If you don’t have plans for Friday night, head to the LES for Cupcake Camp!
The event is sponsored by Cupcakes Take the Cake and there will be a ton of free cupcakes for you to enjoy! Hope you can make it!
If you don’t have plans for Friday night, head to the LES for Cupcake Camp!
The event is sponsored by Cupcakes Take the Cake and there will be a ton of free cupcakes for you to enjoy! Hope you can make it!
Ever since the NYTimes published the article on where to eat in Flushing, I’ve been meaning to make a trip out there to try out the Chinese food. You see, I can’t really read Chinese so I usually end up relying on my parents to order for me (it’s always been like that). Now that I don’t live with my parents, I have to rely on what I grew up with on my summer trips to Taiwan and China and just hope for the best. Pointing at things other people have ordered also helps.
So, on Sunday, six of my friends took 7 train ALLLL the way to Flushing to meet up with me to start the food tour. I was so excited that I texted Justin at 9am. Here’s the conversation:
Grace: Justin! I’m so excited about the Flushing food tour! Aren’t you excited, too?!
Justin: Yay! I’m excited too but I’m going to sleep more.
Oops! I guess I shouldn’t have messaged him so early
Anyway, our plan was to try a bunch of places on the NYTimes list, some places Justin’s visited before, and random places we found interesting. We all put in $20 into a main fund (Justin’s pocket) and he was in charge of paying for things and keeping track of the money. I figured $20 would be more than enough and we’d just re-distribute the money after lunch.
First stop: White Bear
The sign is kind of small, but it’s the White Bear Dumpling Shop and it was one of the restaurants written about in the NYTimes. We only had 5 people at this point, but the place is really tiny and the shopowners didn’t seem too happy to see so many people crowd her restaurant. Initially, we were going to get the dumplings to go because there were so many of us, but we decided to sit in a little corner and share seats:
Julie and I know enough Chinese to order dumplings, so we put in two orders of wonton dumplings with hot sauce:
The dumpling filling was pork and veggies and the hot sauce was surprisingly not hot at all (although there were also pickled vegetables that were pretty tasty). Justin liked the sauce and pickled vegetables so much that he ate them straight from the container:
Total Spent:$9 for two orders of wonton dumplings with hot sauce
Our next stop was going to be a soup dumpling place, but we had 7 people and it just wasn’t going to happen. Plus, Julie and Justin said that Joe Shanghai in Manhattan was better than the place we were going to visit in Flushing. We ended up at Best North Dumpling Shop, which is located around the corner from White Bear.
Second stop: Best North Dumpling Shop
We thought White Bear was small, but Best North Dumpling Shop is actually a woman’s kitchen with a couple of bar seats and two tables that seat two (or four if you really squeeze). While Julie and I were deciding what to order, Joe, Justin, and Blake goofed around the rest of the shop, which included a cell phone retailer, a seamstress, a sushi shop, and an herbal medicine shop:
We ended up going with pork and fennel dumplings, shrimp and leek dumplings, and cabbage, celery, and pork dumplings. They all looked like this:
The dumplings are handmade by the woman that owns the dumpling shop – she told us that she wanted to open a cart in Manhattan to sell the dumplings but her English wasn’t good enough to start the venture. All of the dumpling skins were really chewy and well cooked (she only has one stove so if a lot of people go into the shop, you’ll have to wait quite a while to get your order in). Julie, Justin, and I liked the pork and fennel dumplings the most, Paul, Blake, and Joe like the leek and shrimp dumplings the most (even though Joe is allergic to shrimp), and Steph’s favorite were the cabbage, celery, and pork dumplings.
The owner of the shop was really nice and even posed for this picture:
I don’t know if I’d go back to White Bear, but I’d definitely revisit Best North Dumpling Shop.
Total Spent:$9.75 for 30 dumplings
Third stop: Flushing Mall (various stalls)
Our third (and final) stop on our food tour was the Flushing Mall. Initially, I planned to visit another food court, but I could tell that everyone was getting full. Julie, Justin, and I decided to split up the money and order at a bunch of different places while everyone else saved us seats. Justin and Julie have been to the Flushing mall before and knew where the good stalls were and I just wanted soymilk, so it just seemed logical.
