Friday, September 25, 2009

Check Out the New 3 Column Layout!

Finally! Finally, after hours of web search and trial and error with various suggested templates that I found on the web, I finally figured out how to create a 3-column blog template! I am not sure why Blogger doesn't give you the 2 or 3 column option with their templates, but that is now beside the point since I finally found what I needed.

If anyone wants a 3 column template with the pre-designed "Harbor" Template, you can go to the The Blogger Guide website and do it yourself. This was the easiest way to do it (and I tried MANY!). So save yourself time and just go here to look for your design - you will be very happy that you did. After finding this website, it took maybe 15 minutes to insert all the text. If "Harbor" is not your template choice, Blogger Guide has other templates you can follow.

Phew, now, I can rest easy! Thank you blogger guide!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nha Hang Pho Viet Huong - Vietnamese Food in New York Chinatown

Welcome to Pho Viet Huong on 73 Mulberry Street in New York Chinatown (also known as Nha Hang Pho Viet Huong). The place serves up your traditional Vietnamese cuisine ranging from Pho (noodle soup), Bun (rice vermicelli), Com Dia (rice dishes), Cac Mon An Choi (appetizers) and other dishes with a variety of seafood, beef, pork and chicken.

I came here two weeks ago with a group of friends, but unfortunately I did not have my camera. So I came back alone on a revisit to order a different dish. The dish you see here is the Grilled Pork Chop with Fried Spring Rolls ($6.00). For the uninitiated, you mix this dish all together and then pour the fish sauce into it (otherwise, the room temperature noodles will stick together). If you like the sauce, feel free to ask for another serving of it (like I did).

The noodles were slightly chewy, but probably needed some more fish sauce to "wet" it more. The pork chop was a good size with a medium thickness (some places serve it extra thin and sort of cheat you). The flavors were typical of any Vietnamese restaurant and not too salty / not over marinated. The spring rolls were tasty and definitely fried to the perfect crisp. At some places, (Nam Son) the spring rolls can be fried to a dark brown crisp, almost over-fried to a point where you're eating fried dough - perhaps to mask the taste (ick!). However, Nha Hang Pho Viet Huong had a good coloring and good flavoring to it. This dish is a smart way to order, especially for the "lone" eater who can try two items without ordering them separately. Note: There are peanuts in this dish (it comes in the vegetables that are on the side), but you can ask them to not include it.

On my prior visit I had a tasting of the usual Vietnamese entrees:

Pho #23 - The Extra Big Bowl Beef Deluxe Soup ($6.50) - All I tried was the soup, which was flavorful. My friend enjoyed this dish very much and he's a regular at this restaurant for the Pho. You can order the "regular"/smaller bowl for $1.00 less.

Grilled Pork Chop, Shredded Pork and Crabmeat Patty ($7.50)
- the pork chops were the same as mentioned above; the shredded pork, which sounds very odd -- were actually a nice surprise. Crabmeat Patty was VERY good. I think its a combo of pork, egg and I suppose crab. It was very good. they should sell the crabmeat patty separately!

Summer Rolls (aka shrimp summer rolls) (2 for $4.50, aka Goi Cuon) - average; the sauce I thought was a bit runny/thin.

Spring Rolls (fried rolls) aka Cha Gio (4 for $4.50) - mentioned above - also, has decent amount of meat so you don't feel like you're just eating the skin; a bit pricier than other establishments.

Surprisingly, this restaurant also has Banh Mi sandwiches (french bread sandwiches) There are only a few sit down restaurants with full vietnamese menu that serve Banh Mi sandwiches. I didn't try it, but it may be worthwhile to do a revisit to see how it sizes up to my favorite Banh Mi sandwiches in New York Chinatown (post about banh mi sandwiches to come at a later time).

As depicted in the photo on the right, the Nha Hang Pho Viet Huong is large and can easily accommodate large groups. The day we went we had about 15+ people and we sat in the back. Every time I've been here (3+), its never been extremely crowded -- but I haven't been at peak lunch or dinner hours -- but do not think you will have to wait at this restaurant. The restaurant staff are friendly and speak moderate English. The staff can also speak Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese.

On Mulberry street, south of Canal, you'll find a few competing Vietnamese restaurants, including Xe Lua (orange sign). However, Nha Hang Pho Viet Huong Restaurant is nearly the last restaurant on the street before you hit Bayard (on the west side of the street).

