Not For Your Average Joe

Photo Courtesy of Abraco
You might be a Starbucks junkie. Perhaps you have a Nespresso machine and make your own. (I can attest to that!) Or you may even have a penchant for your local diner's cup of watered-down java. That's your own thing and I respect that.

However, I dare you to try something completely mind blowing. It's such good, good coffee. It's not normal. And that's not an adequate description for this beautiful brew.

One word to remember: Abraco.

It's in the EV, on 7th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue. I'm really lucky I don't live closer, as this would be a daily -perhaps hourly- haunt. They also offer sweet and savory snacks, cookies and cakes. Flavors like "rose almond" or "lemon cornmeal" come to mind. (And just the thought begins the mild salivation...!)

Abraco brings a lot of "special" to the neighborhood. It's so small and quaint and the owners seem to know their locals like they are their best friends returning home. Even if you're a newbie or a tourist, you'll feel welcome the minute you step up to the counter- just don't expect to sit down in the shop. There's standing room only and a cozy common space just outside.

I really can't describe it. If there are certain places to put on your culinary bucket list, I'd put this in the top category for sure. Just be sure to go any day but Monday.... as they have a day of much needed rest and are closed.

Sidebar:  This is also one of the rare places in NYC where I thought I saw a sighting of Boy George a la 1980 - but this was only a few years ago. It wasn't him, but a very interesting, overly pallid replica of the original. It's a great East Village people watching locale. Go for the cappuccino, stay for the character(s).

Another Fantastico Food Truck Y'All

Photo Courtesy of Mexicue
If you're looking for a spicy bite, run, don't walk -to  the nearest location of the Mexicue truck. 

Get a sample of wow and a little zing in a slider or taco filled with their various versions of pulled pork, shredded chicken or go vegetarian with their smokey BBQ beans. You can even get one of each and not feel like a complete glutton.   

According to their own website, "Mexicue is the sweet, sweet love child of red-hot Mexican cuisine and down-home, barbeque goodness."

That sounds pretty straight forward and I can't argue with a sweet love child.

They travel throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn everyday of the week and also have permanent storefront locations in Midtown West and the LES. Exact details on Mexicue's locations are on their home page.

Know BEFORE You Go

If you're a visitor to NYC -or even if you're a local - you really need to be "in the know" about something that is so simple, yet so many people seem to ignore:
the NYC Restaurant Inspections.

That letter in the door or window of a business is not just a pretty decoration, it's their grade -for cleanliness!

Seriously, if I don't see an 'A' on the door, I don't even entertain the thought of eating there. And I don't understand HOW or WHY anyone seeing the letter 'C' doesn't run screaming the other way. Why would anyone willingly accept a menu, much less put anything in their mouth at that establishment??! Call me picky, but you won't see me scrambling to eat at a place that serves a regular helping of rat feces with my meal. EVER.

There is even an iPhone app to help you discern what might give you better, more sanitary options (in terms of Inspection grades) ... I recently tried it out. It's called ABCEats.

In fact, while checking out the app and looking at restaurants around my workplace, I noticed something really awful. Guess where I won't be going any time again soon? (And I used to love their sandwiches when they first opened!) Num Pang - their 41st St. location near me. They got the whopper: C. They have violations about food workers not washing their hands properly after using the toilet, smoking, coughing sneezing.... basically a 23 point inspection violation in October. A month later (November 2012), they had 30 points racked up for violations. OMFG! No!

So PLEASE, dear diners of NYC - make SURE you pay attention to those little letters in the doors or windows of a restaurant. They should be displayed PROMINENTLY so that diners KNOW what they walk into before being offered a menu. And if you order online or make a restaurant reservation, check out the actual link for the inspections HERE. Or use the helpful app that I described above. It's free and worth a moment of time. With over 24,000 places in the city, this is a great service that is offered to the dining public of NYC and all of its visitors.

Remember this:
When you get gastro-intestinal distress from eating at a B or C rated place, there is NO APP FOR THAT.


Celebrities Love Awards and... Yogurt?

Laura Dern stopping by Yoplait Greek 100
As a NYC-based actor, you can imagine that I was happy to see a union of food and celebrities all in one. No, I'm not talking about the Oscars -because everyone ELSE is, so I'm moving on.... This is another VERY important award ceremony in the community... 

