My Favorite NYC Moments #2: Lunch at Babbo

IMG_9326

Time to check off an item from my culinary bucket list – I finally made it to Mario Batali’s Babbo Ristorante in Greenwich Village. Yipeee!

IMG_9325

When we arrived at the restaurant at 11:00 a.m., right at my reserved time, the restaurant was still closed. Strange, I thought. How could a restaurant be closed when I, in fact, made a reservation for that time slot more than a month ago? When the door finally opened 30 minutes later, I went to check in, only to find that my name was nowhere to be found. After a few tries, the hostess figured out that my reservation was not for 11:00 a.m. but was for 11:00 P.Meek Only in NYC that people actually make dinner reservation so late.

Luckily, she was able to seat us right away!  Phew!

The restaurant was everything I’d expected this place would be — a professional service, attentive servers, and absolutely delicious food and wine.

IMG_9318

Complimentary chick pea appetizer.

IMG_9319

My appetizer: Crostini Napoletani with Ricotta, Sardines and Dandelion Greens

IMG_9320

Maya’s appetizer: Mozzarella di Bufala with Babbo Coppa

IMG_9322

I ordered Pappardelle Bolognese.

IMG_9323

Maya ordered Soft Shell Crab on a bed of couscous.

IMG_9324

We shared a plate Babbo Greens with Roasted Shallots — a much needed vegetables!

IMG_9331

Pistachio and Chocolate Semifreddo for dessert.

sugar

Maya enjoyed a glass of port (Pedro Ximenez) that she absolutely loved, and I couldn’t get over all the sugar options that came with my cup of coffee.

Here’s the full list of my top 10 moments:

  1. Dinner at Villard Michel Richard
  2. Lunch at Babbo
  3. Picnic at Central Park
  4. Serendipity 3
  5. Lunch at Balthazar
  6. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  7. Gahm Mi Oak
  8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  9. La Vie at JFK
  10. Bryant Park at night

My Favorite NYC Moments #4: Serenpidity 3

serendipidy

The restaurant decor is tacky and the service is mediocre (oh, and it’s almost an hour wait to get a table) but when you walked for what felt like 3,495 miles and your legs are about to fall off, nothing refuels your body faster than a super sugary drink from Serendipity 3.

Believe the hype – its famous Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate is truly amazing! Blended drinks from Coffee Beans and Starbucks don’t even come close.

IMG_9343

The signature Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate.  I loved the texture of the crushed ice.

IMG_9344

Maya got Frozen Espresso which was also delicious! We got brain AND tummy freezes simultaneously!

Here’s the full list of my top 10 moments:

  1. Dinner at Villard Michel Richard
  2. Lunch at Babbo
  3. Picnic at Central Park
  4. Serendipity 3
  5. Lunch at Balthazar
  6. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  7. Gahm Mi Oak
  8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  9. La Vie at JFK
  10. Bryant Park at night

My Favorite NYC Moments #7: Gahm Mi Oak

IMG_9378

When all you’ve been doing is eating (which is all we do in NYC) and you need something gentle to settle your tired stomach, look no further than Gahm Mi Oak in Manhattan’s Koreatown for the Asian version of chicken soup in Sul Lung Tang.  Maya and I always end up here, after nights of over-indulgence.

IMG_9379

IMG_9380

Maya’s Bibimbap.

korean food

We were like teenagers at Denny’s at 2:00 a.m., recovering from a bad hangover after a night of crazy partying.  Instead, we were trying to recover from food overdose at 10:00 p.m.

Here’s the full list of my top 10 moments:

  1. Dinner at Villard Michel Richard
  2. Lunch at Babbo
  3. Picnic at Central Park
  4. Serendipity 3
  5. Lunch at Balthazar
  6. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  7. Gahm Mi Oak
  8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  9. La Vie at JFK
  10. Bryant Park at night

My Favorite NYC Moments #9: La Vie at JFK

IMG_9423

Seriously, why is Salad Nicoise so delicious at La Vie?  And the bistro is inside an airport!

IMG_9426

Even the fries are first class!

IMG_9427

Maya’s omelet.  “Quite delicious” is how she described the egg dish!