Pho Viet Huong Restaurant
73 Mulberry Street, between Canal & Bayard
(212) 233-8988

Top two photos were taken with Canon 5D Mark II; Last photo with Canon SD880 IS

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mark Wahlberg & Will Ferrell on the Street of NYC; Ralph Nader at Barnes & Noble

What's on the streets of New York today? Well, besides the motorcades filling the city streets and causing a lot of traffic jams (due to the United Nations General Assembly meeting) -- there are plenty of other important people in our city today. And no, I'm not writing about Obama. Today I saw -- Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell and Ralph Nader. The first two were sighted on Park Avenue filming a new movie (The Other Guys), while the latter was sighted at Barnes and Noble promoting his new book - Only the Rich Can Save Us!

Coincidentally, I am writing this celebrity-like sighting shortly after I posted about the Stacy London sighting at the Pantene commercial yesterday. Is KARMA kicking in and wanting me to see all different sorts of film productions?? Hardly. But, celebrity sightings two days in a row does add a lot of girlish excitement! Um, do you hear the Lady Ga Ga song -- Papparazzi -- playing ? "need that picture of you... its sooo magical... I'm your biggest fan, I'd follow you until you love me... Pappa papparazzi." Ok, really, I'm not really like that, but just enjoy a good celebrity sighting!

Well, we all know about Mark Wahlberg or do we? Today you may know him as the Executive Producer of the HBO Series Entourage, but some may remember him from his Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch days. Yes, he recorded the song Good Vibrations in the 90's (I still remember the dance moves!). A very talented individual who first started out under the wings of his brother, Donnie Wahlberg from New Kids on the Block, then branched into his own rapping career to modeling underwear for Calvin Klein to acting in movies (Boogie Nights, The Italian Job, The Departed) and to producing film and television shows. He has made a name out of himself, but the interesting part about Mark Wahlberg is that he comes from humble beginnings and has done jail time. According to wikipedia, he is the youngest of nine children and was born in Boston to Alma Elaine, a bank clerk and nurse's aide and Donald E. Wahlberg, a Teamster who worked as a delivery driver. Wahlberg was implicated in several acts of violence and vandalism and was given a jail sentence of two years when he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of assault (which, he only served 45 days). A lesser charge? He originally was tried as an adult and charged for attempted murder (woah!)! Yes, not a glamorous past, but really who has one? Now look at him -- At the age of 38 and without a high school diploma, he is a father of three (with another on its way) and has a prominent career. For more on his history, visit Wikipedia

Will Farrell gained fame and popularity from his seven year stretch on Saturday Night Live and since then has starred in many comedic films such as Zoolander, Wedding Crashers and Old School. He made a name for himself through his impersonations of individuals like - George W. Bush, Neil Diamond, Janet Reno - and acting as one of The Roxbury Guys on SNL (the night clubber scene with the head throbbing moves -- yeah, you can hear the music cue now -- "What is love? Baby don't hurt me. Don't hurt me... no more" -- throb throb throb -- thank you Haddaway for making that song!). Ah, those SNL skits always brought a chuckle to my life! Or what about his streaking scene in Old School? Did you know, in real life, he was part of a fraternity? Yup, Delta Tau Delta at the University of Southern California. So was he born a comedian? Funny thing is, he wasn't. As a teenager growing up in Orange County, he found suburbia boring and had to make life entertaining -- so he explored ways of being funny to break the boredom. Now look at him -- a comedian on stage and in his films bringing laughter to his friends and his fans.

Both Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell both had different pasts - one of violence the other of boredom that has both led them to the main stage -- interesting how our teenage years frames us into who we are today.

