Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is there anything good to eat in Long Island?

If you're wondering why I haven't reviewed any NYC restaurants lately, it's because I've been in Long Island (pronounced "Lawn Guyland" by the locals) visiting with the in-laws almost every weekend this month.

I asked hubby Kris whether he knew of any foodie destinations in his old neighborhood and he drew a complete blank. A search on chow.com also came up pretty empty. So I put myself in the capable hands of my in-laws, who happily took me around to their favorite Long Island haunts...

Krisch's, Massapequa NY
This 50's style diner is my mother-in-law Barbara's favorite place to enjoy a vanilla egg cream. Each spring, Krisch's converts half their restaurant into "Bunny Land - the largest selection of homemade Easter chocolates and novelties in New York." On a busy Saturday, we waited 1/2 hour for a table at lunchtime. But we easily passed the time in Bunny Land, tempted by parades of chocolate bunnies and other homemade confections.
For lunch I ordered a vanilla egg cream (yum) and a mushroom turkey burger with swiss cheese, substituting onion rings for fries. I also stole a couple of sweet potato fries from my in-laws. Tasty food and large portions - I took half of my meal home with me.

On our way out I picked up a couple pieces of $1 fudge (chocolate and cookies 'n' cream flavor) for hubby Kris who couldn't join us because he was at his fantasy baseball draft (bane of my existence).

Overall, I found Krisch's a tad expensive (around $17 per person for lunch) but the soda-fountain atmosphere and listening to my mother-in-law wax nostalgic about her favorite childhood place made it worthwhile.

Milleridge Inn, Jericho NY
After lunch, we took a ride to the historic Milleridge Inn to stroll through the charming shops in the Milleridge Village. My father-in-law Bill immediately disappeared into the General Store to refill his supply of hard candy (I highly recommend the rootbeer flavor).My mother-in-law stopped at The Bread and Jam Shoppe bakery to pick up a huge apple stollen - I swear that thing weighed a ton and it only cost $7! There's also a cute toy store in the village carrying some unique items.While I haven't eaten at the restaurant recently, I do recall enjoying a delicious bratwurst plate during their Oktoberfest celebration several years ago. The Milleridge Inn is one of my in-laws' all-time favorite places, so I'm sure I'll be back soon.

Babylon Fish & Clam, Babylon NY
Took my in-laws and our friend Irene Sullivan, winner of the Irish Soda Bread showdown, to lunch for my father-in-law's birthday this past weekend. Sorry, no photos - my head was spinning from extreme motion sickness thanks to stop-and-go traffic during our 3 hour ride to Long Island (I know, can't take me anywhere!) But I recovered just in time to enjoy some fried oysters with a side of rice pilaf (kinda pricey though at $18.95). Pretty, breezy location by the Babylon Village Dock.

After lunch, we went back to my inlaws' house for birthday cake and cookies. The cake was from Giacomo's Italian Bakery in Lindenhurst (646 Wellwood Ave). Yummy strawberry filling I wanted to scoop out and eat by itself. Icing was a little overwhipped but Kris didn't seem to mind it.

I'm usually suspicious of desserts from wholesale clubs like Costco, but I actually love these white chocolate covered cookies from Costco's house brand, Kirkland (Signature European Cookies with Belgian Chocolate).

Applebee's, Farmingdale
We met Kris' childhood friends, James and Frank, at Applebee's for a "boys' night out" last Saturday. I felt honored to be the only gal present, so I agreed to do the unthinkable - critique chain restaurant food (gasp!).

Appetizers are half priced after 10pm (times may vary based on location), but that was a bit too late for us old married people! So we met at 7:30pm and the place was packed - we waited 1/2 an hour for a table. Despite the crowd, we didn't feel rushed at all during our meal and our server was really friendly.

Over a lively discussion about the requisite Long Island "uniform" back in the day - gold chains and cavaricci pants (think A.C. Slater in Saved By The Bell) we all shared a generous portion of yummy nachos nuevos. Kris and I also split the Ultimate Trios appetizer combo - cheeseburger sliders were heavy on the bread and chopped onions, but pretty tasty after I threw away half the bun. Boneless buffalo wings had a nice bite, but I was disappointed with the steak quesadilla towers - flavor was bland, tortilla was too thick and chewy.

