Cascabel Taqueria

By grace.g.yang · July 29, 2014
Under: Cheap Eats,Dinner,Drinks,My Life,seafood,UES

After my usual workout at AKT, I go home on the green line on Lexington. Sometimes, however, I go the other direction and walk down 2nd Avenue towards Cascabel Taqueria, which is dangerously close to AKT. They have great drink specials during happy hour, use fresh fruit in their margaritas, and have great guacamole and a full service bar if you’re dining by myself.

I’ve been there a few too many times after my workout and here are some of my favorites (and here are the things keeping me from shedding those last few pounds!)

The housemade guacamole can be catered to your tastes – mild, medium or spicy:

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I’m obsessed (sadly) with their queso fundido:

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They can make it with or without the sausage (this photo doesn’t have any sausage because I went to dinner with a vegetarian). It’s served with warm tortillas and I could eat the entire skillet by myself because it’s so delicious! Warm cheese on a tortilla with fresh cilantro makes such a great appetizer. It’s just as good as the one we had at Big Star in Chicago!

We also shared the street corn:

Cascabel

And shared the fish tacos, too:

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The fish tacos had a little too much stuff on it (green olives, chunks of cheese, red onion, way too much stuff to pick up and put in your mouth!) They have other tacos that are really great – the al pastor is really delicious (the pineapple makes it sooo good!)

Having the restaurant so close to my workout is just like when Miranda had to go to a Weight Watchers next to a Krispy Kreme on Sex and the City. Hopefully I have a little more self control, but their menu is so delicious it’s hard to resist!

Cascabel Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Wasan

By grace.g.yang · July 22, 2014
Under: Asian,Desserts,Dinner,East Village



Ken and I did a double date with David and Laura over the wintertime and went to Wasan, a Japanese restaurant in the East Village that specializes in shabu shabu and uni and foie gras dishes. Laura found the restaurant and we met up there on a Saturday night to catch up on the week and to try their food, especially their homemade tofu, uni dishes and foie gras.

We wanted to try a little bit of everything and started with the uni on a crunchy chip:

Wasan NYC

And then the foie gras on a small piece of endive:

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Both were delicious and the perfect amount for just a small bite to start the meal.

We also tried the homemade tofu:

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The tofu was very silky and flavorful, much better than anything that you can buy in the grocery store.

After the appetizers, we opted for the shabu shabu:

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Which you put into a boiling pot of broth:

Wasan NYC

The shabu shabu was a little bit on the plain side but you’re given a container of salt so you can add as much as you want (or just keep it very plain). After the shabu shabu, we ordered a few other dishes, including the salmon fried rice:

Wasan NYC

And the eel:

Wasan NYC

We also had dessert – three different Japanese desserts!

Their ice creams of the day:

Wasan NYC

The sake panna cotta was very tasty and had a great custard-like consistency:

Wasan NYC

And mochi with a green tea dip:

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Everything at Wasan was prepared well and we sat in the back corner booth that looked like we were in an igloo (maybe because the walls were stark white compared to the rest of the restaurant, which had more wooden accents). If you’re interested in the shabu shabu, you should call the day before to make sure they have enough ingredients to make it. We didn’t call beforehand but it was the dead of winter so I guess they just had a lot of the materials available. Definitely worth another visit!

Wasan on Urbanspoon

Queen of the Night

By grace.g.yang · July 15, 2014
Under: American,Dinner,Drinks,Midtown West,My Life,Nightlife

I love going out with the women I work out with and we planned a really fun night out over the winter – attending Queen of the Night at the Paramount Hotel. We purchased tickets after reading about the dinner/party/event in the NYTimes article because it sounded like something none of us have ever done before. Most of us had gone to Sleep No More (the same producers of this show) so we were up for the adventure.

The show starts with a cocktail hour where the bartenders create drinks that are all presented on a mirrored bar in the main room. None of them have labels and you’re just supposed to take them; some have herbs, some are fruity, and some have a more savory component to them. While you’re having cocktails, people walk around and take you to different areas of the hotel (similar to Sleep No More). We passed this preserved cheetah that was decked out in jewelry:

Queen of the Night

You eventually take your seats – you can either purchase general admission tickets or premium tickets that guarantee you a table together with the rest of your party (we had a mix up with our tickets and they graciously upgraded our tickets to the VIP experience). We sat down and the show started (and we sat next to Neil Patrick Harris and his husband!)

