Tuesday, March 31, 2009

village voice choice eats: tonight!

I was honored and beyond shocked when my good friend alerted me that the Village Voice had listed me (well, my blog) as one of their press clippings for the Choice Eats Event tonight. Me? Press?! An amazing feeling to be listed among the food sites I turn to countless times a day. I don't think they realize how meaningful that was to me.

Anyways, the Choice Eats Event is TONIGHT! I've been trying extra hard to be extra good (think egg whites and lettuce leaves) today before trying oh, 50+ restaurants food samplings. Ok, there's no way (or is there...?) that I'm going to be able to try them all so I've widdled down my list to six places I'm not allowing myself to miss: Baoguette, Fatty Crab, Momofuku Milk Bar & Bakery, Motorino, Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches, and Porchetta. We'll see how I'm feeling after six generously sized samples before I indulge in more.

Either way, you know I'll have lots to dish on tomorrow after I'm rolled to work.

Can't wait to binge.

casa havana

Finding the "perfect" restaurant for a large Birthday dinner is always an ordeal. It has to be the right balance of affordability (mostly on the drinks end) and, well, yumminess. So when my beautiful friend and blogger of Kiss and Type, Arax, had a 24th birthday rapidly approaching, she enlisted me in her search for the dinner destination.


What's a reasonably-priced restaurant that could seat 15 on a Saturday night that's below midtown?

I started to rack my brain. Where could we go?! With four days to go, this was going to be a challenge.

Then, it occurred to me: Casa Havana. An inexpensive little Cuban restaurant/diner located right in Chelsea. With dishes at around $10 and under and $5 mojitos...Bingo. And what was even better was that the birthday girl and I had already had lunch here the week before! And my pernil sandwich (shredded roasted pork, onions, mayo on cuban bread, lightly pressed) and her avocado salad with black beans and rice had really kinda thrilled us. We kept looking back at each other and saying, "Wait, this is like really, really good."

Now, I warn you, if your birthday boy or girl is ambiance-crazy, this is probably not the place for you. However, the crowd we were rolling with (well, most of them anyways) were not this type. It's kitschy in a good way and we may or may not have been the only "gringos" in the joint but it only added to our experience. Festive, fun, and fantastic food...

After drooling with envy while watching Arax eat her avocado salad and rice and beans (believe me, I'm the last person to order all vegetarian), I knew that I had to have a taste for myself this time around (read: I love Arax but she's no food-sharer). So that's exactly what I did. Along with an octopus salad/ceviche. And what a spread it was! The black beans were exploding with flavor and cooked to the perfect doneness. The white rice too, which I know sounds mundane, was done to an ideal fluffiness and when mixed with the thick, starchy, and aromatic beans was pure and simple done right. The avocado salad was a chunk of iceberg lettuce with half an avocado sliced on top, fresh tomato, and sliced white onion. Served along with red wine vinegar and some olive oil. While this sounds like nothing special, when eaten along with the rice and beans and the octopus salad, it all just melded into one, I'll say it again, perfect bite. The octopus salad was more of a ceviche: extraordinarily tender pieces of octopus (not at all chewy) were tossed in lime juice, olive oil, garlic, GARLIC, diced white onion, chili peppers, and green olives. Really clean flavors yet really complex at the same time. I absolutely ended up mixing it all up on one plate so that I could enjoy all three of them on my fork and into my mouth at once.

My fellow celebrators ordered a mix of different things as well and there were very few complaints, if any, heard round the table. The rounds of margaritas, mojitos, and buckets of Coronitas only added to the experience (Though, I should note, don't come here for the cocktails. Stick with Cervezas.) Oh, and lots 'o laughter added up to a fabulous evening with fabulous friends.

I've never really been one for Cuban food, never been something I've ever gravitated towards, but I couldn't be happier I've been indulging in it as of late. Perhaps it's my yearning for warmer weather because the flavors, sentiments, and sounds of Cuban cuisine really do take you away to a warmer place. It's an instant get-away any day of the week.

So, Happy Birthday again to my sweet Arax (24 is most definitely sexy) and as for the rest of you, hop on the plane, err subway, for a midweek vacation of your own. You won't be sorry you did.

Casa Havana
180 8th Ave. (nr. 20th St.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

obama-psilakis sandwich

Just one more reason why Michael Psilakis rocks my world.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Ok, so I know I've been preaching (actually, I hope I haven't been preaching) about how important it is to BYOL but I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I have been breaking my own rule lately. But before you write me off as a hypocritical liar, hear me out. I am amidst a move. Most of my kitchen has been packed up in boxes. This means my life (pots, pans, knives, microplanes), literally, is in boxes.

