Monthly Archives: August 2011

Service Interruption Announcement

Bonjour mes amis!  Thank you for stopping by Roseofbohemia.  I just wanted to let you know I’m going on vacation tomorrow and will therefore be taking a break from blogging for at least two weeks.  I hope to write a lot about my trip when I get back.  Here’s a hint as to my destination:

One of the cutest/funniest cakes ever, in the window of Ruthy's Bakery at Chelsea Market

Guess where I’m going?

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Smorgasburg: Williamsburg Redux

Yesterday I ventured out to Williamsburg again to check out Smorgasburg, an offshoot of the Brooklyn Flea Market featuring solely food vendors.  In a recent NYTimes article, the writer Oliver Strand described it best, stating, “SMORGASBURG, the open-air market held every Saturday in an empty lot on the Williamsburg waterfront, is like a summer rock festival for food: exciting, overwhelming, sweaty, hot. You’ll hit your limit, and then you’ll want more.”

When my cousin suggested we visit Smorgasburg, I was initially afraid the food market would be a bit boring compared to the traditional Brooklyn Flea, which features shopping and food.  However, the 50+ vendors selling artisanal, local, specialty foods provided more than enough entertainment.  Some of the food products were so stereotypically Brooklyn, they were funny (ex. home brewed beer pops, “grown in Brooklyn” locally made tempeh, etc.).  Many of the vendors gave out samples, which was appreciated.

Vendor selling Grady's Cold Brew Coffee

Friend with cold brew coffee, which was surprisingly good.

After a full walk through of the overwhelming selection, I decided upon fish tacos for lunch.  I ordered two cod tacos at Chonchos-Tacos, one fried and one grilled for $9 total.  Once again, out of excitement (and hunger) I forgot to photograph the tacos, but they looked cute.  The beer batter fried cod taco was definitely better than the grilled cod taco (surprise, surprise), but both were tasty.

At the gourmet hot dog stand, my cousin ordered a Vinh hot dog (bahn-mi style – picked carrots, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno, aioli, pork pate), which she greatly enjoyed.

Gourmet Hot Dog Stand

Cousin Rachel and the dog

Two of my friends got drinks at the float stand, which featured unique floats consisting of fresh fruit, herbs, seltzer, vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet, and a pretzel.  I personally dislike vanilla ice cream, fruit sorbet, and pretzels, but I sampled the floats and both were refreshing/unusual.

Not your average float selection

Cousin Rachel and the "blueberry hill" float

I LOVE Arrested Development, so when I saw a real, live frozen banana stand, I knew what I was getting for dessert (‘there’s always money in the banana stand!”).  I ordered a frozen banana dipped in chocolate with sea salt and it did not disappoint.  $4 for the chocolate covered banana, plus $1 for the sea salt topping struck me as a high mark up, but in the heat, it was totally worth it.

Where's Michael Cera?

Toppings!

Yum!

Banana stand photos by Rachel A.

In addition to enjoying the food at the market, my favorite part of the afternoon was walking around and subsequently sitting in the lovely East River Park.  The views of Manhattan were spectacular!  My group grew throughout the afternoon as we were joined by friends, and then unexpectedly by friends of friends that we bumped into in the park.  It was a perfect summer in the city afternoon of good food, relaxing with friends, meeting new people, and getting a change of scenery without traveling too far.

Boardwalk

Spectacular view of Manhattan

For more info, visit: http://www.brooklynflea.com/smorgasburg/

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Vegetarian Meatballs in Williamsburg

Last night I went out to dinner at the Meatball Shop in Williamsburg. I feel a bit unoriginal writing about the meatball shop, since I first read about it in blogland (here, and then here).  I am not a huge fan of meatballs, but after reading so many rave reviews, I was intrigued.  I also read that there are ridiculously long waits at the original Lower East Side location, so when my friend invited me to meet her in Brooklyn, I decided it would be good time to try their newer location.  Relatedly, sometimes I forget that Williamsburg is only 10 minutes by subway from Union Square and provides a nice change of scenery, and always amusing people watching.

Williamsburg building with an owl on top (I think it was fake).

Rooftop owl

We arrived around 7:15 PM and there was no wait, but the place was packed.  My initial thought was that the décor was cute, but the acoustics were bad.  I was impressed with the ordering system (you checked off your order on a laminated menu and then gave it to your server).  The food was served suspiciously fast, but then again it’s a single specialty item restaurant, so I guess it doesn’t take them long to prepare.  I ordered the “naked balls,” which were described as, “Four Meatballs Served with your choice of sauce and a piece of Focaccia Bread.”  You could chose from five types of meatballs (classic beef, spicy pork, chicken, vegetable, daily special) and five types of sauce (classic tomato, spicy meat, mushroom gravy, parmesan cream, and pesto).  I selected the vegetarian balls with pesto ($7) and ordered a side of steamed spinach ($4).  My friend ordered the vegetarian balls with classic tomato sauce, served on pasta.

unphotogenic meatballs and spinach

We were both disappointed with our food as everything was very, very salty.  Even the steamed spinach tasted salty!  While I liked the pesto sauce, the meatballs themselves were definitely not one of the better vegetarian entrees I’ve eaten.  We were initially given a carafe of water, but it was taken away once we finished it, thus leaving us with no water for the rest of our meal.  I asked for more water and it was eventually brought in a glass, but no more carafe (apparently they can cook meatballs faster than they can pour water…humm).