The show is very loosely based on Midsummer Night’s Dream and has lots of intricate costumes like the Queen’s Marchesa’s dress:

Queen of the Night

The back of the Queen’s opulent cape:

Queen of the Night

The show features lots of acrobatics:

Queen of the Night

Dancing:

Queen of the Night

And lots of muscular men dancing and jumping around:

Queen of the Night

Our table had wine glasses stacked very high and fruit, cheese and olives strewn about:

Queen of the Night

Everything is very chaotic (intentionally) – they make you clear your table very quickly and then an army of actors come out with different types of proteins. Some tables get served a cage of lobsters and corn, others get pork, and we got the beef ribs. The idea is that you’ll talk with your neighbors and barter with them to get what you want:

Queen of the Night

While you’re eating, the actors continue to perform:

Queen of the Night

Queen of the Night

When you are finished eating, they don’t clear your plates, you just throw them into a large box (it looked like a freezer) that gets wheeled around the room:

Queen of the Night

The night ends with dessert and dancing; you can dance with your friends or some of the actors will pull you up for a quick twirl. They don’t serve dessert at your table; instead, they serve opera cake by the spoonful and you have to request dessert by going up to the performer.

It was a really fun experience and definitely worth seeing. The crowd is different on the weekends (we went on a weekday, which I definitely recommend). It’s great for a girls night or even a really fun date night!

I’m Alive!

By grace.g.yang · July 14, 2014
Under: American,Asian,California,Chicago,Dinner,My Life,Prix-fixe,Things to do in NYC

I have been neglecting my blog for a while, but only because my life has been so busy for the past couple of months! I have still been eating at great restaurants and drinking more than I should (some future reviews: Battersby, Eleven Madison Park, Mighty Quinn’s, and then a lot of posts from our Napa trip, including: The French Laundry, ad hoc, addendum, Redd, Redd Wood, and all of the wonderful wineries we visited on our anniversary trip). For now, some photos of what I’ve been up to since my last post!

I celebrated my 30th birthday in Chicago with a Hello Kitty themed birthday party:

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Sammy, Charley, and I hit the Hello Kitty pinata until all of the candy fell out (Ken and Flo thought it would be a good idea to do a Hello Kitty-themed birthday party…which was awesome!) Before I celebrated my birthday with Ken’s family, I celebrated with David, Laura, and Ken at Eleven Madison Park:

Gracenotesnyc

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David and I share the same birthday (he’s two years older, in case you were wondering) and Eleven Madison Park was a great experience – with lots of desserts just for our special day!

We were in Chicago for my birthday because the day after, Angie and Nat were getting married:

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We had a great time at her wedding and thought the Thai water ceremony was really special (you give them blessings while you pour water on them – we blessed them with twins, which was a common blessing that day!)

We came back to New York after Angie’s wedding and hosted Sammy and Flo for a weekend; lots of good food (Joe Shanghai, cannoli’s in Little Italy, Wicked, Dylan’s Candy Bar, The Plaza, pizza, and Italian ice!):

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The week after Sammy and Flo came to visit, we flew back to Chicago for a birthday party and ended up celebrating our one year anniversary a bit early at the hotel where we got married – champagne and Lou Malnati’s, the easiest way to say ‘I love you’:

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I had the opportunity to meet my friend’s baby, Hayley, who is well versed in sign language and just the cutest baby ever:

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And celebrated our anniversary a bit early with our wedding cake (the bakery that made our cake remakes it for your one-year anniversary so you don’t have to freeze it):

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Almond cake with passion fruit curd, creme brulee, fresh raspberries and raspberry preserves:

Gracenotesnyc

And spent our actual first anniversary in Napa, enjoying wine, and attending a wedding:

Gracenotesnyc

More details on everything in the upcoming weeks, just be patient – I’ll be back with more posts soon!

TGI Fridays

By grace.g.yang · May 7, 2014
Under: American,Brooklyn,Desserts,Dinner



For Cinco de Mayo, Ken and I went to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to check out the grand opening of the newly renovated TGI Fridays. As you know, I’m usually not a huge fan of chain restaurants, but I did grow up eating Fridays and had my 16th birthday at the restaurant in Champaign, Illinois.

