11/15/10

Eating the East Village

It seems like this is the umpteenth food festival event I've posted about in the last couple months, and though sometimes I feel this blog should be called Awesome Food in New York, deal with it. I heart food.

East Village Eats was put on by the non-profit organization Fourth Arts Block, which promotes the East 4th Street Cultural District, as a chance for locals and tourists alike to wander around the East Village eating and discovering some pretty snazzy restaurants and drinking establishments.  You already know that when food and wandering is involved, I'm there before you can even print out the map, so I was excited to bring along my boyfriend Mike and his college roommate in from out of town, Ben. The weather was perfect for this type of activity and we were hungry for our 15 "bites" from area restaurants. 

Me with my East Village Eats goodies. We got sporks!
Mike and Ben inside Bond Street Chocolate
I must admit that I was weary after the first stop at Bond Street Chocolate, where we were offered only a smidgen piece of flavored dark chocolate, but stop #2, Cucina de Pesce, was tre magnifique! We were offered a table and each received a plate full of Italian antipasto -- tomato, mozzarella and white bean bruschettas, tomato and mozzarella caprese and eggplant stuffed with goat cheese and roasted peppers.

Cold Antipasto "Feast" at Cucina de Pesce
Next, we made our way to the eclectic Mediterranean restaurant Nomad. The decor made me feel like I'd hopped on a plane and landed in Morocco, but no one was trying to sell me carpets or a fez, so that was good. We were each offered a seat at the bar and served plates of Moorish chicken skewers flavored with African spices, crispy pita and hummus. Although I didn't want to start out filling up on bread, this pita was delicious and the chicken succulent. I'll definitely be back!

Chicken, pita and humus from Nomad
We made our way east to the new Korean eatery Mono + Mono and from the second we walked in I was enamored by the decor. We all agreed that we want our house to look like this restaurant. It only opened a month prior, and with dark wood, high ceilings, a wall filled with 30,000 Jazz record albums (and an electronic system that carries them around the dining room) and a shelving unit displaying jars of colorful fruit and vegetables above the bar, it's truly a site to see. The food held up to the grandeur of the surroundings as well. Mono + Mono was sampling their Korean-style fried chicken wings - moist on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside with a honey flavor all over, we all wanted seconds and thirds. 

Mono + Mono
Korean-style fried chicken wing
I was super excited to visit Supper for our next bite, but compared to our previous stops, it felt like they didn't try as hard. Nevertheless, we arrived at the cozy, comfy Italian bistro and were offered what they called a Mushroom Trifolati, but it was really just cooked mushrooms on top of their grilled crusty bread. Again, not trying to fill up on bread, I mostly just ate the fungi. Slightly cold, they were still good.

Plates of Mushroom Trifolati at Supper
Now, it seems like Vietnamese sandwich shops have been popping up in every neighborhood like wildflowers within the last year. The problem is, they all seem to be the same - chicken, pate, daikon, cilantro, pickled carrots, crusty bread, done. I'm personally a fan of the catfish version from Baoguette, but I digress. Next door to Supper, we went to Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches for our next "bite." Half a sandwich later, I can say that I've found a different sort of Vietnamese sandwich shop, but a place where you can still find the classic. Mike and Ben both tried the sardine, but not wanting a salt overload I opted for the BBQ chicken. 

Our "bite" from Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches
Heading north, we stopped at Souen for some steamed seitan dumplings. I had seen all the ads from Fresh Direct on the bus stops about seitan being a super food, but I had never actually tried it so I was intrigued. Souen is a pretty cool place with neat decor and trendy lighting, though long and skinny and hard to move around in, but it hasn't turned me on to seitan. Oh well, not the best item to feature for a general audience, but I'm sure someone loved it.

Souen East Village
Seitan Dumplings at Souen
The fabulous Luke's Lobster was next on the list, and though I had never been to the East Village location before, it seemed like everyone else from the food tour hadn't either. There were probably 40 people crammed into the tiny storefront oogling about the maritime wall decorations and the mouth-watering menu, waiting for their shrimp rolls to be ready. I took this opportunity to let the boys wait for the rolls as I headed down the block to Xoom smoothies, where they were offering $3 smoothies to East Village Eats participants. Nothing like a cold guava and mango elixir to wash down a shrimp roll :)

Yum!
A glimpse of the crowd descending on the Luke's Lobster counter
Making our way to the Tuck Shop, I was beginning to get very very full. We slowed down the walking  pace a little to give our stomaches digestive breaks. But upon entering the Australian meat-pie shop (perfect 3 a.m. food by the way), we were offered small portions of their pork and sage sausage rolls. While it was good, I much prefer the chook (aka: chicken) meat pie and a Lamington or Vanilla Slice for dessert. Grab a Cooper's beer while your at it because no one actually drinks Foster's in Australia. 

