Sunday, January 27, 2013

5 Napkin Burger- New Menu

5 Napkin Burger has a reputation for being one of the most popular burger spots in New York City. What makes them different is that aside from burgers, they sell other food such as sushi, salads, and small plates which you can turn into a tapas experience. It's kind of surprising. Most would think that if you order other than the namesakes and specialties, you're ordering wrong. At 5 Napkin Burger, if you stray from the burgers, you'd find yourself just as satisfied.

I had the opportunity to sample 5 Napkin Burger's new menu in Astoria, Queens. We were served a few small plates to share, chose our own entree, and then sampled some of their milkshakes for dessert. Genius! From now on, I'm ordering a milkshake for dessert rather than as beverage. Cookies and cream is the way to go!

Here are a few things we ate that night:

Wasabi Deviled Eggs
Crispy Fried Calamari "diavolo" = calamari with fried jalapenos!
Pesto Flatbread
Taco Trio: Grilled Mahi, Pulled Pork, Chipotle Chicken
Skirt Steak Churrasco
Funny, how I went to 5 Napkin Burger and didn't try a burger. I just wasn't feeling it that night. I had gone once to 5 Napkin Burger in Hells Kitchen and tried the burger, so I wanted to know what I was missing. The small plates or appetizers were all good. They'd go great with a drink or as a light dinner. For entrees, the steak churrasco was perfect. If you're ever wondering where you can get a decent priced and decent steak, 5 Napkin Burger. They cook it medium rare and it is bloody good. The tacos were on the dry side so if you get them, stick with the mahi as it is light and tasty not dried out like the pork or chicken.

After visiting the Astoria, Queens location, I find that I prefer it much better than the Hells Kitchen, Manhattan location. It's got more space and there is no wait time! They are also now serving Astoria's SingleCut beers and a $5 burger special for lunch. Who ever said you couldn't get a deal in NYC?

35-01 36th Street
Astoria, NY 11106 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pokemon Party

Once in awhile, my friends and I like the have a theme night. We pick a movie to watch and then cook dinner influenced by elements of the movie. Our most recent dinner was a Pokemon party. Did you know there has been 18 Pokemon movies made? That's one too many for me to watch but I did have fun coming up with ideas for dishes to make.

My friends compiled a list of possible dishes. These were not made but they sounded interesting:

- Jiggly Cream Puff
- Machop and Applesauce
- Arancini Bulbasaur
- Pidgey in a Blanket
- Sauteed Swiss Charizard
- Egg and Cheese Rattata

Here are a few pictures of what was brought and made for the party:
Pokeball tomato, olive, and mozzarella cheese
Gotta eat em all!
Fried Magikarp with Chili Sauce
Pokeball Pizza
Pork Buns
Bulbasaur Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Vanilluxe Ice Cream
Eating was fun and the movie was a little slow but in between both we brought out some old toys to put together and play with.
Pokemon world!
Pokemon at your service!
Pokemon understands how I feel at work.
Before the Pokemon movie we had a bbq and a Phoenix Wright night. What will be our next theme night? Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

5 Tips for an Orlando Theme Park Visit

Magic Kingdom

Orlando, Florida is home to a variety of theme, water, and amusement parks. Whether it is Disney, Universal, Sea World, or Wet N’ Wild you are interested in, there are more than enough activities to do and, most likely, not enough days or energy to do them all. Pick wisely and you will have a fun filled vacation with lots of reasons to return. Here are a few things I learned on my weekend trip down south.

1. Transportation- How do you plan to get around? If you are driving your own car or getting a rental, take into account hotel parking fees ($20/day), theme park parking lot fees ($14/day), rental fees ($12-32/day), gasoline cost, and driving through traffic. If you don’t have your own car, it is doable to maneuver without one. Many of the hotels have airport shuttles ($19/person) and a taxi will run about $50 to/from the airport and $10 to/from Downtown Disney or Universal CityWalk. Theme park shuttles run every hour and if you are on Disney property there is always the monorail or ferry. If you are riding shuttles, take note of the schedules and reservation requirements. If you have a digital camera or camera phone, take a snapshot of the schedule. If you lose the schedule, you’ll have a digital copy saved. Weigh your options and go with the one you are most comfortable with. I have stayed on Disney property once and had no issues with public transportation. This time, I was based on the Universal side and had a few issues with taxi and shuttle hours and customer service. Next time I’d look into renting my own car.

2. Accommodations- If you stay on Disney or Universal property there are a lot of perks. These are the newer hotels and have a resort like feel. By staying on Disney or Universal property, you may have early entry into the parks and a Universal Express card key for Universal. Skip the lines! This perk can cost up to $50 extra per person depending on the day you go so if you get it complimentary through the hotel you could be saving some real money.

There are countless budget friendly hotels and motels in the surrounding area. If you choose not to stay on Disney or Universal property, check if your hotel is part of the Disney or Universal partnership. You may be able to get into the parks an hour early.   

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure
3. When to Visit- I have been to Orlando during the height of Summer and Spring Break. Both months (July and April) were humid, hot, and crowded. Temperatures were in the high 80s. This time I went during Martin Luther King weekend (January) and it was still warm (72 degrees) and sunny. The coldest it got was a low of 64 and it rained barely a sprinkle. The crowds were non-existent (line wait times were anywhere from five minutes to 45 minutes). I vow never to go back during Summer or Spring Break. Off peak season is much better.   

