Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
Last weekend I enjoyed a 5 day weekend visiting NJ and NYC. In 6 of the last 8 years I’ve made the pilgrimage back to the Tri-state and got to enjoy suburban NJ Chinese food and the company of some New Yorkers to take me around town. On Thursday, I took the bus and got home in time for dinner at Shanghai Bun, which is a family favorite. The interior has gotten a huge face lift over the years, but the food is still great as always. I actually had dinner here both Thursday and Friday nights. That is how much I love this place.
Fish and Mushrooms with Wine Sauce
Fried Tofu with Fish
On Friday after working up an appetite at the gym, I finally got to try a burger place that opened up two or so years ago that a friend recommended. Frankly Burgers & More is now the burger to beat within a 30 minute drive from my house.
Frankly Burgers and More
Since it was probably the last warm weekend of the year, why not enjoy the last of the heat with some ice cream from Applegate Farms?
Pistachio and Cow Tracks
On Saturday, I woke up in Lower Manhattan and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time to eat at Grimaldi’s, which is among the most visited pizza spots in NYC by both tourists and locals. So much so that we barely made it on the first seating because a tour bus got priority seating.
Grimaldi’s Large Pizza with Sausage, Mushrooms and Ricotta
For dinner, we had Yakitori at Village Okocho in the East Village. Much more affordable than Kushi for you folks down in DC, but ambiance suffers.
Mushrooms in Butter Sauce
Yakitori and Smoked Fish
The next day we trekked out to Queens to have Korean at Sik Gaek Chun Ha, which was featured on No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain visited with David Chang to down a huge platter of seafood and fresh octopus. Sadly, they were out of fresh octopus so we dined on a spicy seafood stir fry, seafood pancakes and pork skin. Poor us.
Pork Skin Crisping on the Grill
After this meal, we headed back to Lower Manhattan to have dinner in Chinatown to eat some Chinese fast food at Big Wong King. Think roast pork/duck over rice with some greens at those places with meat hanging from the windows. No pictures here as this type of food tends to be dumped on a plate.
Here are some pictures that capture the great weather, the great state of NJ, and the deliciousness of the weekend.
The Undirty Jerz
Thanks for the Delicous Trip NYC
In case you were wondering- 3 pounds gained over 5 days. Class.
Ramen. Just typing those five letters brings me back to late college nights, where fears of getting cancer or permanent brain damage from microwaving food in Styrofoam went completely out the window. I’m not proud of myself, no.
I was first introduced to this stuff by my younger cousin, Laura. I recall being at my grandparents’ house and seeing little Laura probably no more than 10, eating out of the ubiquitous styrofoam cup. I had a very limited scope of exposure to ramen before college. I knew Nissin’s Cup of Noodles from Laura and one “weird” girl from high school used to munch on uncooked ramen. I don’t know how she stored it, but it was as if her left blazer pocket was a bottomless pit of broken noodles (GAG).
I went into college having a pretty negative outlook on these seemingly innocuous noodles. Well, you know what they say about college… it’s your time to “experiment”. Hit the books, hit the bottle, hit the ramen block (the shin ramyun block to be exact). Somehow by the grace of God, I managed to evade the freshman 15 and other heinous weight gains in college. Don’t worry, I’m expecting that to catch up to me soon (starting with this trip’s terrible eating decisions). Since graduation in 2008, I’ve succumbed to the ramen monster maybe three times? Not too shabby, if you ask me!
Well, this past attack was a full fledged blow. It wasn’t the normal moment of weakness I experience. This was premeditated. Ivy, Ray, and I headed into the heart of Little Tokyo and we waited. Yes, we waited 45 WHOLE MINUTES … for ramen!
Heading into Little Tokyo Plaza
Enjoying some red bean treat while we wait // A very appropriate neon noodle sign!
Long ass line at Daikokuya Ramen
After some toying with hearts – there were three “Ray” parties on the wait list, we were finally called into the temple of noodledom. Because we had ample time to decide what we wanted, we ordered immediately. One tuna sashimi appetizer and three daikoku ramen combos – one tonkatsu, one shredded pork, and one teriyaki eel (not pictured).
