If anyone out there has heard of Whole 30, they know it’s gauntlet thrown down at your social life when you decide to take it on. It is mostly paleo, definitely gluten free, and also bears a host of other restrictions because it’s supposed to show you what foods you are allergic to. Did I mention no drinking? YUP. Here’s a more comprehensive understanding of the plan.
Megan: Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend one of the most insider food experiences that anyone in the industry could wish for… Summer Fancy Food Show. Here, vendors from around the world journey to the Javits Center to peddle their wares to bloggers, restaurants, and distributors. Move over Costco, the free samples at this place are bringing all the bloggers to the yard.
Happily, fellow NYC GOF-Foodie, Marcie and I were able to attend together. Here’s our take on the epic and always classy Fancy Food Show, Summer edition.
Bare in mind, I attended this while on Day 23 of the Whole 30 diet, so my perspective was super focused on what I was able to actually put in mouth while sauntering up and down the endless aisles.
Marcie: Running a bar program, I’m always looking for fun, new exciting products to use in cocktails. I’m also on a hardcore gluten free paleo diet, and it’s great to see how many cool and delicious options there are now!
Calabria Di Gusto
Marcie: First, we started at the Calabria Di Gusto booth, and sampled some amaro and amaretto. All spirits are coming from Calabria in Italy. My favorite was the Vecchio Amaro del Capo. It’s a beautiful spirit distilled from sugar beets and 29 herbs and spices. And they were kind enough to send me home with a bottle, and I made an incredible Negroni with it!
I had written about Baltimore previously when I journeyed with my skeeball team in toe to compete in The Skeeball Nationals, but upon my return, I discovered so much more than the magical aquarium. There’s an entire other side of the harbor. Hold onto your crab shells because I’m about to make you fall in love with Fell’s Point.
One of the most exciting stops on my trip this time around was The American Visionary Arts Museum. Lauded by CNN as one of the best museums in the country this quirky, wonderful oasis features creations from self-taught artists and calls upon some of their favorites from all mediums to talk about FOOD! That’s right; I spent a delicious afternoon navigating the halls of AVAM learning and experiencing unique installations about our favorite topic. NOMS.
American Visionary Arts Museum
800 Key Hwy, Baltimore, MD 21230
Upon entering this food phantasm, the walls are lined with some of the cheekiest confessions about how people counteract our cultural relationship with how much we acceptably eat, order, or what we clandestinely desire. If you’re familiar with Post Secret-they offered some of their most bizarre and fun food confessions as the four featured below.
Is this my Uncle? No, seriously, I think this might be a self-portrait.
Willie decked out in corn kernels.
Yes! The Swedish Chef is really one of my personal heroes THE SWEDISH CHEF made entirely out of The Easter Candy Peeps. He-a’ll nefer cetch oune-a ouff Gunzu’s fefurite-a cheeckens. Bork Bork Bork! Yes, I found a translator. And yes, absolutely waste the next ten minutes of your life using it. Continue reading “Megan’s Foodie Tour of Baltimore”
Sure, I drank my way through Market Street, but surely, I wasn’t done. There is so much more of the Philly food landscape that’s ripe for exploring. To work up an appetite though I had to do a little sightseeing first. That brought me to The Franklin Institute and The Jurassic World exhibit. ROAAAAAR, real monsters, and The Eastern State Penitentiary.
The Eastern State Penitentiary is a pretty baller landmark to visit on a beautiful day. Using an audio tour, you weave in and out of its hallways, peak into Al Capone’s luxury cell, and get to take the tourist photo from atop the loft looking down a dark corridor. I accomplished all three and even got to work on my tan in the prison yard.
Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19130
They had some pretty neat art installations on exhibit. This in particular by Cindy Stockton Moore entitled “Other Absences,” showcased the victims of the inmates, hanging their photos from the ceiling of a corroding jail cell. I emerged triumphant, having experienced my very own Shawshank Redemption, falling to my knees and staring up at the sky my head turned slightly, and I looked across the street noticing a charming eatery cobbled out of an old firehouse.
