly impossible; they simply don’t make men like they used to anymore (right grandma?).

Thanksgiving is the only time we all get together and is by far my favorite holiday; the Mahoney house is filled with a ragtag bunch of close family friends and orphans who don’t go home for the holiday and so much
food and alcohol that we should be ashamed of ourselves. But the night before (Wednesday) was just the immediate family minus my sister Mallory who hadn’t arrived home yet. The anxiety in the air was blatant as my family hovered over the kitchen island watching my every move like a pack of vultures on a freshly killed antelope in the African plains, well everyone except my grandfather who quietly sat at the table sipping on his much-loved scotch.  As I stood painstakingly chopping every mushroom and prepping each plate I heard whispers of my culinary demise and a question of whether the country club was still open for dinner or not. As my stress levels peaked I had to remind myself that not only was I currently at the top of my class but I could bang out tasty plates in my sleep back at school.

The oven timer rang and my family headed to their seats as I carefully plated the baked cod en papillote I had prepared. With a snip of scissors I pierced the top of the parchment where the cod lay wrapped allowing the steam to flow out and flavorful aroma to engulf their faces. As each person surveyed the meal in front of them, I heard quiet exhalations of excitement and glee. In an instant I had become the family chef! As the plates cleared and enthusiasm for my moment of redemption subsided, my  grandpa spoke what were probably his first words of the evening…”McKenzie, that was the best fish I’ve ever had!” Well I’ll be damned, there was my I love you!

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Red Lobster: a “food snob” awakening….of sorts

I pride myself on the fact that I rarely eat at chain restaurants; in NYC I have thousands of amazing restaurants at my fingertips and am thankful that I don’t have to settle with a few national restaurant chains to eat at (sorry to my friends who live in former cities I have once called home). But when word came that my friend Paul wanted to celebrate his birthday at Red Lobster (of all places) I admit that I kinda got excited. I had actually never been to a Red Lobster before, and when I say I will go anywhere once, I mean it.

So ten of us headed to Red Lobster on a warm summer evening (last week) to celebrate Paul’s 28th. I don’t mean to hate on people who love RL, but it became quite a joke for us to be eating here. Being in Times Square it should come as no surprise that this place is gigantic and filled with gaudy ocean kitsch and decadence. We were seated upstairs on the second level (the first floor handles the bar and waiting diners) and only saw the real deal when we used the bathrooms on the third floor where a cruise ship of craziness unfolded in front of our eyes as it was, no joke, the size of a soccer field!

With ten of us our waiter was pretty accommodating and patient, even when it was busy, we were never ignored, or waited too long. If anything, he checked on us very frequently, probably to ply us with more beers! Not surprisingly, everyone went with a seafood feast of some sort and then promptly begged our waiter to bring us what we had been clamoring for since the birthday dinner was set…the cheddar bay biscuits!!!

Nearly everyone I spoke to prior to this meal raved about the cheddar bay biscuits jealous that I was going to eat them in mass quantities. Some even begged for me to bring some back in a doggie bag! Even when we arrived my friends freaked at the prospect of having them in their hands only minutes later. Needless to say I was pretty stoked to taste what everyone was raving about and they did not disappoint! Even a week later, they are the most memorable thing I ate that night. Soft and doughy, they were a cross between a popover and a biscuit. Each bite filled your mouth with what seemed like a pound of butter and cheese. I was careful not to stuff all of them into my mouth or hide them in my bag for later. I now fully understand and appreciate the hype….I could have eaten only the cheesy biscuits with my beer that night and been good to go.


For $29.99 the “Ultimate Feast” called my name….there was so much going on that it was kind of hard to focus and figure out where to start. I mean looking at the above photo makes me shudder thinking I ordered that entire meal. The plate was larger than my head and contained shrimp scampi, fried butterflied shrimp, lobster tail, crab legs, and lobster mashed potatoes. Yep, that was all heaped onto the plate and I went at it like a fat kid deprived of sugar who finds a lone chocolate bar hidden in his bunk bed. I prepared myself for this meal all day and made sure to not overload myself with frivolous calories beforehand (I ate two smoothies, a power bar, banana, and an apricot as if I were training for some eating competition) but I couldn’t come close to finishing it! Perhaps I had ingested too many biscuits (for good reason) or perhaps I couldn’t stomach another bite of the rubbery shrimp, but I accepted defeat and watched as everyone either finished or too gave up. RL may have severely overcooked the shrimp but they did some serious justice to the crab legs; I should have just ordered an entire plate of them!

