Shoutout to Two Little Red Hens in Upper East Side/Yorkville

Two Little Red Hens is still my all-time favorite NYC bakery for what I consider quintessentially NY treats: Cheesecake, Carrot Cake (ok not really NY but it’s the standout here), Coffee Cake, Brooklyn Blackout, Black and White Cookie but in fluffy moiste cake form.

What’s especially excellent are their mini-cupcakes in every flavor if you’re not committed to a big cake. I heard they recently got a shoutout on some “best of” list so they were extra crowded when I visited last. Totally worth it though and glad I got to share this place with my mom when she was visiting and kind of an nice welcome back to NYC treat for me.

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They’re also on this lovely stretch of what was once “Little Germany” in this stretch of Yorkville.

More details on Two Little Red Hens in my ViewingNYC Post:


Every few weeks or for a special event, I’ll take a trip to Yorkville to get some noms at Two Little Red Hens, a charming bakery on 86th and 2nd. For a place that has over 1,700 Yelp reviews, it doesn’t seem to have the name recognition it deserves compared to the Magnolia bakeries of the world. I’ll take Two Little Red Hens over the ‘famous’ bakeries any day.

First off, the winning item for me is Two Little Red Hens’ Carrot Cake. Moist, flavorful, and honest-tasting with each ingredient standing out– it’s the only way I can describe it. Even the frosting has a subtle tart flavor rather than the usual overwhelming sweet overload. Their cheesecake and chocolate cakes are also standouts.

Two Little Red Hens’ amazing cakes also come in cupcake form. Get the Brooklyn Blackout, Red Velvet, Chocolate, and Carrot Cake to get a comprehensive sampling, which conveniently comes in large or mini-size variants. I confess… I normally don’t really like cupcakes and never fully understood the craze, but I’ll lovingly carry a box of the ones from here back with me on the air-conditioned bus so the frosting doesn’t get ruined.

The scones, banana bread, and the pecan coffee cake are my personal favorites to take on the road, which sometimes get overlooked in favor of everything else here.

What I love about the food at Two Little Red Hens is that each flavor remains distinctive and complex rather than just a homogenizing sugary taste, as you often find in other local bakeries.

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My Top 7 Croatia Experiences

The first month of Remote Year: overdrive on the senses and mind, but some of the most beautiful experiences possible in a part of a world I knew so little about.

1. Soparnik

This one is a huge credit to Remote Year for setting this up. RY offers tracks each month, various local experiences surrounding food, the outdoors, and culture, or all of the above in one day. We went rafting, bit of hiking, and while that was fun, the best part of the day was going to a local family farm run by an older couple who made us Peka and Soparnik, some best things I’ve eaten on Remote Year, a perfect combination of amazing ingredients and traditional cooking. They both involve burying food and slow cooking, but being able to see the multi-step process and enjoy the Soparnik, a Croatian version to me of 韭菜盒子 ,still remains one of my top RY memories a year out.

2. Mostar 

I talk more about the experience in this other post, but visiting Bosnia and Mostar was for me, of those travel moments that truly shake you with its beauty as well as its sadness. I definitely had one of my best meals all year and best times chatting with locals in Mostar, but everything from the scarred landscape to how a blonde police officer forced our driver to pay 20 euros (feels really little) as a bribe really informs you about the condition the place is still in due to its recent history.

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3. Swimming in the Adriatic Outside Workspace 

My first Remote Year workspace conveniently had a beach outside of it. Given how crazy my headspace was the first month, my favorite part was getting up everyday and swimming in the ocean with Croatian families. It’s one of the few places I felt super comfortable going alone and leaving my stuff out all year, despite being a super obvious foreigner (as you can imagine there weren’t many overweight Asian women swimming at a beach off the tourist-y areas). I felt so lucky everyday to swim in the pristine water.

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4. Greenmarket Shopping and Wandering Around Roman Ruins

The old town of Split, the old city center of roman ruins, incredible farmer’s market, and tourists galore (kind of gross). Even though parts of it are touristy-trappy, the farmer’s market is delightfully a place for the locals but friendly to tourists. I’ve had some of the best tasting produce I had all year and learned to enjoy it all with ajvar.

