The Cinnamon Snail: Vegan Food on Wheels

For my last blog post of the semester, I decided to try something a little different, and the Cinnamon Snail is definitely something out of the ordinary. The Cinnamon Snail is known for having vegan food trucks scattered throughout New York and New Jersey, but recently they opened a location in the Pennsy, a new food hall above Penn Station on the corner of 33rd street and 7th avenue. The food hall has numerous other options other than the Cinnamon Snail (and all of them looked great).

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Although their menu is limited, their food is truly spectacular. You will not regret visiting either their location at the Pennsy or one of their food trucks. I decided to order the Maple Mustard Tempeh Sandwich, which was made with roasted garlic aioli, marinated kale, tomato, onion, and of course, tempeh. They were very liberal with their use of garlic aioli along with all of the other ingredients used. The garlic aioli was delicious and tasted great with the maple marinated tempeh. This sandwich was filled to capacity and as a result, I left completely stuffed. I can’t even begin to describe how much I enjoyed this sandwich. All I can really say is that you must try this for yourself because you will not be disappointed!

Maple Mustard Tempeh Sandwich
Maple Mustard Tempeh Sandwich

Even though I was completely stuffed, I couldn’t resist trying their Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownie because I could already tell from their display that it would taste good, but I didn’t realize just how good it would taste. It was probably one of the best brownies that I have ever had because the chocolate was very rich in flavor and the peanut butter cheesecake layer in the middle was utter perfection, especially with the contrast of the chocolate.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownie
Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownie

I’m so glad I got a chance to try the Cinnamon Snail because it is probably one of my favorite places I have tried thus far. There really is nothing quite like it in all of Manhattan. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for a quick bite in a casual atmosphere (and of course great vegan food).

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Slurping in Midtown

If you know me, you probably know that I’m a bit of a momofuku noodle bar aficionado. Sometimes, though, a friend isn’t willing to make the trek to the Lower East Side (and wait an hour+), or I’m in midtown and need to eat dinner, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop is definitely a close second.

Ivan Orkin is unusual—a New Yorker who, thanks to a degree in Japanese language, opened a ramen shop in Tokyo. I met and was able to speak the chef recently; he was like any guy you might run into on the streets of New York – plus a deep knowledge of Japanese food, language, and culture.

I haven’t been to Orkin’s first restaurant in New York, Ivan Ramen, but I have been to the slurp shop, in the Gotham West Market, a number of times. Orkin’s ramen is unusual in that he uses a chicken based broth (as opposed to a pork one), and rye noodles. In general, I’ve found the flavors to be excellent but the soup to be a bit cold. You want ramen to be burn-your-mouth hot; this is not.

The slurp shop has changed their menu recently, and done away with rice bowls. Instead of automatically getting an egg on top of a bowl of ramen, you have a choice of one extra topping . These include: soft egg, toasted garlic bomb, enoki mushrooms, young bok choy, roasted tomato, pork belly, chicken, bamboo shoots, seaweed salad, shiso onions, field greens, bean sprouts, shaved cabbage, gluten free tofu noodle, and toasted nori; these are also available as extra toppings. “Mega meat” (either chicken or pork) is available as well. They’ve also added several buns.

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I had the pork belly buns ($9), with spicy teriyaki glaze and miso cabbage. Also available are veggie burger buns, shrimp buns, and pastrami buns (paying homage to Orkin’s heritage). These were excellent, though they could have used a pickle to cut the fat. Unfortunately, momofuku’s famous pork buns still beat all.

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I chose the Tokyo Shio Ramen ($13), whose broth is chicken and salt (as opposed to the Shoyu ramen, which has soy sauce added as well), topped with pork belly, bamboo shoots, and scallion. The flavor of the broth is perfect; chicken-y and salty, not too fatty. It was excellent; hotter than usual—the absence of an egg was not missed.

The drinks, as well, are not to be missed. Yuzu lemonade is unique and delicious; very tart and not too sweet.

The Clinton St. Ivan Ramen features a larger menu, as well as breakfast—so sometime when I’m craving momofuku soon, maybe I’ll try out Orkin’s first NYC location instead.

Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop,

600 11th Ave(212) 582-7942

Atmosphere: Casual, upbeat.

Noise Level: loud.