Overall, we had a blast due to the awesome company - thanks boys!

Bollinger's Family Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, Farmingdale NY
The night was still young when we finally left Applebee's, so we searched around town for a coffee shop with no luck.

Luckily Bollinger's was still open and there's always room for dessert!

I had a huge scoop of homemade pistachio ice cream -wasn't too sweet and had real pieces of pistachios in it, but I was thrown off by a few ice crystals found in a couple bites. But I loved the cute decor and reasonable prices so I'll be back one day to try their diner style food.

So that's it for my eating tour of Long Island (for now).

Hey Long Island - did I leave out your favorite restaurant? Wanna share a food item unique to your Long Island neighborhood? Leave me a comment!


Friday, March 27, 2009


Kris brought home a New York Post article for me this week about NYC's current obsession with bacon.

Then I saw a feature on CBS yesterday on how the bacon business is booming in spite of the recession.

So with bacon on the brain, I made us some B.L.T.s last night for dinner!

No recipe required, I just slathered some mayo (Hellman's, the good stuff) on to some lightly toasted wholewheat sourdough bread, added some Boston lettuce, a couple slices of vine-ripened tomatoes (light sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper), and topped it off with some thick cut bacon (which I baked up to perfection in the oven). Mmmmm....delish!

Baking bacon? Super easy.

I hate the splattery mess bacon makes on my stove top so I learned this oven trick while watching Barefoot Contessa make her maple roasted bacon. But I don't bother adding maple syrup (doesn't need it) and I stopped using a baking rack (the fat congeals and sticks to it big time making it a pain in the butt to clean). The thick cut bacon stays nice and flat, doesn't shrivel up and gets nice and crispy.

How to Bake Bacon
Thick Cut Bacon, as much as you care to make
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees(F)
Line a sheet pan with foil with some parchment paper on top
Arrange bacon in one layer
Bake for 20 minutes until crispy
Transfer bacon to a paper towels to drain and cool off slightly



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Vegemite

Mmmmmm...looks like nutella right?


It's not chocolate at all.



Whaddya mean you've never heard of it? It's made by Kraft!

Okay, I have to admit that Vegemite hasn't quite caught on here in the U.S.A. But it's a big hit in Australia, where according to the official Kraft Vegemite Website most people can sing the Vegemite jingle,"Happy Little Vegemites", on command (I guess kinda like how most Canadians can hum the original Hockey Night in Canada theme song).

Vegemite is a dark brown super salty spread that tastes a little like concentrated soy sauce with a yeasty beer aftertaste. The consistency is like cheez whiz. I personally like it, but remember that I'm a weird food enthusiast. For most people, it's definitely an acquired taste! Reminds me a bit of Japanese seaweed paste (but not as ocean-y) or Maggi seasoning sauce (if Maggi sauce were to come in a thick paste-like form). A little goes a long way -the thick layer I slathered on my toast this morning probably makes up at least 4 servings. According to the Vegemite Profile chart, today I'm a "slapper" (ie. I slapped on the Vegemite "like a brickie with a trowel"). Usually I'm a "wormer" but I was out of saltine crackers.

Made from brewer's yeast, Vegemite is a rich source of B vitamins and folate. Aussie "ankle biters" grow up eating Vegemite like American kids eat peanut butter. According to wikipedia, Vegemite is also high in glutamic acid, stimulating an umami (5th taste) reaction, which may explain its widespread appeal. In 2006, Australian ex-pats panicked when a story about an FDA ban on Vegemite started circulating (totally false).

I've never tried cooking with Vegemite, but I'm definitely intrigued by a recipe for Vegemite Pizza found on the official Vegemite website.

So where can you get yourself a jar of yeasty brown goodness? After searching high and low in New Jersey with no luck, hubby Kris was successful in Manhattan - huge thanks to our friend Janet for going completely out of her way to get me my Vegemite fix at Myers of Keswick in NYC (can't wait to try their English pork pies and sausage). And thanks to Don , Janet's Aussie contact, who pointed Janet in the right direction.

