August 28, 2011

Momofuku!

Momofuku is the name of the group of restaurants owned by Chef David Chang. And according to his website it means lucky peach in Japanese.

I had heard and read quite a bit about Momofuku restaurants and was excited to try one of them while we were in New York City. After reviewing the online sample menus, my husband Jonathan and I decided to try Momofuku Ssäm Bar.


When we arrived, the restaurant was already bustling, but were a few empty seats at the bar. The food at Momofuku Ssäm Bar is difficult to describe - it is not Korean, it is not Japanese, it is not American. The menu changes daily is filled with unique and creative dishes.



We began our meal with a breaded and fried soft shell crab served with green tomato relish (which was wonderful). To accompany our food each began with a glass of rosé. Next we got pork buns (for Jonathan) and pickled mussels to share. That’s right, pickled mussels. At first I was not sure how I felt about eating seafood that has been pickled, but the bartender said it was very refreshing and it was so unique I had to try it. The mussels were served in a mason jar with rustic grilled bread. The mussels were - to my surprise - delicious. The dish was served cold and had a light, briny broth with dikon, grilled pepper, and greens. Eating and sharing this dish was fun. You could spoon the pickled seafood and vegetables onto the grilled bread or eat them separately and dip the bread into the broth.


Lastly, we shared a fish ball soup with coconut milk broth, clams, and green vegetables. This was very different - but equally delicious - compared to the mussels. The dish was served warm and the broth was slightly sweet. The vegetables and seafood were perfectly cooked.


I found the food at Momofuku Ssäm Bar fun, delightful, and (most importantly) very tasty! And unlike many restaurants that have received a great deal of praise, the prices were reasonable. Yes, this is New York, so eating here is rarely cheap, however, they are on par with other neighborhood restaurants.

August 21, 2011

Tapas in the East Village

Tapas are one of my favorite types of food. I have always loved Spanish food in general and I adore the ritual of sharing and eating a variety of little bites. When I flew professionally I had the opportunity to go to Spain on many occasions and enjoyed my short visits to this country. Then when my husband and I lived in San Francisco there were two wonderful Spanish tapas restaurants I liked to go to - Alegrias and Zarzuela. Both of these restaurants serve traditional tapas in a homey atmosphere and reminded me of being back in Spain. Now that we live in Washington, DC I have yet to find a similar place in my new home town. So, when we were planning our trip to New York City, having dinner at a good, authentic tapas restaurant was high on my list of must dos.


Fast forward from the planning stages of our adventure to a Friday evening in New York City. Jonathan and I took the L train towards the East Village to meet friends at Pata Negra. (I selected this restaurant based on a reviews and recommendations from Yelp.)


Pata Negra is a cozy little tapas restaurant with only a few tables. The night we were there it was a lovely summer evening and the windows were open to the street. It is a simple and welcoming place.

But, on to the important part - the food and wine. We ordered a variety of different dishes, some cheese and meat, and a bottle of wine to share. First we received olives and marcona almonds. Soon after the gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic) and the cheeses and meats arrived. Lastly, we got the tortilla and an order of morcilla (blood sausage).


All the cheeses were lovely - nutty and delicious. But, I love cheese! The olives were also good - firm and delicately spiced. The shrimp came out in small earthenware dishes, fragrant and steaming. (And they were very tasty too.) I can not personally vouch for the meats or morcilla, but my dining companions enjoyed them immensely. Of course the charcuterie included jamon (ham) from the restaurant’s namesake, the black-footed Iberian pig. I did thoroughly enjoyed the tortilla and the almonds.



For wine to accompany our food we shared a Rioja and a Monastrell. Both wines were very good and and paired perfectly with the food. The wines at Pata Negra are excellent quality for the price.

And to complete the meal, Chef Mateo came out from the kitchen to check on us and thank us for coming to his restaurant. It was an unexpected and kind gesture that made our visit to his restaurant even more delightful.

So, how do I sum up our meal at Pata Negra? The atmosphere was friendly and dining here was fun. The food was wonderful - comforting, delicious, and - most importantly - reminded me of of being back in Spain. I just wish this restaurant was not in the East Village in New York, but in my neighborhood in Washington, DC...

Thanks for a wonderful meal Mateo!

August 14, 2011

Back in SoHo

I have always loved walking around and shopping in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. On our recent trip we spent an afternoon wandering around the streets checking out the trendy shops. The majority of shops sell clothing and accessories, however there are also chocolate shops, art galleries, and cafes.

For me a trip to SoHo is never complete without a visit to at least one of the two Camper shops. Camper, a shoe brand from Spain, has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. On this particular trip my outing to the shop resulted in the purchase of two new pairs.

With my new purchase in hand we decided it was time for a snack. There are some fantastic restaurants in SoHo - Balthazar, Zoë, and others - but we were looking for a small cafe instead.


Wandering along Greene Street we found Kelley and Ping and decided it would be a good place for our afternoon snack. Inside reminded me of an old Asian tea shop with a open kitchen where you order and pick up your food. The atmosphere was laid back and relaxing - the perfect antidote for the energy-filled SoHo streets.

