"This whole place smells like...pork."
Neither Tina, Julie nor I should've been surprised that Momofuku Ssam Bar would smell like its most well-loved ingredient. When you enter a bakery you're not alarmed by the scent of the airborne chemical products of warm frosting and cake, right? Imagine that with pork. Tender, fatty pork soaking in its own meat juices, the smell of which enters every open pore and orifice in your body. That's Momofuku. It's swell.
Each of us ordered an Original Momofuku Ssam, but Tina and I also split an order of pork buns in the name of our blogs. Or because we really like pork. Or because we're gluttonous. Whatever. I eagerly chomped down the messy bun, half ignoring the opaque creamy leakage of Hoisin sauce mixed with kewpie mayo on my hands as I focused on the soft, buttery shreds of berkshire pork contrasting with crunchy slices of pickled cucumber overflowing out of the steamed bun flaps. It's awesome. Oh yes. I've only noticed now that you have a choice between pork or chicken, but...really? The chicken can't be better than the pork.
The hefty, forearm-sized original Momofuku Ssam condensed rice, berkshire pork, onions, edamame, pickled shiitake and red kimchi puree in a flour pancake ssam. It's basically the best burrito you will ever eat. Tina and I could only manage to eat half since our bellies were already digesting the pork buns, but we tried. Oh god. It was so good. Because. I said so. Pork pork pork pork. With some edamame for crunch, kimchi for hotness, shiitake for...fungus. I shouldn't have to tell you it's good; you should be able to tell by staring into its meaty cross-section of deliishusss possibilitiiiesss mmhmmbrain melting...
...And after my brain re-solidified, we waddled to Australian Homemade for ice cream. What else could your body crave in blustery, below-freezing weather after being stuffed with pork? Probably not ice cream. But I love ice cream. Screw good judgement.
They had strangely ran out of chocolate (post-Valentine's Day rush?), choosing to display fake rubber stand-ins instead of...nothing. Thankfully, there were buckets of ice cream, which is what we wanted anyway.
Tina ordered mocha, Julie got chocolate and I obviously went for pistachio because pistachio is one of the best ice cream flavors ever. Everrrrr. Ever. Australian Homemade's ice cream is more like uber-creamy gelato than standard ice cream for being so soft, light, and smooth. Upon first bite the first word that came to mind was "flowery", which Julie soon identified as almond. It was the most almondy pistachio ice cream I had ever tasted while also being the chunkiest, full of whole candied pistachios. Hmm. I enjoyed every bite, but it would've been better with more pistachio and less almond (another option is to rename the flavor "Pistachio Almond"). I'm happy that it at least wasn't colored bright eye-searing green to remind me that, "YES THIS TASTES LIKE PISTACHIO, HOW COULD IT TASTE LIKE ANYTHING ELSE WHEN IT IS SOOO GREEN?! HAHA, FOO'!" Yeah, that stuff bothers me.
After going to Whole Foods so I could buy clementines, Julie went back home and Tina came with me to my apartment for cat watching. No, really. Read Tina's account of our Lotus-filled afternoon. A surefire way to transform Lotus from "passive cat who lies down and stares at you" to "cat who meows inccessantly and flails her paws like she wants nothing more than to rip your skin off" is to present her with food. As I peeled a clementine over the trashcan she lept onto the adjacent kitchen sink, hoping that her loud meows (which I've become very good at immitating...god, if only she spoke French I'd be a natural by now) would convince me to throw her a juicy piece. I eventually gave in, but hoarded the rest of the small orange globe for myself. You think being soft and cute can get you everything? No way—you can't have it all, kitty.
(We have since stopped feeding Lotus citrus fruit due to her habit of puking it up. I can now cross "look at kitty puke" off my life's to-do list.)
More adventures of stuff wrapped in dough and ice cream!
I ordered a shawafel pita sandwich to combine the joys of fried chickpea balls and grilled, marinated chicken into one hand-held wheaty pouch. While it was better than average with its light, crispy, fresh-tasting falafels, it still made me long for my favorite falafel-rie, Taim. Every time I eat a non-Taim falafel I think, "Man, I wish I went to Taim." It's like the memory of a past lover that creeps up on your after every subsequent disappointing relationship. I want to appreciate Chickpea's falafel more, but I just can't knowing the other awesome falafel exists, the memory of which will haunt me forever when I crave falafel and writhe with the pain of unfulfillment from lack of Taim. Foreverrrr. Fuck. I don't swear much, but it bothers me, man.