If you don't live in NYC, check your local import food market, the international food section of a well stocked supermarket, or order it online at several Australian, "Kiwi", or British food websites. Now you too can be a "Happy Little Vegemite"!

A note to all my Brit and Kiwi readers: I enjoy eating Marmite (Vegemite's bitter rival) as much as Vegemite, in fact, I kept a bottle of Marmite in my desk drawer at my old job for several years! I chose to feature Vegemite because I think the name is a bit more recognizable.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sisterhood Awards


Heavenly Housewife has given my blog the Sisterhood Award! We seem to have much in common - we're both LOLs (ladies of leisure), we ALWAYS have food on the brain, and we're constantly planning our next foodie adventure (I tackle the Tri-state area, while she's across the pond in England).

So check out Heavenly Housewife's lovely blog:

The rules of the Sisterhood Award:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 people whose blogs you enjoy.
3. Link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blogs.
5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person who has nominated you for the award.

Like Heavenly Housewife, I've only been blogging for a short time, but I'm lucky to have discovered these great bloggers to whom I'm now giving Sisterhood Awards:

Tangled Noodle, who’s probably received several sisterhood awards by now but IMHO deserving of many more. I first took note of her intelligent blog when she co-hosted the Eating Your Words challenge. Most recently she searched through Minneapolis for century eggs, determined to make my century egg and pork congee.

Oyster Culture: A place to exchange ideas and learn about culture through food”. I learn something new every time I read one oysterculture's well-researched and fascinating posts! Last week she included a delicious recipe to celebrate Nowruz (Persian New Year).

Coconut Girl Live! Join Coconut Girl Connie for some “island inspired living” in Hawaii. Her delicious Hawaiian-style recipes will have you saying Mahalo!

She Simmers: The "highly nomadic" and extremely witty Leela showcases ethnic ingredients in simple no-fuss recipes.

Pham Fatale Jaqueline Pham’s French-Vietnamese background coupled with her husband’s Indian heritage make for some clever fusion recipes.

seasaltwithfood: A fellow Vancouverite takes exotic ingredients and makes them non-threatening in easy family recipes.

Passionate Eater, based in San Francisco, has the most gorgeous food photos on her blog (her “fugly”-est food pictures are probably equivalent to my best photos). I’m also digging her Internet Food Deals of the Week feature.

5 star foodie’s on a mission to eat at all of the exclusive 5-star restaurants featured in Mobil’s Travel Guide. Gourmet recipes simplified, like her chilled avocado and cucumber soup. She also shares her secrets to making the perfect smoothie.

Salt and Pepper, where I learned about Polish paczkis on Mardi Gras, and how to braise short ribs in Guinesss for St. Patty’s Day. (Yes, I know Pepper is a guy, so I’m giving this award to Salt because I believe she is responsible for most of the writing – correct me if I’m wrong)

And finally, when I get homesick for Malaysian food, I check out Glancing thru MY crystal ball for some yummy photos of laksa and other local specialties. Shout-out to Kuching, my hometown!

A double hooray for sisterhood!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Last Chance for Shamrock Shakes...

I was shocked to find out recently that Shamrock Shakes are only available in some areas of the U.S.

And h
ow lucky I am to live in one of those regional areas, allowing me to enjoy a delicious minty Shamrock Shake every March!

Huge shoutout to my friend Erin who asked about the Shamrock Shake and got blank stares from employees at 2 Mcdonald locations in Texas.

Shamrock Shake devotees are everywhere -there's even a website devoted to Shamrock Shake sightings.

Is this phenomenon just a U.S. thing, or do they have Shamrock Shakes in Ireland?

Well, I'm happy to report that they do exist in Ireland but only during March (Kris received confirmation from Dublin last week).

So RUN, don't walk, to your local Mcdonald's!

Or make your own Shamrock Shake at home from this copycat recipe:


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Century Egg: Revisited

Yeah, I know it's not Weird Food Wednesday but I've been getting a lot of feedback on my recent century egg post, ranging from "eew -I can't believe you actually eat that!" to "sounds good, where can I find it?"

