Tuesday, 27 January 2015

#Restaurant Review: Schnippers, #NYC

Looking for a fun place for lunch and dinner? Its name alone will catch your attention... 
Schnippers is a contemporary diner in NYC that serves a range of healthy and not so healthy food options, in a diner setting but with a fast food service set up. 

The menu is a huge wall board behind the counter, you order, take a buzzer and then a waiter will find you and bring your food.  

We were in awe of this tracking device from the outset, but we were there for an early lunch before it got busy, and once it did get busy the tracking system seemed to go haywire and waiters were not able to locate the correct tables for the food!

Mac and cheese was disappointing

We ordered a tomato mozzarella sandwich, mac and cheese, fish and chips and sweet potato fries. Although it didn't look very appetizing and resembled chicken fingers more than fish, the fish and chips actually tasted quite good, as did the sandwich.   
The sweet potato fries were also nice and crunchy, but the mac and cheese was a disappointment (too creamy, not much taste).

Fish and chips was good, side of sweet potato fries also good
The branch we went to on Lexington Ave was very spacious but like all places, during lunch it was packed full and the queues to order were long with people waiting sometime for takeout orders.  I recommend that you try to avoid lunch hour as it was nice and quiet when we first sat.

The tracking device!

Price:  Our lunch for 2 cost $35.
Information: Schnippers has numerous locations; we went to the one on 570 Lexington Ave. Tel: +212 826 8100.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Biscoffs fit for Her Majesty at Majestea Tea Room, Seef Mall, #Bahrain

You've probably heard of the biscoff pancakes at Majestea by now, and if you haven't tried them yet then this is a personal plea to you that you go like NOW.

During a week of breakfast hopping, we put Majestea on the list as none of us had been before. We went just after 9am, before Seef Mall opened, and it was a real pain to access the cafe as the mall only opens one gate at that time and wherever you park you can only enter from that one door. 
After a bit of directions swapping we were all seated and had the place to ourselves.  We got the menus from the very attentive staff, and were surprised as we hadn't been aware that the cafe offers quite a selection of food options. We ordered the grilled cheese, the croissant with scrambled egg, and the Arabic breakfast.  
To be honest the salty dishes were not refined like what you would expect at Lilos, for example, and were quite homestyle in both their taste and presentation. Not a bad thing, just nothing out of the ordinary.   The size of the Arabic breakfast tray was quite generous and we all shared it with enough to go around to all as a taster.
But the attraction at Majestea isn't really the salty dishes anyway, so we were kind of just pretending to have breakfast so we could order dessert. 
Although there were several items we would have liked to try, we went for the biscoff pancakes, which are served with vanilla icecream (icecream for breakfast? yes please). Extremely sweet and gooey, as one would expect from the name, these really did live up to our expectations. Coupled with rounds and rounds of karak tea (don't judge me!), the meal was really enjoyable.
The cafe itself is decorated really nicely, exactly how you would imagine a tea room to be. With lovely white porcelain teaware decorating the floral wallpaper, lots of light and airiness, it is a wonderfully relaxing place to take one's tea.  
Really the only negative about it is access in the morning... I wouldn't go again at a time that was earlier than the mall opening.. not because I'm too lazy to walk, but really because it should not be that inconvenient to access a breakfast place at breakfast time. 

Information: Majestea is open from 9am to 10 pm Saturday- Wednesday, and from 9am to 12am on Thursday and Fridays.  Tel: +973 7737 7770, and follow them on instagram @majesteabh

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The mother of organic markets.... #Ripemarket, #UAE #Dubai

Of all homegrown organic markets, Ripe Market is probably the one I have visited that does it best. With markets held in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, organic locally grown food and locally-produced products are showcased in an environment designed to provide families with a full outdoor day of activities.
I went to Dubai market which is held at Zaabeel Park.  As a venue, the park is a beautiful green landscape with lots of space, a kids' play area, and other facilities.

I went around noon and it was very busy- the parking lot was completely full with cars parked on the pavements, but there wasn't a long line at the ticket office for the entry tickets so I wasn't delayed.