I worked with Yoplait Greek 100 yogurt and wanted to share that this past Saturday, February 23rd celebrities stopped by The Official Presenter Gift Lounge backstage at The 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards and recharged by snacking on Yoplait Greek 100 yogurt.

Guests such as Chris Tucker, Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan, took a break from the day’s activities to snack on new flavors - Lemon and Tropical Fruit - and learn about low-cal recipes including Key Lime Enchiladas and Chocolate Cherry Mini Lava Cakes. Others spotted backstage in the Gift Lounge included Kerry Washington, Jeremy Renner and Common. 

Recipes and a GIVEAWAY coming soon on NYCfoodiegirl.com! That mini lava cake is NOT to be missed and so easy to make at home! 



Food Truck Tip of "de Week"

Photo Courtesy of Wafels & Dinges
New York City is considered by many, a culinary mecca. The city is always constantly on the move, taking their international cuisines on the road and to a neighborhood near you. One of my personal favorites is a tribute to the Belgians: the Wafels & Dinges food truck. 

Depending on your mood, you can select a variety of savory or sweet concoctions -but by all means, try their signature topping (aka dinges), spekuloos. It's reminiscent of the traditional "windmill cookies" all crumbled up and put into a creamy, somewhat cinnamon-y spread.

If for some odd reason that's not your idea of ultimate indulgence, there is also the delectable dark Belgian chocolate to drizzle on top of a fresh, hot waffle, too.  Then, just add some strawberries, whipped cream and a side of Belgian Madness ice cream and you'll be in a content food coma for the rest of the day. 

Savories include "Chilli con Corne" and "BBQ Pulled Pork" waffles. And of course, for the combo of salty and sweet, bring on the "de Bacon and Maple Syrup wafel".

Find their locations via their website (look under "de trucks" and then, find us), or by calling toll-free:  (866) 429-7329  -answer their daily challenge at the truck, and maybe get a free something! Mention NYC Foodie Girl sent you, and they can give you a blank stare that money can't buy!

A Mexican Breakfast for Brunchers and Late Diners

Shredded Beef with Eggs
The nice folks at Rosa Mexicano recently invited me and other food critics to join them for a special tasting of a new menu they plan to launch nationwide: Desayuno Mexicano / The Mexican Breakfast.

Of course, it helped that they started the menu off with drinks such as smokey-flavored Mezcal Margaritas and spiked versions of Horchata!

However, the combination of eggs, sausages and tamales were really memorable and honestly has me looking forward to taking my whole family there once they officially launch the "Flavors of Mexico: 2013 Part 1" - in all seriousness. That's not the alcohol talking, I swear!

In particular, I am a big fan of the Machacado con Huevos / Shredded Beef with Eggs. This is a traditional dish that had my vote in the favorite category. It's essentially scrambled eggs served with dried shredded beef, tomatoes, onions and jalapenos mixed in -served in a skillet with tortillas on the side. The texture and the flavors really worked in unison. I liked making my own breakfast taco, too. 

Another big win at the table was the Mexico City Chilaquiles / Tortilla Scramble - which, again, is scrambled eggs, but this time, there was a secret ham steak at the bottom of dish and it was topped with the huevos and a creamy yet somewhat smokey green chile sauce. It had a delightful tangy-ness that surprised a lot of us at the table. A good surprise is always positive!

Most noteworthy, I sampled the Desayuno Tamal / Creamy Breakfast Tamal. Practically everyone at the table was enamored with this egg-based dish. This one is also served in a skillet and brought to the table, but this time, you'll find poached eggs with fried cheese and chorizo crumble - it's savory and delectable all the way around. The eggs, once you stab them with a fork, ooze out onto the cheese and mix in with the sauce -creating this concoction of delight and happiness right before your eyes. It has a homestyle-like appeal, that seems more like familiar comfort food you just want to keep eating more and more of -at least until they bring out the next plate!