My cousin Anne-Marie, a fellow century egg aficionado, said the p
hoto accompanying the original post would probably scare most people off. She recommended that I show a more appealing photo, say...of century egg used in an actual recipe, such as congee.

Congee is a rice porridge eaten in several Asian countries. I crave it all the time as a comfort food, but it's traditionally served for breakfast or late night supper. The simplest congee is made with 2 ingredients (water and rice), so it's easily digested by babies and the infirm. A perfect recession food because it can stretch one cup of rice to feed several people. My favorite congee is made with century egg and pork, which I recently learned how to make myself.

So Tangled Noodle, this one's for you:


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Konnyaku

What is this strange jellyfish-like thing on my spoon?

It's a konnyaku or shirataki noodle, made from the konnyaku yam (a kind of mountain potato, a.k.a. "devil's tongue"). The texture is like nothing else you've had -slippery, gelatinous, resilient, and crunchy all at the same time. Virtually flavorless on its own (but absorbs sauce and seasoning well), fat-free and low calorie (considered a "diet" food in Japan and other Asian countries), rich in fiber, gluten-free, and apparently helps eliminate toxins from your body by cleaning out your intestines (and often referred to as the "broom of the body" in Japan).

Whenever I have shabu-shabu (Japanese hot pot) at home, I like to include konnyaku noodles in my ingredients for the sheer novelty factor, especially when I have friends over who've never tried it before. I usually have a package of these noodles in my fridge (keeps forever) and it came in handy yesterday when I was too lazy to make rice for my leftover ma po tofu. I ate half the package of noodles - a 5 oz serving was only 50 calories, zero fat, with 8 grams of dietary fiber! And I definitely needed some detoxing after that Irish Soda Bread Showdown.

Konnyaku is also used to make jelly candy. The texture of the candy is similar to gelatin, however, it won't dissolve like jello and cannot be swallowed whole. This poses a major choking hazard to children and the elderly. Candy manufacturers in Japan responded to the recent public outcry by simply increasing the size of the warning label on the packaging.

You can find konnyaku noodles in the refrigerated section of Asian food markets. Try it for the texture - it's bizarre!

As for the "jellies that choke", I know I used to have some in my pantry a few years ago, but they're long gone. I don't remember having any choking issues while eating them, but if you ever should encounter them, please remember to chew! Not sure whether konnyaku jellies are still banned by the FDA but I'll check for them the next time I'm at my local Asian mart. Stay tuned...


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Almost forgot to post a photo of my mother-in-law Barbara's corned beef and cabbage. Thanks for dinner, Mom!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Irish Soda Bread Showdown!

In honor of St. Patrick's Day this year…


So what exactly is Irish soda bread? The traditional version has only 4 ingredients: flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt - an inexpensive but filling quickbread served alongside a main dish. But most of the "traditional" soda breads I've tried contain butter, sugar, eggs, caraway seeds, raisins and/or currants. In the U.S., Irish soda bread has evolved into its "rich American cousin".

Irish soda bread is having an identity crisis - how can there be so many versions that all claim to be "traditional"? Do Irish-Americans even like Irish soda bread in its purest form? My friend Margaret, who's half Irish, says that she'll only eat soda breads that are really sweet and cake-like, covered in a generous dusting of confectioner's sugar (she recently purchased soda bread from Stop 'n Shop that met all her criteria). So I'm staging an Irish soda bread showdown to reveal the BEST TASTING recipe, authentic or not! I mean, how good can authentic Irish soda bread taste without sugar and fat?