The anchor tenant at this market is Ripe, a local organic shop for produce, which sets up a pop up shop as big as your grocer's produce section and offering produce that looks a whole lot fresher than what you would find there! Past Ripe, the stalls seem to go on forever.  With most of the stall owners expats (Arab, Asian and Western), as most people in Dubai are, what was interesting was that I saw more Emaratis here than you normally do in other places in Dubai.
Shirley Conlon Organics for organic skincare

There were lots of really nice stalls and unlike the trend of other markets (tshirts, cupcakes, shabby chic), these were actually products that show significant effort in design and production.  Organic skincare, natural soaps, hand sewn bags, organic babywear, kaftans, handmade beanies (made in front of you)... a good range of products - not cheaply priced, but with a proudly made in UAE label, worth their price.

Handmade beanies
Alternatives to plant pots

Tribal, ethnic and vintage bags designed and made by @ragmatazzrohini
Bucket bags by @salehsarah
And then come the food stalls.  Stall after stall selling freshly cooked and in many cases organically sourced ingredients, covering just about every cuisine. Indian, Mexican, Lebanese, healthy, juices, doughnuts, hard candy (made right there in front of you), Raw coffee (a must try!) and everywhere around you families sitting and having picnics with live musicians scattered around the area singing classics.
The atmosphere was really nice, and the space is large enough so that you can spend a good half day here and be entertained and interested throughout. A couple of the stalls I went to were selling out fast so clearly as a commercial venture the market has added value to the stall-owners.

Ripe Fresh's  pop up store

@faitmaisoncuisine provides daily gourmet meal plans as well as catering

Information: For more information on dates, cities and timings, follow @ripefresh on instagram or check out the website www.ripeme.com.

Price: An entry fee of 5Dh is paid at the gate.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Sweet Little Nuggets: Canele by Celine, #NYC

France is perhaps better known for macarons than canele, I had only heard of caneles on cooking shows, and during my visit to NYC, by chance while walking on the upper east side, I stumbled upon this tiny bakery and went in to have a taste. 
Originated in Bordeaux, France, the canele is a petite (read: very small) pastry with a caramelized crust (almost burnt) and a soft doughy center.  Made with vanilla beans, the dough is flavored either sweet or savory. 
Canele by Celine handmakes the caneles freshly at the premises- when I was there a fresh batch had just been taken out of their molds and the bakery smelled delicious.
Unfortunately they didn't have the flavors I wanted to try (orange blossom and rose water), so I just got one of each of the vanilla and dark chocolate to try. 
The pastries are bite-sized, and before you can really taste much they're gone. I liked the chocolate; the vanilla wasn't anything much different, so perhaps this is the kind of thing that you need to try the more exotic flavors to appreciate. 

Price: I paid just under $4 for two caneles.
Information: Canele by Celine is located at 400 E 82nd St. Tel: +646 678 4124 or by email.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

#Restaurant Review: Spice, Thai Food, #NYC

In a city full of restaurants-- some good, some bad, most overpriced, most people find their neighborhood favorites and avoid the larger chains.  Spice strikes a perfect balance of both.  With several outlets located across the city, Spice offers flavorful and quick Thai food in a no-frills setting. The menu is expansive and you would be hard pressed to not find something that appeals to you.
A long list of appetisers, mains, specials, and a pretty good selection of desserts, Spice is casual dining that doesn't compromise on flavor.

We tried the veg spring rolls (ok)  green salad with peanut sauce, the papaya salad (deliciously spicy with very generous sauce), the That hot basil with tofu (generous portion, served with rice on the side), the three flavor salmon with tamarind sauce (absolutely delicious and the portion size is big enough to share) and the teriyaki salmon (I preferred the 3-flavor).  We also got the nabon noodles but without the shrimp or chicken-- we ordered this to serve as a side, but it was so good that it was gone along with our mains.

Dessert is a bit of a hit or miss- we tried the taro bread pudding, which was quite good, but the creme brulee came almost frozen and the consistency was too thick to have been freshly made.
Taro bread pudding
Flavor and quality is consistent at Spice-- portions may differ from one visit to another, but either way you won't leave hungry.  Most of the serving staff are themselves Thai, and they have excellent menu knowledge and are happy to accommodate special requests or additions/ changes to dishes.
Creme brulee- had been refrigerated longer than it should have been
Reservations aren't necessary, but depending on location (Union Square, for example) peak hours can be quite busy. Spice offers a lunch promotion where you get a free appetiser with your entree which is great value for money.

All in all, great flavor, good service, great value.  Two thumz up!!

Price: Our full meal, with one appetiser, three main dishes and 2 desserts came to just under $70.
Information: Spice has numerous locations, including Upper West and Upper East sides, as well as several locations downtown. Online ordering for delivery and takeout are also available.
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