Searching for Pho-land-ia on the UES

Vietnaam88
1700 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10128

So I have a confession to make. My name is Jon, and I’m a pho-aholic. Yes, I am plagued with this unquenchable desire to find delicious bowls of pho across the land. I yearn for overnight beef broth with just the right touch of fatty content, the perfect slurpable bowl of noodles, and, of course, lots of meat. Sometimes I’ll have a great bowl of pho in a fancy restaurant in Hong Kong, sometimes I’ll find it in a small neighborhood noodle shop in the city, and sometimes it will be in a strip mall in a sketchy looking neighborhood. No matter—if it’s delicious, then it’s where I want to be.

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I actually found this place through another Vietnamese restaurant in another part of NYC. Up in the Morningside Heights neighborhood near Columbia University, there is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese eatery called Saiguette. At this joint, it’s taking tight quarters to a whole new meaning. There’s window counter seating for about four people—maybe 6 anorexic individuals, but the food is super legit. It is clearly meant to be a takeout and delivery hotspot, and it is. Their food is spicy, flavorful and feels very authentic. In fact, they were written up as a top pick for cheap eats and great Vietnamese food in NYC by Grub Street.

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While Saiguette is super small, with its own brand of fierceness, Vietnaam is their sister restaurant and basically Saiguette all grown up and rebranded for the Upper East Side. t resembles many Asian restaurants that can be found around New York City. There is a large dining room with many tables crowded together by a long booth, and other stand alone tables dotted around, with some sort of Asian inspired decoration to make it stand out. At Vietnaam, there is a beautiful bamboo divider wall between the kitchen and the dining room. It does make the restaurant feel unique, and also serves another purpose of separation of spaces. While the atmosphere might be different—and oh how I missed the squeeze necessity and precarious balance required for the small window stool of Saiguette, I got over that nostalgia quickly since I had a whole table to myself. What a luxury!

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Vietnaam offers a number of Vietnamese staples—from steaming bowls of pho to overflowing plates of vermicelli noodles to aromatic curry dishes or elevated banh mi sandwiches. Regrettably—actually totally not a hardship at all!—it requires multiple visits (or palates perhaps) to try everything that looks good on the menu. They help you out a bit with this by subtly (i.e. overtly) encouraging you to order extra food by making all food 10% off while dining in during lunch. Yesss! Don’t mind if I do, which I did.

Photo Nov 21, 7 11 09 PMThe Summer Rolls appetizer (Nem Chao on the menu), one of my favorites, were a solid choice. They were fresh and didn’t seem super cold, which was good. Often I’ll order some fresh or summer rolls and they are like ice—how long have you kept these in the refrigerator bro? Appetizer foul 😦 The summer rolls here, though, were fresh, with crunchy lettuce and a chewy and elastic rice paper wrapper. They were filled out nicely with a mix of veggies, vermicelli noodles, shrimp and lettuce—though I wish there was a bit more shrimp. The accompanying peanut hoisin sauce was delish; creamy, nutty, spicy and had a wonderful mouthfeel as it coated the roll. These also came with a second sauce—a more traditional nuoc cham sauce that was spicy and vinegary that highlighted the crisp lettuce and soaked deep into the roll’s filling. Wonderful way to start a meal.

Photo Nov 21, 7 18 02 PMIf going for the summer rolls and trying to be “healthy”-ish, then an order of Nem, or Vietnamese fried spring rolls, was absolutely necessary—if only to maintain proper food karma. The spring rolls were super crispy. As I broke through the crisp outer layer, the steaming hot filling of ground pork, shrimp, taro, glass noodles, mushroom and jicama that was both tender and firm filling filled my mouth. The skin was still chewy with a thick texture, and though they were fried the rolls didn’t feel too oily. They were served simply with some of the ubiquitous nuoc cham sauce to give them a fresh finish, though for a couple of extra dollars you could add some cucumber, lettuce and herbs to the dish. I love how it’s so no frills—more authentic that way I think. They also cut these up into bite sized pieces, so easy to eat, which was good since it was a generous portion.

