Restaurant Week at SD26

Although these photos clearly speak for themselves, it would be selfish of me not to share the incredible meal I experienced this afternoon at SD26.

Ever since I sampled SD26’s hamachi ceviche at the New York Taste event, I vowed to indulge in a full meal at their restaurant conveniently located on the outskirts of Madison Square Park. Given the fact that the New York Taste event was back in November, what I tasted that night may or may not have been hamachi ceviche. But needless to say, SD26 made quite an impression on me amidst some of New York’s most renowned restaurants and chefs.

But despite my overwhelming desire to try what I believed would be an outstanding meal, SD26 is a small investment for a 26 year old working in media. Lucky for me they jumped on the Restaurant Week bandwagon, allowing me to sample some of their signature dishes at a fraction of the cost. And of course in hopes that I’d be lured back for more, much more.

And the verdict, well the pictures say it all. SD26’s food was my muse, and the camera a mere bystander in what you see before you. The restaurant week menu held true to their original lunch menu which included a well rounded selection of meats, fish, and a few other surprises like their soft egg filled ravioli and homemade chitarra pasta. The hardest part of my day was deciding what to order.

But we soon learned that it didn’t matter what we ordered. It was all incredibly luscious. From the well seasoned “Uovo” whose silky yolk and truffle butter just melted in our mouths to the perfectly succulent Guinea Hen and finally ending with the incredibly flavorful and wonderfully textural Vanilla Bean Panna cotta and velvety crispy Moka Bar.

I have to admit that despite the fact that SD26 will be a costly affair now that restaurant week has come to a close, it is absolutely worth saving up for.

SD26

Madison Square Park

19 East 26th Street (between Madison & Broadway)

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Restaurant Week at Park Avenue Winter

Wednesday afternoon my Grandma took me out for a fabulous restaurant week lunch at Park Avenue Winter.

More to come….

Two Girls Out for a Great Lunch

The Healthy Breakfast Cupcake

Although I believe cupcakes are on their way out, in terms of food trends, I can’t escape them. And with Buttercup Bake Shop and Crumbs on either side of me, let’s just say my consumption of cupcakes isn’t decreasing anytime soon.And the more cupcakes I eat, the more inclined I am to create my own and not just because I’m tired of paying $3.50 a pop.

Cupcakes seem fundamentally simple:

  1. Mix flour, sugar, butter, milk
  2. Bake
  3. Frost

So why are they so difficult to replicate in a healthy form? The reason is because the blending of butter and sugar gives cupcakes that fluffy light batter that very few healthy combinations can replicate. But through trial and error I will eventually create that winning combination of flavor and calories that will be THE HEALTHY CUPCAKE. But until I’ve found that perfect recipe, I’ll continue to perfect my Healthy Breakfast Cupcake.

The Healthy Breakfast Cupcake is really just a Banana Cupcake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. This cupcake is a hybrid between a muffin and cupcake that makes for the ideal breakfast when you’re craving something sweet. Because the cupcake batter is made up of applesauce and Splenda, rather than butter and sugar, the texture of the stump tastes more like a muffin than it does a cake. But the sweet & creamy cinnamon cream cheese frosting gives it a touch of sweetness reminiscent of a cupcake that compliments a nice cup of coffee.

HEALTHY BREAKFAST CUPCAKE RECIPE (Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting)

Banana Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Banana Cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcake

  • 1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Splenda Sugar Blend
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tbsp Canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 4 ripe bananas)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting

  • 4 oz low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts (for topping)

Preparations

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, Splenda sugar blend, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together apple sauce, Canola oil, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. While cupcakes cool, lightly toast walnuts in a sautee pan over medium heat for about 4 minutes or until fragrant.
  5. While the cupcakes and walnuts cool, mix the cream cheese, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla with a hand blender. Gradually add the confectioners sugar to taste. The cream cheese mixture should no longer taste tangy but slightly sweet.
  6. Spread cupcake tops with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. Top each cupcake with toasted walnuts. 

* Be sure to refrigerate these cupcakes if you have any leftovers since the cream cheese will spoil if left out!

Entertaining: Seasonal Fruits

Spring is in the air and the assortment of fresh fruit at the Union Square Market is becoming more and more plentiful. Shiny New Jersey tomatoes & strawberries, endless varieties of apples, and the beginning of juicy peaches whet the appetite and inspire creative seasonal recipes. 

Two weeks ago I took an entertainment themed cooking class with Sindi Kaplan at the Central Synagogue. Sindi prepared a wonderful meal using key seasonal ingredients which brought out the sweetness of Spring and the ease of using readily available ingredients. The sweetness of the meal was reflected in all of the dishes she’d made from the fresh fruits used in the lite tropical sangria to currants in the brown basmati rice. The flavors in each dish flowed from start to finish, which is sometimes difficult to achieve when a meal has multiple components. 

I enjoyed Sindi’s seasonal recipes so much that I decided to put my own spin on what was already a delicious and easily preparable meal for a crowd. As I always say, be creative and use what you have! The more you cook, the more knowledgeable you’ll be on substituting ingredients. In this case, I used mango and apple instead of peaches since I had those ingredients fresh on hand. Apples are great fruits to cook with as their flavors deepen and greatly enhance a chicken dish like the Ginger Chicken with Seasonal Fruits Sindi created. 

Ginger Chicken with Mango &

Spring fruits like strawberries and even oranges are great to add to salads, as peaches cook well with chicken and pork. Figs are another wonderful and versatile fruit which I haven’t seen in the stores yet, but am looking forward to using in some other spring inspired dishes. 