Sublime Stuffed French Toast
For those with a sweet tooth, you will not be disappointed: Torrejas de Miel Rellenas / Stuffed French Toast - just has everything you want/need in a breakfast dish. This cinnamon crusted brioche contains just a little Cascabel chile for a tad of warmth, and is filled with Marscapone and topped with caramelized plantains. The word ethereal comes to mind, along with sublime. This particular menu item should be illegal to bring across the border -because for Americans already concerned about their weight, this is not going to help ANYone. I, for one, am also watching my intake of calories.... but I had to sample this - you know, for the good of the food blogging nation. It was my duty AND my honor to sample this ooey-gooey goodness on a plate.

Along with other egg dishes, chorizos, and even cactus paddle as ingredients, it's really impressive that Rosa Mexicano is offering such a tantalizing new menu of breakfast items. They use locally sourced produce and products whenever possible, which in my book, is a big plus. All of the dishes can also be ordered individually and/or shared. I prefer the latter, because you can sample more and have a family-style meal. I'll also have an excuse to eat small portions and simply feel like I'm keeping the calories low. Mind control, people - it's all in the mind!!

You can also have specific breakfast beverages that were created for this new menu. There is a Chilled Horchata de Coco which is a pressed rice milk with coconut, or a Mexican Hot Chocolate as well as Aguas Frescas (Fresh Waters) to choose from -and, of course, there are alcoholic versions available for a boozy brunch bunch.

If you start your day late, it's ok, since they will offer the menu items for late night as well.  Desayuno Mexicano launches nationally on February 23rd , and is a spicy spin on morning classics available during weekend brunch or late night dinner starting at 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights. I've already made my brunch reservations for this weekend... but promise NOT to check the scale until I've used all of my mind control techniques!

LES Dining in Goat Town

My husband and I did a spur of the moment reservation for Goat Town recently. We wanted to check out something (relatively) new and go somewhere we hadn't already been. We chose this Lower East Side restaurant for several reasons and weren't disappointed with our selection.
Not Your Grandma's Eggs
Notably appealing is the ingredients they use and how they source their food. Most are local and the preparation is seemingly simple.
The Feather Ridge Farm Deviled eggs and grilled octopus came out as our appetizers. Both were tasty and in terms of the eggs, they were certainly not from Grandma's kitchen. These had a kick and a flavor in their creaminess that made them memorable. The octopus was charred the way it should be, with the black olive and greens highlighting their lemony essence.
We both opted for seafood, which was also good - but maybe not the best we've ever had. That's not a bad comment. It's an honest one. The skate I ordered was good, but the bed of cous cous was cold and the fish was topped with way too many fresh orange bits. I preferred the skate on its own.
My husband's order of mussels and fries was also agreeable, but not marvelous. They were correctly prepared but according to him, "could have had more flavor."
We both enjoyed the side dishes of kale and roasted cauliflower. They were commendable and went very well with our meal.
The wine list was a bit restrained, but workable. We each had a glass of the Grenache.
Dessert had a tad of limited choices, but the warm chocolate chip cookies were a huge hit with our 2 year old. And of course, I just had to sample them too. As a mom, I wouldn't just let my child have something that I didn't sample first! It was the very least I could do!!
The evening was topped off with some tasty Colombian coffee for the adults. Friendly, attentive service was appreciated the entire visit, as well as a nice atmosphere. It was a bit lively and had a bar scene of hipsters didn't scare us away. If anything, we gave them pause in their skinny jeans for a moment.

My Pork Pasta Recipe: As Seen On TV

Yes, I was on TV... I am an actress, after all!

Seriously, it was a contest between food bloggers. Mine was a better dish, but a so-called "healthier choice" won. Oh well. There was another cuter recipe too, -c'mon they were lasagna cupcakes! How adorable they were to look at??!

But anyways - back to me and my pasta. I was on ABC's The Chew a while back and at that time, I had not shared my identity with the world. Now that I am no longer anonymous, there's no need to NOT share this recipe. I think it's pretty good, myself... but let me know what you think.

It's not a lo-cal version... but I wasn't counting calories then, either. So much has changed....!

Get the full recipe HERE.


Victoria Prather's Pork Sausage Pasta

ingredients

1 pound box of bowtie pasta
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 cup kale
1 cup chicken stock (low-sodium)
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup Chevrotin (goat) cheese
4 Eggs
8 slices pancetta
1/4 cup Italian parsley (chopped)
sea salt and pepper to taste

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