"We should take the B or D to Grand Street. Because...um, I want an egg custard tart."
After spending a few hours at the Brooklyn Museum last Saturday, Jason, Joana and I emerged in various states of lethargy and tried to decide the best way to get back into Manhattan to visit Babycakes for the sake of Joana's gentle tummy. Although I can eat just about anything without too much bodily harm (until I ultimately get diabetes), I enjoy the "not as guilt inducing" sugar/wheat/gluten free treat from Babycakes every now and then. But first, I craved...egg custard tart.
We picked a great day to roam around the city. And by "great" I mean horrible windy and burninatingly cold. But at least it wasn't raining. Or that the sun didn't explode. The day would've been much worse if either of those had happened, particularly in the latter situation, which would've resulted in the destruction of Earth.
We stepped out onto the gritty block of Grand Street between Chrystie and Forsynth swarming with Chinese markets and Chinese people. I headed straight towards Egg Custard King Cafe with one thing in mind: egg custard goo in a flaky pastry shell. ...Okay, I also wanted to get warmer. Two things in mind. Yes.
- It's not the one I ate, but they all look pretty much the same. Sometimes my stomach is faster than my camera.
After making my purchase we stepped back into the cold, me 75 cents poorer but also an egg custard tart richer. OH YES, I WIN. I snarfed that sucker down on the way to Babycakes, savouring every goopy custardy moment that wasn't spent making sure I wouldn't walk into a human or get run over by a car. My body warmed up from the slight heat of the just-born tart and the happiness that buuurns from within (it's less painful than it sounds) from eating the tart. It's magic.
As much as I love Chinatown bakeries for all the cheap, delicious goodies they hold, they will never match the cute, homey feeling of an American bakery like Babycakes. However, you may not feel as comfortable if you hate pink; the walls are covered in it, as are most of the employees.
I wouldn't know the difference between my slice of wheat-free chocolate chip banana bread (and maybe refined sugar-free) and a regular one. It's good! Tastes like banana. Tastes like chocolate. Just enough sweetness. Adequate moistness. Etc. Although I didn't get a photo of it, Jason's frosted gingerbread slice was also enjoyed by all, the only funky thing being the gluier-than-average frosting. Otherwise, it tasted fine (smooth, not sickenly sweet, whatever frosting is supposed to taste like). I don't know what it's made of, but I suppose it's less deathly than normal frosting ingredients.
Joana got a cupcake top, a cute way to stick to the best part of the cupcake (although I wonder what happened to the rest of the cake). You get the 1:1 cake to frosting ratio and ingest less calories. Yaaay?
We took a bathroom break at a nearby Chinese Christian bookstore whose most interesting merchandise came in the form of semi-Engrished note cards. Without the words "SELF-CONTROL", the drawing of two pigs blankly staring out of a giant shimmering oyster would've been weird enough; the words just add another dimension of priceless confusion. Is it the pigs or the oyster who needs self-control? Is there a deep, religious symbol tucked away in there that I'm missing? I guess the only way to have made it somewhat sensical would've been to have written "TWO PIGS IN AN OYSTER" across the top. Problem solved.
Next stop was May's Bakery so that Jason could use up a gift certificate ($6 will buy you roughly a large bucket of baked Chinese goods). I felt dumb for getting the taro bun after seeing this creation called PILLOW BUN. It wasn't even a bun, more like a sliced roll of...something. Something pillowy, I would assume. But the name! It intrigued me. Maybe next time. Or maybe not, because the taro bun was only so-so. Too much bun and not enough taro innards.
After parting with Joana, at Jason's request we went to Mandoo Bar in Koreatown for a non-gutbusting dinner of little dumps. You can see them being freshly made in the dumpling nursery through the glass windows as you walk into the restaurant. These dumplings are fo' realz. Or for reals. Whichever you prefer.
Jason chose vegetable mool mandoo, boiled green-skinned dumplings stuffed with chopped vegetables and glass noodles. I couldn't tell what all the vegetables were, but they covered a good color spectrum. You've got your green, your orange, your...other earth tones. I liked the skin in particular (whose color origins I'm unaware of), which was thicker and chewier than most other dumpling skins I've had, but not thick in the unpleasantly fluffy, bready sense (I like bread, just not in my dumplings).
I ordered kimchee mandoo, steamed dumplings filled with kimchee, tofu, pork, and "other vegetables" as specifically stated by the menu. As I like spicy things and I don't recall ever having spicy Chinese dumplings (although I guess you could dip them in spicy sauce), I thought these dumplings were awesome as something different from what I'm used to eating to. Don't let the bloody-looking visceral innards deter you. They're just chili peppers! Not the liquidy basis of life. Although I didn't like the skin as much as the vegetable dumpling skin since the kimchee ones were thinner and less chewy, I liked the kimchee filling more.
20 dumplings between the two of us made for a satisfying, inexpensive meal. 20 dumplings also mean that we had room for more.
