It’s official, I am obsessed with Juice Press. I found another favorite there, shake strawberry milk. The ingredients are so simple, a little bit of almond milk, a few fresh strawberries, a dash of agave and homemade almond butter. What’s not to like? It’s happy combination of the flavors of summer and childhood.
We took refuge after work on the patio of Gran Electrica at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Two Margaritas de Toronja Picante to kick off the evening: one with habanero infused blanco tequila, Combier, lime juice, and grapefruit juice and the other with Mezcal. And now onto the fresh guacamole and fish tacos.
While we waited out the almost 45 minute wait for brunch, RJ and I headed to Seven Stars Bakery for coffee and more. The more? Half a loaf of their Vermont cheddar bread. A chewy sourdough is studded with sharp Vermont cheddar, reminding me so much of Cheezits. Not a bad thing at all for a little snack on the ride back to New York.
A loaf of coconut chocolate bread made using Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe from My Bread. After much waiting last night and one half-failed attempt, I pulled out a relatively successful loaf of the bread from the oven. I served it for the team breakfast along with a jar of homemade vanilla banana butter, strawberry jam, and Nutella. The bread itself wasn’t super sweet so the accompaniments were perfect spread onto the chewy slice.
In the three years that I have lived in Chelsea, I still haven’t found my neighborhood spot. I blame it partly on my ADD when it comes to restaurants and partly on the fact that there really isn’t a place near me that quite fits the bill. Sure, Westville and Co. come so close but the sheer size of both places as well as the constant lines make them that much less cozy and personal.
So imagine my excitement when I found this little spot in East Village called Upstate Craft Beer and Oyster Bar. No surprises here – the title of this entry already kind of gave it away – but the little oyster bar on a busy stretch of 1st Ave had every element of what I was looking for in a neighborhood spot. I am definitely late to the game because Upstate has been open for quite some time already. The tiny bar is right around the corner from India row and rustic space only has enough tables for a handful. When I arrived to meet up with LC for dinner early on Sunday night, most of them were already taken. The bar in the back was first come first serve so I grabbed a beer from the warm and friendly bartender while I waited for LC.
By the time LC arrived, a high top for two opened up so I left my spot at the bar (a little unwillingly to be honest).
First order of business before we even get to the real menu was to place our orders for oysters. Upstate offers a daily oyster happy hour from 5-7PM for 6 oysters and a craft beer for $12 dollars. We had just 10 minutes to take advantage of the happy hour so decisions were made quickly. For me, 3 brinier East coast oysters and 3 sweeter West coast oysters while LC stuck with the West coasters.
Neither of us were that hungry so we decided to share two appetizers and an entree. The first appetizer that caught our eyes was the ceviche. For that day, it was slices of jumbo Long Island fluke with roasted red pepper couli, olives and tomatoes. Refreshing and mildly sweet, this was perfect for the warm day.
Our second appetizer had to be, of course, the grilled squid salad with chili and garlic on a bed of kale. Simply prepared, the squid pieces were tender and every bite had just the right amount of char. The kale on the bottom was nice and hearty and held up nicely against the warm squid.
Light appetizers meant that we could splurge a little on a heartier entree. I had heard all about Upstate’s clams with fettuccine so I knew immediately what we had to get to wrap up the meal. The al dente noodles were covered buttery bread crumbs, sweet onion slices and a light covering of parmesan cheese. The clams that circled the noodles were plump and sweet and steamed to just the right tenderness. The portion was rather large and the pasta was rich, making me glad that we decided to share it instead of ordering it for one.
There was no dessert menu at Upstate and instead, the waitress brought over a few slivers of the Wife’s Whiskey pound cake. Not overly sweet but intensely buttery with a fine crumb, this was exactly what we wanted to finish the meal.
The friendly service and the adorable atmosphere coupled with delicious menu made me wish just a tiny bit for the first time ever that I lived in East Village. If I did, Upstate would definitely be a place that I would find myself at on a Friday night after work for dinner, on a Saturday afternoon for a quick drink and oysters or any other day of the week when I crave some fresh and beautifully cooked seafood at a very reasonable price. Now, how do I convince the husband and wife team to bring Upstate to Chelsea?
Upstate Craft Beer and Oyster Bar | 95 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003 |
I heard about Num Pang from a coworker a few years back when it was still a tiny little sandwich shop just south of Union Square. He raved about the sandwiches with such great flavors but I never made it to their original spot for some reason (perhaps because I am not the biggest sandwich enthusiast?). Fast forward a few years, the Cambodian sandwich shop has now expanded throughout the city as well as its menu offerings. Lucky for me, the Flatiron location of Num Pang is very close by my apartment and offers many non-sandwich options on the menu. Seating inside the graffiti filled space is minimalistic so be prepared in case you were looking to linger. Combined with the fast service, this makes Num Pang a great spot to stop by for a quick bite.
If you are in the mood for salad, the grilled peppcorn catfish or the roasted chicken salad is a refreshing plate. All salads come with the same base, a mix of romaine, cabbage, bell pepper, sprouts, cilantro and peanuts for nutty crunch. I loved how tender the catfish was but don’t make the same mistake I did. I was a little zealous with the dressing and completely underestimated that the catfish was already very well seasoned.
For something a little heartier, you have the choice of either sandwiches or rice bowls. The grilled market fish rice bowl comes with a medley of roasted vegetables and a yogurt chili mayo with your choice of jasmine or brown rice. Even though I don’t love mahi mahi (fish of the day on both of my most recent visits), I do adore the variety of the vegetables as well as the chewiness of the brown rice. Of course, if you are more of a sandwich person, this particular location of Num Pang still offers the many of their classic as well as seasonal selections. The portions aren’t big but look at how high they piled the pulled pork with spiced honey.
To supplement the entrees, you can choose from a list of sides that include grilled corn on the cob that comes two to an order. Slathered with chili mayo and topped with shredded coconuts, these were an awesome take on the Mexican corn on the cob we all love.
For something a little less messy, the Cambodian slaw is quite refreshing. Be careful though, this little cup packs a huge kick which will make you reach for something to sooth your throat. This is where their freshly made watermelon juice comes in quite handy.
I love a place that rotates their offerings with seasonal ingredients and Num Pang does a great job. Sure, the serving sizes might be a little smaller than Chipotle but I am to say that the ingredients here are that much better in quality and healthier. Now, if only they will open one up in Midtown West so I can frequent Num Pang for lunch at work.
Num Pang Flatiron | 1129 Broadway, New York, NY 10010 |
Even though I will always forever be a die-hard Chop’t fan (hello Mexican Goddess dressing!), sometimes I do “cheat” on it with a few others around the work neighborhood. FreeFoods has some deliciously gourmet ingredients like soy glazed shiitake mushroom and seared tuna that make my salad oh so different from my usual “crack” salad at Chop’t. Sometimes, change is a good thing.