The best part of the meal (and almost redeeming factor) was the dessert, which in my excitement I forgot to photograph.  My friend and I split an ice cream sandwich ($4) and we got to choose two cookies and an ice cream flavor (cookie options = chocolate chip, pb, brownie, oatmeal raisin, ginger snap; ice cream flavors = chocolate, vanilla, expresso, mint, caramel, and daily special of pb).  We selected a chocolate chip cookie, brownie cookie, and peanut butter ice cream.  The ice cream was delicious and the cookies were good too.

Overall the meal was OK, but the dessert was the only part I would want to repeat.  If I ever go back to the Meatball Shop, I would probably try the classic beef meatballs, because maybe that’s what the hype’s all about?  I feel like I missed something.

The Meatball Shop/170 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn/(718) 551-0520 OR 84 Stanton Street/New York, NY/(212) 982-8895

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Tofu Made 4X-Daily: EN Japanese Brasserie

Main room/semi-communal seating at EN Japanese Brasserie

Last month I took my boyfriend, Charles* to EN Japanese Brasserie for his birthday. Charles is a Japanophile, so I picked the restaurant by googling “best Japanese restaurants nyc.”  EN Japanese Brasserie is a chain in Japan, but the West Village location is their first restaurant in the US.  I was particularly excited that it specialized in izakaya (Japanese style tapas), since we go out for sushi a lot and it seemed like an interesting change.  I was sold when I read that the restaurant makes fresh tofu four times a day (6:00, 7:30, 9:00, 10:30).

When we arrived at EN Japanese Brasserie I was impressed by the décor, although not too pleased that we were seated at something resembling a bar/communal table (I think the individual tables were for groups of four?  I’m still not quite sure because I made our reservation about a month in advance).  On a related note, they also had cool/authentic looking Japanese party rooms, but they seemed more appropriate for large groups.

Charles ordered a flight of sake, which gave him the choice of three of six types of sake and came with a side of yasai chips (taro chips?).  I ordered a cucumber and vodka cocktail, which was very refreshing, but contained seemingly no alcohol.  I would probably choose the sake flight if I could order again.

Sake flight and chips

Since the restaurant specializes in tofu, we each ordered tofu, prepared in different ways.  I had the “freshly-made scooped tofu,” which you could get warm or chilled.  It was definitely the smoothest and softest tofu that I’ve eaten.

Freshly-made scooped tofu

Charles ordered Goma Dofu Age Dashi, described as, “sesame tofu lightly fried in a savory dashi broth with an array of mushrooms.”  It was delicious, although we found it amusing that it tasted so completely different from my tofu dish (tofu is versatile! hehe).

Fried sesame tofu

We also ordered a raw tuna and avocado salad and three types of o-banzai (small Kyto-style dishes).  For the o-banzai we choose eggplant, asparagus, and mushroom dishes.  I didn’t take photos of the salad or the o-banzai because I didn’t love any of them (though the mushrooms in peanut sauce were memorable).

Overall EN Japanese Brasserie was nice (good décor and service), although pricy, which I knew beforehand.  Considering I only really liked the tofu and drinks, I wouldn’t give it a high recommend, but I’m glad I tried it.

EN Japanese Brasserie/435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014/(212) 647-9196

*Name has been changed to protect the innocent.

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Because nothing is ever so perfect: more reflections on Cartagena (Part III of III)

Military Recruitment Propaganda

Large Sculpture of a Soldier

I loved Cartagena, but it wouldn’t be a fair assessment to describe the city without sharing some of the more disturbing things I saw there (when I wasn’t just admiring the beautiful multicolored colonial buildings):

  • While the city was extremely diverse, I found it strange that the help in restaurants was usually black and the majority of diners were not.  I’m certainly not a sociologist, but it made me think that racism in Cartagena must be a major problem.
  • I have never seen so many police officers and soldiers in my life (and I’ve vacationed in Mexico City and Israel).  Adding to their threatening presence was the fact they carried a variety of large, visibly loaded guns, in addition to assault weapons.  Perhaps I shouldn’t complain because they are the reason that Cartagena is so safe, but seeing machine guns and uzis never fails to disturb me.
  • In addition to the many armed police officers and soldiers, many of the upscale stores and restaurants had their own private security guards.  Private security and welding (for wrought iron building protection) seem like booming industries.
  • To say that the streets were uneven and in dire need of repair would be a vast understatement.  I know that it is an underdeveloped country, but the sidewalks struck me as a seriously hazardous situation (if you didn’t look down, you could fall into a hole).  It made me wonder what types of personal injury laws are in place and who is liable for the many accidents that must occur there.
That being said, I still want to go back soon!