Julie ended up ordering from Hand-Drawn Noodles:
There is actually a restaurant that specializes in beef noodle soup, but this restaurant is supposed to hand pull their own noodles, which was a big selling point for us. She brought back two orders of beef noodle soup with hand pulled noodles:
The noodles were kind of thin (I thought they were going to be fatter for some reason), but the soup was really delicious (lots of star anise, cilantro, and beef!).
Justin ended up going to two stalls – one place for the best dumplings in hot sauce:
And one place for cold noodles in peanut sauce (one of my favorite dishes from my mom’s kitchen):
The dumplings from the unknown stall were the best I had all day – TONS of garlic (who was I trying to impress?), lots of hot sauce, and a delicate dumpling skin wrapping a nice piece of fatty pork inside. The cold noodles were o-k, but I think my mom makes them better. I’ll have to get the recipe and post it (if she wants to share her secrets!)
Finally, I went here for soymilk:
While I was standing on the wrong end of the counter, I saw a woman make some kind of dish with yo-tiao (fried dough that you dip in sweet or salty soy milk), pork flakes (ro-song), and pickled vegetables all wrapped with white rice (what a magical treat!) Obviously I had to order it because it looked so good. I also noticed these breads (bings):
During my summers in Taiwan, my dad would sometimes take us to get soymilk, yo-tiaos, or those pieces of bread before heading into his office for the day. Sometimes, you can get the bread filled with all types of different meats – at this stall, they filled it with scallions, hoisin sauce, and beef:
Here’s my total order:
The soymilk was actually not that big of a hit (after ordering it, I kind of wished I could’ve gotten do-hua instead), but the yo-tiao and the flaky bread with hoison sauce and beef were both a huge hit. I forgot to take a picture of the rice log (with the magical surprise inside), but that was a favorite as well.
Almost everyone at the table before we demolished all of the food:
After we ate all of that food, I suggested we move onto another food court, but was shot down by everyone as they were loosening their belts. Instead, we decided to go for dessert – shaved ice!
The shop sells all kinds of fruit drinks, shaved ice, and ice creams. Enough to make you go crazy because you want to try all of them but don’t have enough room in your stomach to fit it all in! Actually, I remember when we landed in Taiwan in 2006, my mom and I dropped off our luggage and were promptly driven to the night market (Shilin) where we filled up on all kinds of goodies, including lots of shaved ice. My dad also used to take me to a place that had shaved milk that was sweetened with fresh fruit, ice cream, and condensed milk. This stall had a similar idea of shaved ice and condensed milk, but they didn’t have the shaved milk (I’m actually not sure it’s milk – it might be milk and condensed milk?) We ordered one fruit based dessert and one bean based dessert. All of the toppings are pretty amazing (lots of fruit sauces, beans, and other things that are not good for you):
We went with one traditional shaved ice (with lots of beans):
It sounds weird, but all of the beans are cooked in sugar so everything is sweet, not salty. There’s also a syrup that goes between the ice and the beans in case you need more sweetness. Joe, Julie, and I really liked the dessert (maybe because we grew up on it), but everyone else was kind of ‘meh’ about it. On the other hand, the fruit dessert was a huge hit:
It might’ve been the mango ice cream…or the fresh mangoes…or the condensed milk over all of that goodness, but the shaved ice was was pretty much finished in a matter of seconds. It was pretty impressive, especially since we ate a ton of food right before starting dessert.
After the Flushing mall, we walked to Ten Ren for some bubble tea and then headed back to Manhattan on the 7 train. I was in a food coma by the time I got back to my apartment, but I was also super happy that I finally made it out to Flushing to try some of their awesome foods. In total, we spent $70. For a ton of food. Isn’t that amazing?! I’m going to organize another tour in May, so hopefully the people that couldn’t make it to this tour will be able to go on the next tour!
