Category Archives: Informative

The 10 Best Coffeeshops On The Upper West Side

This is a cross-post with Check out writer Cindy Liu’s original article here!

Long considered the ‘coffee shop desert’ of Manhattan, the Upper West Side now boasts coffee and pastries to rival the Stumptown’s of Flatiron and the Blue Bottles of Brooklyn. The uniting appeal in the coffee shop explosion of recent years lies in owners’ singular commitments to both quality and happiness.

Continue reading The 10 Best Coffeeshops On The Upper West Side


London Fare: Globetrotting Edition

For all you London lovers out there, I apologize. This week I’m going to write about some country hopping I’ve been doing and all the cuisine I’ve gotten to try. Never fear, there’s plenty to eat and write about in London for the rest of the semester.

A little background on the schedule here. I had only ten weeks of classes, which ended at the end of March. Then I have finals in May. So basically what is known as Easter break here consists of the entire month of April, or if you’re like me and your finals aren’t until the end of May, your break is pretty much two months long. Talk about a foreign concept.

So this extremely long break has given me the opportunity to do some traveling. I visited Marrakech, Berlin, Vienna, Athens, and Santorini over the span of 18 days. In a comic twist, almost every place had unseasonably cold weather for the days I was there. There were hailstorms in Berlin, snow in Vienna, and wind strong enough to knock you over in Santorini. Even with the unfortunate weather I had the time of my life. The history, architecture, and of course food in each city was unique and unbelievably amazing to immerse myself in.

I definitely enjoyed the food in Greece the most. I ate fish the most fresh and local fish of my life on a pier in the town of Oia, had a traditional lamb dinner at a restaurant on Santorini’s highest point, and gobbled down what my waiter referred to as “the best of the best” lemon soaked potatoes. The salads were light and refreshing, the cheese plentiful, and the baklava soaked in the most fragrant and delicious honey. It also helped that most meals were paired with a breathtaking view of the ocean, a nearby volcano, and more islands in the distance. My only complaint was the coffee. For some reason the Greeks seem to be very partial to NesCafe instant coffee and watery filter coffee. Not really my thing.


This little guy was swimming that morning!
This little guy was swimming that morning!
Traditional Greek dessert made from a boiled apple soaked in syrup
Traditional Greek dessert made from a boiled apple soaked in syrup
See what I mean about those views?
See what I mean about those views?

The rest of the trip featured much heavier fair. The food in Marrakech was a bit too much for me. I am a sugar fiend and would eat dessert with every meal if I could but even this cuisine had me dreading sweetness. Most dishes featured lamb, couscous, and maybe some vegetables, usually smothered in caramelized onions, raisins, and dates. Fabulous the first time but enough to give you indigestion the next. The famous mint tea might have been syrup and a lot of the traditional Moroccan salads even had candied vegetables on them. Way too much sugar if you ask me.

A selection of traditional Morroccan salads
A selection of traditional Morroccan salads
Lamb couscous
Lamb couscous

Vienna was stocked full of homey and heavy food. Bratwurst, bread dumplings, and schnitzel were just a few. The portions were big, the meat sliced thick, and the vegetables less than plentiful. Given the cold outside though, often meals like this were warranted. I had some absolutely delicious sauerkraut served piping hot in a big bowl and some perfectly salted beef dumpling soup. Boiled beef was very popular there, which admittedly is not my favorite way to cook beef because I think it strips it of its flavor, but sometimes it was served alongside the broth it was cooked in, which was positively packed with meaty flavor.

Traditional Viennese breakfast
Traditional Viennese breakfast
Roasted pork, bread dumpling, and sauerkraut
Roasted pork, bread dumpling, and sauerkraut

Berlin was the curveball of the trip. I had gone expecting the traditional German food I found in Vienna. Instead I got French, barbeque, Vietnamese, and Italian. I found Berlin to be a city brimming with growing and youthful culture. It was by far the trendiest and most cosmopolitan city on the trip. The Jewish quarter brimmed with art galleries and museums, Mitte was Williamsburg’s twin, even the oldest section of the city was covered in adorable little cafes set along the bank of the river.

French food in Germany!
French food in Germany!

For the architecture lovers I recommend Vienna, the World War II buffs Berlin, the outdoorsy Greece, and the adventurous Marrakech. For the foodie, all of them and more.

A Tale of Two Pastries

Like language, taste is sometimes quite difficult to translate. Especially when it involves the delicious sounds of pastry. Things get messy when we cross continents and change up butter fat percents, flour types, and century old mixing methods. A bagel in Paris just wont’ be the same, and a croissant in New York will never flake perfectly with just enough buttery crumbs. But why give up the hope when the trail is sugar sprinkled? So this weekend Jeanne and I set out to taste some traditional pastries translated from the coast of Bordeaux & Lille all the way to our very own streets of New York. This time we weren’t in search of any new wave of “cronut” renovations, but rather looking at two French bakers producing two traditional pastries: Les Canelés by Céline et Le Saint Honoré by, you guessed it, Maison Kayser!


          Canelé by Céline

         400 East 82nd St


So here’s the deal: Céline is an ex Parisian business lawyer turned New York pastry chef. Her bright orange shop opened in 2009 on the Upper East side where she sells the traditional french pastry called “canéles” (Kh-nuh-leh) from the region of Bordeaux.


