Friday, September 24, 2010

New York City, Food Edition: The Main Dish

I LOOOOOVE food, about as much as I love NYC. So when I had my first opportunity to visit the Big Apple a few weeks ago, I dove right into the food scene. I had everything from massive meat sandwiches to exotic Asian fruits during my trip. So join me in a tour of all things edible found in the heart of NYC: Manhattan!

I'll just say it right now, pizza was by far my favorite NY food. I could eat it every day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even now, I still crave it. Some day I'll be back to get another slice of pie, but until then here are some of the best foods I had while hiking through the urban jungle.

This little slice of heaven was my first meal of the trip (not counting the cupcake). Ray's Pizza has a huge presence in the city so it was hard to miss it. Plus there was one just a few blocks from my hotel. It was destiny, as was this delicious slice of margherita pizza.

Stage Deli is located near the Broadway district and Times Square and also serves some of the best pastrami sandwiches in the world. I opted for this behemoth of a pastrami reuben topped with a ridiculous amount of cheese and an over-sized plate of fries. Luckily, my brother was with me and ate the other half. Be warned, these sandwiches are enormous, but also expensive (about $20 each). Clearly, they're meant for sharing. BTW, notice the deli mustard on the left. That's right, no yellow mustard here, only the good brown stuff with a bit of a kick.

Curiosity got the best of me so the following day I headed over to Carnegie Deli (Stage's rival, and only a block away) to give their pastrami a taste test. I had to find out for myself who had the best. Well, sorry Stage, but Carnegie wins this round. Sure, the plain pastrami sandwich doesn't look as amazing compared to the cheese and kraut covered 'wich from Stage, but their meat was insanely good and of better quality. Maybe it's in the meat making process, or the hundred's of celebrity photos staring back at me, but I was in pastrami bliss with this big guy.

When in Chinatown, dim sum is a must. These dumplings were teamed up with a few deep fried morsels as well, and a tall glass of sauvignon blanc. There's a lot of places to get your dim sum; Jung Fong, Golden Unicorn, Oriental Pearl, but these little pearls were consumed at the award winning Ping's Seafood.

If dumpling's aren't your thing, or you're looking for something a little more adventurous, I highly recommend ox tail curry. Instead of a side of rice, it comes with little mini fried bread loaves to soak up the juices. Boney and fatty, ox tail becomes a very tender and juicy meat in this unique dish.

Back for more pizza. I tried to get as much as I could before leaving. This time it was a slice of Hawaiian.

One last dinner before heading out so we decided to make a quick stop at Roxy Delicatessen at Times Square. I ordered a simple knish, but my travel companion, Kevin, opted for this hefty stuffed cabbage. It looked amazing and tasted just as good.

New York City, Food Edition: Sides and Snacks

Bagels are a must eat when in NYC. And if you can, grab a spot near Central Park, like right outside the Apple Store, and do a little early A.M. people watching.

When at the Carnegie Deli, instead of a basket of bread, I was given a plate of large pickles before my massive meat sandwich came. Yesss! Spicy and mild, they went great with the pastrami. And yes, we cleaned the plate.

I've never heard of a knish before, but I did notice it on many menus and at numerous food carts during my visit. I finally broke down and got a potato knish at Roxy Delicatessen. If I hadn't eaten so many meat sandwiches, I'm sure I would have gone for the meat knish, but the potato was substantial enough. With a side of sour cream, it was the ultimate comfort food.

After breezing through Toys R' Us in Times Square we stopped at the Candy Land candy store, and what is the one thing my brother manages to comes out with? Mexican Spice larvae and Salt and Vinegar crickets! Gross. I choked down a larvae, but that's where I draw the lines. Kevin, those crickets are all yours!

New York City, Food Edition: Bottoms Up!

All this walking and eating sure is exhausting. Rehydrate with a Brooklyn Lager from NYC's very own micro brewery, the Brooklyn Brewery.

Then, when you're in Chinatown stop in one of the many bakeries (there's practically one at every corner) to try a mango bubble tea. It's basically a mango slushy with large black tapioca on the bottom that you get to suck up through a jumbo straw.

