Category Archives: Travel

NJ & NY Columbus Day Weekend

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

Wonton Soup

Soup Dumplings

Wonton Soup

Scallion Pancakes

Beef Sandwiches

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.


Japanese Sausage

Fried Calamari

Mushrooms in Butter Sauce

Tofu

Fried Skewers

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

Seafood Pancake

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.

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breakfast without boundaries

Hot dogs are probably the first hot junk foods I can ever remember liking. Long before liking burgers in high school due to my family’s limited beef consumption at home or pizza in elementary school due to my parent’s distaste for cheese, the humble hot dogs was there at BBQs, amusement parks and Asian bakeries. The Asian bakery hot dog bun is what first got the hot dog to make an appearance at the breakfast table and for that reason, I am much more open to the idea of foods having no boundaries during the day.

The Asian bakery hot dog bun is actually not that good. The bread that is wrapped around it is the real star. Growing up, Ball Park franks became the ideal because Michael Jordan (even though I wasn’t a Bulls fan) endorsed it. It wasn’t until I realized that casings mattered when I upgraded to Hebrew National and Nathan’s for the snap and texture.

On the last day in LA before Katie and I drove to San Diego, the three of us didn’t know where to go for breakfast. When Ivy asked what was left on my list, I said Pink’s was really the last thing I really wanted to cross off in LA on this trip. Thanks to Yelp, we found out that Pink’s opens at 9:30am. You know where this is going.


There Are No Clouds In The Sky When You Have A Hot Dog For Breakfast

After taking a stroll through Hollywood, we found ourselves at Pink’s along with a few other boundary-less patrons ready to dig into a breakfast hot dog. Only this hot dog is not of the Asian bakery variety. We’re talking greasy, oily, late night eats at 9:30am. To add insult to injury to our hearts, the three of us split some chili fries. Yeah, you’re impressed. I was originally going to get their signature chili dog, but with chili fries, I drew a line in the sand only to erase that line, take a leap forward and get another meat on meat abomination that is the Polish Pastrami. The Polish Pastrami was actually a Polish sausage, so I didn’t actually have a hot dog at Pink’s. Still, I left satisfied as it had the most snap of any sausage I’ve ever eaten. The meat was juicy, flavorful and the bread to pastrami and Swiss ratio was spot on. The fries were crispy and the chili’s texture was easy to balance on the fries. If I lived in LA, I’m sure that I would take out of town visitors there, but not so sure if i’d be a regular given the overkill of unhealthiness unless it was a late night out in Hollywood. Pink’s will satisfy a hot dog lover on that side of the country, but over on the East Coast, I’ll stick with some Gray’s Papaya.


Healthy (Ivy), Fat (Ray), Long Island (Katie)

the ramen monster

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).

I’ll have some west coast with that butter


Katie, Ivy, and Ray — three very full traveling companions, at the famous Chinese Theatre

Guess what? We’re alive and posting from California!

This trip has been a long time in the making. After finally passing my last CPA exam this past February, I was able to make the executive decision to inject more fun into my life.  Why not round out my first summer of freedom with a foodie fueled west coast adventure with old college friends I haven’t seen for years.  Yes, you read that correctly.  YEARS.

Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  By a stroke of luck neither Ray nor I typically experience, we were able to fly safely out of Logan Airport Saturday morning right before Irene hit Boston.  We were greeted by a very friendly and familiar face, Ivy who flew into LAX from Palo Alto.

Once we got our big bear hugs out of the way, we headed out to Roscoe’s for some rib sticking chicken and waffles.  Having never experienced this before, I was more than ready to fill my quota of true “soul” food.

We each ordered southern style fried chicken (dark meat obviously!) with waffles.  In a total gratuitous act of fatness, we ordered a large plate of chicken chili cheese fries.  Let it be known, we’ve made a lot of decisions like this one since the first day.

What arrived was a plate full of crispy fried chicken (disappointingly, a breast and a drumstick — seriously, white meat puts the BOO in boob), two golden waffles, a heaping ice cream scoop of butter and a small cup of syrup.  Whether or not it was pure maple was debatable.

After I took it all in, I found myself in a conundrum.  Is this finger food/knife and fork food/a mixture of both?  My comrades took different approaches as Ivy started eating her drumstick with her fingers (a girl after my own heart) and Ray went in with his utensils.  I did some kind of unassertive mix of both.  Am I supposed to have a bite of waffle and then a separate bite of chicken?  Do I put the chicken on the waffle and let some of the grease fill up the nooks and crannies?  Should I sandwich the chicken between the two waffles and risk exposing my true barbaric eating habits to the regular patrons?  Am I supposed to be this boggled by soul food?

Once I decided to stick to utensils and take a bite of everything all at once, the myriad of flavors exploded in my mouth.  This reminded me of one of my staple favorites, bacon doused in maple syrup and not just drizzled, but poured with a very heavy hand.  Savory and sweet, not battling, but dancing together in frenetic excitement.

The chicken chili cheese fries were a sad plate of not surprisingly very soggy french fries.  Though the additional pieces of chicken thigh dotting the dish were fun, I have nothing further to say about these.

This was my first experience with chicken and waffles and though I’m sure this particular experience is not going to set the golden standard for me, it certainly was eye opening.  I think of all of the food out there that has not crossed my path and realize the new experiences are really endless.  I’m just lucky that I have food companions that are more than willing to take on the new adventures with me.

drop the ‘d’ brah

This past weekend, Ray mentioned we went to Hampton Beach in NH on the way back from Portland. Living in Boston makes me realize how much I miss the accessible beaches of Long Island — private to LI natives for the most part (silly city folk), clean, and fine sand.  Desperate for a cold thirst quencher – I’m pretty sure it was 90+ on Sunday, I saw a small stand near the local arcade selling Hawaiian Shave Ice.  Note, there is no D in shave ice.


This is what I got — shaveD ice… as in with the D for hot mess Disaster.

Back in 2008, I graduated from BU and spent a nice chunk of my summer in Hawaii.  Looking back, I could have been studying for the CPA exam, but I figured I’ll save that for my official adult life.   It’s a good thing too!  If I hadn’t gone to Hawaii, I would have missed the true shave ice experience (and the absolutely gorgeous beaches and hot surfers).

Shave ice is a sort of treasure.  It’s like finding colored snow without the unsaid fear that a dog might have just marked its territory. The flavored syrup absorbs into the snow, so you’re not left with the typical thick syrup soup at the bottom. Unlike our normal mainland snow cones, this ice is like real snow. This is achieved by literally shaving a huge blocks of ice, rather than throwing it in an ice crusher. The latter just screams crunchy, granular ice.  That ish is poho (slang for nonsense or waste of time).  Go ahead, tell me you’re impressed with my seamless integration of Hawaiian slang.

Already, you can see the difference.  The shave ice is much finer.  You can also tell that the snow holds onto the flavor, unlike the first picture above where you can see the ice on top is beginning to lose its color.  You may have also noticed the white in the picture directly above.  That shave ice is covered with a drizzle of condensed milk, a typical condiment for this cold treat.  I thought it added just the right about of richness without being too heavy.  Mmmmm.   I ate that baby three years ago, but I remember it so vividly.  I would go back to Hawaii right now for a good shave ice.


Or maybe this.