A Taste of NYC: Momofuku Ssam Bar

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Chilled summer beans (left), spicy pork sausage and rice cakes (right)

Oh, alamain readers, I’ve been neglecting you. Just like the boy who promises to call after a date but never does, I teased you with promises of tantalizing stories of the New York food scene but never delivered. I wish I could throw excuses your way such as, “I was testing out new recipes” or “I left my tastebuds in New York City,” but in reality, I’ve just been so darn busy. You don’t have to wait much longer as I am so excited to tell you about our dining experience at Momofuku Ssam Bar. But first…. let me give you the quick “elevator update” of my last few weeks:

  • My cousins moved back to the United States after 5+ years living in Korea. Not only did I get to reconnect with my cousin Brandon (the last time I saw him, he was 4), I met my youngest cousin Ryan (2) for the first time.
  • Thanks to Hailey’s suggestion, I applied to a Saturday program through UCLA that helps underprivileged high school students with their college applications. It feels nice to be able to give back, though I’ll admit I’m nervous that I’m not certified to give advice… certifiable? Well, that’s another story. ;)
  • And, last but not least, Alamain was most recently featured on Buzzfeed for the first time for our Bi Bim Bap post from a while back. Check us out at #16. :)

With mini-updates out of the way, let’s discuss food. I’ve been eager to try one of the Momofuku restaurants ever since one of my coworkers made the Momofuku Milk Bar Cake for another coworker’s birthday. I was so impressed by layer after layer of crumb and cake that I spent 6+ hours trying to recreate it for Hailey’s birthday a couple years back. It’s still one of the baked goods I’m most proud of to-date. If a cake could look and taste so good, I knew that the brick and mortar restaurants would not disappoint.

Ssam roughly translates to “wrapped” in Korean and refers to the Korean lettuce wrap usually filled with rice, some meat and spices. Despite the name, the restaurant didn’t stick only to Korean traditional dishes and ventured into some interesting Asian-fusion food combinations. If you have a chance to try Ssam Bar, I highly recommend it. Just come early, or expect to wait for over an hour to grab a seat at one of their many communal tables.

Cheers!

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bread and butter (left). steam buns with pork belly (right)

Momofuku Ssam Bar

207 2nd avenue, New York, NY 10003

What to Order:

Main:

Chilled summer beans, spicy pork sausage and rice cakes, bread and butter. steam buns (pork belly!), tempura soft-shell crab and the garlic roasted  quail.

Dessert:

Go across the street to Milk Bar and sample the Cereal Milk or Crack Pie soft serve.

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tempura soft-shell crab (left), garlic roasted quail (right)

Summer Green Salad

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Now that Labor Day has come and gone, is summer really over? I see that they started servicing Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks…but who is going to drink them when it’s 90 degrees in NYC! In my book, summer is still going strong, hence the need for a refreshing green salad. I am going to keep eating fresh summer foods for as long as I can. As they say in Game of Thrones…Winter is Coming. So there will be plenty of time for fun fall foods to come.

Since being in NYC I’ve had a constant stream of visitors, which is great, but it means eating out a lot. The restaurants here are so good, but the lifestyle is overly indulgent. This past Sunday I wanted a day completely to myself, since I haven’t had one in about a month. I woke up early and went to the gym, did laundry, cleaned, ran errands…and made the most refreshing salad for a hot September day- no eating out for a day please! (Turns out I totally forgot my dad was in town for the night and we had a reservation at Stanton Social so my healthy day sort of got scratched come evening- but it was totally worth it).

The theme of this salad is green- everything green. The cucumber and honey dew give it a very crisp and light feel, and the fresh lime and cayenne pepper give it a tiny kick. I was very pleased with how it turned out, I will definitely be keeping this on my rotation of healthy lunch salads!

Bon Appétit!

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Summer Green Salad (Recipe from Whole Foods)

1 Large Cucumber, peeled and diced into small pieces

1 1/2 Cups Diced Honey Dew

1 Green Pepper, diced

2 Heaping Tbsps Fresh Chopped Mint Leaves

Juice from 1 Lime

1/4 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

A Pinch of Sea Salt

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the diced cucumber, honey dew and green pepper. Add the fresh mint leaves. Pour the lime juice into the bowl and mix together. Add the cayenne pepper and sea salt, mixing to combine. Serve chilled.

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Heirloom Tomato Galette

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 I spent the Labor Day weekend visiting Hailey in her new New York apartment. When I arrived late Thursday night, the city was alive with late night pizza joints and people on every corner. It was completely different than my quiet LA neighborhood, and, I’ll admit, I loved it!

