Summertime To Get Living

summer[1]

Happy Summer – official Summer! Summer, summer, summer. Man I just want to shout it from the rooftops! I love New York, but I really love New York in the summer. People are nicer, people are happier and that makes me happier. And happiness, well, that’s what life is all about.

Feeling inspired by Cupcakes and Cashmere, I have constructed a Summer To Do List. Some to-dos, well, they’re edible, and others are not. Regardless, there will be food – oh yes, there will be food. So, without further ado, I present to you the Bite-Sized Summer 2013 To Do List…

10. Eat my heart out at John Brown Smokehouse in Long Island City.
Their website is http://www.johnbrownseriousbbq.com. So let me be serious when I say, I plan on eating a serious amount of BBQ here – while enjoying the summer heat and the musical talents of whoever or whatever is playing.

9. Enjoy a Mediterranean dinner on my patio.
I’m thinking babaganoush, grilled pita with za’atar, cauliflower, and salads. Under the dim lights of lanterns from Turkey, surrounded by ceramics from Israel and plants, well, from the nursery at Home Depot. It’s my paradise.

8. Go to a movie in the park night.
There’s just something romantic about this. Even without the romance. I love the idea of grabbing a blanket, a cold bottle of rose, or a really delicious imported 6 pack, or both, whatever. A few snacks and some good company. All the makings of a great night.

7. Eat something I have never tried before.
This might otherwise be hard, but I’ll be in Spain and Morocco in a few short weeks. So watch out world, here I come with my anything but Bite-Sized appetite.

6. Purposely get lost in a neighborhood I’m not familiar with.
To know me is to know I do not thrive on the unknown. I am a planner through and through. One of my most serious talents is list making – especially packing lists. Oh, and I’m dead serious about this. So, in an effort to break out of my comfort zone, my oh so familiar comfort zone, I want to spend some time without a plan, without a map, without a care. Who knows, maybe by not having a plan in place, I’ll find something I never knew I was looking for.

5. Try a CitiBike.
I’m only slightly terrified to ride a bike in Manhattan. After the Rollerblading Incident of 2009, I’m a little wary of wheels. But, if Fat Jew can do it, I can too. (Does it count if I don’t actually move the bike from the docking station?)

4. Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
It still baffles me that I haven’t been here yet. Enough is enough. I’m putting my foot down. This is the summer I will finally go to Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

3. Host a big, and I mean really big, dinner party at my apartment.
I have been trying to figure out how to get 20 people into my apartment for a seated dinner party for a while now. And yes, 20 people is a really big dinner party for my apartment. But, I am determined to figure this out. The menu has already been designed – now it’s all about the logistics.

2. Nap on the beach.
I am a firm believer that the most peaceful time to be on the beach is at dusk. The crowd is gone – and with it, the noise of the day. And while the sun slowly lowers itself out of the sky, I like to lower myself out of consciousness, into a deep, deep nap.

1. Get back into blogging.
A somewhat obvious ending to my list. But I hope that’s a good thing.

Now, tell me…what’s on your Summer To Do List?

Mandoo the Damn Thing

Mandoo
It’s not often that I am impressed. Not just by food, but by the food suggestions of others. Excited? Always. One well written food description on a menu and I am so excited that I am salivating. But impressed? Eh, it's a rarity. But today, I was thoroughly impressed, both with the food and with the suggestion of two great friends.

I have been hearing about Mandoo Bar for a while. And now that I have been, I cannot for the life of me figure out why it took me so long to get my Bite-Sized butt down to Korea Town for this tasty treat. Mandoo Bar is a small restaurant that leaves a big impression. This namesake eatery has a laundry list of dumplings to choose from. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Korean, or the art of google translate, Mandoo means dumpling.) Dumplings aren’t the only option at Mandoo, but not ordering dumplings would be like going to the gym and not exercising. Sure, you can do it. But the experts, well, they frown upon that.

While the restaurant considers itself “vegetarian friendly” they serve some of the best Pork Dumplings I have ever eaten. The dumplings are made in the front window of the restaurant. Which is a foodie’s version of the red-light district, or at least mine. Yes, I said it. Red-light district and food. Now you know what I think about.