2130 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The day could not have been more perfect, and the warm April air joined us for our nosh. The large doors of the converted firehouse are left open when the weather is just right allowing diners inside to get a glimpse of the historical landmark and the gorgeous day.
I have journeyed back to the historical land that is Philadelphia to further explore the city and its many food offerings. First stop was National Mechanics, a spot I hit up last time but while researching the ‘hood discovered that, during brunch, it has its very own DIY Bloody Mary Bar. I mean… how can I not? This eatery is unique, utilizing old wooden church pews for booths and showcasing fun bug collections, mounted bison skulls, and cute displays of plants.
Philadelphia – the land of liberty, lovers, and a hands-on Ben Franklin Museum that will leave you tapping screens like a two-year old with a head cold. Journeying to Old City Philly this holiday, I couldn’t help but notice it was beginning to look like way more than cheese steak. With restaurant upon restaurant lining the cobblestone streets, it’s hard to know where to spend a spirited Christmas meal – but I think we made some excellent choices on our patriotic path of digestible freedom.
The Plough And the Stars
123 Chestnut Street, Entrance on 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA
Christmas Day is a relative ghost town in downtown Philly, except for a few restaurants that remain open. I’m so used to NYC with tourists lining the streets on holidays clutching their bags of Magnolia cupcakes and Nintendo Store swag that it never dawns on me it’s possible for businesses in OTHER cities to be closed. Given our limited selection we still managed to stumble on a fantastic place for lunch called The Plough and the Stars, an Irish pub that boasts the best soda bread for miles. Every customer gets their own piece of brown bread and soda bread, very well made palate cleansers that make you full once the actual meal arrives… happily full, of course!
To start, we ordered their aptly named “Christmas Salad,” a spirited array of beets, goat cheese, pine nuts, and arugula. The appetizer pasta I ordered went full bore with the ravioli. A meal in itself, the pasta were well cooked and seasoned.
I’m a sucker for holiday prime rib (medium rare!) and when I noticed it written on their special Christmas menu, I had eyes for no other entrée. It is said the Irish know their meat and potatoes and this upscale pub proves that tenfold. The Plough and the Stars is a land of well made breads, meats, and dranks – I highly recommend a visit. Within walking distance of many of Old City’s landmark attractions, including Christ’s Church and Independence Hall, it’s a wonderful choice for both lunch and dinner, or just a wee pint between touristing.
After a viewing of the film Jackie (because what says Christmas more than Natalie Portman in a biopic about the day of JFK’s assassination?) we ventured to Red Owl Tavern. Our stomachs only craved a piece of pie but when our eyes noticed they had a two-day holiday pop up paying homage to A Christmas Story, with the Chinese menu as seen in the film, how could we say no? All of my nostalgic pleasure centers were at attention when we stared at each other, understanding THIS MOMENT was what doggy bags were created for.
Red Owl Tavern
433 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
We opted for the duck confit steam buns and short rib ramen. I nervously eyed the entire duck that was served to my dining neighbor and sighed that I thankfully did not order that. They kept up the beautiful charade by serving my vanilla ice cream (courtesy of Franklin Fountain Ice Cream & Sorbets) in a Chinese take-out box… color me enchanted. I swoon over generalized nerdery!
The Chinese food was delightfully tasty, and with a waiter rocking a David The Gnome ugly Christmas Sweater the spirit-o-meter was high. Suffice to say……we holiday’ed like we hath never before. What was left after all this debauchery and touristing? Making a pop art portrait of the two of us, obviously!
Never trust me with phone apps-I’m as smitten as a six-year-old with an Etch-a-Sketch. If you happen to roll through Old City Philadelphia, stop by either of these gems on a holiday or just a Wednesday. You will not be disappointed.
I think I’m turning Japanese; I really think so, or at least I did when I attended the Sunday, October 24th evening of the Food & Film Festival titled “Eat Japan.” I had the pleasure of discovering The Food Film Festival last year while rampantly googling-food festivals, NYC. I know you’re sitting in awe of my very elaborate process. I searched in hopes of finding some interesting places to explore and share with Girls on Food. However, finding Food & Film was like finding myself halfway through a Judy Blume novel….it just fit.