Over the past couple weeks, I researched and collected recipes from the internet/cookbooks/cooking magazines and even convinced a couple of Irish friends to share their secret family recipes with me. I narrowed the field down to 6 worthy contenders and bought out the buttermilk supply at my local Wegman's (yes, that was me). I baked 9 loaves of soda bread (and I'm so NOT a baker - hell, I don't even like to measure ingredients!) Finally, I enlisted the help of Kris' predominantly Irish co-workers to help with a blind taste testing (accompanied by Kerrygold Irish unsalted butter, Bonne Maman strawberry preserves, and Cahill’s Porter Cheese).

click on names for recipe links):

This was the easiest and most economical recipe to prepare (took only 10 minutes to throw it together and get it in the oven, hence the term "quickbread"). I did have to add about a quarter cup extra of buttermilk to get the dough to come together. It was the only bread I cut a cross into (to ward off the devil!) and I was really proud of how pretty it looked coming out of the oven. I even tapped it on the bottom to check the doneness and it sounded hollow (just like the recipe said it would). Despite several judges' comments about the dryness, Kris and I didn't find it dry at all - the consistency was surprisingly soft/doughy on the inside and it tasted mildly sweet (even with no sugar). You could actually smell the baking soda, which sounds kinda weird but it really did smell nice. And the buttermilk flavor really came through because of the limited ingredients. Tasted great with some Irish butter and a dab of strawberry preserves. And it would be perfect served alongside a hearty stew...
A couple weeks ago, our friend Dan shared cute story with us over dinner about his grandma's soda bread -Grandma Murphy's handwritten recipe was given to a friend decades ago and was passed around for years until it miraculously found its way back into Dan's hands recently. So I had to include his recipe in the showdown. This bread was really easy to prepare - just throw everything in a bowl, mix and bake. But I had to run out to get a couple extra ingredients - this was the only recipe that used cream of tartar and margarine (which some judges detected in an aftertaste). I found the texture lovely and the taste more savory than the other breads. Perfect with strawberry jam!

King Arthur Flour's St. Patrick's Day Irish-American Soda Bread
I chose this recipe because I prefer King Arthur Flour to other brands and they've never let me down. The recipe had great reviews and the description said it tasted like a rich scone, so what could bad about that? Not as easy to prepare as the secret family recipes – I had to actually use a handheld beater for this one. I panicked for second when my butter refused to “cream” properly with the sugar (guess I didn’t soften it enough?). I panicked even more when it came out of the oven looking almost as pale as when I put it in! But none of that mattered because the bread turned out delicious -moist like a pound cake, sweet (but not too sweet), with the perfect amount of caraway and raisins. Also really easy to slice. I love foolproof recipes! So what if it's not traditional?

Irene Sullivan is a close family friend - she lived across the street from my husband Kris while he was growing up. Irene's soda bread was the first I ever tasted and my mother-in-law Barbara makes it without fail every St. Patrick's Day. Kris even gets a little nostalgic whenever he has it! A cinch to throw together, everything in one bowl (just like Grandma Murphy’s recipe). I love the caraway flavor and the sweetness of this bread. Tasters loved the texture - crumbly but still moist.

Wegman's Irish Soda Bread
I thought this storebought version tasted really good - it wasn't too sweet, and the whole wheat flour, currants and caraway seeds added lots of flavor. So I snuck it into the competition to see whether anyone would notice - why go through all the trouble of baking when you can just buy it?

Downey's Restaurant's House Soda Bread The biggest disappointment - super labor intensive and I expected it to taste better with 2 sticks of butter and dark brown sugar in the recipe. I also had high expectations because Downey's customers raved about their complimentary "house" soda bread. I found this recipe in my March 2009 issue of Gourmet Magazine and while it sounded good on paper, the dry to liquid proportions were way off -the bread refused to come together (almost 8 cups of flour to only 2 cups of buttermilk). I even purchased a special utensil for this recipe - a pastry blender, but shouldn't have bothered because I could have just done the mixing by hand. I ended up with a crumbly mess in a giant bowl so I nervously added another cup of buttermilk and it finally started to come together. I was in full-on panic mode because we all know you that you don't mess with proportions in baking! I also didn't plan on kneading the bread at all, as the recipe's instructions only said "mix until it forms a smooth dough". Yeah right! - I never got near a smooth dough, but I gave up kneading after I literally could see strands of gluten forming (and before it turned into a rock). The bottoms ended up being really dense which is probably why they came dangerously close to burning while baking. However, the inside crumb was pleasant enough - like fluffy whole wheat bread (this was the only recipe I made that used whole wheat flour, which would be called a "brown" bread in Ireland). But I still think I prefer the 4 ingredient recipe (Kris liked this brown recipe better because he said it had a better flavor). I just checked the recipe again and noticed that it says "adapted from Downey's" so maybe something got lost when downsizing the restaurant recipe to suit the home chef. And it also says "easy to slice" - Ha! Kris says I woke him up with the persistent sawing noise coming from the kitchen.