You will be drawn in by the ladies in the window rolling out dough, and then ever so gently stuffing the dumplings with a heaping amount of pork, veggies, seafood, tofu and kimchi. And if that isn’t enough for you, cause it wasn’t enough for me, you can watch the dumplings get fried and plated too. That, is the Art of Seduction, in its truest form.

If you weren’t hungry before arriving at Mandoo, you can be sure you will be starving by the time you are seated. They don’t take reservations. So while you are patiently waiting for a table, in this small and oh so casual dumpling bar, you get to watch this enticing show, on repeat. So, while you are watching, and waiting, you can take comfort in the fact that you are witness to the art that is dumpling making – and then eating. Cause let’s be real, you came here to eat, and eat is what you will Mandoo.

Oh, and click HERE for the best Vine Video, well, EVER.

Mandoo Bar
2 West 32nd Street
New York, NY
212.279.3075

Take my Breath Away

Sometimes, a restaurant comes along and really takes my breath away.  Okay, not really my breath per say, cause then I wouldn’t be able to breath let alone write.  But it takes me by surprise.  And I’m not going to bore you with more neighborhood nonsense, because you already know how I feel about restaurants in Midtown compared to restaurants, well, anywhere else.  But this is a tale of a terrific restaurant in midtown.

Vitae is like a needle in a haystack, like one shiny star in a dark night sky, like one fabulous pair of shoes in a sea of ugly shoes.  Why such high praise for the midtown eatery? Because it freakin rocks, that’s why.  The restaurant features contemporary American cuisine in a space that feels so American retro and yet so chic. So so chic.  I love it when you walk into a restaurant and feel important, and that’s exactly how I felt walking into Vitae.  And no, I don’t think anyone let them know in advance the Bite-Sized Blonde was coming in.   From the moment I sat down, to the agonizing moment I left, I was treated like the most important customer in the restaurant.  And let me reiterate, they don’t know about the power of my pen.  The service at Vitae was some of the best I have experienced in, well, let’s just call it a long time.  The waiters know their stuff, down to every last ingredient in a dish and even how the food is prepared.  This is the service that other restaurants should strive to have.

To be honest, I might have even liked the restaurant if the food was mediocre.  Especially since I did happen to eat there a few short weeks after it opened.  But alas, the food was f*^&ing awesome.  No, seriously, it was divine.

I can usually maneuver around a bread basket.  Now, don’t get it twisted, I love me some bread.  But I also know my priorities, and they are often deterred by that menacing bread basket.   Well, the bread basket got me at Vitae.  Probably because it wasn’t a basket; it was served in a cast iron dish.  The bread looked like four supple pillows of doughy heaven.  It had a natural, and quite dazzling sheen if I do say so myself,  and was then dusted in large flakes of sea salt.  I don’t care who you are, there is no denying the power of bread perfuming the air, especially when it looks like this.

Unfortunately for both me and you, I started with something that is no longer on the menu.  A poached egg, garnished with mushrooms, frissee, chips and chives and served alongside golden toast points.  In three words, I can describe this dish…come to mama.  The mushrooms brought an element of earthiness to this rich dish, and the chips were such an unexpected pop of crunch.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you name it, I’d eat it.

I also ordered the Pulled Pork Tacos.  The miniature shells were made of polenta – so they were sweet and crunchy and the ultimate vehicle for buttery soft pork.  Each bite was better than the last.  Had it not been for the rest of the food on the way, I might have told the waiter to keep ‘em coming.

I have an outrageous love for beets which I can only attribute to too many hours of watching Doug Funny.  So, I couldn’t pass up the Roasted Beet Salad.  It was served with Asian Pears and pistachio covered goat cheese.  This was good, but so much of the menu is a stand out, I would forgo the beets for something a little more, dare I say, original.

Hanger steak is one of my favorite cuts of meat because it is so flavorful.  And the hanger steak at Vitae was just that.  It was charred and then sliced to display its soft pink center and served alongside a watercress salad and a mound of salty French fries.  Damn, that’s one fineee piece of meat.