After eating my way through BBQ and the food porn party at last year’s festival-“Eat Japan” was the next logical step in this foodie’s adventure toward cinematic grandeur. I was lucky enough to have fellow GOF’er Marcie Andersen come with, and thus the shenanigans ensued.
We’ve expertly crafted the side head tilt while sampling products by Lumpia Shack; Filipino-inspired cuisine. Above we are proudly holding Truffled Mushroom Lumpia. It has a crispy exterior similar to that of a spring roll nicely complimented by the flourish of truffle mayo on the top.
50 Greenwich Avenue, New York, NY 10011
Pictured here is their Bistek and Onions Sushi, a playful elevation of a favorite Filipino dish. What I found astonishing about this dish was the mesh quality of the onion creating a different taste profile. I had the chance to chat with the chef, Neil Syham, who explained he pureed the caramelized onions at a high temperature to achieve the incredible consistency.
Also present was The New York Distilling Company who already had my heart with their aptly named Dorothy Parker American Gin. Men will surely make passes at girls who wear glasses after a few sips of Suntory. Allen Katz, one of their team and one of the nation’s leading experts on distilled spirits and cocktails was on hand to make his signature drink showcasing this Japanese Whiskey.
The New York Distilling Company
79 Richardson Street (between Leonard & Larimer), Brooklyn, NY, 11222
While sipping this smooth concoction, Allen explained that Japanese Whiskey with its lighter taste would sure to be a mainstay in the states over the next twenty years.
Did I mention that all of this happened in the pre-party? On to films on food! George Motz, the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, author of Hamburger America, and founder of The Food & Film Festival kicked off the evening as its official master of ceremonies. The festival, now in its tenth year uniquely showcases food, chefs, and all the in between.
The mysterious chef who chooses to go by “Chef Nigo” rose to popularity this past summer when doing a pop-up Ramen Lab in NYC. He chooses not to disclose his identity, wearing this signature mask while he works, so that the diner can focus on the food and not on the chef behind it.
For the after party, Chef Nigo made a specialty tsukemen not served in any of his eateries. With the gravy broth mentioned in the film This is Tsukemen directed by George Motz, the dish was rich, delicate, and delicious and topped with a succulent cut of pork belly.
The winner of the evening, audience and festival selection alike was “SAKURADA” Zen Chef. It tells the story of the Japanese chef, Mr. Isuzu Sakurada who awoke to cook the best soup and became a 2-starred Michelin Chef in Kyoto. The filmmakers were on hand to accept their awards and no-you’re not hallucinating, one of them dressed in a Pikachu onesie.
Mr. Sakurada has since closed his restaurant and keeps his recipes a secret as is customary in Japan. However, he was kind enough to call an NYC colleague and have them make us a dish. This Nama-Fu Tempura & Sake by Kajitsu was light and flavorful.
And after the films, we feast! Check out some of the food and frivolity from our adventure.
I don’t think I even began to skim the surface of the amount of mochi floating around both before and after. This rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. Upon the first bite, my initial reaction was “oh, this is a Japanese gummi.” One of the films Pounding Mochi with the Fastest Mochi Maker in Japan
Dir. Great Big Story, demonstrates the manpower and ceremony with which Mochi is made.
One of the events sponsors, The Billion Oyster Project geared toward restoring one billion live oysters to New York Harbor and educating about the restoration of our ecosystem brought along these gorgeous oysters to sample. A bit briny but perfect and shucked on site.
The Food & Film Festival made me laugh, almost cry, and probably gain two pounds and for all of those reasons around the end of October, New Yorkers should keep their eyes peeled for this amazingly edible event. With so many different themes and foods, it will leave you wanting for nothing. Be sure to save your gym membership.
As Thoreau once said, I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately…..and to sample wine. ALL OF THE WINE. Ok, maybe I added that second bit, but I imagine that’s what he was thinking. I had the pleasure of traveling the back roads of Windham, NY with my father and happened upon some new local treasures.