5. Island Hopping

Island hopping in Croatia from Split, can’t even describe how amazing, beautiful, and varied the experience can be. Swam in some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.  Fisherman’s House and Pension, run by a Scandinavian man who fell in love with a Croatian woman, served unpretentious fresh delicious seafood.

 

6. Meet the Barba: LAB Split Brewery 

Another Remote Year track “Meeting the Barba,” or the man behind one of first the craft breweries in Croatia. One of the best American Pale Ales I’ve tasted from the tap, can’t believe this guy just let us enjoy it. There’s not much high-end beer selection in Croatia, so this is your guy, who could easily go toe-to-toe with any California craft brewery.

7. Visiting a Working Shipyard 

Another Remote Year track and far off the tourist track, getting an up close look at the shipbuilding industry in Split. Took a look at the post-Yugoslavian socialist era to competing with much more modern and sleek operations globally. Wish them the best as they’ve got their work cut out for them.

Chilean Sandwiches: I’ve Never Loved Tomato, Mayo, and Avocado with Meat So Much

Seriously. The food I miss the most from Santiago are the sandwiches. I had the fancy stuff, the delicious wine, and the upscale experiences, but sometimes the food I appreciate the most are the greasy pleasures after work with a beer.

First of all, I have to thank my from Maria from Santiago for recommending these delights to me and giving me some background. Chile, like the rest of Latin America and the Americas in general received immigrants from all over, including many Germans and Italians. At some point techniques and food culture combined with local ingredients transformed and created new dishes like Chilean sandwiches.

My must recommend for Chilean sandwiches is Fuente Alemana, styled like old school German diner with vague feelings of when I visited Bavaria, only in Spanish and a world removed. It was literally one of the first places I went to and one of the last places (both locations above) I went to in my time in Santiago with multiple visits in between.

Upon Maria’s advice, I ordered a Lomito Italiano that tasted like a melange of Chilean, Italian, and German with sliced cuts of pork, sauerkraut, tomatoes, and a generous heaping of homemade mayo that I realized is a signature joy in Chile. No Best Foods trash here; It tastes way more creamy, flavorful, and possibly more fatty yet doesn’t leave you with the feeling of self-hatred and disappointment when you squeeze it out of a bottle of artificial mass-produced Kraft goop.

I loved Lomito with the draft beer on top. Then I quickly discovered that one of Chile’s best crops and what people brag about are the tomatoes, the best and juiciest I had in the South America by far at these sandwiches, and avocado, called palta and this part of Latin America. The food is about the ingredients, and the avocado here tastes extra buttery and rich.

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I became obsessed with the simple combo found all over Chile of tomato, avocado, and mayo. It sounds so basic bitch, but every ingredient is so of top quality, especially paired with churrasco beef, which I personally liked more than the lomo, and the fica buns that vaguely remind me of a cross of NYC kaiser rolls and Italian ciabatta, again, the combination of the history of Chile here in my interpretation.

I think multiple orders of this the month I was in Chile singlehanded raised my cholesterol level for the year. Worth it.

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Of course, the classic that Chileans’ talk about and is available everywhere is the Completo, a hot dog with, you guessed it, tomato, mayo, and avocado. Fuente Alemana has a high-end version of it and was so loaded the waitress held it in place because it plopped over from the weight of all toppings as soon as I put it down after a first bite.

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While I loved just hopping over to the Fuente Alemana locations whenver possible, I have to give an honorable mention and strong recommendation when visiting La Vega, a must do in Santiago. La Vega is one of the biggest local markets for everything with a storied history and significance to the city, and I have to recommend Donde El Nano for their version of the Chacarero sandwich (who knew sliced green beans could taste so good and fresh with so much grease?), which they called the Veronica. I asked for lengua meat, which they made for me special along with the delicious broth with a generous heaping of cilantro. I can’t describe how satisfying this was.