Chickpea's fries were sadly limp and unsalted, which is fine if you're an earthworm, less so if you're a frite. But hey, if you like that sort of thing, go for it!
Overall, I thought Chickpea was good, just not...good enough.
And then we got ice cream at Sundaes and Cones. My decision, of course. To anyone who doesn't like to eat ice cream when it's cold, I say that it's one of the best times to eat ice cream since it's less likely to turn into soup. Come on, think positively.
Sundaes and Cones is one of the most spacious and clean ice cream shops I've seen. I'm assuming that the owners are Asian due to the Asian-inspired flavors like wasabi, honey ginseng, green tea, and red bean (they have plenty of regular flavors too). I went for taro and black sesame, two of my favorite flavors. You can probably find more strong taro-flavored ice cream in Taiwan (where I first had it, although I disliked it when I was younger and opted for more standard American flavors), but this was distinctly taro-y and not overly masked by plain vanilla. You'd have to know what taro tastes like to know what I mean. Sweet, starchy, and...purple. If you have a better recommendation for taro ice cream, let me know.
Black sesame at Il Laboratorio del Gelato is the best I've had, but Il Lab isn't a fair comparison for most ice cream shops. Ignoring that, S&C's version was very good—strongly flavored with toasted black sesame (which I could be wrong about, but it tasted good at the time), creamy, smooth and dense. The two-scoop cup should be enough for anyone as the cup is the size of your fist, or a hamster, or a small bucket...
...Perhaps I should just bring a ruler next time so I can give you the exact volume.
John's mango ice cream was a nice fruity change from my heavier flavors, bringing along with it a totally different texture. While my ice cream was rather dense, his was lighter and softer and more easily gave into the wrath of the spoon. The different texture didn't bother me (hell, still tastes good), but it might bother...someone who wants all their ice cream to have the same texture. One of those. Yeeeah. What the hell am I talking about?
I feel sleepy.
cake 'n sammiches
"Hey, you free tonight for a quick drink over sweets?"
In between classes on Monday afternoon I was surprised to receive an email from Diana expressing her desire for sweets. That's usually what I want, resulting in me dragging Diana somewhere and forcing her to eat something that she finds too sweet as I relish whatever sugar-laden substance I happen to be snarfing down. It's a good system, kinda.
At Diana's suggestion we went to Cake Shop, a combination cafe/record shop/live music venue that acts as a cozy, quirky hangout (as long as you don't mind wobbly tables) in an area that is full of venues with booze but, except for Cake Shop, none with tea and cake. I had been there once before to see a show but didn't get to sample the edibles.
Chocolate mud cake does not contain mud. You probably knew that. It contains 100% chocolate awesomeness in various forms: fudgey and semi-mousse-y. Not too sweet, not too chocolatey. Just right. Like baby bear's porridge. Except made of chocolate and not resulting in the death of a dumb girl who went into the house of a family of lethal bears and messed with their stuff. Yeah.
Diana's peanut butter cookie was somewhere between a cookie and a cake. Crispy and chewy? Nuh. Soft enough that I had to eat it with a fork and...semi-chewy? Kinda. It wasn't bad, just different. And huge. And vegan, I think.
While eating our desserts I told Diana that I had a slight craving for the other category of food called "real food". No more cake. I needed. Sammich.
We went to a mutual favorite, Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop, one of the cheapest places you can get a sandwich aside from a bahn mi shop. At the last minute over something with chicken I went for the classic grilled cheese with cheddar, provolone, mozzarella and tomato on white bread. It was cheeeeeesy heeeeaven. I can't even say it normally. So much. Cheese. I know there's nothing phenomenal about the sandwich, but all those layers of melted cheese in buttered, toasted bread with all the warm, compacted gooeyness and the slight crisp of the lightly toasted bread just tasted so...comforting. And there wasn't anything special about the bread either. I just liked it. A lot. For some reason.
I don't think the tomato added anything though. Who's idea was it to put that in?