If left to my natural sleep cycle, I could sleep until 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon without a problem. (Sleep is the best. I know there's that saying, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," but dude, I want to sleep now because it feels awesome. Not sleeping will just shorten my lifespan, or make me go insane.) But if Adelyn hadn't made me haul my lumpy self out of bed at 10 a.m. last Sunday to meet up at 88 Palace for dim sum, I would've wasted a great deal of what ended up being a funner-than-average Sunday. So. Sometimes waking up before noon can be a good thing.
Our plan was to grab dim sum with Diana and a few of Adelyn's friends before checking out the Chinese New Year parade on Mott Street. Unfortunately, Diana fell sick the night before and didn't feel up to a dim sum lunch, and most of Adelyn's friends were only half-conscious by the time we were sitting at 88 Palace. Dim sum is best eaten by large groups—extended Chinese families and the like—definitely not by a party of two considering that many dishes come with three or more pieces. Luckily, Adelyn's friend Omar eventually showed up to help us eat. A rundown of the dishes:
Roast pork steamed buns: Super soft, fluffy steamed bread filled with sweet, fatty roast pork chunks. Although it's not a favorite of mine, it feels like one of those dim sum staples you have to get.
Lotus seed paste steamed buns: These buns were unfortunately not as awesomely soft and fluffy as the steamed pork buns—I prefer when the bun just melts into the filling. But I did like the ample blop of sweet filling.
Rice noodle rolls with shrimp: Oh yessss, my beloved rice noodle roll. The rolls were smaller than average, but the shrimps were quite large and plump.
Taro puff: There's probably a better name for these lumps of mashed taro mixed with (methinks) pork bits, breaded in a light, lacy batter and deep fried. It's sort of like a potato croquette...but with taro. I don't know how to describe taro to people who've never had it before—slightly sweet than a regular potato? But not as sweet as a sweet potato? Purple? Denser? Somethin-somethin?
Siu mai: These pork, shrimp, and mushroom dumplings were...okay. Admittedly, not being much of a fan of siu mai, I'm probably not the best judge.
Gai-lan (Chinese broccoli): Because in the face of meaty dumplings, you could use a vegetable. (These may have been topped with some sort of seasoned chopped meat stuff, though—see the little brown bits on top? Whatever it was, it tasted meaty and umami-filled.) I like the combination of crunchy stems and soft leaves.
Custard-filled steamed buns: Ahhh, more sweet bun goodness. Unlike the lotus seed buns, the bread in these was soft and fluffy and seamlessly gave way to the custard center. I prefer my custard oozing, but non-oozing tastes good too.
Mini egg custard tarts: One of my most favorite things to eat in the whole world, dim sum or otherwise. These bite-sized tarts had a light flaky crust filled with soft, eggy custard. I love you, egg custard tart...I love youuuu...
The Chinese New Year Parade
After dim sum, we met up with two of Adelyn's friends and a recovered Diana to check out the Chinese New Year parade on Mott Street. Out of my six-ish years of living in New York City, It was the first time I actively tried to go. And now that I've gone once, I'm alright with never going again. Admittedly, the crappy view behind two rows of people probably didn't help.
The most exciting thing about the parade is the confetti—there's shittons of it. People were constantly setting off confetti canons, thus unleashing plumes of colorful paper bits and gold sparkles to rain upon the sidewalks and buildings and anything else that was in the way. (You can buy confetti canons in Chinatown for personal use, such as to blast in the face of a birthday girl.)
Most of the floats were immemorable. Of course, corporate sponsorship is to be expected, but a trolley with no obvious affiliation covered in orange balloons transporting just one dude waving through tinted windows to the crowd doesn't say "HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR" to me. (I didn't take a photo; you'll have to use your imagination.) I guess it's better than nothing though. This dumpling-headed dude was rather cute.
But the best had to be the Census 2010 float with the megaphone-bearing woman shouting instructions on how to fill out the census. That's just not something you expect.
And there were shiny golden dragons every so often. YEAH, THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. Give me more of those.
After Adelyn, Diana, and I broke off from the rest of the group to kill time before going to the IFC Center to watch the Academy Award-nominated animated shorts (still playing today, Monday, and Tuesday if you're interested), our rambling brought us to Village Tart, a newish bakery/cafe associated with Pichet Ong. It's a cute, cozy place with a European feel, for lack of a better description.