After traversing The Windham Path, our first, stop was Higher Grounds. This laid back coffee, breakfast, sandwich shop has some wonderful options for people looking to stay healthy. I sampled their Garden Goddess served with feta cheese, tomatoes, spinach and you can add avocado if you’re feeling frisky. It doesn’t hurt that when you look out the window, you’re staring at a mountain. Also, they had peppermint coffee, and I’m a sucker for peppermint coffee. Keep your eye peeled on their specials; they like to switch it up.
61 State Rt 296, Windham, NY 12496
After a morning hike, we decided to get a closer look at some of the towns finer grapes. Situated off the main road a piece is The Windham Winery, a local establishment featuring a $20 tasting that doesn’t disappoint.
Their tasting menu has an excellent assortment of choices. Different and unique was their Diamond wine, a grape that is not frequently used because it has to be worked with individually and carefully. The owner is very present and walks you through all of his wines. He’s laid back, personable- he makes this an experience you won’t forget!
I only do wine tasting in my finest Ron Jon surfer trucker hat, an obvious class act as I taste intricate wines in this refined hiking ensemble. Their Vino is on the sweeter side but never left my cheeks in cartoon pucker. It has an at home, laid back feel. You’ll find yourself staying longer than the time you expected because you can’t stop petting the dog and leisurely staring out toward the beautiful mountain vista.
Next stop – Ze Windham Wine Bar. A cozy little locale on the main street of town.
Ze Windham Wine Bar
5369 Main Street Windham NY 12496
(BEHIND THE POST OFFICE)
This quaint family operated business has a lovely array of wine and beer alike. My father is traditionally a bud light drinker but was pleasantly surprised by one of their options, the Berliner Weissbier. I squealed with delight that I managed to get Papa Lohne to try a brew that had a decorative decal #familygoals. Just check out the artistic craftsmanship on this bottle.
Father proudly holds his maiden voyage of a beer that isn’t handed out for free at intramural sporting events.
One of the owners, Cordelia, poses artfully for me in her native wine habitat. I highly recommend Ze Windham Wine Bar and not just because it utilizes Ze as a “the.” It’s charming, friendly, warm, and a wonderful place to have a glass of wine and socialize with the owners and the surrounding guests alike. While I happily sipped on a cabernet, I regretfully did not try one of their cheese plates or charcuterie boards. Suffice it to say, next time I am on a self-enforced writers retreat, I will stop by and sample a pretzel roll and pecorino cheese.
As the winter approaches and ski season is just around the corner, take a moment and visit Windham, NY. You can traverse the friendly slopes and then grab a glass of your favorite cabernet, just maybe don’t do both at once. Your not broken leg will thank you for it.
With the heat at record temperatures, what does a city gal have to do aside from fleeing the scorching NYC streets to the relaxed mountains of Upstate New York? Surprisingly, so many artisanal options are springing up in even the town of Catskill that it didn’t feel like I was too far from the foodie options of my native NYC.
The New York Restaurant
353 Main Street, Catskill, NY
Billed as a “revival restaurant” from an era where the steak was just $1.50, I’m not even sure I could get a pack of Orbit gum for that price in some Bodegas. A Polish-American has taken over the helm reinvigorating the space with charm, music, and perogies. Oh man, have I mentioned how much I love perogies? Their menu offers several exciting lunch dishes including a Happy Hour from 4 pm-6 pm that features all kinds of $4 treats. You can go wild at the price of $4 appetizers, craft micro-brew drafts, fine wines, and cocktails all for just $4. That’s less than a Subway sandwich.
I started out with their signature selection of pierogi. The sautéed the bacon, onion chutney, and sour cream is an absolute delight. They were flavorful and satisfying. You can also purchase these delectable bites to go in a frozen variety, to keep at home
Another standout choice on the menu was the Black & Bleu Flat Bread covered with grilled flank steak, bleu cheese crumbles, and caramelized onions with grilled portabella mushrooms and roasted bell peppers. A delightful and savory option, it melted right in your mouth. I can’t wait to go back to this quaint restaurant next time and try other options from this fascinating menu.
Next stop was Saratoga Springs as I took my sojourn to see Counting Crows at SPAC. When in Saratoga, one must try the local eats and my eye was immediately drawn to the cafe that resembled the big top.
