Thursday, July 28, 2011

A love affair with Frita

Frita Batidos.  Could there be more perfect words?  This place is in a league of its own.  If you have not been to Frita Batidos, let me attempt to dictate how delicious and amazing their food is for you.  A "frita" is a cuban inspired burger made with chorizo and served on a french brioche and topped with shoestring french fries.   A "batido" is a tropical milkshake made with fresh fruit, crushed ice, and a drop of sweetened milk.  The combination is truly a gift from the Gods.
   You can custom make your frita by choosing your meat (they have everything from spicy chorizo to turkey to fish to blackbean) and then choosing your toppings from a delicious list of options including muenster cheese, a sunnyside up egg, cilantro lime slasa, tropical coleslaw, and avacado spread   If you are a first timer, I say go all the way with a "frita loco" which is ALL of the above on one beautiful sandwich.  :)  
   I had the pleasure of going to Frita Batidos this past week with my good friend Colin.  Since I knew I wouldn't be back in Ann Arbor for a while, we pulled out all the stops.  We began with our batidos.  He ordered Mocha and I ordered Passion Fruit.

      They were perfect.  They taste like a milkshake and nothing like a milkshake.  They are very creamy and flavorful, but not as heavy as your normal ice-cream milkshake.  The passion fruit was sweet and the flavor of the passion fruit hit your taste buds right away.  Colin's mocha batido was also sweet but had that great bitter coffee taste too.  I took a sip of his and immediantly tasted the sweet from the milk and then a second or two later was hit with the strong but perfect amount of mocha flavor.  They were out of this world.  I challenge you to order one and have enough self control to still have some left by the time your food comes out.  I did not...
  Colin and I both ordered Chorizo fritas which we had "loco" style.  When they came out, they were exploding with everything our hearts could ever desire.

   This is about the most perfect tasting sandwich I have ever experienced.  It is gooey from the muenster cheese, a little spicy from the chorizo, salty from the fries, crunchy and fresh from the coleslaw and cilantro lime salsa, and topped off with a fried egg to tie it all together.  Not to mention that the bun itself is soft and sweet and soaks up all the juice from the sandwich.  One bite of this and you will know what perfection tastes like.  But be prepared with lots of napkins.
   We also ordered a side of the "best snack ever" which is just beans, rice, salsa and cheese.  But like everything else at Frita Batidos, it exceeded all expectations.  I don't know if I would call it the "best snack ever", (that may always be reserved for bananas and peanut butter for me) but it was pretty stinkin delicious.  The salsa is filled with chunks of sweet tomatos, the cheese is muenster and gooey, and the rice and beans are cooked perfectly.  Definitely a great addition to our meal.

   The service at Fritas is just as amazing as their food.  They are always there with a smile to take your order, always happy to offer their own opinions, (I ordered a passion fruit batido because of our cashiers advice.)  and always bring the food out quickly.  It's a fun and relaxed enviroment where you sit at large picnic tables with other groups and families and don't have to worry about being too loud or having a young kid running around.  I have loved every experience I have had here and urge you to give it a try if you haven't yet. 

“Life is so brief that we should not glance either too far backwards or forwards…therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and in our plate.”
- Grimod de la Reynière

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quick Italian Getaway

    Last summer I was fortunate enough to spend a month in Italy.  I lived in a beautiful little town, up in the mountains of the Marche Region, called Camerino.  I fell in love with everything about Italy and the Italian lifestyle.  I especially loved how Italians began every morning with a cappuccino and pastry from their local cafe.  I quickly became obsessed with this tradition and enjoyed some of the best espresso and steamed milk I had ever tasted.  (Not to mention the amazing brioches and chocolate or jelly filled croissants...)  Since returning to America I have been on a quest to find a cappuccino that can compare to the amazing flavors in Italy.  Unfortunately, my attempts here in the US usually leave me a little disappointed and longing for my amazing Italian cappuccino that costs one mere euro.  However, I have found a few coffee shops that manage to bring me right back to that little cafe (K2 if you've ever been to Camerino) in Italy.  One of them is right here in Ann Arbor, MI.  It's name is Comet Coffee.

