Andes Mint Chocolate Chunk Cookies

If you’re a fan of chocolate and mint, these are the cookies for you. They’re golden and crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, and the cool hint of mint balances out the gooey chunks of chocolate. These are perfect for the upcoming holiday season!



½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp pure mint extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup bread flour (highly recommended, as the the higher gluten content is what makes them so chewy!)

pinch of salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup Andes Crème de Menthe Thins, chopped

Continue reading Andes Mint Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Ascolane Stuffed Olives

After having talked about the quintessential Italian food, I feel ready to get personal, and to talk about a food which is typical of my city.

Piazza del Popolo - Ascoli Piceno
Piazza del Popolo – Ascoli Piceno from the website of Ascoli Piceno

I come from a small and nice city in the center of Italy, called Ascoli Piceno. It is a medieval city where it seems that time has stood still. Its People Square is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

The city is not well known even inside Italy, but its name sounds definitely familiar to all Italians because of the Ascolane Stuffed Olives (Olive all’Ascolana in Italian). They are a perfect appetizer food, and they are normally eaten as antipasto or side dish during important occasion, like Christmas or  Easter lunch.

The Ascolane Stuffed Olives are olives which are stuffed with three kinds of meat: chicken, beef and pork. They are breaded and then fried.

Ascolane Stuffed Olives
Ascolane Stuffed Olives – from Giallo Zafferano

This is how they look like. They are just amazing.

Unfortunately, they are not very easy to make, but not impossible as well. To explain you the recipe, I’ll introduce here a very special guest: my Grandma Anna. She has made Ascolane Stuffed Olives all her life long, and some years ago my sister and I decided to record this precious piece of information. Here you can see my Grandma Anna making stuffed olives, with translation in English:

This is a challenge for you: do you feel ready to try to be a real “Italian Grandma” in order to taste this amazing appetizer??

If you don’t feel ready yet, you can find a (kind of) stuffed olives at Eataly NYC, in 200 Fifth Avenue.Eataly Stuffed Olives

But my Grandma’s olives (and yours) will definitely taste better!

Buon appetito!

Coffee, Tea, Muesli? Chalait’s Healthy and Vegan Offerings

As an avid espresso finder, I have traveled around the city finding my favorite cappuccinos, macchiatos, cortados, and lattes. Each borough has always rewarded me with amazing cups of jittery happiness, but then I’m usually hungry for a snack to go with my cuppa.

But when I look at the glass counter for a sweet treat to pick out, all I usually see are chocolate croissants, sugar covered pound cakes, huge chocolate muffins, and the bigger-than-your-head cookies. As a health-focused consumer of foods, what am I supposed to eat at these places? Am I supposed to stick with the cantaloupe and pineapple filled fruit cups every time?

Chalait in the West Village offers some other options.

I like to study around NYU quite a bit, and one time I popped into a very bright and very minimalist decorated coffee shop called Chalait, and I’m so glad I did. As I walk in I do see the croissants and muffins in a small shelf, but then I look up and see a huge menu of healthy options, as well as some shelves on the side of the store bursting with raw bites, quinoa salads, and chia puddings.

I sighed with happiness, ordered, and sat down waiting for deliciousness to come to me.

Muesli Toast with Agave, Pumpkin Seeds, and Seasonal Fruit!

Chalait offers different kinds of “toasts”, whether it be avocado, sunrise, or plain Nutella. I ordered the muesli toast with fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, and agave for that morning. I couldn’t even believe that what I was eating had ZERO preservatives, and was made of such pure ingredients. They even spent so much time meticulously plating each dish to keep the dishes looking as beautiful as their latte art.

Aside from their toasts, each of which I tried every time I visited here, Chalait also has many raw snacks, and one of my favorites is the Tangy Pineapple and Cocoa Banana Bites. They are completely raw, vegan, and gluten free, and best of all, guilt-free!

Tangy Pineapple and Cocoa Banana Bites PC: @chalaitnyc
Tangy Pineapple and Cocoa Banana Bites PC: @chalaitnyc

These are just a few of the many delicious and healthy options you can pair with your favorite espresso at Chalait, and I definitely will be returning next week to try something new! While every coffee-shop may not have raw brownie bites and chia puddings, you can always find something guilt-free to go with your coffee. If not, enjoy your well-made cortado and grab a snack from the bodega next door!

Heading West: Underwest Donuts

A brave dessert aficionado’s pursuit of all things fried, glazed, and sugary.

