Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When in Doubt, Pinky Out: Hi-Collar

TL;DR: ★★★★★

Truly a hole in the wall in the East Village, Hi-Collar has great food, amazing coffee and affordable prices. Love the decor as well as the minimalist menu. 

Food: ★★★★★
Ambiance: ★★★★★
Staff: ★★★★☆

Price: $-$$
Number of visits: 1

10th St. Between 1st & 2nd Aves.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Event: Amedei's Launch Party

GAH, I'm so late to the game in reviewing the amazing chocolate tasting event Amedei held! But better late than never, right?

This was such a great event that I had to upload a sneak-peek post as soon as I got home from the party. I snapped so many photos, so this should definitely be a visual-heavy post!

Centerpiece and cards on each table

A few weeks ago, Amedei had reached out to me via email to come to their launch party, which was conveniently located at a beautiful loft just a block away from my office. So during my dinner break, I headed over and was surprised to see such an incredible spread. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Noms in Asia 9: Harbour Restaurant

Going back to my Noms in Asia series, the last restaurant I want to talk about is Harbour Restaurant in Kennedy Town. Just minutes away from my brother's apartment, this was a seafood restaurant offering some traditional Cantonese food (surprise, surprise). Though the restaurant itself seemed a little dingy, we were very pleasantly surprised with the food — everything was so fresh, delicious and different from the Chinese food I'd had before.

I can't remember the prices exactly, but I believe everything was around USD$15 — not too bad, though the portions weren't the biggest (apparently nothing in HK is). 

So here's what we had in no particular order (since everything was good):

Crispy Rice Seafood Soup 
This dish was delicious and definitely different from other Chinese entrees. It was similar to the Korean nurungji tang, which translates to lightly burnt rice soup. But this had both the burnt and regular steamed rice in the seafood-broth soup, along with chunks of veggies and a generous amount of calamari and shrimp. The soup was so refreshing, the calamari was deliciously chewy, and the crispy rice had a nice crunch to it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Event: Yelp Holiday Hangover Party

Sorry, but I went to another awesome event tonight, so I'm gonna have to interrupt my Noms in Asia series just one more time. This time, it was a Yelp-sponsored party!

A couple weeks ago, I received an invitation via email from Yelp for a "holiday hangover" party held on two yachts — HOW COOL DOES THAT SOUND? I was very excited and RSVP'd as soon as it opened ... well, tried to at least. There were so many invitees trying to RSVP at the same time that the Yelp site crashed for about a good 20 minutes *ENTER PANIC MODE*. After frantically refreshing the page about 5081308401028 times, I finally RSVP'd and got the confirmation email to officially be on the guest list with my +1 for the Hornblower's Infinity boat, going out of Pier 40 at Hudson River Park.

Inside, second floor

Friday, January 17, 2014

Noms in Asia 8: Dim Sum

A trip to Hong Kong without dim sum would've been a trip wasted, amirite? Already a huge fan of dim sum, I had to try the traditional Cantonese food in the region from which it originated. And to no surprise, all the dim sum dishes I had were SO good, which is why I'll make this post a quickie and try to dial back the rave.

On a fine, sunny day, we trekked over to City Hall Maxim's Palace and was surprised to see a ton of people already inside (it was around 11 a.m.). Luckily, we had just beat the rush and got seated right away.

Menu at Maxim's Palace

Maxim's Palace was like one of those restaurants where you're placed in a large ballroom-type room, and the servers come around the tables with carts of dim sum. We took a quick scan at the menu, and ordered the classics — shrimp and pork shu mai, BBQ pork buns, steamed rice and meat wrapped in lotus leaves, etc.

Here are some of the dishes we ordered:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Preview: Amedei's Chocolate Tasting Event

I know I'm in the middle of my Noms in Asia series, but I wanted to share this briefly: I was invited to Amedei's chocolate tasting event held tonight (technically last night), and it was a great experience! I have so many things to show and tell about this party, but before I get down to the nitty-gritty, here's a sneak preview of what's to come ;)

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Noms in Asia 7: Mango Mania

Apparently mango is big in Hong Kong, which was great for me because it's one of my favorite kinds of fruit. A lot of the desserts involved the sweet tropical fruit (I feel like Leslie Knope paying a compliment to her beautiful best friend Ann Perkins), as did the drinks — and those are exactly what I tried.

Mango Juice

Hui Lau Shan in Causeway Bay

According to my mom's research, Hui Lau Shan is famous for their mango juice, so I was very curious to try it. We were in Causeway Bay one evening, and while we were trying to make exact change for our bus back to Kennedy Town (traveler's tip: HK buses will not give you change if you only have bills, so you must have exact change for your trip), we saw Hui Lau San and decided to break our $20 bill with some mango juice.

It was almost like fate that we didn't have exact change for the bus, and we just happened to be waiting right in front of a Hui Lau Shan (there are several throughout the city) because omg, this thing was so incredibly fresh and delicious. I believe it was about HKD$25 (~USD$3), but it tasted like a million bucks after a long day of touring and walking around.

Mango-Flavored Shaved Ice (is what I'll call it)

Lucky Dessert in Kennedy Town

So, I have no idea what this is called — but it was really good! I think I've had a knock-off version of this dessert in Korea's CanMore, a chain cafe/dessert house, and it was called the "snowflake shaved ice" (눈꽃 빙수). I was on a craze for those the summer I discovered them (2005, I think?), and this traditional Hong Kong (or maybe Cantonese) dessert threw me back to my high-school summer days.

