“Restaurant”: Platters

Finally went to Platters/The Halal Guys (53rd and 6th). This is an especially important review, as going to Platters in NYC for a late night dinner (it’s definitely NOT a snack) together with my boyfriend has been a long time coming. Talking about Platters was his sneaky way of getting my number back in the day (“hey, when u go to platters, u should let me know, because i want to be there when u witness its awesomeness… can i get your number?”).

I’d never seen a line as long as this for a Halal cart. But this isn’t just any old Halal cart. In fact, there is a doppelganger of this Platters right across the street! But was there a 20+ person line? No. Not a soul. Just two very bored-looking Halal guys.

Apparently, you should look for this guy, with the beard, because he makes it the best.

And so the epic Platters has been accomplished. Quite good, ridiculously fast, and a TON of food for about $6.00 — you keep eating, and your dish seems to magically refill!

It comes with iceberg lettuce, chicken, lamb, yellow rice, and pita bread. The pita bread was the lightest, tastiest pita bread I’ve had to date. Eating a bit of everything on one forkful makes for a very tasty combination.

I found the bowl as one entity to be a little bit dry; the meat was cooked perfectly but the rice somewhat hard, at least for my taste. We did not use any of the mysterious white sauce (later found out it is a sour cream sauce) nor the hot sauce, which may have contributed to the dryness, but it was very good nonetheless.

Of course, this must be eaten later at night and under the dim street lights to have the full Platters experience. It may not be photogenic, but it is definitely worth a try and a trip if you’re farther away!

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Quinoa + Avocado, Tomato, Black Beans, Corn, and Lemon/Lime Vinaigrette

After three weeks of living here in NYC, I finally cooked!

An oldie, but a goodie.

I figure, in my ovenless, toasterless, food-processor-less apartment, start off with something I know that’s relatively easy. However, there are so many things at home that I just take for granted! Including big bowls, big pots, counter space…

But, made it work! Borrowed my roommate’s little pot to cook the quinoa in, which ended up being the perfect size. Rave reviews from said roomie as well!

And, okay, there’s more to this sudden motivation to cook… Lab barbecue coming up… “Everyone’s bringing something!” Hmm…

Quinoa + Avocado, Tomato, Black Beans, Corn, and Lemon/Lime Vinaigrette

Serves a lot of people as a side dish

Adapted from a couple of recipes

1.5 cups uncooked quinoa

3 cups water

Two 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Two 15-ounce cans whole kernel corn

2 avocados, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Zest and juice of 2 lime

Zest and juice of 1 + 1/2 a lemon

Cook quinoa with the water according to package directions. Let cool to room temperature.

Combine beans, corn, avocado, and tomatoes. Toss with cooled quinoa.

Whisk together olive oil, citrus juice and zest. Toss with quinoa. Refrigerate several hours or overnight to let the dressing soak into the quinoa.

This was as delicious as always, especially when eaten out of my personalized bowl that my college roommate made me for my birthday (I love cows). I love the flavor/texture combination of … everything in this salad! The creamy avocado, acidity of tomatoes, lemons, and limes, slightly crunchy quinoa, sweet corn, and substantial-feeling black beans. It’s also a powerhouse of antioxidants, protein, healthy fats… you can’t go wrong.

Truthfully, I only juiced 1.5 lemons because my hands got tired of squeezing the lemons and limes. The recipe is pretty versatile. Go ahead and juice the rest if you have strong hands or better yet, a lemon juicer.

Also, this is a double recipe… so, halve as desired. Also, onion was used in the original recipe, but I hate the aftertaste of raw onion, so I just left it out. Cumin would be excellent, but, spices are expensive… Props to the fruit stand guys that line the streets of Manhattan for my cheap(er) avocados and tomatoes. Don’t worry, I scrubbed those suckers down until they sparkled.

6/28/2011: Update – my roommate “confessed” to me that she had been sneaking bowls of this salad–it is that good.

Restaurant: Cornerstone Tavern

Family came to visit! My little brother is leaving for Italy on a band trip soon, so we had a little “family goodbye dinner.” We ended up at Cornerstone Tavern (961 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10022-7744).

Started off with an appetizer, a sampler platter. Baked potato skins with bacon, cheddar, and scallions. Cheese/rice croquettes. Buffalo wings. Crispy chicken strips. It also came with three dipping sauces: sour cream, bleu cheese, chipotle sour cream, and honey mustard. It was good, not that spectacular or unique tasting… just an every day sampler platter.

My brother got the Classic Burger, “lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, on parker house bun” with cajun fries. Simple. Medium-rare. He liked it, but is a man of few words so I don’t know. He did wolf it down though.

My mom got the Turkey Wrap, “House-roasted turkey, baby spinach, goat cheese, shaved red onion.” She liked it; it wasn’t too heavy on the wrap part and had a good, mild flavor, although it could have had more flavor. Also, the Tomato-Fennel soup, which I tasted. It just tasted like tomato soup; I didn’t taste any fennel but my mom did. It wasn’t bad though!

