Food Tour Of Greenwich Village, New York City

Posted August 17th, 2013 by Deepa and filed in Food, Travel
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NYC Trip1We spent the last weekend visiting friends in the New Jersey area and took the opportunity to see the Greenwich Village in New York City.  We have been to New York City several times but have always spent most of our time visiting the main tourist destinations in Manhattan. This time we decided to skip that and do something different. While doing some internet research on local attractions, I came up on a site that offers food tours for Greenwich village. Intrigued by the idea of a food tour, I explored some more and found out that there were several recommended food joints in that area.  After some more Google searches and reading a couple of food blogs I came up with my own itinerary for a food tour of Greenwich village.

My friend Pooja lives in New Jersey so, we took the train from her place to 9th Street Metro and walked down a few blocks to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. At the entrance of the park is a large Arch modeled after the Arch de Triomphe in Paris. The park is dominated by a large fountain in the center but surrounding it are strolling areas, gardens, play-area for kids, benches and an open air chess tables.  It was fairly crowded with locals and tourists relaxing, reading, eating, playing and enjoying the open air band. Annika was enthralled by the drummer and spent quite a bit of time dancing to the beats.  After spending about half an hour there, we crossed the garden and entered Macdougal Street where our food tour started in earnest. Continue Reading »

Volt

Posted October 11th, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Food, Reviews
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Volt 081Last Saturday, we had dinner at Volt.  Although I am devoted follower of many Food based TV programs, I have never followed Top Chef and therefore had no clue about Chef Bryan Voltaggio’s culinary style or techniques.  All I knew was that he used local organic seasonal ingredients and that he was brilliant.  His restaurant, Volt had been voted Maryland’s best restaurant and it was on my list of top places to try. There are three different kinds of dining options at Volt.  You can either dine from the a La Carte Menu or from the prix fixe six course tasting menu. The third option is  called “Table 21” and is a 21-course meal that you have with the chef preparing it right in front of you.  It is a testimony to the popularity of the restaurant that it’s Table 21 option is  booked pretty much well into the end of 2011.  We were incredibly  lucky to get a reservation for the a la Carte option at  5:30pm on  Saturday. Continue Reading »

Food Blog Update: Zucchini muffins with Jalapeno jelly

Posted May 18th, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Food
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IMG_7327One of my favourite shops in US, is Harry and David—a gourmet food store.  I can never resist the impulse to enter the store when I pass by it and once I enter, I rarely leave without purchasing something or the other.  My favourite item from the store is their collection of relishes, dips and spreads .  The last time I went there, I bought their green jalapeno jelly, it was simply delicious—the right mixture of sweet and spice. Infact, I liked it so much that I emptied the entire bottle in one sitting.   And then I got on the internet to find how I could make these at home.  I got tons of recipes while I googled recipe for jalapeno jelly.

It was quick, it was simple and it was delicious.  I had some red and green chillies that I had grown in my garden last year in my freezer and I was glad to finish them before I planted some more this summer.  Once I had the jalapeno jelly, I started looking out for things I could eat it with.  This weekend, I made some zucchini & beetroot muffins to go along with it.  The muffins were such a healthier alternative to bread—I had it for lunch for 4 straight days. Continue Reading »

The National Symphony Orchestra

Posted January 18th, 2010 by Deepa and filed in Food
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OrchestraAlthough we haven’t made a formal New Year resolution, one of items on our 2010 to-do list is to broaden our cultural quotient.  We took our first steps in this direction last Thursday with a visit to attend the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington DC.  The Kennedy Center is on the banks of the Potomac River and is a beautiful place with sumptuous halls and theatres is the sole reason why DC might feature of a list of “culture-hotspots” in USA.

Those of you who know me are probably chuckling at the idea that I was attending any musical program, much less a symphony orchestra.  I must admit, given that fact that I am tone-deaf, I was a bit intimidated when I saw the array of musical instruments that were going to be used. The stage filled up slowly with musicians finding their spots and tuning up or practicing their parts.  The conductor, Michael Stern, walked in shook the hand of the concertmaster (who was one of the violinists) and immediately launched into conducting the first piece of the day – a 20 minutes of Symphony No 1 by Samuel Barber.  By reading the program booklet I learnt that the “Symphony in one movement is a synthetic treatment of the four movement classical symphony  and based on the three themes of the initial Allegro non troppo, which retain their fundamental character”.   The music was pleasant,  I remembered a talk by some music group in my college days who defined music as “nothing but organized noise”— that definitely struck a chord with me.