   Comet Coffee is a great little coffee shop nestled right into the historic Nickels Arcade, right off State Street.  Whether you like cappuccino, lattes, or just plain coffee, Comet Coffee is hands down the best coffee in the city.  Each cup of coffee is brewed individually once it is ordered.  You wont find any giant carafes or heating devices in this place; only mugs filled with paper filters and coffee beans, slowly dripping amazing coffee into each one.  Because of this, each cup of coffee is fresh, unique and bursting with notes of flavor.  
  Now onto the cappuccino... :)

   This custom made beauty is absolutely delicious.  The espresso is flavorful and rich.  The steamed milk is foamy on top while heavy enough to combat the strong espresso flavors.  It is probably the closest I have found to what they taste like in Italy.  I take one sip of this cappuccino and I am suddenly sitting at a table right in the piazza with cobblestone roads feeling the sun on my face.  Perfetto!  They also make lovely designs on each one which makes each cup even more special.   

   So head into Comet Coffee to fare prima colazione.  Order yourself a pastry from their options of locally made sweets and order a delicious cappuccino.  Don't you dare add sugar either!  I promise it is perfect the way it is.  Bon appetit!

"Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with."  ~Terri Guillemets

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You should taste their goods!!

   My travels have brought me to Ann Arbor, Michigan for 2 weeks.  I went to school here so it is wonderful to be back.  And, now I have a chance to add some of my favorite college eats to my blog!  First on my list is a little place called "Taste Our Goods".  You can hardly call it a "place" as it is more of a stand inside Sparrow Market in Kerrytown.  But don't let the fact that they don't have their own space fool you.  "Taste Our Goods" serves up some of the best breakfast, salads and sandwiches around!  It is run by a few girls who graduated from the University of Michigan back in 2009 and they have been creating delicious and truly unique meals ever since.

   One of my favorite breakfast items here is the "suze's open face surprise".  It is 2 egg whites, goat cheese, avocado and spinach served open face on your choice of bread.  Yum!  (And healthy too!)  My last visit, however, was at lunch time.  So I ordered another one of my all time favorites.  The "josh salad" and the "rainbow brilliant sammich".  The "josh" is made up of quinoa cakes, roasted sweet potato, grilled peppers and onion over mixed greens.  You top the whole thing off with their amazing tahini dressing. 

  My "rainbow brilliant sammi" is a layered masterpiece of beets, purple onions, blue cheese, spinach, fried egg, sweet potato, tomato, and honeycup mustard.  As you can see from the photo below, it is well deserving of its rainbow title.

    This lunch has always been one of my favorites.  Vegetarians and carnivores alike will fall in love with this delectable and unique salad and sandwich.  Both are perfectly crafted so that the flavors compliment each other in the best way.  As you bite into the sandwich, the flavors hit you one by one.  You get the tang of the mustard, followed by the sweet of the beets and sweet potato, the tomato adds in some moisture and then comes the warm fried egg and the crunch of the spinach and onions.  It is a combination I would never have thought of on my own but I am so happy the girls at "Taste Our Goods" are much more creative.  This sandwich is simply magic to your taste buds.
    The "josh salad" is not to be forgotten though!  All of the components taste fresh and flavorful.  The peppers and onions are cooked to that perfect soft but still have a slight crunch state.  The sweet potato again adds a warm and sweet taste that is unexpected but oh so welcomed.  But as good as all of those are, the quinoa cakes are truly the star of this salad.  The are slightly crunchy on the outside and then warm and fluffy on the inside.  Mix a bite of the quinoa cake with a little sweet potato, lettuce and tahini dressing and you have reached perfection.

   If you are in Ann Arbor you must check out "Taste Our Goods".  Not only is it delicious but very affordable and healthy.  They get all their ingredients from the local market they are attached to, so things always taste fresh.  Furthermore, the girls are really nice, down-to-earth, and intelligent people.  They majored in things like art history, psychology, and Russian literature, so conversation is always interesting.  So come out and support a great, local eatery and make your taste buds very happy. 