Pork and Sage Sausage Roll from Tuck Shop
The next two stops were disappointing because I expected a lot and was let down. Though this was probably for the best because there was a lot of food backing up in me by this point. First we went to Xi'an Famous Foods which was sampling their "Cold Skin Noodles" or what they described as bouncy and chewy wheat noodles mixed with seitan (there it was again) and vegetables, and tossed with secret spicy sauces to make a cool, delicious mess. Well, the only mess it made was a very spicy one in my mouth. Spicy to the point where I couldn't taste anything but heat and I had to throw mine away. Note to vendors: never serve something super hot to a general audience. I can handle spicy, but this was a bit much. S'mac was another sad story. I had walked by it so many times before and each time thought to myself that I need to try it one day. They were sampling their classic four cheese mac 'n cheese, but it was from a chafing dish outside the restaurant - that was their downfall. The cheese wasn't able to stay melty and instead it was crusty, crumbly and just bad if you can believe it. I'm hoping this was just a fluke, because never before have I thrown out mac 'n cheese and I don't intend to ever again. 

Big bowl of VERY spicy noodles from Xi'an Famous Foods
Mac 'n Cheese with hardened cheese from S'Mac
The food tour did redeem itself as we went on. Tulu's bakery had the most amazing mini red velvet cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese frosting. Pretty simple and typical as far as NYC cupcakes go, but these were gluten-free! I know a couple of people that would be in love with this place after learning that. Also, the cupcakes were the perfect size for a bite of sweetness.


Mini red velvet cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting from Tulu's Gluten-Free Bakery
Ben and Mike hanging out at Tulu's
Just in time for a pick-me-up, we stumbled on the MUD truck in Astor Place for a latte for me and straight coffee for the boys. I'm not a big coffee drinker as it messes with my stomach, but my small orange cup was the perfect size to warm me up and let me get a taste of MUD's great brew.

T-Shirts for sale on the MUD truck
Me with my MUD cup
Inside the Cooper Square Hotel, we were able to get a glimpse of the full dining room at Faustina inside the futuristic tower hovering over the older buildings in Cooper Square. We were also treated to Garlic Nodini - basically garlic knots with a dollop of whipped ricotta in the middle. Ricotta is one of my magic words, so I was happy, but honestly, the last thing I wanted at this point was more bread.

Garlic Nodini at Faustina
The final stop on the tour was one I was very much looking forward to as I've read review after review about how amazing Hecho en Dumbo is. We sampled their Tostadas de Dzik: chilled salad of braised venison ossobucco with tomato, red onion, sour orange, chile habenero, radish and avocado served on a bed of crisp, hand pressed corn tostadas. You could really taste the love that went into this dish, and being from California where you can get fresh Mexican food on every street corner, I much appreciated the handmade tostadas. In a city where my qualification of a decent Mexican joint is one that gives you chips and (good) salsa for free, I'm happy to have discovered Hecho en Dumbo for myself and I can't wait to go back.

Tostadas de Dzik at Hecho en Dumbo
Mike and I outside Hecho en Dumbo
I want to thank Fourth Arts Block for enabling my friends and me to partake in this awesome afternoon of food and wandering. Can't wait to do it again next year! Did you attend? I want to hear your thoughts on the event!

4 comments:

  1. Ah love this and all the food porn! You should post your pictures larger!! =)

    And I'm so jealous about mono+mono! I still haven't made it out there.. Have you been to the ktown location? on 32nd and 5th on 2nd floor.. also bon chon on that corner (NE) is awesome too! i <33333 korean fried chicken!

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  2. I know, makes me hungry for lunch now! I didn't realize Mono + Mono had another location. I definitely want to go back for a full meal. Thanks for reading!

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  3. So sad I had to miss this event! Looks like it was delish :)

    Sarah
    http://brightlights-mycity.blogspot.com

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  4. The fact that you eat like you do, and are the size that you are, never ceases to amaze me! You are "Awesome in New York!"

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