September 2006


Of all the days in the week, I choose to be the most productive on Sunday. Sunday, of all days… i don’t get myself….
Anyway, a typical routine would be like this: Wake up a little past 8 am and immediately panicking, for church starts in an hour. Rush out to church at 9 and by 10:30, I get out of the service, and have a good day ahead of me to waste. With the extra time on my hands, compared to the more sensible people who are still sleeping in, I also have the tendency to wander around the UWS more, buy things I don’t want and shop for food I am certainly do not need. Case in point: I had 2 breakfasts today. I certainly wasn’t starved the day before, nor even mildly famished after i devoured my first meal, but I felt compelled to have the second breakfast, because it was pastry =p
First stop: Le Pain Quotidien for a good cup of latte in a handle-less cup, and a huge eggy brioche, slathered in marmalade and strawberry confiture. Although its part of a chain, the big and brightly lit room and the fresh smell of baked bread and other yummy sweets gave the place a friendly, warm personality unlike regular chains.
Next stop: Soutine Bakery for a thick slice of honey cake. Unlike the brisk efficiency experienced at Le Pain Quotidien, service at the tiny storefront was a little more languid and even warmer. The shop assistant served up freshly made croissants, cakes and tiny fruit tarts filled with seasonal fruits to all her customers, regulars or not, with a wide, lazy smile. The honey cake, bought in a whim, was really sweet, tasty and very filling, particularly after being heated up in the microwave and paired with tart yogurt. I would definitely eat it again. So thanks to some spontaneity and a good appetite, I had yet another productive and happy fooding sunday.

Le Pain Quotidien
60 W 65th St
Soutine Bakery

104 W 70th St

It was a beautiful summer day last sunday, possibly the final summer weekend warm enough for beach afficionados to get some tanning done. It was also a perfect day to slurp some soba to cool off from the unseasonal heat. So I made my way to Soba Koh in East Village for a late lunch, only to find myself the only customer at 2 pm. While its a shame business wasn’t as brisk as the proprietors would have liked, I rather enjoyed the calmness of the dining room, further set off by the austere decor (all dark cherry wood and minimalist sharp planes).
What a setting for a solo bowl of hand-made buckwheat noodles! With a healthy dose of wasabi and fresh scallions, the dipping sauce transformed from monotonous to bracingly refreshing. The generous serving of anago and green pepper tempura was crunchy and greaseless, complementary to the slick coolness of the otherwise bland and slightly chewy noodles. I ate quickly, unable to stop from alternately dipping the noodles and the tempura into the sauce and putting the food straight into my mouth. Soon my soba craving was sated. While slightly more expensive than my usual midtown lunches, the luxury of enjoying good food in the stillness of an empty room, where the only distraction you have is whether to eat the tempura or the noodles next and not which report to read while you eat and type simultaneously, well that is a good feeling worth its weight in gold.

Soba Koh
309 E5th St (bet. 1st & 2nd Ave)

Soho has become my new neighborhood ever since I started working at the Used Book Cafe on saturdays, and it is no wonder I’ve started scouring for things to eat while working the espresso machine for a good 4 hours meant to be tea-time. As comprehensive as the drinks and sweets menu is at the cafe (macaroons and stella artois make a killer combination) , its a little lacking in the savory foods line-up. Luckily, Saigon Bahn Mi is there to the rescue, keeping the hunger away with a warm crusty french bread sandwiching crunchy pickled carrots and refreshingly fresh cilantro, salty vietnamese pastrami and a weird-looking but tasty orange pate that’s supposed to be the “supreme” version of pates.
While reference to it being the best sandwich in town is contentious, it is definitely the most value-for-money sandwich however. A huge hunk of bread, meats and vegetables all for $3, enough to tide me through a 4 hour shift, and even dinner if I manage to stop myself from eating it all at once. So far, it hasn’t happened yet, but the sandwich is really best eaten in whole, so say I…

Bahn Mi So 1
369 Broome St (Bet. Mott & Elizabeth Sts)

If the mess of dark purple rice studded with green edamame beans remind you of the south east asian dessert pulut hitam, you are not too far off the mark. The rice is indeed the same variant of those used in the making of the sweet, coconuty dessert, but instead of finding it on the menu of a Malaysian restaurant, right below bubur chacha, Yanru and I found the black rice sharing a bowl with a variety of rice-toppers in a cheap and shabbily cool restaurant in the hipster-infested area of Nolita. Besides black rice, which we suspect was also cooked in coconut milk, the restaurant features about half a dozen or more other types of plain and flavored rice, from japanese to basmati, and even to one dish flecked with cilantro, parsley and spinach.The rice-toppers, from curries to ratatouille, to surprisingly hefty tofu balls drenched in a fiery sauce weren’t bad either. Prices are very reasonable, and we walked out paying less than $10 with tax and tips. Rice the restaurant, attempts to make the act of rice-eating new and fresh, and even an old fogey like me, who likes her standard jasmine rice chinese takeout style, with a slight al dente texture, can’t help but have to try something new. But if you are not willing to try, there will always be jasmine rice.

Rice
227 Mott St (Bet. Spring & Prince St)

The pig gig, as with any semi-important thing in life, like buying an air ticket, requires a certain level of commitment. First, you must be curious and eager enough to fork out $400, non-refundable, for the whole pig (because why go for half if you can get the whole thing?) at least 2 days in advance. Next, you have to assemble the crew of 12-15 friendly pork eaters to share your meal, and cajol/beg/threaten them not to ditch you at the last minute. But once you’ve followed through, you will, as I had last night, enjoy a close encounter with Mr. Pig, and make a really fine meal out of it.
Daisy May’s operated only as a take-out counter and a couple of food carts in the city, but they have expanded since to also include a sit down area, which resembles a mess hall more than it does a formal dining room. The service is largely DIY, but that doesn’t mean there was no service, as the chefs did their best to keep our raucous bunch happy, fashioning a makeshift bottle opener so that we had access to our beer (they don’t have a liquor license, thus we were supposed to bring our own alcohol and corkscrew etc), and carrying out the pig with some sense of solemnity and gravity, as we and the rest of the diners gaped at it.
Now to the pig. To be honest, I was a little let down, thinking that it was going to be bigger than it actually turned out to be. But as we started chomping our way through, it dawned on me that I didn’t need a pigger animal. That the suckling pig was deceptively meaty and that none of us would be going home hungry. We started out civilized, picking the meat using tongs, but heck, it was a lot more fun just ripping out the choice cuts with our bare hands (lovingly gloved in latex, to keep us from burning), and we were well acquainted with the different cuts by the end of the meal. The pig’s cheeks were lusciously fatty, the loin meaty and the ribs, so perfect, smoky and so good to chew on. So good in fact, that we couldn’t help but gnaw on it until the last drippy drop of meat juice had been sucked out. The sides were awesome too, from the tangy slaw, to the bacon-laden beans and the outrageously sweet watermelon that served as dessert. The evening was a resounding success, aided by liberal consumption of beer no doubt, and I have no experienced a night of corporate cheeriness in a while. Let it be known that eating pork boosts office morale!
I must admit the meal isn’t for the faint of heart, there were definitely people who looked a tad green in the beginning, and the restaurant does serve the pig headless, under request and heavy duress to accomodate diners. But I mean, seeing the head is part of the experience! But if you are really squeamish, don’t sit facing it! That works too =)

Daisy May’s
623 11th Ave (corner of 46th)