Posts Tagged ‘cheap’

A couple weeks ago my friend J and I made plans to do the in-vogue thing for New York: brunch! She made a short-list of her favorite brunch spots in the city and lo and behold, the Clinton Street Baking Company was at the top. I’d seen Clinton St. on Yelp, with its 4 stars after more than 1500 reviews and everyone raving as passionately about the pancakes as the 2-hour (!) wait for brunch on the weekends. I guess it’s because word’s gotten out: TimeOut New York named it “Best Breakfast/Brunch” in 2007, and New York Magazine declared it had the “Best Pancakes” in the city 2008. More research unearthed the fact co-owner and chef Neil Kleinberg worked under Rick Moonen, so I was expecting some pretty fantastic cooking. J and I, ever the smart cookies, opted to take advantage of our flexible schedules and brunch on a weekday.

We arrived on Thursday morning around 10:30 and even then I was told a table for 2 would require a 30-minute wait. However, as we entered I realized why: the place is small, especially for US standards! It’s basically a narrow diner with roughly five tables and a few counter seats, holding a total of 32 occupants. You’d be wise to bring just one of your (myriad) friends. Alternatively, follow an insider tip I heard: Come for dinner, where you can still enjoy their pancakes from the “Breakfast for Dinner” section of the menu. Alternatively, get them for takeaway!

J, a savory brunch fan, ordered the Spanish Scramble, a three-egg scramble with goodies like chorizo and melted monterey jack cheese mixed in, served with a side of hashbrowns and sourdough toast. I, like most people in the diner, ordered the famous pancakes with blueberries and warm maple butter.

I had a bite of the scramble and enjoyed the saltiness of the chorizo, but to be very honest, the pancakes stole the show. Each bite was so fluffy and the just right balance of buttery-creamy goodness. The blueberries added great tartness while the warm maple butter lent a lot moisture to the dish. My only complaint was I found the maple butter to have a slightly cloying, saccharine aftertaste. I’ve read mixed accounts of whether Clinton St. uses Grade A or Grade B maple syrup for their butter (does anyone out there know the truth?); my only guess is on the day I dined, the maple butter was made with Grade B. From what I know, it’s traditionally a bit darker (compared to its Grade A counterpart), with a sweeter, thicker taste and not used for the table as much as Grade A. The richness of the Grade B was a bit much for me.

In any case, it was a great plate of pancakes and I. Ate. Them. All. Dare you not to do the same!

Clinton St. Baking Company
4 Clinton St. (between Houston and Stanton)
New York, New York 10002
Cost: $20/person with tax and tip 

PS: In case you’re inspired to have your own pancake party, check out food blog The Pancake Princess and the Protein Prince! This cute blog features two authors sharing recipes for the baking fiend in you AND the side craving something more substantial. Recent posts include recipes for French-inspired tarte tartin pancakes and pumpkin pancakes – perfect as the weather starts to turn. MMMMMMM.


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Hey y’all, the food collabo continues with the second installment of four Modest Meals: London features on the Lauren Olivia and Co. Passport blog. This one features one of my favorite destinations in London, Borough Market! Happy eating!

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After a very long hiatus (sorry friends), I’ve finally got some free time (in between being a full-time student) to tell you how it’s going in London! (Or, as they say here, how “I’m getting on”.) Being on a student budget is not super-conducive to dining in London, but there are some great deals to be had if only you know where to look.

Last month P and I did a “staycation” around London and explored the various neighborhoods we hadn’t frequented yet. Surprisingly we found an aforementioned deal at The Freemasons Arms in tony Hampstead . This airy gastropub with plenty of sidewalk seating and a gorgeous green garden was just the ticket for an unseasonably warm March day in London. It was still a bit breezy so we opted to sit indoors in the bright restaurant.

We opted for the prix fixe menu of two courses for £12.95. P and I cheated to cobble together a three-course meal with him getting a starter and main and me, a main and dessert.

We started with an assortment of bread served with roasted garlic and a rustic tomato sauce. The roasted garlic was perfectly done, browned on top, mushy after spreading and golden delicious. It was perfect with the homemade brown bread. The tomato sauce didn’t add too much to the dish, IMHO. I preferred just the butter on the bread, garlic, and a sprinkling of salt.

For mains, P got Linguine with Tiger Prawns and Chorizo. I got the spit chicken calzone with roasted vegetables. In all honesty, the Linguine wasn’t worth writing home about (or writing a post about) – I’d give it a pass. My calzone, however, was quite good and really, really huge. The crust was browned and crimped beautifully, and roasted tomato sauce smothered a whole lot of chicken. To be honest, I think it could have done with less chicken and more veg as the meat overwhelmed you after a few bites.

P had to help me finish my massive calzone, but afterwards we couldn’t resist dessert. Our apple crumble was rustically presented with a mint leaf and a healthy dusting of powdered sugar, homemade goodness in a ramekin. The cream it was paired with was the perfect, smooth counterpoint to the crunch of the crumble.

After the meal we definitely needed a ramble to help digest. Thankfully the pub is only steps away from Hampstead Heath – as if they’d known we would stuff ourselves silly.