The next morning, Marta flew in with the rest of the LA crew, and we embarked on what has turned into a little tradition: a morning stroll around the city with a coffee and croissant from Dean & Deluca in hand. Let me tell you, these croissants are so buttery and flakey, it’s hard to eat just one. We reasoned that every 40 blocks we walked was worth one croissant…that’s rational right?! Regardless of this line of reasoning, I think it’s safe to say I packed on a few pounds from our weekend chock-full of foodie adventures.

Before I left for New York, (in an effort to eat healthier to prepare for the upcoming trip) I made this vegan galette. For something sans butter, the crust was decent and flakey–though no where near those Dean & Deluca croissants I was raving about earlier. I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful heirloom tomatoes we’ve been blessed with this summer, so I decided to throw in a few of those too. I hope you all enjoy.

Cheers!

P.S. Stay tuned next week for Hailey and my reviews of all the food we tried on our NYC vacation!

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Vegan Tomato Galette

Crust

2 Cups of Whole Wheat Flour

4 Tbsp. of Vegetable Shortening

8 Tbsp. of Vegan Butter

2 Tbsp. of Water

1/2 Tsp. of Salt

Filling

3 Large Heirloom Tomatoes

1 Medium Zucchini

1 Medium Yellow Squash

Red Onion

2 Cloves of Garlic, minced.

Olive Oil

Directions:

To make the dough, add all the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse to mix. Add 1 tablespoon of shortening and vegan butter at a time and pulse until the flour mixture looks and feels grainy to the touch. Add water (adding more than 2 tablespoons if needed) until the dough begins to stick together. Wrap in parchment and chill for at least an hour.

Once the dough is chilled, roll on a floured surface roughly into a circle about 1/4 an inch thick. Drizzle olive oil and minced garlic on the surface, leaving about a one inch border. Alternate layers of tomato and summer squash. Top with red onion shavings. Fold in the crust edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 6-8 servings.
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A Taste of NYC: Red Farm

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Katz Deli Pastrami Egg Roll

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but dim sum is my jam. I grew up on dim sum as a kid when my family lived in Hong Kong, and to this day it’s up there with my favorite foods. I even took Cathy to her first dim sum in LA…she didn’t love it, but LA kind of fails on the Chinese food front; San Francisco and New York I would argue totally crush it. I promise you’ll come around, Cathy.

I first heard about Red Farm while reading one of my favorite food blogs, Chez Catey Lou. Her husband does a Friday Night Dinner series, and I think it’s adorable that he gets involved and adds restaurant reviews to her beautiful baking creations. Anyway, the description of upscale dim sum immediately caught my interest.

I did some research on the menu, and found several interesting things. 1) They serve dim sum appetizers for dinner. Dim Sum is usually more of a weekend brunch food, so it’s a huge score that they have it here at night, what a novel idea. 2) The menu is not JUST dim sum, but an eclectic grouping of creative Chinese-inspired dishes. By Chinese-inspired, I mean they have a Katz Deli pastrami egg roll- talk about a New York twist! Don’t think you’ll find that anywhere else.

I think my favorite dish (see the picture below) was the Pac Man dumplings. It was almost too cool to eat; they literally made dumplings into a scene from Pac Man. This place definitely gets an A++ for creativity, and the taste to match.

Some tidbits: They will only take reservations for 8-20 people, and this is prix fixe. I ate at the West Village location (there is also one on the Upper East Side) with my parents around 7 and we only had to wait about 10 minutes- so I suggest just going early. PLEASE order the Spicy Crispy Beef (if you eat beef). It’s something we completely looked over until the waitress suggested it, but I would argue it is the dish absolutely not to miss.

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BBQ’d Pork Belly

 

Red Farm

529 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014

What to Order:

Drink: Blackberry Fizz, House Mule, Thai Basil Lemonade

Main: Spicy Crispy Beef, BBQ’d Pork Belly, Katz Pastrami Egg Roll, Pac Man Shrimp Dumplings, Wide Rice Noodles w/BBQ Roast Duck

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Spicy Crispy Beef

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Wide Rice Noodles

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Soup Dumplings

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Vegan Carrot Cake Bars

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TWO MORE DAYS. I’ve been counting down the days until our little gang makes our way to New York and reunites with Hailey. And now, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Hailey planned our NYC eating itinerary over a month before she officially became a resident. That means she planned our restaurant list TWO MONTHS IN ADVANCE.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond excited; I’ve already perused each restaurant’s menu countless times and know exactly what I’ll be ordering.

As a way to hopefully prevent some of the damage I’m sure to do against my waistline, I’m doing a make-shift “master cleanse” this week. (I have a protein smoothie for breakfast, master cleanse for lunch, and a salad topped with lean protein for dinner). I’m currently on day two of this “cleanse,” and honestly, the only thing that keeps me from raiding the candy dispensers at work is thoughts of the lobster egg benedict at Jane Restaurant brunch.