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating."  ~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright


Friday, July 15, 2011

Any Friend of a Farmer is a Friend Of Mine

    This past week, during one of my weekly visits to the Union Square Farmer's Market, which I adore and could not recommend more to anyone in NYC, I decided to treat myself to brunch.  I usually cook breakfast at home but love the occasional brunch outing.  A friend of mine had just raved about a place close to Union Square named "Friend of a Farmer" so I thought I would check it out. 
    If you have ever been to a Cracker Barrel, imagine that but without the cheesy store in front and a bit more sophisticated (that was my nice way of saying less red-neck) and you have Friend of a Farmer.  It has a very cozy, "down home" look and feel to it, complete with roosters on the wallpaper, antique cooking supplies on the wall and baskets of fresh veggies throughout the restaurant.  It was love at first sight for this Georgia girl.  I looked over the menu and decided everything looked too good to choose.  They had everything from homemade granola, eggs benedict with crab meat to pumpkin pancakes.  When it came time to order I asked my waiter to bring me whatever his favorite dish was and french press coffee.  A little later he emerged with a big smile and this:

  His favorite was the buttermilk pancakes filled with minced apples, cinnamon and their homemade apple butter.  That's right, filled with APPLE BUTTER!  Wow.  Furthermore, these pancakes were the thickest pancakes I have ever encountered.  They must have been about half an inch thick!  As you cut into these fluffy bad boys, the aroma of cinnamon and apple fill the air.  Chunks of apples that have been softened to a perfect consistency are throughout the pancakes.  The apple butter oozes out of the pancakes and you have officially entered pancake paradise.  My step father's mother used to make her own apple butter.  I have wonderful memories of being a little girl and sitting in the kitchen with Kenneth, my Step Dad, and eating his mothers delicious apple butter on toast.  These pancakes took me straight back to our kitchen and the care free days of childhood.   
   Another thing I loved about Friend of a Farmer is that they are actually a friend to farmers!  They use a lot of locally grown produce in their recipes.  Many things on their menu are seasonal and they even sell fresh, raw vegetables in the restaurant.  I am always a fan of restaurants that try to support their local farmers.  Not only is it better for our economy and our environment, but the food tastes so much better!  If you don't believe me, head down to Friend of a Farmer and see for yourself!  Better yet, head to your local farmer's market and become a friend to YOUR farmer.  :) 

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.  ~John Gunther

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Butter Heaven

    In New York City there are a few well known cupcake shops scattered about.  You can't go too far without finding a Crumbs, Baked by Melissa or a Magnolia Bakery.  I have tried all three of those and must say they are very tasty.  However, the Buttercup Bake Shop on 2nd Ave. offers something the other bakeries don't- Butter Heaven!  Buttercup Bake Shop was started by the same person who started Magnolia Bakery.  The main difference between the two is that Magnolia Bakery, while very delicious, uses shortening to make their cupcakes while Buttercup uses only butter.  They are the REAL deal.  Everyone knows butter just makes everything better (it's kind of like bacon) and the proof is in these cupcakes. 
    I went to Buttercup with my good friend Tyler to celebrate his birthday. He stuck to a simple and traditional vanilla vanilla and I ordered a red velvet.  Both were simply heavenly.


     The cake itself was very good.  Nice and moist, but still light.  Not too dense at all.  The icing, however, is truly what makes these cupcakes my favorite in NYC so far.  The icing is creamy and flavorful.  Unlike most icings, it is not overly sugary tasting.  I am not usually the biggest icing fan, but I could have bathed in this stuff had you given me the chance.  It tastes fresh and made by people who genuinely love baking.

    Another reason I have fallen in love with Buttercup Bake Shop is that the shop itself is very cozy and "down home" feeling.  There was no line (unlike any of the other previously mentioned cupcake shops) and the staff was so friendly.  They all offered their opinion on which cupcake was the best or their favorite and seemed truly happy to be there.  And the best part was that they were only $2.50 a cupcake!  That is a steal compared to other bakeries in the city!  Coming here feels like you have left New York and are sitting in your grandmothers kitchen as she bakes dessert for the family dinner and lets you try a sample.    
    Tyler and I decided that our cupcakes were too good to stop at just one each, so we split a hummingbird cupcake.

