Thursday, September 27, 2012

Brown Bag Deli

Now that I don't work in downtown, I do miss the convenient of good easily accessible everywhere.  Aside from the tunnel systems there are tons of food places easily get to on the street level.  One of them with the nicest owners is Brown Bag on Capitol.
The owner is the nicest guy, if you have any allergies let him know.  If you go late in the afternoon, you can catch them with the last batch of cookies from the oven.  They have been known for putting cookies back to the warmer for a bit if they know ahead of time.
I had the tuna salad sandwich, and the bread was off that day, but the tuna salad was great all on its own.  I did not get a warm cookie this time, I tired their pre-packaged 'gluten free' cookie.  Let me just say that the pre-packaged cookie is nowhere closed to their homemade ones.  Their homemade ones are like teacakes and they have tons of chocolate chips in there.  You should try it!

Brown Bag Deli
(downtown location)
810 Capitol
Houston, TX 77002

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Geisha - Baton Rouge

Since our last on-the-road sushi venture didn't bout too well, we thought we'll try again... 
We came acros Geisha, it's young and hip looking and who wouldn't want sushi with a flair?  When we sat down, we saw the busy sushi bar, and lots of tables were full, we thought there might be hope!
I ordered the Chirashi, that is after I tried to order their Sashimi Lunch and their Nigiri Lunch without success.  Why without success, you asked?  They listed 6-7 types of fish on the lunch menu, yet when I tried to order them, they only have 3 available... hmm...

Chirashi, however, you get the best of all worlds: you get your sashimi, your rice, your veggies.  That seems to be a better and less headache than the other options.  The food is not bad, the fish is fresh, the service is not so hot.  Our server tend to be easily distracted, and if you're hungry, that didn't quite help the case.

Sushi with a Flair
240 Rance 12 Blvd
Suite A&B
Denham Springs, LA 70726
(outside of Baton Rouge)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

P.F. Chang - Knoxville, TN

Sometimes, while on the road, you just want to have some consistency.  One thing you can count on is chain restaurants, especially when you're travelling with anybody that has food allergies.
Mongolian Beef - this is what Mongolian beef is supposed to be, with chili oil not curry sauce.
Chang's Spicy Chicken - nice zing with sweet and spicy!
Side of Spinach

Anytime you go to PF Chang's and order off of their gluten free menu, you can always tell if you're getting the right dish, because they always serve with dishes with their logo on it.  Otherwise, their normal dishes are served on plain white dishes.  Next time take a look!

PF Chang
6741 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TX 37919

Monday, September 24, 2012

Miso Sushi Bar - Harrisburg, PA

As we went on this road trip over the summer, we find that we miss sushi quite a bit.  Thank goodness to Yelp, because it helps you find local recommendation.  Since we've been craving for some sushi, we were determined!  Out we found: Miso... guessing this can't go wrong, right?
It does take a bit of driving around to find them.  Alright, let's see if Pennsylvania's sushi measures up:
Everything looks good except one, can you find it?  Hint: it wasn't the Unagi Handroll.
This is their version of the Tokyo Roll, which has salmon, tuna, bass, and cucumber.  The flavor and fish goes well together.  You can really see how generous they were with the cucumber... wish they were more generous about the fish, which is what I'm really paying for.  

I just wish the person who cut the roll cut a decent thickness.  When you have that much fish and cutting them thinly, everything falls apart when you try to pick it up.
The other offender was the chopped scallop.  This is the first time I've ever had them literally cut the scallop piece and place it on top of rice.  Usually, chopped scallop is mixed in a sauce, and then placed on top with roe.  That way, when you pick up the sushi, everything holds together because the sauce acts as a bonding agent.  This way, it's like trying to eat confetti.

Our server is friendly, and frankly eating sushi in the middle of nowhere is already impressive.  Unfortunately, this also means that you have to lower your expectations when it comes to quality and presentation.  I want to support mom and pop shops, but not sure I am willing to sacrifice the integrity of my food.

They do post their nutritional info on their website.  Their iced green tea is pretty good and they do have free wifi.  If anything, you can check emails or directions from there.

Miso Sushi
4620 Jonestown Rd
Harrisburg, PA 17109

Friday, September 21, 2012

Risotteria - NY

For dessert, you know how you just have dig around for a good place.  For gluten free dessert is even harder... but we found them! 
Risotteria came highly recommended on Yelp.  We've been lucky that none of the Yelpers had steered us wrong, and this is also a good recommendation.  They are a full fledge GF serving restaurant.  The place is little, can seat about 24 people or so, and that's already too tight.  They don't take reservation, so time yourself, if you're super hungry during peak dining hours, this is probably not going to work.
That said, you can pick up some desserts for later.  We came here really for their GF Black and White cookie.  We're big Seinfeld fans and that's our thing.  It's hard to find B&W cookie, little to say that it's GF.  

