About Me

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I am an Operations Manager at a snack food company and I hold a Master's Degree in Food Studies from New York University. By night I hang out with my schnauzer and explore the city's newest, strangest, most delicious food and drinks.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: Fresh Grill Cafe Meal Delivery

I like to cook, but who wouldn't enjoy sometime off from planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning? I have fantasized abut having a private chef, so when I saw a deal online to have 3 meals a day delivered for 5 days at $100, I decided to give it a try.

Fresh Grill Cafe is just starting out and is based in New York. Nutrisystem is probably the best known meal delivery program. Like Nutrisystem, Fresh Grill Cafe offers flexibility. Your plan can include many combinations of meals and snacks, can be completely vegetarian, and offers calorie control whether you are looking to lose, maintain or gain weight (I chose a maintenance plan). Unlike Nutrisystem, all the food from FGC is fresh and delivered daily in a cooler. Here is a look at some of the meals I had last week. 

For breakfast I received oatmeal (x3), pancakes, and a fruit and nut parfait. 

The outside of the container had cooking instructions for the oatmeal pictured above, which I followed. There was a strange spice mix (and maybe dried milk) and after cooking, the oats were still raw. Considering that it is easy and inexpensive to make microwave oatmeal, I was not impressed with this offering. 

Above is the fruit and nut parfait, which is even more pink and slimy looking in person. I thought this might just taste like artificially flavored yogurt, but the pink creamy mess was the worst breakfast I have ever experienced. It tasted like a combination of chalk and cough syrup. 

I tried some of the vegetarian options offered by FGC. Here is a picture of a "chicken" (seitan) white bean pasta I was offered for lunch on Monday. 

Unfortunately I don't enjoy seitan, and after heating this up int he microwave, it had a terrible, rubbery texture. The beans and pasta were overcooked to a mushy consistency. It is worth noting that while FGC offers a vegetarian menu, that menu is essentially the normal menu with soy and/or seitan substitutions for meat.

Luckily on Wednesday I had a much better lunch. The screaming Yankee bison burger held up well in the microwave. The burger had a nice spiciness incorporated in the meat and was topped with a chipotle sauce. The burger gave me hope for the rest of my meals!

Before my meal delivery began, I had a consultation over the phone when I selected my meals and discussed my preferences. Unfortunately, two of the meals I received for dinner were not what I ordered. When I complained to Fresh Grill Cafe, they immediately offered to make up for it by giving me extra meals on Saturday. 

One dinner they got right was Chicken Parmesan. My side of  grilled squash was simple and enjoyable. The pasta was cooked to a nice consistency. However, as you can see, the "parm" was very light on sauce and cheese, and the chicken just didn't taste good. The breading had a stale flavor. 

To sum up my experience with Fresh Grill Cafe, here are the pros and cons. 

  • Convenient
  • Well priced
  • Fresh, not frozen
  • Calorie controlled
  • Friendly customer service
  • Not much variety
  • Limited vegetarian options
  • No ingredients listed 
  • Wasteful packaging (15 plastic containers!)
  • Just doesn't taste good
  • Not dependable (bad cooking instructions, wrong meals received)
The bottom line for me is taste. It will always be a challenge for a home meal delivery system to offer freshness and tasty food. For now, I'll keep cooking for myself. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lesser Known Markets

I love shopping for food. My hobby of looking for new items and fawning over the first fresh strawberries of the season occasionally results in a kitchen full of food that I cannot eat fast enough. I am working on my addiction.

But with so many great markets in New York City, how can I resist? I live a few blocks away from the Union Square Greenmarket, which, like many farmers' markets in NYC, is open year round. There are also other, less well known markets, that have delicious finds, offer hard-to-find specialty items, and fabulously fresh produce.

