Wednesday, June 22, 2011

California ! Sweet Rose Creamery: The Most Delicious / Best / Extraordinary Ice Cream Ever

It feels like it has been ages since Greeshma and I ate up the California coast (LA+Carmel+SF) even though it was just three weeks ago.  Still, not a day goes by where I do not think about (in the most lusty of lusty manners) the ice cream from Sweet Rose Creamery.

The Santa Monica ice cream shop churns out small batches of ice cream (made without any stabilizers or ice cream bases) and makes all their cones, toppings (including pecan brittle and brownie bites?!) and sauces from scratch daily!  With a baby on the signage, it is all too easy to fall immediate in love with Sweet Rose.

All signs pointed to awesome as we were greeted by a rotating glass case at the entrance showcasing Sweet Rose's confections.  It instantly brought me back memories of our dear Voodoo Doughnut case (*tear*), so it just goes to show: if your restaurant/shop features one of these display cases, chances are, everything is bound to be fantastic.

Sweet Rose Creamery counter
Sweet Rose's most popular flavor is the Salted Caramel, but they also have several other interesting flavors including Horchata, Cafe Luxxe Coffee, Lemongrass Jasmine Tea Sorbet and others.  

One scoop of everything please!
However despite the various options, Greeshma and I just had to have one flavor and one flavor only: fresh mint with homemade chocolate chip.

At first bite, every thought in my mind completely vanished, overwhelmed by the incredibly fresh tasting mint flavor that was magically encapsulated in the rich, creamy spoonful.  It tasted as if we had literally chewed a fistful of mint leaves from the most verdant garden.  The homemade dark chocolate shards also accented the unbelievable flavor well.

In addition to the cup of mint ice cream (that elicited guttural swoons with every bite), we also shared the s'mores pie: the most beautiful pie with an ultra-thick graham cracker crust, a base of chocolate ice cream and a topping made of homemade marshmallows enveloped in homemade marshmallow fluff.  The  ice cream clerk asked if we wanted the pie broiled.  Uhm.  Duh?  (Why is this a question??)

The marshmallows were delightfully chewy, the crust perfectly gritty against the creamy chocolate.  Ice. Cream. Heaven. Ohmuhguh.

If we were not headed straight towards dinner afterwards, Greeshma and I could've eaten a few more items.  But unfortunately, there was not enough time or stomach space, so...

We came back the following day! Hahaha.

And got us a candied Niman Ranch bacon sundae !

This bad boy was piled high with the ice cream flavor of your choice (we opted for vanilla), drowning in a bacon bourbon sauce, chunks of crunchy bacon sprinkled across the top, and two thick strips of candied   plugged deep into the glass.

This dessert amplified the lovely balance of salty / sweet, but some spoonfuls in, both Greeshma and I were slowing down.  The dessert may be a bit too indulgent, and may be best shared with a few friends for the taste and experience, but is a bit difficult to complete on one's own.

Greeshma and I also nabbed a couple more samples of the mint ice cream on our return visit.  Man that stuff is wicked good.  I don't think I can ever stop being surprised at how remarkably fresh it really is.

I don't say things like this lightly, but I am certain Sweet Rose Ice Cream is the best ice cream I have ever had.  I'm going to use my next birthday wish and hope they begin shipping asap!  In the meantime, if you ever find yourself in Santa Monica, run, don't walk, to Brentwood Country Mart for an amazing scoop!

225 26th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90402-2569, (310) 260-2663

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Thai Dinner at Zabb Elee

Whenever there is a restaurant dubbed "best thai" in NYC, Thanan and I must  be on the scene to check it out.  Zabb Elee is the current contender on the foodie watch.  Specializing in Northern Thai cuisine, the restaurant does not offer traditional Thai staples (i.e., pad thai, curry) on their menu, instead choosing to focus solely on their key regional dishes.

The modern restaurant interior is stark white with small dark wooden tables and fresh floral accents
Zabb Elee opened recently in April, and it appears they are still working out the kinks.  This particular evening, either the order machine was assigning the wrong table numbers on orders, or the servers were generally confused, but incorrect dishes and bills were delivered to multiple tables all evening.

Like this soup, which I thought was complimentary, but Thanan quickly requested to be taken away (since apparently nothing is free at Thai restaurants).

Other kinks may be pacing out the dishes so that they do not clutter the entire small table.  Or even just sending out the food in a sensible order would be appreciated.  Our fried fish showed up first, without any sort of rice.  Our papaya salad was brought out third.

The larb pla krob had a fun presentation, each piece of fish deep fried and then served back in its own fishy carcass.  I'm one of those suckers that like anything served in the former shell of itself.  Watermelon balls in a watermelon basket?  Yes, please!

Although I liked the nice vinaigrette of lime, chili and fish sauce, most of the pieces were too over fried / borderline tough to truly enjoy the actual fish.