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The owner is also such a jovial and friendly dude and really goes out of the way and clearly wants everyone visiting to have a good time versus the Fuente Alemana experience, while it might feel more authentic, feels authentically like a place people are popping in after work for comfort food and expected to tip and bounce ASAP.

Either way, the sandwiches are the must for me in Chile beyond any of the really nice fine dining with wine places I went to because I really felt like I was tasting local comfort food with history.

Learn more about Chile’s sandwiches. Don’t believe? Anthony Bourdain agrees.

Fuente Alemana

  • Website
  • Bourdain went to this one near Plaza Italia: Av Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 58, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • Close to Sky Costanera: Av. Pedro de Valdivia 210, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • $5-10 USD 

Donde El Nano

  • Website
  • Inside La Vega: local 235, Antonia López de Bello 743, Recoleta, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • $5-10 USD 

Peumayan’s Door to the Indigenous and Ancestral

I’ve had the pleasure of eating a lot of delicious food around the world this year, but this place struck me as so special because of uniqueness of the food, celebration of heritage, and the fact that if this restaurant were somewhere like LA or NY, the chef could charge 3x as much and be the toast of the town for innovation.

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A badass female chef took us through Peumayan Ancestral Food menu on lovely Sunday. The restaurant concept takes indigenous ingredients and cooking methods from groups like the Mapuche, Rapa Nui, and other indigenous groups in South America and builds a multi-course tasting meal with all those elements, with bonuses.

 

Normally, I loath the concept of elevating “ethnic food.” For an Asian person, that often comes with the baggage and implication that waters down food and plates it in a fancy way to make it more palatable to White people, when 1) the food is good as it is 2) high-end Asian cuisine already exists that isn’t geared toward White audiences.

On the flip side of those politics, why can’t “ethnic food” be just as finely enjoyed as French Food and Italian food, with the same pomp and ritual? Especially when food with seasoning just tastes better? (Haha.)

I don’t think that latter stance was fully clarified for me until going to Peumayan.

An explanatory comma first, traveling to Santiago was my first time truly traveling in Latin America. My stereotypes about Chile mostly came whatever content I absorbed on the internet through time talking about how the southern cone of Latin America is so “European.” Luckily my friend Maria from Santiago complicated those notions and told me the history of her country. Still, I knew so little about complexity of the indigenous history in Chile, and how the Mapuche were the one indigenous group to successfully resist the Spanish conquest.

Peumayan takes the richness of that history and creates a high-end dining experience celebrating the ingredients and cooking of pre-Colombian food, and does so exceptionally well. I’m mad that the dining and food culture locally and globally doesn’t seem to have that on the radar at all.

Most of my travels through Chile and Latin America weeks later all have the same sad undercurrent as the indigenous culture as among the least celebrated heritages in these countries. Although there are exceptions, especially in Peru and I’m assuming Boliva and Paraguay, the present-day living culture, and food culture in particular case of Chile, it isn’t something that seems to pique curiosity, let alone as a part of the rich heritage of the country to cherish and value.

I hope Peumayan and what the chefs are trying to do here gets a lot more famous. A tasting menu for food this quality would easily be triple the price in LA or NY. I put this at the top of the list for a restaurant recommendation in Santiago.

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Exceptional flavors from sweet to savory that I’ve never quite experienced. Everything tasted so earthy yet refined.

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The above is the bread platter and amuse bouche for the first round.

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Main courses.

 

Desert, with a lot of flavors of local Chilean wine.

 

More about the food.

More about Peumayan:

  • Website
  • Providencia Constitución 136 Santiago, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • ~$50-70 USD tasting menu plus drinks

 

Shoutout to OK Ryan in Flushing

This is a Love Letterdisclaimer a place I haven’t visited in awhile (possibly months or a year) but still exists in a place I love dearly but no longer live full-time at the moment – check latest reviews on other sites accordingly as some items might be out of date.