Recommended Dishes: Shio ramen, yuzu lemonade

Price range: $$

Hours: 11am–11pm, Sun-Thurs; 11am–12am, Fri-Sat

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30-Minute Gourmet: Shrimp and Mushroom Butternut Squash Ravioli

This recipe is something very different for me. Normally I tend to shy away from dairy-heavy recipes for my own reasons, however I modified this a bit to fit my appetite and I believe it is a staple for any night of the week.

 

Like a few of my other recipes, this recipe can be easily altered to taste. The recipe I am posting here is the base recipe, but I like to add Sriracha, red pepper flakes, and other spices depending on what I am feeling for that night. Also, the shrimp can be switched out for squid, chicken, or another protein, but it might require cooking the protein prior to adding it.

 

Making this recipe in thirty minutes will require some multitasking so if you are in a rush, be prepared to stay on your toes. At least two burners are essential, but if you are using a protein like chicken, a third will come in handy to cook the chicken or other protein while also cooking the pasta and starting the sauce. However, since this recipe is not too complicated and does not require any real special skills, the multitasking is luckily not a huge challenge.

 

One thing to look out for in this recipe is melting the cream cheese. The cheese must be at room temperature and the pan cannot be too hot or else the cream cheese will get clumpy as it melts. If this happens it is not the end of the world, just add some of the boiling water and whisk the sauce to break up the clumps.

 

Lastly, the cleanup for this recipe is relatively easy. Going off of the recipe I am posting, only three cooking dishes need to be cleaned; the pot, the pan, and the colander. Other than that, stirring utensils and the cutting board will need to be cleaned, but this can be accomplished relatively quickly making this recipe truly thirty minute gourmet.

 

And without further ado, here is the recipe.

 

Shrimp and Mushroom Butternut Squash Ravioli with Cream Sauce (adapted from allrecipes.com)image2

 

  • 1 (12oz) package of butternut squash ravioli
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 10 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 handful spinach, sliced (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon basil (to taste)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 lb shrimp
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ravioli and cook until al dente. Drain.

 

While the pasta is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and cook and stir until tender. Transfer to a plate.

 

In the same pan, melt 1/2 cup of butter with minced garlic until fragrant. Reduce the heat and add the cream cheese, breaking it up as it melts. Stir in the parsley, basil, and spinach. Simmer for 5 minutes. Mix in boiling water until the sauce is smooth. Add the shrimp and continue cooking the sauce until shrimp is pink. Add mushrooms and ravioli and stir until heated and incorporated.

Sweet Finds Underground

My time spent trying and writing about bakeries around New York City has given me the chance to explore new areas and venture outside of Morningside Heights, so it is only fitting that my last blog post of the year is focused on a brand-new space in New York City: Turnstyle.

Dubbed “a Main Street underground,” Turnstyle is a market of sorts located underneath Columbus Circle, attached to the subway station.  This modern thoroughfare is a blend of specialty shops and food options, from custom grilled cheeses to donuts to juice.  However, I was on the hunt specifically for bakeries, and Bosie Patisserie caught my eye.

charming French atmosphere
charming French atmosphere

This location is a smaller version of the Bosie Tea Parlor, situated downtown just off Bleecker.  With its vintage French posters, handwritten chalkboard menu, and weathered wood tables, the space offers a welcoming atmosphere, yet due to its location in Turnstyle, the focus is definitely more on finding something quick and delicious for those on the go.  The display case offered a wide variety of colorful and eye-catching desserts, and although I did not try any of the macarons on this visit, I now know that I have the option to purchase high-quality macarons without ever having to go aboveground.

the colorful options make it difficult to decide
the colorful options make it difficult to decide

I finally decided upon the Ispahan (mostly because of how beautiful it looked), a unique dessert composed of two large macaron shells filled with rose buttercream, lychee, and fresh raspberries.  At first, I was taken off guard by the lychee fruit tucked into the middle of the pastry, but its sweet, chewy texture offered a surprising departure from the basic rose flavor.

my Ispahan
my Ispahan

The opening of Turnstyle has just given me one more reason to love Columbus Circle, and I know that I will be back at Bosie Patisserie specifically to try both the macarons and the wide assortment of teas offered as well.

