International Food Adventures - New York City, USA Part II

The best part about travelling is undoubtedly the exploring and discovering of new places. As fun as the touristy stuff is, it's venturing out that makes you feel a little less like a tourist, and a little more like you're one of the locals. Of course, it also helps when you know an actual New Yorker who can show you all the good stuff; all the things that may not make it on any of the travel books, the top ten of the Buzzfeeds and the Urban Lists, but just as authentic. Big shout out to my cousin Victor for being such a wonderful host and taking us on a little adventure down East Village side of NYC!



International Food Adventures - New York City, USA Part I

Fun Fact: Maccas chips in Australia actually taste better than Maccas chips in NYC. The chips in NYC don't seem to have any salt on them; they taste more like the ones you get with fish and chips, but having the texture of the long, thin fries.

I had a list of so many places that I wanted to eat at in NYC, and unfortunately didn't get to try all of them, even having spent almost a week there! The food scene in NYC is just as you'd expect: vibrant, multicultural and with endless places to try out in every corner of the city. One of my favourite things to eat in NYC were the bagels - even the ones from Starbucks were amazing! There's so much more elasticity to the bread of the bagel, and even with a simple cream cheese topping it tasted delicious.

Magnolia Bakery in Grand Central Station was one of the many dessert places we got to try in NYC, in particular their famous banana pudding. Even for someone who isn't a big fan of banana, it was an enjoyable dessert; the banana, pudding and vanilla biscuits mixed together for a sweet yet never overpowering flavour, with a fluffy texture that was lighter than a typical pudding.


As a big burger fan, Shake Shack was a must in NYC, though I have to say it didn't quite live up to the hype I'd expected. The beef patty was quite thin, and the use of that same artificial style, plastic-y cheese mentioned in my previous USA post made for an average burger. The bun itself was nice and soft though oily, and the crinkle cut fries were decent enough, but nothing I couldn't get at a Mr. Burger, Huxtaburger or the like in Melbourne. That, plus the long waiting period to not only order but also receive our order, was a bit of a let down. Maybe Melbourne has just become such a great foodie city that so many other places dull in comparison!


I'd been dying to try out Dominique Ansell's cronuts since they became a thing, so of course had to make a trip down to lower Manhattan for this! For those of you who aren't familiar with the name, Dominique Ansell was the chef who came up with the concept of a cronut; a croissant and donut fusion topped with icing, similar to what you can get at Adriano Zumbo's and other places in Melbourne. The flavour when we went was a pear, honey and cream cheese cronut. It was lighter and fluffier than the ones I'd had in Melbourne, and definitely not as sickly sweet or oily. The use of cream cheese balanced out the sweeter fruity flavours of the cronut, even with all the sugar dusting.


Luke's Lobsters is one of the most famous places in NYC for lobster rolls, so on a trip to downtown Manhattan/Wall St, we decided to give it a go. The lobster roll combo we went with consisted of a half a lobster roll, half a crab roll and half a shrimp (prawn) roll, as well as two crab claws, slaw and a dip. I really enjoyed the rolls, as the seafood was fresh with seasoning on top, and the bun soft. Compared to a lot of the heavier dishes we'd been having, this was a nice welcome change, together with the slaw on the side. I was a bit surprised with the whole half pickle we got with the dish - this too seem to be an American thing - usually it was something you'd only rarely see on burgers, and I didn't feel like it was really needed in any of the elements of the dish for additional flavour.


At Chelsea Market, we had dinner at Buddakhan, an Asian fusion restaurant with a hip, upbeat atmosphere not unlike that of Chin Chin's or Gingerboy. As we hadn't made a reservation, we had to sit at the section usually reserved for drinks while you wait for your table so it was a little cramped, but the food was still great nonetheless. For starters, we ordered pork buns and tea smoked spare ribs, mains of peking duck fried rice, asian green stir fry and a black dragon chicken dish, finished off with a 'Crying Chocolate' dessert.


My favourite dishes from here would have to be the pork buns and the dessert; the pork buns had an extremely soft bun and the charred pork belly was tender and juicy, with ample flavour and generous portions. The Crying Chocolate dish consisted of malted chocolate ganache with a vietnamese coffee ice cream, and for a chocolate based dessert, wasn't all that sweet; the coffee ice cream had a good strong flavour, and helped to balance out the sweetness of the ganache.



No trip to NYC is complete without having pizza, and ours was no exception. Having done some research before going, we ended up going to Lombardi's Pizza in Little Italy - the joint is actually the first ever pizzeria in America - established in 1905. The atmosphere and ambience of the place is not unlike what you'd find in the row of Italian restaurants down Lygon St in Carlton; vibrant and lively, filled with sounds of chatter and music. With its red and white checkered table cloths and dark wooden furniture, there's a comfortable, homely feel to the restaurant, with the delicious smells of pizza and pasta surrounding the whole place. The dishes we ordered were the Grandma Grace's Meatballs, a tomato and mozzarella dish and a large margherita pizza.