4. Theme Park Logic- Study the map of the theme park. Cross off rides and attractions you are not interested in. If there is a FASTPASS available for a ride, get it and return at your designated time to avoid long wait times. While waiting, ride one or two rides or catch a show. Go on rides when people are eating lunch or dinner or watching a parade or fireworks show. If you need a logical path, walk the park clockwise, counterclockwise, or go to the farthest point and then make your way back to the entrance/exit, and take the train if you are tired of walking around the park.
FASTPASSES at Magic Kingdom
5. Birthday- It was my birthday weekend and I went to the Magic Kingdom on my actual birthday. I got a birthday button with my name on it and every time a park employee saw my button they wished me a happy birthday. One employee even serenaded me in Donald Duck’s voice and threw confetti on me. At the new Fantasyland, I was in one of the giftshop candy stores and I got a free chocolate covered marshmallow dipped in hot pink crystallized sugar. It was delicious! I felt really special all day. Universal is also on the birthday bandwagon and distributes birthday buttons as well.

Disney buttons
I had a whirlwind tour of three theme parks in three days. I’ve already planned my next trip and that would be during October when there are even less people. At the Magic Kingdom during Halloween they convert the Haunted Mansion into Nightmare Before Christmas and then overnight the park gets decked out in Christmas decorations complete with fake snow. I definitely want to experience that and will be using the tips I learned this last weekend to maximize my trip to its full potential. Happy theme park hopping!

1180 7 Seas Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

6000 Universal Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32819

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chobani Soho- First Greek Yogurt Store in NYC

Chobani Soho. Dog friendly too!
New York is so fancy pants. What we can buy at the grocery store for a dollar on sale, we need to have sold in a store front that rivals a high end jewelry, optical, cupcake, or macaron shop.

I am pleased to introduce Chobani Soho. Yes, the Greek yogurt you find on your grocery shelf is now served fresh daily in New York City. I laughed a little when I first heard it was coming to town. Now that I’ve seen the following of Chobani and tasted their yogurt creations, I am impressed and glad they opened up a yogurt bar. We are witnessing the Greek yogurt revolution and birth of a new trend. Frozen yogurt out, Green yogurt in. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fage opens up across the street from Chobani next year.

Greek yogurt is an acquired taste. It's not sweet. It's rich. It's is also thick. Although Chobani is more on the thinner side, some Greek yogurt is so thick that if you stuck a spoon in it, it would stand up straight left alone. The yogurt is thick because it is strained of liquid. During this process, most of the lactose in the yogurt is also lost. Greek yogurt is high in protein, has a low caloric count, and when non-fat or low fat it can be a pretty healthful option. There are many reasons why people are buying into the Greek yogurt craze.

The yogurt served at Chobani is not the same variety as the pre-packaged ones sold in the grocery store. For the yogurt bar, Chobani created 10 different recipes and two seasonal flavors. Does dark chocolate and pistachios float your boat? Feeling new age-y and want to jump start your morning? Yogurt topped with blueberries, Chia seeds, and Hemp might do the trick. Need a little something to tide you over before your next meal? Plain Chobani with a touch of honey keeps it simple. It’s also served with pita chips.

I like the Chobani store. They took the conservative, classy, high class route instead of going for a neon pastel plastic look. Chobani Soho suits the area. The store looks expensive with dark colored wood. It’s almost a look don’t touch atmosphere. It’s also crowded with tourists, shoppers, and locals taking a break while walking their dog.

The interior is a little hectic. There is a crowd and only one person to take your order. There are no cash registers at Chobani. Someone casually walks up to you, takes your order, collects your money, and then gives you your yogurt. At the back wall you can watch the yogurt chefs concoct your personalized bowl. The store is decorated with bags of Chobani branded pistachios, honey, water bottles, tote bags, and olive oil for sale. The table in the center is decorated seasonally. The last time I went in, the table was loaded with giant shiny ruby red pomegranates and pine cones.

Chobani interior
Private label Chobani everything
Since there is barely any seating, one is encouraged to take their yogurt to go. The yogurt is covered loosely with Chobani cheesecloth and held in place by a red elastic band reminiscent of Kabbalah. The bowl the yogurt is served in is made of glass, perfectly sized to hold a prepackaged Chobani from the grocery store, and yours to keep. If you eat in the store, they will trade your dirty bowl for a brand new clean bowl and let you go on your merry way. No more sneaking into public bathrooms to wash out your Chobani bowl for safe holding.

Ready to go or ready to eat!
Pumpkin and Walnut
Toasted Coconut and Pineapple
Cucumber and Olive Oil: Avoid! No one likes this one at all!
So far, I’ve tried Fig and Walnut, Toasted Coconut and Pineapple, Pumpkin and Walnut, and Pomegranate and Power. The ingredients are top shelf and plentiful. The toasted coconut and pineapple alone was a tropical experience. If you are a fan of Greek yogurt, I highly recommend trying out the Chobani store. They have somehow elevated the whole experience of eating a cup of Greek yogurt. If it still sounds far-fetched to you, I say, “Only in New York, only in New York”. Actually, I’ll rephrase that by saying, “Only in New York, only in New York. So far.” 

150 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012