Located at 47th Street and 12th Ave, Underwest Donuts is an unassuming doughnut shop. It’s actually inside a carwash, and the shop itself is just a counter where a few friendly employees dole out freshly fried doughnuts to anyone who wanders through.


For such a small shop, there was a fairly extensive choice of doughnuts, and I bought an array to bring back to campus. I ordered three of the “special doughnuts” (pictured below), and one of the regular sugared doughnuts upon recommendation from guy behind the counter. He actually fried the dough and rolled it in sugar in front of me, to emphasize the freshness.

Maple Waffle

The Maple Waffle is one of the newer flavors, and it has a very strong maple flavor, but in a good way that seems to transport you to the Vermont wilderness.

Pumpkin Ginger

The Pumpkin Ginger doughnut was a little strong for my taste; it tasted strongly of ginger.

Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate was my favorite – it had a rich chocolate flavor without being overly sweet.


(Pictured, clockwise from the top: Pumpkin Ginger, Maple Waffle, Dark Chocolate, and Sugared)

Final thoughts: Were these doughnuts amazing? Absolutely. Would I go back? Not a chance. Getting to Underwest Donuts was such a pain – it’s too far West, and to get there you have to navigate the Hell that is Times Square. However, if you’re looking for genuinely good, fresh doughnuts that aren’t downtown, you’ve found your haven.



Underwest Donuts: 47th Street and 12th Ave

Bun Breakdown – Momofuku

Whenever a friend comes to New York from out of town, I reliably bring them to Momofuku Noodle Bar. I’ve been a number of times now, and since I’ve tried almost all of their buns—save the chicken meatball one—I thought I’d write a breakdown of each.


The Pork Bun: (Be warned: This bun is not on the menu. They make tons of them every day, but you’ve got to know to order them. ) The pork bun is probably the most famous bun that momofuku makes. Two slices of pork belly, hoisin sauce, scallions, and lightly pickled cucumbers. It’s a perfect combination. The sweetness of the hoisin sauce melds with the fatty pork; the fat is then cut by the scallions and cucumbers.


The Brisket Bun: This is the most beautiful bun, albeit a strange combination. (They have since changed the set to horseradish, pickled red onion, and cucumber , actually, but I haven’t had that.) The mayonnaise served with this bun went with the meat, but the shredded lettuce? A little lame, in my opinion. The brisket itself, though, was brilliant.


The Shiitake Bun: This comes with the same set as the pork bun, and I wouldn’t have ordered it, except that a chef recommended it and my mom (who I was with at the time) prefers vegetables to meat. Interestingly, I found the lack of fat in the mushrooms preferable with the hoisin to the fatty pork belly.


The Shrimp Bun: Oh, man. This one is a winner. Served with spicy mayo, pickled red onion, and iceberg lettuce, the bun contains crushed shrimp shaped into a patty and fried on a flat-top until crispy.


The Fried Egg Bun: Finally, this one was a special in September. Pork loin, fried egg, bacon, chives, and hollandaise. The bun was delicious, but more impressive was the method for keeping an entire fried egg that size: the eggs are slow-poached in the shell beforehand, so they don’t spread out like a raw egg when they’re cracked onto a hot surface.


Which bun is your favorite?


Best Soup Dumplings in Manhattan

Soup dumpling is a type of mini-steamed-buns originally from Shanghai, and it is quickly gaining popularity in New York. Its Chinese name Xiaolongbao has the meaning “small” “steaming basket” – which explains how it is cooked.

Since many Chinese restaurants in the U.S. are based on Cantonese cuisine, soup dumplings were introduced as a dim sum dish among other Cantonese dim sums. In New York, one can often order soup dumplings in dim sum restaurants in Chinatown. But if you’re looking for authentic soup dumplings, your best bet would be elsewhere.

Joe’s Shanghai was among the first Shanghai-style restaurants in the city, with its first store opened back in 1995. While the brand is well-established, the taste of the soup dumpling is not as special as one might expect. The dumplings are too big – when presented, they look like they have collapsed in the basket.

Carla Asian Tapas, on the other hand, serve great soup dumplings that outshine any other soup dumpling places I have tried in New York. Located at 38 Carmine Street, the chic Asian tapas serves contemporary Chinese food “with Western flare”, as its owner Luguang said, who is now a longtime New Yorker with a long time dream of opening a restaurant of Asian cuisine.

The restaurant is decorated with a modern flare – a full bar, two main dining rooms with the inner one often used as a venue hosting art and cultural events, and a garden decorated with string lights.