392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
The menu boasts that their burger has won awards, so I simply had to try it. After testing both the burger and mac & cheese while successfully not keeling over from a massive coronary I came to the conclusion that this eatery is really about the fun of the circus. However, if you’re seeking a lump of cotton candy and some fantastic happy hour options, then this is the place for you. I’m sure the local college kids at Skidmore make good use of this place.
I was amazed that I could order a drink at 11 am on a weekday but when in Saratoga, embrace the fight club rules of being in Saratoga. I tried the black cherry martini which tasted like an alcohol infused kool-aid. I’m not the biggest fan of sweet cocktails, but Circus Cafe had an ample list of libations for the adventurous ordered and wine drinker alike.
I loved loved loved the atmosphere. I’m a sucker for classic circus chachki’s and between the elegant chandelier, buttery movie theatre popcorn served free of cost, and the vintage Ringling Brothers signage I had a good time if not the best tasting experience of my life.
Finally, a MUST stop when in the Catskill region is Angela’s. I’ve blogged about this place before, and I can’t express how good this pizza and beer is. While unassuming looking, simple chairs and tables, a fun aspect of the dining experience are being able to see the kegs through the glass while you eat.
Angela’s Pizzeria and Brewery
4545 NY Route 32, Catskill, NY 12414
Here I am grasping at one of their home-grown ales the Kiskatom Brown Ale. I always gravitate toward darker beers, and this one does not disappoint. If you’re not in the mood for a drink, you can always take a growler home with you.
I went to Angela’s earlier in the day, and I stumbled upon brunch service and tried one of their “personal” brunch pizzas. This pizza is far from personal-almost the size of a regular pie, and it was out of this world. Drenched in perfectly cooked eggs and ham they have several different breakfast pizza options. You will entirely be bringing home leftovers-assume nothing less.
As the summer winds down and we transition into weekend trips upstate to see the leaves change these are three places you should stop by if you’re climbing in the car for a city escape. You can join the circus, have a taste of Poland, and gorge yourself on pizza but hopefully not all in one day.
On this day of Saturday, June 11th the year of 2016 I came….I saw….I cidered. Now, I’m not traditionally a jacked up apple juice gal but when I saw this event I thought I would give it a second chance. What with hard soda, root beer, and a plethora of other alcohol-infused delicacies making waves in the foodie universe it couldn’t hurt to see how far the cider game was expanding and innovating. Boy, am I glad I did.
Pour The Core
My friends and I chose to attend the session that ran 12pm-3pm, which took place at The Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint. Typically, you find yourself elbow to elbow at these events. I attended a similar beer expo down at South Street Seaport where after standing on lengthy lines I exited with an awkwardly shaped sunburn and sore feet. However, the Pour The Core was delightful. There was plenty of room to move, little to no lines, and interesting cidervations that I would never have thought possible.
Did I mention that Applegate was giving out free hotdogs all day if you showed them your funky dance moves? Kettle brand potato chips pushed three bags your way including pizza, jalapeño, and smoked maple. No need to carbo load before the event, they had you covered! Check out the beautiful presentation near the Applewood truck with a gorgeous sunflower arrangement, folksy bandanas, and buttons for all!
Angry Orchard had a pretty sweet photo booth where you could pose with their iconic tree and apple insignia and walk away with this too cool for school printout. My friends all grabbed at the box of apples that they also had for the public’s enjoyment.
Due to its prominent celebrity status in the cider cannon, Angry Orchard had the most options to choose from. I was very pleasantly surprised by their Elderflower. I prefer a bit of dry bite and generally opt out of anything too sweet. It was invigorating to find ciders that spoke to that. You can visit Angry Orchard and even take a tour.
This event did not only showcase cider alone but also had a couple of beer kiosks including Long Ireland, which hails from Riverhead, Long Island, and as you can see below, Neversink showcased their Apple Brandy and Gin.
