Tag Archives: brunch

Essex Street Market


Finally, Spring has arrived! The upturn in the weather has created a perfect excuse to ditch that winter coat and to venture out into the streets once again. Today I went to the Essex Street Market, which was a quaint little old school market down in the Lower East Side. Although a little far from the Columbia area, it’s easily accessible once you get onto the F train from 14th Street. The distance put me off a little, especially on a lazy and rainy Friday like this, but boy was I glad I made the trip.

Essex Street Market may not seem particularly interesting on the surface, and certainly lacks the glamor and sparkle of more well-known markets like Chelsea or Smorgasburg. But that’s just how I like it. It’s small, cramped but not crowded. It has a certain old-school charm. There are, in addition to the fresh produce stalls (which are pretty inexpensive), other speciality shops that sell anything from cheese to baked goods and coffee. Artisan but unpretentious.


I walked one round around the small market before deciding to check out this little eatery at the far corner, called Shopsin’s General Store. It was nondescript and you would have pegged it for a normal market diner place that sells greasy bacon and limp fries, but what I got was probably the best thing I had in New York, ever! The place is tiny and the menu is intimidating with its lack of pictures and tiny words squeezed onto two sides of a laminated piece of paper. The waiters won’t recommend you anything and if you ask them to, they’d say “my friend, we don’t recommend here”. I decided to go for pancakes, because why not?



I had no idea what I was in for. The pancakes came in a large tin cup, leaving me with no idea how to eat them. But when you decide to just dig in, that’s where the fun starts. Underneath the topmost pancake lie four mind-smashing, gut-busting layers of culinary awesomeness. Like rummaging through a treasure chest, you will find delicately tangy ricotta cheese, creamy scrambled eggs, and a crispy bacon “marmalade”, all wedged in between four PEANUT BUTTER CHIP pancakes that were remarkably fluffy and slightly crisp at the edges. For condiments, your personal bottle of maple syrup, and six (!) types of hot sauce to choose from. Sweet, sticky, savoury, spicy, and downright sinful. As Meghan Trainor would say, every inch of it is perfect from the bottom to the top!

The best thing for me was that I completely stumbled upon it. Not knowing that Shopsin’s is somewhat of a Lower East Side institution, I was glad that my food radar led me to this great place that I can now recommend to my friends. It’s not your friendly mom and pop place. It’s an eatery with an attitude. They do not accept parties of more than four, nor do they offer takeout, according to a Yelp review. If you’re up for some banter, the chef will ask you from his tiny kitchen, and the owner of the place walks around chatting with his patrons.

The eatery is only open five days a week (Wed-Sun) and only open for 5 hours from Wednesday to Saturday, and 4 hours on Sunday. And although it wasn’t cheap (my order was $24, before tax and tip), it is something special and worth absolutely every cent.

After that wonderful meal, I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything else in the market, even though everything else looked fantastic. There were tantalising bagels and beautiful baguettes, shops selling speciality sauces, cheap produce and fresh seafood. I decided I might end off my visit with some coffee from the Porto Rico Importing Co., which according to the website, has been operating since 1907!


The bottom line, the Essex Street Market is not one of the top things on any tourist’s list of New York attractions, but is, in my opinion, a true New York gem. It harkens back to an earlier era when prices were cheaper and businesses competed on the quality of their food, and not how well they dress it up, or whether they have a 10% discount if you check in on instagram. It may be small and a little far for Columbia students living near campus, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort, and is an absolute must if you find yourself in the Lower East Side or near Greenwich Village.


The Eggocado | Breakfast Obsession

Breakfast and brunch, when done right and with love, have to be some of the most enticing and delicious meals (yes, I count brunch as a meal). Eggs, butter, carbs, protein-overload – I love it all.

A THING OF BEAUTY IS A JOY FOREVER. (credit to Laura Manach)

After learning about eggocado’s versatility and simplicity, I’ve been experimenting with this 2-ingredient, bursting-with-flavor brunch dish consisting of a single egg nestled in half a carved avocado, seasoned to one’s liking.

