Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Eats Around Europe: Copenhagen

Okay. So I’ve had literally no ambition or motivation to blog during November. No excuses, I just haven’t felt like it. But a few things I’ve eaten around Europe just need to be seen and talked about!

By the far the most amazing dining experience I’ve had in my life happened on the first night of my trip to Copenhagen. Four of my friends and I had booked a reservation at Kødbyens Fiskebar, an acclaimed seafood restaurant in the old meatpacking district of the city. After getting lost a few times on the way from the center to that area, we finally settled in to our seats and took in the impressively modern and cool atmosphere of the restaurant (which included a beautiful stainless steel square bar, a large aquarium, and concrete bathrooms that had ocean noises playing under the murmur of the restaurant’s patrons traveling through the heating ducts – cool stuff).

A long day of traveling, settling into our hostel, and napping in way-too-comfortable beds had almost ruined our appetites; we kind of just wanted to sleep through the night. But we definitely made the right decision by heading out. We started off with champagne and a shrimp-salad-esque appetizer. Small shrimp were tossed with hazelnuts and a tarragon-mayo-pesto and then topped with micro-greens and a crispy potato chip. It was absolutely phenomenal, and our petite bites tried to savor its flavor.

Hannah ordered the mussels (picture one, top right), which were steamed in apple cider and lots of herbs. I tired one, and they were absolutely delicious. The great bread that came out right after the appetizers was a great companion to the leftover broth. The rest of us ordered Kødbyens’ version of fish and chips – something crispy and straight-up delicious after a long day. I know, I know – it seems ludicrous that five people traveling from the UK (of all places) would order fish and chips at a foreign restaurant. But the truth is that, of the three or four times I’ve had fish and chips in London, I was never impressed. The quality is just never good; it’s passé. In Copenhagen, though, I was prepared to trust the quality of the fresh caught-that-day fish and its careful preparation.

Good thing I did: the fish and chips was – by far – the best I’ve had in my life. Two small filets of pollock (a more sustainable and under farmed version of cod or haddock, used especially in the UK and Northern Europe) were covered in panko and delicately fried; it was great. The fries, too, were expertly fried and tossed with a good amount of green herbs. They were crunchy outside, fluffy inside, and dusted with a ton of flavor. Finally, there was a side of raw remoulade – something that was almost a middle-point between cole slaw and tartar sauce. Whether eaten alone or with the fish, its raw, crunch, and fresh flavor added a lot of the dish.

Nearing the point of being stuffed, we decided to split one dessert. What was described on the menu – peanut butter mousse and chocolate gelato with raspberries in a cocoa pod – did nothing to describe how phenomenal the dish would be. When it arrived, our jaws dropped. Sitting in front of us was, indeed, a giant cocoa pod on top of a bed of coffee beans. But when opened up, the two haves had equally jaw-droppingly good desserts. The top was filled with this peanut butter mousse, which was caramelized like creme brûlée on top. And the bottom half was filled with liquid-nitrogen frozen raspberries, topped with a scoop of silky bittersweet chocolate gelato and a few more fresh raspberries. To sum it up: we wished we would had ordered another one, and would’ve had the kitchen not closed ten minutes before we ate it. Through its impressive presentation, flavor combinations, textures, and technique, it was a world-class dessert to end such a world-class meal.

Continue reading ‘Eats Around Europe: Copenhagen’


A Weekend in Paris

This past weekend, I travelled over to Paris to spend some time with my cousin and her family, who were staying just south of Montmartre. After the most stressful hour of my life (from 19:00 – 20:00 on Thursday, September 29th, which included sprinting around Holborn carrying a 30 pound non-rolling duffle bag, busting into my about-to-close school building to print out a missing boarding pass, making it to the check-in-point at St. Pancras with 47 seconds to spare, and rushing through security and border control in order to make my 20:02 train), I settled in on the Eurostar and prepared for the great weekend ahead of me.

Waking up on Friday morning was difficult. The previous night, after the hour from hell and its subsequent train ride, I had to wait in a taxi queue for over 45 minutes and then use my limited French skills to explain to a non-English-speaking taxi driver where the relatively unknown, boutique hotel was in a non-central part of town. But once I was up, any tiredness in me was quickly vanquished by an unbelievably delicious apricot croissant from Midoré, the spacious and bright café around the corner from our hotel. Throughout the weekend, Midoré became our go-to breakfast/brunch place; everything we tried (apple-filled pastry, butter-caramel eclair, cappuccino, hot chocolate, strawberry tart) was just so good, and so cheap.