And we all know you cannot eat a steak without a side dish, and no that does not include the French fries.  So, I ordered the Brussels Sprouts & Bacon and boy did it hit the spot.  This dish was a pleasant surprise from start to finish.  The leaves of the sprouts were removed and left whole, then blanched and tossed in bits of bacon and lots of bacon grease.  Sounds indulgent, but it was light as can be.  It was reminiscent of a salad – if salad tasted like bacon.

And last, but certainly not least, we finished with a soufflé that must have been made in heaven because it was godlike.  Served in a tall mug with a shot of freshly whipped cream, this dish was everything I needed and more.   Chocolate can be such a heavy dessert, especially in the middle of the day, but soufflé by nature, is the exact opposite.  I told myself I was only going to eat one bite, and then the next thing I remember is trying to lick the mug.  Sorry Mom. 

Vitae
4 East 46th Street
New York City 10017
212.682.3562

Diner, Dive In and Drive Away Happy

So it’s been a while, but I’m backkk!!! I sure hope you missed me, because I missed you!…and that you are wondering what food is bringing me back to the blog.…what restaurant could have been so noteworthy that the writer in me is ready to, well, write again? Ohh hold on tight cause this is a good one…

I was almost tempted to bury this information because, let’s be honest, I’m just not sure if I want this restaurant blowing up.  Sure, it might be selfish, but it also might be brilliant.  Keep this to myself and avoid having a hard time getting in when you all flock like seagulls to this place, sounds like the smart thing to do.   But, I wouldn’t be the Bite-Sized Blonde if I kept information this meaningful from you, now would I?

Is the suspense killing you? Okay okay, here it is…drumroll please…the restaurant so good I had to start writing immediately is…DinerDiner is well, an old diner from almost a century ago – resurrected and brought way above it’s former glory to become a superstar restaurant.   Of course, the food is the star here, but it seems rather silly not to mention the décor, because in this case, it’s what makes the atmosphere so freaking awesome.  Diner looks like a diner you would see on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives if the wrong person bought this place.  You totally could have found chicken fried gravy on this menu or something equally as “comforting” and by comforting I mean just kind of ineffectual.  But, this place is so much more that a triple D joint.  It’s seriously cool, and not just in a BK hipster too cool for school kind of a way.  It’s like cool, man.  The diner is illuminated by votives that take the usual space and make it into something so unusual people are clambering to come in.   The space might be small, but nothing else here is.

Okay, so there’s one more thing that’s small, and that’s the menu.  But remember what I’ve taught you, good things come in small packages.  Or Bite-Sized packages really. But you get the point.   If you take after your favorite Bite-Sized Blonde, then you probably want to see the menu right now.  But you can’t, because it changes daily.  Pain in the ass to reprint the menu everyday, right? Wrong! The waitress sits down at your table to write the menu on the paper tablecloth.  So casual, so cool.

We shared several dishes, because how could we not.  So, I sampled about half of the menu.  We started with the Fried Green Tomatoes.  OMG, these FGTs were SG – so good, so so good.  Green tomatoes are different than your run-of-the-mill red tomatoes.  They are denser and a little sour almost.  Which is why they are great to fry.  They maintain their integrity even under high heat.  These FGTs were something special though.  Lightly breaded and fried to a golden perfection, they were served with a side salad of watercress and mint and moisturized in aioli.  Yes, moisturized – because they had a thin layer of creamy goodness on them to keep them moist.

We also shared the Romaine Salad, which kind of sounds boring, but it was anything but.  The crispy leaves were left in rather big pieces and combined with roasted beets and finely shaved red onion and then showered in love, otherwise known as creamy basil vinaigrette.   A simple salad elevated to awesomeness is a salad you could find me eating everyday.

As a treat, the kitchen sent us a plate of crostini.  Thin slices of sourdough bread, toasted on the grill, and covered in a garlicky spread and marinated green tomatoes is anything but your ordinary crostini, and man, was this good.  Of course, it only had me begging for more…

You know how I feel about burgers – so I couldn’t resist the Special House Burger at Diner since it is the one thing that is always on their menu.  And after eating it, I know why.  This burger is so good, I’m sure the Diner regulars would be up in arms if it disappeared from the menu.  A thick juicy patty of blended meat rests comfortably on a doughy brioche bun and is then adorned with lettuce and pickled onions and served with homemade ketchup.  The pickled onions take on a cabbage-like flavor that elevates the burger so subtly.  And the ketchup is thick and sweet with a hint of cinnamon; it is truly unlike any ketchup you have ever had.  Which is why it’s the only choice in condiments for the fries.