My dad also got a burger, but the Blue Burger, “applewood bacon, glazed onion, bleu cheese on parker house bun.” It was super juicy (he got medium rare as well) with oodles of bleu cheese. His words? “Awesome.”  My dad was a full, happy camper, and could barely finish his fries (I helped).

I got the “Veggie Press,” which was a veggie panini of “Grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, portabella mushrooms, grilled onion, fresh mozzarella, basil pureé” and was pretty good. However, as I have found of pretty much every panini I’ve tried, the bread was too thick and there wasn’t enough inside. But what was inside was quite delicious! And the bread, although thick, was crispy and nicely pressed/grilled.

We ate outside because inside was extremely loud and very dark (well, Friday night… a tavern/pub… what could we expect?). The table we ate at was really small but it didn’t deter us. Because it had rained, there was the chance of some leftover water dripping onto the two unfortunate outside chair diners, but it was fine.

The service was pretty good and fast. I don’t know if we’ll eat here again just to come here, but if we find ourselves hungry and in the vicinity, the Cornerstone Tavern serves yummy, mid-way expensive food for growling stomachs. Plus, there is lots of opportunity for people watching!

Restaurant: The Counter

So between work and seeing Phantom of the Opera, my NYC roommate and I met up with some friends and had dinner at The Counter (7 Times Square (41st & Broadway) New York NY 10036), which should be capitalized in text messages to avoid mass confusion.

It’s a build-your-own-burger place, with lots of interesting toppings to choose from!

I’m not partial to beef burgers, so I got a turkey burger (they also have veggie burgers) with imported Swiss cheese, organic mixed greens, black bean and corn salsa, tomato, with a side of honey mustard on a multigrain bun.

It was pretty good but rather dry and even crumbly, and the burgers don’t come with any sides (order individually). It all tasted pretty fresh though. We did ask that they hurry a little bit because were running late for the show, so maybe they were rushing or something.

My roommate got a turkey burger as well, which included grilled pineapple, peanut sauce, and an onion bun. She really liked it!

There are lots of things to choose from. Another friend got a Taco Turkey burger (they have both build-your-own and “signature” burgers if you’re feeling less motivated) which had jalepeno jack cheese, cranberries, lettuce, and spicy sour cream. She felt like the burger didn’t come with all of the ingredients promised; it might be better to use the signature burgers as a starting point and then build your own burger inspired from them.

Other toppings include pretty much every cheese imaginable, from feta to gruyere; avocado, grilled onions, fried egg, pepperoncinis, sprouts, coleslaw… buns also include regular burger buns and even English muffins; or, you can get the burger in a bowl of mixed greens.

It’s relatively inexpensive, depending on how much burger/toppings/etc you get. I paid around $12 for mine including tax and tip. You can also order online to save time (though they do not deliver).

The food wasn’t spectacular, at least on this particular day, but it’s a fun place to get a quick dinner that feels a bit more gourmet.

Restaurant: nom wah Tea Parlor: Chinatown’s First Dim Sum Parlor

So I went back to my roots and tried dim sum for the first time.

Sticky Rice in Bamboo Leaf: very yummy! It had meat and mushrooms inside, too.

Yes.

Rice Roll with Fried Dough. Basically rice paper wrapped around fried dough. Very yummy and also very bad for you 🙂

First time. I am 20. Don’t laugh.

Scallion Pancakes. I didn't really like these; they were just fried bread with minimal scallions.

I went to nom wah, NY Chinatown’s oldest dim sum parlor (13 Doyers St, between Bowery & Chatham Sq, New York, NY 10013).

Stuffed Eggplant. Stuffed with... shrimp, evidently. I did not like the eggplant part; it was so drenched in oil. But the shrimp stuffing was pretty good.

Dim sum basically works like this: Go with a group, 3-4 people is a good number. Everyone orders 2-3 dishes that come in small servings, like 4 dumplings or two sticky rice in bamboo leaf… things. Then, you share! Kind of like tapas.

Fried Shrimp Ball. These were very very delicious. Inside is pure shrimp, and cooked perfectly.

It was so much food! And just when you think it’s over, another dish comes out, since they are served as soon as they are ready. It makes eating quite exciting.

Being pointed to: Shrimp Sui Mai, which was super delish; in the lower right corner, Pork Sui Mai.We also got an assortment of dumplings including Taro, Veggie, and I think shrimp dumplings. We were all big fans of shrimp, I guess!

Exceedingly filling, but surprisingly inexpensive.

And last but not least, what I believe was Shanghainese Soup Dumplings. These were really yummy; but be careful, because they explode hot soup in your mouth! They came with red chili sauce which was also delicious.

And according to the native Chinese person of the group, this dim sum was quite authentic. Score!

No one got Chicken Feet though. Maybe next time…

There were five of us, and the check came out to be just over $50. Not bad. We were all definitely full and happy.

We had to wait about 40 minutes for a table, but it was worth it.