After 20 minutes, the music ended with a bang, the conductor bowed, the audience applauded, the orchestra got up in one movement and bowed again, audience continued to applaud, the conductor shook the hands of the concertmaster and bowed again and then walked off the stage, then walked in again to the center of the stage, bowed again and then walked off again.  There was a short break and the orchestra members rearranged themselves a bit, while a grant piano was rolled in.  The pianist, Emmanual Ax,  and the conductor, Michael Stern, walked in a few minutes later,  shook hands with the concert master and then launched into Beethoven’s piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat major.  This was about 28 minutes and I liked this best of the three pieces that were played—mainly because I enjoyed the melody of the piano  in contrast to the rest of the sounds.  But mostly I spent the time watching Michael Stern wave his baton vigorously and wondering if the process could be automated with flashing light bulbs in front of each player or section that could indicate when to start or stop the music. Continue Reading »

Halloween in New York City

Posted November 7th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food, Travel
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Photos: New York City Trip

Although Seejo & I have differing opinions on almost all things related to New York City ( I love the crowds, the noise, the buzz & Seejo dislikes them), we both agree on two things about the city: it has some of the best restaurants in US & it has some of the quirkiest people on the street.  This Saturday we got a chance to confirm our opinion of both these issues.

I had already made brunch reservations at Mesa Grill—a restaurant owned by Chef Bobby Flay.  Ever since we saw Bobby Flay in Iron Chef America, we have wanted to try his “bold flavoured South-west style” cuisine.  We were there with our friend Atha (meeting up with him was the real reason for this trip), who was on an official visit from India. We were seated immediately, served with a breadbasket with jalapeno spiced blue & yellow corn-muffins, some flaky cheese biscuits & fruit coffee cake served with a red pepper relish. Between the three of us , we polished off the whole basket & licked the relish dish clean in less than five minutes. (There are no photographs of the bread-basket, we were too hungry to wait!). Continue Reading »

Weekend Cooking Spree

Posted October 4th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food
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For Deepa's Blog 117On Saturdays, I try to cook food for the entire week. Sometimes enough food to last us through two weeks..  Last weekend, while Seejo was in his class, I decided to spend the time productively by finishing the cooking. I thought I’ll show you the final output of my cooking spree.

Now here are the challenges I face when I cook for two weeks:

  1. Variety.  We cannot eat similar food for a week , let alone for two. There should be variety in taste, texture, color, cuisine style, food type—in short this is the biggest challenge to overcome. What this means, is I cannot make rice & daal to satisfy us for a week :)
  2. Whatever produce is present in the refrigerator MUST be used up. This is critical as I’d not be cooking for the next two weeks and so the vegetables tend to go bad if I do not use them all up.
  3. Given challenge # 1 and challenge #2 , this means, I have to use the same vegetables in two or three different curries IN an innovative fashion so that a) I finish the vegetable and b) I satisfy the variety requirement by making a different type of dish
  4. Each dish should be cooked with minimum of actual stove top time. My cooking style is completely the fill it, shut it and forget it type. Continue Reading »

Introducing the Food Blog

Posted August 31st, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food
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(not really)

fblog7There are two kinds of cooks in the world. One that can serve any food with élan and the other kind who serve even gourmet food with an air of apology. Unfortunately, I belong in this second category.  You must have met people like me. Whenever they serve food, they mumble about how the dish is not really that good, they constantly point out deficiencies that the guest has probably never noticed (this would have tasted better if I used real coconut instead of frozen coconut, this dish should be a tad bit creamier than it is, the koftas should have been golden yellow rather than yellowish gold…).  The ability to confidently state “this dish is yum” is probably the biggest challenge that I face in writing a food blog. Well that and the fact that I am too lazy to cook up original recipes regularly. But I wanted to see how complicated this process is. How do people manage to assemble ingredients, cook, take photographs of the food and then write about the same —what is it that they do?  I resolved to write at least one recipe. That was about six months ago. Continue Reading »