From Midoré, Megan and I walked over to the Eiffel Tower while the rest of her family went to Disneyland Paris (fulfilling the request of my younger cousin Garrett). For the rest of the day, we utilized our hop-on hop-off boat pass and visited different sites along the Seine. Over the course of the day, we saw the Louvre, Notre Dame, le Jardin de Plants, and – at the place where we spent most our day, getting lost deep into the neighborhood’s streets – St. Germain.

While there were countless places we could’ve eaten, we ended up at Paul Maison de Qualité, an international chain that offers freshly-baked breads, pastries, and other lunch goods. Our sandwiches were just fine; mine consisted of ham, lettuce, and hard-boiled egg on a baguette — something light and cheap enough for lunch. The place we spent the most time and money was actually at Un Dimanche à Paris, a sleek and modern dessert shop in the winding alleyways of the left bank. After perusing about the entire store, we ordered a selection of macarons and white chocolate ice cream and sat outside.

The ice cream was fine, but a little too plain. The macarons, though, were amazing – especially the butter-caramel ones. Each bite was spectacular – a heavenly combination of airy macaron and the most intensely-flavored butter caramel filling. The other macarons had this impossibly-good flavor too – the coffee, hazelnut, and pistachio flavors so deeply intense. We walked back to the boat content.

Continue reading ‘A Weekend in Paris’

Chelsea Chow Part I: My Old Dutch & Ca’puccino

Every city has its preconceived images – things you think of without really knowing a city. With London, the average thought is that it is incredibly posh, pretentious, wealthy, and historic. Obviously, these images shatter quickly upon actually living somewhere. As I’ve found out over the last month, London is actually a ridiculously diverse and integrated city, made up of eons of different neighborhoods. Ironically, I’m located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, arguably the most stereotype-fitting neighborhood of London; everything is more expensive and our high streets are filled with stores like Gucci, Louis Vitton, Fendi, Prada (think Kreayshawn ;)), Armani, Chanel, Tiffany’s, Chloé, etc. The restaurants too are expensive, but not necessarily good (or the best). Clearly, we students try to spend as much time as possible outside of K&C, but due to convenience we often end up going to the restaurants and grocery stores around here. Throughout this mini series, I’m going to briefly review each of the restaurants I go to; so far, they’ve ranged from good to great, but – as expected – can be relatively poor on value.

The most convenient place for us to grab dinner when we get back home at night is probably My Old Dutch, a pancake house located within a few meters of our building. Expectedly, the pancakes they serve are more like crêpes than American pancakes – it’s simply a regional (well, international) difference. Aside from a small appetizers, sides, drinks, and desserts menu with both Dutch and typical offerings, the menu revolves around the savory and sweet pancakes. Along with the standard pancake menus, My Old Dutch offers a “create-your-own” option which, although usually more expensive, allows for all sorts of different combinations to be made. Another important fact: on Mondays, all pancakes – regardless of menu price – are offered for £5 at a basically-half-off price.

Naturally, a huge group of us end up there for dinner on Monday nights, unabashedly taking advantage of the discount. Even with the restaurant full, the service is always at least acceptable. And the atmosphere is great: it’s open, bright, clean, and spacious. Based on these factors, plus the quality of the food, My Old Dutch is best seen as a classy, upscale diner. And as for the food? It’s very, very good. Thin, giant-plate-sized pancakes are studded with your ingredients of choice and served with various toppings. While others in the group had bananas, caramel, Nutella, and other sweets in theirs, I opted for a “savory” pancake: the Amsterdammer. Mine was served with sautéed apples, maple syrup, and thick-cut bacon. The salty sweet combo was incredible; each bite was heavenly. And with the portions so huge, no one has ever left the restaurant unsatisfied.

Further down King’s Road, there’s a small quasi-chain cafe and gelateria named Ca’puccino. What initially caught my eye about this cafe – just one of many on our street – was its almost-sprawling outdoor seating and prominent gelato display in the front window. So, a few friends and I walked down one night after dinner and were immediately seated in the small but cozy cafe.

Continue reading ‘Chelsea Chow Part I: My Old Dutch & Ca’puccino’

Fish & Chips in Bath

This past weekend, our group travelled to Bath to do touristy things like sightsee, tour the Roman baths, view Bath Abbey, etc. Even though it seemed like we spent more time on our coach traveling back and forth from London than actually in Somerset, one really great thing came out of the trip: I ate the best fish and chips I’ve had – ever.