As you can see, they also have banana bread, vanilla pound cake, "Orio", "Winkies", cookies, and Brownies.  You can also get them shipped.  They shipped anything from the yummy desserts to pizza dough, to cake mix, to breadsticks, to risotto.  They have a full array of baked goods on their catalog too. 

270 Bleecker Street
between 6th & 7th Ave (in the Village)
New York

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Socci - DC

One thing about staying at hotels is that you end up eating at their restaurant.  They just make it too easy.  You don't have to leave the building, you don't have to go outside and trying to find the way.
This is Socci, which is inside the Renaissance Capital View Hotel in Arlington.  And everything smells great.
I'm just impressed with the cup, because by the time you drink it to the bottom, you'll see their logo.
This is their hip decor, it is very impressive.  I just had to instagram one.  LOL.
Alright, let's talk food.... I had their crab omelet and it came with home fries.  The home fries needed some salt, but the omelet does have real chunks of crab meat.  That's really where your value is at.  Inside has spinach and cheese.  Talk about a perfect omelet.  Not too cheesy and over empowering, just right on the portion, and came out beautifully.

If you don't have time for a sit down breakfast, they do have a cafe.  In the morning, that's a popular spot, they do close middle of the afternoon.  Back at Socci, they have a very popular happy hour with pizza and appetizer to go with the bar specials.  You should give that a shot.  We tried but there were alot of people, so got discouraged and went somewhere else.  Otherwise, they do make it very comfortable that you don't have to leave the building.

2800 South Potomac Ave · 
ArlingtonVirginia 22202

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bistango - NY

Some times, doing research ahead of time pays off.  In this case, both of us stumbled up on Bistango in Midtown West of NYC (though I really think it's Murray Hill type area).  
They had just recently rolled out the new menus, and talk about totally Gluten Free friendly restaurant, you don't find anywhere this on top of things.  As soon as we sat down, they asked if we have any food allergies, good sign.  That means, that they're used to cater to eaters like such that they're ready for any weird questions we throw at them.
Bread mysteriously appeared, and we didn't even have to ask, they brought out GF bread for us to dip with our olive oil and pepper.  Know this: it is super good, but if you want more, it's $5 for second serving.
When I saw this on the menu, I couldn't resist.  This is Eggplant and Ricotta Ravioli with Lobster with marinara sauce.  OMG, can you see the lobster or not?   The sauce was so good that you just want more bread to clean that plate.
With so much junk food, we'd figured that we better have some spinach for good measure.
Speaking of junk food: for dessert, they really have 2 things for GF friendly that day, the creme brûlée or Chocolate Cake.  It was delicious and reminded us alot of the flourless cake.  It was super dense, super good for a sweet tooth like me.
In case you're wonder where this is, you can't miss this colorful awning.

I'm super impressed with Bistango, they were totally prepared for anybody who are GF sensitive.  I overheard one customer asking the server, how did the restaurant got to be so knowledgeable about GF.  Turns out, one day a customer came in and asked the chef for GF and he took on the challenge with spaghetti squash for her.  Since then, she told her friends, who told more friends and they became very popular and known for it.  That's pretty cool!  And we couldn't be happier to have pasta done so close to the real thing and still taste good.

If you want to come here for dinner, do make a reservation.  Lunch is easier to swing in and be seated.

415 3rd Avenue, 
New York, NY
(212) 725-8484

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cha Chan Tang - NY

Every time I got to NY, I have to stop by Cha Chan Tang.  It really is a little home for me and it's great to have a small taste.
Here's their ice bucketed milk tea.   It's really a good idea, this way, the ice won't all melt into your milk tea, which then turn into a layer of water before you get to your tea.  Plus, you get more tea for your value.  I wish they do a Yin Yang version of it.  By the way, the 'formula' of Yin Yang, is not 50/50 as most people think that it is... it's 3/4 of one and 1/4 of another... just didn't remember which is which... :-/
Then, I ordered my favorite, Salty Fish and Chicken Fried Rice.  Honestly, I've never had that until I moved to Texas.  My dad ordered it from somewhere when I was having cabin fever and that cheered me up somehow, and I've stuck with it since.
Another night, David had a craving for Cha Chan Tang again, and it's like twist my arm about that.  This time I had the Red Bean Ice, which is really cooked red bean (which is already a bit sweeten) with condensed milk and shaved ice.  You mix it all up, and you get this yummy drink!  Ok, it's more like dessert, but I drank it.
This round I ordered the curry pork rice.  Yet another dish from my childhood that brings back memory.  And, actually, I'm a big fan of curry and don't get it nearly enough.  The pork is very tender and not at all chewy, definitely good.
I had to order some 'fish balls'.  LOL.  They are really street hawker food, like $1 a skewer with 6 of them on one.  They would be dipped in different sauces.  Of course, I secretly thinks that the air, the dust, the street is really what adds to the taste.  They don't taste the same eating them at a sit down place.

