Top 5 of 2016

Poor 2016…it’s going in the history books with a hashtag next to it. Lost your job this year? #2016. Lost a beloved celebrity role model? #2016. Despite the slew of unfortunate events in the last 365 days, it’s still important to look back to remember the progress we made and good things that happened. Here are 5 of your and my favorite posts from 2016, and here’s to a new year that we’ll be proud of 365 days from now.

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1. Mast Brothers: Genius or Nah?
What’s all the hype about? Is their chocolate chip cookie recipe really all that?

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2. Don’t Get Pancakes at a Place Called “egg”
Lessons learned: 1. It’s best to order something that a restaurant is named after, and 2. Not all brunch is created equal.

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3. Skillet S’mores
The most impressive party dessert to whip out in your times of need.

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4. The 3 Why’s of Chocolate Chip Cookies
So many questions…here are 3 answers.

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5. The Art of Dining Solo
The ultimate treat-yourself with its own perks.

Don’t see your favorite? Leave it in the comments below!
Happy New Year!

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Don’t Get Pancakes at a Place Called egg

This is a story of lessons learned in New York City, featuring two NYC brunch spots, and my large appetite for sweet things biting me in the butt.

When my friend Ally was back in town for the weekend, we had an excuse to do brunch. Back when I was exploring Williamsburg and the Mast Brothers chocolate factory, I spotted this quintessential Brooklyn brunch spot, further proving its hipster-dom with its name: egg (all lowercase). It looked quite chic judging by the interior: glass doors, white walls. I made a mental note for trying another day.

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Luckily, Ally was down to try out egg on the lovely 50° December weekend she was around.

I had arrived early, so I put our names down and took a stroll. It looked like we made it right on time. After we sat down at 9:30, the strollers started rolling in with their entourages. We ordered, and were given fresh beignets to share.

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Sad looking, but pretty good.

The interior was in fact cute, with wooden benches along the wall, paper tablecloths, and crayons for drawing. I ordered pancakes and one egg. This will come as no surprise to most, as I have a particularly strong breakfast sweet tooth. Ally got Eggs Rothko: “Easy-cooked egg in a slice of Amy’s brioche and topped with Grafton cheddar”.

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Ally reported making a good choice on her brunch. One bite into my pancakes, and I regretted everything.

The pancakes were flat and rubbery, as if they’d had their life beaten out of them – which I guess they did. Something in between a pancake and a crêpe, but nowhere near the satisfaction of either.

This was the universe telling me to work on my self-discipline when ordering breakfast. An apparent oversight, ordering something other than eggs at a place called “egg”was not my best brunch move. But I learned my lesson and am prepared to tell the tale.

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It was real, egg. Illustration by Ally H

Onto bigger and better things.

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In the Lower East Side of Manhattan, there’s a place called “Egg Shop”. Now at least I’d heard good things about this place, and bothered to check that the Yelp reviews weren’t terrible.

My OG brunch buddy Megan and I met up there this morning to do what we do best: eat good food.

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The interior was super cute, and surprisingly small, which partly explains the average wait time of 40 minutes at most hours. Side bar: you can often tell if a restaurant is good if it doesn’t take reservations. Did I make that up? Possible….but we think it’s legit.

I came close to ordering the French toast, but I recalled the last time I tried ordering sweet breakfast – !!red alert!! no bueno! I instead went with the Reformer + avocado: egg whites, feta, spinach,and heirloom tomato on multi-grain bread. Megan got the Pepper Boy: soft scramble, gruyère, bell pepper, maple cured pepper bacon, and caramelized onion aïoli on a panini roll.

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It was SO GOOD. I quite barely finished both halves of mine, and was grateful for the knife and fork at my seat to help in the mess. The first thing I tasted was the avocado – smashed to spready-lemony perfection. I thought the sprinkling of Maldon salt on the bread was fairly comical, and would probably been more useful on the egg whites, but I really, really enjoyed this sandwich. Megan loved hers, too. I would say that I’ll try the French Toast next time, but there are so many other egg sandwich possibilities to try first.

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Takeaways:
1. Read Yelp reviews for a general overview of a restaurant before assuming it’s good based on its interior design.
2. Don’t order anything other than eggs from a place with egg in the title.

Veganing like Champs

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Are you vegan? Do you live in Brooklyn? Do you enjoy pancakes or seitan? If you answered yes to any of these, read on!

When summer was still in full swing, my friend Karly took us to this vegan diner in East Williamsburg called Champs. Part of me was mildly skeptical that I would find something that I liked, as my favorite food groups include meat and dairy. The other part of me was excited and somewhat confident that this well known spot in Brooklyn would deliver. It’s famous in the vegan community, and Karly heard all about it from friends around the country on an animal rights tour. Okay, why not? “Let’s do it.”

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The interior was quite retro-diner, with space for around 10 pairs to sit at a time, plus the bar. A modestly sized spot, with a 30 minute wait on a Sunday afternoon. Wall decor hailed the almighty “seitan”, a gluten-based meat substitute, which, when properly seasoned, can taste kinda meaty.

After looking over the menu for 15 minutes, deciding between pancakes and breakfast enchiladas, I went with pancakes and committing to a second trip. A cop out of having real vegan food? Maybe, but I would imagine it’s difficult to make pancakes really good without classic buttermilk.

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Final settlement: Karly got a chili burger with beans and a vegan seitan patty, and I got Strawberry Shortcake pancakes, without whipped cream because they ran out :/ That would have been interesting to try, and could have made or broke the whole dish. But without the whipped cream, the pancakes were great. I couldn’t tell they were vegan at all, and I didn’t miss the butter. Karly’s burger was also good – not dry, and full of flavor.

carmen-ladipo-champs-diner-rubber-scraper-movementA perfectly content Karly.

Vegan or not – I would actually recommend Champs for a fun breakfast, lunch, or dinner – unless you’re feeling like our neighbors were, and are really just jonesing for a classic pulled pork sandwich.

Ithaca Dining Installment #4: The Northstar Pub

     A lot of Sundays ago, I went to Brunch with Emme at The Northstar in Ithaca, off Tioga Street. It’s deceptively quaint during the day for a pub with a questionable curb appeal.

     Their menus are paper because they change so often, though they could keep it in a menu holder of some sort. Anyway.
     Due to my sweet tooth, I had issues once again choosing between a substantial egg breakfast or French toast. You can probably guess what I went for…

      It was really good, though! French toast soaked overnight, with peaches and what I think was caramel sauce (goes to show what happens when you wait to write a blog post). I probably could have eaten one more piece. I tried really hard to like eat the soy meat patties…I really tried! But to no avail…the combination of starchy texture and taste was pretty unfortunate. Then again, I’m good at eating meat.
     Emme got some form of egg with home fries and sausage…also good!

Done & done (ignore the cardboard left)

     There was probably a two-minute wait for our outside table at 11:30 on a Sunday, and the food was not too expensive for an Ithaca brunch place. I might be back, Northstar.

Some Très Belle Brunch

     Yeah yeah, I’m back from limbo, but mostly school. But before we get into the summer, let me squeeze in one more post from spring break about Bella’s and their breakfast/brunch/lunch menus.
     Bella’s breakfast menu ranges from shrimp & grits to a smoked salmon omelet. The brunch menu changes for every weekend to stuff their French toast differently or switch up the pancakes, and nothing on the lunch menu will leave you half empty.

Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burger with tabouli

Grilled Chicken Souvlaki Wrap sans wrap

French toast with fancy liquored-up, caramely maple syrup, coconuts and
bananas waiting at the bottom

If you’re ever in the New Haven area and feeling swanky, stop by Bella’s for a meal or three.