Hot chocolate was awesome when I was a kid. "It's chocolate! And I can drink it! I DO NOT HAVE TO CHEW!" Granted, I don't chew non-liquid food that well anyway, but...hot chocolate! It's a warm sweet liquid that isn't bitter like tea or coffee, nor is it a savory soup.
But alas, the love has waned. The fun of dumping a packet of chocolate-sugar-milk powder in a cup of hot water, vigorously stirring the water to melt and unclumpify the powder and then burning my tongue due to over-enthusiasm is just a relic of the past. A RELIC. Like Mayan ruins, but not nearly as interesting or historically significant. The hot chocolate of my youth is a little hand-carved rowboat drifting off to sea without any passengers, and I'm on the shore, thinking, "...Yeah, that boat was cool when I was little, but it kinda sucks now."
I hope you read the other two paragraphs since they were meant to build up to this photo/paragraph. Then again, if I were you I'd probably just focus on the photo. Short attention span, ye know.
I hadn't been to Panya since last year, so naturally...I went to Panya yesterday to grab a quick lunch. It's right by my photography class so it does make some sense. Their proclaimation of "HOT CHOCOLATE WITH WHIPPED CREAM" ($2, $1.75 without cream) on their chalkboard caught my eye. "Hot chocolate, eh? Welll, I said I wouldn't go back to City Bakery anymore...although I really could use a chocolate coating in my stomach. But I can't; it's too far. And I made a pact. A PACT!" (Don't worry, I dont really talk to myself in that manner. Maybe.) As regular hot chocolate, there's nothing wrong with Panya's. It's a matter of fulfilling expectations; it would've been great if I wanted hot chocolate milk, but as for hot chocolate period, not so much. The first, tongue-searing sip reminded me of what I drank as a child. Ah. Nostalgia.
But it's not good enough anymore! BEHOLD:
City Bakery has ruined me. Their hot chocolate is a gateway drink to harder things (my god, are there things harder than their hot chocolate), thus my palate now only feels delight when smothered with a drink that straddles the line between "You can safely swallow this, kinda," and, "Dude, that's an ice cream topping." While some people say that CB's hot chocolate is too rich, I can drink a cup fairly easily. A cup. More than one is a bad idea, "bad idea" meaning "pseudo-death".
Panya's Muffin of the Week (strawberry) looked mighty tasty, so I granted one the not-so-high honor of entering my digestive tract. This was a pretty good muffin: moist, not crumbly, not too sweet. Overall, not disappointing! Woo! Different from most muffins, this one had a cavity for a whole, mooshy strawberry (like coming upon an animal's entrails, mm!) and an awesome crispy-cookie-like top. I wouldn't say I'd get the muffin again, but it's one of the better things I've had at Panya.
Although I didn't buy one yesterday, I'd recommend the pumpkin cupcakes. Look, they have a mountain of them, just waiting for you!
Remember that $3 dinner thing I posted about the other day? I ended up getting Nancy to join me, so a little before 6:30 we headed towards Je Bon to see...lots of (mainly Asian) students. It wasn't Mecca during Ramadan (don't ask me why that was the first comparison to pop into my head), but there was a bit of a line forming eastward in front of the entrance. The restaurant started letting people in, and then...
...They stopped letting people in. We got up to the door, which wasn't very far from where we had originally stood, and heard a guy say that either the buffet was full or there wasn't one at all. I guess the first one makes more sense, except I don't see how it filled up that quickly. Maybe 50 people teleported inside, or my counting is off. The restaurant did offer 50% off for NYU students, but Nancy and I felt jipped so we decided to go somewhere else. I don't know if the even was over-publicized (I received two emails about it, one from the Restauranteur's Club and the Taiwanese student association whatnot, neither of which I'm actually in) or poorly organized, but at the very least I think the restaurant should've told all the people in line what they were actually waiting for.
After some discussion about where to go, Nancy insisted that she didn't care where we ate as long as it had food that was semi-fast and not going to kill her right away. Since I had been meaning to go to Grand Sichuan, we went up to the second-story restaurant for what I think was our first Chinese food meal together.
The restaurant has a nice interior. Not too bright or dark lighting, carpeted floor, mellow colors, and plenty of space.
We started with the pork soup dumplings since I've heard this dish recommendation a number of times. It was good, although as usual, I don't know how it compares to previous soup dumplings I've had. I've tried them at Joe's Shanghai, New Green Bo, Goodies, Chef Liu's, and Shanghai Cafe; there's no clear winner. If I am to go by price, I'd pick Chef Liu's, which was...really cheap. Mmm, I like cheap. Grand Sichuan's may have been less soupy than other ones I've had, but I could be wrong. There was enough soup in it; I certainly don't want the thing to explode on me.
For something plant-based at an attempt to be marginally healthy (per Nancy's request, we also got brown rice instead of white), we got this mountain of sauteed Shanghai bok choy. I can't think of anything bad about it, so I guess that means it's good. (How much more vaguely can I describe food?) It wasn't too greasy, overcooked, or overly seasoned. Mm, veg. I need fiber.
