Monday, October 09, 2006

Trying to Stay Gold…Adventure in DC

The past month and a half has been crazy busy. However, I decided to use part of my three-day weekend and take a trip to one of my favorite places, Washington, DC. Upon arrival after work on Friday, I was very hungry (shocking…I know;)). I tried Raku, considered one of the best bargain restaurants in DC. The restaurant in located by Dupont Circle.

The restaurant is busy, and while I have only been once, I think it is likely that people usually wait in order to get a table. Because the restaurant is so trendy, people tend to go to the bar and order drinks after giving their name. We left and took a little stroll around the block, and when we came back we stood awkwardly near the door and waited for our table (the door space is cramped). I am not 100% sure, but I think we were seated before people who gave their name earlier and went to the bar, because the space is crowded and we were there as soon as they were looking for someone to seat. I can’t say that this trick always works, but it can be helpful.

Anyway, on to the food...We ordered salmon and avocado rolls, vegetable dumplings, tuna tartar and a ginger vegetable stir-fry. The restaurant is designed to be Asian tapas, so everything can be shared, and this appeared to be the common practice. However, they also have big plates that can be ordered to eat alone. We choose to share everything. All of the food was yummy. The tuna tartar was a food highlight: creamy raw tuna with spicy wasabi sauce to be eaten on lightly toasted baguette bread with a light tangy salad on the side. The vegetable dumplings were well prepared, but I didn’t like the dipping sauce. It was a strange spicy bitter concoction that was simply not well done. I did really enjoy the ginger stir-fry sauce (I even dipped the dumplings into it). I was particularly impressed with the speed and friendliness of the service and the freshness of the food. If I lived in DC, I would definitely go back to this place.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I miss having a life...

I am deviating from my usual rules of not talking about anything other than my actual adventures around NYC for this post. Basically, I have not been writing lately with the start to teaching another school year, taking masters classes in education, and applying to law school. Not to mention, I am trying to make time to see friends and family. Hopefully, I will have time to update again soon. There are a lot of places I have wanted to write about, but have not had the chance. You should consider checking them out, and hopefully there will be more detail on them in the future. They include Gobo, Quantum Leap, Suma Sushi, Awash, and Society Cafe. I also made this Lo Mein type recipe a little while ago that I was going to go into detail about, and spent a day exploring the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (better than Staten Island's-sorry Staten Island). Okay, I need to go back to work. Keep on adventuring!!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Arepas are on my mind again...

On Wednesday night, I continued to feed my obsession with arepas and the top 101 Best Cheap Eats (yes, I agree not all of them are actually cheap) by going to Caracas Arepa Bar ( I continue to be happily surprised by arepas in all forms. Caracas is a tiny restaurant in the East Village. It is likely you will have a wait to get in, but the service, including the guy manning the door, is super friendly and relaxed. The food is definitely worth the wait. I ordered the La Del Gato (cheese, avocado, fried sweet plantains) and the Domino (aged cheese and black beans). El Del Gato is served cool, while the Domino is served really hot. I really liked both of my choices. My friends ordered ones with meat and seemed happy with their picks as well. Lots of ‘mmmm’, and ‘this place is amaaaazzzinng,’ and ‘we made a great dinner choice’ were heard from our mouths between large bites of yummy food. The actual arepa was very different from what I expected. The corn pancakes were much crispier than the ones I had before. With the other arepas I tried, the outside was literally pancake dough made with corn and griddled to have a pancake consistency when eaten. The outside of these arepas (which I expect are more authentic then the ones I had before, but I am not sure since I have never had arepas in Venezuela) was very thin, extremely crunchy and did not feel greasy to the touch. The filling was really fresh. There is this amazing sweet and spicy sauce that is sort of creamy on the table to be drizzled on top of the arepa. It is great and should not be missed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pumpkin in Pasta…Another Good Food Decision

I don’t know how I have waited over an entire week to write about this, but last Tuesday I went to Via Emilia ( as part of my quest to hit all 101 Best Cheap Eats from New York Magazine. Once at the restaurant, I learned about the greatness of tortelloni, described as tortellini’s ‘supersize cousin.’ My friend and I ordered it in two forms (spinach and ricotta and pumpkin in sage and butter sauce) and switched plates half way through. I think that the spinach is more famous, but the pumpkin was the star. I have tried butternut squash tortellini in a similar sage and butter sauce before, but I loved the pumpkin. It tastes extra decadent-sweet from the pumpkin filling and silky from the homemade pasta dough with a hint of salt from the butter sauce. The place is cash only and the service was a little lacking, but the food is soooo incredible as to warrant more than one repeat visit.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Staten Island: More Than Just the Ferry?