Mais qu’est ce que c’est une canelé? Well if you can’t guess no worries, we were actually asking ourselves that exact question this week! So here’s a little recap: Canelés we might think of somewhat like a moist tea cake, with a  rich custard interior and thin caramel shell exterior. Their makeup is quite simple: eggs, sugar, milk, flour and most traditional flavored with rum or vanilla. You may recognize them from their delightfully quaint copper fluted molds (if you have no idea what a baking mold just scope out the kitchen on the next episode of Downton Abbey!). Legend goes that canéles originated in Bordeaux in the 17th century in the kitchen of nuns (their male monk compatriots we’re too busy making époisse cheese I guess…)! The nuns relied on donated egg yolks from local winemakers (who used only the whites to clarify their wines) and offered these treats to poor children. And much like their generous creation, today there’s no designated time to enjoy a canelé, as they can be savored as a dessert next to a sweet dessert wine or simply for a midday bite with no dining rules or regulations. (Disclaimer do not try with tea or coffee, however tempting it may seem or the internet may advise you….)


Céline’s shop has translated the canéle in a few wonderful, and not so wonderful ways. She’s re-imbued the pastry with a new canvas of flavors spanning from daring savory Parmesan and truffle, all the way to good old Caramel or Lemon. So d’un coté we loved her innovative flavor creation! However, she’s also downsized the canéle to fit miniature bite-size portions of “just enough.” And to be honest we weren’t certain that one bite was truly “just enough” to taste the contrast of the crisp sugar caramelized film layer against the chewy custard interior. The translated bite had definitely messed with this simple recipe.  Céline’s convenient bite-size ideology really hit a cord though with us on the constant American diet obsessed culture that makes one often feel so guilty about dessert. And we won’t grumble on about the “French Paradox,” but rather just leave you with a bite of wisdom from Mirielle Guilliano’s Why French Woman Don’t Get Fat: why eat a few Hershey’s bars when you can go for just that one delicious good quality chocolate or pastry occasionally. Desserts aren’t the enemy, but quality is a huge factor. Moderation is key, just as is, well, enjoying la vie!



        Mon dieux, please go for the Large Canelés everyone!


So for fully indulgent and authentic traditional French pastry we’re sending you back to Kayser for a MUST TRY ALL TIME PASTRY: a Sainte Honoré! Warning, this requires several large gaping mouthwatering bites that will ultimately always end in messy delicious whipped cream filled faces:



 Maison Kayser

921 Broadway/ 8 W 40th St/1294 3rd Ave

The Sainte Honoré is the archetype reigning classic of traditional French pastry, named after the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs himself (St. Honoré,or Honoratus Bishop of Amiens)! We’re talking jurassic pastry here people, imbued with more national pride than any éclair or crème brûlée could handle. There’s no way to downsize this baby and Kayser does it justice in New York just AS good as in Paris. The Lowdown: buttery puff pastry base topped with a ringlet of choux pastry filled with crème chiboust, finished with whip cream and glued all together with caramel. In other words, think giant crown of caramel cream puffs….Avez vous faim maintenant?



So don’t loose hope and take an oversized bite of Paris with good ole’ Kayser in New York anytime!  

The Bourdain Diaries: Culinary Institute of America


“CIA is located in the buildings and grounds of a former Jesuit monastery on a Hudson River clifftop, a short cab ride from Poughkeepsie. In my buttoned-up chef’s coat, check pants, neckerchief and standard-issue leatherette knife roll-up, I arrived determined but full of attitude.”

Over spring break I had the wonderful opportunity to get out of the city. My father came to visit me and we decided to rent a car and head to West Point for a spontaneous tour. After our tour, I looked at a map, and to my great surprise I saw the letters “CIA”. Knowing that the Intel headquarters probably not located in small town New York, I suddenly remembered Bourdain’s book “Kitchen Confidential”, and how he mentioned CIA multiple times. Low and behold, I had stumbled upon the culinary institute of America!
Bourdain trained at CIA in 1975, and as he mentions in “Kitchen Confidential” it was a bit different back then. Upon arriving on the campus it truly did seem like any other college campus. Students were running down the paths to their classes, probably late and hungover just as any other campus. Except these students all looked exactly the same – checked pants, white chef’s tops and large paper chef hats.

As I continued to explore the campus the fact that it was in fact a “culinary” college became more and more evident. Instead of pedestrian walkways they had “chef crossing” signs. The ornate stained glass work above the main entrance was a pineapple instead of the stereotypical university insignia. All in all, the place screamed “chefs in training” from every corner of the campus.

Unfortunately, because my dad and I had just miraculously stumbled upon the institute we were unable to procure reservations for any of the official restaurants on campus. However, we were able to eat at the informal Italian café, which served pizzas and paninis.

All of the restaurants on the campus are student led, and it’s really interesting to see how they are progressing and all of the roles of the restaurant industry they must take on at CIA.

Again, because this was the more informal dining selection, the menu choices were not the largest, but they were still interesting. We opted to order cappuccinos, “Procusstio Pizza” and Tiramisu for dessert. To be quite honest, the food was the least exciting part of this trip. Because the chefs were all in training, the food did seem somewhat experimental to me. The pizza had scalloped potatoes on it, and a significant lack of procusstio to my dismay. Also, the tiramisu did not have quite enough solidity or liquor for my taste. In no way, shape, or form would I ever criticize the chefs at CIA, as they are infinitely more talented in the kitchen than I will ever be, and I realize that they are in fact training. The experience overall was really fun, it was especially a unique experience to see what techniques the chefs were vocationally taught in their early years.