Toward the end of our day, a few of us grabbed lunch at a place we’d passed by on our walking tour: Garrick’s Head Pub. On a sign near the outdoor patio, they claimed to have the “best fish and chips in Bath” – a claim we didn’t verify on Urbanspoon, or Yelp, or anywhere – but it was a good thing we took them up on their word. Because it was an overcast day (see: pictures) and was threatening to downpour, we chose to sit inside. The interior of this pub was beautiful and cozy, with dark woods and dim but not-too-dark lighting. After a brief stint at the bar, our group of eight was seated in the main dining room of the pub.

Six of us ordered the fish and chips; the other two selections were simple bread and butter (obviously Ally wasn’t very hungry) and a savory cheese tart with a honey-glazed beet salad. While the bread and butter looked simple, it was impressive on quality: fresh sourdough bread was coupled with good butter and Maldon sea salt. And the tart was equally impressive (albeit in a more grandiose way). Filled with cheddar, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and spinach, it got rave reviews.

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Lloyd Taco Truck

I know, I know. Everyone’s been talking about, following, eating, and reviewing Lloyd’s Taco Truck for what seems like years now. But, I have excuses! One: Lloyd almost always sets up for lunch at around 11:30 AM until 1:30 PM. During the school year (roughly 9 months out of the entire year), I’d be sitting in a classroom or in a cafeteria realizing that great tacos were just… a 20+ minute drive away. And that leads to two: even during the summer months, I don’t have access to a car until late afternoon; it seemed like getting up at 10 AM to hop on a bus for over an hour just to eat a taco was not worth it. Anyway, with a few days left in Buffalo, it was crunch time – I wanted to try Lloyd’s before I left. When I realized that my mom’s needing to be downtown for something a few mornings ago coincided with Lloyd’s decision to set up at Synacor near the waterfront, I immediately decided that I’d drag along my cousin and sister with me, and we’d all go down and get tacos for lunch.

After waiting in a short line, the four of us placed our order: two beef tacos, one chicken taco, two regular nachos, crazy corn, and a few drinks. For $15, we all received a quality yet cheap lunch that we took down to a few benches by the harbor to enjoy.

Least exciting were the regular nachos, ordered by my sister and cousin. Plain tasting nacho chips were drizzled with queso and red salsa; they were fine, but nothing extraordinary. I’m refraining from being too critical of these as I’ve repeatedly read that the tricked out nachos (served with a meat, onions, jalapeños, sour cream, etc.) are excellent; it’s hard to criticize regular nachos for being regular.

But I – at least – really came to try the tacos. I ordered two – one beef, one chicken – and was thoroughly impressed. Each taco was filled with meat, cabbage slaw, cheese, a choice of sauce (varying in spiciness), fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime; they’re also wrapped in double-layered corn tortillas which hold up very well to the fillings. I added a bit of Lloyd’s Rocket Sauce to mine (in the little cup) which was impressive in both taste and heat – I enjoyed the tacos much more with the rocket sauce on them. Overall, Lloyd’s tacos are the tastiest, freshest, and most authentic tacos in Buffalo, and far surpass mediocre taco-flinging establishments like Mighty Taco and ETS.

Another highlight: Lloyd’s crazy corn. It’s charred corn, dipped in garlic-chili butter, and drizzled with queso and a spicy sauce. The amount of flavor that exists in just one bite of the corn is phenomenal. It’s spicy, savory, fresh, hot – corn taken to another level.

Much to my dismay, I’m not going to be able to grab lunch at Lloyd’s until I return to Buffalo in December. But with rumors floating around of a second Lloyd’s truck, there’s definitely something to remain excited about. So, don’t wait as long as I did, and – if you haven’t already – grab some food at Lloyd’s as soon as you can!

Lloyd Taco Truck (Mobile) on Urbanspoon

Good Eats in Manhattan – Part One

This past week, my friend Dana and I stayed at my cousin Megan’s house for a week. Over the course of the week, we had some really good eats around Manhattan. In this two-part post, I plan on just casually overviewing and sharing them.

Think Coffee: On our first day, we grabbed a quick breakfast / lunch at Think Coffee on Mercer St. in the Village before an afternoon of shopping in NoHo. In a word, Think Coffee can be described to Buffalonians as SPoT. It’s a quasi-chain with a few locations around downtown Manhattan, the vibe is artsy and eclectic, and the food and coffee are both above average.

We ordered a round of cold-brewed iced coffees; they were truly good – smooth and slightly acidic without any lurid bitterness. The food was good too: Dana’s prosciutto and tomato sandwich was the most impressive and loaded with flavor while the quiche Megan and I split was just average. Overall, we weren’t blown away by anything we had. The atmosphere was both comfortable and energetic though – this coffeehouse is mostly frequented by NYU students – and was a great way to the start the day.