If the idea of swallowing large, chewy, black balls freaks you out then reach for the lychee ice. Lychee is a super sweet Asian fruit that is a-ma-zing! Mmm, I'm feeling better already.

New York City, Food Edition: Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

The moment I arrived in the city I bee-lined it to Magnolia Bakery, known for their yummy cupcakes. Some people call them the original cupcake trend-setters and credit them for starting the "cupcake craze" in the 90's. Some call them famous after their cupcakes and store front made an appearance on an episode of Sex and the City. I call them brilliant! Thank you Magnolia for giving me this chocolate cupcake, topped with the most luscious and fluffy frosting known to human-kind. This was a very good start to my four day food binge.

Macarons! The real deal straight from France. I nibbled on these sweet pastries at La Maison du Chocolate in the Rockefeller Center. The selection was vast but I somehow narrowed it down to the classic chocolate and a decadent caramel. Good 'ol chocolate is still my favorite.

You may be asking yourself what in the world is that in my hand. I'll solve the mystery now by telling you it's a tropical fruit called a rambutan and it's native to the Asian countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. Where do you get these exotic little curiosities in such a faraway place as NYC? Chinatown! You'll find many a fruit and fish (both dried and fresh) markets in this exciting neighborhood. How did I eat it? Well, peel off the red spiky skin to reveal a juicy, white, fleshy fruit underneath. Then bite into it raw, it's the best, and only way to eat them. Just be careful of the pit in the center. How does it taste? Like a mild grape. Not too sweet, soft, and slightly chewy. More please!

While in Chinatown, you may as well head over to Little Italy since they are neighbors. It's amazing how one minute I feel as though I'm in Shanghai, then walk a block and I'm in Naples. Talk about high-speed travel. While in Little Italy you will be surrounded by the most delicious smelling cafes. It was hard to resist all the garlic and butter wafting in the air, until I came across a vendor selling cannoli's from her food cart. There's lots of characters and personalities in this neighborhood but this cannoli woman was my favorite (I love a bit of attitude with my afternoon treat). I insisted on the pistachio and immediately approved my decision with every bite I took. No regrets, except for the deep-fried calories I was packing onto my thighs. Eh, still worth it.

Well, I saved the best for last. New York style cherry cheesecake from none other than the famous Carnegie Deli. Words can not describe the heaven this cheesecake took me to. So, I will leave you to gaze at the image so you can indulge in your own fantasy. Love. *sigh*

Monday, September 20, 2010


Taking a vacation anytime soon? If so, Travelpology is a must stop blog before you take off. Everything from travel tips with Travelpology 101, to Travel News for up-to-date travel info, to Don't Miss Desserts in your favorite cities, and much MUCH more. And the best part, I designed all their web graphics!
Don't forget to friend Travelpology on Facebook and sign up for their twitter updates. You wont regret it. And even if you're not traveling anytime soon, you may still find something about your own hometown on there. I say this in a good way - Travelpology, you get around! *wink, wink*

Summer Meets Autumn Dessert

September is the month that summer says "good-bye" and autumn says "hello". During this transition I always feel a bit culinary confused. Are the apples ripe yet? Can I still order that asparagus soup? How many more avocados can I get before they're out of season? When are the pomegranates going to arrive? To answer all of my questions I've decided to look at September as the perfect month to try out some new recipes by fusing both seasons. This is how my Summer Meets Autumn dessert was invented.
My last visit to the farmers market proved that autumn is knocking on summers door. Less produce and more baked goods, squash, pumpkins, and meat. I picked myself up some angel food cake from an Amish stand, fingerling potatoes, a large sweet potato, and a handful of leeks. Potatoes and leeks to come at a later date. Instead I focused on the angel food cake. Here is how you make the Summer Meets Autumn dessert:

1. Break angel food into small chunks.
2. Top with late summer rasberries.
3. Poor maple syrup over angel food and raspberries.

That's it, dig in and savor the flavors of two of most wonderful seasons in one. And if you're looking for something a little more sinful, try adding hot fudge, rum, or a variety of berries such as strawberries, or better yet, chin-dripping peach slices.