The restaurant in Sheepshead Bay was closed down due to Hurricane Sandy and they spent 18 months completely remodeling it:

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It’s one of several locations that will feature the new design, including a large bar area where the bartenders do all kinds of tricks (including throwing a pint of beer in a coaster covered glass across the entire bar!):

There’s also an open kitchen so you can see, hear and smell your food being prepared. This one is right on the water so there is a great view for most tables.

The bar area is really open and has a great energy around it – the President of Fridays was telling me that when the restaurant reopened, the regulars all came back and the place was standing room only 30 minutes after it opened! I can definitely see why – there are flat screen televisions for all sports games, the staff and bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable about their drink menu (30 employees from the original Fridays ended up coming back to work there), and there are specials almost every night.

For the grand opening, they were passing h’ors d’oeuvres around – we sampled almost all of their new (to me) menu items, including the Thai pork tacos:

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Ken liked the Thai pork tacos but it was a bit on the sweet side for me. I was a huge fan of the ahi tuna crisps, which were tuna slices on a tortilla chip with guacamole, a jalapeno, and cucumber wasabi ranch:

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They were really generous with the slices of tuna and guacamole and it reminded me of something I’d eat at a high end sports bar in the city, not something I could find on the Fridays menu. I was happy to see my all time favorite Fridays appetizer, their potato skins:

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These were much more crisp than I remember, which is probably due to the fact that they upgraded the type of potato that they use to deep fry. We could have had a whole platter for dinner. Ken and I also tried several different cocktails, including two recommendations from the really friendly servers. As a kid, I never had any of their alcoholic drinks and don’t remember their non-alcoholic shakes/smoothies, so I was really excited to try all of their new cocktails. I started out with the rum punch:

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While Ken had the tropical berry mojito:

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Ken’s mojito was refreshing and tasted very natural. The rum punch included a lot of different fruit purees and juices and was a bit too sweet to completely finish without getting a sugar headache.

We decided to sit down for dinner and enjoy the music from the DJ and watch the sunset:

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Ken decided to order the Jack Daniel’s ribs and shrimp:

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Ken ate the ribs as a kid and said they tasted just as good as he remembered. I thought the meat was flavorful and tender and sparingly used the Jack Daniel’s sauce. Ken, on the other hand, proceeded to dip all of his ribs in the sauce because that’s how much he liked it!

We sat by the kitchen and watched the chefs prepare all of the food:

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It’s fun to listen to the bustle of the kitchen and to hear them call out orders – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Fridays with the open kitchen but definitely liked how clean everything was.

I ordered the grilled chicken cobb salad:

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Their chicken was well seasoned and drizzled with balsamic glaze. I thought the presentation was okay but I wish they would have cut up the bacon a bit more and made it easier to eat the salad by possibly putting everything in a larger bowl or just chopping it a bit. Otherwise, it was a good semi-healthy pick to make up for all the loaded potato skins I ate (minus that extra bacon!)

Ken liked his mojito so much that he ordered another:

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The server brought the shaker to us since we were eating at a table instead of walking around the bar area:

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I ordered the gold medalist, a non-alcoholic smoothie that included strawberries, coconut cream, grenadine, banana, and pineapple juice:

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Another drink that was tasty but the grenadine and pineapple juice made it too sweet to drink along with dinner.

After dinner, we got to the best part of the meal: dessert. Ken had to order the Oreo madness:

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And I ordered the Brownie skillet:

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The Oreo madness was really good and had a really creamy and delicious Oreo ice cream in between a freshly crumbled Oreo cookie crust. Their president said that this was one of the menu items they upgraded; they now use real Oreo cookies and improved the quality of ice cream.

I was less impressed with the brownie skillet; the brownie I prefer is more on the fudge-y side with a nice crisp crust (Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, if you’re wondering where to get that kind of brownie). The ice cream on top of the brownie was really delicious, though, especially with the pecans and caramel sauce, but the brownie also had a layer of chocolate sauce and it was just too decadent for me to enjoy (especially since I had a Gold Medalist to help me wash everything down).

We really enjoyed the experience of dining at Friday’s again and both agreed we’d come back next time we are in the neighborhood (it is right by Marine Park Golf Course which Ken likes to play). Nothing like loaded potato skins, a few cocktails and an Oreo madness after a long day. We are happy to see that Fridays is back!

TGI Fridays on Urbanspoon


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