Lastly, Ralph Nader. To be truthful, I don't follow politics as closely as I should and the whole reason for posting this blog is to learn more about him (Yes, me trying to learn something new everyday!). I've heard his name several times before, but never knew what he stood for or what he was about. So what did I know? He ran for president a few times. That's it. So what did I find?
  • He ran for President of the United States four times -- twice as an independent candidate in 2004 and 2008 and twice as a Green Party candidate in 1996 and 2000. A friend said he cost the election for Al Gore in 2000 (but that's personal opinion; however, there was someone at Barnes & Noble shouting similar, but improper things).
  • He is a populist (a political philosophy urging social and political system change that favors "the people" over "the elites") who believes in grassroots democracy (political process where the lowest geographic level of organization is given much of the decision making authority).
  • Nader's involvement and concern for consumer protection, humanitarianism, environmentalism, and democratic government has led to the development of hundreds of public interest groups that have exposed problems and organized millions of people to advocate solutions. He was instrumental in the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC), and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • His book, Unsafe at Any Speed, lashed out at the automobile industry for producing unsafe vehicles. The book led to congressional hearings and a series of automobile safety laws passed in 1966, including the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. His book got seat belts in cars!
  • Nader was named by Time and Life magazines as one of the hundred most influential Americans of the twentieth century
  • Nader graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School
  • His parents were immigrants from Lebanon and his family's native language is Arabic; Family owned a bakery and a restaurant where father engaged customers in political discussions
  • He hosted SNL in 1977 (woah!) -- woah, everyone here is inter-related in some way!
  • He chose career over family and believed he couldn't have both -- according to Karen Croft (found in wikipedia commentary re: personal life)
  • The info above was gathered from wikipedia and his website. For more info, check wikipedia or his website
That was a mouthful (or an eye sore since you're reading this). Did I learn anymore from the book signing at Barnes and Noble? A little, but not much. His new book, "Only the Super Rich Can Save Us!" is a fiction based book where the likes of Warren Buffet and sixteen other rich people (Ted Turner, Barry Diller, Yoko Ono, and others) unite to fix or address today's most pressing issues (other than clean energy, you'll have to read it to find out what these issues are). With a series of "what if's?", the book appears to be an interesting spin on how seventeen people, all with their varied backgrounds, come together to build a better America. For a review about the characters in the book, check out The New Yorker or a review on the book check out the book's website.

SO that's all folks. Today's entertaining reading on three popular, celebrity-like people that I saw in New York City -- Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell and Ralph Nader.

Pantene Commercial Filming in New York City

Only in New York City will you randomly come across a commercial shooting, a movie filming or a model shoot. Yesterday as I was walking in the Meat Packing District, I came across a commercial shooting for Pantene. The model was Stacy London, a fashion consultant who currently serves as brand ambassador for Pantene, Woolite and Riders by Lee (according to wikipedia). She is also the fashion consultant / host on TLC/Discovery's show What Not To Wear. You may recognize or notice her by her trademark natural gray hair streak.

below are a few of my out-takes... what I wouldn't give to be the ladies sitting on the left side... that would be a great job.

p.s. i love Pantene! i use it for my hair! check out the website.

Fried Dumpling in NYC Chinatown

Fried Dumpling on Moscow between Mott and Mulberry Street is yet another niche dumpling store offering fried dumplings for $1.00. Though this store is found in an alley-like street, Fried Dumpling is more central to many of the other restaurants located around Mott Street and Columbus Park.

The menu is limited with the main attraction being their fried dumplings (5 for $1.00) and fried pork buns (4 for $1.00). The dumplings are run of the mill, with nothing too spectacular to note. The store is smaller than a few of the other dumpling places I've visited, but still offers one counter-top for you to enjoy your dumplings. The ladies working this store do not speak English and are a bit rude. Make sure you pay as soon as you receive your dumplings or else they can be yelling at you for the money (which I thought was odd, but perhaps customers have run out of the store without paying!).

I would not recommend this location and prefer Prosperity Dumplings on Eldridge Street (10 minute walk from here). See my most recent review for Prosperity Dumplings by clicking the link above.

side note
: On a prior visit, I've seen a black car outside with the driver waiting as two elderly Italian people visited the store -- it was like a scene out of the Godfather, though I don't think they were collecting their protection money - just buying dumplings.