There was an entire area of jumbo games featuring Connect 4 and Jenga because go big or go home, amiright?!? Caitlin and Eric took their jumbo game of Connect 4 very seriously while I explored the Magners section. I do have to give a shout out to Woodchuck Cider’s Campfire Pancakes. It ACTUALLY tasted like a smokey campfire and I kinda really loved it. I inquired as to how they got that niche flavor and the response was they infused the cider with smoked maple syrup. Cider and syrup and camping, oh my!
If you find a Pour The Core in your area I highly recommend stopping by and redefining how you feel about that sweet, sweet, nectar of apples.
Good morning Baltimore! Every day is indeed like an open door of delicious food fantasticalness. I found myself in this Harbor town for Play Big Apple/Baltimore Social Skeeball National Championships where teams from Baltimore, NYC, Charleston, Denver and more gather to remarkably throw wooden balls with as much gusto and pride as three cups deep of Bud Light will command. We may not have won the belt of greatness, but we did have a chance to have some bonafide tried and true crabs and isn’t that what going to Maryland is all about?
Our first day we wandered Baltimore Harbor, a compact alley of restaurant options and a MASSIVE Barnes & Nobles. We decided to grab a drink outside at Phillips.
601 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
My skeeball teammate Caitlin and I attempt to control our wild hair while enjoying a mid-afternoon libation in the eighty degrees Baltimore heat. She opted for the Sangria while I sampled The Baltimore Pale Ale. A light and crisp local brew my taste buds were tingling. The crab deck is an outdoor seating area that if it weren’t for the wind would have been the perfect way to spend our early evening.
After some afternoon exploring bookended by poetically staring at elaborate ships, we traveled to the Skeeball opening night event at Mother’s Bar & Grille conveniently located right near the Airbnb where we stayed.
1113 S Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21230
I wasn’t daring enough to attempt “The Heart Attack”, the beer battered burger stuffed with cheddar cheese and deep fried that was featured on Man vs. Food, but I did pick at their Iggi’s nachos and cajun honey buffacue wings a good two nights in a row. Let’s be honest; I was mostly at Mother’s for The Skeeball Nationals but the back room is spacious and the perfect compliment to cue inspirational sports music…..somewhat important sporting events. This is most of the crew climbing out of a Greyhound around roughly 3 pm and realizing that the heavy NYC rainboots are already making your ankles sweat in the unexpected sun of Baltimore.
With a name like Skeeracha, bold green headbands are necessary.
As a team, we unitedly decided that we had to have the authentic Baltimore crabs experience. So, we googled hard and found an eatery in the trendy hood of Fells Point or as our uber driver so expertly explained to us “where the party at.” We went with Captain James, which was quaintly in a boat. The nautical decor got us all in the mood to get crabs. And that indeed we did.
2121 Aliceanna St, Baltimore, MD 21231
We started with Maryland crabs and LOTS of them. Let’s be real; we do have a team of eight. The waiter brought out mallets, a bucket, and spread out the paper on the table. It was time to partake in one of the delicacies of the city and after an elaborate explanation of how to crack open the crab and scrape the lungs off (never eat the lungs) it was time to dig in. As you can see, crabs are more photogenic than the Olsen twins.
As for my main course, my seafood frenzy continued as I received my broiled seafood platter. Fresh fish, gulf shrimp, mini crab cakes, crab legs, and an imperial stuffed oyster it was a veritable feast. One of my teammates ordered the seafood alfredo and RAVED about it. Just look at the succulent shrimp, scallops, and lobster tossed in an irresistible alfredo sauce. Being the athletes we were, carbo loading was an absolute necessity.
The unexpected delight was the crab seafood chowder. Very similar to a New England Clam Chowder with a cream base, it gets two claws up. After quickly losing in the first round to two native Baltimore teams we shrugged the sigh of champions and partied on. Before we left Majestic Baltimore, we couldn’t go without taking in one of its most impressive sights: The National Aquarium. It was spectacular, and I took pause to don my most exciting, dramatic underwater sea pose between two liquid pillars. That B.F.A. in acting really pays off a solid….third of the time.