After a few minutes of prepping and only 15-20 minutes of baking, you have yourself a nutritious, mouth-watering, and addictive choice to start your day. I truly believe mornings are for decisions, the most important decision of all being how you will choose to go about your day. Your mindset. #Eggocados are a great way to catalyze happy mindsets. It’s also a particularly suitable choice for us broke frugal college students looking for a filling, easy, and spectacularly healthy and quick meal. Want a snack in between classes? The eggocado is your best friend. Feeling savory for breakfast or brunch? Look no further than this green well of happiness.

My first attempt, pairing a slightly-overcooked eggocado with two of my favorite fruits, strawberries and grapes, was mediocre at best. The yolk wasn’t slightly runny as I preferred, it was under-seasoned, and the avocado wasn’t fully ripe, making it underwhelming in terms of flavor and texture. Even though avocado, egg, strawberries, and grapes sound like the last things I’d ever imagine harmonizing together, the acidity from the fruits and the heftier tones of the eggocado melded well.

The next time I tried, I made sure to use specific seasonings, even over-salting a bit to ensure that the flavors were more multi-dimensional. I also chose a particularly ripe and gorgeously green avocado, careful to carve out the pit and its surrounding fully so the egg would “sit” comfortably. This is an important step –the egg may be larger than you think, and it wouldn’t do well to have it spill over the sides of the avocado. Using a blend of sesame seeds, minced garlic, pepper, and some chili flakes, I popped it into the oven and was far more pleased with the consistency of the egg and the overall texture/flavor. I highly recommend this combo, in addition to having bananas on the side; two famously buttery friends mixing perfectly.

Tips for your eggocado:

  • Use a sufficiently ripened avocado. It should be dark green, almost black, and “cushiony” to the touch. Not too hard, not too mushy.
  • Season, season, season!
  • Cut a small bit off the rounded edge of your avocado half, so it sits nicely on your pan/rack/plate, etc. It also prevents your egg from spilling over and away!
  • Try to use a convection oven, rather than a microwave. The oven will distribute heat most evenly, resulting in overall better quality and taste.

Have you tried the #eggocado? What’s your favorite way to prepare it?

Boulud Brunches: Bar Boulud vs. db Bistro Moderne

Chef Daniel Boulud is nothing if not a culinary icon; a chef known for his extreme work ethic and his intense partying (after he won a James Beard award for Daniel, he apparently danced on tables all night).

I’ve now brunched at two: db Bistro Moderne and Bar Boulud, and thought a comparison might be fitting.

I went to db Bistro Moderne with my parents and a friend, for only one dish, the burger:

Sirloin Burger filled with
Braised Short Ribs
Foie Gras and Black Truffle
Served on a Parmesan Bun
with Pommes Frites

Yes, this exists. I’d joked with the chef at the restaurant I work with about the “$40 burger,” but when the opportunity arose to actually eat it, of course I was going to.

We started with the Viennoiserie Basket, which was good—nothing particularly special. The croissant was delicious, the brioche a bit too charred for my liking.


My mom got poached eggs with quinoa, charred tomatoes and scallions, swiss chard, and manchego cheese. I’m not a quinoa person, but I thought this was a particularly beautiful dish.


My dad got the mushroom omelette, with gruyère, wild mushrooms, and French mâche. I didn’t try any of these dishes (save the pastries), so unfortunately I can’t report on taste.


My friend got the croque monsieur…


And the famed burger:


It was excellent, though perhaps not as mind-blowing as a burger stuffed with short rib and foie gras ought to be.

I was impressed that, despite the fact that Daniel Boulud has a ton of restaurants and it’s completely unrealistic to imagine that he actually spends extended amounts of time in his kitchens (especially this one), the care taken to the food was great – one can tell simply by looking at the cheese on the omelette, or the whiteness of the eggs, or the perfect crispiness of the french fries.

Bar Boulud, on the other hand, is a different story. Eat the croque madame here if you want the cheesiest, richest sandwich you’ll ever eat.



I first had this sandwich almost four years ago, when I came to the city for a weekend with my father. I don’t think I ate cheese for a month. This sandwich has smoky, delicious ham, creamy béchamel (THE mother sauce), and more gruyere cheese than is imaginable. Topped with a farm egg, it is a wonder to behold. Somehow (I honestly don’t know) I managed to finish it this time.

We also got a side of super green spinach. Sounds healthy, right? It’s not. It’s basically wilted spinach with butter and cream – and it may be the most delicious spinach ever.