Etcetera Etcetera: After we’d shopped for hours and spent a bit too much money, we took the yellow line back uptown and met Megan’s cousin for dinner in Hell’s Kitchen. I’d picked Etcetera Etcetera after doing a bit of reading online: it seemed like this was an upscale and innovative, modern-yet-authentic Italian restaurant – it was. We sat down in the modernly decorated dim dining room and, after perusing the menu for quite some time, decided on our entrees (some of which are entree sized at $20-ish, and others which are appetizer sized at $13).

What arrived first was a basket of delicious garlic bread soldiers with a really tasty olive tapenade. After that, our entrees came: Dana’s tagliatelle with mini lamb meatballs, oven dried tomatoes, arugula, and Pecorino Romano; Megan’s (vegetarian) gnocchi with grilled portobello mushrooms, roasted red onions, crispy ricotta salata, and parsley; Kayla’s (gluten-free) risotto with roasted artichokes and smoked mozzarella; and my casoncelli alla bergamasca, or veal-raisin-amaretto ravioli in a sage and butter sauce, topped with crispy pancetta. As we ate, we came to the conclusion that these were some of the best pastas we’d ever had. Each homemade pasta paired beautifully with the chef’s choice of flavors. Mine in particular was outstanding – unabashedly rich and flavorful; without a doubt, it’s the best pasta dish I’ve had in my life.

The dinner never took a downturn. Our entrees were followed with complimentary biscotti and a chocolate crunch-type cookie and the dessert that we ordered, a pistachio semifreddo with blueberry sauce. It too was exemplary: the texture was velvety, the flavor was of pure pistachio, and the sauce was both tart and sweet – it complimented the semifreddo dome perfectly. As we walked out of the restaurant, we were all thoroughly impressed; we’d been hoping to have a dinner of such a high quality while in Manhattan and we’d certainly received it.

Continue reading ‘Good Eats in Manhattan – Part One’

Sweetness_7 – Both of Them

It’s been over two years since Sweetness_7 Café opened on Grant Street in Buffalo’s West Side and nearly a year since Sweetness’ second location opened on Parkside. Since then, I’ve heavily frequented the Parkside location but had never made it over to the original café. However, that changed this past Saturday; I walked over to Grant St. after my weekly trip to the Farmers’ Market and enjoyed a great brunch with a few friends.

The two locations – while not identical – share a variety of similarities. Both are decorated with dark woods and mixed antique furniture, have display cases showing off different pastries, quiche, baked goods, etc., and carry an identical drink menu. Each location has cozy but ample seating and, most importantly during the summer months, outdoor tables and chairs. Even the service is the same across the board: it’s not excellent or perfect, but definitely not bad – it could just use a touch of fine tuning and speediness. The only real differences lie in the food menus: the Parkside location’s consists of solely crepes while the Grant St. one offers a more typical selection of breakfast and lunch foods.

Over my trips to the Parkside location, I’ve admittedly ordered the same thing (maybe too) many times: the Nutella crepes. Why? They’re simple, but amazing – and consistent. On my first time or two ordering these last Fall, the crepes were a little off; something was wrong either with the batter or the cooking execution. Ever since then, though, they’ve been flawless. Clearly, any kinks have been worked out. I’ve also tried the Afterglow crepe, which is filled with lemon curd and kiwi; it’s a refreshing option. Sweetness_7 also offers savory crepes, served with things like chicken breast, spinach, and béchamel. One of my favorites was actually a special that I haven’t seen offered again since I had it at the beginning of this year: it was essentially a pierogi crepe, filled with mashed potatoes, onions, and peppers. It was outstanding, and I’d definitely order it again.

No matter which location, Sweetness’ drink selection is impressive and authentic. I’ve tried their frappes (blended coffee milkshake), iced coffees, and espresso. The frappes are very good, much like those from Caffe Aroma, SPoT, or even Starbucks. They’re nothing extraordinary but certainly fine. Likewise, the iced coffee is strong and fresh – made interesting by options such as “American”, “Italian”, or “Vietnamese” which change the drink slightly; my favorite is the Vietnamese iced coffee which comes mixed with sweetened condensed milk. Most memorable is the espresso menu; my favorites are the “cubano” (espresso brewed with cane sugar) and the “romano” (espresso brewed with lemon zest). Each are beautifully potent with their personalities altered by the additions of the sugar or lemon zest. The cubano in particular is a great shot for any first-time espresso try-ers, as the sugar somewhat tames the potency of the espresso.

Continue reading ‘Sweetness_7 – Both of Them’

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