I got the apple tarte tatin ($4.95), an upside-down apple tart that first landed on my "favorite desserts" list when I studied in Paris. This version didn't ooze with caramelized apple goodness, but it was still enjoyable. The pastry was buttery and flaky, and the round of thinly sliced apple was tender without being mushy. Alas, nothing will ever come close to the best tarte tatin I've had (so far) from Ladurée. All tarte tatins probably taste better in Paris, though.
We were having a good time drinking tea and chatting until we ordered the arugula salad. As I can't find a description of the dish online and I foolishly forgot to take a photo of the menu, you'll have to deal with my crappy description: It was mixed with bits of Meyer lemon rind that were probably sweetened and cooked in some way and lightly dressed in a vinaigrette...and sprinkled with something else. I'd remember more if it left a greater impression. The main impression it left on us was, "This is so not worth $9." It made me want to go to Diner so I could get an amazing salad for $10. This salad didn't taste bad—I really liked the Meyer lemon bits—but it was comically small, needed more Meyer lemon, and didn't have much going for it.
Am I being too harsh? I was actually thinking of doing a post about salads a while back—when they're worth it, and when they're not—but I don't eat enough salads to say much about the subject. I generally avoid them because I'm afraid they won't be worth it, a sentiment that Village Tart reinforced.
Oh well. It's called Village Tart, after all—may as well stick to the tarts.
As a random aside, this store on Grand Street amused me because I read it as "My Fung." And then I imagined a "fung" being some sort of fuzzy creature that I could carry everywhere and WOULD BE MY FRIEND FOREVER, like MY BUDDY, and we would go on all kinds of adventures...just me and my fung.
I wonder if anyone else thinks the same thing. Probably not.
Gloria met up with us at the IFC Center just after getting out of work at The Local Store, a bakery/coffee shop in Midtown East. You know what that means: FREE PASTRIES. Ever the thoughtful friend, she came bearing two boxes of goodies. The first thing we tried was this bar stuffed with all kinds of tasty bits: chocolate chunks, chopped pecans, dried cranberries, sweet goo. I'll ask Gloria for more details. It was one of those "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" thing.
After we finished watching the animated shorts (my favorite was Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty), we ate at Galanga for dinner, as I recalled that Kathy liked it and they made one of my favorite dishes just the way I liked it. I'm talking about gai pad krapow ($9.50, written on the menu at Krapow Kai Khai Dow; if I knew Thai, I'd tell you what that means), minced chicken stir fried with sliced peppers and onions, garlic, fish sauce, basil, and chile peppers so every bite is filled with fragrant basil and tear-inducing hotness (warning: Galanga does not skimp on the spiciness). The pièce de résistance is the accompanying fried egg featuring a runny yolk and a slightly frilly, crispy edge. I've been to restaurants that didn't mince the meat nor include and egg, my reaction to which is a pained internal, "NOO WHAT THE FUUUCK sob." Admittedly, I'm not that familiar with Thai food and I've never been to Thailand, but I feel like Galaga's version is the way it should be.
I eased my slightly singed mouth with gelato at my favorite gelateria in the city, L'Arte del Gelato. Gloria and Diana got their own cups, but Adelyn and I were so stuffed that we opted to share a small. That's our idea of eating moderately. Yup. In the absence of my favorite flavor, pistachio, we went with hazelnut and banana, both of which fared quite awesomely. The hazelnut is just a smidge sweeter than I prefer, but still leaves you with the mellow nutty flavor of toasted hazelnuts. The banana tastes like...banana, deluxe. A dumb thing to marvel at, perhaps, but in other popular banana desserts, namely banana pudding and banana cream pie, banana plays a supporting role to pudding and crust. In gelato form, the banana is enhanced, but not eclipsed by the added milk and sugar. And I like that. (I also like banana pudding and banana cream pie.)
And then I waddled to the subway station and rode home with my uncomfortably distended, pants-stretching belly for about half an hour. As I'm wont to do. Sigh.
I'll have to start an exercise regimen soon. But as I've been saying that for years, methinks it won't happen until I think I'll drop dead without it.
PS: Yup, I'm posting this at 4 a.m.-ish. Nope, I didn't watch any Lost tonight. (But I did check out a bunch of figure skating videos from the Olympics. If you haven't watched Kim Yu-Na yet, then holy poot, get the fug away from here and check it out.)
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L'Arte del Gelato
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