If in the mood for dim sum, I would definitely recommend nom wah!

Restaurant: Jerusalem Grill

After work and before a movie, my friends and I were seeking out a quick and inexpensive place to eat.

We found the Jerusalem Grill (1st Ave between 62nd and 63rd).

They lured us in with free samples of hummus on some sort of deep fried bread (the hummus was the creamiest, most decadent tasting hummus I have ever had; the bread was kind of gross).

I got a Falafel and Tabbouleh sandwich in a pita with spring salad inside as well. It was super good! I have never had falafel before but it was yummy. I think it was broccoli or something; it was very green.

There are many things on the menu, which come as a choice of either a sandwich (see above) or a platter, which costs a bit more and is like a deconstructed sandwich. Other menu items included babaghanoush, hummus of course, shish kebabs, shwarma chicken, and some desserts like baklava.

Food was good; atmosphere was tight, hot and stuffy. There were also random radio bits that blasted from the speakers and then stopped suddenly. But you can get your meal to go and eat it in a nicer venue.

Everything tasted pretty fresh though and I would go here again!

Strawberry-Banana Greek Yogurt Ice Cream with Whipped Cream and Hot Fudge

It’s been a long time coming.

Banana Ice Cream. Or more often known as “banana soft-serve” since it comes out in the consistency of … soft-serve. Rather than hard like ice cream… that is, unless you refreeze it after you make it, should you make a ton so you always have some deliciousness on hand.

Oh, is there a story behind this one.

Once upon a time (and to this day),

My Chinese Grandma loves giving us bananas and other produce, junk food etc. every single week. The problem is, she thinks it’s okay to give us 4 bunches of super ripe bananas at one time.

So, about 14 banana breads later, we needed some new inspiration on what. to. do. with. all. these. bananas.

Facebook is kinda amazing. You never know what’s going to happen. So I posted this problem on my status and one of my dear dear friends commented the original recipe for banana ice cream.

She originally found it on thekitchn.com  but since then I’ve seen it on a billion numerous blogs, like Choosing Raw, Oh She Glows, and Love Veggies and Yoga to name a few. Since that fateful Facebook status about two or three years ago, I have made it many times and always with good results. There are infinite variations of flavors and toppings that I have experimented with, but this is the combo we enjoy the most. The addition of frozen strawberries helps the ice cream to not melt as fast so you can enjoy it longer. And Greek Yogurt gives it a delicious tang that, in my humble opinion, is up there with pinkberry.

I kinda feel silly calling it a recipe. But here goes.

Strawberry-Banana Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

At least 2 ripe bananas, frozen in chunks. More if you want. Once they’re pureed it doesn’t feel like you’re eating two or more bananas at once.

Frozen strawberries, maybe 6-10, quartered

A big dollop of 0% Fage Greek Yogurt

Vanilla extract

Fresh strawberries, for garnish

In a food processor, throw in the bananas and pulse a few times, then let it blend. Some people add some milk to get it going; it will be tough at first but keep scraping the sides and pressing the banana into the blades. Add in some vanilla at some point. When the bananas look kinda like Dippin’ Dots, put in the strawberries and keep processing. [7/4/11 – update: DO add a few tablespoons of Silk soymilk as you blend. It makes the banana ice cream fluffy and amazing!]

After a while, you can put in the Greek Yogurt. Keeeeeeeeeeep processing! It’ll make like a ball sort of structure and keep going around. You can break up the ball with a spatula or you can sit back and relax and let the machine slowly churn the ball into smooth soft serve-y goodness.

It will be pink and lovely.

NOW QUICK SCOOP IT OUT BEFORE IT MELTS… because it will melt very, very fast. I always forget to, but chilling some glass bowls beforehand might help with that.

Okay now… les toppings.

Hot Fudge Sauce

Um. My brother made it. And then he made White Chocolate Mousse and pronounced that he would make a blog called “What Won’t I Cook Today.” The point of this story is that I do not have the recipe, but this ice cream can obviously be topped with any chocolate sauce (preferably homemade–try 2 tablespoons agave nectar + 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder for a chocolate sauce).

Whipped Cream

I wasn’t that motivated… Shake and disperse to your heart’s content. But don’t you dare add Cool Whip. And then drizzle on more chocolate sauce. Garnish with fresh strawberries.

And voila. Presented in a black-stemmed martini glass. This did start to melt a bit because it was hot out. But when it is first made, it does have the lovely texture of soft serve ice cream.

Variations: Frozen bananas, vanilla extract +

Peanut butter/peanuts

Chocolate chips

Spinach + peppermint extract + chocolate chips (don’t look at me like that. I’m so not kidding.)

Cinnamon

Chopped pineapple + shredded coconut

Maple syrup + pecans

Walnuts/other nuts

Cocoa powder (if the bananas are ripe enough, you might get away with not adding any extra sugar)

Other fruits

(Can be used either as pureed into the softserve or as toppings. Use common sense. Spinach leaves = not a good topping.)

Have fun!