Chill and Grill Time

Posted August 10th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food
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Isha is their daughter. Unlike her parents, she is the quiet contemplative sort. She enjoyed the party very much – so much that she adopted our house as her house. She especially liked this chair and sat there for a long time rocking away and watching the other kids play from a safe distance.
I am sorry I don’t have a better picture for Ajit. It doesn’t convey Ajit’s booming laughter and his cheerful personality. Ajit & Seejo have been working together for about 7 years. He is from Trivandrum originally. Laxmi & Ajit are our token Mallu friends and we like them inspite of that.
This is Aditya— he is a little hellion and doesn’t stay still enough for me to take a picture. He has the highest pain tolerance of any person that I know. He once fractured his hand and nobody knew about it till the next day because he did not even whimper. He is also extremely smart. I saw him one day with a lollipop clutched in both hands. He would alternate between licking one and then the other. So I asked him why he had two lollipops. Aditya looked at me as though I was a moron and replied “Because I have only two hands!”
For Aditya, the highlight of the party was playing with his friend Ismail. They climbed over the furniture. They climbed over each other. They climbed on Ashu and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Aditya and Ismail were born on the same day in the same hospital. Their dads became friends when they met in the hospital where their wives were having the babies. It is a unique friendship. When Bimal, Ajit and Seejo needed a fourth while playing tennis, Ajit thought of Anez. Now Anez joins them for tennis when he can and they have all become very good friends.
Anez comes from Muvattupuzha — the same town as Seejo’s father. He works in the US patent office here in DC and told us about Michael Jackson’s patent for the forward lean motion using specially designed anti-gravity shoes which he employed in his music videos. I don’t think Anez is demonstrating that here, though. No idea what he is doing but it looks like it is important. Anez’s wife Farzana was bought up in US but speaks Mallu very well. It is somewhat disconcerting to notice her accent when she switches to English. That is her with their second son —Amir. Amir distributed his time very generously with everybody— and went eagerly into any arms that were held out for him. He was cheerful through the whole party, even though all the other kids were tumbling all over the place
Dennis & Sherron came from Virginia. They decided to postpone sodding their lawn to attend the party— an act of intelligence for which they are to be commended. Dennis ,Seejo & Ajit work together at Hughes. Sherron pointed out very quickly that the word “work” is to be interpreted very loosely. So now I introduce the topic by saying that Seejo, Ajit and Dennis go to the same place to work. Sherron is a lawyer and works in Washington DC. Last year, she let us on the terrace of her office building so we could see July 4th fireworks from one of the best view points. She is originally from New Orleans. We attended their wedding in New Orleans at it was beautiful. She also makes wonderful red velvet cake. After eating that for the first time, Seejo liked it so much that he made it for two weeks consecutively.
Shweta and Ashu are newly weds. They got married less than a year ago. Shweta works in Siemens /voight Hydro. She is a true “classic “ engineer and helps in building dams across rivers. Ashu & Seejo have been friends since undergrad in Pune. But I like Ashu & Shweta so I have adopted them as my friends rather than Seejo’s friends.
Ashu’s parents came all the way from India to attend this party. Well that and to spend time with Ashu and Shweta. But the party was definitely on their list of top 2 reasons to visit USA.
This was Robin’s last free weekend before he starts graduate school at Johns Hopkins. He is excited about Hopkins but is apprehensive about the unsafe campus, especially after he got mugged last month near Metro station. He didn’t lose any money but lost his front tooth and had to replace it. Here he is showing off his new pearly whites. He is also worried about getting a girlfriend, completing PHD in less than 5 years, finding the right advisor, selecting one research area and global warming. Well may be not global warming but I am right on everything else!!!
There was plenty of food. Laxmi got some fish-sticks. We had semi-homemade chicken wings and we had satay chicken with peanut sauce and spicy jerk chicken on skewers.
For the vegetarians we had some tangy corn chaat, fresh caprese salad with baby tomatoes, mozzarella and my homemade pesto dressing. I also picked up some spankopitas with spinach and cream cheese filling.
For the main course we had delicious turkey burgers that were Seejo’s created recipe and some vegetarian cutlets. We had an array of sauces and burger toppings including sautéed onions, mushrooms, cucumber relish, homemade pineapple relish, avocado slices and other fresh vegetables. For dessert, I made some rum-cake, Farzana brought a cheese cake (no picture) and Roshni baked some awesome cherry-pineapple cobbler that was accompanied by vanilla icecream. That was so tasty that I almost forgave her for not making undhio for me.
I had made sangria for the alcohol philics and some orange strawberry fruit punch for the non-alcholics. Both proved to be extremely popular and I could only photograph the last dregs. I have however kept another pitcher of sangria in the fridge for me to enjoy in the next few weeks!
All in all it was a great party….and it was past midnight when the last guest left. Here is little Isha saying Bye Bye to all of us.

We hosted a small get-together at our place this Saturday. Here are some pictures of the party. I will start by adding the disclaimer that I have taken these photos with a friend’s point & shoot camera without adjusting the settings for the indoor photography. The photos are not professional & Seejo has not touched them. That also explains why you are seeing the photos within 2 days of the party!!

Continue Reading »

Travel and Food

Posted October 30th, 2008 by Deepa and filed in Food, Travel
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We just returned from a wonderful mini vacation trip to Glacier, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Parks with family.  As is the norm, I was sorting and uploading the wonderful photographs that Seejo took with our new Nikon Digital SLR camera, I noticed something unusual.  There was just one photograph of a food item— definitely unusual by our standards.  A tall glass of purple colored huckleberry lemonade that we had at the Huckleberry Patch in Montana.