Fries are important to a burger like a bikini top is to the bottom.  Sure, they are separate entities, but if you have one without the other, you are just half naked.   The fries are thick cut and double fried in flavorful and greasy oil and then dusted with salt to create a crunchy, salty snack that is impossible to resist.  Even after I had finished my meal, and all of my fries, I still wanted more.  Not because I didn’t have enough, but because every time a plate of fries was brought near my table, and that incredible scent perfumed the air, I found myself salivating.

Diner is more than burgers though.   We also shared a Sirloin.  It was grilled, so it had beautiful char marks, and then was sliced and plated with grilled spinach and an heirloom tomato salad.  I’m not sure who the genius is that decided to grill spinach but I need to meet this person ASAP.  Spinach takes on a whole new level of deliciousness when it is grilled.  It was so intensely flavorful but light, which made it the perfect addition to one buttery soft piece of meat.

We also shared the Pork Chop, which was grilled and served on top of a garlicy sauce.  It was juicy and hearty and so insanely delicious, I was surprised no one at the table picked up the bone to salvage the last, impossibly small pieces of meat left.

Diner’s food is comforting, but it’s not comfort food.  I would eat here when I’m sad, when I’m celebrating, when I’m starving, or when I’m totally full.  This is the food you cannot pass up.  This place is so cool, that if someone took me here on a date and I didn’t know about this place beforehand, I might just be getting undressed at the table.  Clearly the way to my heart is through my stomach, but you already know that…

Diner
85 Broadway
Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY
718.486.3077

Beware of the Two Door Tavern

Beware of the Two Door Tavern

You know that place? You know the one I’m talking about.  Known for their awesome brunch so the line is out the door at all hours, and although you know the wait is going to be tremendous, you walk over there, just to see how long the line really is and maybe put your name down.  Yes, that’s the one.  Almost every neighborhood has one.  And in Williamsburg, this place is called Egg.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a story about Egg, and the awesomeness that unravels there.  No, this story is about another place.  You should know this one well too.  This is the place that catches all the starving passersby that leave that popular and oh so busy place undoubtedly disappointed when they can’t get a table.  In this case, the Two Door Tavern.   On a warm Sunday afternoon, I fell victim to the Two Door Tavern.  So close to Egg, yet so far away.  But, in the midst of my hunger pains, it would have to suffice…or would it.

Well, the long and the short of it, really, is that this place was an epic disappointment.  Of course, it was disappointing because we didn’t get to eat at Egg, but really the most egregious indignity was caused by the Two Door Tavern itself.   By bypassing Egg, we thought we were avoiding the wait.  Yes, we realized the food wouldn’t be what we had wanted, but we would get to eat soon.  In this game of compromise, that would have to do.  But, what we didn’t know was that the wait to eat at Two Door Tavern would be equally as long.  No, we didn’t wait to sit down.  We were seated right away.  But we did wait to order and then we waited even longer for our food to arrive.  Not because the restaurant was busy, because it wasn’t.  We waited because the restaurant was painfully slow.  In fact, we waited almost 2 hours for food and dare I say, mediocre food.  I ordered a BLT with a fried egg that was offensively overcooked and bacon that was medium rare.  The rest of the food was equally as thrilling.   So, the next time you find yourself caught in a pickle, deciding between delicious and a wait, and someplace else, just remember how un-delicious that someplace else might really be.