I just finished a meal at Landmarc and I usually let a meal digest for a couple of days in my head before coming up with a post, but this meal/experience offended me so much that I have to stay up and write about it while it’s fresh on my mind. To give you some background regarding the dinner at Landmarc, my friend Sara is a frequent visitor of the restaurant; it’s close to her apartment, they have a Riesling she likes, and overall, I think she really enjoys the food (especially the homemade caramels they give for dessert). Two weekends ago, she went with a friend and had a really terrible experience – so terrible that she wrote the owner of Landmarc (Marc Murphy) and told him that the service was not acceptable for a restaurant of their caliber. The executive general manager of the Anvil Group (which owns Landmarc, Ditch Plains, and other restaurants), wrote her this response:
Date: Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 4:38 PM
Subject: saturday night at landmarc
To: Sara Rossett
dear ms rossett,
i sincerely appreciate your feedback from your visit to landmarc tribeca on saturday night. i am very sorry to hear that this visit was not up to the regular standard of service and food you have come to know and love at our restaurant. we pride ourselves on having a consistent level of service any time of the day or night that we are open and it is unfortunate that you received anything less. we are obviously going to take this information back to our entire staff to make them aware of how apparent a lack of attention can be to not only there own table, but everyone in the restaurant.
i also genuinely appreciate your comment regarding the state of the economy. we strive to go above and beyond to thank every guest for continuing to come to our restaurants during these times, and that was not the reception you received.
again, the information you have provided us about your experience can only help us in being more aware of the areas we can improve. as you know from prior visits, and i hope, because of my faith in our staff, that this was an isolated incident, that we can easily rectify.
please let me know when you are planning to come back in as i would like to make sure you have a much better time. and again thank you for your email.
executive general manager
Sara was happy with the response and excited that Jonna basically promised a better experience at Landmarc the next time we went. I mean, if an executive general manager is going to take the time to write you an email apologizing for the “isolated incident” and inviting you back to the restaurant, you go, right?
Sara responded to Jonna with this e-mail:
Hi Jonna – thank you for your prompt response. I am frequent patron of Landmarc and understand that this was an isolated incident and I really appreciate your courtesy.
In fact, I’ve become a fan of your chicken burgers and was planning on returning this weekend with some friends to try it again. I’ll have to confirm but if you could put my name down for Saturday at 9:30pm for 4, I would greatly appreciate it.
Thanks again Jonna and I look forward to many more enjoyable meals at your restaurant.
To which Jonna responded:
i have you in the book for saturday. i am actually not going to be here that night, but i am going to make sure mollie, who is the general manager, stops by to say hi!
i hope you get the chicken burger, they are so good. i had to swear off of them about a year ago, because they had become too addicting, but it isn’t a hazard when you don’t work around them, so enjoy!
have fun saturday and i hope to hear from you soon
Okay, so of course, Sara told me about this entire story and invited me to dinner because she thought it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce me to one of her favorite restaurants – plus, I could blog about it. She also invited David and her roommate, Jamie, and we decided to make a night of it. We arrived at 9:30 and Sara gave the hostess her name for the reservation, however, all of the tables were full and we were told to wait at the bar for 10 minutes. I understand if you have to wait a couple minutes for a table if you have a reservation because people linger, tables have to be cleaned, etc., but we ended up waiting for 30 minutes (THIRTY MINUTES!) for our table! Not to sound like a total complainer, but RESERVATIONS ARE MADE FOR A REASON! We sat down at 10pm, which kind of annoyed me, but I didn’t want to mention it because I was expecting AMAZING SERVICE and INCREDIBLE food.
Our server came to give us the wine menu – Sara asked a question about the Rieslings (there are only two Rieslings on the wine list right now so it’s not much to remember), and the waiter began telling us that it was his second favorite Riesling (does that mean you don’t like it?) He couldn’t explain the difference between the two wines and he also didn’t have much knowledge about the wine. If Landmarc is a restaurant that has an extensive wine list, don’t you think the waiters should have a better idea/more education regarding the wines on the wine list? I’m not asking for every waiter to be a sommelier, but if you don’t know the answer, shouldn’t you ASK someone that does have a better idea? Sara ordered the wine she wanted and ended up liking it, so it didn’t end up being a big deal, but I thought the server should’ve known more about the wines on the restaurant menu.