Chelsea Market
This "market" is more like a mall for all things food. Housed in the same building that is home to the Food Network, Chelsea Market also offers several bakeries (bread, muffins, cupcakes), restaurants (a creperie, a "green" bistro with a killer kimchi burger, a deli), a butcher, a gelateria, and my favorite, an amazing produce and bulk food store. The market often hosts neat events so check the calendar before go. 15th Street and 9th Avenue, Chelsea

Economy Candy
It is very difficult to leave Economy Candy empty handed. This cramped store is packed from floor to ceiling with the basics like gummy bears and Pez, but also offers an impressive selection of imported candies and hard-to-find childhood favorites.  I recommended Zots (fizzing hard candy) and Violet bubble gum. 108 Rivington Street, Lower East Side

Myers of Keswick
I wish I found Myers of Keswick sooner. The owners import cookies, candies, crackers, sauces and canned food from England. They also offered prepared pies, sausages and scones. I like to pick up HP Sauce and Aero candy bars. Closed Sundays, 634 Hudson Street, West Village

Essex Market
 This is a market with history. You can find almost anything you need inside: from a meal at Shopsins to fine cheese, this long open building has many vendors that blend together. Specialty produce and fish are the best finds at Essex. 120 Essex Street, Lower East Side

Sunrise Mart
Located above St. Mark's bookstore, Sunrise Mart specializes in Asian imports including food and kitchenware. It's easy to find noodles of every variety, spectacular green tea ice cream, and very fresh seafood. The store is tiny and often crowded, so be prepared to spend some time in line. 29 3rd Avenue, East Village

Do you have know a great specialty shop? What products do you have trouble tracking down?

Cross Promotion!

Please check out my guest blog post on the Peeled Snacks' blog!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tamales: Do you know where to look?

New York City has a lot of great Mexican food. Burritos and tacos are widely available. If you are looking for a great torta, there is Zaragoza. Need a taco that will change your life? I recommend Dos Toros.  But my favorite Mexican food is associated with special occasions, and is understandably a bit harder to find.

Tamales are mainly steamed masa. They can be filled with almost anything- chicken, pork, cheese, chiles- and are usually wrapped in a corn husk.

I sometimes have stumbled upon them at the Redhook Ballfields when I am looking for pupusas (that is a whole other entry). On Sunday, you can get a tamale on West 14th Street near Eighth Avenue- some vendors sell them on the sidewalk after a nearby Catholic church service ends. But I didn't know where to find a reliable tamale on a Tuesday night... until last week.

Paquito's on 3rd Avenue between 16th and 17th is a whole in the wall that makes a decent enchilada and offers a cactus burrito that my boyfriend loves. Thankfully they have just added tamales to their menu and having tasted them, I can confidently say I have found my new tamale home base.

I recommend the red chile chicken, which has a smoky sweet flavor. Two will fill you up- add a side of rice and beans and you will not need breakfast the next day.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Night Cocktails: Blue Owl Edition

Welcome to Friday Night Cocktails, where I share my finds: great drinks and even better deals. For the inaugural edition, I would like to introduce you to my favorite East Village bar: Blue Owl.

The Blue Owl is often overlooked. Even though it is on a popular strip for bar hopping on 2nd Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, it is on the basement level and easy to miss.

Inside, the bar is swankier and more quiet than most of my watering halls. Jazz plays softly in the background and candles dot the bar and tables. What you need to know is that every night until 8pm and on Wednesday all night, the top shelf cocktails are just $6 (regularly $13).

Six smackers will get you such impressive libations as the Ellison, with Hendrick's cucumber gin, muddled mint and cucumber, and fresh lime juice. Like your drinks a bit more spirit forward? Try the powerful Tammany Fizz. A long pour of wild turkey is balanced with subtle apricot liqueur and fresh blackberries.

Skip the bud light draft, doll yourself up, and head to the Blue Owl.

Evol burrito review

Frozen burritos are not a go to meal for me. Usually I think they are boring and not very filling. And cooking them in the microwave makes the tortilla tough. In New York, there are so many cheap Mexican joints with great burritos that it just doesn't seem like a good idea.

