pig & khao

I don’t know why it has taken us so long to try Pig & Khao – it has been on my list since the start. It moved to the top when we tried to get in with a group of six during primetime after a nearby show last Friday. The food smelled amazing, and we were disappointed, but not surprised to hear it would be a two-hour wait. After an average meal down the block, I vowed to make a reservation soon. The next Saturday offered a 5:15 pm or a 10:30 pm, so we chose an early dinner.

pig and khao peanuts baboy daiquiri rum & hydeThe cocktail menu seemed so interesting we had to start there. The Szechuan peppercorns in the rum-based Baboy Daiquiri caught my eye, and Derek went for the Rum & Hyde. The numbing spices added a subtle depth to my drink, and the Roasted Peanuts with coconut, lemongrass, and kaffir were an ideal match. We decided to only go for small plates to try more things and settled on the Thai Mushroom Salad, Green Papaya Salad, and Baby Octopus Paksiw.

pig & khao thai mushroom salad green papaya salad coconut rice

With a beer and white wine as an accompaniment, we dug into the mushrooms, which were expertly roasted to smoky, chewy perfection. Normally averse to cream sauces piped onto a plate, we loved how the coconut cream calmed the heat and served as a becoming partner for the sweet and tart chili jam. Next up, the green papaya salad held its own with the most authentic ones we have tried over the years, although the chef spun the dish a bit differently with charred chicken and taro.

pig & khao baby octopus

We closed the meal by dredging each sauteed baby octopus through the buttery black vinegar broth and relishing the bitterness of the watercress and garlic chips. I almost forgot the sweet coconut rice which cooled the tongue between spicy bites, and we had enough to bring home for a side dish the following night.

We want to try everything on the menu and look forward to going back for the food and the lovely people at Pig & Khao.

curried egg salad

It’s Sunday morning, Fresh Direct doesn’t come until tomorrow, and your leftovers are limited. A perfect time for egg salad. I modified this from a New York Times recipe (https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014530-curried-egg-salad) and added a small salad and leftover pitas from Mamouns we found in the freezer.

Curried Egg Salad
2 servings

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon yogurt (something a bit thicker like Greek – we used Bulgarian)
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sriracha
½ teaspoon sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
Pinch of curry powder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Scallions, sliced, for garnish

Blend the yogurt, olive oil, sriracha, vinegar, curry powder, mustard, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. You can add lemon juice if the yogurt is less acidic. Add the chopped eggs. Garnish with scallions, a pinch of sea salt (we like Maldon) and a twist of black pepper. Serve with toast, a bagel, pita, or other bread and a small salad.

Calories with a small salad with an olive oil, dijon mustard, and sherry vinegar dressing, along with a pita, comes to just under 300 calories.

injera

Why is it so hard to find good Ethiopian food in a city as large as NYC? To be fair, we have only tried two places, but my research reveals a dearth of trusted information to know where to go. Injera received some decent reviews but didn’t even live up to the non-hype.

Let’s start with the good. The service and people were friendly and welcoming. The restaurant was full on a Wednesday night, but we were able to grab a seat at the bar. Another redeeming quality was the wine. The problem was the food – a somewhat important factor. We ordered a vegetarian platter and beef tibs. Fish tibs would have been our preference, but this dish wasn’t on the menu. Everything lacked the spicy, intense Berbere flavors I’ve come to expect from Ethiopian food, which happens to be one of my favorite cuisines. It was a perfectly boring platter.

If you have a recommendation, I’d greatly appreciate it. We’re going to head to Harlem for our next try.

zucchini fries

Another healthy side option for your BLT is Zucchini Fries. Crispy on the outside and luscious on the inside, they weigh in at approximately 125 calories a serving.

