#MyHomeTownGuide – Best Eats in the LIC

After taking time off to chill with my cuddly newborn baby girl, I’m back, nerds!  Well… sort of back.  This is a sponsored post- all opinions are 100 percent my own.

Fiji-Water-MyHometownGuide

I’m not going to lie to you – when we moved to Queens, I had a very, very hard time saying goodbye to Manhattan. 

I mean, come on.  It’s Manhattan!  Everything you could want or need (that is, should you not want or need wide open spaces and very few people) is within an arms’ reach.  People write songs about the place.  It inspires books and art and film.  Walking down the street can feel electric. 

It can also feel claustrophobic.  And crazy.  And milk costs nearly $5.00 a gallon.  So last summer, we packed our bags and my pregnant belly and moved across the East River to Long Island City, Queens,  It’s about as close to living in Manhattan as you can get without having to dodge a man in a toilet paper hat ranting about world’s end on a street corner.

We’ve lived here just over six months.  In January, our little family of two grew one more to include this, the world’s cutest child (totally not biased here)

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She’s my favorite scouting companion.  Since I’m exclusively breastfeeding and she’s still pretty tiny, our jaunts from home don’t go very far.  But that’s okay, because thankfully, Long Island City has plenty of cute spots for us to venture out to.  Also, I’m getting to know the best spots for nursing on the down-low. 

And now, a word from our sponsor! My partnership with Honest Cooking set me up with an excellent opportunity with Fiji Water to fill you nerds in on all the perfect places in my new little neighborhood, should you ever find yourself east of the East River with hunger in your bones.  Called the “My Hometown Guide”, I’m letting you in on the secret and not-so-secret eateries in my hood. Plus! Want to win a getaway with Fiji Water to some awesome US Cities? Check out the details at the bottom of the post.

OK, ok!  Let’s get to the point.

homemade-taqueria

1.  Homemade Taqueria.  

I am embarrassed with how often I order tacos from this place.  Cheery, friendly, fast, and best of all, cheap, their leftovers are a permanent fixture in our fridge.  I’m pretty sure they see my order coming in through the GrubHub system and smile, because lately they’ve been throwing in freebies when they deliver – usually in the form of the caffeinated soda variety.  And since I have a newborn in the house, this sort of random generosity involving caffeine is much appreciated.  Get the Tacos Al Pator, a spicy pork mix served with pineapple and onion salsa.  Slather their green hot sauce (to die for) on top, and I’m golden.  

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2.  Zante’s Deli and Restaurant

Long Island City spreads around the eastern end of the 59th street Bridge like a blanket.  The Big Man, the Little Child and I live on the eastern end, alongside the elevated subway line and just down the street from Zante’s.  This uh-mazing Greek Diner, situated underneath the entrance to the 39th Avenue subway entrance, is just like what you imagine a city diner to be – homey, flavorful, with waitstaff that remembers how you like your bacon.  Their burgers are outstanding.  I love Zante’s because it’s one of those awesome places that tends to be overlooked due to its location, but it’s a gem of a place, and a lifesaver for us on weekend mornings.  You know we love our diner food up in this joint, so I’m speaking the truth here.  We’re practically diner connoisseurs at this stage.  Plus, the coffee’s fresh, hot, and your cup is always filled promptly.  

(I am starting to realize an emerging trend with caffeine here, are you?)

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photo credit

3.  Alewife

This is the place that started it all in terms of my husband owning a bar (he’s known the Alewife owners since our days in Baltimore, and met his current business partner through this place). Alewife is a destination craft-beer bar on a quiet street just off Long Island City’s main thoroughfare of Vernon Boulevard, and around the corner from the 7 train.  It’s a former warehouse that, while outfitted in metal and wood, still feels cozy despite its high ceilings.  I am a die-hard oyster lover, and here they’re always fresh and briny and served with a perfect vinegary mignonette.  When I gave up meat for Lent last year, I purposely chose my first burger back to be Alewife’s Classic, with a fat slab of pork belly on top and a side of gralicky shoestring fries.  If that doesn’t sway you, I don’t know what will. 

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4.  Sage General Store

People like to ask me what my favorite thing to cook is, and I never know how to answer.  (ok, the answer is ALL THE THINGS, but that feels lengthy).  In truth, my favorite type of food is rustic American, a genre of cooking that’s still sometimes finding its place in cuisine.  I love a restaurant that serves rustic food well, and Sage General is one of those places.  It’s tiny, and comforting, and the food is always fresh and the waitstaff friendly.  I don’t ask for much in a restaurant except for those things, to be honest, and Sage is one of the first places I always recommend when people ask me where to eat in the neighborhood. Their menu changes with the season, but their pasta is always a sure bet as well as the cheddar biscuits.  And don’t skip the bacon brownie for dessert- weird as it sounds, the smoky bacon flavor just ups the chocolate factor.