Photo Nov 21, 8 14 22 PMAnother favorite starter from Vietnaam, is the Laksa. Laksa is a curry and coconut milk based soup that is not exactly Vietnamese in origin, but actually from Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines. In the last few years, it has become much more well-known and popular all over Asia, as well as the rest of the world. One reason that this soup rocks is that it is so comforting when done right—they do it right here! It feels like a warm Southeast Asian hug, and will warm you up from the inside out. The broth is creamy and a bit frothy with some tang from the lime, warming heat from the curry, an aromatic aroma and a sharper heat from the accompanying chili sauce. The chicken was cooked perfectly, though they do a shrimp version as well  (or even vegetarian or tofu if need be). They’re all delicious and this makes for perfect leftovers. Not your grandma’s chicken noodle soup!

Photo Nov 21, 7 25 18 PMFor the main event, and what I judge every Vietnamese restaurant by, is the pho (pronounced “fuh”). Nowadays, you can find multiple varieties of pho—shrimp, veggie, chicken and even some fancy types such as one made with a Porcini mushroom or duck base. They’re almost always tasty, and if you’re looking for a unique spin on the classic bowl of pho, I highly recommend the Mushroom Pho at Stock in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia or the Pho Bo Satee at Nha Trang One in NYC’s Chinatown. The mushroom pho is as hearty and comforting as a beef based soup, but lighter at the same time. It’s also super earthy from the mushrooms and manages to make the tofu in it taste delicious—a great vegetarian or vegan option. The pho bo satee from Nha Trang One is spicy from an infusion of peanut sate sauce. The sate gives it a wonderful depth of flavor and thickness to the broth. It also has that wonderful peanutty note that many people love about Thai dishes—think a rice noodle soup version of a beef sate appetizer.  Back to Vietnaam….I ordered the Spicy Pho, which I usually don’t do since I like to spicy up the bowl myself. The pho was spicy but still mild—I added additional sriracha sauce to mine. The chili oil used to spice up the soup gave it a vibrant red color, and left a slow, lingering heat that made my lips tingle by the end of the bowl. The broth itself was clean tasting, which means they did their homework and skimmed the fat, but also had a lovely unctuousness to it that we all secretly crave. The bowl was filled with lots of noodles and meat—fatty brisket, firm, but not rubbery beef meatballs, and thinly sliced beef eye round that is placed into the piping hot bowl of soup raw and cooks on its way to the table. This was a big bowl of pho, so it was worth the hefty $12 Upper East Side price tag. I’ve returned for many more bowls of pho.

Vietnaam is a hip, fun place to eat at if you’re on the Upper East Side. They give generous portions, quick service, tasty dishes. Is it the best Vietnamese food I’ve ever had? Hmmm…hard to say, but it was definitely some of the best in NYC. Only thing missing was perhaps that certain “je ne sais quoi” that its sister restaurant, Saiguette, has as a hole-in-the-wall joint. Come to Vietnam if you’re ready for a grown up bowl of pho and other Vietnamese favorites..

Working Lunch

The Kati Roll Company
49 West 39th Street
New York, NY 10018

Photo Jun 25, 2 27 39 PMOne of the first things I do when I move to a new office—or anywhere really—is scope out the scene. Ok, so for some people the scene might be cool bars to drink at, or clubs to get their dance party on, but to me the scene is all about the food! Are there any cute little ramen bars? Or a fabulous French bakery? Or a hot and spicy Thai restaurant? So when I stumbled upon The Kati Roll Company around the corner from my office, I knew that I had to try it out.

Photo Jun 25, 2 23 45 PMOriginally just a sole location in Greenwich village in 2002, The Kati Roll Company has grown to include multiple restaurants—3 in NYC and one in London’s Soho area—including one in Midtown West, which is where I dined.