    This one may have been my favorite.  :)  I will definitely be returning to Buttercup Bake Shop!  Next time I'll have to try some of their banana pudding...


Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.  ~Voltaire

Saturday, July 9, 2011

First post!

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog!  I could not be more excited about this blog.  I have been a lover of food for a long time and my friends have inspired me to put that love to more use than just pleasing my taste buds.  Right now my current location is New York City so for a little while my posts will be about my food adventures here.  Today I went with my fellow foodies and good friends Eric, Laura, Holly and Nora to SMORGASBURG in Brooklyn.  It is essentially an empty lot in Williamsburg, right on the water, where tons of food vendors gather to sell their delicious handmade food. (For very reasonable prices I may add.)  You can find everything from biscuits and fried chicken to Vietnamese street food to hot dogs to oysters!  Each stand offers a whole new world of flavor and food heaven.
   I started my Smorgasburg experience off with a refreshing watermelon, lemon and aloe juice.  It was subtly sweet from the watermelon, crisp and refreshing from lemon, while cooling and "thirst quenching" from the aloe.  The flavors together formed one of the best drinks I have ever had.  While I was busy being taken away to a watermelon and aloe oasis, Eric and Laura were trying fried anchovies at the next stand over, Bon Chovie.  (I told you each stand was a whole new world.)  I took one look at the little guys, with their heads and tails still on, and thought there was no way that could be enjoyable.  How wrong I was!  Once I built up the courage to try a bite I was surprised with a crunchy, salty and flavorful piece of fish!  Not overly fishy like I was expecting.  If you enjoy seafood (and I'll just assume we all love fried foods) I urge you to try fried anchovies at least once.  I was pleasantly surprised and I think you will be too.
   I moved on to Queen's Danh Tu for some Vietnamese food.  I ordered the banh xeo which is a rice flour and coconut milk crepe filled with braised pork, shrimp and bean sprouts and served on a bed of greens.  It was outstanding.  The crepe was soft and sweet from the coconut milk.  The meat inside was flavorful and tender and the greens tasted like they came straight from the farm.  They also give you a full branch of fresh basil and mint and lime juice to use at your discretion.  The flavors complimented each other perfectly.  It tasted fresh, light, sweet, savory, and filling all at the same time.  I have found my Vietnamese comfort food.
   We moved on to Brooklyn Oyster Party and tried raw oysters for the first time which were very good.  The texture got to me a little, but the taste was unlike anything I have ever had.  We enjoyed blueberry-chai popsicles at People's Pops with actual bits of blueberry and a wonderful subtle chai tea taste.  They were perfect.  The macaroons from Danny's Macaroons were out of this world.  They were cooked to a perfect light brown on the outside but gooey and still slightly crunchy in the inside from the fresh coconut.  I recommend the salted caramel one but I don't think you can go wrong here.  My favorite part of Danny's Macaroons was that Danny not only cooks all of the macaroons but was also the one working behind the table and serving all of them.  He is a macaroon god AND a very friendly guy.
   Today's blog would not be complete without mention of the fried chicken biscuits from King's Crumbs.  Wow.  Now listen, I'm from Georgia and have had my fair share of fried chicken.  I know the real stuff from the wimpy yankee imitations.  I never thought I would say this but I had some of the best fried chicken I have ever had in Brooklyn today.  The chicken was juicy and tender on the inside while the outside had a great crunch and was seasoned perfectly.  It was bursting with flavor!  I was in amazement and felt pure joy.  However, it wasn't enough for the guys at King's Crumbs to just serve mind blowing fried chicken.  They put it on a homemade biscuit, added bacon and completed this golden meal with homemade ranch dressing!  Could it be more perfect!?
banh xeo

Danny's Macaroons

Fried chicken and biscuits

Williamsburg Smorgasburg

Our view from Smorgasburg

   My Williamsburg Smorgasburg experience was epic and better than I could have ever expected.  Find some hungry friends and head down next Saturday!  Great food, sunshine, and a beautiful view of Manhattan skyline.  What more could you ask for?  Happy eating!

  "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."
   -J.R.R. Tolkien