Fromage Frisk Down

There’s an expression in French to “en faire tout un fromage.” Essentially, it’s means you’ve made “a whole cheese of something” or that is, you’ve made a big deal of next to nothing. But this week I’m going to make a whole stinkin’ cheese about about French fromage because it’s my absolute favorite part of french cuisine!

Three years ago, I walked into my first French cheese shop and was mesmerized by the case filled with tiny sculptures of the most obscure shapes, gloriously moldy rinds, and multi colored morsels that simply blew me away. This wasn’t just the brie in aisle 9, but this – this was art. I wanted to try them all and yet had no idea where to start, especially as my French wasn’t too spiffy at the time. So in an act of faith, I asked the question got me started on it all: “Can you give me a soft cheese?” The fromager looked at me like I had six oh so very naive American heads, he had a case of almost hundred varieties of cheeses in his case and all I was giving him was “soft cheese” to work with!? I walked out that day with a dishearteningly average brie, and since then I’ve been on a mission to decode French fromage. During my time in Dijon, I lived for my family to bring out that oh so sacred cheese plate each night after dinner. In my free time I was absolutely obsessed, trying to manger my way through every cheese and region of France (no joke I had quite the cheese checklist agenda), which of course proved quite the daunting task. After all there are literally hundreds that even french expert Pierre Anrouët’s classic championing Guide du Fromage could never classify (in the 90’s the British cheese crusader Patrick Rance took a stab at 700 to give you a rough estimation!). Now, don’t worry – we won’t try and cover all of them or even guess the actual number today, because no matter how many have tried to round them all up, french cheese is in a constant state of flux and remains wonderfully unfathomably unaccountable. There are simply too many villages and regional variations to get them all down. So where are we ever to begin!? This week we’re breaking down French cheese into it’s essentials: what’s the big deal after all about a bunch of moldy, stinky cheese?

Here’s 4 basic tenets that help frisk down French cheese and just why I love making “tout un fromage” over it!



France vs. USA: Before we slice to deep though, let’s keep some key cultural distinctions in mind:

A. This ain’t no appetizer operation. Cheese in France constitutes its own course, that is typically served after dinner & before dessert. The “cheese plate” may come out every night at the family dinner table, or for special occasions (it depends on the family – I was lucky enough to live with a family that brough out the ritual plate every night!). And there’s never a cheese or dessert ultimatum: you can eat your fromage and desert if you like! In restaurants, the cheese course is treated with similar reverence. Here’s a photo to give you a look at the good ole days of true table cheese cart service: the worst part – I only could pick four!IMG_0948

B. Crackers Smackers. Remember, our big rant in The Search for a Good Baguette?  Keep in mind that cheese’s true lover is always bread. Trying to handle a Roquefort on a Stonywheat base just might be a little difficult…

On y va!

1. A Bite of History: If there’s one food that in my opinion most characteristically express the soul of France in one bite, it’s le fromage. French cheese is history, culture, and first and foremost a proud expression of the unique land of each region. We’re talking centuries dating back to pre-Gallo Roman époque here people, a tradition steeped in cultural pride, once the work of the monks of the Benedictine Abbeys, and overall century old methods of craft and technique of regional and village traditions that are proudly protected by the AOC.  For example, in La Sainte Maure de Touraine, you’ll still find the medieval reed straw inserted through the tiny goat’s log that was originally used by producers to to repair broken cheese or consolidate them in 2015! AOC protected cheeses are named by the province/town it originated in and continue to preserve years old of quality production. Call me a romantic, but cheese for me has always been the most delicious escape into the past, and the best roadmap to all the regions of France!


                    St. Maure de Touraine (Note: we’d just removed the reeds here, but usually they’ll be deep brown in color)


All cheeses local to Provence always recognizable by their signature herb garnishes! 

2. Cheese is About Land People: “Terroir” is a word that, like “umami” carries a serious snob stigma with it today, especially when you’re rolling with the wine crowd. However, for all its hype, the term means a lot once we break it down because the taste of cheese starts with its terroir .“Terroir” is tricky in translation as at most basic level it means “dirt,” but in regards to cheese it’s easiest to understand the term as an expression of the land’s character. What’s land got to do with cheese..? The local plants and components of the land that the animal eats affects their milk. All these elements of the land later impact cheese’s final aromatic profiles later through ripening. Basically, good cheese depends heavily on what the animals are eating and when.  Androuët famous called cheese “the soul of the soil.” And to quote my favorite line Kathe Lison’s,  The Whole Fromage, “they’re not just cheese, they’re  living morsels of la campagne itself.” Terroir, for me, has always made a big difference in a cheese’s ability to project the smells, textures and flavors of its land: it sounds esoteric, but when it comes to FRENCH cheese it’s particularly important, as France is one of the most geographically diverse countries out there! Keep in mind, cheese is SEASONAL – it’s going to depend on what seasons the goats are grazing and when after ripening stages you should be looking for the freshest goat on the market (aka NOT January! Try May and April for happy kids instead!) When we bite into cheese, we want our taste buds to literally travel back and experience the sea salt of the Normandy coastline and we’re LOOKING FOR that unique “barnyard” smell – all the components of the land are what give cheese, and French cheese in particular, this extremely rich and unique character.