Photo Jun 25, 2 23 42 PMAs I walked through the door I was hit by the aromas of chickpeas, ginger, onion, garam masala—very warm spices, and makes me imagine being in an open air market and automatically conjures images of various street foods, which is good because kati rolls are a very traditional Indian street food popping up more and more around the USA. The space was unassuming—a no frills, all about the food kind of place. There was Indian Bollywood music playing at some points of my visit, and sometimes pop music/Top 40 singles—only added to the atmosphere. My kind of spot!

So here are the basics. Each kati roll has the same base and is wrapped in warm paratha—an Indian flatbread. It’s not as puffy as the ubiquitous naan, but slightly more chewy and is flavored with ghee—Indian clarified butter. All of the rolls are also available with whole wheat roti as well. They have cheese rolls, veggie filings like chickpeas, potatoes etc. and meats galore—lamb, chicken, shrimp, beef—and you can order any of them everyday.

One nice touch is that they offer a sample of masala chai tea. The tea is much different than the Chai tea latte you’d get at Starbucks or The Coffee Bean. It has a strong black tea flavor and is very soothing with a thin consistency and an almost smoky aftertaste. It  would’ve also made a nice appertif, but hot tea on a hot summer day was a little much. Still, it was good.

Photo Jun 25, 2 40 15 PMThe person behind the counter told me that a basic, filling meal at The Kati Roll Company consisted of two rolls—three if you were really hungry. For mine, I ordered the Shrimp Masala Roll ($6.75) and the Unda Chicken Roll ($6). The shrimp roll was simple,  but delicious. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, moist from the coconut they are marinated in, and big. The masala spice blend was subtle in its spice and warmth, giving the wrap a wonderful earthiness. The roll itself was chewy, but not too thick with a nice char on the outside. There was a nice punch of tartness from the pickled shallots, and aromatic flavor from the onions. Overall, it was very tasty—the recipe was actually developed by  a former Top Chef Masters contestant!

Photo Jun 25, 2 40 18 PMThe Unda Chicken Roll was also great, but different from the shrimp. It was much bigger with a  layer of egg—unda referring to the addition of the egg—attached to inner bread layer of the roll. The egg wasn’t a very forward flavor profile, but mostly just gave the wrap more meatiness and heft. The roll was also slightly looser and not as tightly rolled as the shrimp roll. There were big pieces of barbecued white meat chicken that really filled me up. The similar masala flavors were present, but a bit more in the background. The flavors might not have been as bold, but it was very classic and filling.

Photo Jun 25, 2 25 44 PMOne of the highlights of many Indian meals—at least for me—is having a nice, cold Mango Lassi ($4). At The Kati Roll Company, the lassis, which they are famous for, are available in mango or berry are individually packaged in reusable bottles. They are made fresh everyday and absolutely delicious! The mango lassi was a wonderful yellow/orange, almost daffodil-like, color, and not too sweet. It was thick with a full body and mouthfeel, with deep mango flavor and a hint of tartness that coats the palate. I ended up drinking it after finishing the rolls and it was almost like dessert—so refreshing. Yummy!

Photo Jun 25, 2 27 02 PMThe Kati Roll Company is now one of my favorite lunch spots and great for a quick, out of the normal box meal. The best thing on the menu for me was the mango lassi, which I could have every day, but the shrimp masala roll was also delish. I can’t wait to try lots of other rolls from the menu as well. Lunchtime is on a roll!

Mouthwatering Mexican in the West Village

La Loteria
Cocina Mexicana Moderna
29 7th Ave South
New York, NY 10014

New York City is expensive—there’s no arguing with that. However, it is still possible to dine out at delicious restaurants while sticking to a budget. One of the best times of the year to sample the city’s plethora of eateries is NYC Restaurant Week. Over the course, in actuality, three weeks, over 300 restaurants throughout the boroughs create special three-course menus ($25 for lunch, $38 for dinner) in addition to their regular offerings. It’s a great way to try a new place or enjoy a high-end meal, for a more affordable price tag.