Prosperity Dumplings in NYC Chinatown

If you're into dumplings, steamed or fried, and want to enjoy a good handful for $1.00, then go to Prosperity Dumplings on 46 Eldridge Street. No matter what time you go (open daily from 7:30 am to 10:00 pm) there will always be a customer waiting for dumplings. This little shop on Eldridge street is a great find for travelers and locals alike -- its quick and easy; its cheap and good; and a lot of Chinatown locals go here! So, go now to Prosperity Dumplings for their delicious dumplings!

this is the cooking process for the fried dumplings (above)
and when its ready, its placed in this take-out box

Prosperity Dumplings are steamed and fried throughout the day -- so you won't have to wait long for your fresh dumplings. I personally haven't tried the steamed dumplings (I'm an honest reviewer), but the fried dumplings were amazing (so I can only imagine the healthier version to be just as tasty!). The owner and employees speak limited English, but with the magic words "pork dumpling" or "vegetable dumpling" or "pancake with beef" -- they will easily understand these common words listed on their menu. Certain items on the menu are only served in the morning (e.g. chives & egg pancake, pork fried bun), but you can expect the staple items to be available throughout the day. Seating is limited to two small counter tops and six stools, but you can easily eat the dumplings out of the take-out box outside of the store (its very portable).

Food Menu:
[Click on the menu to see what other items are available]

Over twenty food items are available at the little shop.

Pork and Chive Dumplings (5 for $1.00)
Fried or steamed, these dumplings are the main attraction at this local joint. The fried dumplings are excellent - just enough crispiness on the outside with the right amount of juicyness on the inside. Extremely flavorful dumplings and a definite must at this local joint.

You can also buy them frozen and make it at home (50 for $8.00; comparable if not cheaper than super market prices)
Note: For vegetarians, they also have vegetable dumplings!

Sesame Pancake ($0.75 per piece, pictured above)
Doesn't it look like a pizza pie? The sesame pancake is fried to perfection in their cast iron skillets and then cut up in pizza-like slices. You can eat this just as it is (with a little soy sauce) or have the sesame pancake filled with meat and vegetables (as depicted below).

The sesame pancake is on the thicker side and more doughy than if you ordered this at a restaurant (restaurants would serve this deep fried (yes, fried more than this), thinner and served in smaller triangle cut pieces)

Sesame Pancake with Beef ($1.50)
As mentioned above, the sesame pancake can be served with beef or pork. Its made like a mini sandwich. I tried the beef and thought it was yummy. Don't expect a lot of meat as there are approximately two slices, but the preserved/fermented vegetables were enough to add thickness, crunchiness and flavor to the sandwich.

Other items I tried, but not pictured.

Noodle with Meat & Bean Sauce aka Zha Jiang Mian
This may sound like an odd dish to see on the menu, but its a traditional northern China dish consisting of noodles topped with a mixture of ground pork and fermented soybean paste. You can consider this dish as the Chinese equivalent to spaghetti bolognese. This dish is also a popular Korean dish, though made slightly different from the Chinese way with roasted soybeans and different toppings.

Prosperity Dumplings served the noodles and brown meat sauce in a take-out box, which I thought included plenty of noodles, but not enough sauce. In my opinion, it was subpar and not worth the $2.50. I'd prefer to pay $4.00 for a better tasting bowl of noodles with brown meat sauce at Shanghai Cafe (expect future blog posting).

Soy Bean Milk (Cold: $1.00, Hot: $0.75, not pictured)
They only serve the unsweetened soy bean milk. Good, but I personally like the sweetened soy milk.

Prosperity Dumplings
46 Eldridge Street (between Hester and Canal)
Subway: B, D at Grand Street
(212) 343-0683
Open Daily from 7:30 am - 10:00 pm

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Stroll Down 5th Avenue After Dark (Photo of the Day)

At the end of the night, I found myself strolling down 5th Avenue enjoying the storefronts, the building lights and the quietness of the city -- only to find myself falling in love with the city once again.

If you live in New York, 5th avenue is likely one of two places you want to avoid due to the number of tourists wandering the streets, and the other being Time Square. But when the sun goes down and the stores are closed -- the coast is clear! The sidewalks are empty and you can easily enjoy the beauty of the city by walking ten city blocks from The Plaza to Rockefeller Center. There is something very soothing and romantic about walking these ten blocks that it will quickly put a smile to your face.

For locals and tourists, I highly recommend taking a stroll down 5th avenue after dark! or, if you prefer, you can be like Audrey Hepburn in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany's, and visit in the early morning hours, though admittedly not as special as visiting after dark (remember the scene where she hops out of a cab wearing a dress and a tiara admiring the wares in the window at Tiffany's...don't forget to bring coffee and a danish!)

Here are a few photos from my stroll down 5th avenue.

This was an interesting window (enlarged).