When you come here, we found that it's easier if we don't come during 'peak' hours.  You know, come after breakfast or after lunch, or have a late dinner.  Although, for dinner we found that weekdays are definitely easier to get seated than during the weekend.  Otherwise, bring patience, because the wait list can get long.   It's not that you can't find similar places in Chinatown, just that this is hip, up-to-date, and yet still keep the food tradition, the mixture of all of those components are what makes this place special for me.

Cha Chan Tang
45 Mott Street  
New York, NY 10013
(212) 577-2888

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lili's 57 - NY

One spot I scooped out was Lili and Loo on UES, but we were nowhere near it, so instead we found Lili 57. We think they might be related, but couldn't find a sold proof, either way, we're up for some good GF Chinese food.
Situated literally across from the Carnegie Hall, if you blink, you might have missed it.  The subway station is literally right outside.  We already knew that we can do sushi no problem, but heard about GF dumpling, which we don't see it offered much, so thought we give it a shot.
We ordered the pan fried pork dumpling.  We honestly have not tried any dumpling that's GF, trust me, you don't realize you miss it until you get to have some.  Now, if they can master the Shanghainese dumpling with the soup in it... I'll be there daily!
It was quite mix of cuisine being offered there.  You get sushi, Chinese, Thai.  For instance, this is a Thai Iced Tea, wish they had the Iced Coffee... I'm a big fan.
I ordered the GF Mongolian Beef.  Now, here's the thing: if you're used to eating the Chinese style Mongolian beef, you know that the heat should come from the pepper.  Particularly, Asian Chili Pepper.  Not Bell Pepper, or Cayenne, or Banana Pepper, the heat is supposed to come from Chili Pepper.  Instead, the spice they used was from curry.  So, they got the steak right, and cooked nicely.  The look of the dish also will fool you, but the taste cannot escape it.  I'm surprised that they made that choice, because now this dish has become a Southeast Asian dish (think Thai/Singapore area) rather than a Chinese dish.  (Granted, I do know that's more of a Chinese-American dish than a real authentic Chinese dish)   

You know, they say that you eat with your eyes, and that is true, my eyes is telling me I'm having Mongolian Beef, which my head is expecting it as well.  But instead I got curried beef.  It is spice, no argument there, just the wrong palette is all.  I was quite disappointed, because had that been the case, I would've chosen the Massaman Curry instead.

Lili's 57
200 West 57th (on 7th Ave)
New York, NY 10019

Friday, September 14, 2012

Laduree - NY

You know that when I'm in NY, I HAVE TO go to Laduree.   Look at the lovely display!!! Just <3 it="it" p="p">
This is their Summer Special Designer box.  So adorable!
You know what we learned?  That is, if you come during the week, especially Monday/Tuesday.  There's no lines!  As I was telling David that the line will be long, we often standing outside of the store span across the shop next door.  We walked up, straight to the counter, no trouble.  There were few customers there to pick up some macs, but we have an attendent right away.  Wow!

This is the designer box I got.  So classy!
They have some summer flavors left over, such as: Citrus & Basil (which has a zing and a kick to it), and green apple, which was nice and refreshing.
This is the Strawberry Candy (as you see the pink sugar coated on top), this is part of their Incroyable series.
This is another Incroyable, which is the Lemon-Lime flavor.  Essentially, Incroyable are marshmallow filling with flavors in them.  Trust me, I'm a big fan.  They are yummy, flavorful, but the real feature is because the marshmallow filling is smooth.  Talk about indulgence.
Other flavors: Almond, Violet, Rose, Coffee.  I got Cassis just as a tradition.  

864 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021
(646) 558-3157

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Friedman's Lunch - NY

Another place David found that supports Gluten Free eating, is Friedman's Lunch.
It is inside the Chelsea Market, which is one of my favorite spots.  Not only is it home of the MLB and Food Network's office.  I like the decorations in the hallway, if you ever walk by, take a closer look at the elevators and the wall decorations.
That night, the special was watermelon cucumber lemonade.  For the alcoholic version, I've seen them put it with champagne, that sounded very good.  Just because without the alcohol it's already pretty awesome.
For sides, they have this awesome and very addictive Brussels sprouts. It's not too oily, even though it looks it.  But the Parmesan cheese mix well with it.  It doesn't melt everything together, but nice enough to have a hint of the cheese taste.  I think I would've liked it if it's a tad crunchy because it seems a tad soggy, but bits there were crunchy was really delicious.
Here we have a GF version of Scallop.  So instead of risotto, they substituted it with quinoa pasta.  It was mixed with sundried tomato and mushroom.  Honestly, I can't really taste the tomato, they usually stand out in dishes like this.  But I can't taste it, the sauce they used was quite over empowering.  That was good for the scallops and the quinoa pasta, but covered up the tomato and the mushroom.  I can only hope that the sauce has those ingredient somewhere. 