We ventured down to Bedford Street for some modern Mexican fare at La Loteria. The name of the restaurant is a play on the popular Mexican game, la loteria, which is similar to bingo. While the game might be based on luck, the food and service here are always a sure bet. Under the creative helm of co-owners, Executive Chef Julieta and Managing Partner/Owner Jaime Herrera, La Loteria has become a hotspot in the chic dining scene of the West Village.

Our night started fittingly with some classic Mexican cocktails—margaritas and sangria. The Margarita Tradicional Loteria came in a glass tumbler garnished with a salt rim. It was tart, with a good balance between the heavy tequila and sweet agave nectar, and super refreshing–really hit the spot. The red Sangria del Cantarito wasn’t too sweet and we appreciated that it didn’t come with a whole fruit basket as a garnish. It was no frills, but made with a good wine and tasty.

The Guacamole Tradicional was served in an authentically Tex-Mex stone bowl, which I love and came with a generous portion. It was chunky, so you could still taste the individual pieces of avocado, and mixed with hot chili peppers, juicy tomato chunks, highly acidic lime juice, and rough chopped cilantro that was still visible throughout the dip.

We also got a trio of salsas for the table. These salsas seriously heightened La Loteria from solid Mexican food in NYC to modern and gourmet. The tomatillo avocado salsa was sour from the fleshy tomatillos with a wonderfully bold flavor. It was pulpy from the tomatillos, and strongly acidic, with a nice bite, that was tempered by the creamy and rich avocado. The vibrant green color was also great. The peanut salsa was definitely funky and tasted like a Mexican version of an Asian sate sauce. The sauce was earthy, slightly spicy, nutty with some smoky notes to it, and garnished with chopped peanuts. Yum! The third of the trip was the more traditional chili de arbol salsa. The bright reddish-orange color contrasted beautifully with the green of the tomatillo salsa. It was also super creamy and unctuous, and had a background taste of roasted red peppers. The building heat from the red salsa played nicely with the hidden spiciness of the guacamole, and the mild taste of the peanut salsa.

To scoop up the guacamole and salsas, there were homemade corn tortilla chips. The chips were crunchy and still warm from the fryer, but not greasy. We ended up getting a second bowl of chips since they were so dippable.


The Ceviche de Pescado appetizer featured the catch of the day, which was sea bass, a meaty fish that has steadily been gaining popularity as an alternative to tuna or salmon. Sea bass was a great choice for the ceviche, since it can stand up to the strong flavors in the marinating liquid. The fish was mixed with tomatillo, avocado, and pickled cucumber. The base sauce was made with lime juice, but wasn’t too overpowering. The plate was garnished with mini corn tostadas, pea shoot tendrils and an edible flower—the flower seemed to be a theme, which is popular among many Mexican restaurants. It had a very rustic chic feel to it, and the freshness of the sea bass, almost sushi-grade in its texture, really heightened the flavors.

Ensalada de Betabel, translated to “beet salad,” was not super Mexican, but seemed very appropriate for a downtown Manhattan restaurant and tasty. The salad was a good mix of textures—the meaty grilled beets, soft goat cheese spread, creamy avocado, crunchy caramelized nuts, crunchy spinach leaves, and chewy radicchio. The beets were also the right temperature; often, kitchens serve beets that are ice-cold, which I think dilutes the sweet flavor of the beets, but here they were served room temperature.

The Quesos Flameados, or melted Chihuahua cheese baked casseroles, was also a great dish. This dish is hot in comparison to the others, and made for a nice change from the previously cold appetizers. The cheese was cooked in a cute little cast iron skillet along with some onions for both flavor and texture. The cheese ended up all melted and crusty along the outer edges. It was served with hand-pressed tortillas to scoop up the cheesy goodness, almost like a deconstructed cheese quesadilla.