Banon, Goat wrapped in chestnut leaves, Banon, Provence: Now ça, is a truly stunning bite of la campange même! 

3. Cheese is ALIVE!: Sometimes we forget that cheese is alive. Cheeses breathe; they evolve, gain complexity in ripening; they peak. Affineurs in simple terms, are “cheese whispers” who have mastered the art of aging and ripening cheese to an art impeccable. They understand their individual cheeses and promote the best of them, knowing just when pluck the rounds at their peak stage of perfection for the case. In France, these affineurs go centuries back and speak every cheese language out there. Moreover, what I’ve always loved about French cheese in particular is that cheese in this country, like art itself, continues to expand its parameters without institutional regulation.

However scary it may seem to American counterparts, mold isn’t always a lethal sign in France, instead prolonged aging and growth of bacteria actually helps encourage a richer and complex flavor that often truly adds that final “kick” pasteurization cuts all the fun out of. In other words: don’t shy away, moldy cheese is full of uniquely curated flavor!


Speaking of Keeping Tradition Alive…Check out Jeanne’s Family’s Continuing Tradition of a “Garde Manger”: outside storage used for cold foods dating back to the good ole days of pre-refrigeration, and now the proud designated storage spot of her family’s cheese!

11082957_10206896543471322_289951612_n                                “Le Garde Fromage” Chez Jeanne

4. Perils of Pasteurization: Now don’t get too disheartened here, but  here’s the stinky truth about french cheese in the US: we’re sending back the the motherland herself. For the hard facts are that no matter what savvy monger’s may convince you of today, the USA’s pasteurization laws will  prevent you from ever experiencing époisse in all its unpasteurized fully flavorful glory. The lowdown: Pasteurization, basically consists of heating raw milk at a very high temperature to “zap” out all forms of future harmful bacteria in raw milk.  Raw milk and pure ingredients with no artificial additives, is the key to beautifully crafted artisanal cheese. However here’s the problem: when we pasteurize raw milk, we’re essentially “zapping” out all that beauteous expression of terroir. The US government bans all raw milk cheese imported or domestic, if they’re aged less than 60 days  (key 60 day problem here- you’re still safe on exported aged cheese like per-say an aged comté or gouda!). Point in case, the beautiful raw goats milk cheese of Loire Valley chevres or a real raw milk Camembert won’t be the real deal ever at any American cheese counter. Epoisse is going to lack it’s essential pleasantly pungent “kick,” and I often find pasteurized partners dishearteningly mediocre. Today because of pasteurization laws, market pressure continues to compromise much of the artisanal cheese heritage in France as producers begin to adapt 100 year old methods and pasteurize for larger export.


Just some colorful favorites from Provence to inspire your next visit back the motherland of dairy dreamland!


Roundup, The Hallmark ABC’s of Great Cheese:

  1. Purity of ingredients (raw milk nothing artificial)
  2. Expression of terroir – memorable aromas, textures and flavors
  3. Great cheese live and breath, evolve and grow

La Solution!? So what to do? Ever Since returning home to the US with a cheese addiction, I’ve been on the quest to recreate a dairy dream and search out my french classics in imported classics. Unfortunately though, after having had my fair share of ever middle of the road époisse, I learned the hard way that there’s no creating the real deal. In other words, yes I am a “pasteurization snob” and don’t believe imported french cheese do any real justice to their foreign counterparts. In actuality, I encourage people to buy local, American artisanal cheese in season, made by local producers. American producers today have made some amazing spins off french classic models that honestly will do your palette much better justice than many french imports today.


My List of Must Try Classics A Goûter When in France

 *Roquefort: (Sheep, Auvergne) One of the oldest blue cheeses in the world (despite England’s claims), after you taste Roquefort there’s no going back. Roquefort is arguably the strongest blue chese you’ll ever taste and a love or hate relationship. Classic pairing is always a sweet dessert wine like Sauternes

 *Vacherin du Haut Doubts (Mont D’Or): (Cow, Franche Comté) This is my own personal “holy grail” of French raw milk cheese. Packaged in special spruce casing, this ooey gooey delight is best served when heated for a few minutes to get it nice and runny and then let your baguette at it, no spoons or forks necessary! A truly festive favorite, look for Mont D’or from late October through mid March. Red mandatory!

 *Brillat Savarin,: (Cow,Normandy) My first bite of a this luscious buttery triple cream ( made with 75 % or more butterfat) turned me into the cheese fanatic I am today. Seriously, if you’re looking for a cheese to blow your mind, Brillat Savarin creates smooth, silky, and buttery texture unknown to man that is absolutely emblematic of everything to love about french cheese! Paris well always with Champange, letting the bubbly cut through and balance out its rich fat/creamy texture

*For all who love sweet creamy deliciousness, other hallmark favorites include: *Chaource, Sainte Félicien or Sainte Marcellin

*Ossau-Iraty Pardou Arriou: (Sheep, Pyrnées) Nothing beats a Basque Pyrenees sheeps milk, and this is possibly every cheese monger’s go to favorite for a good reason. Sheep’s milk is more concentrated is has a higher percentage of solids and thus particularly well suited for cheese making! Texture is queen here people. Think toasted hazelnuts, and buttery flavor, I always love this best with a good cider!