For us, one of the yardsticks for a successful trip is being able to sample a new cuisine or an mouth-watering dish at an unexpected location.  We have actually considered a trip to New Orleans for being able to eat the famous charbroiled oysters at Dragos in New Orleans.  Our mouth still waters at the thought of the grilled shrimp that we polished off at Wahini Surfer’s Grill at Outer Banks, NC.  Despite having our fill of lobsters in Maine, what I remember is the wonderful egg-vegetarian breakfast (chilled melon soup garnished with bright yellow nasturtium flowers, warm pear almond bread and wonderful omlettes)  that was served at the OceanSide Bread and breakfast Inn at Schoodic Peninsula.  I still recommend to out of town guests to visit Buddy’s at Annapolis just to have some outstanding crab –both crab cakes and bisque .

I know that when I next go to Austin to meet family, I will insist on having the spicy fish tacos from Taco Deli , when I go to Philadelphia I will make a stop at the Jim’s steak house to have the famous Philly Cheese Steak and when I travel to Chicago, I’ll be buying some Garret’s cashew nut popcorn.

I don’t know the point of writing all of this. All I know, I am eagerly waiting for my next trip—to explore a new place and to discover a delicacy that I have not yet tasted.

Restaurant Week

Posted August 30th, 2008 by Deepa and filed in Food
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In August both DC & Bethesda had their restaurant week.  During restaurant week, participating restaurant offer a fixed price dinner (~$ 35) and/or  lunch (~$20) to all its patrons.  Some restaurants offer a special menu, sort of an abridged version of their regular menu for restaurant week while others offer their entire menu (with some items having an extra fee).  It is the time, Seejo and I look forward to –because that is the time we get to visit restaurants that we would normally consider as above our budget.

Last year we went to Acadiana- a New Orleans style restaurant.  The restaurant was crowded—restaurant week tends to get crowded. But we had a wonderful turtle soup as appetizer, an amazing roasted duck with a sweet crispy skin  and an amazing drink called Basil Belle—Tanqueray gin and lemon syrup/lemon soda and crushed basil.  It’s a drink we have made several times at home afterwards.

This year, we indulged in three different restaurants, beginning with Tavira , a Portuguese restaurant,  for the Bethesda restaurant week.  The dishes were picked off the restaurant week menu—very disparate in style and proportion.  The Piri Piri chicken was grilled perfectly and , unlike most grilled chicken, the spices had permeated throughout the chicken and the quantity was enough for even lunch next day. On the other hand, the grilled sea-food presented very artistically but it was rather bland and the quantity was rather meager.  It was same with the appetizers too—the sardines were surprisingly good (even for a confirmed sardine hater like myself), but the kale soup was luck lusture.  Overall impression: I’d recommend the restaurant if you are in the vicinity –not if you have to go out of your way to eat there.

For the DC restaurant week, we picked two very different restaurants. A French style bistro  “Bistro Bis”  where they offered a limited restaurant week menu. I had my first steak tartare  which was “interesting” but the act of nibbling at a raw cow makes me a little edgy. The mussels were amazing but the start of the party was hearty and spicy beef stew.  The duck confit was surprisingly flat.  The trio of sorbet was just the most light dessert to finish off the meal.  Overall impression: Nice but not worth the price.

The best restaurant that I have ever visited, in terms of food alone is Farrah Olivia by Morou.  We have wanted to go there eveer since we saw Chef Morou in Iron Chef America.  What they serverd was not just food, it was almost an artistic creation.  The appetizer we ordered was scallops and gazpacho. The scallop was seared perfectly, and served with melon puree lined with berebere oil with a little bacon powder and bacon bits on the side of the plate.  It was probably the best scallop I have ever had.  The gazpacho was presented beautifully—both tomato and eggplant gazpacho served in the same plate with a mint jelly and chilli jelly cube floating in each side respectively. There were combinations that I never thought would work together  such as a banana crusted chicken with mango sauce  and quinoa salad which had me wondering  why didn’t I ever think of using banana and chicken before .  Seejo’s entrée was steak but it was served with raisin sauce and a cocoa-coffee powder and sauted mushrooms. The server explained that you mix the powder in the sauce and the dip the steak into it. Individually each of the items were good but together they exploded into something magical in your mouth. The portions were small— it did take three full courses to make me feel full ( we licked the plates clean each time).  But each dish was unusual, disparate ingredients that blended together so well, presented beautifully and extremely delicious.   Overall Impression: Going there again, Definitely.

And we are not going to wait for the next restaurant week.