I digress.

Today has been an odd day. I rolled out of bed and did not allow myself to properly wake up before I left for work. All day I've felt off. Still in REM mode or something. Not really sure where I am. And three different people on three different occasions have asked me if I'm alright. I don't have an answer to that question.

So I decided to throw all caution to the wind and let myself order whatever the H I wanted for lunch. And what I wanted was something slightly greasy, cheesy, and warm. The answer? The best Cuban sandwich EVER.

I ran -- no, at a sloth-like pace I walked -- downstairs to Ruthy's Bakery (located in Chelsea Market). A deli I typically brush off as, well, bad. Never been satisfied with anything I've ever ordered there. But for whatever reason, I decided to give their Cuban sandwich a try. The menu promised me a hot sandwich with ham, pickles, and mojo sauce. Interesting. I think I must have blacked out at the counter because before I knew it, I was unwrapping a hot sandwich that was soon going to make me yell, "AYE PAPI!"


Let me walk you through this. A long, soft, hoagie roll (but more of a cross between a baguette and a hoagie roll) filled with fresh, REAL ham, gooey, melted American cheese, homemade pickles, pickled jalapenos, and a mojo sauce (garlic, herbs, olive oil, damn). With each bite, I kept looking around, making sure no one was about to swoop in and steal my heavenly discovery. I was hoarding.

Authentic Cuban? Well, heck no. Pork? No. Swiss Cheese? Nada. Mustard? Not a drop. But delicious, decadent, and divine? Si! Si! Si! I'm almost upset for unearthing this sandwich because I fear it will become an awfully bad and convenient habit.

My name is Kiira and I already have a problem.

sunday dinner at boqueria

Boqueria is now serving up $35 Sunday dinners. Starting this Sunday, anchovy frisee salad, Ben Eggleston's suckling pig, dessert, and wine or sangria will be the spread. Not a bad deal. Not a bad deal at all.

Boqueria Soho
171 Spring St.

Boqueria Flatiron
53 W19th St.

hands off my food

These are hilarious and depressingly necessary all at the same time. I am sad to say that I have been the victim (more than once, I might add) of the old lunch time thief. I really, truly cannot understand the gall it must take for one to swipe a fellow coworkers lunch and not even flinch at the possibility of getting caught. Yet, it happens nonetheless. That said, enter anti-theft lunch bags.

game ON

I love this! Who's going to be the brave soul to go up against me?? Let's do this dance.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

venetian spaghetti with sardines

I want this now, please.

anthos upstairs

"KIIRA!!!!!" shrieked my roommate Meghan this morning at around 7:30AM. Startled and about to step in the shower, I wrapped myself back up in my towel as Meghan continued to shout.

"What happened?!" I asked, groggily.

I couldn't understand most of the words coming out of her mouth as she rambled, Blackberry in hand, but I was able to pick-up "Anthos Upstairs" and "15 dollar gyro."

What my dear Meghan, bless her heart, was trying to alert me of was the upstairs dining area of Anthos has become a drastically less expensive eatery called Anthos Upstairs. Clever and oh so welcomed. And the menu? Well it looks perfectly divine. I'll take one of everything, thank you.

After Meghan had eagerly delivered her news, I couldn't help but say, "Wow, I thought something bad had happened. You were like freaking out."

Meghan simply replied, "You should be freakin' out too!! 15 dollar gyros!!"

So go on, freak out. For the gyros, for Michael Psilakis, or...just for Meghan.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

baja fish tacos

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know I can easily make these lovely little fish tacos at home but what about the days where I just want to pop into a nearby Mexican restaurant and have them prepared FOR me all while sipping on an icy margarita on the rocks? Since these particular days are all too often, I know the answer. In NYC, it's actually not as easy as you'd think. Fish tacos (err, good fish tacos) are extremely hard to come by for whatever reason. So I suppose, for the time being (or until I have my quarter-life and decide to abruptly relocate to the West Coast), I will be making my own at home.

Tyler Florence, of course, also has a killer version as well.

lunch à la martha

This week on Martha, it's Pack Your Own Lunch Week. And today's show is The Sandwich Show! Check out her recipe ideas and make one or some to stuff into your brown bag this week. Her Sloppy Bao looks like an especially good thing.