The Freemasons Arms
32 Downshire Hill
Hampstead Heath, NW3 1NT
020 7433 6811
2-course set menu: £12.95 (weekdays before 7pm) 

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Last time when I traveled to London, I missed out on trying traditional British bangers and mash. This was nothing short of tragic, as mashed potatoes (well, potatoes in general) is one of my favorite dishes. Ever. (I know, it’s a bit weird, eh?) What better place to sample my lovely potatoes than a place that describes mash as “a great big hug”? Sounds like we’re on the same wavelength. In any case, this time I was determined to make a stop at Mother Mash, a cute, sliver-of-a-bangers-and-mash joint in trendy Soho. For less than a tenner, you can get a terrific plate of comfort food, made all the more easy with their step-by-step menu.

As you can see there are a plethora of options – I never knew the humble mashed potato could be so sophisticated! There are so many choices for the bangers as well, which, despite the funny name, are aptly named: Before departing on this trip, I learned from M, whom I affectionately refer to as “a real Englishman”, that bangers got their nickname from World War II. During the time, food rationing was in effect, and the quality of sausages severely declined. Specifically, they were short on meat content but high on water content. This made them explode once they got amply hot – hence, they would explode with a “bang”, earning them the title “bangers”.

Anyways, history lesson aside, most of our group got bangers and mash, with a couple of students ordering the pie and mash. I personally recommend my dish, the Champ Mash (Irish mash with milk, butter, cheddar cheese, and green onions) and two sausages, one of which was the Pork and Chili, and the other of which was the Cumberland.

Out of the two sausages, the Cumberland was my favorite as it had more of a meaty, substantial taste. The Pork and Chili wasn’t as thick as I expected, nor as spicy, unfortunately. The mash stole the show for me! You can actually specify if you want your potatoes “mashed”, meaning as a full-on creamy puree, or “bashed”, with a little bit of texture left. I opted for the latter, which made it chunky and hearty. The addition of the spring onions kept the mash from getting too heavy, and the Farmer’s Gravy with smoked bacon and mushrooms was savory and divine!

Out of my two students who ordered the pies, both liked the filling (minced beef and chicken, leek, and ham respectively), but curiously, the flaky crust of the chicken was not on the minced beef, as my student with that pie struggled to saw through her pastry. It looked quite tough, though both said the fillings were delicious (once they got through to them).

Some of my students got the Cheesy Mustard Mash as well, which I first thought was strange. But, I sampled a mouthful and realized it wasn’t so weird after all, though if you’re not a mustard fan, having half a plateful may be a bit overkill.

Service was great, as the waitress helping us was so patient! It can be tough for the uninitiated to choose from all the mouth-watering options, but she answered all of our questions, and never looked exasperated as we asked her for “just five more minutes” three times.

All in all, I would highly recommend Mother Mash for a good plate of yummy comfort food. With so many options to mix-and-match, this is one place that definitely warrants repeat visits.

Mother Mash
26 Ganton St.
020 7494 9644
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Cost: ~ £10/person (approx. $125 HKD)

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This is the first of my eating entries from London, where I spent 1o days in May as the tour guide/co-teacher/all-around problem-solver on a study tour with another colleague and 12 of my students. During the day, we visited all the requisite sites such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and The British Museum. But at night, we had a few hours of free time, which I promptly planned within an inch of their lives with – what else – food. Fortunately for me, my students were as receptive to good eats as I’d hoped, and I always had some adventurous eating buddies for all of my desired destinations, including Tayyabs, a Pakistani favorite in Whitechapel.

The place is known for their Punjabi Pakistani cuisine, an area in eastern Pakistan that borders with northern India. Admittedly, my knowledge of the food culture there is limited, though I have heard the food is especially tailored to replace calories lost by the agriculturally-working local people. Good thing we did plenty of walking on our trip!

We made a booking for 6:30 but actually showed up around 6:15. The place was relatively empty at the time, and we were promptly seated; we took to scouring the menu. They asked if we would like poppadums, which I thought was a strange question (the answer is obviously “Yes!”), until I looked at the menu and realized they charge 60p per poppadum. Not outrageous, but a bit of a “hidden charge.” Anyways, they were delicious, as were the yogurt sauce, red chili, and green chili that came with.

We ordered the lamb gosht, which had ample gamey flavor. It was also the least spicy of all the dishes. Normally, I don’t pay too much attention to the least spicy dish, but as we had one in our party who didn’t eat too much heat, this was perfect. Therefore, if you’ve got a semi-spice-averse friend, there’s at least one dish for them!

Of course, we also had to order a chicken tikka masala, England’s national dish! It was a classic. The curry itself had an after-kick and lovely sautéed/slightly burnt onions on top, adding a smoky flavor to all that heat! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

The saag aloo was a bit skimpy on the potatoes, but the curry on this dish was perfect for soaking up the deliciously buttery and soft tandoori roti; they looked like beautiful pillows of bread when they brought them out piping hot. I also ordered a mango lassi which was smooth and creamy, the perfect antidote for a mouthful of spicy food!

Service was perfunctory, with waiters asking once or twice how the food was, but we got the idea that once we finished, we should vacate the table. Though pushy wait staff anxious to turn tables is a small pet peeve of mine, I suppose they were justified, as a line had grown shortly after we sat down around 6:30. Here’s what it looked like around 7:15:

I’ve read about people lining up even for booked tables, so I think the key is, book for an earlier seating to minimize wait time. Don’t worry, though, with food this good – and did I mention the reasonable prices?! – it’s totally worth it.

(New) Tayyabs
83-89 Fieldgate St.
Nearest Tube: Whitechapel
020 7247 9543
Cost: ~ £12/person (or approximately $150 HKD)
Note: Tayyabs is BYO 

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