For the "killed animal" part of our meal, we ordered Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken. The waiter explained to us that they had special fresh killed chicken, and the more freshly killed, the more delicious! Death is tasty, folks! We went for freshly killed spicy chicken bits. God, who can resist? WHO?!
Half of the mountain you see in the photo is composed of chile peppers. When they say spicy, they mean it. Being the dumbass that I am (very uninitiated with dishes involving piles of chiles), I decided to eat a forkful of them at once.
"Ah, it can't be that bad." *shoves in mouth*
"...How is it, Robyn?"
"Surprisingly, it's not that bad. Hm." *chew chew* "I don't taste much spiciness. That's odd."
"...Hm...I couldn't eat all those peppers."
"My throat's a little tingly now. Hm. ...OH CRAP MY MOUTH IS ON FIRE AND I CAN'T BREATHE AND MY NOSE FEELS WEIRD AND MY EYES ARE WATERING AND...I SEE A TUNNEL."
Moral of the story: don't shove a forkful of chiles in your mouth and chew thoughtfully while wondering when the flavor's gonna kick it. It will kick in. And punch/stab your mucus membranes. It wasn't the spiciest thing I had ever eaten, but I did wolf down some rice and water and anything that wasn't spicy to alleviate the heat. Afterwards, my mouth felt tender, as though...it got smashed. I'm all better now, but god, that was weird.
Oh, the chicken part! It was pretty good, but not really my cup of tea. I liked the spice combination; unfortunately, I'm bad at identifying spices, thus I can't tell you what they were. Nancy said she tasted star anise, which disagreed with her tastebuds. I tasted hot firey death. It wasn't bad! A complaint I have is that most of the meat was on these tiny, pokey bones that would've been cool if they were replaced with nuts, but THEY WERE BONES, which are less edible; I think the dish would've fared better in the form of boneless chicken. But that's just my preference.
The final bill came to about $18 per person after tax and tip. Not bad, but not a bargain either. I wouldn't necessarily recommend or not recommend Grand Sichuan. It might be the only good Chinese restaurant in the area, and it's a comfortable place to eat, especially for Chinese food (which tend to lack in the "interior design" aspect). They also have a cheap mini-menu that's probably not bad. Just don't eat a gazillion chiles.
And then I went home and felt constipated, but that's another story (and unrelated to Grand Sichuan since I already felt clogged beforehand...and yes, this is too much information for you, but we all have similar problems).
EDIT: Some addendums!
Behold, the most saliva-inducing message I've ever received from my RA:
Feb. 21 - 27 is National Pancake Week as well as National Eating Disorder Awareness Week
Come celebrate by learning about Eating Disorders and enjoying lots and lots of Pancakes!
Sunday Feb. 26 8:00PM
Hot damn, if that's not a good way to celebrate National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I dunno what is! I'll probably develop a disorder after excessive pancake-ing. Great.
Latest blog subscriptions: Weird Meat documents Michael's weird meat eating experiences. I can imagine trying some of these things once, but others...I dunno. Poo goes out. OUT. Not back in. Hear me? (That's my favorite t-shirt, by the way. Classy.)
ALSO, IMPORTANT, surely someone would come to me with this food writer event:
New York University’s Fales Collection, the home of one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious archives in food studies, will host a panel discussion entitled “Food Writers in Greenwich Village” on Friday, March 10, at 11 a.m. The event is free for those with an NYU ID; for the public, a $10 donation is suggested. It will take place at NYU�s Bobst Library, 3rd floor, Fales Collection, 70 Washington Square South. For more information or to make a reservation, call 212.992.9018.
The panelists include:
- Mimi Sheraton, food writer and veteran food critic for The New York Times
- Madhur Jaffrey, author and leading authority on Indian food; known for her BBC food shows
- Betty Fussell, author of My Kitchen Wars, among other books; food historian
- Mitchell Davis, food writer; director of publications, The James Beard Foundation
- Jeffrey Steingarten, food critic for Vogue and author of The Man Who Ate Everything
The discussion is moderated by Clark Wolf, AIWF NY chapter�s founding chair and president and founder of Clark Wolf Company, the food, restaurant, and hospitality consulting firm.
Two other events are planned in this series: on Thursday, June 15, at 4 p.m., NYU will host “Women Who Cook for a Living in New York and Why There Aren�t More of Them” and on Thursday, October 19, at 4 p.m., “From There to Here: the Chains and Systems of Food.”
I save $10! Sweet. I knew that $40-gazillion tuition would pay off. Who's with me?
Lastly, thank you so much to people who have pre-ordered poofy shirts. Tomorrow is the last day, so if you think you want one, get your order in. I have enough unisex-size orders so that I don't have to buy extras (although I probably will), but I have some orders for women's sized shirts left to meet the minimum.