501 E. Pratt StreetBaltimore, MD 21202
After an aquatic day of wonder, we loaded back into The Greyhound foggily shutting our eyes and took the four-hour journey back to our native NYC. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Danny managed to carry a Domino’s Pizza not consumed from the night before around on our final day. He even swindled the bag check man at the aquarium to store the pie while he wandered around staring at fish. At the bus depot, he turned a profit when two young women offered to buy half of it for four dollars. If Danny can manage to smuggle day old pizza back to NYC, anything is possible in this world.
I recommend Baltimore for a weekend trip. Compact, historical, and fishy it’s a delight! There’s always room in anyone’s schedule to take countless hypnotic pictures of jellyfish, if you’re lucky and can shove past a crowd you may even get to pet one. #lifegoals
The closest thing I’ve had as of late to having a relationship with Pho consists of endeavoring upon the chicken noodle soup from the Chinese place down the street from my apartment and that isn’t nearly as complicated to eat. However, when my good friend Lincoln suggested we try a Pho place before seeing a play I simply had to say (insert yes in Chinese character here).
New Xe Lua Vietnamese Restaurant
86 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013
Lincoln has always been my go-to on all delicacies from the East. Having grown up with Chinese parents from Vietnam and himself being schooled in authentic bubble tea and dumpling recipes, he knows what’s up. He will periodically foodie shame me for ordering Pad Thai dismissing it with “that’s like ordering chicken in a steak house.” I bow my head in shame. So now when he speaks I listen in the hopes of expanding my palate and not sadly ordering chicken at a Chinese version of Peter Luger.
My Pho journey begins at Xe Lua, a Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown. Pronounced ZAH LOO-AH, the title of this eatery, is Vietnamese for “train”. One truth is for certain; the flavor train had definitely pulled into the Lohne station.
In the most anti-feminist move I have ever made in my life, (sorry International Women’s Day and Gloria Steinem) I handed the menu over to Lincoln and said give me an authentic experience. Just nothing spicy. Lincoln nodded thoughtfully ordering cha gio (aka) Vietnamese Spring Rolls. These delightful crispy treats are made to be rolled in lettuce and dipped in the sweet fish sauce. I was warned about the potentially briny taste, but the flavors combined beautifully and the prologue to my photastic evening was already winning.
We ordered Pho Tai, which in some places is referred to as Vietnamese gumbo. This dish served with beef and linguini shaped rice noodles (Banh Pho) is scalding hot when it arrives in front of you. Lincoln whispers to me this is because the beef is raw and the broth is cooking it in front of your very eyes.
Once it sat a moment I was given Mr. Miyagi style instructions on how to approach this bowl of wonder. When you receive your Pho, it comes with a side platter of mishegas, which includes bean sprouts, basil, and lime. It is up to you to season your broth to taste. I spread a bit of everything and squirted my lime. Lincoln opts to go sans lime.
Next, you squeeze out your various dipping sauces. For beef, you use either the hoisin sauce or sriracha or both. Hoisin is a dark brown sweet sauce perfect for any taste. Due to my scaredy cat taste buds, I stick with the sweet stuff and leave the hot sauce to the natural across from me. Once this is done take your soup spoon, pull apart pieces of the beef and place one on the soup spoon. Then, while you have a taste of the beef swirl some noodles into your spoon utilizing your trendy chopsticks and create the perfect bite all in one rotation. It is WAY harder than it sounds. I felt like a toddler attempting to eat spaghetti with my hands while I looked on upon Lincoln across the table making three step ninja maneuvers as the pho slid effortlessly into his mouth. With each bite, I could hear the distant echo of wax on…wax off…wax on…wax off echoing in the catacombs of my brain.
It’s ok that I looked like a fumbling baby bird because I had this international beer to wash it down. It helped me channel all of the montage sports movie moments scored by Eye Of The Tiger while negotiating noodles with my lime green chopsticks.
Having been Pho’ed beyond my wildest dreams, we wandered out into the lukewarm streets of Chinatown-the warmth of the raw beef and broth sitting at the bottom of my stomach I have truly had an experience. Next time, I’ll have to try turtle soup with the shell still floating to the top or mystery $1 meat on a stick. Who’s kidding who, no matter how devoted I am to food-ventures I am NEVER doing that. It would be a Pho-tastrophe.