Monday, March 23, 2009


For the last 14+ months I've been living in the city, I have been incessantly reminding myself that I need to go to Boqueria. It's true. Seamus Mullen's tapas restaurant has been at the top of my "To Eat" list for THAT long and just this past Saturday afternoon, I was able to finally check it off.

Strolling down Thompson Street with my sister Hanna and her boyfriend, we tried popping our heads into Snack, a tiny little Greek restaurant, for lunch but were unable to immediately sit. So we decided to walk around the corner and see if anything else sparked our interest. Hanna looked up and innocently said, "What's Boqueria?" My eyes widened. I stopped dead in my tracks.

"Oh my God. Boqueria."

And with that, we were in, being whisked to a table in the back, facing the open kitchen, me ranting all the way about how long I've been waiting to come here, how talented the chef was, blah, blah, blah. My lunch companions most likely rolling their eyes. But, alas. I had arrived. I was to eat at Boqueria. I was to eat at Boqueria today. Finally.

The decor in this restaurant is fantastic. Wood paneling all over the walls make the interior incredibly warm and inviting. The light fixtures were fabulous too. And the open kitchen in the back, sealed the deal. High tables with cream colored leather booth seating made for an intimate environment. A really, really great looking place.

After being walked through the menu by our devastatingly adorable Spanish waiter, we decided to split five or six tapas. And a fruit-laden (read: blood orange) red sangria to sip my way through them.

First came the complimentary grilled bread, Pan con Tomate. A classic Spanish style bruschetta of grilled bread, rubbed with garlic and tomato and finished with some salt. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Simple, rustic, crunchy goodness. Next was fried quail eggs with chorizo on toast (Cojonudo). Two tiny little sunny side up eggs sitting pretty on petite rounds of toast, sneakily hiding the gems of sautéed chorizo. This, is truly the breakfast of champions. A glorious translation of sausage and eggs. Thinly sliced melt-in-your-mouth Serrano ham was served on more pieces of the Pan con Tomate followed by a trio of perfectly fried croquettes: mushroom, salt cod, and suckling pig. The mushroom croquettes were studded with truffles and each bite was explosive with the earthy, concentrated mushroom flavor. The suckling pig was served a top a purée of dried fruit (what tasted like prune perhaps?) and the salt cod was joined by a bright, lemony aioli. Smoky brussels sprouts pan roasted with salty little chorizo lardons were served still sizzling (Hanna's favorite). And the final wooden cutting board that was ushered to our table was grilled lamb marinated in lemon and cumin with a salsa verde generously spooned on top. It was this last little morsel that shot me straight to the moon. The most tender, juicy and slightly smokey piece of meat I think that I have ever had. And the salsa verde of thyme, rosemary, garlic, citrus, and olive oil just put it over the top. Lamb just owns me. And has for quite some time. (My mother loves to tell the story of how I would shake, literally shake, in my high chair when she'd put lamb in front of me. Looks like I still do now.)

All three of us were smiling the entire way through this wonderful little meal; our stomachs perfectly and comfortably full. The food was nothing shy of delicious and absolutely appropriately priced. Lunch for three came out to about $50. And while we could have easily gotten a slice of Ben's Famous Pizza and munched on benches in front of Vesuvio Park, don't you always secretly want to impress your family? Or at least prove to the Bostoners that NYC is, in fact, the superior city.

Love you, Hans.

Boqueria Soho
171 Spring Street

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I know this is old news to many, but as a sandwich freak, I find this blog to be, well, beautiful. The images are practically perfect: crisp, clear, de-freaking-licious. So I don't know about you, but if I don't get to experience a sandwich from Parisi Bakery within the next week or two, I may or may not sponateously combust or just flat out, lose my cool.


So Frank Bruni just gave Michael Psilakis's Kefi a one-star review. Hmph. Psilkais is, of course, the mastermind behind Anthos and Mia Dona and Kefi was his more approachable, less expensive version of Greek cuisine that was relocated to a new home on the Upper West Side. We all know my love, adoration, and respect towards Anthos (which Bruni has also shared) which is why I am slightly saddened and selfishly appreciative of his review (read: no long post review waits).

I do not doubt nor question Bruni's authority and opinion on the place but I will undoubtedly be critiquing Kefi on my own. Not only is it the kind of food I love and often crave but it's created and imagined by a chef I have a huge amount of respect (ahem, crush) for.