So, overall, if you want a nice brunch? Go to Bar Boulud. It’s closer, and you won’t need to eat for a week.


(Though it is kind of hard to argue with this burger.)

db Bistro Moderne:

City Club Hotel, 55 W 44th St #1; (212) 391-2400

Atmosphere: It feels like a restaurant in a hotel, which is what it is.

Sound Level: Medium.

Recommended Dishes: the original db burger.

Price Range: $$$; depends what you eat, but I’d say at least $40 per person.

Hours: 7 am-10 pm Monday, 7 am-11 pm Tues-Fri, 8 am-11 pm Sat, 8 am-10 pm Sunday

Reservations: OpenTable.

Bar Boulud:

1900 Broadway; (212) 595-0303

Atmosphere: Light wood; incredibly interesting wine storage downstairs; nice lighting.

Sound Level: Moderate.

Recommended Dishes: croque madame, super green spinach, charcuterie

Price Range: $$$; depends what you eat, but I’d say at least $50 per person.

Hours: 11:30-11 Mon-Thurs, 11:30-12, Fri-Sat, 11-10, Sunday

Reservations: OpenTable.

Voracious Vegan: Autumn Brunch: Spiced Apple Pancakes

Brunch is sacred. Yet at many restaurants, the vegan options for a solid brunch are lacking. Pancakes are one classic breakfast item that are so easy to veganize–you’ll never realize they’re dairy-free! Try out these fall-flavored spiced apple pancakes and I guarantee you’ll be craving them all season long.

Serves: 4

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 & 3/4 cups almond milk

1 tbsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp each nutmeg, cloves and allspice

1 apple, chopped finely

1/3 cup chopped almonds

Mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and assorted spices. Stir in coconut oil. Add milk and vanilla. Whisk together until consistent. Stir in chopped apple and almonds. Heat a nonstick skillet and pour batter in circles, depending on how large they are. Cook, flipping over until each side is lightly browned.



Thymari, a surprising approach to Greek cuisine

As a Greek-American, I have grown up surrounded by Greek customs, celebrations and food (aspects which are far from mutually exclusive). Due to my more traditional cultural experience, I had not given much thought to its’ potential for modern adaptation. That is, until I dined at Thymari.

Located in Astoria, a region in Queens with a historically Greek population, its name is Greek for “thyme”, and it advertises its cuisine as Greek. So what could be different from your run-of-the-mill homestyle Greek eatery?

First of all, I never thought in a million years that I would hear John Mayer’s Gravity playing at a Greek establishment of any kind. To add to this already surprising non-Greek musical repertoire, Thymari has live music on Thursday and Friday nights, featuring jazz and acoustic pop and rock. This may give a heart attack to the older generation of Greeks—those used to listening to Rembetiko folk music when having a meal. I went with my family, and my grandparents seemed puzzled by Thymari’s vision of Greek cuisine.

The younger generation, more open-minded and accustomed to an increasingly common global exchange of ideas and flavors, seems ready to welcome this vision with open arms. My cousins and I were eager to taste Thymari’s dishes that give classic Greek culinary concepts a trendy Nouveau American spin. I dined during weekend brunch-time, so the menu featured an especially interesting medley of Greek and non-Greek elements. There are plenty of French toast options, none of which are conventional. One French toast dish is served with a cinnamon goat cheese spread. Another French toast dish comes with Greek yogurt, toasted nuts and a chocolaty hazelnut spread. Both are made of slices of Tsoureki, a sweet bread that is a staple of Greek Easter. In the same way that the typical French toast is transformed, the burger dish is anything but standard. It is made of lamb instead of beef  and has hot pepper feta cheese instead of cheddar. The spanakopita (spinach and feta pie) is accompanied by a rich garlic herb yogurt for dipping and a sweet vinaigrette drizzled salad. A cup of sage tea offers a soothing and aromatic end to brunch.

Thymari gets an A for décor. It has a long wooden bar close to the entrance, and a huge dining room in the back. The walls are lined with brick and the ceilings feature dark wooden panels. A wine ladder is on display. Lighting is dim but not dark. Service can be on the slow side, so I recommend you don’t come too famished.

32-07 34th Avenue

Take the N/Q to Broadway.