 

Cherry Bombe, Part 2

Cherry Bombe sends me to a happy place. I read it on the train too early and too caffeinated on a Sunday morning, but its Ruth Reichl in black and white and its pastel food faces by Charlotte Love center me in the moment. I want to be here, reading and breathing. Who has that thought on the subway?

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When I get off the train, I stand taller. I’m calm and exhilarated at the same time. I know the stories of women in food who take creative risks that make the world more interesting.

Who are these women?

Well there’s Bonnie Slotnick, who, in 1997, opened her own vintage cookbook store in the West Village after losing her job. There’s Lindsay Sung, who blogs full-time about cakes and breast cancer, weaving sweetness with tragedy and resilience. There’s Caroline Randall Williams, an author and poet who came to know her grandmother by studying the visible ways in which she interacted with her cookbooks. There’s Uli Beutter Cohen, who started an instagram and tumblr about what New Yorkers read on the subway, revealing the thoughts and aspirations behind anonymous faces.

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While Cherry Bombe in mag form is only released twice a year, Radio Cherry Bombe is a podcast that comes out every week. It’s a part of Heritage Radio Network, a food-centric radio station that records in Roberta’s. This means that every week, Claudia Wu and Kerry Diamond interview a really cool food woman, bringing Cherry Bombe to life through conversation.

I listened to Margaret Braun’s episode in Newark Airport when I was leaving for my grandfather’s funeral. I needed something light but meaningful, and Radio Cherry Bombe gave me that. Braun is a cake artist who travels the world, creating cakes for royalty and somebodies. Her cakes are imperfect and special and they have her voice. Braun was the artist-in-residence at the Museum of Art and Design earlier this year, and while I missed her by a few days, I cried when I saw the porcelain sugar cups she had left on the top floor of MAD. It’s truly the most emotional reaction to visual art I’ve ever had. Radio Cherry Bombe sent me.

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I strongly recommend Cherry Bombe and Radio Cherry Bombe to anyone easily inspired by wonders of the food world.

 

Village Natural: A Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant

When I walked into Village Natural, I was welcomed by a surprisingly casual and homey atmosphere, the type of atmosphere that is hard to find at a vegetarian or vegan restaurant. Village Natural encompassed everything I was looking for into one: vegan and vegetarian food, a homey atmosphere, a short wait time, and excellent food! The restaurant is located at 46 Greenwich Avenue in the West Village.

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When I sat down and got handed the menu, I realized I was going to have a problem; there were so many options that all sounded amazing. After spending a lot of time going through the menu, I decided to get the Breathe Classic Smoothie and the Veggie Cutlet Parmigiana, which also came with a salad. The smoothie was vegan and was made with strawberries, bananas, and orange juice. I could not tell that it wasn’t made with diary!

Breathe Classic Smoothie
Breathe Classic Smoothie

Almost immediately after ordering, my salad arrived. I was very hungry when I arrived at the restaurant, so I was very happy to get my salad right away! The salad was the perfect size and tasted great with their homemade tahini sauce.

Salad
Salad

Right after finishing my salad, my entrée arrived, and I knew just from the smell that it would taste amazing. I ordered the Veggie Cutlet Parmigiana with cheese, but it is also available without diary cheese to make it vegan. My entrée came with pasta as well as broccoli, leaving me with a lot of food to take back with me! The Veggie Cutlet Parmigiana itself tasted very similar to chicken. One of my favorite meals before becoming a vegetarian was chicken parmigiana and if I wasn’t at a vegetarian restaurant, I would have thought that I was eating chicken.

Veggie Cutlet Parmigiana
Veggie Cutlet Parmigiana

I will definitely be going back to Village Natural sometime very soon. So far, this is one of my favorite restaurants I have been to in Manhattan and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for good food, even if they aren’t vegetarian or vegan.

Soup Dumplings Part 2: Shanghai Cafe Deluxe

 

Shanghai Cafe Deluxe sits tucked in between several other eateries—as most restaurants in Chinatown do—with an unassuming neon sign. The restaurant is lit in tacky neon pink, and a rather unfriendly waitress led myself and my friend to a table in the corner, throwing down menus on a table.

