A Weekend of (Food) Revelations

This weekend has been a revelation, highlighting just how much I don’t know the great brunch spots in my neighborhood.  It all started when a friend at work asked me on Friday to let her know if I could do brunch at some point this weekend since her roommate’s boyfriend was visiting and she wanted to give them some time to themselves.  Having no set plans, I said, “Sure!  I’d be down for brunch…”  Originally we settled on Pomme Cafe, which I’d once passed on the way to yoga.  It looked intriguing since it was new, and I love French food.  Plus when I saw rice crispy French toast on their menu, I was even more interested, having never heard of Rice Krispies and French toast as a combination before.  Until I went searching for reviews on Pomme and found The Foodista’s blog (this blog is great, by the way, if you live in my neighborhood of Astoria, Queens or if you happen to just be visiting Astoria and would like to find a good place to eat).  Her review can be found here.  From the title, “Cozy but Food Left Something to be Desired,” I went, “uh-oh”…  As much as I enjoy a nice ambiance, ambiance is nothing without good food to go with it.  And so at about 8:30 the morning of our brunch, I texted my friend to see if she’d be okay with switching the venue to Euro Delights…

 (original photo by Harris Graber)

The menu at Euro Delights is quite extensive, having a plentiful selection of both sweet and savory crepes.  I had the Southwestern, which had eggs, avocado (loooove avocado), sour cream,  and green chilis — instead of green chilis though, I requested a substitution of green peppers.  The whole wheat crepe that it came in had a thin, crispy skin on the outside but soft on the inside.  Loved the contrast in texture.  I’d been here once before, and I was also not disappointed that first time and I think my dining partner also liked the experience.

On the way to Euro Delights, however, I nearly changed my mind again and asked her to meet me at another place I was passing by on 34th Av. and 33rd St. called Locale…Its floor to ceiling windows drew my attention and just made me stop in my tracks and look at the brunch menu.  No brunch specials, but the food selections looked good and the pricing was reasonable.

(Image originally from SeoulDiva.com)

Maybe I’ll suggest that another friend and I go here for dinner tomorrow night — I told her I’d treat her to dinner for her birthday (which was just a little over 2 weeks ago!).  If not, I will definitely come here eventually.

After brunch, we went to Omonia, a cafe mainly known for its desserts, and I had this…

It is not a hamburger, no.  It is called Kok (pronounced like “coke”).  Two sponge cakes and in between is a slathering of vanilla custard with the top sponge cake covered with chocolate.  And a cherry on top.  Sort of like a custard sandwich.  It was not quite as I had imagined it would be.  For one, I had thought the chocolate topping would be closer to a ganache than a chocolate-and-confectioners’-sugar mixture.  I also thought that the custard would be more creamy, and not gelatinous in texture.  It wasn’t overly gelatinous, but more like what you would get if you mixed instant vanilla pudding mix with a bit of gelatin to thicken it a bit more.  The sponge cakes themselves weren’t bad though.  I’d say they were the best part of the dessert.  A little disappointing, but I ate it anyway.  It wasn’t horrible.  Just not what I thought it would be.

And before I forget, when we met up for brunch, my friend brought me a chunk of the classic toffee from Azure Chocolate, a confectionery specializing in handmade goodies in Long Island, where my friend is from. I tried it when I got home and well…I would have taken a picture if I didn’t eat it all before I even thought of it! It was just so good, with a salty taste blending in with the sweet from the toffee and Belgian chocolate, and a hint of nuttiness coming from the crushed pecans and walnuts on top. It was crazy toffee. I think I will request that my friend bring me back some more when she goes home to LI.

Today, I went to yoga again and met up with my sister and her boyfriend in the city for lunch.  We went to Mad For Chicken, a Korean fried chicken place.  If you’ve never had Korean fried chicken, you are sadly deprived.  You must head over to your closest BonChon or KyoChon (no official web site that I can find) to sample fried chicken Korean style.  Or even head over to Mad For Chicken, if you can find it — the location we went to was located on the second floor of a nondescript office building on 5th Avenue between 32nd and 31st streets with no signs, no indication that it was even there.  But somehow my sister and boyfriend knew about it.  Personally, its anonymity kind of makes it appealing.  Sort of like an underground fried chicken club that only those serious about their Korean fried chicken know about…  The decor was not anything you’d expect out of a fried chicken joint.  It was very lounge-y, with low metal tables, gray walls that in some parts was mirrored from floor-to-ceiling, black cushioned chairs with a slightly industrial feel.  The music was also the hip hop and r&b music you would hear at lounges in the 90’s.  It was a very interesting dining experience — cool, lounge setting and a menu featuring none other than fried chicken.  An unexpected combination.

So…What’s so special about Korean fried chicken?  The skin…it’s all about the skin.  And the sauce.  They prepare the chicken in such a way that the skin becomes this crispy, crispy (two “crispy”‘s required with the second one in italics for emphasis) paper-thin shell that’s coated with either a spicy or honey-garlic type sauce that just takes fried chicken to a whole new level.  At Mad About Chicken, they use young chickens so the meat inside is very tender.  It was also not as greasy as BonChon, the other chain I’d been to (but BonChon still holds a place in my heart).  You just have to try it.  I swear, it’ll make you forget the other KFC — you know, the one with the colonel?  You haven’t had fried chicken till you’ve had KFC — Korean Fried Chicken.

In conclusion, while I enjoy cooking and baking, once in a while it is good to give my kitchen a rest and try different restaurants.  Perhaps even draw inspiration from the foods I eat outside.  For instance, that kok — I could probably do a better version of it, made with real ganache and real custard and a slightly lighter cake infused with some kind of rum.  Hmmm…  But that’s for another time, another post if I do attempt it.  I’m just saying.  I actually found a recipe for a cardamom-vanilla pound cake that I found intriguing and will be trying soon, but I digress.  My point was — while it is good to cook for oneself, there is nothing wrong with indulging in eating out in restaurants every once in a while.  It’s a little demanding on the wallet if you do it often though, so I wouldn’t do it too often.  But like everything else in life, it’s all about the balance.

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