IMG_9418

Here’s the full list of my top 10 moments:

  1. Dinner at Villard Michel Richard
  2. Lunch at Babbo
  3. Picnic at Central Park
  4. Serendipity 3
  5. Lunch at Balthazar
  6. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  7. Gahm Mi Oak
  8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  9. La Vie at JFK
  10. Bryant Park at night

Birthday Lunch at Tommy Bahama

IMG_8111

My husband took me to one of my favorite restaurants, Tommy Bahama, in Newport Beach for my birthday. We are incredible spoiled and extremely blessed here on the West Coast, enjoying the temperature in the mid 80s in January, while friends on the Central and East Coasts are experiencing one of the harshest winters in years.  I wish there’s a way to balance out the two extremes for a comfortable temperature for all of us. Sending love and warm thoughts to Chiberia and other cities currently buried in snow.

IMG_8112

Not to toot our own horn or anything, but my husband and I might just be the best kind of patron a restaurant can ask for. We make reservations in advance, arrive on time, order our appetizer and main dish in two minutes of arrival, and pay for our meal even before we are done. By the time one of us take the last bite, we’re pretty much ready to walk out the door. (And we always tip 20%.) It’s not that we don’t enjoy a nice, long meal out, but when you have an active 10-month-old baby sitting next to you in a high chair vying for your attention, you only have about 30- to 45-minute window to shove the food in your mouth before she starts screaming like a pterodactyl, scaring other poor diners!

My husband and I took turns feeding and entertaining Pon Pon while we chomped down Jumbo Lump Crab and Avocado Salad. Once she got out of the baby stroller and comfortably into the high chair, she started playing with her favorite book and let us enjoy lunch tear free! Yipee!

IMG_8120

Tiger Shrimp Linguini (for him).

IMG_8123

Grilled Steak Tenderloin Salad (for me). This has always been my all-time favorite steak salad (I order this every time) but I found the salad to be a little heavy-handed with salt this time.  I wanted to give Pon Pon a piece of the potato, but it was much too salty for her still-developing palate. That was a real bummer!

IMG_8127

The complementary butterscotch pudding was amazing!

IMG_8132

As we were driving home (after spending a few hours at Sur La Table and Bristol Farm, inside the same shopping center), we spotted a mysterious herd of quirky bunnies in a park so we stopped by.  The bunnies were in a park next to the Newport Beach City Hall.

IMG_8133

Thank you for the wonderful birthday!

True Food Kitchen

IMG_7175

After spending Saturday morning stocking up on the week’s worth of fresh produce from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, we enjoyed lunch at True Food Kitchen inside Santa Monica Place.

juice

I think this was Bright Eye that Kevin ordered …

IMG_7181Mediterranean Chop

IMG_7178Grilled Eggplant and Wild Mushroom pizza.
I couldn’t decide between the two so I had half and half.  Mushroom turned out to be my favorite.

IMG_7177Kevin’s Breakfast Burrito

I have to admit that a place like this makes me feel a little, uh, uneasy.  I’m certainly not blaming the food or the ambiance here – they are both equally organic and delicious (and the service is also wonderful).

I know this is a personal issue and nothing else, but this type of organic, sustainable, farm-to-table establishment feels so designer and exclusive, that it makes me feel a bit out of place.  I feel like I don’t belong here, unless I’m a size one yogi hipster wearing Lululemon on a gluten free diet (and a vegan, of course) drinking Intelligentsia coffee and having fresh vegetables delivered in a box weekly … or be like the gals from Shit People in LA Say.

I must be going through a mid-life crisis.  mad

Safe Haven for Parents: Pita Jungle

IMG_5459
Blue Corn Nacho that my husband and I shared for appetizer

A kid-friendly restaurant for newbie parents is like an Embassy for someone who’s lost a passport while traveling in a foreign country. You rarely pay attention to it (or don’t even notice its existence before), but you’re so thankful that it’s there when you’re in a pickle.

I want to give a shout out to Pita Jungle in Pasadena for being so kind to us rookie parents. Kevin and I went to Old Town Pasadena few weekends ago, and went into this Mediterranean restaurant for lunch – since other restaurants looked either too small or a bit too bourgeois for this stroller-pushing parents. They were happy to set up a table for two and a half where the stroller could fit perfectly, without blocking the aisle or disturbing other patrons. I never noticed it before but the place was filled with kids and strollers. It’s great to have a place like this, especially for a paranoid mom like me.

And paranoid I am. redface

IMG_5461
Wood-Fire Chicken for him

Up until a year ago, I was a proud member of the “I don’t want babies around me” club. I was one of those people born missing a baby-loving gene, with dislikes for baby showers, baby’s birthday parties, and anything involving little critters running around with drool dripping down from the side of their tiny mouth. I would get annoyed sitting next to screaming babies at restaurants, especially if I was paying good money for a meal. evil  I avoided them as much as I can, like how people avoid the sun, and if there was a lotion that would block the little munchkins from entering my personal space, I would have smothered it all over my body, head to toe.