The second course Enchiladas Callejeras—“street style” enchiladas—were stuffed with panela cheese that has a meaty texture and much higher melting temperature. Therefore, the cheese maintained its shape and very much stood up to the rest of the dish. The enchiladas were smothered in a mouth-watering mole sauce, and rested atop adobo fried potatoes. The mole was very earthy, with sweetness and a slight fruitiness that made it a nice contrast to the spicy, smoky potatoes. The potatoes on their own reminded me of a dish I had when I was in Spain called papas bravas, typically served as a tapas dish in Spanish restaurants that consists of fried potatoes garnished with a spicy tomato sauce or creamy aioli. We requested mushrooms instead of one of the meats available on the menu and they were cooked perfectly and formed a semi-permeable layer between the mole sauce and the enchiladas.

The fish tacos, Tacos de Pescada Baja Style, were also made with sea bass, and the dish was super crispy from the beer batter. There were three big tacos tightly wrapped with flour tortilla filled to the brim with hot fish and a crunchy, sweet and tangy jicama slaw. There was also a creamy and spicy aioli garnish that was tasty, but the taco was already so moist that it wasn’t even needed.

The meal’s final entree was Barbacoa de Arrachera. The barbacoa consisted of skirt steak braised with banana leaves, tequila, Mexican beer, oregano and salsa verde. Using skirt steak was an unusual, but smart choice–it’s a cheaper cut of meat, but the other ingredients elevate it to the fine dining level. The meat was smoky and slightly sweet from the banana leaves, moist from the beer, woodsy and deep flavors from the oregano and tequila, a nice pop of tanginess from the salsa, and fall apart tender. It was garnished with lime and a duo of sauces. The presentation was clean with the meat served in a big bowl along with some hand-pressed tortillas.


At this point, we were all pretty full, but who can say no to dessert? The Flan Napolitano was unbelievably creamy and the custard was set, with the spoon cutting through it like a panna cotta. It was sweet and tangy from the cream cheese, with a layer dulce de leche caramel and topped with some toasted walnuts flavored with cinnamon. The plate also had a raspberry garnish.

The Churros, which are always a personal favorite of mine, were fried perfectly–crispy on the outside and still eggy in the middle–and lightly dusted with cinnamon. The lack of sugar on the Churros was actually a welcome surprise, since the other desserts were uber sweet. They were served with dark chocolate and dulce de leche dipping sauces. Only thing I would change was I wish there was a little more sauce–I’d drink it from the container lol.

Last, but certainly not least, was the Pastel de Tres Leches (aka Tres Leches Cake). The cake was, as expected, super moist from the three kinds of milk–cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk–and the sponge was slightly grainy. It’s a classic Mexican dessert and this one was a great take on it, especially with the great presentation. The plate was garnished with a small cup of milk. Not only was the white milk in sharp contrast to the dark plate, but I also love when food is garnished with what’s in it! A quality I share with Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

So if you’re in the mood for some delicious Mexican food in NYC, head downtown to La Loteria, but make sure you’re hungry! Everything is fresh and tasty, and it’s always service with a smile. Dustin, the manager, took such great care of us and really made the whole night special. Can’t wait to come back for Happy Hour and dinner again.

Restaurant Review: Le Bistro d’à Côté

Le Bistro d’à Côté
1590 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10028

FullSizeRender 11Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, so it is almost required that you have some sort of meal with mom. Some years we get together with cousins for a big BBQ, sometimes we have family over, etc. This year we wanted to something a little more low key, so settled on a nice brunch with just the four of us — me, mom, dad and my brother, Dan.

FullSizeRender 5Dad ordered the Soupe a l’Oignon ($11), or French Onion soup. The broth was very rich and aromatic with a great onion flavor. It wasn’t too sweet, and still had a solid alcohol flavor, which probably came from red wine. It might’ve been cognac though. The swiss cheese gratin crust was thick and delicious, with the classic, nutty flavor that comes from using Gruyere cheese. Plus, the cheese passed the all-important stretch test. The croutons in the soup were soft and soaked up a good amount of the flavorful broth.