*Camembert de Normandie: (Cow, Normandy) Now you may have noticed Jeanne’s not exactly riding the stinky cheese train homage in this post, but for a staple favorite of luscious creamy mushroom overtones, her go to is an infallible Camembert

*Epoisse de Bourgogne: (Cow, Burgundy) Close to my Burgundian heart, this is the epitome of stinky cheese and my personal favorite. You’re never find the real deal in the US, but in France a good époisse is rich and creamy beneath a bloomy rind washed in a strong Poamce (brandy)

*Mimolette: (Cow, Lille)  Orange, cantaloupe shaped this is one of the intriguing cheeses you’ll have to try just because it’s one of the brightest of the bunch. Mimolette is similar to gouda with in my opinion, more sweet caramel overtones. It’s no hallmark of the big busters, but just one of those

*Sainte Maure de Touraine or Valency: (Goat, Loire Valley)  Two Loire valley goat staples that never disappoint. You can always recognize an AOC protected authentic Sainte Maure by the wooden stick found in the inside, a method used to hold the cheese together since its medieval origins! Always begin a board with a light goats & serve best with any white.

 ENFIN The New York Solution: A Murray’s Selection

 *Here’s a few of my favorite approved French recreations I’ve loved down at Murray’s this year. At Murray’s they have a unique import system and actually ripen the cheese upon arrival in their own NYC caves, which I wholeheartedly endorse!

Murray’s Cheese

254 Bleecker St. (Btwn 6th & 7th)

*Tips: Just keep in mind, the monger is your friend! The cheese counter can be intimidating, but also just be honest with your monger: ask for his seasonal selections, make sure you taste EVERYTHING before any decisions (never be afraid to go H.A.M and try as many as you’d like before making your final roundup!), and always make sure you get a good feel of your cheeses before letting your monger select (always check and see what they’ve got locked away in their cave if you’re not happy with the cases’ selection!).


*Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Greensward: The best NYC recreation and delightful spin on Mont D’Or. Five stars and a must try!

*Murray’s Cavemaster Petite Brian: Aged for 10 years, this does do justice to the beauty of Pyrnées sheep milk!

*I really encourage you to actually not search for French cheese as often imports don’t do it justice. Instead ask your cheesemonger and let him fill you in on what some of the great American producers are doing out there! 







Street Food in Rio de Janeiro


Spring break came and went and while everyone was waiting for Spring to spring, I decided to go to Brazil, and what a trip it was! I was in Rio de Janeiro for about a week, and spent a night in Buzios, a beautiful seaside town three hours from Rio.

One of the great things about Rio was the incredibly diverse and inexpensive variety of street food that was offered. From churros to popcorn (yes, popcorn) to other stuff with unknown names, Rio was a gastronomic delight.

On my first night in Rio, I saw many small pushcarts that were set up around a town square. I had just indulged in a rather heavy dinner of the carnivorous variety and was looking for something sweet to balance out the intense saltiness of the meal. Unlike the churros in the U.S. that come with a cup of chocolate sauce, the churros in Rio had the sauce inside the churro. You could get either chocolate or caramel, and obviously I chose to get both. Upon ordering, the man would stick the churro into a contraption and pull on a lever, dispensing oodles of chocolate and caramel sauce into the churro, so that when you bite into it, the sauce oozes out into your mouth.


Later we decided to pop into a bakery in Lapa, the nightlife district of Rio. People go to Lapa for the clubs, the samba, and the dubious roadside stalls serving up caiparinha, the national cocktail of Brazil. I thought I needed something sweet (again) and got myself these cakes that were sitting in a display in the bakery. Few people I met in Rio spoke English well enough for me to ask them to describe the food to me, and I had absolutely no ability to converse in Portuguese myself. What transpired was a rather intense session of pointing and gesticulating – and I eventually got three desserts to share with my travel companions. The first I guess was an egg custard tart, similar to the Portuguese egg tarts that I get back home in Singapore. The other was similar to a creme caramel that are a staple in mid-price French eateries, which I felt was just a little too sweet even for my sweet tooth. My favorite was a yellow cake with a crunchy brown bottom. I have no idea what it actually was; but I guessed it was a sort of tapioca cake with lots of brown sugar at the bottom. It was extremely tasty, although it was impossible to gorge on because it is quite heavy.


One of my favorite dishes was from a stall at a market near Ipanema Beach. The market is there every Sunday and is a place for local artists to showcase and sell their unique creations. What I got was an amazing sandwich of doughy fried bread, some sort of lentil mash, okra stew and shrimp with its shell on. It was a wonderful combination of some pretty funky flavors with crispy bread and fresh shrimp. The best part was that it was less than 3 US dollars!



I had many other interesting dishes in Rio and I wish I could feature them all. What I can say about Rio is, go there and try whatever you can find on the streets. There are fantastic flavors and intriguing dishes and nothing is really too strange or too out there. Brazilian food is not the most elegant and can be a little heavy, but it is an absolute delight. Brazilians, and Cariocas (people from Rio) especially, love to have a good time without too much fuss, and that is reflected in the food of this city.

Why I’m obsessed with Chia Seeds and you should be too.

I eat Chia Seeds every day, and they have become such a staple in my diet, that I wanted to begin my CU Culinary Society adventure by sharing my experiences with them. In this article you will learn about the nutritional benefits of Chia Seeds, and how easily they can be incorporated into any diet!


Chia seeds are white or black when fully matured.
Chia seeds are white or black when fully matured.