We scooted over to Pinkberry for a dessert of frozen fermented milk. Since they had signs clearly abolishing photography I didn't bother trying to capture a Kodak moment in fear of meeting Pinkberry wrath in the form of frozen projectiles or whatever weapons they may carry. Jason and I shared a small cup of plain frozen yogurt topped with mango and pineapple chunks for about $5. I can't say I have much of a bank of frozen yogurt eating experiences to compare Pinkberry to, so I'll just say...it's good, but nothing to go insane over unless you realllllly like frozen yogurt, particularly eating it in funky, colorful plastic chairs under hanging lights encased in some kind of shell of undulating layers. I still prefer ice cream or gelato. :P
My favorite frozen yogurt-erie is Yogen Fruz. Anyone else know what I'm talking about? I don't know if it's particularly good, especially since the last time I ate it was in Toronto almost 6 years ago, but I used to eat it every now and then in Taipei (along with lots of ice cream because damn, it's hot there) and I loved seeing the transformation (also known as "smooshing") of a block of frozen yogurt and chopped frozen fruit bits into a piled coil of ...frozen yogurt with fruit bits in it. It's probably not as cool as I think it is, but it holds a special place in my heart. God knows why.
I don't have the stomach to go eating-crazy during the current Restaurant Week(s), but neotokyotimes (who made sixreservations for the festivities, oh my) invited me and two of his friends to dinner at Mesa Grill Monday night and I figured, "Well...I'm not going anywhere on my own, so why not?" It was also a good opportunity to go outside and hang out with other humans, something I missed on Sunday by staying inside all day with a faulty digestive system that wouldn't, like, digest anything, although even without the physical problems I would've felt like a pile of crap because of the mental burden of a bunch of things that made me cry a few times that I feel like will only resolve themselves with the passing of lots and lots of time and getting over the fact that people don't try to hurt me on purpose, but it just happens because everyone's selfish and...well, I'm no better.
Ugh. Um. Sorry, BACK TO FOOD!
Oh sweet jesus, I love leavened wheaty things. With a side of a few butter slabs. The darker rolls in front were savoury peppery corn-specked muffin things. Uber-soft innards with a crunchy crust. Those were pretty awesome.
Since I felt like I needed something semi-healthy or masquerading as semi-healthy, I started with Sophie's Chopped Salad. I don't know who Sophie is, but lookie, here is her salad! It is chopped! It comes with her own "special dressing"! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT IS. Overall, I liked the filling combination of lettuce, tomatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans, tortilla chips, olives and cheese (actually, I could've done without the last two but that's because I don't like olives or cheese in salads) all lightly coated in the mysterious "special dressing". It's not something that will blow you away, but there's nothing wrong with it.
I have no idea what the sixteen spices were in the Sixteen Spice Chicken (with Mustard-Red Chile Gravy + Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Shallots), but it was...somewhat spicy. (Actually, I lied; here's a similar recipe. The mystery of the sixteen spices has been uncovered.) I doubt I would've noticed if it merely had fifteen spices, ye know? The generous portion of chicken was juicy and tender. I was happy with it.
Lookie, other food! "Ancho Chile-Honey Glazed Salmon with a Spicy Black Bean Sauce + Roasted Jalapeno Crema" and "Yellow Corn Crusted Chile Relleno filled with Acorn Squash, Goat Cheese + Sage with a Fig-Cascabel Chile Sauce"! The names are so long that I don't have to describe them! Sweet jesus! I love exclamation marks!
The "Smoked Vanilla + Toasted Pecan Flan" was my favorite part of the meal. It also came with two little madeleine-esque cakey things on the side that were unfortunately unpalatable to me for seemingly consisting 50% of alcohol. But flan's the star. A wobbly, pudding-esque star that is somehow firm and soft at the same time. It tasted in between panna cotta and flan...or like panna cotta if it were were flan flavored. If that makes any sense. Maybe not.
I don't usually spend $35 on a dinner (more like $45 after tax and tip), but it was fine for one night in a spacious, energetic (and by that I mean kind of noisy) restaurant. I can't imagine eating at Mesa Grill at their regular, higher prices though. Too used to my cheaper eats, I s'pose.
[Sorry, this whole entry has felt very lazy. I am mostly composed of "slacker". And I think I still have homework. Sigh.]
We said goodbye to the cowboy-themed upholstery sometime after 10:30 PM and I went home feeling much happier than I had felt before dinner. Over the meal I laughed a lot more than I had in...a while. Maybe crazily so? Hm. I don't know. It reminded me of when Tristan's aunt (one of the sweetest people I've ever met) told me near the end of my stay at his house that I had a good laugh and explained what made it good. I wouldn't say I have a good laugh, just that I have a tendency to laugh excessively in some situations because I can't help it, dammit, but I appreciated the comment. I'm glad she saw that side of me and felt compelled to tell me about it in such a heartfelt manner. It gives me a happy memory to reflect on—"That Time I Laughed a Lot" (c. December 2006).
Hopefully I'll have more of those. And I should, because...
Bwahaha, I have a passport!
...I'm going back to Paris for Spring break! March 10th to 17th is "ROBYN INVADES PARIS" time. And I won't be alone; Diana (previously seen in a gazillion other entries, but particularly that time I went to Norway) is coming with me! And we're staying at my old homestay! Oh my god! EXCITEMENT!
I HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN LIFE EXCEPT FOR THIS VACATION!!!!@!#@!#!#@
So. :) Let the countdown begin.
Egg Custard King Cafe
271 Grand St
May's Bakery (or something else in Chinese)
90 E Broadway (Yes, there's an EAST Broadway. And a West Broadway. Don't get mixed up!)