At the Colombian chain Crepes & Waffles, water costs more than soda 😦

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Sunblock 50: What I did in Cartagena (Part II of III)

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Photos by Barbara J. Rosen and SJRG

* Walked around the walled city and admired the architecture (generally done between the hours of 10AM-noon and 4-7PM, when it wasn’t too hot).

* Discovered I like mojitos and alternated between ordering mojitos and piña coladas for my nightcap at the Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel bar.

* Explored the stores on Avenida San Martín, the main shopping strip in Bocagrande.  Although I saw some pretty bathing suits and cute matching cover-ups, I was a little disappointed by the shopping.  Everything I liked was over $100 and you could buy similar clothes for the same price or less in the U.S.  I did buy a nice cotton blouse on sale at a Colombian boutique for $12 and some FIFA t-shirts for friends, but that was about it for my purchases.

* Ate a lot of seafood, particularly in the form of shrimp ceviche and fish soup.  Entrees were generally served with coconut rice and fried plantains, neither of which I liked enough to replicate at home, but were interesting to try.  The best thing I ate was actually ceviche from a street stand called Cocteleria La Torree, which was more established/safer looking than the typical street stand (it had a refrigerator, the chef wore a disposable surgical mask, and the sign said it’s been around for 25 years).  I also tried several types of fruit juice (ex. melon juice and tree tomato juice), although I wouldn’t strongly recommend either.

* Visited some nice small museums, the gold museum being the standout.  I really wanted to see the enormous gold museum in Bogota, but it was too far for our short visit, so we made do with the smaller version in Cartagena and it did not disappoint.

* Went on a chiva bus tour party bus.  This would be my least favorite (and the most over-hyped) activity in Cartagena.  Every guidebook and website says that the chiva bus tours are a must do activity and fun for families and people of all ages.  I think the real trick/secret to enjoying the bus tour is being drunk when you get on.  As my mother and I were not drunk, we did not enjoy the loud sweaty people, live mariachi band two rows behind us, rum and Pepsi on board, and tour that was more comprehensible in Spanish than English.  The most annoying part of the bus tour (aside from the overall loudness and perspiring neighbors leaning on us) was that the bus circled around the same neighborhood for over an hour looking for more tourists to pack into the already overly crowded bus.  We bolted at the first stop, two hours in and two hours before it was supposed to end.

* Read at the pool (and I’ll admit, more often in my room b/c I prefer AC to sun).

* Spoke a lot of Spanish.  While this seems like a given, I got more practice in Cartagena than anywhere else that I’ve visited as almost no one spoke English and I served as translator, negotiator, and guide for my mother.  The trip was a great refresher!

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Romancing the Stone: Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (Part I of III)

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Photos by Barbara J. Rosen and SJRG

I just got back from a lovely 5-day vacation with my mother in Cartagena de Indias, Columbia and it seemed like a good topic for my first blog post in 2 years.  Cartagena is a Caribbean beach resort city, aptly described by the Michelin guide as a “colonial jewel.”  It is considered the safest place in Colombia because of the large tourist industry and the 2,000 police that are employed there to keep it that way.  The main attraction is the colonial walled city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I’ve visited many places that are known for their multi-colored historic buildings (Burano, Italy; Charleston, SC; La Boca, Buenos Aires), but none were as charming as Cartagena.  The buildings were decaying a bit, but not so much as to look decrepit and not so overly bright as to look Disneyfied.

We stayed in Bocagrande, which is an area with a lot of hotels and high-rise buildings from the1980’s that were built for tourist packages.  My mother chose the Hotel Bahia in Bocagrande because she wanted AC and a pool, which is a rare combo in the walled city.  Initially I was disappointed that we weren’t staying in the historic area, but I ended up being very happy with the accommodations.  The walled city was less than 10 minutes away by taxi and the ride cost a set rate of 6 pesos (about $3.50 USD).

Five days was more time than enough time to explore Cartagena, but it was too short to visit some of the other cities I wanted to see in Columbia (Bogotá and Medellín required flights or possibly unsafe and super long bus rides).  And while we saw almost everything there was to see, Cartagena was so relaxing and beautiful that we would have gladly stayed longer.  Tomorrow I will continue my Cartagena travel series and describe some of the fun things we did there.

p.s. I was planning on watching Romancing the Stone when I was in Cartagena, but apparently Netflix instant is only available to viewers in the USA and territories.  I finally saw it when I got home and I was quite disappointed because it was actually filmed in Mexico (and the story was ridiculous!).  I read the movie was supposed to be filmed in Cartagena, but kidnappings in Columbia were high at the time so production was moved.

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