Yesterday, I took my first trip to Staten Island. I have been meaning to go for a while, and for some reason, it seemed like the perfect day for a little adventure. Looking at a map guide of Staten Island, it actually says “Staten Island: More Than Just the Ferry.” That does not bode well for actually being more than just the ferry, and many people appeared to simply be riding the ferry over and then back in order to see the beautiful view of the city and the Statue of Liberty. To be fair, I did enjoy the ferry ride, but I wanted to see more. After getting to Staten Island, I journeyed onward to the Staten Island Botanical Gardens. I have a secret desire to get to all the botanical gardens in the 5 boroughs before the summer is out, although this is looking less and less likely as the summer goes by far to quickly. Anyway, the botanical gardens were a bit of a disappointment. I had good company, and the weather was perfect, but there were not a lot of flowers currently in bloom, and the space was filled with all sorts of buildings. I expect that the place shines at certain times of year, and that perhaps August is not one of those times. The rose garden still had a couple late bloomers to check out and a circus was performing randomly at 5pm, but overall, I think I prefer roaming around Central Park.

Another big goal of my summer is to make it through New York Magazine’s “The 101 Best Cheap Eats” list. While on Staten Island, I went to the borough’s only restaurant to make the list, Joe and Pat’s. Is it the only excellent cheap eat in all of Staten Island? This I cannot tell you. However, after three slices of spinach and onion pizza, I can confidently say that the restaurant deserves to make the list. The pizza had one of the thinnest crusts I have ever encountered, but it was crispy enough to hold the toppings without falling apart or being tough to bite into. Also, it was covered in gooey cheese, but not oily at all. The oiliness factor is a major downfall in many New York City pizza places, and somehow this place completely avoids that. Furthermore, the pizza was served at the perfect temperature to be pleasantly hot during the entire meal without burning the roof of my mouth at the start. Awesome!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Super Spanish: Classes at El Taller Latino

I thought about writing this entry in Spanish, but I have decided to refrain. Anyway, today was the final day of my morning intensive Spanish class at El Taller Latino ( at 103rd and Broadway. The class was fantastic. The school offered three levels of Spanish classes during the month of July: Beginner I, Beginner II and Intermediate. I was proud of myself on the first day when my high school Spanish background placed me in Beginner II. My class contained approximately 10 students, all with very different backgrounds and purposes for taking Spanish. This particular class was four days a week, although they have classes to accommodate many different schedules. The class had two different teachers that alternated, in order to help us learn more accents when speaking and listening in Spanish. On the first day of class, my profesora said that we were all amigos in the classroom, and that was when I knew that this Spanish class would be more personal than any language class I had taken previously. The school also offers tango and salsa classes and has cultural events. I adored my experience there, so if you are looking for a Spanish class you should definitely check it out.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I Could Have Guessed I Was Eating at the Best…

I have been on a quest to find excellent Thai food in NYC. Since moving here last August, I have found nothing that matches my favorite places for Thai food in Chicago. I know that NYC has great food, but for some reason whenever I have ventured out for Thai (even after doing much research on a place), I have been very disappointed. Last Monday, this changed. I went out to Queens with two friends in search of said Thai food. My friend guaranteed that this place, one of her favorites since childhood, would meet all of my Thai food expectations. We went to Sripraphai. It was fantastic.

Now I don’t always go for such a basic when eating Thai food, but I just had to try their Pad Thai. Amazing…just sweet enough, just peanuty enough, with noodles cooked to perfection. My friends also enjoyed their meals-though they were full of meat that I couldn’t eat. The catfish (Crispy Thai Catfish Salad) looked particularly interesting. It was fried in a manner that made it appear as though sea sponge had been fried. Apparently, this too was excellent. With dinner we ordered Lychee Wine from Thailand. It had a strange grassy smell, but a very refreshing taste, although a little sweet. I would probably not order it again, however, I am glad that I tried it.

Upon arriving home from my trek out to Queens my copy of New York Magazine was sitting on the table with the cover story of the 101 Best Cheap Eats in the city. Sripraphai was ranked 5, and one of only 7 restaurants given 5 stars ( From my experience at this place last Monday, it definitely deserves the ranking. The only unfortunate part is that there might not be a place to match the quality of Shipraphai closer to home.