Friday, July 29, 2011

Playing Ketchup

I'll say first of all that this post has nothing to do with ketchup. When I was in elementary school, we would occasionally have a catch-up day, in which students were given the chance to catch up with whatever class they were behind in. However, me having a one-track-mind for food, always thought it was called "ketchup day." Needless to say, it made a lot more sense once I figured it out.

Anyway, my point is that I really need to play catch-up. I've gotten so caught up in the joys of New York spring and summer, that I have shamefully neglected this blog. But what better way to document and reflect upon my food adventures and discoveries than in these electronic pages! So instead of devoting a post to solely one culinary experience, I've decided to unload all my recent ventures into one amazing and picture-filled post. So get ready.

First I have to give a shout-out to the cupcake crawl that my coworkers and I recently went on. We hit up Babycakes (a vegan bakery), where I had a carrot cupcake top (pictured below) that was surprisingly moist and tasty. The textures of both the cake and frosting were denser than non-vegan cupcakes, but overall really enjoyable. We also went to Sugar Sweet Sunshine, where I got the "Bob," a yellow cupcake with chocolate almond buttercream.  A deliciously fresh and airy cake with a nice balance of chocolate and nutty flavors folded into the frosting...and at only $1.75 a pop?? Why yes thank you, I will indulge in a trendy cupcake on a budget.  Last we stopped at Butter Lane, and wow did it smell like butter. By that time, I was pretty cupcaked out, but I couldn't resist doing a peanut butter frosting shot (yes you heard me right). This place obviously takes pride in their frostings, since they offer about 15 different types, including grapefruit ginger and blueberry. The frosting was incredibly rich and delicious, and I look forward to going back and actually eating it on a cupcake to help cut the richness.

Speaking of rich textures, I recently went to S'MAC, a haven for mac and cheese lovers such as myself. It took me a while to decide between all of the very different but equally tempting varieties, such as Parisenne, made with brie and roasted figs, and Cajun, which is loaded with andouille sausage. Much to my accompanying friend's disappointment, I ended up getting the 4 cheese, which, although basic, I still thought was incredible. It is a mixture of sharp melty cheeses with al dente macaroni, all topped with breadcrumbs and served in the cast iron pan it was baked in. My friends who came with me thought the ratio of cheese to pasta was a bit much, but I don't know what they were talking about. Seriously good mac and cheese.

Okay, moving on to the vegetarian Thai cooking class that I recently took at Brooklyn Brainery, which was pretty awesome. The class, besides being super cheap ($30 for a 3 hour class, where we used great authentic ingredients) was also only 15 people, making for a very intimate setting. The teacher was pretty knowledgeable on Thai cooking, and we were provided a plethora of fresh ingredients commonly found in the Thai palate, such as Thai chilies, lemongrass, and galangal (similar to ginger). I really enjoyed the first dish we made, which was a spicy basil stir-fry (pictured below). For the protein, since it was a vegetarian class, we used yuba (otherwise known as dried beancurd) that had been reconstituted in water. The yuba's texture was definitely preferable over squishly, bland tofu, as the yuba was chewy, substantial, and nutty in flavor. Although I think my group used one too many Thai chilies, I really enjoyed the dish's complex flavors, where garlic, Thai basil and Kafir lime leaves were binded together with umami-driven mushroom soy sauce.

Just one more place I want to highlight! When my college friends and I had a much needed reunion recently, we went to a restaurant I've been wanting to try for a while. Buying a Groupon for it finally got me there, and my old roommates accompanied me. The place is called Maggie Brown, owned by the same people who run Olea and Pequena (and Moe's, RIP), two other great restaurants in the area. Maggie Brown is a casual neighborhood restaurant, specializing in Southern comfort food. And it was everything I wanted it to be and more.

In the picture above, please identify the various sources of joy. Exhibit A: perfect fried chicken, crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, with greens and creamy mashed potatoes. Exhibit B: a cocktail of whiskey, lemonade, and watermelon. And Exhibit C: rich macaroni and cheese, with the slightly burnt top spilling over the sides. A+B+C=a perfect summer meal shared with friends, while sitting in Maggie Brown's picturesque backyard patio.

Phew, it feels so cathartic to share all of those wonderful food experiences! I promise to try and be more regular with my posts, especially since I will soon be moving to a new neighborhood, with its own vast array of restaurants to explore. I do want to take a moment and thank Brooklyn for all it has given me, in regards to my food education. I will definitely continue to come to Brooklyn to enjoy the great stand-by's, like Choice Market, and I highly encourage any New Yorker to make the trip out there.