The Flat Pasta with Pulled Braised Rabbit and Graviera Cheese ($11.95), the Braised Lamb Shank with Orzo ($15.95), and the Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki and Pita Bread ($13.95) all spark my interest for obvious reasons. Straightforward? Yes. But there's always something to be said about classic dishes done impeccably well by a reliable, well-seasoned, and inventive Chef Psilakis.

Kefi might be a bit of trek uptown but it's one I'll gladly take. One star, no star, or five.

505 Columbus Ave. (b/w 84th and 85th streets)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

kiira night

So here's the deal. Antarctica Bar (287 Hudson St.) has a "Name Night" every night of the week (except Sunday's) in which one name is chosen a day. Whoever's name is chosen on that given day, drinks for free!

And since it's St. Patrick's Day and Signed Lease Celebration Day it just so happens to also be Kiira Night. Three reasons to have a celebratory cocktail.

So come watch me drink for free (along with the other Kiira's with two i's). Or simply for the admittedly fabulous company. Toot toot.

Antarctica Bar
287 Hudson St.

Monday, March 16, 2009

brown baggin'

I was thrilled to see this article this morning on Grub Street but was left slightly disappointed by the suggestions. I don't know, canned smoked oysters with toast points just didn't send me. Anywhere. Besides maybe camping in Alaska. The point is, brown bagging your lunch is smart. Obviously from an economic standpoint but I'm going to argue for the sake of variety as well. I know that I too fall victim to the lunchtime doldrums when I feel like if I have to eat my ham and arugula whole wheat wrap sandwich one more time, I'm going to lose my damn mind. However, here's an opportunity to add some spice (yep, pun intended) to your day. You control the quality of ingredients, the heat factor, the amount of condiments...everything. And the possibilities are in fact, quite endless.

Here's an idea. Take two pork tenderloins (surprisingly inexpensive) and marinate them for as long as you can, preferably overnight, in some fresh squeezed orange juice, orange zest, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and freshly chopped oregano or thyme. Throw it in a large ziploc bag on Sunday morning and cook it off Sunday night. Over medium high heat, sear the tenderloin on all sides till evenly browned and just cooked through, about 20 minutes. And just like that, you're done with your protein for the week.

Now, it's totally up to you. You can thinly slice it and put it on a baguette with some chipotle mayo, avocado, and lettuce for a far from average sandwich. Beware, this will cause some lunchtime envy.

Other ideas? Make a quick cuban. Again on a baguette, add sliced pork, some dijon mustard, thinly sliced bread and butter pickles, and some swiss cheese. No panini press at work? You can zap it in the microwave (or better yet, toaster oven!) if need be or just enjoy it cold.

Make a quick whole wheat orzo salad with chopped spinach, olives, feta, and red onion, lightly dressed with some lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil. Throw on some of the sliced pork and you've got a complete, quick little meal.

You can also throw it into a quick soup. Heat up some chicken broth with freshly grated garlic and ginger. Add half a can of lite coconut milk. Add in some thinly sliced mushrooms (shitake would be lovely but button mushrooms are just as swell and much cheaper), juliened pieces of pork and wonton wrappers cut into strips. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes and tada! An Asian-inspired wonton-esque soup that was thrown together in seconds.

Now, who said brown bagging had to be boring? I happen to find any one of the above options to be extraordinarily thrilling and divine!

I should probably chill out. But you? Have at it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

must reads: ruth reichl

Not only is Ruth Reichl the Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet and the previous Restaurant Critic for both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, but she is also the author of three incredibly charming and thoroughly entertaining autobiographical books. All three will prove to be amazingly quick reads that will cause uncontrollable laugh out loud moments followed by serious salivation, induced by her many envious culinary escapades. There are even a few juicy romantic stories stirred in for good measure. Start with Tender at the Bone followed by either one of the other two. They're especially perfect beach reads if you're one of the lucky folks ditching the city cold any time soon. I know you'll find her just as brilliant and fantastically inspiring as I do.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

batali dishes on nyc's finest slices

Love this for so many reasons. One of which being, I consider pizza a perfect food.

michelle obama on food

The key to Michelle Obama's perfectly toned arms? A diet of locally grown faux-creamed spinach and the occasional Five Guys Burger. Who knew!

Oh and there's also the not optional morning workouts with our dashing Mr. President. Le sigh.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

new restaurant alert: scuderia

Ok, ok, I'm a day late here. Scuderia opened yesterday. But since apartment hunting has taken over my life as of late with an impending move out date you're going to have to excuse me. Right? RIGHT?!