The papaya salad (som tum thai) was a very spicy delight.  It was probably my most favorite thing of the night - beautiful strips of tender papaya tossed in a wonderful Thai chili lime sauce.  Thanan fully approved and said that if this salad was just a touch spicier, it would be super authentic.  Mmm.  I now crave this dish daily.

Thanan insisted we order the Kao Ka Moo, pork leg on rice, because apparently his uncle ate this every day until it gave him a heart attack.  I really like food endorsements like that.

This dish was a huge disappointment to Thanan.  I have no idea what it should taste like, but I can tell you this one's pretty strange.  If you want to eat bits of soft/mushy pork in a thick, sticky sweet syrup, then you should order this, else, I would avoid.  We didn't touch this dish after the initial bite.  Bummer!

Lastly, we tried the kra prao moo korb: crispy pork with fried basil, onions and oyster sauce.  Again, the meat seemed over fried which detracted from the overall joy of eating pork belly.  After eating a kra prao moo korb in LA that was absolutely dynamite (will blog that another day), I feel even more strongly now that this dish is not as good as it could be.  Maybe we had a overcooked batch (hopefully).

At the end of the meal, Thanan and I were a bit underwhelmed from the general entrees, but absolutely enamored with the papaya salad.  Best Thai in the city?  Not too sure.  I would come back again, but most likely will stay away from anything fried in hopes that the same spicy joy from the papaya salad will translate into other dishes as well.

75 Second Avenue, New York NY 10003
Zabb Elee on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 18, 2011

More Atlanta!

We had read about the mysterious disappearing (and award-winning) chef Peter Chang, so when we realized he opened a restaurant in Atlanta just late last year, we knew we had to visit his establishment during our trip this past February. So after we loaded up on doughnuts, we headed to Peter Chang's Tasty 2 for some Sichuan Chinese food!

We started with the scallion bubble pancake and the pan-fried three flavors.

The pan-fried three flavors rocked my world. It's tofu skin over sticky rice over a mix of minced pork and mushrooms.

The flavors combined beautifully, and the texture of the rice was perfect. I wa
s trying to be a lady, but I really could have eaten twenty of these!

As you can see, the scallion bubble pancake is not your average scallion pancake.

It's a big puffy thing of really thin fried dough, and it comes with a curry sauce to dip. It seems they were going for more of a roti-type thing than an actual scallion pancake, because you really couldn't taste much scallion at all. I loved the puffy shape, but I was generally underwhelmed by this.

Next came the crystal shrimp, which looks so simple, but it was really fabulous.

Shrimp, snow peas, asparagus in a ginger sauce. I
t was wonderfully light but flavorful.

Which is good, because we needed something to balance out this: spicy fragrant deep-fried duck.

This may have been Han's favorite! (You know how she is with anything duck!
) The name does it justice: it was incredibly spicy, fragrant, and deep-fried... all in a very good way. It didn't feel greasy at all, even after many many pieces inhaled. That special Sichuan peppercorn gave this almost a perfumy heat. Ymmmmm...

We also ordered Sichuan double-cooked pork belly with leek.

Look at that fat! I loved the thick-cut leek with the pork belly. My only complaint that it was a tad salty. In general, we were very happy with our first Peter Chang experience, and no doubt we will s
eek him out wherever he is in the future, because I will follow the man anywhere for another taste of his pan-fried three flavors.

After Chinese food, we wanted to chill out to some groovy jazz, so we headed to Dante's Down the Hatch. Let me tell you: this
was the BEST decision ever. What a treat of an establishment! I can't even describe it well enough to do it justice, but it's got elements of all these things: restaurant, concert venue, zoo, and amusement park.

There's a huge pirate ship in the middle of the restaurant, and we were lucky enough to sit inside the ship and listen to some awesome jazz. The rest of the restaurant is a quaint wharf, an
d the whole place looks like a little wharf town come alive. ADORABLE. My pictures came out way too dark, so promise me you will click on the website and go through the pictures. It's worth it.
We wanted dessert, so we ordered a pecan pie, a chocolate fudgecake, and I got their most famous dessert drink (its name has since slipped my mind!).The desserts were solid, but nothing special. My alcoholic dessert, though, was incredible. Praline-y and ice cream-y, it was just perfect.

On our way out, we said hi to the resident crocodile at Dante's that walks/swims around the moat.

Isn't he precious? Dante's apparently takes in rescue crocodiles that zoos or people don't want anymore. Such kind-hearted souls at Dante's. As if I needed another reason to fall in love with this place!

Dante's is also known for its fondue, and they do it up big. We weren't fortunate enough to have tried it, because you have to give them a few days notice and have at least a party of six. It's okay, because now I know the first place I'm going whenever I'm back in Atlanta!