After our wine came, it took another 15 minutes for the server to come take our order. Okay, we get it – the restaurant is popular (even in the recession) but seriously, shouldn’t you be more attentive?! Also, I must mention that we had to repeatedly ask for bread – no one bothered to bring it after we had placed our order.
We started off with the fried calamari with spicy tomato sauce:
As well as the smoked mozzarella and ricotta fritters with fried zucchini and spicy tomato sauce (the same sauce that’s given with the fried calamari):
Both appetizers were good, although the fried appetizers reminded me of something we’d order in a bar while watching a basketball game. The smoked mozzarella and ricotta fritters were delicious (I mean, can you go wrong with fried cheese?) but I definitely didn’t taste any smokiness in the mozzarella – it tasted more like fresh mozzarella.
For an entree, Sara and Jamie ordered chicken burgers (Sara ordered gruyere and Jamie ordered smoked mozzarella):
Their burgers also came with pickles that Sara really liked (I wasn’t a huge fan because they were half pickles that were more sweet than sour). She ate all of her pickles and wanted more, so she asked the waiter to bring her a couple more. The waiter made a HUGE deal of it and was really hesitant to bring them – obviously Sara asked if there was a problem with her request and the waiter begrudgingly agreed to go into the kitchen to ask; he said that some of the chefs on the grill make him charge extra for pickles. Seriously, they’re PICKLES! They cost 1/10 of a cent to make! Can’t you just bring some over and make a girl happy?! I mean, SHE WROTE A LETTER TO THE OWNER TO TELL HIM HOW BAD THE SERVICE WAS LAST TIME – SHE’S NOT AFRAID TO DO IT AGAIN! The waiter came back with a small plate of pickles (for free) and made it seem like he just handed Sara a plate of gold and she was supposed to thank him accordingly. Let me repeat, they are PICKLES and they cost next to nothing. GET OVER YOURSELF!
After we finished our first basket of bread, we asked for some more (mainly because I ate all of the bread and the other three people at the table still wanted some) – David had to ask twice and Sara had to ask once before someone brought bread to our table. The busboy dropped off two baskets, almost in a spiteful way (I might be reading too much into the way he dropped off the bread, but it was definitely not in a nice way). Okay, so your restaurant is busy in a crappy economy – does that mean that you should treat you patrons in a rude manner and make them never want to return again?
David ordered the hangar steak (medium rare):
The steak was very tender and juicy (they actually grill the steaks in the back next to the bar) and David seemed to enjoy it, so I have no complaints regarding his steak.
Finally, I ordered the mussels with fries:
Similar to the mussels at Ditch Plains, the white wine, parsley, and shallot sauce just doesn’t have enough acidity. I really shouldn’t have ordered the mussels because I wasn’t a huge fan of them at Ditch Plains, but I completely forgot that the two restaurants were related when I ordered. I had to ask the waiter for lemon wedges and the waiter looked at me like I was CRAZY to make such a request. People use lemons all the time, Mr. Waiter!! I added lemon and dijon mustard to the white wine sauce, which made is slightly more bearable, but I shouldn’t be fixing the sauce – that’s the chef’s job! It was almost like a water sauce with some mussels (like on Arrested Development when Lindsay makes hot ham water). Also, is it so much trouble to distribute the shallots a little more evenly?! The fries were actually delicious – very meaty and crispy.
David and Sara ordered dessert and then the check came along with some house-made caramels:
Since the caramels are made in-house every morning, the color of the caramels isn’t always the same (Sara brought me caramels last time she went and they were a LOT lighter than these). Today’s caramels were more burnt than usual – shouldn’t there be a candy thermometer being used to maintain consistency, or is that just some crazy idea I just came up with?!
Going back to the original emails, Jonna said that she wouldn’t be there but Mollie would definitely be working on Saturday and she would stop by during our meal. Sara actually asked another hostess if Mollie was working, to which she responded with a blunt “yes,” but apparently the dots didn’t connect with the hostess that Sara would want to talk with Mollie.