I made these carrot cake bars over the weekend as a healthy alternative for my ever-present sweet tooth. Since I’m not a fan of carrots and dislike dates, you would think that I would hate these bars; but, I actually really enjoyed them. The best part? They are vegan! Just remember to pit your dates before you blend the ingredients, or you might end up with a “pit”iful toothache. ;)

Cheers!

carrotcakebarVegan Carrot Cake Bars

1 Cup of Almonds

1/2 Cup of Shredded Carrot

1/3 Cup of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

1/4 Cup of Raisins

10 Pitted Dates

3 Tbsp. of Honey

Directions:

Place almonds into a high-powered blender and blend until it reaches a crumbly consistency. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until mixed. Press mixture into the bottom of a lined, 9-inch pan and chill for at least an hour. Cut, and wrap bars.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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“Mexican Hot Chocolate” Smoothie

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 This is my first time “cooking” in my NYC apartment! Yes, I’m using the term lightly. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, and I am embarrassed to say I have yet to use the oven. The convenience of dinner options is just way too crazy, but I am planning on forcing myself to cook once in awhile once things settle down. The good news about my NYC apartment is that I have an amazing outdoor patio space (see photo at the bottom!) which means the natural light and settings available for my photography are even better than I had in LA. Yes, I’m very lucky…such a patio is unheard of in this city.

This smoothie recipe is one of my favorites, and it’s packed full of protein and quite healthy. I’ve always loved a good chocolate-cinnamon combination, and this smoothie, or you may even call it a healthy milkshake, is good enough to eat for breakfast (or dinner?). It’s got pure cacao powder, greek yogurt, banana, peanut butter and almond milk–all guilt-free ingredients, so drink up!

Also, guess what?! A La Main will officially be reunited in precisely ONE WEEK! Yes, Cathy and the gang are coming to visit me in NYC for Labor Day Weekend. And you can bet there will be plenty of cooking eating throughout the weekend! I can’t wait to take my friends to some awesome spots I’ve discovered in my neighborhood, as well as explore some new places. Stay tuned!

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Mexican Hot Chocolate Inspired Smoothie 

1 Banana, frozen

1/2 Cup of Non-fat Greek Yogurt

1/4 Cup of Almond Milk

1 1/2 Tbsp of Peanut Butter

2 Tbsp of Raw Cacao Powder

1 Tsp of Cinnamon

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a blender and enjoy.

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Spiked Arnold Palmer

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In honor of National Lemonade Day (technically tomorrow, August 20th), we’ve decided to present to you, the boozier cousin of the Arnold Palmer. But before we get the the refreshing cocktail, I thought I would share some interesting tidbits I ran across while doing my recipe research.

  •   The drink’s named after the American golfer, Arnold Palmer. The drink supposedly got it’s name when Palmer ordered a tea/lemonade mocktail at the 1960s U.S. Open. A woman nearby saw the drink and told her waiter, “I’ll have the Palmer drink.”
  • There’s no strict lemonade to tea ratio, though most restaurants use a half and half combination.

And some fun facts on lemons to make you day a little brighter.

  • Since lemons are high in vitamin C, sailors used them as a way to prevent scurvy, a disease that causes achy joints, loose teeth and bleeding gums. According to Sunkist, to this day, the British Navy requires ships to carry enough lemons for sailors to have one ounce of juice a day.
  • Lemons are multi-duty. Not only do they taste good, they act as pretty powerful natural cleaners. According to Cooking Light, the juice can brighten aluminum, the rind (dipped in salt) acts as an abrasive scrubber and the “leftovers” can be used as a sink disposal deodorizer. Now, that’s what I call your money’s worth.
  • Lemon trees produce fruit all year, meaning any day can be a Palmer day.

One of my coworkers said the other day, “you know you’ve made it when they make a non-alcoholic drink after you.” I’ll counter, a little bit of vodka never hurt anybody…especially when it looks like this!

Cheers!

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Spiked Arnold Palmer

3 Cups of Trader Joe’s Organic Lemonade

6-7 Black Tea Bags

3 Cups of Water

1 1/2 Cups of Vodka

Mint

Oranges

Lemons

Directions:

Boil water and steep tea bags until tea is almost cool. Mix lemonade, tea and vodka. Add wedges of orange and lemon and garnish with mint.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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A Taste of NYC: ABC Cocina

ABC Cocina

My Dad had to be in NYC all this week for work, so my Mom decided to come out to NYC too for the whole week. At first I said: fantastic! I can get started on so many of the restaurants I’ve been dying to try, since they are here for a total of 6 nights. Today marks night 5, and let me tell you…I’m starting to get a little sick of eating out, to my surprise. We’ve eaten at some great places so far (yes, reviews to come), but perhaps our favorite dinner has been ABC Cocina.