To start off—because I have a weakness for scallion pancakes—do not order them at Shanghai Cafe Deluxe. They’re under-seasoned, not super crispy, and just unsatisfying. Do order pea tendrils sautéed in garlic, though, as an accompaniment to the little sacks of piping hot crab and pork broth that are Shanghai Cafe’s magical soup dumplings.

My friend and I got one order of pork soup dumplings, and one of pork and crab.

In comparison to Joe’s Shanghai, the Shanghai Cafe Deluxe dumplings are much sturdier. Even after having sat for a while, they tend not to rip as easily, and it’s possible to peel them apart from each other without ripping multiple dumplings. They’re slightly less fatty, as well, but seasoned perfectly—leaving the diner feeling slightly less regretful after consuming far too many. The dumplings are served with two sauces—the classic vinegar-ginger, and a spicy sauce.

At this restaurant, the dumplings are made to order. The skin is chewy—which I like; they’re not as good when they break so easily—and the broth is porky, but not overpowering. The filling is perfect.

The crab dumplings are especially good. The fatty pork marries with the ocean taste of the crab, held together by a slight hint of curry and the ever-umami pork broth. The taste was unique, but more interesting than  the pork. I would definitely recommend these—though the pork is classic.

The key with this restaurant is to get there  early and eat fast. We arrived at about 6:20, and snagged one of the last two person tables—within minutes of our arrival, the restaurant was full and there was a line. Even if you don’t get there early enough to avoid the line, however, stay. It’s worth it. And if you’re venturing out on your own to find a different soup dumpling place, beware: xiao long bao are a Shanghai specialty, and while they might be on the menu at Sichuan or Hunan or Beijing-style restaurants, they’re probably not going to be very good.

 

Joe’s Shanghai

100 Mott St, (212) 966-3988

Atmosphere: Casual.

Credit Card: no.

Noise Level: moderate.

Recommended Dishes: crab soup dumplings, pork soup dumplings, sautéed pea tendrils.

Hours: 11:30am–10pm, Sun–Thurs; 11:30am–11pm, Fri-Sat.

30-minute Gourmet: More Spicy than Sweet Honey Sriracha Chicken

More Spicy than Sweet Honey Sriracha Chickenimage1

So far my recipes have really stuck to the title “30-minute gourmet” in their prep, cook time, and cleanup. Unfortunately, this recipe is just 30-minute gourmet. It can be prepared in 30 minutes, but you will have to kick it into high gear, which shouldn’t be an issue if you have dinner around the corner and need something fast.
With that being said, this recipe also differs from previous posts in that it is not incredibly versatile, but that does not mean it is any less delicious. It is a hybrid between Chinese takeout chicken and homemade breaded chicken. Because it is baked, it does not have the same crunch that takeout might, but it is healthier since it is not deep fried. If you want that crunch, just fry the coated chicken in very hot oil in batches until very lightly browned, let dry on a paper towel, and then fry again until golden brown. This does require a large pot and either tongs or a slotted spoon.
As for this recipe, the sauce is very flavorful and relatively spicy (depending on your tolerance) so I like to pair it with rice and sometimes broccoli to really get as much of the takeout experience as I can. This might just be an old wives tale, but I am pretty sure the spice in the sauce can help reduce cold symptoms, but don’t quote me on that. Also, seasoning the chicken before it is dredged helps give it flavor beyond just the sauce-coated exterior. Especially if you have big pieces, this will help keep those meaty centers from being bland.
Cleanup for this will take at least another 15 minutes, so I suggest planning this recipe appropriately. It can work wonders, but if you are looking for 30-minute gourmet because you will have 25 minutes to make a meal, put this recipe on the shelf for now and come back when you have enough time that you won’t be screaming at chicken to cook faster.
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Now for the recipe:
1lb chicken breasts or thighs, cubed about 1-inch
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, whisked
3 cups Panko bread crumbs (I use Japanese style)
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch white pepper
1 pinch salt
green onions & sesame seeds (for garnish)
Sauce:
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
8 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons sriracha
6 tablespoons honey
8 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Toss the chicken with the sugar, salt, and white pepper. Place the flour in one bowl, the whisked eggs in a second bowl, and the bread crumbs in a third. In batches, coat the chicken in the flour, soak in the egg, and then coat in the bread crumbs. Line the chicken on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Cook until lightly brown on the outside and fully cooked, about 15 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk the soy sauce, sriracha, honey, water, and the red pepper flakes together. Add to the saucepan and cook for about 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Set aside over low heat until ready to toss with the chicken.
When the chicken is finished cooking, toss with the sauce. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds if desired and serve immediately.