The majority of participants, even the Irish ones, preferred the sweeter/cake-like entries. Most hated the more traditional recipes, saying they were dry and bland. So I guess the answer is "NO", Irish-Americans (at least the ones we know) don't actually like traditional Irish soda bread. But Kris and I were really surprised by how good the 4 ingredient bread tasted. Maybe next time (if I ever decide to bake again) I'll include a hearty stew with the judging to even out the playing field for the more traditional entries (which really aren't meant to be eaten on their own as a dessert).

It was a tough battle:
King Arthur Flour's St. Patrick's Day Irish-American Soda Bread came in a very close 2nd - judges enjoyed its moist cake-like texture and sweetness, but some found it too much like poundcake.

Coming in 3rd was Wegman's storebought Irish Soda Bread - judges (particularly the Irish ones) felt it was more "traditional" with its bread-like texture.


Irene Sullivan's
Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup raisins or currants (or less if you want)
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
a "drop" of oil (approx 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil to make it cake-like)

Irene's recipe simply says:
"Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour."

But some of us novice bakers need a little more direction than that so this is how I prepared it:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl
Gently form into a round loaf
Place in a greased 9" round cake pan
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350 degrees
(check doneness by inserting a wooden skewer - it should come out clean)

Congratulations, Irene!

As your prize, you will receive the "me HUNGRY!"
Irish Soda Bread Showdown trophy!
(generously donated by my mother-in-law, Barbara)

Thanks to all the judges:
Allison, Bill V., Brad, Colleen, Jane, Jim N., Jim O., Joe, Lou, Peggy, Stasia, Tom, Tom R., and Waishuen!

And a big thank you to my darling husband Kris for his huge role as showdown administrator - poor guy had to carry all the bread samples, jam, butter, cheese, ballots, utensils, and napkins to work everyday last week! He also helped me eat all the leftover bread!

Special thanks to Irene Sullivan and Dan Murphy who generously shared their family recipes with me.

Curious how much it cost me to make enough bread for over a hundred people? Less than $35 for the ingredients (including 9 lbs of King Arthur organic flour, 1.5 lbs of unsalted butter, 2 lbs of sugar, 3 quarts of buttermilk, caraway seeds, raisins, currants, baking soda, and baking powder), and $12 for the accompaniments (strawberry preserves, 1 lb Irish butter, and 1/2 lb Irish cheese). Definitely recession food!

Think you have an Irish soda bread recipe that tastes better than Irene Sullivan's recipe?
Send me an email: mehungryphyllis@gmail.com


3/18/09 update:
YIPPEE! Salt & Pepper has given my blog post an OM NOM Nomination!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Barfi

It's time again to explore the world of weird food!

The only thing really weird about this week's topic is the name:
Barfi. Most people can't get past the name. Well, too bad for them because it's absolutely delicious (more for me & Kris!) Barfi is an milk-based Indian sweet commonly served during holidays and festivals, but we're happy to eat it anytime as a snack.

I tried barfi for the first time in elementary school and I'm ashamed to admit that I probably joined in with all the other mean kids making fun of my poor friend who'd brought it to school -"EWW... you're eating what? BARF?! GROSS!" The unfortunate name is Persian in origin: the word "barf" translates to "ice" in Farsi, and probably refers to the crumbly granular texture of barfi.

The taste and consistency remind me a little of fudge, and my favorite flavor is still the original plain milk barfi. There's just something about the intense milky flavor and how every bite melts in your mouth. But at $8.99/lb I can afford to get barfi in every flavor at my local Subzi Mandi Indo-market! Pictured in the photo: almond, tri-color, plain milk, chocolate (which one of us do you think chose that one?), and cashew barfi. These particular sweets were made by Jain Foods of Linden, NJ.