I told my Dad I wanted to eat at ABC Kitchen, but he got confused and made a reservation at the wrong place (although same chef). What a serendipitous mistake, as it turns out Cocina has moved to the top slots on my family’s NYC restaurant list. The food is tapas style, with unique Mexican, Spanish and contemporary flavors and often odd combinations. We took a look at the menu and decided out of the 30 or so listings there were maybe two things we weren’t too keen on. This is definitely one of the few places I might come back to sooner than later purely because you could have an entirely different meal.

Our reservation wasn’t until 9:30, but we were starving so we headed over early to see if our table was ready. We ended up sitting at the bar for half an hour, and ordered the most delicious mango sangria. It was pretty sweet, but very refreshing on a warm NYC summer night. Once we were sat, we immediately order the sweet pea guacamole. Now, I’m an avocado FREAK…i could eat them all day everyday. But this guac was outrageously good, even for a California girl with high standards. All in all, this place is definitely a MUST if you come to NYC.

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ABC Cocina

38 East 19th St., New York, NY 10003

What to Order:

Drink: Mango Sangria

Main: Sweet pea guacamole, shrimp with sizzling garlic and chili oil, gooey spicy ham and cheese fritters, crispy fish tacos, savory glazed short rib tacos, market string beans, maitake mushrooms, arroz con pollo

Dessert: We were too full for dessert however the waitress gave us a bag of cookies to go! The dulce de leche was amazing.
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Honey-Roasted Grapes

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I spent this weekend in the seaside town of Cambria. While I love the city life, after the last few weeks of hustle and bustle, I was looking forward to some much-needed R&R and mother-daughter bonding. With the exception of waking up at 6 AM on a Saturday, the weekend was perfect. The combination of weather, sights, food and company proved the best way to press the “reset” button.

Main Street was exactly what one would expect of a small coastal town: full of picturesque shops and quaint restaurants, and walkable from one end to the other in less than 30 minutes. That said, my favorite part of the trip was the coastal views. It’s nothing like the Los Angeles beaches, with so much more crevices, greenery, rocks and teal waters.

My mom and I had planned to bring a lunch picnic for our first meal in Cambria. So, I thought, what better time to whip up a new picnic-inspired recipe? Lately, I’ve been intrigued by some beautiful grape recipes, so I decided to test out one of my own. I hope you enjoy!

Cheers!

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Honey-Roasted Grapes

1 Bunch of Grapes, rinsed

Rosemary

Olive Oil

Honey

Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove your rinsed grapes from the stem and place on a baking sheet with high sides. Drizzle with rosemary, olive oil, honey and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until grapes are slightly soft. Serve with cheese and crackers. (I served on a gluten-free seed cracker topped with fresh goat cheese and honey-roasted grapes).

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My petite mother. Isn’t she cute?

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Berry Bars

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I am officially a New York City resident! I have been spending every waking hour walking around the city taking in every moment. It still hasn’t hit me that I actually live here … I feel like a crazy tourist most of the time! There are so many amazing hole-in-the-walls right around my apartment, and I’ve been keeping a running list on my phone every time I walk by something interesting.

Unfortunately I have a feeling I won’t be cooking as much as I had hoped … when there are about 50 restaurants within 2 blocks of my apartment, it’s just too easy to eat out. Last night, my roommate ordered a thin crust, whole wheat pizza from Vezzo (review to come) near our place; I picked it up on my way back from Equinox, and it was incredible!

Everyone who has lived here for awhile probably thinks it’s crazy how excited I am about walking everywhere. In LA the only decent food I could walk to was Churros Calientes, and it was still a good 20 minute walk. In addition to the plentiful food options around, we unfortunately also have a very small kitchen with a half size oven. I’ll do what I can guys! But for now, enjoy these whole wheat, oat-berry bars–the last thing I made in LA before I left. :)

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Berry Bars

Filling

1 Heaping Cup Blackberries

1 Heaping Cup Raspberries

2 Tbsp Grade B Maple Syrup

2 Tbsp Warm Water

2 Tbsp Corn Starch

Base

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 Cup Rolled Oats

1 Large Egg

1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil

1/3 Cup Grade B Maple Syrup

1/2 Tsp Baking Powder

1 Tsp Cinnamon

Topping

1 Cup Rolled Oats

1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

Directions:

Filling: Whisk corn starch and warm water together until no lumps remain. Set aside. Pour blackberries, raspberries and maple syrup into a medium sized pot and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until desired consistency is reached. (Some like it very smooth, I prefer with chunks of fruit). Remove from heat. Stir in corn starch mixture and set aside to cool.

Base: In a medium sized bowl, whisk egg, vegetable oil and maple syrup together until smooth. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and stir until no lumps remain. Press the mixture evenly into a 9×9 in pan. Pour fruit filling evenly on top of base.

Topping: Mix oats, wheat flour, vegetable oil and brown sugar together. Sprinkle evenly on top of fruit filling, and press down slightly. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes at 350 deg F.

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