Ramen packed with noodles, boiled egg, scallions, bean sprouts, and sliced pork
NOT tuna sashimi // closeup on that fatty sliced pork (Chashu
tonkatsu and shredded pork
The verdict? The tonkotsu, not to be confused with tonkatsu, soup base was so rich. TonkAtsu – pork cutlet; TonkOstu – very creamy, pork bone based broth. I know, very confusing. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Taking that quote completely out of context, the broth managed to have a profound and very rich flavor while still being subtle. After eating half of the delightfully thin, springy noodles in my bowl and a few bites of my pork cutlet and Ivy’s shredded pork, I realized that yet again my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I woefully admitted defeat and couldn’t even bring myself to eat the boiled egg, which Ray said was delicious.
Ray and I both agreed we liked the noodles best and regretted getting combos, as I would have easily given up my pork cutlet to make more room for the noodles. Ivy’s shredded pork was by far the best rice bowl. Sweet, thick sauce on pieces of pork belly really can’t be beat.
While Daikokuya may not broken my vow of less ramen, it did show me if you can’t beat the ramen monster, EAT the ramen monster (in moderation, of course).
In typical Ray fashion, I had friends over this past weekend and had a few days of pure gluttony. When friends come over, I try my best to get a sense of they are looking to try wherever I’m living and plan the weekend around meals that will be satisfying and give Boston a chance to impress.
To begin our journey, we headed to the North End since it would be a little less crowded on a Thursday night. We got on line at Giacomo’s and after 30 minutes, we were treated to calamari, garlic bread and pasta. Calamari was good, but could have been fried better. The marinara sauce was tangy and had a homemade taste to it. Pass on the garlic bread. Lobster Ravioli was finished off quickly as the portion size was small. Linguine with Fra-como sauce and shrimp and scallops and swordfish with a cream sauce were wins. Next, we braved the only semi-hectic crowds at Mike’s Pastry for cannolis. Peanut butter, yellow cream and pistachio all safe bets.
The next day, berry tarts from the previous day were for breakfast followed by UBurger. After some afternoon beer at Sam Adam’s Brewery, it was time for dinner at Yankee Lobster Fish Market were all 3 of us enjoyed clam chowder and Lobster Rolls. This was probably the most fulfilling meal of the weekend for me both because of the concept of fresh seafood by the water at the start of summer. Perfectly crispy fries and a long walk down Seaport Blvd. help too.
Lobster Roll from Yankee Lobster Fish Market
The next day, we hit up a few Asian establishments including Japonaise Bakery for some sweets including their Azuki Cream Bun, cakes and mochi. Take a pass on the cake and head straight for the Japanese cream items and pastries. For lunch we hopped between Bonchon Chicken for some wings, pork buns, and fried octopus balls and Jojo Taipei for soup dumplings, scallion pancakes and minced pork over rice. Finally for dinner, we headed to Redbones for some BBQ. St. Louis ribs won out above all and the smoked brisket was dry. Before my friends left, we had dim sum at Hei La Moon in Chinatown. If you’re concerned about my health right now, rest assured that I’ve been eating like a rabbit since the weekend.
Almond Cake with Oranges and Cream with an Azuki Mochi
This is fast becoming Asian week on Read. Cook. Digest. Daniel Boulud has been put on the back burner in favor of Asian ingredients. Opps. Today, rice took a back seat to my favorite Japanese noodle (sorry ramen). Udon noodles are great because they are filling, hearty, and fun to slurp up. They are also great in stir fry or soup mode.
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
10 stems of baby bok choy
1 lbs. udon noodles
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. mirin (rice vinegar)
Get Your Ingredients for a Group Shot
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add udon noodles. Let cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside. Heat wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil and swirl around in wok to coat bottom and sides. Add eggs and scramble with chopsticks, spatula, or large spoon. Once eggs are cooked, set aside. Reheat wok and add bok choy. Toss and cook bok choy 3-4 minutes or until tender. Set aside. Add soy sauce and rice vinegar and cook for 1 minute. Add noodles, bok choy, and eggs back into wok. Mix and cook for another 1 minute. Plate and enjoy.
Nice to Look at, but Better to Eat