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photo credit

5. John Brown’s Smokehouse

Last but not least, I’ve saved for you the creme de la creme of Long Island City dining.  Situated on a slightly run-down quiet street at the edge of the neighborhood and in the shadow of the Manhattan skyline is John Brown’s Smokehouse, home of the best BBQ I’ve had east of KC.  The house hot sauces are incredibly flavorful; I like to mix the hot hot with the regular hot in a 2:3 ratio, which is the perfect amount of heat to have on the side of your mac & cheese and fatty pork belly.  When it comes to ordering off the menu (which is scrawled on the wall as you come in, there is no tableside service up in here) do not skip the Burnt Ends.  They’re exactly as they sound- odds and ends off the briskets, bellies and flanks, and they are the best part of the entire menu.  The beer list is fantastic, too, with lots of regional and out-of-the-way craft beers on tap, and they have a back patio for outdoor dining in nice weather.  

 

So? Have I convinced you yet of the charms of my little ‘hood?  Long Island City- so unsung in terms of New York neighborhoods, it makes me almost forget I’m not in Manhattan.  (I said almost)

 

Show me  your favorite spots to eat, stay and play in your hometown and win a getaway to any of the US cities featured in Earth’s Finest City Guide! To participate, just upload an image of your favorite spot in your hometown to Twitter or Instagram with hashtag #myhometownguide and you will be entered to win automatically.

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Spicy Sweet Potato Soup (guest post by Courtney at Neighborfood)

In case you haven’t heard- a cute little fat bundle of Omeletta baby arrived into the world last Saturday morning! I’m kissing cheeks and changing diapers and falling in love with this perfect little creation.  While I’m out doing the new mom thing, the awesome Courtney from Neighborfood stepped in to help a girlfriend out with a guest post.  Please make sure you stop by her page and check it out- she is hilarious, takes great photos, and writes an awesome post. Take it away, Coutney!

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sweet potato soup 2

Hey there Omeletta fans! I’m Courtney and I’m visiting today from my blog Neighborfood. If I lived closer to Ruthy, I’d be popping over with a homemade casserole, a bottle of wine, and an entire wheel of soft cheese, but since that’s currently impossible, I’m bringing you this recipe for Spicy Sweet Potato Soup instead.

Some ideas are doomed to either be really, really good or really, really bad. Examples of bad ideas: Flesh toned leggings. Purple ketchup. Drying jeans on high heat. Not scraping the ice off your car before driving it. Hitting “reply all” (usually). Staying up until 3 AM on a Tuesday night binge watching Seinfeld reruns.

Examples of good ideas: Eating ice cream. Going to work. Wearing pants in public. Tater tots as burger buns. Post Its. Huddling up on the couch with three blankets, bootie socks, hot chocolate, and a thermostat set a tad too high.

sweet potato soup 1

When I first thought about a spicy Sriracha sweet potato soup, I honestly wasn’t sure whether it would land in the good idea camp or the bad idea camp. But  I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I finally just decided to go for it. Lucky for me (and you), it flew right past the good idea camp straight into the surprise-your-socks-off excellent camp.

I don’t often make pureed soups, but after trying this one, I know more of them are in my future. The texture of this is similar to a creamy tomato bisque. It’s thick and hearty, but with a smooth richness that comes from a swirl of coconut milk at the end. The flavor is Asian inspired with a mix of ginger, chili pepper, and Chinese Five Spice complimenting the mild sweetness of the sweet potatoes. A finishing swirl of Sriracha adds just the right amount of heat to warm you from the inside out. Seriously, this tough will knock the teeth right out of the polar vortex’s  mouth . The flavors are so warm and comforting, you’ll be craving them long after your bowl is gone. 