FullSizeRender 8FullSizeRender 2While dad opted for the soup, mom, Dan and I split the Le Croustillant De Chèvre Chaud ($15) appetizer, which featured warm goat cheese and spinach wrapped in phyllo over mixed greens. The greens were dressed lightly, and the dried cranberries popped with flavor. They were a little sour, having absorbed some of the vinaigrette, which was a nice burst of acidity to cut through the richness of the dish. The goat cheese itself was so creamy and the phyllo paper delicately thin. The sliced baguette bread that came to the table was hot and crisp on the outside, but perfectly fluffy in the middle. I loved the crunch as I bit into the baguette—it was great for scooping up some of the goat cheese.

FullSizeRender 6Mom ordered the Oeufs Nordique ($15), a delicious, bistro version of smoked salmon Benedict, served with roasted potatoes and mixed greens. The smoked salmon was chewy, slightly salty, meaty and surprisingly creamy. The eggs were perfectly cooked, and the english muffin was soft and absorbed the yolk well. The hollandaise over the top of the Benedict was textbook in its richness, but was also wonderfully light.

FullSizeRender 10The Oeufs Florentine ($13), or eggs florentine, was also tasty. The spinach was still nice and crisp underneath the eggs, and the diner staple of feta cheese wasn’t missed. Again, the eggs were beautifully cooked, and tasted great with a sprinkle of salt. The salmon Benedict didn’t need any salt because of the inherent saltiness of the smoked salmon. My only critique was that the potatoes were not very hot when the dish came to the table.

FullSizeRender 9I opted for a Croque Madame ($13.50), which is simply a French spin on a ham and cheese sandwich, covered with a Béchamel white sauce and broiled. The difference between a Croque Madame and a Croque Monsieur is that the Madame has a fried egg on top as well. I ordered mine with no ham, and was slightly worried that it would be dry, but my worries were unfounded. The dish wasn’t wet and also not dry, but rather got softer and somewhat creamy as I went inward. The egg on top was (again) cooked well with perfectly runny yolk. The fries were crisp and hot, and tasted great with some Dijon mustard—very French. The greens were dressed with some simple oil and were a great vehicle for a sprinkle of the sea salt on the table.

FullSizeRenderThe final dish of the meal was the Risotto aux Champignons des Bois ($19), or wild mushroom risotto. The risotto was in a word: delectable. The rice was cooked al dente and wasn’t too creamy, but very hearty. The dish was very earthy, and had a wonderful deep flavor from the mushrooms, as well as the black truffle oil. It was garnished with small strips of shaved parmesan over the top. The risotto was actually perfect for brunch since it had at the appearance of a bowl of oatmeal.

FullSizeRender 4The restaurant presents itself in a simple, French bistro style with exposed brick, redone hardwood floors, and a narrow but still spacious dining room on one side and a bar on the other. There was relaxing jazz music playing—they actually have live jazz on Sunday nights. Large wine cabinets in the bar and restaurant areas were prevalent, with a simple table setup in the dining room.

FullSizeRender 3I usually avoid talking about any major negatives, but I have to point out that the restaurant’s website indicated that Sunday brunch came with a mimosa, Bloody Mary, juice or coffee if a brunch item was ordered. When we asked about this, the waitress said at first that it was only for their “hangover brunch,” which was a choice between two specific items only (2 eggs any style or a ham and cheese croissant). When she finally came back when plates were cleared away, we asked again and were told that it was for their brunch, but not on holidays. In actuality there was no special Mother’s Day menu. To me, that was false representation and slightly marred the experience.

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Overall, the service wasn’t very enthusiastic, mostly from the waitress, however the food and prices were very good. It reminded me very much of a cafe or bistro in Paris. Solid place to get some traditional bistro fare, and hopefully a glass of wine next time. Ah oui!