We ordered placed our order at the counter - vegetable steamed dumplings for me, a wrap and shrimp steamed dumplings for Jonathan, and two ginger beers - and then sat down. The ginger was really good - strong and refreshing with bits of fresh ginger floating in the soda. The food was prepared quickly and soon we were enjoying our dumplings. I ate - and enjoyed - my vegetable dumplings and some of Jonathan’s shrimp ones. (And Jonathan enjoyed his wrap and what remained of his dumplings.) It was a perfect mid-afternoon snack!


Kelley and Ping is a good option for eating in SoHo when you do not want to sit at a fancy restaurant or painfully fashionable cafe, but still want tasty food. And the prices are quite reasonable for this area of Manhattan, so you can grab a snack and still have funds to buy a new pair of shoes (or two)...

Yes, that is a Sriracha bottle of soap in the bathroom at Kelley and Ping...

August 10, 2011

Across the Cafe Table - Souvenirs

So, it is time for another Across the Cafe Table discussion with The Travel Belles! This month’s question asks:

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE "SOUVENIR" (MATERIAL OR NOT)?

Yes, I enjoy shopping when I travel. I like to find clothing and shoes and other items that are unique and different from what I can acquire back home. And I love discovering new and delicious chocolates wherever I am and bringing some back home. However, these things are not my favorite souvenirs...

No matter where I travel - or what the purpose of my trip is - the memories of my experiences and the photographs I take are always my favorite remembrances of a trip. Each of my experiences - the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells - are recalled whenever I look back at the photographs I took that day.

Here are some of those memories...

Stonehenge
Last winter I remember visiting Stonehenge... The day was cold and the wind was biting up on the top of the hill by the ancient stone circle. However, seeing the site in person made me pause. There is something powerful about standing by a structure that has seen so much history pass since it was created by a now forgotten people.

Kennebunkport, Maine
Two years ago my husband Jonathan and I spent a week traveling around New England. We went to Boston, the small town where I grew up in rural Massachusetts, and Maine. It was Jonathan’s first time seeing where I was from and I was delighted to be his tour guide. One of his wishes for this trip was to eat Maine lobster in Maine. So, when we drove up the Maine coast with my father I asked him help me with this request. My dad found this a charming restaurant overlooking a protected harbor in Kennebunkport that was just perfect!

White Beach
Boracay, Philippines
I have written about White Beach in Boracay before here and for The Travel Belles. This is one of the first pictures I took when we went there. It reminds me of the soft sand on my feet, the sparkling blue water, and the relaxing week we spent visiting this wonderful island.

To read about how other Travel Belles answered this week’s Across the Cafe Table question here.

August 7, 2011

Thoughts on Brooklyn...

New York City can be overwhelming, but it is also a rewarding place to travel to. It is a vast city with many distinctly different neighborhoods, a diverse population, and fabulous food. I have visited the borough of Manhattan many times and am fairly familiar with my favorite areas. However, there are four other boroughs - Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island - of which I knew very little. So, I am glad that on our trip I was able to explore a bit of one of these parts of the city.

I found Brooklyn very welcoming - almost like a less busy and more relaxed version of its neighbor to the west (Manhattan). During the few days we were visiting this area of New York we stayed in the neighborhood of Park Slope. I loved the brownstones on tree-lined streets here and the shops, cafes, and restaurants along 5th Avenue. It felt like a homey neighborhood with parents out for a walk with their kids, neighbors stopping to say to chat, and people going about their daily lives.

In Park Slope we enjoyed relaxing at a local cafe, dinner and wine at Al Di La Vino, and some fantastic treats at The Chocolate Room. (More about chocolate in New York City soon.)

I also enjoyed wandering around the Williamsburg neighborhood. This part of Brooklyn seemed somehow edgier - a place where you can find something cool, new, and almost undiscovered. This is where we walked by tattoo shops, clothing boutiques, and cafes. This neighborhood is home to Diner (where we enjoyed a fabulous dinner) and Dressler (a fashionable restaurant and bar where we stopped for a glass of wine one night). There was definitely an energetic vibe in this neighborhood - not the high energy hustle of Manhattan, but a strong feeling of local culture and a spirit of innovation.

And then our short visit to Brooklyn had to come to a close leaving other areas of this cool borough unexplored. I hope to be able to return to Brooklyn sometime soon to have the opportunity to experience some of the other neighborhoods, spend more time in Park Slope and Williamsburg, and visit The Chocolate Room again...

August 1, 2011

Changes...

I began this blog almost three years ago - in November 2008 - on my first trip to Asia. As I visited the Philippines and Hong Kong, I shared my experiences and observations here in the first posts of this blog. The first title for my blog was Philippines Through My Eyes, which eventually evolved to Through My Eyes as I continued sharing my travel, food, wine, and chocolate adventures - both near and far.

Recently I decided it was time to re-brand my blog - in other words, give it a makeover. I reviewed many of my posts, looking back on my journey. After some time I realized that not only did I want to redesign the look of my website, I wanted to change the name to better reflect the purpose of my blog.

So, welcome! You will see the new name for my blog is Jessica In Search Of... and I have created a visual theme to compliment. Other than that, nothing will change. I will continue to share my adventures in travel, food, wine, and chocolate. And I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback! Add your comments below or you can contact me on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy travels!