Egg, a minimalist’s brunch heaven

I normally think brunch is a snooty kind of meal (I picture one Elle Woods type character exclaiming to another, “Let’s BRUNCH. We can get mimosas and…”) but at Egg, breakfast and lunch are combined in a low-key and down to earth way.

Egg has a childish appeal, with crayons in a cup as centerpieces and plain tables covered in white paper, waiting to be scribbled on. There are school chairs—you remember the stackable ones, right? Each table does not necessarily have the same kind. In any other restaurant, all this would look tacky. At Egg, it creates a young, fun, vibrant and natural atmosphere.

Dining at this restaurant makes one feel close to a wholesome rural farm, despite its placement smack in the middle of North Williamsburg, This is no coincidence. Egg has its own farm in Oak Hill, a town with 200 year-round residents.

The country ham slices are thin, lean shavings. Upon my first bite, I encountered an unfamiliar taste. I realized that, when it comes to ham, I am unfortunately accustomed to processed flavor. It was a nice surprise, to say the least.

Granola is my absolute favorite breakfast food. I have tried all sorts of fruit/nut/sugar/honey/oil varieties, but Egg puts the majority of them to shame. The granola contains dried cranberries, sesame seeds, flax, chia and nut slivers. Fresh, lightly textured yogurt lies beneath all of the goodness. And the dish is topped with a honey drizzle. Everything is toasted, but only to the point of crunchiness. There is nothing worse than burnt granola.

For those of you who are pancake lovers, Egg ensures a generous stack of three. They are enormous.

Egg offers numerous sides. The breakfast selection is more grain, bread and meat focused—featuring items like buttermilk biscuits and candied bacon. The lunch selection is more overtly Southern—collard greens, mac and cheese, etc. If you are between two meals, ordering a meal and a side will serve as a compromise.

Disclaimer: I did not end up trying any of the egg dishes, but I am sure if you do, Egg’s eggs will live up to the expectation.

Things to note: There are no reservations. The waiting process operates similarly to that of a medical office. The only difference if that what awaits you is not a shot, throat swab or lolli. Instead, what awaits you is an assortment of completely natural items, straight from Mother Nature herself. Upon entrance, you stand in a small room with glass windows that allow you to see the restaurant. It functions solely as a waiting room. You personally sign in on paper located on a desk in the room until the hostess comes out from the restaurant to cross the next name off the list and show the party to its table.

Take a look at the website for separate Breakfast, Lunch and Weekend Brunch menus. Any meal will be a great one, but one menu may have something that calls your name a little louder.

135 N 5th St
(between Bedford Ave & Berry St)

Take the L to Bedford.

Bacon Gravy, an Ancestral Breakfast of Champions


artwork from magpie-moon on flickr

Manon tells a heart-warming anecdote about heart-stopping bacon gravy.  Recipe after the jump!

Most of what I’ve experienced of my grandparents’ cooking has come from my dad’s retellings of his childhood memories or from his own adaptations of his parents’ recipes. The best one of these recipes is definitely my grandfather’s bacon gravy (though he was not the only one to make it). Coming from a long line of Spanish-California rancheros, this breakfast dish is robust and rustic. And while incredibly unhealthy and promising to stink up the entire house and your clothes with the smell of bacon and burnt butter, it is a delicious meal that keeps you far from going hungry the entire day. Summer figure concerns do have to be put aside for this one.

Over the years, each generation adapted the recipe to their new and evolving tastes. My grandparents for example preferred a smooth and more viscous béchamel, so they would strain out the bacon bits before adding in the flour, and would pour in the milk tiny bit by tiny bit, all the while whisking furiously to avoid any lumps. Today though, we seem to have returned to a more rustic method of preparation: the bacon bits and lumps are left to be. Don’t be fooled though! While these adaptations may appear to result from ensuing laziness, I promise you that they add to the ancestral, ranchero feel of the dish. It is, after all, a down-to-earth and rugged meal, so less refinement adds to its texture and substance.

So, while the ingredient list and serving suggestions may frighten the heath conscious eater, (and understandably so) I can assure you that having bacon gravy for breakfast is well worth the extra workout that eating it calls for. At least you won’t go hungry on your run? Continue reading Bacon Gravy, an Ancestral Breakfast of Champions