Busy on a Wednesday night.
Busy on a Wednesday night.

Upon looking at the restaurant’s succinct menu, names such as “Peking Duck Tacos” and “Panko Crusted Lobster Roll” immediately jump out. They are original dishes that truly make an effort to combine flavors from the East and the West.

Both the pork soup dumplings and the crab soup dumplings here are extremely well made and taste like the ones I used to have in the popular Taiwanese brand Din Tai Fung – the chain has become so popular that it has opened several U.S. locations in recent years . Indeed, the head chef James Yang at Carma came directly from Taiwan and had worked as the Executive Chef at Din Tai Fung. While at Din Tai Fung, Chef Yang trained chefs for the chain’s international locations such as Tokyo and most recently, Dubai.

The delicate crab soup dumplings has a subtle crab meat flavor and is not overly oily. Both types of soup dumplings have tender and thin outer skin, wrapping around just the right proportion of filling inside. Out of the two, I prefer the pork soup dumpling ($10 for 6pc) as I find that the flavor of the pork meat truly phenomenal.

Soup dumplings with crab meat and pork.
Soup dumplings with crab meat and pork.

A note on the etiquette of eating soup dumplings: when eaten hot – which is always preferred – one should dip the dumpling in vinegar, cut a little opening on the top of the dumpling using their mouth, drink the soup first, then eat the dumpling. This procedure is to prevent the soup from filling and your mouth from getting burnt. The dumplings tend to get cold very quickly. When they are at room temperature, these dumplings can be eaten as a whole at once.

Vegetable dishes and appetizer dishes here also did not disappoint. Cold appetizer dishes developed by the chef were full of flavors and different textures.

What I find special about Carma is that while it draws from Taiwanese, Shanghai-style Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines, the finished results are always delicate. The menu strikes the perfect balance of playful experimenting and staying true to authentic flavors.

Shumai with beets.
Shumai with pork and beets.

One of the most exciting items on the menu, the Peking Duck Tacos, however, turned out to be different from what I had expected. Peking Duck served in Beijing restaurants has a combination of extremely crispy skin and savory, chewy duck meat. The tacos however, feature only the duck meat. Nevertheless, for taco lovers, it is a creative take to combine guacamole, crispy taco shells, and duck meat.

While creating new dishes, Carma Asian Tapas also offers Chinese classics that have truly authentic flavors.




Visit Carma Asian Tapas website:

Address: 40 Carmine Street (take the 1 train from campus all the way to Houston St and walk for 3 minutes)

Paris is Just a Train Ride Away

Although I knew the 1 line could take me all over Manhattan, I had no idea that it could also transport me to Paris. That is, until I stepped into Maison Kayser. Nestled in Columbus Circle, this authentic French boulangerie uses traditional techniques to craft fresh pastries and desserts baked on site daily. French baker Eric Kayser opened his first New York boulangerie on the Upper East Side, and the high demand for his impeccable desserts resulted in more Maison Kayser locations opening across the city.

My first view of the boulangerie
My first view of the boulangerie

Walking into Maison Kayser – and out of the torrential downpour outside – felt like walking into heaven. Vibrant and delicate desserts were painstakingly arranged behind a glass case, and a variety of fresh baguettes and loaves covered an entire wall. The women working behind the register actually had to ask me if I was ready because I spent such a long time staring at the pastries in front of me.

The gorgeous display at Maison Kayser
The gorgeous display at Maison Kayser

Eventually, I decided upon the tarte au chocolat, brioche au sucre, and pain au chocolat aux amandes. The tarte was composed of a chocolate shell filled with a rich chocolate cream and topped with a truffle, also known as the chocolate lover’s ultimate dream.  Brioche is a light and airy French bread, and mine was covered with large bits of sugar.  My last purchase was a traditional French pastry, reinvented by combining chocolate with a thick almond paste inside a delicate pastry shell.  All three of my desserts melted in my mouth and transported me to a picnic along the River Seine in Paris.

A decadent tarte au chocolat
A decadent tarte au chocolat
Brioche au sucre and pain au chocolat aux amandes
Brioche au sucre and pain au chocolat aux amandes

Experiencing the quality of the pastries at Maison Kayser is an easy alternative to purchasing an expensive plane tickets to France, and I cannot wait to jump back on the 1 train and do it all over again.