This post wouldn't be complete without a photograph of a food cart on 5th Avenue (in front of the Apple Store).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Late Night Snack: Bacon & Eggs Puts on a Smiley Face

Cooking is fun and sometimes challenging (especially when you have limited ingredients in your fridge). I had bacon, but no eggs. So the dilemma begins... The supermarket was too far away, but a drugstore was nearby ... hmm... I ran to Duane Reade and found eggs (who knew!?!)

So I quickly whipped this up and decided to make it a fun meal. I originally had eyebrows for this smiley face (made from bacon), but could not resist the temptation of the bacon asking me to eat it -- how could I refuse! haha! sorry eyebrows... but at least I still have the smiley face! And, accidentally, it appears to have stars outside of the plate -- so now, it looks like a smiling moon (too far stretched?)

Well ladies and gents, breakfast is served with a smile!

Side note: Bacon was from Tamarack Hollow Farms from Vermont (post more about this at a later time)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yummy Noodles, but no noodles? Best Rice Casserole in Chinatown

Don't let the name Yummy Noodles fool you as the best place for noodles. Yummy Noodles is best known for its Rice Casserole Dishes, which is served in a "clay pot". If you don't know what rice casserole is - its essentially a clay pot filled with rice and a few toppings -- meat (chinese sausage, minced beef/pork, salted chicken, spare ribs, etc), vegetables and eggs -- that when cooked, is mixed together with a special sweetened soy sauce. All of the ingredients are steam cooked in the clay pot -- making the meal healthier to eat than foods that are sauteed or fried. Here are a few photos...

Minced Beef with Egg Rice Casserole

Yes, that's a raw egg - but when mixed together with the HOT rice and minced pork pie the egg will cook itself -- man, its delicious.

Chicken & Mushroom Rice Casserole

You may find this chicken and mushroom mixture at Dim Sum served in a bamboo shoot or a mini-pot.

House Special Chinese Sausage and Minced Pork

Don't know what to say - other than - YUMMY. This dish has it all -- minced pork, boiled egg and chinese sausage ! The chinese sausage, which is salty and sweet, is what makes this dish.

There are quite a few rice casserole dishes served here (16 to be exact) and though I haven't tried the frog/squab/salted butter fly fish, the others are amazingly good. The traditional items included in the rice casserole is the Chinese Sausage (as mentioned earlier) or chicken -- so don't order one without it! AND, don't forget to SCRAPE around the bowl to get the crispy rice (see photo below of the finished clay pot). One of these rice casseroles is easily shareable and can fill one hungry person or two hungry people easily. The traditional rice casserole dishes start at $6.75 and more exotic ones can run up to $10.75. Be sure to order immediately as it takes about 15-20 minutes to cook!

A few other items we enjoyed here were the roast meats aka BBQ -- roast pork, soy sauce chicken and crispy pig. You can order them separately ($6.50), or combine then into one dish (we did 3 for $11.95). The vegetables were fresh, but slightly oily. The beef chow fun was good, but nothing to note.

Yummy Noodles is located on 48 Bowery Street (between Canal and Baynard) and can easily be missed. The easiest way to get to this location is walk east on Canal Street from the N,R,W, and 6 train and make a right (go south) on Bowery. It'll be on your right side after you pass Duane Reade.

Overall, Yummy Noodles is the best place in New York Chinatown to order Rice Casserole dishes, not noodles.

Yummy Noodles, 48 Broadway (between Canal and Baynard Street), (212) 374-1327
Accessible by N, R, W, 6, B, D trains, M103 bus

sidenote: Yummy Noodles has been in New York Chinatown for more than nine years and has recently undergone a renovation. If you haven't been here in a long time, you'll notice a new hanging TV with a slide show of the foods it serves, a new red counter top with 4-5 place settings, and a newly painted bamboo backdrop.

for more info on claypot cooking -- check this out on wikipedia and on this website.

Photo of the Day - "What Time is it?"

What time is it? A few minutes past 5:30 pm.

Question: Can you tell where this picture is taken from?

Hint: In what NYC park has a statue of a horse? ok, a lot -- how about a horse and a clock in the background?

Answer: Union Square.

p.s. doesn't this remind you of filmwise? if you haven't played it before -- check it out... -- they show you screenshots from movies where faces and certain things are taken out of the photo, yet certain parts of the photo are still distinguishable -- you just have to guess what film (wow, that was a mouthful!)
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