Zucchini Fries
2 servings

2 medium zucchini squash
1 egg white
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup pecorino, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt
pepper
2 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut zucchini into 3-inch long spears (or slices, whatever you prefer). Lightly coat the baking sheet with olive oil and prepare the coating bowls. Whisk a bit of water with the egg white in, the first and combine the breadcrumbs, pecorino, spices, salt and pepper in the second. Dredge the zucchini pieces through the egg white and then the breadcrumb mixture.  Arrange in a single layer on the sheet. Bake until golden brown (approximately 30 minutes), flipping after 15 minutes. Season with flake salt (we prefer Maldon) and serve with lemon wedges.

blt

What better way to showcase end of summer tomatoes than in a BLT. I love how the tomato juice mingles with the mayo, picking up a hint of salt from the bacon, and the crunch of the lettuce contrasts with the softness of the bread. So simple, but so scrumptious. Add some oven-roasted smashed potatoes and pickles for a fantastic casual dinner.

We make this diet-friendly by minimizing the amount of bacon and mayo in the sandwich and oil on the potatoes. All in before drinks is approximately 500 calories. The pickles come from The Pickle Guys in LES. We’ve tried everything from new to half-sour to full-sour – you can’t really go wrong.

BLT

2 slices whole wheat bread (choose something around 90 calories a slice)

1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise

2 1/2 slices bacon, medium-thickness

1/2 medium tomato, salted

1-2 lettuce leaves

Lightly toast the bread, and then thinly spread the mayonnaise on each slice. Add the other ingredients in order – the tomato needs to go in the middle to maintain the integrity of the sandwich and not make the bread soggy.

Smashed Potatoes

1 medium Russet potato, diced into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 tablespoon oil olive oil

Salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil potatoes until fork-tender, approximately 10-15 minutes, in heavily-salted water (approximately 1 tablespoon, should taste salty). Drain potatoes and place on cooking sheet. With a large fork, lightly smash the potatoes so that the pieces are intact, but have smaller bits attached (it’s ok if some of the bits fall off the main piece). Transfer smashed potatoes to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, gently tossing with a rubber spatula to coat all sides. Dump potatoes back onto the cooking sheet in an even layer and scrape residual oil from bowl onto potatoes. Season with kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper. Cook until crispy, turning and checking every 10-15 minutes – total cook time approximately 30-40 minutes.

cafe china

Although we have several Chinese restaurants that we love, none compares to Cafe China, You won’t find a better value, even now that they have abandoned their no tipping policy, and the entire experience – from the wine, cocktails, food, staff, and decor – is enchanting. The captivating photos of winsome Chinese women take you back to a more romantic time and place. Our most recent visit was with friends, which is the best way to experience more variety.

We started with cocktails – 2 vespers, an Ashes of Time (whiskey and scotch-based), and an Old Fashioned. I love that the classics are available, along with some newbies. They also have a nice, but reasonably-priced wine list that includes choices with a touch of sweetness like the Vouvray to hold up to the numbing Sichuan peppercorns that permeate many of the plates.

Our first course included possibly my favorite dish in the entire world, the Husband and Wife Special. We still haven’t quite figured out exactly what is in this spicy, multi-textural concoction – maybe lung, tendon, tripe, etc. – it varies by the restaurant, but Cafe China makes the best one. They add finely chopped celery and peanuts to the “parts” (in this case, it’s beef and tripe), along with the traditional chile oil. It’s too adventurous for most, but I recommend you try it at least once. Anything served in the spicy chile oil is a winner, including the Pork Dumpling appetizer. The numbing peppers lend a fun and elegant flair to the Szechuan Pickled Vegetables, and we appreciated the silkiness of the Butter Squash Soup.

Moving on to the mains, we chose Beef Sautéed with Pickled Chili, Ma Po Tofu, and then the Sautéed Pea Shoots as a break from the heat. Each option on the menu takes a traditional plate and elevates it with the flawless sophistication that has earned Cafe China their Michelin Star.

I have one complaint about Cafe China. They only deliver to a small section of Manhattan, so our weekend orders had to stop when we moved south. The absence just makes our heart grow fonder.

russ and daughters cafe

We were even more impressed with Russ and Daughters Cafe on this visit. As part of the Stone Series Music Series, Bill Frisell was scheduled to play, and we made reservations well in advance. Emily, the General Manager, emailed my husband to ask if we wanted to be close to the music or in the back, where it was quieter. She gave us the perfect seats – close, but out of the way of the crowd. The bartenders were lovely also. Since the musicians performed in the bar section, the staff waited for breaks to add ice to the shaker for mixed drinks, gently lifted the wine from the ice bath, and tenderly placed each dish on the counter to avoid disturbing the music.