As we were walking out around midnight (yes, our meal took that long because the service was SO SLOW), we ran into Mollie, who asked if she could help us with anything (I was looking for matchbooks because I collect them) – she asked how our meal was and I basically told her about our meal and that Sara (and ALL of us) should’ve been treated with more respect. Mollie said that she didn’t even KNOW that Sara was in the restaurant (there is a serious lack of communication in this restaurant) and that she was sorry that the meal didn’t go over well. I understand that restaurants get busy (especially on Saturday nights), but Jonna promised a better time (and honestly, if I were treated the way Sara was the last time she went there, I would’ve expected some free appetizers, a free dessert, or SOMETHING), and we definitely didn’t have a pleasant experience.
In my opinion, a restaurant’s success is based off their food AND their service. Service plays such an important role in a diner’s enjoyment and our server was downright terrible. Also, there was a lack of communication regarding Sara’s complaint; I’m sure restaurants lose customers all the time based off ONE bad experience – Sara was willing to go back (and bring friends!) to Landmarc because she really did want to give them another chance, but based off the way they treated her, I would recommend that she find another restaurant to visit. In this economy, restaurants need to be cognizant that people don’t have as much expendable money for expensive restaurants such as Landmarc; restaurants should really go out of their way to make sure everyone’s meal is enjoyable.
What are your thoughts regarding restaurants and service? Leave your thoughts in the comments – I’d love to hear your opinions!
Thank you to EVERYONE that sent me e-mails/messages regarding available apartments – David and I found a wonderful place in the city and we moved in over the weekend (a special thanks to Joe, Ariel, Sara, Lou, and Harlan for helping us on moving day!) We’ve been slowly settling in – we both have beds, I have a dresser, and we’re picking up couches today (living in furnished apartments since moving to New York is a good and bad thing!) Since I haven’t been blogging much recently, I just wanted to tell you guys that I’m still alive AND that I’m staying hydrated:
I ordered from Fresh Direct all of the necessities (7 cases of seltzer water, POM juice, cereal, eggs, and yogurt) and they delivered everything while I was locked out of my apartment!
I’ll be back next week (or maybe this weekend!) with new posts – including step-by-step instructions for making Magnolia’s Famous Banana Pudding!
To get the $20 gift certificate, I had to eat at a LOT of restaurants (I think I ended up going to some restaurants that didn’t give points, like ad hoc. But it’s okay because I love to eat!) Anyway, a lot of readers have said that the Strip House is better than Peter Luger’s, so I obviously had to try the place out.
To start off our meal, the waiters brought around a bread basket and a shot of mushroom soup as an amuse bouche:
The mushroom soup was creamy but not extremely heavy and had a nice mellow mushroom flavor. The bread basket had a diverse selection, but I didn’t want to fill up on the bread because I knew there was a lot of steak about to be consumed.
There were some options to share a steak, but this time, I decided to order my own – I ended up ordering the filet:
And my dining companion ordered the ribeye:
Both steaks came with an entire bulb of oven-roasted garlic and some rosemary. So, I have to admit, remember how I didn’t like the Peter Luger steak sauce that tasted like cocktail sauce? Well, I actually kind of MISSED it because I felt like both steaks were missing *something.* They were both tender and cooked well, but the garlic just didn’t cut it (although I was a huge fan of the garlic cloves and ended up asking for TWO MORE CLOVES!)
As sides, we ordered the goose fat potatoes and the truffled cream spinach:
I wasn’t a big fan of the goose fat potatoes even though everyone raves about them, but I did *love* the truffled cream spinach – I was shoving the truffled cream spinach in my mouth by the serving spoonful and felt REALLY sick after. It was really rich, creamy, and SO delicious. If anyone doesn’t like spinach, they should try it at the Strip House.
Overall, I thought the meal was mediocre – the steak wasn’t memorable and I didn’t like the sides enough to go back again. Sorry readers, I hate to disagree with you, but the Strip House is definitely not better than Peter Lugers!