The Benefits

High Protein Content

Chia seeds have a complete protein profile (meaning they contain all essential proteins) and are also very high in protein compared to other plant-based foods. Approximately 15% of their weight is made up of protein. This makes chia seeds a desirable protein source, especially for vegetarians.

High Fiber Content

For every 12 grams of carbohydrates in an ounce of chia seeds, 11 grams are fiber, which essentially makes it a low-carb food. Chia seeds also contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, unlike most foods, which only consist of insoluble fiber (which our bodies cannot decompose further). Fiber aids in digestion and also slows it down, which reduces blood sugar spikes, thus making chia seeds a great food for diabetics.

High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Most foods have much more Omega-6 than Omega-3, but Chia seeds have 3.5 times as much Omega-3 as Omega-6. Even people who regularly eat fish and eggs are Omega-3 deficient. Fish, eggs, milk, and meats all lack many valuable nutrients that they used to have including Omega-3. (This is due to the recent shift to feeding livestock grain rather than grass for the sake of convenience, speed and costs.) Note: The Omega-3s in Chia seeds are mostly ALA, which your body needs to convert into EPA and DHA, so if you consume Chia seeds for Omega-3 content, it is recommended to take a tablespoon of coconut oil with the Chia seeds.   This will help your body to more efficiently convert the ALA into EPA and DHA.

In addition to these benefits, chia seeds are also very high in antioxidants, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and vitamins B1, B2, and B3.


How to incorporate Chia Seeds into your diet:

My favorite way to eat chia seeds is to have chia seed pudding for breakfast. (Because of their high fiber content, chia seeds have the ability to absorb up to 40 times their weight in liquid and form a gel-type texture when put in liquids.) Chia seed pudding is extremely convenient for me, because I make it the night before and it’s ready for me in the morning when I wake up! See the recipe below.

For my chia seed pudding, I use ¼ cup chia seeds with 1 ½ cups of some sort of milk. I usually use soymilk, but sometimes use almond milk, coconut milk, or some combination of the three. Pictured here, I combine them in a bowl because I am making this on a Friday night, but I often make it in in Tupperware, because I can just cap it (instead of wrapping with saran wrap) and then bring it with me to my morning classes.


This variation is made with coconut milk, hence the chunks of coconut meat.
This variation is made with coconut milk, hence the chunks of coconut meat.


Tip: Make sure you put the milk in the bowl first, and then add the chia seeds and mix immediately(!) so that they don’t clump. I have let them sit before mixing before, and de-clumping is an annoying and somewhat time-consuming process.

The simple steps:

  1. Combine ¼ cup chia seeds with 1 ½ cups milk and (optional) sweetener.
  2. Mix well
  3. Mix one more time before going to bed (at least 10-15 minutes later)
  4. Wrap or cover and keep in the fridge overnight
  5. Wake up to a nutritious and yummy breakfast!
Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding


Here are some chia seed pudding variations that I enjoy:

Vanilla (cinnamon) chia seed pudding:

  1. 1 ½ cup soymilk
  2. ¼ cup chia seeds
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. (cinnamon)
  5. 1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup

Chocolate hazelnut chia seed pudding:

  1. 1 ½ cup soymilk
  2. ¼ cup chia seeds
  3. 1 tablespoon Nutella
  4. 1 tablespoon cacao powder

Coconut chia seed pudding:

  1. 1 cup coconut milk
  2. ½ cup soymilk
  3. ¼ cup chia seeds
  4. 1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup

I also sometimes top my pudding with fruits and nuts in the morning before consuming (strawberry and sliced almonds on vanilla pudding and mango slices on coconut are two of my favorites!)

Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Mango
Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Mango


Chia seeds can also be easily incorporated into your diet in other ways! You can sprinkle them on top of oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt, add them to your smoothie or pre-workout drink, or bake them into anything! I also often add them to salads.

I hope that after reading this article, you can start incorporating chia seeds into your diet. Please comment and let me know about your chia-seed adventures and maybe some new variations on chia seed pudding that you discover!

A Toast to Toast | More Dining Hall Hacks

It’s easy to see why toast has emerged as the veritable workhorse of the healthy snacking world–easy, convenient, versatile, and positively bursting with fireworks of different flavors. The beauty of toast, like that of the sandwich, or oatmeal, or pizza, is its customizability. Is your sweet tooth nagging with a vengeance? Smear your tried-and-true pairing of Nutella and banana. Want something a little more savory? Go ahead with some hummus or brie as your base. It’s quick, it’s fun, and can be tailored to whatever sends your taste buds to crunchy-crust heaven.

As I’m constantly perfecting the intricate art of hacking Ferris Booth Commons (you’ll notice I almost never post about defying the dining rules of John Jay and that’s because it almost never, ever ends well), I decided to see how well Ferris and its culinary bounty (…) could inspire a toast tasting. After evaluating what I could possibly steal that could provide the best possible combination of flavors most efficiently (would it be weird if I literally just asked for the pieces of brie in the brie sandwich? I promise I don’t just eat hummus for my meals. Would you judge me for stealing an entire bowl of Nutella?), here are the results of my culinary experimenting, which I dare say turned out pretty marvelously!