But for the last few months, people have been telling me about Evol Burritos- Evol has a philosophy I appreciate: the use real, unprocessed ingredients. Reading their labels are refreshing. My chicken black bean burrito contained ingredients like free-range chicken, cheese, beans, garlic and rice. I could pronounce all of them! This is a good sign.

My local health food store has the burritos on special for $1.79- at that price I couldn't pass up giving them a try.

I took the burrito to work. It was easy to transport, fast to cook (under 3 minutes) and surprisingly delicious! The burrito filling was as good as anything I have had fresh- the chicken was finely shredded and well spiced. My burrito did suffer a bit of tough-tortilla syndrome after being nuked, so the next time I might try cooking it in the toaster oven.

And now you will have to excuse me... I have some burrito shopping that can't wait...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gourmet Popsicles- to go!

Popbar is a small, tidy little counter in the West Village, filled with fancy Gelato and Sorbetto on popsicle sticks. I have visited popbar before, but at around $4.50, it is not the kind of indulgence I can afford (or justify) very often.

Lucky for me Groupon recently ran a deal: 6 pops (a pre-chosen variety) in a thermal bag for $12. I picked up my pops today and because they were prepacked, the transaction was fast as lightning. The bag did the trick because even after a 30 minute walk, the pops were frozen solid. Here is what my package looked like when I got it home.

Popbar also provided a handy little guide to tell me what was inside the bag. I am a fan of their chocolate dipped strawberry sorbetto, but I decided to give a hazelnut gelato bar that they included a try.

The hazelnut gelato, crushed hazelnut topping and chocolate dip were a really tasty treat. I look forward to working my way through the rest of the cooler!

Exploring Grocery Stores: Natural Green Market

As an employee at a dried fruit company, I am also trying new products in the office. I still never get tired of exploring grocery stores and trying new things.

Tonight, I went to the Natural Green Market on 3rd Avenue at 16th Street. They stock great quality organic produce and a cool steam table (half off after 8pm). But my favorite thing about this oversized bodega is that they love to stock new, exotic and even strange snacks.

Tonight I picked up three things I have never seen before.

The Good Bean is a foil bag with roasted chickpeas, flavored with chili and lime. I was excited to try them- I like to roast my own chickpeas but it can be a little messy to clean up. This could be a good snack- low in fat, high in protein, easy to carry around, and not too expensive at $2.29.

Inside the bag:

Unfortunately these guys taste nothing like homemade chickpeas. They are not crunchy- just crumbly. There is barely any chili or lime flavor to speak of.

Tune in tomorrow, after lunch, for a review of the Evol burritos!

Korilla BBQ Truck Review

You know what they say about the best laid plans.

I was on my way home from work with plans for a home cooked vegetable curry dinner. At the grocery I picked up some cauliflower to add to the carrots, potatoes and peas I had at home. Everything was going to plan.

Then I walked the dog, and on my way back along 14th Street between 3rd Avenue and Irving I saw a new food truck: Korilla BBQ. The veggie curry would have to wait for another day.

The Korilla truck has a build-your-own philosophy: Choose a protein (bulgogi, pulled pork, chicken thighs, tofu), pick a starch (rice, tortilla) and deck it all out with your choice of fermented and pickled veggie toppings. I got a rice bowl with the pork and lots of kimchi. At $8, I thought the portion was just right- definitely enough for a hearty meal. And all the guys in the truck were friendly and helped me pick my toppings and sauce.

This was my first experience with Korean BBQ. I found the pork very fatty and that didn't appeal to me. The sauce was really tasty, and the veggies and rice were both great. I would try Korilla (or other Korean BBQ ) again, but I would skip the pork.

How to find Korilla:


Monday: Midtown East (55th & Lex)
Tuesday: SoHo (Varick & Vandam)
Wednesday: FiDi (Old Slip & Water St)
Thursday: Midtown East (55th & Lex)
Friday: Flatiron (24th & Park Ave)


Mon-Thurs: Columbia U. (117th & Amsterdam)

Friday: Union Square (14th & 2-3rd Ave.)