Now that the table has turned, I’m super paranoid when I take Pon Pon out to restaurants, almost to a point of fear. I know that there are many, many card-carrying members still roaming around the city and I’m afraid that they’re going to come attacking me from behind the bar counter with their designer bags if Pon Pon uttered even a single sound! I know that the public is generally very forgiving (God bless them) and many don’t mind that a baby is sitting next to them, but I’m still very sensitive because I remember how I used to be.

IMG_5462
Wood-Fired Salmon Salad for me

I’m sure I’ll get over the fear sooner or later and will be braving into any restaurants with the baby and her diaper bag in tow, but until then, you can find me in Pita Jungle, with the members of the new club – parents.

Dine LA: The Palm Restaurant

IMG_3686

I think I’m enjoying Dine LA Restaurant Week way too much this year. After overdosing on Brazilian-style, all you can eat meat feast at Fogo de Chao on Friday night with Kevin and his wonderful friends (and swearing off meat after suffering a major food hangover for the next two days), I found myself at the Palm Restaurant in West Hollywood today for my lunch date with friends Abbie and Sydne for some more meat!  I guess it’s an absolute blessing that we human have the ability to forget.

Today’s lunch at this top-rated steakhouse was one of the best deals I’ve seen in a long time. I thought $45 for dinner at Fogo was amazing but this one was definitely up there as the best bang for the buck! For $25, we got a choice of salad, entrée, and dessert from a pretty impressive list of selections. Steaks at this place usually cost over $50 but we were able to experience all the goodness, and much more, for a fraction of the price. The portion may be smaller but it was still very satisfying!

Thank you, Dine LA!

IMG_3682

First course: Mixed Green Salad

IMG_3683

Second Course: I selected New York Steak Au Poivre. Abbie had Filet Mignon Medallions and Sydne had Nova Scotia Lobster BLT Sandwich.

IMG_3684

We shared the sides: Creamed Spinach

IMG_3685

String Beans and French Fries (picture on top)

IMG_3687

Third Course: Flourless Chocolate Cake

Okay, no more meat for a while … unless I completely forget about it again … lol

J and J Restaurant

IMG_3346

I had the opportunity to hang out with friends Jaime and Mike this morning! Kevin and I met them through Tiffany a few years ago, and we tagged along when Tiffany and Jesse went out to meet them. They are such good people! Jaime and Mike are expecting twins due in a few weeks and we had a blast sharing our pregnancy stories and other mommy stuff over a box full of pastries and potato balls we picked up from Porto’s! Jaime is one of the seven friends who are currently pregnant. 🙂

On our way home, Kevin and I stopped by Jin Jian (J and J) Restaurant in Alhambra for quick noodle and dumpling lunch.

I ordered the vermicelli noodle with fried tofu – warm and light, perfect for the cold weather.

IMG_3347

Kevin ordered this noodle bowl with sweet pork chunks – sweet and although a bit oily, it was much lighter than ramen.

IMG_3351

We shared an order of soup dumplings

IMG_3350

… and pan-fried pork dumplings (we actually ordered the vegetarian version but got these instead) .

We shared a large round table with another couple, who looked like they were on their third date because they couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other!lol

Wow, this was a weekend of pure fun and gluttony … and loved every minute of it!

Balthazar Restaurant

Shannon and I spent the last four days in NYC and had a wonderful time. All we wanted to do on this trip was to relax, eat good food and drink, and that’s precisely what we did. We stayed in SoHo and we pretty much didn’t leave the area! Some may think that we missed out on a great opportunity to explore the city, but being lazy was what we needed to unwind … and escape from the real world!

Our first stop was lunch at Balthazar, located two blocks from where we were staying. I’ve seen this restaurant before but didn’t realize that this was a New York hot spot, with celebrity frequenting this French bistro. We got really lucky and got seated right away. By the time we ordered our food, this place was jammed packed with locals and tourists, looking to enjoy the French flare.

Salad Nicoise and French Fries for me, and Mac and Cheese for Shannon.

Amazing bread!

Creme Brulee — a perfect finish to a great lunch.

Balthazar Restaurant
80 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012
(on Spring, between Broadway and Crosby)
★★★★☆