The breads and pastries
The breads and pastries

Take Your Tastebuds to China

This past summer I was lucky enough to spend a month in China between Shanghai and Beijing. Food was a highlight of my trip, but I also loved the Chinese culture and people that I encountered. I felt so welcomed and happy there that I want to go back to continue to explore other parts of the country. China is a huge country with so many different provinces each with their own ethnic group and culture. This diversity is also translated into their cuisine. Each region of China uses different flavors and cooking methods to prepare their meals. The first week of school, I passed by the Chinese food carts on Broadway and 118th and immediately was reminded of my amazing time this past summer. Every since then, I have been wanting to try them and writing this blog presented the perfect opportunity.


There are “eight culinary cuisines” of China: Hunan, Cantonese, Anhui, Shandong, Fujian, Szechuan, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu. The differences between them are a result of availability and accessibility to certain resources affected by climate, geography, and history. This allowed for individual cooking styles (and also lifestyles) to emerge among the Chinese in different regions. The foods of different regions of China have their own flavors and textures. But, despite the differences in the cuisines, each meal includes a staple food, which can be rice, noodles, or bun and cooking methods that rely on preservation (drying, pickling, salting, and fermentation).

I cannot admit to be an expert on each kind of Chinese cuisine, but it is only fair that I acknowledge the variety. This being said, I am sure that the food at these carts is not representative for all Chinese food, but it is more authentic than any Chinese takeout I could get. So I knew I had to try the dishes offered.

There are always long lines outside of the carts and my reluctance to wait has kept me from going in the past. However, I have learned this is not a legitimate enough reason. There is practically no waiting time once you order and the food is worth the wait. It is not difficult to notice that the majority of the people on line are foreign students from China who are probably even more nostalgic than I was for authentic version of their national food. Knowing that they are probably much more knowledgeable about what to order, I really enjoyed (and I suggest that any first timers do the same) striking up conversations with them about their favorite dish. A general consensus was that everything is good and there is such variety that many of them try different things each time they go. One girl I spoke with suggested I get a combination plate with eggs and tomato, a dish that every Chinese family makes at home according to her. So to get the full selection, I made sure to stop at a majority of the carts and order a meal from each of them. Most of the things on the menu are the same, so my tip is to go to any cart. I would say go to the one where the line is the longest since I figure that the one with the highest demand must be the best. But, this method is not always true. I asked each person I spoke to which cart was their favorite, and, to my surprise, someone told me they just go to whichever has the shortest line. So, I think it is fair to conclude that there are not huge differences in the food (certainly not in the selection, but not in the taste or freshness either). So go wherever your heart desires. Don’t let the abundance of carts and food options overwhelm you (like it did for me). Just go! They are there for you to try and you will have a good meal! Oh, and before I forget, the portions are large and the prices are amazing! College students need a break from the dining halls without breaking their bank account, and this will do the trick.

IMG_1260-2 IMG_1283

Now, onto the feast… My menu consisted of pan-seared pork buns, a pork sandwich, a combo platter (including tomato and eggs over rice, green vegetables, and kong po chicken), another tomato and egg plate (for comparison), a wonton soup, a beef noodle soup, and soybean milk. Each dish was from a different cart, and there was not one that was bad.


This was my first time having pan-seared buns. They have a nice crunch to the outside, but are still fluffy on the inside with a juicy filling. These are bready and some find the filling to bun ratio too small, but I enjoy the softness of the bread (which is also good to dip in soup broth). The filling of the pork sandwich was delicious, very fatty, with parsley, celery, garlic, and ginger, but the bread was a little tough in my opinion, which made it difficult to eat.

Pork Sandwich and Pan-Seared Pork Buns

My favorite thing that I ordered was the combo platter. Tomato and egg is such a great combination. I had it many times while I was in China. It is the perfect balance of savory and sweet (sugar is added). The texture has the potential to turn some off since it can be a bit watery, but this is soaked up when it is over rice. The kong po chicken is spicy and nutty and the slight bitterness from the vegetables counters the oiliness from the chicken really well.

Combo Platter with tomato and egg over rice, green vegetables, and Kong Po chicken

The soups do take a bit longer to make, but still not long compared to any restaurant. The broth of the soups is quite bland unless spice is added. But the filling, whether it was beef and noodles or wonton, is really good. The wontons were my least favorite. The soup was only dumplings and broth (with very little parsley garnish). All the other dishes were bursting with flavors and ingredients, but this dish was not.

Wonton Soup
Beef Noodle Soup

This food is quick, delicious, and cheap – the perfect trio. The only thing to be warned is that the food can be a bit greasy and salty, but as long as you prepare yourself for that, there should be no reason not to enjoy any food bought at these Chinese food carts.