You can also find barfi at several Indian sweet shops in NYC's Murray Hill area (a.k.a "Curry Hill": Lexington Ave b/t 27th & 29th Sts). Or in your own city's Little India.

So bring some barfi to a party and watch it disappear (just don't tell your friends what it's called).

If anyone out there has a good authentic milk barfi recipe, please contact me at mehungryphyllis@gmail.com


Update: I just received a very informative comment from Amalik about barfi:

"It's pronounced burr-fee, so the name should not be an issue. There are a million different types of barfi, made from each different grain and even some that are cheese based. They are not all milk-based."

Thanks for your comment, Amalik!


Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Mushroom Restaurant, West Babylon NY

The Mushroom Restaurant
779 W Montauk Hwy, West Babylon, NY
We took a ride out to West Babylon, Long Island over the weekend to celebrate my mother-in-law Barbara's birthday. The entire family was there - Kris' dad Bill, identical twin brother Keith (yes, there are 2 of them!), older brother Kevin (photo, left), sister-in-laws Kathy & Colette, and our 2 nieces and 1 nephew. A huge group to feed on a budget so we opted for Chinese take-out from Barbara's favorite local restaurant, The Mushroom. I was put in charge of ordering (probably because I'm the only Asian person in the family) but I have to admit that Chinese take-out is still pretty foreign to me - who the heck is this General Tso anyways? (if you really want to know, check out The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee).

The Mushroom is always reliable - our order was ready in 10 minutes and nothing was missing. Generous portions at bargain prices - lunch specials start at $5.99 and include choice of rice and soup. The "Chinese" food tastes pretty good too. A few years back, The Mushroom added a Japanese menu along with a new sushi bar and hibachi area. I've noticed this Chinese/Japanese trend happening a lot in the Northeast lately. Getting sashimi from a chinese takeout place makes me a little nervous, but my brother-in-law Kevin ate his Sushi Combo A (with 4 pieces of raw Nigri sushi and a standard issue California roll) without incident. Everyone else ordered off the Chinese menu...

My Chicken & Broccoli lunch special - unadventurous but delicious (and I'm really picky about the sauce)

Kris had the Crispy Sesame Chicken (the restaurant's most popular dish)

We ordered a Pan Fried Noodles with Beef for everyone to share, prepared the way Kris likes it - extra crispy! Next time we'll only add half the sauce to control the saltiness.

The birthday girl had the Chicken with Asparagus (loved it!)

Evil sexy hairy twin Keith (and his goatee) had General Tso's Chicken and also tried Moo Shu Pork for the first time. 3/09/09 update: Keith would like to add his 2 cents about his meal: " I ordered the General Tso's Chicken and thought it was delicious. It was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. They could have added a little more heat to the sauce but it left my palate satisfied. The only real complaint I had with the dish was that it had only 3 pieces of broccoli in it. The fried rice was tasty but the added broccoli would have made the dish more complete. I also ordered the Moo Sho Pork. It was satisfying but not an all time favorite. The shredded lettuce, pork and vegetables reminded me eating an eggroll without the crispy crust. The BBQ sauce was very tasty though. Save the money and just order an eggroll. "Evil Twin"? I'm trying to figure that one out. The sexy twin is better. I would even take the hairy twin until I shave. "

And for dessert, a chocolate pudding cake from Shoprite

Irish Soda Bread from the Millridge Inn (dry crumb, dusted with confectioner's sugar)

Apple Stollen from the the Millridge Inn (like a giant apple danish)

Chocolate Chip Cookies (made by Colette) and Chocolate Brownie Cookies (made by Barbara)

After dinner and dessert, we headed downstairs to karaoke and dance the night away!

The Verdict: Good value Chinese take-out, $96 (including taxes) for 8 adults and 2 children at lunchtime

3/09/09 Update: Because I want to present a fair and accurate review of The Mushroom, I wanted to share this email I just received from my sister-in-law Colette:


Oh dear! I guess not everyone is a fan of The Mushroom!