7 Spring Street between Elizabeth and Bowery
$216 for 2 people, with a lot of drinks, with tip
What?! I can’t hear you!, was my reply to our waiter when he tried to tell us that squeezing some lime juice on our food will make them taste better.
The truth of the matter is that I am getting too old for loud restaurants. I couldn’t even decipher what music they were playing because it was so loud inside with all the chatter. I’m all for chatter and activity in some restaurants but it becomes a problem when I have to scream to make conversation with my friends. It becomes a problem when the most quiet place you can go to is the bathroom. There’s music in there, too! Are we still in SoHo or did we move to the Meatpacking District in between courses?
But speaking of courses, the food was quite tasty. I appreciate that there’s finally Thai food in Manhattan that’s spicy enough to call Thai. One of my pet peeves is when restaurants do not give their diners enough credit and tone down the spiciness of their food. We like to eat! We can take spiciness, you know? The lines to get in Mission Chinese Food and Pok Pok New York should be telling enough. When I want Thai food, I don’t want the Chinese version of Thai food. I want to be reminded of the street food I had in Bangkok and the hawker stall food I had in Singapore. And when I want Thai food, I don’t want to have to go to Queens to get it.
I liked the dip made of smoked catfish and pork that came with French breakfast radishes, sweet peas, and Thai eggplants. To some people, it might be weird to have sliced raw vegetables on a plate without the greens, but it was a good palate cleanser in between the monkfish “cheeks” with noodles in ginger sauce and the grilled sausage and octopus.
Oh, that octopus; I could eat 20 more of those little suckers! I would have been happy to try more of their offerings, but our 2 main courses were as large as the appetizers were tiny. I wished we were able to order the mains in smaller portions as to not miss out, but I suppose I’ll just have to make a return trip–with earplugs on.
I’ve been making this cake for 10 years now and I’ve only had one fail, Haewon told me when she gave me a copy of this tried-and-true Martha Stewart recipe for lemon chiffon cake. Haewon’s version was so fluffy and light–it was the cake for me. Even after I stored mine in the fridge overnight, it did not harden.
You’ll need a tube pan for this, but I got away with an antique bundt pan that I bought for 50 cents at an estate sale and skipped step 6 below. If you’re using a bundt pan, make sure you invert it right away on a smaller bowl as soon as you take it out from the oven. (I thought that the air will still circulate with a bowl rather than inverting and suffocating it onto a plate.) It will only take a few seconds before it collapses and you want to avoid that as much as possible.
My cake did stick on the bottom a bit because of the old pan. The recipe does not call to butter or flour it and I didn’t want to experiment more by lining it with parchment paper. I had to make a more gentle effort to remove the cake from the pan. I could not make a prettier slice than this photo, but hey, it still tasted like a lemon chiffon cake!
3/4 cup non-self-rising cake flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp white sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp grated lemon zest, from about 4 lemons
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
1. Heat oven to 325º and prepare an ungreased 7-inch tube pan. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, vegetable oil, 1/3 cup water, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Add to the reserved dry ingredients and beat until smooth.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Gradually add remaining tablespoon of sugar and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
4. Fold egg-white mixture into the batter. Start by folding in 1/3, then fold in the remaining 2/3. Mix a little bit to combine. Pour batter into pan. Using a spatula, smooth the top.
5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is golden, about 45 minutes.
6. Remove cake from oven; invert the pan over a glass soda bottle for 2 hours to cool. Turn cake right-side up. Run a table knife all the way down between cake and pan; invert again, and remove cake. Dust cake with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Haewon bakes at Purplepops
432 6th Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets
$68 for 3 people, with drinks, without tip
I’ve tasted an Umami burger in Los Angeles before but the craziness that surrounded its New York opening sent me on a Citibike to check it out. Jase, Dash, Harry and I put our names down around 6:45pm. We went in to try and get drinks inside but because they have reached their room capacity, they didn’t let any more people in which I actually liked because then people are not screaming at your ear at the bar or hovering over you while you eat your burger.
We opted to walk down the block instead to take advantage of Happy Hour drinks and oysters for the next three hours. The crowd that was milling around in front of Umami died down then and we were seated as soon as the next table for 4 cleared. We wondered if the staff was also shipped from California because they were so nice even after they’ve had to deal with the crowd since they opened at 11am.
Our waitress gave us the speech about how Umami is different from other burgers because of science–the meat grounded in-house and the Portuguese-style bun–but all we wanted to do was order and eat! (None of those were scientific to me by the way.) We ended up ordering four different kinds to taste as much as we can: the original Umami with shiitake mushroom and Parmesan crisp, the Truffle burger, the Manly with beer-cheddar cheese and bacon lardon, plus the duck special. They were all good but it starts to get difficult to tell them apart when you’ve been holding out for 3 hours. The truffle and Parmesan flavor from the 2 burgers stood out, but everything else melded and tasted like, oh hey, regular (but juicy) burgers!
Skip the duck with peach-apple chutney (above) though. The chutney was a tad too sweet and just wasn’t burger material to me. The caramelized fennel and “Madagascar pepper” just seemed too silly: it’s California trying to fit in New York City. We New Yorkers are pretentious, but we’re not that pretentious! The beet salad is surprisingly good, a nice respite from all the meat. Don’t miss the fries and tots as sides but feel free to skip the special sauces to get more of the unadulterated meat taste of the burgers.
So was Umami worth the 3-hour wait? Of course not; nothing ever is. But go and be nice to our California friends and show them what New Yorkers are made of: we’re there because it’s the place to be at the moment.
New Yorkers got respite from the summer heat this week when temperatures dropped to 70 degrees. There was soft rain and a chill in the air–the perfect time to tuck in a bowl of mussels with a 2012 Rosato di Cabernet Franc from Channing Daughters.
3 garlic cloves, minced
about 4 inches of dried chorizo, diced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
a handful of parsley, roughly chopped
1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic until light brown. Add the chorizo, the cherry tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and season with salt and black pepper and cook for 3 minutes.
2. Add the cannellini beans, mussels and 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook over high heat until the mussel shells open, about 3 minutes; discard any mussels that don’t open. Turn off the heat and toss in the parsley and mix well. Transfer everything in deep serving bowls and serve with crusty bread.
Buy one of my favorite rosés this season
I’m not going to take credit for this easy summer watermelon recipe. Thanks Mark Bittman, I now prefer ricotta salata over feta cheese!
3 cups watermelon, deseeded, cubed
2 cups of farro
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
ricotta salata cheese, crumbled
a handful of parsley, roughly chopped
1. Cook farro in boiling water for about 15 minutes, or until farro is chewy. Drain and let sit to cool. Fluff with a fork.
2. In a large bowl combine all the solid ingredients and toss gently. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss and serve.