First up, a twist on the very hyped avocado toast (if you’re looking for actual examples of this beauty, check out the versions at Two Hands, Café Gitane, Jack’s Wife Freda, or Chalk Point Kitchen, but until we’re no longer “broke college students,” this will have to do:


Combining what is otherwise rudimentary guacamole (albeit slightly chunky), with some zesty salsa and a kick of sriracha, as well as offsetting the creaminess throughout with well-toasted gluten-free Udi’s bread and an egg, we’re left with what I think is a very passable form of avocado toast. Even better when Ferris serves up avocado in their salads–you could really do one of my favorite toasts of all time some justice.

Next, a tried-and-true: Nutella/banana/peanut butter, the ultimate trifecta:



Excuse the horrible lighting of the Hartley kitchens, but here we have some sliced up banana nestled comfortably on top of the explosion of dimensional sweetness of Nutella and a little salty kick from the peanut butter. It’s simple, elegant, and completely satisfying–the perfect grab-and-go breakfast or a quick snack. I personally love Ferris bananas; their size and quality definitely make them worth perfecting the art of stealing. :)

If you’re feeling a little more “adventurous,” add some chia into your life and watch the love affair unfold:

Might've gotten a little too excited over the chia oops
Might’ve gotten a little too excited over the chia oops

Chia is an amazing superfood/powerhouse seed/one of the healthiest foods on the entire planet. Rich in fiber, omega-3’s, and antioxidants, they keep you full and are extremely versatile. Use them to spice up and thicken up your much-too-boring bowl of oats that hasn’t yet had the intense pleasure of meeting chia seeds (in which case…why?). Because of their magical expanding properties when exposed to liquid, try your hand at some ridiculously easy chia seed jam or chia pudding–I can attest that both are delectable!

Hummus & tomato


If you’re craving something a little more savory, try some hummus on toasted whole wheat topped with one of my favorite fruits of all time, cherry tomatoes, and garnished with simple salt and pepper. If you have some other dried herbs on hand–basil, oregano, anyone?–I could see that working out marvelously.

And if you’re looking for some elegant ants-on-a-log, the ultimate conglomeration of crunch and flavor–


Finally, to maximize what are usually rather mediocre apples–

Brie & apple
Brie! Apples! Toast! PRAISE!






The best thing about all these I’ve shown you is that almost every single ingredient (minus the chia seeds and the cinnamon) can be found in Ferris. I hope you give these a try and let me know what your favorite toast combinations are! Happy cooking!


Healthy Eating in College? | A Conscious Mindset

Given how outspoken I am about my undying love for food, it’s no wonder people constantly ask if I’m even trying to maintain “healthy eating habits” (whatever this means) especially as a college freshman subject to dining halls (……..) and the greatest food megalopolis on this planet. I thought I’d share some thoughts on how to best practice getting into that healthy mindset when there are so many distractions that can and often do prevent us from doing so. These are just some tips that I find helpful for myself, so I can’t guarantee they’re useful or relevant to you; however, hopefully you’ll at least find it a good read and please let me know your own eating habits that have been working out for you!

  • Eat a big, heaping, delicious breakfast. Seriously, if I was (god forbid) forced to pick my favorite kind of meal, it would be breakfast/brunch, hands down. It’s versatile, energizing, incorporates some of my all-time favorite foods, and cross-culturally delicious (looking at you, 油条, and you, shakshuka). Breakfast/brunch offerings at Columbia generally leave much to be desired, so I usually resort to taking advantage of swipes for “express breakfast” at one of our dining halls (choose any 4 of a variety of individual-container cereals, half-pint milk cartons, mini Chobanis, muffins, etc.), stealing bananas, almond milk, and dried fruit from another one of our dining halls, and whipping up something alongside. Here’s a semi-typical snap of what my breakfast might look like:



Presenting: (1) a bowl of one of my favorite cereals of all time, Kashi’s Go Lean! Crunch (SERIOUSLY life-changing–not too sweet, satisfyingly crunchy clusters of high-protein whole grains), topped with one ripe banana and about five sliced dried figs, served with almond milk, (2) some gluten-free oat-cranberry cookie balls (yummy, filling, and healthy), and (3) one apricot-oatmeal muffin(subbed in gluten-free wheat flour for this).

I also love experimenting, particularly with oatmeal, as it’s quick, there’s infinite variations of it, and filling. Some of my favorite recipes are: apple pie oatmeal,peanut butter banana (the ever-dynamic duo), and a variety of overnight versions, like this scrumptious blueberry banana version or a fig and cinnamon option. If you’re pressed for time, check out this post on the ever-effective overnight oat phenomenon!

Whatever you choose for your breakfast, try to eat it, first and foremost. Your body craves energy and good nutrition, and it craves it most at the start of the day. It prevents you from over-eating later in the day (take it from someone who knows) when your digestive processes slow down, adding instead of burning extra fat.

  • Be conscious of everything you eat. I’m also a big believer in everything in moderation. You can have that brownie, but not that other brownie. If you had a starchy lunch, try to cut down on the rice/pasta/bread products for dinner. It’s better, obviously, to overload on greens and fruit–go crazy if you’d like.
  • Be disciplined during the weekdays and let loose on the weekends. Any and all food crawls you see glorified on this blog happen during the weekends only because a) otherwise I’d explode, b) schoolwork consumes my soul the rest of the week #ColumbiaProblems, and c) again, I’d explode.
  • Listen to your body. Resisting temptation, in whatever form it may be, is one of the most difficult things in the entire world. But you and your body are much smarter than you may believe–be attentive when it’s telling you you’re full (usually before you’re even fully aware), when it doesn’t like something, when you’re feeling lethargic from what you’re eating.
  • Remember that nutrition is not a religion. As this is a food blog and not a health/fitness blog, it’s futile for me to preach that “fat doesn’t equal happiness and neither does skinny,” but nothing, especially not your favorite foods to munch on, should stop you from being your happiest you. An awareness of your health is first and foremost, and a love of your body and the food you eat can only boost the love you cultivate for yourself.