Everyone’s Favorite Foods, Veganized

For my first attempt at finding a vegan restaurant in Manhattan, I decided to begin with a place fairly close to campus. With a quick Google search, I found numerous vegan restaurants, but the Seasoned Vegan on St. Nicholas Avenue caught my eye. After I saw their catch phrase: “The food you love, veganized,” I got really excited.


The restaurant is really cozy inside and it is definitely a relaxing atmosphere. The waiters and waitresses are so nice and really make you feel at home. One waiter I met is taking classes at Columbia and tried to give me advice on what classes to take!

The best part about this restaurant is that they have both vegan versions of a lot of comfort food and also vegan versions of more upscale entrées. Any vegan or anyone just going vegan for the night, can find something they want to eat.

The problem with a lot of comfort food is that it normally contains either dairy products or meat products. As a result, a vegan cannot easily find comfort food options at home, but at the Seasoned Vegan, they have variations of numerous comfort foods that any vegan would be nostalgic for. I’d have to say that one of my favorite comfort foods is macaroni and cheese and the Seasoned Vegan has it! As a vegetarian, I have always told my friends, “I could never go vegan. There is no way I could give up cheese!” Although, if I could eat this whenever I wanted, I could definitely do it. The “cheese” tastes very similar to regular cheese, but it does have a little bit of a different taste and texture to it.


After having the macaroni and “cheese,” I was very excited to try my entrée because I ordered a “tuna” melt, and being a vegetarian, I haven’t had tuna in a long time. The “tuna” was a really good substitute for real tuna. It had a really similar taste and texture, and the seasoning was amazing. The salad that came with it went really well with my sandwich.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 11.00.16 PM

I would definitely recommend this restaurant to any vegans looking for a good vegan restaurant to go to, as well as anyone looking for a healthier option to the food they know and love.

Cheap Eats NYC: How to keep your date (and wallet) happy

As learned from the women of Sex and the City, dating in New York City can be rough. It’s even rougher when you’re a college student, living on a college student budget. If your parents are anything like mine, they are reluctant to give you much “food money” because of the amount they’re already spending on your meal plan. With that being said, living in one of the most expensive cities in the country doesn’t help much either. No one wants to blow his or her entire weekly allowance on a first date. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for “wining and dining.”

Don’t worry, though, there is hope! Believe it or not, nice date spots that won’t break the bank exist. So, in an effort to ensure that you don’t disappoint your date and get to see them again, I’ve compiled a list of tasty (cheap!) spots.

CREAMLINE NYC in Chelsea Market


Chelsea Market is an experience in and of itself.  Inside its brick walls lie dozens of restaurants and shops. One of which, is the all-American restaurant, Creamline.  From peanut butter/jelly/banana sandwiches to grilled cheese fingers to fried oreos, Creamline NYC satisfies all of our childhood cravings.  Follow dinner with a walk on the High Line, which is right to the market. Trust me, you’ll need to walk off this meal.

P.S. DO NOT skip the malted milkshake. Worth every calorie.

Click for their menu. 

MIMI CHENG’S DUMPLINGS in the lower East


Treat yourself, and your date, to some mouthwatering dumplings at Mimi Cheng’s. My personal fave is the steamed ‘Reinvented Classic’ dumpling, made with pork and baby bok choy. The laid back environment is the perfect place to bring someone you’re just starting to get to know. For dessert, order the caramel apple pie dumplings- they are a must-have!!

Click for their menu. 

S’MAC in the East Village


S’Mac, aka Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese, is basically every mac and cheese lover’s dream come true. They offer specialty mac and cheeses and made-to-order mac and cheeses. For me, the best option is the build your own mac and cheese. With 15 cheeses, 4 herbs, 12 veggies/condiments, and 6 proteins to choose from, there is something for everyone. It’ll be hard for your date not to be satisfied.  And, if you’re “of age,” follow dinner with drinks at one of the quirky bars that the East Village has to offer.

Click for their menu. 

Gaia Italian Cafe in the Lower East Side

As long as Gaia exists, there’s no need to spend $25 on a plate of pasta at some fancy Italian restaurant. This little hole in the wall serves up prime Italian food with rich flavors. My personal favorite is the spinach and ricotta gnocchi; it’s the perfect consistency! They also do daily pasta specials, which keeps things interesting (hopefully like your date).

Warning: they do close relatively early and fills up quickly, so plan ahead, and make a reservation!!

Click for their menu.

Happy eating, and happy dating!!