6450 Powers Ferry Rd,
Sandy Springs, 30339
(678) 766-8765

Peter Chang's Tasty China 2 on Urbanspoon

Dante's Down the Hatch3380 Peachtree Rd NE
, GA 30326
(404) 266-1600

Dante's Down the Hatch on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An Italian Dinner at In Vino

In looking for a cute Italian spot with solid vegetarian options and tall glasses of wine, Tanuja and I discovered a little gem in East Village called In Vino.

The restaurant is absolutely charming: an intimate barrel-shaped room with rounded ceilings and warm-stuccoed walls.  

Tanuja and I quickly got down to business by ordering glasses of wine.  It was no surprise, with the name of the restaurant, that the wine list was about 10 times larger than the actual food menu.

Crusty bread was quickly served thereafter with a particularly flavorful/fruity olive oil specked with fresh cracked pepper. 

For the appetizer, we shared the special of the night: a warm asparagus salad with large chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Perfectly grilled, fleshy yet firm, the asparagus was simply prepared but delicious.

For entrees, we shared the spaghetti primavera featuring fresh, julienned veggies and a bright marinara sauce.  

And the homemade gnocchi which comes in a choice of gorgonzola/walnut sauce or marinara/mozzarella sauce.  We opted for the latter and were glad that we did!  Each adorably miniature potato bundle was enveloped in awesomely melted, stringy mozzarella cheese.  I saved half the bowl to share with Tanuja (but could've easily eaten all of it by my stingy self!).

And of course, we made room to also share a dessert! (Sharing is caring!)

A slice of chocolate mousse cake arrived at our table, a smoky brown slice of dark chocolate.  The cake was rich but not very sweet, satisfying our sweet tooth without the guilt of being overindulgent.  A nice nightcap to the charming eve.

While nothing was extraordinarily notable here, this place is nothing short of adorable, offering good, fresh food and plenty of wine to help round out a delightful date or casual dinner among close friends in my favorite part of the city.

215 E 4th St 
Reservations by phone 212.539.1011
In Vino on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brunch at Traif: Bacon-Egg-Cheese Sliders and Bacon Doughnuts

I can't believe I almost forgot to post this meal.  Did I tell you before that I eat too much?  I really do.  I'm supposed to be on some weight loss challenge right now, to be honest, but I'm sure you can tell I am not quite doing that well.

It might have something to do with meals like this...

Traif is a cute spot in Williamsburg serving up American/Southern style tapas.  Traif means "not kosher" in Yiddish which is so cute, because it serves tonsa pork (noted by the pig in its logo).  This fact instantly woos my heart.  Love. Pork. <3

The interior space is brightly decorated with a long curved bar, lots of small tables and an adorable garden area in the back.

While my colleague has told me to visit Traif for a rowdy group meal at dinner, I decided to give it a quick visit for brunch because the brunch menu looks so intriguing.  There is a lot I would like to eat here for breakfast...uhm, baked strawberry pancake?  Why do those words sound just so good together?

I decided on something heartier though since I had swim class and needed my strength (ha! such excuses I kid myself with!) and ordered the bacon, egg and cheese sliders.

As I get older (and boy is that fast!), I have decided to take the plunge and try things that I normally would not eat (like ricotta cheese or goat cheese) and thus, despite the fact that these sliders would come topped with blue cheese, I took the plunge and got them.

Diana would know the great magnitude of this decision.

I had to keep chanting to myself:
I am an adult.
I am. I am.
I will eat this blue cheese.

And yes, okay. It wasn't that bad.  It was a little bad though, as in, I would've loved another type of cheese ten times over, but the slider was not terrible with it (thank goodness), and it helped that the cheese was melted all over the thick cut, crispy smoked pork belly chunks.  That helped a lot.  And although I enjoyed these little suckers, I just wish the pork was just a tad bit fattier to give this slider a bit of juice and oomph, as it was a bit on the dry side.  Healthmongers might appreciate this more lean cut though (but how boring).  The toasted bun and scrambled egg were squishy and good.

The bright orange sweet potato fries, sprinkled with lovely flakes of salt, were quite tasty - each piece as crispy as the last.  The accompanying cup of paprika/garlic aioli also added nice flavor.

Okay, okay, confession time: maybe I didn't get the beautiful sounding pancake because I was intending to get a dessert the whole time.

Which you kind of have to when you see bacon doughnuts and coffee ice cream on the menu.
Uhm, I know.
You have to.

Let's just take a moment of silence to ogle these suckers, shall we?

Breathtaking, aren't they?  And they were just as delicious as they looked: ultra-fresh yeasty dough balls drenched in decadent dulce de leche and sprinkled with crumbled bacon bits that added just the right amount of salt to the sweet.  I made sure to capture every ounce of the delectable dulce from the bottom of the dish with each doughnut.  So ridiculously good.  The small scoop of lightly flavored coffee ice cream also provided nice balance to the dish, cooling to the palate and brilliantly rounding out the perfect dessert dish.

I am so excited to come back with others in tow to sample more of Traif's fine wares!

229 South 4th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211, (347) 844-9578
Traif on Urbanspoon