 

Please feel to use the recipes below to evoke the inner chef in you this Spring. 

Whole Wheat Cous Cous with Apple, Raisins & Green Onions

Ginger Chicken with Mango, Apples, & Red Onions

Orange Salad with Red Leaf Lettuce, Goat Cheese, Red Onion, & Candied Nuts

East Village Bahn Mi’s?

Num Pang Num Pang, outpost of Cambodian street food favorite Kampuchea is the latest in Bahn Mi sandwich purveyors and right in the heart of the East Village. After opening in late April, the shop appears to be swarmed daily with hungry lunchers looking for their latest fix.  But Num Pang goers beware, there’s not quite enough to go around…

I finally headed over to Num Pang this afternoon to see what all the fuss was all about. After reading numerous reviews claiming their sandwiches were overpriced (for their size), I decided there was only one way to find out. And what I found was is that they were fresh out of ALL of their specials by 1pm sharp! I mean, come on. The menu only has about four choices of sandwiches to begin with, so eliminating additional choices just doesn’t cut it.

After debating between the catfish and shrimp, I decided to go with the shrimp and though I didn’t regret my order, it wasn’t the most satisfying choice. The sandwich overall… okay. Though there were few ingredients the bread and sauce completely overwhelmed the shrimp. The shrimp played the part of celery in a chicken salad sandwich, a mere crunch adding texture to the bread. The ingredients alone…

  • The bread, very tasty and toasted to perfection
  • The shrimp, tender but without coconut flavor
  • The accouterments (cilantro, cucumber, carrot, mayo), refreshing

And the $2.50 blood orange lemonade… tart, refreshing, but wonderful not so much.

Num Pang Coconut Tiger Shrimp

Num Pang Grilled Skirt Steak

So the verdict on Num Pang… try the veal meatballs or the grilled skirt steak. Don’t order the overpriced homemade drinks.

But for a REAL Bahn Mi, head to Saigon Bakery or Baoguette. And please, do yourself a favor and order the Pastrami Pate at Baoguette.

STK: OK or NG?

Last night I attended the NYC Alzheimer’s Association’s Junior Committee Gala at Tenjune. This was our second year hosting the event at Tenjune and the room looked even more beautiful than it had the year before. Although the room wasn’t as full as prior galas, it was filled with supportive guests including the infamous Elizabeth Hasselback who acted the JC’s honorary guest chair. The glamourous Elizabeth showed up fashionably late, after a book signing, gave a quick speech and peaced out which was okay with me.

The gala was catered by the ONE family’s STK which was just not up to snuff. Though I’ve never eaten at the actual STK restaurant, I’d had many of hors d’ouvres at last years event and dont’ recall it being so… blah.

STK's Sliders

The sliders being the highlight of last year’s even still took the cake but they just weren’t as good as I’d remembered and I don’t think it was because I’d had a few too many cocktails. Though STK’s sliders still had that nice spicy kick that I remember, they were served less than warm and WITHOUT fries. I vividly remember there being fries last year. WTD (what’s the deal)?

Outside of the sliders, it was satay city – Chicken Satay, Sesame Beef Satay, Shrimp Satay. I was anxiously awaiting the veggie satay but it never came and I was livid. I kid, I kid. But really STK, where was the Ahi?

But despite the lack of variety, the drinks were a plenty and a great time was had by all. And, if you weren’t able to make it, but are interested in supporting Alzheimer’s disease with a donation or as a volunteer, please visit our Junior Committee site.

Cinco de Mayo Festivities

Today we celebrate Cinco de Mayo, when Mexican soldiers defeated Napoleon’s army in the Battle of Puebla. Though Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated even more so in the last few years, I’ve been celebrating this holiday for 26 long years today since I was born May 5th 1983.

Clearly, this gives me even more of a reason to go out and celebrate! And what do I want to do to celebrate… EAT, of course! And I did quite a bit of research on where to go and what do. And despite the vast selections of parties taking place around the city I chose Zarela’s.

Since Zarela’s is already a pretty festive place, they are offering some extra special weekly specials to whet our party appetites. This week only Zarela’s will be serving the following “specials”:

Tacos de Cabeza – veal cheek tacos

Chile relleno de ensalada de chicharron – Anaheim chile filled with a pork crackling salad

Pozole de Jalisco – traditional hominy soup from Jalisco with garnishes

Tamales de Mora – corn masa mixed with blackberries and filled with a chicken, toasted almond and green olive picadillo

Tacos de pescado – fish tacos

Nopalitos – cactus paddles salad

But if you’ve already been to Zarela’s a million times over (since apparently it’s just that good) check out some of these Cinco de Mayo Deals:

MERCADITO, $40 prix fixe with optional margarita pairings; all-you-can eat tacos for $25 between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

EL MAGUEY Y LA TUNA, $3 drink specials during brunch and stay after 6 p.m. for flaming tequila shots, rounds of “popo” (a race to guzzle beer spiked with tequila).

ELIZABETH, 50 cent tequila and tacos! Margaritas and other tequila cocktails are only $5, and there’s going to be a piñata, too.

LA ESQUINA, Every hour shots of Cabo Wabo Tequila Blanco will be served.

BANC, $4 Coronas, $6 margaritas and $6 nachos, as well as friendly DJ Steve working the decks from 4 p.m.

BELL HOUSE, Local restaurants and a few freelancers go guac-to-guac at the Guactacular Invitational.