The beef and pork meatballs were topped with a homemade gravy sauce and shaved romano cheese, and was a very hearty dish to start off the meal. The meatballs were a generous portion with great strong flavours, in particular the tomato gravy cutting nicely into the meat, which itself was juicy and tender.


The mozzarella balls came with slices of tomato and were drizzled in olive oil. As a huge fan of mozzarella cheese, I really enjoyed this dish, with the chewy texture and subtle cheese flavours mixing together with the acidity and zing from the tomatoes, balanced out with salad greens.


Between three of us, we were slightly too ambitious and ordered a large pizza (8 slices/18 inches), which we struggled to finish! You can't go wrong with a simple margherita pizza, with fresh tomato paste and melted stringy mozzarella cheese. The base of the pizza was quite thin, but as a lunch option a 46cm pizza is still quite a lot for three people!


Despite being extremely full from the large pizza lunch we had, there was a cheesecake shop nearby that we visited afterwards called Eileen's Special Cheesecakes. Located in Downtown Manhattan, it's been opened for over 40 years, with a range of sweet and fruit based cheesecakes. We went with an original cheesecake, a strawberry one and a mango one. The cheesecake itself was quite dense but as the portion wasn't very big, it didn't feel very heavy or too filling. There wasn't a very obvious base to the cheesecake like with most of the ones here, but it was still very enjoyable.


On our last morning in NYC, we went down to the Rockefeller Plaza to try out the famous Lady M crepe cakes, which was absolutely divine. The twenty or so layers of extremely thin crepes, each with a sweet, light pastry cream in between, was probably my favourite dessert in NYC. Crepe cakes I've had before don't come anywhere close to the Lady M ones; sometimes the ratio of cream and crepes isn't quite right, resulting in a slightly dry dessert. Even though the layers of crepes were very thin, it was still extremely sturdy and the cake didn't just topple over or fall apart when we cut into it. Definitely a must try for anyone visiting NYC!


This blog post seems to be getting closer to a short story, so I'll leave one of my food highlights for a future post! A night in East Village spent like a local New Yorker (I'd like to think so, anyway!).

White Mojo, CBD

White Mojo is a cafe on Hardware Street, opposite Hardware Society in the CBD off Lonsdale Street between Elizabeth and Queen St. A second cafe has also opened up in Balwyn, opposite the cinemas and easily accessible by tram 109.

The interior of the cafe is quite bright, with white and pale wooden walls, and the atmosphere is lively, with sounds from the kitchen at the back and the chatter from the customers. The staff were attentive and friendly, and we managed to get a table in fifteen minutes.


The Crux & Co., South Melbourne

The Crux and Co. is a relatively new cafe in South Melbourne, opposite The Kettle Black and easily accessible by any tram that goes through the Domain Interchange. The cafe has a range of croissants, pastries and sweet dishes that are balanced out by Korean inspired savoury dishes f.

The decor at Crux and Co is simple and minimalistic, with bright lighting and pale wooden furniture that make for a cosy and warm interior. The atmosphere is lively with all the people chattering, and the cafe is big enough that you didn't have to raise your voice to hear the people next to you. We waited about 15 minutes for a table, and about the same time for our food as well. Service was really great, with staff that were friendly and extremely attentive, though not to the point of being obtrusive.


Product Review: The Ginger People

Founded over 30 years ago, The Ginger People is a family business with a passion for ginger and over 80 products in their portfolio ranging from confectionery, drinks and pantry essentials. I was lucky enough to be able to sample four of their ten main products, including the minced ginger, crystallised ginger, ginger soother and the ginger bar. What's great about products from The Ginger People is that none contain artificial flavours or genetically modified organisms, with the pantry essentials range also gluten free, kosher and vegan friendly.

Minced Ginger
The Minced Ginger is a chopped ginger product that can replace the use of raw ginger in cooking; it comes in a mashed format in a jar that can be easily scooped out depending on how much you'd want to use. I decided to try it out firstly in a dipping sauce that I'd usually make using chopped ginger, and found it to be a great substitute. The ginger taste was subtle with a slight spiciness to it, which was just what I was after. However, if you're looking for a stronger and more obvious ginger flavour, you'd probably still have to go with actual slices/pieces of ginger.



Crystallised Ginger
The crystallised ginger is candied cubes that the packaging suggests can be used in baking, dips, tea or snacking. Made from baby ginger, it's tender and fibre-less, yet still containing the great ginger flavour.