*Crab Leg Queens!*

The prices are good for the amount of food that you get as the servings are enough for two people! A plate full of seafood, no matter how edible, at any run-of-the-mill spot in the city would cost double or triple the amount of what I paid for my meal, so ya I’ll put that my pipe and smoke it. By the time I put my fork down and looked at my plate I could barely see straight. I was a little shaky and  my eyes got all blurry, probably due to the volume of buttery food sloshing around in my stomach. So when the waiter asked if we wanted dessert I nearly fell over; absolutely not! But being Paul’s birthday and all, our amazing waiter indulged him and us in bringing a “sundae” of two cheddar bay biscuits smothered in chocolate sauce and topped with two candles. The irony of the entire night was successfully centered on that moment alone and it was fun knowing our waiter was in on our joke and could laugh along with us.

I cannot speak for my friends… but at the end of the day you have to kind of take it for what it is… it’s RED LOBSTER. It’s in the middle of Times Square for god’s sakes!  I bet you that over 75% of its customer base are tourists so you have to recognize it for what it is. But I did walk out and think one thing… I am a very lucky girl that I have access to a wide variety of cuisines living in NYC and simply cannot judge this place for bringing seafood to the masses. To be honest, having never been to one in my entire life before I was pleasantly surprised; I had a great time with friends celebrating Paul’s birthday and enjoyed eating a fair share of my meal. But that being said, I will not return. It’s not you Red Lobster…it’s me.

Red Lobster

5 Times Square

212-730-6706

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Culinary Epiphany: No 7 Sub’s General Tso Breakfast Sandwich!

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day in New York… the kind that made me want to skip around this concrete jungle as if it were 1992 and I was prancing around my backyard in Kansas City. I awoke with renewed vigor, ready to take on the day that lay before me, as I had received amazing news last night that my new apartment was ready and was just a few days/weeks away from moving in!

So with a spring in my step, I left early and decided that a walk across 5 avenues and down 13 streets was the best way to start my day. As I crossed Madison and hit 30th Street it dawned on me that I was just a few streets away from The Ace Hotel, site of The Breslin, Stumptown Coffee and No 7 Sub Shop!

So I put as much speed as I could into my step (I made the unfortunate decision to wear high heels) and made a beeline for No 7 Sub. I swung the door open and unfurled my sweaty self up to the counter and ordered the General Tso’s Soft Boiled Egg with pickles, mayo and arugula. Seconds later I grabbed my wallet and paid $3 for my breakfast sammie. It wasn’t until I finally made it to my office that I realized how cheap the price was considering its ridiculous deliciousness.

The smell permeating from the brown bag held firmly in my grip was too much so as soon as I got to my office, I tore into the bag and looked at the beautiful sight before me. My sincerest apologies as I should have had taken a photo for you all to gawk at, but there was absolutely no way that I would have been able to even attempt a photo as my hunger pains set in and my mouth begged for a bite. So ya, no pic from me but thanks to Serious Eats, I have one for you below!

*image courtesy of Serious Eats*

Now I am not going to go so far as to say that this is the best egg sandwich I have ever had as there are a few other NYC gems, notably Mile End’s breakfast sandwich and Peels’ “Build a Biscuit,” but these definitely round out my top three.

So you must be asking… what is so great about this sandwich? Well this will help you understand—- it’s a soft-boiled egg fried to a crisp golden brown that is then immediately soaked into a tangy General Tso’s sauce and placed upon a freshly made soft bun slathered with mayonnaise and garnished with pickles and a generous helping of arugula. Salivating yet? Ya, I might just walk over there right now…for the second day in a row. It’s salty, it’s spicy, and it’s ooey gooey delicious.

So ya, this was an epiphany in every sense of the word; it was a moment of great revelation that immediately followed with the sad reality that with the exception of Mile End and Peels’, all other egg sandwiches pale in comparison. Now, I just have to build in a few extra minutes to my commute to enjoy No 7 Sub everyday. Go there and get one for yourself, I don’t care where you live in this city… it’s worth it.

No 7 Sub

1188 Broadway (between 28th and 29th Streets)

212-532-1680

http://www.no7sub.com

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