We went to a tiny dessert place called Lucky Dessert, and the entire menu was in Chinese, so it was quite a challenge to decide what to get. But we kind of gambled and after asking the server what was the most popular, ended up with a really yummy dessert. The term "snowflake" is quite accurate for what we got because the ice shavings were very, very fine slices that melted instantly on your tongue, like real snow.

The ice itself was so delicious. It had just the right amount of mango flavor and the perfect balance between tart and sweet. Along with the ice were actual slices of mango and a condensed milk-based sauce on top, which, I thought, were very good accompaniments.

I definitely got my mango fix during this trip, and I just thought of this: I wonder if they have out-of-this-world, amazing dried mango????? Like the ones from the Philippines or Cambodia (SO good, btw)???? Guess I'll have to go back soon and find out ;)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Noms in Asia 6: Tim's Kitchen in Hong Kong

Before I get into talking about the food, let me just say that Hong Kong was amazing — I loved every second of my time there. Not only is the food fantastic, but the city is also beautiful and packed with incredible sights and lots of culture. I also got a taste of the nightlife in Lan Kwai Fong, and from what I saw for the few hours I was out that night, Hong Kongians (?) can PARTY.

Anyway, my parents and I arrived at Hong Kong on Christmas day and met up with my brother, who works and lives in the city, at Hong Kong Station. After looking around the IFC Mall and the general area a bit, my brother took us out to Tim's Kitchen, where I got my first taste of traditional Cantonese food.

Tim's Kitchen seemed like a slightly upscale restaurant as it was very clean, well-decorated and quiet (which was nice), and some of the dishes, like shark's fin, snake (o_o) and abalone, were really expensive.

We stuck with the more classic dishes that Tim's Kitchen is famous for, according to my brother, and were very pleased with our choices.

Choice of two — honey-glazed barbeque pork and roasted crispy baby pork belly (HKD $118 — roughly USD $15.22)

Apparently, Tim's Kitchen is known for exactly these pork dishes, so we wanted to give them a go. I can't decide which I liked better as both were very good. The pork itself was very tender and flavorful, with just the right amount of fat to keep the slices yummy but not too greasy.

The honey-glazed barbeque had, of course, a sweet sauce to accompany the tender pork, and the roasted pork belly was lightly fried to a salty, crisp finish. Having both kinds was a great idea as the opposing flavors really balanced each other out.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Noms in Asia 5: Wrap-Up of Korea


I just got back to NYC a few days ago, but I still have so many things I want to share from Korea and Hong Kong, so I wanted to do a quick wrap-up post of the rest of what I had in Korea. I'll then move on to stuff in Hong Kong — a beautiful and delicious city, btw — with more comprehensive posts.

So here's the rest of my food pictures from Korea.

Ho Dduk (호떡)

Ho Dduk 
The streets of Daejeon

Ho Dduk is another one of my favorite winter street foods in Korea, along with the "goldfish bread." What it is is a ball of dough with a sugary and nutty center that is pan fried and flattened into a round disk. The traditional ho dduk is made with regular flour and brown sugar, honey and nuts, but the one I had was slightly different — it was a green tea ho dduk with a white-sugar filling. I prefer the traditional ho dduk (which I also had but didn't get a chance to snipe a pic), but the green tea one was yummy as well. This sweet and warm dessert/snack is not only delicious but also very cheap as it is sold on the streets — only $1 for two! (Usually. Prices vary within the country.)

Bo Ssam (보쌈)

Bo Ssam from Nolbu Bo Ssam 

If you love pork and kimchi, you'll definitely be a fan of bo ssam as well. Perfect for dinner, bo ssam is tender slices of boiled pork that typically comes out with a special kind of kimchi, cabbage and salted/pickled shrimp, along with several traditional side dishes.

The way most people eat this is to dip a piece of pork into the pickled shrimp and wrap it around the cabbage with some of the special, slightly sweet kimchi inside. Pop the wrap into your mouth, and you're in for one crazy explosion of flavor.

Some people just eat the meat and the kimchi with some rice or just the meat with shrimp and rice — there are endless number of ways to enjoy bo ssam — but either way, this is an awesome dish that has many depths of flavor.

Fake Cronut (Fronut? Phonut? There should be a name for these)

Knock-off Cronut from Cafe Schneeballen 
Hong Dae, Seoul

So I haven't tried the real Cronut yet because New Yorkers are still going crazy over them — and I'm not up for the challenge to wait in line for four to five hours and be sorely disappointed when the guy in front of me gets the last one and gives me a stupid smirk before saying something stupid like "YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE" while walking away — but I was curious to see what a knock-off would taste like, one from Korea at that. This one was from Cafe Schneeballen in an area called Hong Dae in Seoul, and it was ... interesting.

While this Fronut (I'm going with this name — it sounds better than the Phonut, I decided) had a similar concept to the real deal, it was very far from the original Cronut (from what I imagine/have seen). Instead of having the rich custard filling on the inside, the Fronut had the custard piped on the top, which made me feel like I was a bit cheated (although the custard tasted fine). The texture of the pastry was also not as pleasant as I'd hoped as it was a bit tough and stale.

While Cafe Schneeballen's Fronut was still a good dessert overall, and went very well with coffee, it's definitely not a good substitute for the Cronut (again, from what I assume. Although I haven't had the real thing yet, I'm quite confident that people wouldn't wait in line at 6 a.m. for a pastry on par with this Fronut).

Korea, the home of my family, is always a delight to visit as it is a beautiful country with great culture, amazing food and fun festivities (K, I may be a little bit biased...), and this trip was no exception. To all my foodies, I urge you to fly on over to get a taste of one of the most interesting food cultures in the world.