If you're hard core GF, you can pretty much forget about having dessert there.  The night we were there, the (very delicious sounding) dessert was chocolate chip cookie in a pan.  That sounded good but not GF friendly.  If you order a sandwich, they're ready for you since they will substitute with GF bread.  Food over all is good, atmosphere is relax and fun especially after a day of shopping and sightseeing. 

Friedman's Lunch
75 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
(212) 929-7100

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Brio was kind enough to invite us to a tasting, and I was thrilled because I've heard alot of great things about them.  I know they have a place out in City Centre just haven't had a chance to go try them out yet.
 We saw some nice specials for the day.  But what I love is their $5 drinks special and to go along with it, they have $3.95 bar specials.  They have 10 very nice dishes to chose from, and you can make a full meal out of them.
 This is a parmesan flatbread with their version of spinach and artichoke dip.  I would've love it if there's more cheese on the flatbread, but the artichoke dip is definitely first class.  Nice and gooey and warm, it's definitely a must!
If you have any dip left over, which I'm not sure why you would.  You should try them with the flatbread from the bread basket.  It has sesame, rosemary and other spices.  It's also great for dipping other stuff too.  (read on)
 Here we have shrimp and eggplant.  It has a creamy black pepper sauce as a base, and I'm in love with the sauce with the shrimp.  We were saying that it reminded us of a Chinese dish that use black pepper sauce.  Let me tell you, that will go great with any drinks! 
 Beef Carpaccio is another of their popular dish.  I really love their mustard aioli sauce that goes with the thinly sliced beef.  They give you a small side salad, and I would eat that entire thing if they have a dish like that.  Just put it in front of me, I'll do it. 
 After the appetizer, we got a lobster bisque.  Wherever a place offers lobster bisque, I usually order that as my marker.  That's how I compare places.  Here: the stock is definitely hearty and thick, and you can tell the hint of .  You can definitely taste and see the meat, but I wish they have more of it.  Couple bites and it's gone... I think I'd like to savor it some more.  Here is where you'll use the rest of the flatbread, if you have any left.  They go really well together, the soup and the flatbread.  So remember to save some.
 For the main course, I took our server's recommendation on trying the Pasta Alla Vodka.  It's ricotta stuffed pasta, with pancetta (the bacon looking red pieces) and the parmesan cream vodka sauce.  OMG, I love sauces that are rich like that, it definitely warms your tummy and makes you happy.  I can see myself ordering this in the winter time, especially.  The pasta wrapped the ricotta like little wonton, and you can wipe every bit of your pasta in that sauce.  
 For dessert, they have chef size and mini size.  And thank goodness for mini size... but that is not to say we didn't give the full size a try.  This is a chocolate cake with vanilla gelato.  The center is all warm and gooey, and you half expect that to be molten lava.  But instead, it's nice and compact.  Definitely a chocoholic's piece de resistance!  It does remind me bit of the flourless chocolate cake.  Eh, who cares, it's yummy chocolate center that's warm and ooey, you wouldn't say no if it's in front of you.
For the mini size dessert, they have 5 to choose from.  You can order them as a set or individually.  Given all the food you saw we ate, I opted for individual size.  That's actually plenty.  I had the tiramisu.  I would be curious to try the full size version of this because the very bottom they put chocolate chips at the bottom.  The ladyfingers were all melted and it's all mixed in nicely into the layers.  For me, I can definitely tell there's some nice mascarpone on top.  So the trick is to dig in from top all the way to the bottom to get the full effect of all the layers working together.  Otherwise all you get is just the mascarpone cheese layer.  You want a good cross section in one bite.  Since this isn't very many bites, you can do that here.

Overall, even though I know this space used to be Pesce, I felt very renewed here.  They removed the bar that was inconveniently located in the middle of the restaurant with the fish tank, and opened up tons of space in the middle for seating.  The one side they can cater to small to medium size parties and the bar and bar seating now faces the nice windows and the street.  The set up is definitely warmer and nicer.  We just love the open kitchen, I always like to see my food make its way to me from the kitchen.  

For those of you who paid attention to how much gluten free stuff I've been posting lately, especially on our NY/DC trip.  Have no fear!  Brio does have a Gluten Free menu, so you won't feel left out when your friends are drooling over pasta.  They have 3 types of GF pastas to offer.  Actually, at quick glance, almost everything on their Grilled section and their Steak and Filets section can pass the mustard.  You just have to pay attention to their House Specialties.  I'm definitely coming back for the Veal Milanese next round!

Brio (River Oaks)
3029 Kirby Dr 
(at W. Alabama)
Houston, TX 77098