Ferrara Bakery and Cafe in Little Italy

Pleasantly full from an earlier dinner of pasta and surrounded by a quiet murmur of Italian, I scoured the streets of Little Italy for my destination: Ferrara Bakery and Cafe.  Night was setting in on this Tuesday evening, but then, all of a sudden, Ferrara emerged out of the darkness with a large, dazzling sign and a bold red awning.  Everything about the exterior distinguished it from its surroundings, from the antique car replica balanced atop the awning to the light and laughter that emanated from within.  It was even bigger than I expected, and I quickened my pace to get inside faster.

The bright exterior of Ferrara
The bright exterior of Ferrara

I had actually stumbled upon Ferrara online while researching another article that I was writing for the Barnard Bulletin.  Ferrara first opened in 1892 as a small neighborhood cafe that quickly earned praise for the freshness and quality of its products.  The bakery is now in its fifth generation of family ownership and still going strong after over 120 years of business.

The full display cases
The full display cases

Once entering, you have the option to either choose bakery items to go or sit down at one of the many tables.  Deciding to make a night out of it, we sat down and were greeted by a very large, varied menu offering everything from specialty pastries to gelato flavors.

The many options (not even including the drink and coffee menu)
The many options (not even including the drink and coffee menu)

Faced with so many options, I decided to go with the trio of miniatures in order to try more of a variety.  I chose the chocolate cannoli, Dacquoise, and raspberry tart in order to balance out my love for both chocolate and berries.

My trio of miniatures
My trio of miniatures

The raspberry tart was a classic combination of a creamy base topped with fresh raspberries and powdered sugar, all contained within a tart.  The chocolate cannoli satisfied my desire for a “quintessential Italian dessert” with a thick layer of dark chocolate encasing the shell.  The most unique dessert that I chose was the specialty pastry Dacquoise, a bittersweet chocolate purse filled with praline and gianduia cream.  The beautifully crafted chocolate exterior gave way to a mousse-like interior with a rich flavor.  If I didn’t have to get back to campus to finish work, I would have stayed much longer in the friendly atmosphere of Ferrara and ordered a coffee too.  As if I needed more motivation to return, Ferrara also offers brunch, so I will be venturing downtown much more often.

Naya’s: A Piece of Lebanon in New York City

Lebanese is the one cuisine I can never tire of! Even after my holidays in Lebanon in which every family visit is accompanied by a plentiful feast, I come back craving the food. Having been spoiled with the best Lebanese food, my family and I have always struggled to find an authentic and delicious Lebanese restaurant in New York city. That is until we found Naya’s in midtown.

In celebration, I brought my friends for a well-prepared feast on Easter. Traditionally, the standard Lebanese meal at a restaurant is all about sharing. It begins with the mezze, which are small sharing platters. My family, one who loves food, usually overdoes this course and is even too full to move onto the hot dishes. Nonetheless, the meal is finished off with a platter of grilled meat and vegetables and rice with vermicelli.

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Common mezze include hummus, taboule, babaghanoush, spinach pies, fatoush (salad with pomegranate syrup and sumac), falafel, kibbe (meat and cracked wheat stuffed with spiced ground meat), sambousac (fried pastry filled with spiced ground meet), grilled haloumi cheese, among many other dishes. The variety is so expansive that a different combination of dishes can always be ordered.

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I have found it nearly impossible to not leave a meal like this full beyond belief. However, the food itself is actually quite light. Butter and cream are rarely used. Each dish usually contains a large amount of olive oil, garlic, and lemon. For the most part, dishes are prepared through grilling, baking, or sautéing. There is an abundance of vegetables, whole grains, and fruits in every meal. Fish and poultry are more often used than red meat, which when used is most commonly lamb.

Naya’s menu offers a broad representation of Lebanese cuisine. They are true to the original flavors and preparation. With the plentiful choices, there is sure to be a dish for everyone to love. Go to Naya and allow yourself the opportunity to become acquainted with the mastery of a Lebanese kitchen.