Crosspost from ViewingNYC

Thought of OK Ryan recently as some of best Taiwanese food I’ve in NYC, including special order dishes for Lunar New Year – actually remembering what a comfort the place was since I was in Taiwan for Lunar New Year a week or so ago. Also, this is one of the few places in NYC to get legit Taiwanese breakfast. It’s in pretty far out Flushing and quite a hike even from the last subway stop into the part of Queens where there are actually strip malls with parking lots, but for me was always worth it to ride out all the way on the 7-Train from where I live in Murray Hill.

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I unabashedly love Taiwanese food, a food category that is surprisingly difficult to find in New York City, let alone at a high quality. After trekking across boroughs to the end of the 7 Line, I’ve finally found a favorite destination for this elusive cuisine. Ok Ryan shines in signature Taiwanese dishes, such as oyster omelettes and stinky tofu along with traditional breakfasts…. read more

 

The Best Foie Gras Experience at Au Pied de Cochon

This is a Love Letter: disclaimer a place I haven’t visited in awhile (possibly months or a year) but still exists in a place I love dearly but no longer live full-time at the moment – check latest reviews on other sites accordingly as some items might be out of date.

I had one of the best dining experiences traveling alone at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal in the super cool Plateau Mont Royal neighborhood. It’s not a fancy pants white table cloth place, feels more like an upscale bistro/French brassiere that is unpretentious yet refined. Definitely fine dining although hipster beards and tattoos would not be out-of-place here.

I didn’t get a chance to try the famed foie gras poutine since I dined alone, but I definitely will if I have the opportunity to return to Montreal. Instead I had apps of a fresh baguette with butter, definitely above average. I do think it’s the sign of a good restaurant when items that are sometimes throwaway are given a lot of care.

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Then I felt adventurous and had the foie gras nigiri. I had something similar awhile back at A Plus Sushi in Taipei. Not the most pretty, but holy crap, it tasted amazing and genuinely like nothing I had ever before. Fusion food tends to be crap, but this combo of big ole hunks of high quality foie gras, good nigiri rice, topped with the slightest bit of soy sauce made this trip worth it alone.

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Of course, I had have what Anthony Bourdain had, the Canard en Conserve or Duck in a Can – literally a pound of duck and foie gras cooked in a can with vegetables and thyme so all the fatty juices melange. I rarely can’t finish a dish, but the richness and how tasty it was almost nasty. I kept trying to shovel more bites of the fatty duck, foie gras, and lard-glazed veggies but couldn’t especially after the plate of nigiri and bread. I ended up taking half it back with me. I joke around about eating heart attacks in a can, but very little hyperbole here. Perhaps kind of an abomination to French Canadian chefs, but it was bomb the next day reheated with sriracha sauce.

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Eating at Au Pied de Cochon and Jean Talon Market were definitely the highlights of my trip to Montreal. For solo travelers, it’s a fantastic place to dine alone with a long bar in front of friendly chatty kitchen staff. I was far from the only one enjoying a foie gras feast on a solo trip.

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Ironically, I’m writing this love letter I mentioned I had been there to an older Canadian couple on the same bus I was traveling on from Croatia to Bosnia, who I thought were surely French tourists at first but then turned out to be awesome friendly Canadians whom I talked food and politics all day after we bonded after I mentioned I had been there. Nothing brings together people like food.

  • Website
  • 536 Duluth Est, Montreal, QC, H2L 1A9
  • $30+ Canadian Dollars or so for entrees and $12 for apps 

“Poutine Fries” I can’t stop thinking about at The Ribbon

I normally detest brunch, but I ended up at The Ribbon for a friend’s birthday party way before the normal crowds. So worth it, I would totally come back here for the two items I got to try: The Prime Rib Poutine ($28) with an egg on top of steak over fries over cheesy gravy and onions.

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Before we had that, the best banana bread (menu item The Banana Pecan Loaf) I think I’ve ever had with a slightly sweet creamy inside. Complex flavors all around, not too sweet. Almost had a light Asian bakery quality to it.

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Setting is nice too and way a touch above a lot of the generic brunch places in NYC with semi-nice settings with mediocre $13 dollar egg plates.

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