I tried this in a black tea thinking it would work like a sugar cube, dissolving in the hot liquid for a added ginger taste. It did add that spicy flavour to my tea, however the cube didn't melt at all, and once all the sugary crystallised outer layer melted into the tea, you were left with a little cube of ginger that had a bit of a strange, smooth texture - kind of like an apple but less crisp and juicy - and a light ginger flavour only. As a snack by itself however, the crystallised ginger was really enjoyable,  as the crunchy sugar crystals contrasted to the softer interior, with a spicy hit at the end. It works as a really great snack that keeps you going during the day.



Ginger Soother
The ginger soother is juice made from Peruvian ginger, lemon and honey, and great for when you're feeling nauseous, having chills or boosting the immune system. This was probably my favourite product of the four I got to try, as it was essentially a honey lemon tea with an added spicy ginger flavour. The juice had a soothing, warming effect when you drank it hot - which was my preference in comparison to having it cold - and was really enjoyable given all the cold weather we've been having! The only downside was that you did have to shake the juice before having it, so if you left it for too long, it kind of separated into the juice up the top and a cloudy residue down the bottom.



Arjuna Ginger Bar
Made from fresh organic ginger and sweetened with coconut sugar, the Arjuna Bar is a rich flavoured snack that has a peppery spice mixed with a fruity sweetness. Personally, I found the bar to be extremely chewy and sticky, to the point of being too chewy and tough to eat. The texture was like a cross between molasses and licorice, and stuck to your teeth in an unpleasant way. It did have a good spicy ginger flavour as the bar is coated in a very thin layer of ginger spice, and had a natural sweetness to it.


A range of products from The Ginger People can be found at Coles, IGA, independent supermarkets such as Healthy Life and Go Vita as well as organic and vitamin stores and selected pharmacies. A big thank you to Rebecca and the team from The Ginger People for this opportunity!

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International Food Adventures - Orlando & DC, USA

Finally got around to putting a recap of my food adventures in the USA! I'll be posting a separate NYC post having spent a whole week there, so this one will just be on a couple of highlights from Orlando and DC.



SOS Cafe, South Yarra

Located in the South Yarra Square on Toorak Rd, SOS Cafe is a trendy and popular brunch place that's a short walk from South Yarra Station and tram 8. The cafe prides itself on organic and local produce, with an extensive menu to suit everyone's dining choices.

The open terrace style of the cafe, together with the large fountain out the front, gives an Italian feel to the place, and you almost feel like you're in a plaza in the streets of Rome. It makes for a lively and cheerful atmosphere, and on sunny days like the day we visited, makes you very excited for the warm weather that's just around the corner (hopefully!). The staff were friendly and attentive and the service was good, however our food did take quite a while to arrive, despite it not being very busy when we went.


The menu has a good range of breakfast and lunch options, and caters to a lot of requirements such as gluten free, vegetarian/vegan, dairy free and no garlic/onion. We all went with breakfast options, and ordered the Haloumi and Zucchini Fritters ($20), the Mushroom Baked Eggs ($21) and the House Baked Napoli Beans ($16). One of my friends also ordered the house spiced golden latte ($5.50) and I got an OJ ($6). The golden latte differs from a normal latte with the addition of spices and herbs in it, but still having a lovely milky flavour and the OJ was refreshing though a bit more sour than what I'm used to.


The zucchini fritters came with poached eggs, crispy prosciutto, carrot kasundi (a type of sauce), wilted spinach, kale and a sticky beetroot reduction, with sweet potato crisps on the side. Overall the dish was very light, with great flavour and texture combinations from all the different elements of the dish. The fritters were perfectly cooked and not dry at all, and the sweet potato crisps added a nice crunchiness to the dish. My friend chose to have this dish without the eggs which did mean it wasn't as filling as it could've been, but was still enjoyable all the same.


The mushroom baked eggs consisted of runny eggs in a pan of wild mushrooms with bacon, goats cheese, organic greens and toasted pineuts, served on sourdough. The menu does indicate that this dish will take longer to cook, and it was absolutely worth the extra waiting time. The dish was different to most baked egg dishes I've had in that in wasn't a tomato base one, instead having generous portions of mushrooms and greens, making it lighter than usual though not missing any of the heartiness. The saltiness of the bacon gave the dish an extra flavour, and the toasted pinenuts and deep fried enoki mushrooms added crunch to the dish.


The baked beans was served on crispy polenta, with poached eggs and shaved parmesean cheese. You could tell that the beans were house made, and the polenta was just as the menu said; crispy on the outside, and soft and delicious on the inside. The dish overall however, lacked flavour despite having the napoli sauce and shaved parmesean, and my friend found that she had to add salt to the dish continuously so that it wasn't too bland.


Overall it was an enjoyable experience at SOS Cafe, and I'd definitely visit again to try some of their other dishes. Great little cafe for the warmer weather in the South Yarra area, and worth a visit!

Ambience: 8.5/10
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 8/10
Price: $$

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