Oh, thank goodness!

So, with that out of the way, the owners of Da Silvano have opened up this new 100-seater joint right across the street, called Scuderia. The menu appears to be straight forward "rustic" Italian with very few surprises, but the space itself is what really caught my eye. Perfect joint to grab a last minute drink or bite to eat on the "most desirable" strip of 6th Ave (near 10 Downing, Bar Pitti, etc). I love the communal tables and the bar set up...the whole vibe seems upscale chill without having to try too hard. And quite frankly, that's absolutely my kind of place.

When the move is finally over and done with, you know I'll be sure to pop my head on in.

10 Downing St.

Monday, March 9, 2009

go korea!

I hate to say I told ya so.


I told ya so.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Here you go my lovely lushes.
Recession Drink Deals + Map = Wherever you are, you can booze for very little.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

the tiny kitchen complex

I happen to love Mark Bittman. And I love my Bitty in a special kind of way. You know the sound of your favorite singer's voice? The one that if you possessed magical powers, could pull a "Litte Mermaid" and swap out your singing voice for theirs (my swap would be Norah Jones, btw)? Well, Mark Bittman's food knowledge and writing style (indefinitely tied with Ruth Reichl, the Food Goddess herself) is one that I'd be blessed and honored to mimic. His blog for the New York Times, Bitten, always features smart, short recipes, how-to videos, and posts that are simple, to the point, and always entertaining. Nothing's overdone, nothing's over-produced, it's just him, his food know how, and the really important stuff: the food itself. Just as it should be.

That said, while this article is a few months old, I consider it an extremely important read. Think your kitchen's too small to cook in? Time to get over it. If you really wanna get in there and create, experiment, nibble, entertain then nothing's gonna stop ya. And a small kitchen is no excuse. Here in Manhattan, large kitchens are few and far between. Your kitchen or coffee table may need to become a temporary butcher's block but, hey. Chopping onions while sitting on your couch may not sound ideal but when you're kicking back and enjoying a bowl of 5-hour, slow-cooked bolognese, you're going to zip the lip.

It. Is. That. Good.

water taxi beach is manhattan bound

I had the pleasure of visiting Water Taxi Beach (at it's original Long Island City location) last summer for the New York City Food and Film Festival. And I must say, I was blown away by its kitschy charm. While it could have been the soft, warm summer breeze, the blood orange meets persimmon sunset streaming through the New York City skyline, being barefoot in the sand, or the admittedly good company, this little spot is truly not to be missed.

Now, while the Long Island City location is nothing but a short ride on the 7 train (I believe two stops past Grand Central), the owners of Water Taxi Beach recently revealed that they will be opening up two new Manhattan beach locations this summer! One will be on Governor's Island and the second at Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. The latter being the perfect spot to meet your banker friends for happy hour this summer. And believe me, if it's anything like the original, you won't be complaining one bit about making the schlep all the way downtown.

See ya there.

Monday, March 2, 2009

food mags cater to our bank accounts

A new article in the New York Times takes a look at how food magazines have begun to take this whole recession thing into account. And it's about time. Magazines like Gourmet have incorporated columns like "Cook Smart" which showcases meals that are budget-friendly in that they are designed to have leftovers that can transform into other meals throughout the week. And you know what? This is the way we should be cooking. Cook something substantial on a Sunday and then you're set for most of the week by getting creative with those leftovers so it doesn't feel like you're eating the same thing night after night.

"As the high-end magazines try to survive a shaky 2009, it is out with the truffles, in with the button mushrooms." - Stephanie Clifford, NYTimes

Fine. You can take away the truffles. But let me at least drizzle my button mushrooms with a little Truffle Oil. Because as far as I'm concerned, at about $12 a bottle, that's being one smart recession chefy. All the flavor of the real deal at an eensy weensy fraction of the price.

Here's an idea for a Recession Dinner Party: Mushroom Papardelle (sliced mushrooms sauteed in butter and olive oil with shallots and garlic until crisp around edges. cook fresh paperdelle quickly. add to mushrooms. toss with a dash of cream and lots of salt and pepper) finished with a drizzle of truffle oil, a ton of paremesan and fresh parsley. Serve with a large salad of baby greens and craisins or fresh pears and lightly dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. It'll taste like an uber rich indulgence but won't take full advantage of your wallet.

And let your guests bring the wine. Red, please.


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