Above all, I think it’s of utmost importance to remember that your body is your own and no one else’s–you have the control and power to treat it right, an immensely remarkable thing. Happy eating! :) 

Overnight Oats: Magic in a Jar

If there is one breakfast gem a breakfast aficionado can’t get enough of (and if I was forced–God forbid–to pick just one) it would be oatmeal.

That understated elegance of that strangely chewy-mushy-sticky texture. The oft-dismissed blandness. Its versatility–you want it classic with a snow-powder sprinkling of brown sugar and nestled among juicy raisins? Check. Baked until it’s crispy and enticing on its edges but still oh-so-gooey and melty towards its center? At this point, you could basically be eating a brownie. A brownie that’s at most 150 calories/massive portion. Want to blend it with its equally superpower friend, chia, into smoothies? It’s got your energy fix covered for that 8:40 you should really try to get to at least once this semester being the certifiably awesome human you are. Maybe honor the power it truly holds over your baking and brunch life by grinding it up and having yourself a beautifully simple, hearty gluten-free oat flour to use in pancakes and muffins. Or simply leave it in its whole, undisturbed glory in crisps, crumbles, and my personal favorite, and healthy addiction, overnight oats.

Not only are overnight oats a testament to the tastiness, convenience, wholesomeness, and, most importantly, downright deliciousness of my favorite grain, but making and eating them leaves one with an unparalleled sense of productivity and satisfaction. The ingredient list is laughably primitive and as you’re spooning (or pouring it straight from the jar, either works) your concoction into your mouth by the truckload you can swear you’re tasting a myriad of flavors you never put in. It’ll save you precious sleeping/dreaming of more food time in the morning; it’s the perfect grab-‘n’-go. It’ll keep you full for hours, and your cute mason jar and its contents will incite the jealousy and hunger, respectively, of all those unfortunate souls around you who have not been #blessed with the joy that is overnight oats.

Additionally, the versatility of oats–the sponge of the grain world–allow you to experiment, which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest rewards of cooking. Peanut butter banana is a classic, as is blueberry banana (which I’ll detail below), but let your creativity take you where it will–try a brownie modification to have an excuse to eat chocolate first thing in the morning or your other favorite candy.

Using mostly ingredients you can find in the bounty that is Ferris or JJ’s express breakfast, you can whip yourself up some breakfast magic that is infinitely less questionable than those geometric shapes in the dining halls. Here they are:

Ingredients overnight oats


From left to right: craisins/raisins, walnuts, rolled oats, blueberry Chobani, honey, one ripe banana, almond milk (or any milk of your choice), chia seeds (optional), and some sliced almonds.

Other than the honey, oats, and chia seeds, everything else can be easily found/stolen from your local Ferris grocery store. 😉

You’ll also need some sort of vehicle to contain your overnight oats (and your excitement). Mason jars are a great choice because they’re sturdy and allow you to shake it up vigorously without worrying about making your entire suite hate you for splattering oats all over the kitchen, and make it incredibly easy to eat these on-the-go. Alternatively, you can also use bowls, mugs, or anything your oat-crazed heart desires.

Measure oats


Measure out 1/3 cup of oats and add it, along with 1/3 cup of almond milk and 1/3 cup of Greek yogurt, into your jar/bowl/cup/whatever.



Measure milk


*NOTE*: for this specific overnight oats occasion, I decided I wanted some more liquid-y oats in the morning, so I added a full 1 cup of milk. This is part of beautiful adaptability of these recipes–tailor it to your liking! 

If you’d like, add in a dash (around 1-2 tbsp) of chia seeds for extra body and texture:

Progress 1


Add yogurt


At this point, mash up half a banana and save the other half for topping in the morning. Banana is by far one of my all-time favorite fruits: scrumptious, filling, good for you, and as versatile as the oats it will complement. Make sure it’s ripe so it adds sweetness and is easily mashable.





Drizzle in some honey (optional, if you like yours more sweet) and make some amorphous design blob if you’re feeling extra adventurous:





Now the best part: SHAKE IT UP! This should be so vigorous that if someone were watching you, they would feel exceedingly awkward. Afterwards, you should be left with one of the most beautiful messes on this Earth:



Refrigerate overnight. Top in the morning to your heart’s desire (I used the other half of my banana, dark chocolate Ghirardelli chips, and a sprinkle of cinnamon). Rejoice in the morning that your day will be made so much better with these oats staring back at you.

I hope you give this fun breakfast idea a try–I know I can’t get enough! Happy eating :)

This recipe was adapted from Hungry Healthy Girl:

  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free, if preferred)
  • 1/3 cup yogurt (for this recipe, I used Chobani blueberry Greek yogurt)
  • 1/3 cup milk (unsweetened vanilla almond milk is my favorite)
  • 1/2 of a ripe banana, mashed (reserve the other half for slicing and topping oats before eating)
  • 1 tablespoon Chia seeds (optional, but helps to thicken oats)
  • 1 packet Stevia or other sweetener (optional)
  • toppings of your choice