Smorgasburg: Feasting in Brooklyn

New York is a city filled with food—from old school Jewish delis, to giant slices of NY pizza, chewy everything bagels, authentic Chinatown dim sum, celebrity chef restaurants and more. In the borough of Brooklyn, food has become even more of a modern commodity. In 2011, the Brooklyn Flea company began an all-food that they named Smorgasburg—a reference to the Swedish word Smörgåsbord that’s often used as a colloquialism for a large spread of food, or choices.

FullSizeRender-26FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-1Smorgasburg is a foodie paradise. It takes place on weekends from late April – early November, in Williamsburg’s Kent State Park on Saturdays and at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5 in DUMBO on Sundays. At each location, local food vendors, food entrepreneurs, food trucks/carts etc. come and sell their products. This is not an event for the timid eater—you’ll wish you had 3 stomachs with all the selections. My plan is to try each stall at least once over the course of the season, and here’s my first entry for the 2015 season.

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Mac n' Cheese
Mac n’ Cheese
Classic Grilled Cheese
Classic Grilled Cheese

We arrived around 12:30, so there were already a lot of people around. I was in a group of 3, and we decided to share a few things from different vendors. We decided to start with something semi-breakfast, and got on line at Milk Truck. Milk Truck’s menu is basically exactly as it sounds – Mac n cheese, grilled cheeses and milkshakes. We ordered the Milk Truck Classic ($5.95) and added bacon. The sandwich was cheesy, hot, and crispy. The Gruyere cheese was creamy, gooey, and had a nice deeply nutty Swiss flavor. The bread had some nice grill lines and was a great way to start the day.FullSizeRender-6FullSizeRender-5

Bacon, Egg and Cheese
Asian Bacon sandwich
French Toast sandwich
French Toast sandwich

Our next stop was another semi-breakfast stop at Rise and Swine for the French Toast Sandwich ($9) with bacon! The sandwich consisted of cinnamon-cardamom French toast, lots of chewy bacon, and cream cheese. The French toast was sweet, but also slightly earthy, the bacon was fatty and delicious, and the cream cheese layer gave a nice tang. The cream cheese also kept the sandwich moist, and provided a contrast of temperatures–hot toast, hot bacon and cold cream cheese. I put a squirt of hot sauce—from another Smorgasburg vendor–and some maple syrup on my sandwich. It made it sticky and delicious, and the hot sauce highlighted a lot of the flavors in the rest of the sandwich.

IMG_1862On the way to our next culinary delight, we had some amazing samples from local food entrepreneurs. Spicy citrus horseradish from Ish Premium Horseradish, tangy vinegar-based hot sauce made from carrots at Tango Chili Sauce, earth truffle honey from The Truffleist, decadent pineapple velvet cake from Piece of Velvet, chewy and meaty filet mignon beef jersey from Three Jerks Jerky, as well as a ginger infused cocktail sauce from Tink’s Red Ginger Cocktail Sauce.

FullSizeRender-15We decided on a slight different strategy for the next pit stop—I waited on line for our food, while my two companions got us something to drink. They came back a few minutes later with some Prickly Pear Cactus Limeade ($4 or $5) from Zia Green Chile Company. The limeade was so refreshing, especially on what turned out to be a hot day. It was tangy, sour, slightly sweet, chillingly cool, and the perfect drink for an afternoon of eating.IMG_1830FullSizeRender-14

Lamb Merguez Scotch Egg with Yogurt Sauce
Lamb Merguez Scotch Egg with Yogurt Sauce

While off getting their drink on, I was holding our spot in line at Imperial Egg NYC. Imperial Egg makes awesomely unique Scotch eggs, which I’ve only seen before in London. A traditional Scotch egg features a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and then baked or fried. At Imperial Egg, they are taking the already unique idea of a Scotch egg even more out of the box.  They have flavor combinations like chicken sausage with a sweet soy aioli, butter bean, cheddar and enchilada sauce, or one with spicy chorizo. We went with the lamb merguez topped with yogurt ($9). The initial bite was meaty and juicy, with a slight kick from the spicy lamb sausage. The outside of the egg was crunchy from the Panko with a sort of soft center that was also creamy. The egg was fatty in a totally unexpected way. It wasn’t as heavy or greasy as expected, even though it was fried. The frisée and parsley garnishes give the dish a nice change of textures.