Kudos to the restaurant for sponsoring this series. A popular venue, yet management allowed people to stand and enjoy the show with minimal (or any) purchases. The concerts demonstrate a real commitment from the restaurant to the community.

Russ and Daughters Cafe specializes in smoked fish, putting its unique spin into dishes like Pastrami Russ, a pastrami-cured salmon sandwich similar to a Reuben.  The Chopped Liver with matzo escorted me back to my childhood days helping my mom prepare the communion “crackers” at our small town church and sneaking a couple for a snack. The fennel, dill, and capers added character to the Mixed Green salad. We finished off the meal with the Russ & Daughters Knishes – light, fluffy, with a hint of sharp mustard.

Our beverage choices included the Lower East Side, a fragrant gin cocktail with lime, dill, and cucumber. Derek couldn’t resist the Smoked Martini, gin-based, with the smokiness coming from a rinse of Laphroaig. It’s always nice to see more savory beverages. The Daniel Dampt & Fils Chablis was a bargain at $56 a bottle.

russ and daughters bill frisell updo

It was one of those crazy hot Manhattan Summer nights, so I ended up having to hack a pen into a hair accessory to beat the heat. All in all, it was a delightful evening of food, drinks, and music.

staycation 2018: day 5

We wound down our official staycation today beginning with a brunch utilizing our leftover Korean BBQ supplemented with some roasted potatoes, arugula salad, and a fried egg. Also, we were able to score one of the last bottles of Moussamoussettes Sparkling Rose on our Chambers Street Wine visits yesterday, making this the perfect morning feast. As you can see from the before and after shots, it was horrible.

The last formal act of Staycation 2018 was the tea service at the Bosie Tea Parlour. Our second visit was no less cozy and chic as the first. The best sandwiches were the most simple – cucumber/cream cheese and egg salad, with the cheddar/pickle a close third. All of the macaroons were yummy, but we preferred the Chocolate with Earl Grey. We fancied both of our tea choices (Black Toasted Coconut & Darjeeling Tumsong First Flush) so much that we bought loose leaves to bring home. Hands down, the soft, flaky scones were the star of the service.

The excess of our week wore us out so we decided on an afternoon nap to officially close out the run before heading to our friend’s going away party.

 

 

wildair, revisited

One of the tough parts about living in NYC is deciding whether to venture out to one of the many restaurants on our wish list or to revisit one of our loves. With Wildair, deciding to go back also requires some planning because of its popularity. Fortunately, you can now make reservations but count on a few weeks out for a weekend night.

We only planned to order a bottle of wine with dinner but couldn’t turn down a glass of the Agnès et René Mosse, Moussamoussettes, a reddish-colored, sparkling masterpiece of biodynamicness, which is only available in the summer, as a starter. For the meal, we were steered towards a bottle of Denavolo Dinavolina, an orange natural wine from Italy. I also couldn’t resist trying a digestif of the 72 Tomatoes Liqueur – those who read my blog know I’m a sucker for savory/vegetal liquids. The server described it as tasting like a tomato vine smells. I don’t know that I agree with this narrative, but it was unique and nice finish to the meal.

Now for the food. I also have the dilemma when returning to an old flame whether to reorder a previous rewarding pick or embrace a new selection. We decided to choose both. An old standby was the potato darphin with hokkaido uni and jalapeno. When you get a bit of each ingredient on your fork, it becomes a perfect bite. New additions to our repertoire included the softshell crab with Meyer lemon and spring onion, lightly breaded with no greasiness accompanied by lemony, scalliony, and curried tartar sauce, and a sophisticated plate of chopped mussels with endive and smoked egg yolk.

If you are reading this, stop and go to the Wildair website to make a reservation for the next mutually available time. You won’t be disappointed.