Enjoy it while you can because winter will be here before you know it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lola's Island of Misfit Toys

Puppies chew...a lot. Which is understandable. Up until they are about one year of age, puppies are teething so they need lots of things to chew on, preferable not hands, toes, furniture, or cats. Lola is just over 4 months old now and her prime teething time has only just begun. So I provide lots of plush toys for her to take her teeth to. Most of the animals do not come out unscathed from this. Some actually lose their lives. But I do what I can to keep their heart ticking. Everything from face transplants to ear removals. Whatever it takes to keep both Lola and her stuffed friends going. Because of this, my house has turned into the Island of Misfit Toys. Meet it's inhabitants:

Red Horse and Mama Koala with a full face removal, and her little one, Baby Koala, with a brand new face (hope is in sight). Blue Ardvark with a new mouth and nose. Elmo with an eyeball bandage, Raccoon with a missing ear, half a nose and a full removal of all squeakers.

I'm sorry to say that shortly after Baby Koala's full face transplant, Lola swiftly took her life in a game of "chew face". Baby Koala, you will be greatly missed.

This I also needed to share with you. Lola being a sassy puppy, again. She discovered how fun it is to tear apart delicate things such as toilet paper. Well, at least it's better than grabbing the snotty tissues out of the waste basket. Who says puppies aren't like 2 year olds?

Friday, September 10, 2010

"The Suitcase"

Did anyone watch Mad Men last Sunday? O.M.G.! Best. Episode. Ever! Dare I say, best hour on T.V. ever?! It was better than last seasons season finale even. Don vs. Peggy. Peggy vs. Don. It was a highly emotional episode between two main characters who have had a strained relationship for years. Both experiencing life's ups and, at the time, downs. While feeling the pressure to come up with a winning campaign for their client, Samsonite, they've hit a crossroads with each other and the end result was a beautiful conclusion. What I found interesting was the time period in which this took place. Yes, we all know it's set in the 60's but this episode is set specifically during a time when civil rights was in full swing and Muhammad Ali (still being referred to as Cassius Clay on Mad Men) just won the boxing match against Sonny Liston with his quick "phantom punch" knockout. I couldn't help but notice how this famous and historical boxing match was a reflection of Don's life at the moment. Bravo to Matthew Weiner and all the people involved with creating this fantastic show. Everything about it is so impressive right down to the smallest of details. And if Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss don't win Emmy's next year for their performances, then they have better get a nice, well deserved pay raise.

Also, don't forget to vote at AMC for your favorite Mad Men style submitted photo. The winner gets a walk-on role on the show next season. Or enter your own photo for a chance to win. Why I didn't enter is beyond me, but I have had fun and been inspired just browsing the entries so far. Carly Simone from Phoenix, AZ (love the yellow shoes) and Nick Savine from Fayetteville, AR (you remind me of Paul Newman in The Hustler - minus the cig), you've got my vote!

And, if you're looking for a laugh, check out for some genius Photoshoping (#2 is my fav). During last Sunday's episode, Don breaks down and actually sheds a couple tears. The blogging community decided to take full advantage of this, in a funny way. If you're a Mad Men fan, you're going to LOVE this. If you have no idea what Mad Men is (ah, crazy!) you'll still really enjoy it.

By the way, did anyone notice the look on Pete's face when Peggy and Trudy walked out of the bathroom together? Priceless!

Her name was Lola. La, la, la, la, Lola...

I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of my family. Lola! She's a smart and spunky Australian Shepherd who's quickly found a place in my heart (don't you just love her pink nose!). And also my reason for slacking on posting to Qreative Quail. Who knew a puppy could be so much work. She's now 4 months old and FINALLY potty trained, which means more time for me to put some focus back on QQ.

These last couple months have been exciting and I've got a ton of stuff to share. Along with the new puppy, I also ventured into a renaissance faire, took a trip to NYC, worked on some fun freelance projects, and have plans on attending the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago this weekend. Oh, and I cut my hair and donated about 12 inches to Locks of Love, yay!

So except lots of new posts in the coming days/weeks. And a post on Lola every now and then. She's so cute I just can't resist!