Another one bites the dust…

Two Door Tavern
116 N.5th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718.599.0222

My Not So Strange Addition

Hi, I am the Bite-Sized Blonde and I am addicted to Crack. Well, I’m addicted to Crack Pie, which just so happens to get its name from the addiction it is sure to bring on.  If you are not intrigued, you should be.  Crack Pie is what can only be referred to as the ingenious love child of Christina Tosi, the unbelievably talented and deliciously inclined Pastry Chef at Momofuku Milk Bar.  So, back to the crack.  This is the pie that all pies aspire to be.  The crust is unlike any you have tried before, it is crunchy enough to balance out the gooey center but it maintains an element of chewiness that will pleasantly surprise your textural taste buds.  This crust won’t fall apart either – so say goodbye to your pie anxiety – which will forever be known as anxpiety, because you don’t have to worry about a messy pie, which I think we can all agree is a major buzz kill.

Not only does this pie come equipped with the most serious crust in town, it is filled with pure heaven.  The filling is made of butter, cream and sugar and resembles the inside of a pecan pie, minus the pecans.  It is sweet and creamy with a subtle hint of saltiness that will have you screaming.  Think Harry met Sally, but less acting.

As if the pie wasn’t reason enough to visit Momofuku Milk Bar, they make some of the best cookies in Manhattan.  Take it from a Cookie Connoisseur.  The cookies are out of this world.  I have three favorites; I know you aren’t surprised I couldn’t pick just one.  The Corn Cookie is totally unexpected, but that’s not what makes it so good.  It’s the perfect combination of a corn muffin and a sugar cookie.  It’s light and airy but oh so substantial, and needless to say, it’s chew-chew-chewy.  This cookie might be unexpected, but after one bite, you won’t have any idea why.

Another unexpectedly awesome cookie is the Cornflake Marshmallow Cookie.  The cornflakes add an unanticipated element of crunchiness to the cookie and the marshmallows melt into the cookie batter so beautifully.  The cookie is flecked with chocolate chips to round out the flavors.  This cookie is unparalleled, even up against the Compost Cookie.

The Compost Cookie, which is trademarked obviously, is an addictive combination of all things delicious, including coffee beans and chocolate chips, and lots of butter and sugar.  Of course, if cookies aren’t your thing – well, you should go see a doctor.  But, in the meantime you can still enjoy some of Christina Tosi’s delicacies, including Cereal Milk Ice Cream and Cake Truffles.

Christina Tosi is the Queen of Chewy.  Chewy pies, chewy cookies.  Chew Chew!! All Aboard.  First stop Chewy-Ville, next stop…well probably rehab? Someone is going to have to pry that Crack Pie right out of my hands.

Momofuku Milk Bar
milk bar east village
251 E 13th St.
New York, NY

milk bar midtown
15 W 56th St.
New York, NY

milk bar upper west side
561 Columbus Ave.
New York, NY

milk bar brooklyn
382 Metropolitan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY

Spring Cleaning

So, it’s the first day of Spring.  What are you thinking? If you are anything like this Bite-Sized Blonde there are two simple words that come to mind….Spring and Cleaning.  Sure, Spring Cleaning might not sound exciting, but then again, you’ve never spent Spring with me before.

If it’s time to clean, then it’s time to take out the trash.  And you know what they say about trash…One man’s trash, well, it just might be delicious.  White chocolate trash is one of those irresistible snacks; it’s like confetti with different flavors and textures.  Smooth white chocolate, mixed with crunchy nuts, salty pretzels and sweet cereal create a snack that will have you warming up to the idea taking out of trash more often.  White trash is truly the epitome of junk food; but if this is trash, then I’m okay with my tummy being a garbage can.

White Chocolate Trash

Ingredients
1 ½ cups of Peanut Butter Cheerios
1 ½ cup of Rice Chex Cereal
½ cup of unsalted peanuts
1 ¼ cups of salted mini pretzels
1 12 ounce bag of white chocolate chips

Directions
Line a baking tray with parchment paper.  Then, measure out all of your dry ingredients and mix together in a large bowl.  Add the chocolate chips to a separate, microwave safe bowl.  Place the microwave and cook for two minutes, removing the bowl every thirty seconds to stir.  Once the chips are about halfway melted remove from the microwave and stir until fully melted.  This will help the chocolate maintain its sheen.   Once the chocolate is fully melted, add the cereal mixture and toss. Coat evenly.  Spoon the mixture onto the baking tray and place in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour.  Remove the tray from the refrigerator and break the trash into small to medium size pieces. Serve and Enjoy!