FullSizeRender-17FullSizeRender-16We decided to take a slight detour from the savory offerings and wandered over to look at the desserts. We passed by some delicious looking whoopee pies, gourmet cookies and fudge before we found out next stop – Gooey and Co. The sign was advertising gooey butter cake at the price point of three for $5—we were three people, there were three pieces of cake—it was destiny! We chose the Original Gooey Butter Cake, the Gooey Maple Carrot Cake, and Gooey Banana Cake. The banana flavor had a burst of banana flavor, and the sweetness was very mild with a subtle cinnamon aftertaste. The cake also has some rum in it, which is cooked out, but makes for a classic flavor combination. The maple carrot had delicious cream cheese frosting, just like a slice of carrot cake, which I loved! The cake itself was very maple forward, with more carrot in the background. It was very sweet so not as easy to taste the cardamom in the cake, but extra delicious. The classic original flavor was by itself super decadent and lives up to its gooey name. The cake was buttery and soft with a great brown sugar and toffee taste. I could have eaten the entire stand!

FullSizeRender-24FullSizeRender-23FullSizeRender-21After satisfying out sweet tooth, we headed towards one of my favorite stalls at Smorgasburg, Cemita’s NYC. I actually saw a segment on a cooking show, Kelsey’s Essentials on Cooking Channel a few years ago, and instantly started craving this sandwich. A cemita is a Mexican street food, similar to a torta, that’s native to Puebla, Mexico. The cemita sandwich has 10 layers, and together they make an amazing sandwich experience. The layers include: mayo, lettuce, onions, tomato, avocado, bean spread, Oaxaca cheese, spicy chipotle and a protein. Cemita’s NYC gives you a choice between southern fried chicken, carnitas, barbacoa (shredded beef), or a spicy shredded chicken called ting. Just two of us were up for splitting one of these loaded sandwiches and we went with the Southern Fried Chicken Cemita $9. As you bite into the sandwich, the first thing your tongue hits is the fluffy torta bread slathered with mayonnaise, and not too much of a bite from the pickled red onion brine. There were layers of hot and cold intermingled textures and heats throughout. Chicken There’s creamy avocado that makes the sandwich nice and messy—the way it should be!—and a nice kick of heat from the hot sauce at the end. The chicken was perfectly crisped and added a lot of heft to the cemita, and also stayed crispy. The lettuce added a nice crunch with the soft bread, and the bean spread acted as subtle glue and gave a deep flavor to the sandwich. I only wish I had more sandwiches. This was definitely a sit down sandwich. Luckily there are a few picnic tables interspersed around the market area.

IMG_1845FullSizeRender-25The last stop on our gastronomical journey was for dessert, naturally, at Blue Marble Ice Cream. Blue Marble makes premium organic ice creams and sells them in a cup or cone. We each got our own cup for $5 each. The Salted Caramel was very caramel-y with a brown sugar taste. It reminded me of those old-fashioned, chewy caramel candies. The Gingersnap Cookie flavor was not too sweet, and a little savory, with great after notes of cinnamon and allspice. The Key Lime Cookie ice cream (my choice) was tangy and refreshing, with nice chunks of cookie pieces throughout. It would’ve made an amazing milkshake. The ice cream had a burst of key lime flavor without being too sweet.

IMG_1850As we walked along the Brooklyn Pier eating ice cream, I took a few minutes to soak up the sun and truly appreciate how awesome it is to eat in New York. Then again, I am not done with Smorgasburg for the season and will be back for more unique eats, sweets and culinary delights soon.IMG_1851