I was nervous to share this with the Mr. since he usually wrinkles his nose at the word “vegetarian,” but he shocked me and the rest of the world by scarfing down an entire bowl and commenting on multiple occasions how much he enjoyed this soup. I’ll call that a win.

sweet potato soup 1 

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  2. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  3. 1 yellow bell pepper
  4. 3 green onions, including white part, chopped
  5. 2 teaspoons red chili paste (I used Gourmet Garden's) or 1 red chili, chopped and seeded if you'd like to keep the heat down
  6. 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  7. 6 cups low sodium chicken broth (use veggie broth if vegan)
  8. 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
  9. Salt, to taste
  10. 1 5 ounce can coconut milk
  11. Sriracha, cilantro, and lime for serving
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and saute until softened and browned a bit on the edges, about 4 minutes. Add the green onion and saute for an additional minute. Add the sweet potatoes, chili paste, ginger, broth, and Chinese Five Spice. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat then reduce heat to medium and cook until sweet potatoes are softened, 7-10 minutes. Taste the soup and add salt as needed.
  2. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender to puree it until smooth. I had to puree mine in 3 different batches in my blender to avoid splattering scalding hot soup everywhere. Return soup to pot and stir in coconut milk.
  3. Serve in a bowl with a swirl of sriracha and chopped cilantro.
Notes
  1. If you'd like to make this vegan, simply replace the chicken broth with veggie broth. Or go less vegan and add a few crumbles of goat cheese to the top. Either way, you're in for a satisfying treat with this easy to make Spicy Sweet Potato Soup.
Adapted from Jilly Inspired
Adapted from Jilly Inspired
Omeletta http://omeletta.com/

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Lavender Madeleines with Lemon Glaze (guest post by Mallory from Total Noms)

Please Note: Omeletta will be down the evening of Thursday, January 16 for scheduled site maintenance.  (I’m sorry, but it has to be done!) The site will be down from 9:00pm until midnight.  Thanks for your understanding!

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The time has come – Baby Time, that is!  I’m taking a few weeks off to change diapers, kiss tiny foreheads, and chill out with my husband and our new little Mini-Me.  While I’m out, some of my fave food bloggers are generously donating their time, recipes and photographs to keep you well-fed and happy.  Be sure to check out their sites and say hello!

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Hi Omeletta readers! I’m Mallory from Total Noms and I’m thrilled to be able to share a recipe with you all while Ruthy is out enjoying some quality time with her new addition.

Lavender Madeleines with Lemon Glaze

If you are familiar with me or my blog at all you know that I am pretty much obsessed with all things cookies. I make at least a batch of cookies per week (don’t ask who eats them all…we’re not that close of friends yet), and I even used to co-own an online bakery that specialized in cookies. Snickerdoodles, ginger snaps, peanut butter blossoms, oatmeal raisin and good ol’ chocolate chip, I’ve made -and loved- them all.

So when I found a madeleine tin at the store a few months ago, I was intrigued. If you aren’t familiar, madeleines are beautiful French butter cookies with an iconic scalloped shell shape. Like most French comestibles, you might think they are difficult to make or only for the most sophisticated of palates. I’m here to show you how freakin’ easy they are- even easier than my beloved standard cookie dough!

Lavender Madeleines with Lemon Glaze

There is one hard part here- you will need a madeleine tin to make these beauties. They are usually around $10-15 and can be bought at any home-goods store or even some grocery stores. You can also find them online. OK, got your tin? Hard part over.

Lavender Madeleines with Lemon Glaze

While I chose to go the fancy-schmancy lavender route with this batch, you can easily substitute the flavor with any number of additions, like lemon or orange zest, mini chocolate chips, roasted fruit puree, or just leave the batter au naturel and keep them simply sweet. Once you start whipping these up on the regular (no judgment here), you’ll see there’s really no limit to what you can add.

These lavender madeleines are perfectly complemented by a tart lemon glaze. Bake up a batch for your next afternoon tea… people still do that, right?

  • Lavender Madeleines with Lemon Glaze
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    Ingredients
    1. 4 tbsp unsalted butter
    2. 1 tsp dried lavender flowers, rubbed with your fingers to release the flavor
    3. 2 eggs
    4. 1/4 tsp cardamom
    5. pinch of salt
    6. 1/3 cup sugar
    7. 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    8. 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    9. 3 tbsp lemon juice
    10. 1 tsp lemon zest
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease your madeleine tin with butter then place tin in the freezer until you’re ready to fill with batter.
    2. Melt butter either on the stovetop or in the microwave, then transfer to a small bowl. Add the lavender flowers to the butter and let cool while you assemble the madeleine batter.
    3. In a medium bowl, crack in the two eggs, then add the cardamom and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat on high until the eggs are bubbly and a light yellow color. With the mixer still on, slowly pour in the sugar. Continue to beat for about 7 minutes, until the mixture has thickened up and is a very pale cream color. I find that listening to Justin Timberlake’s extended “Lovestoned/I Think That She Knows” track from start to finish as a guide while you’re mixing helps. Or, you know, use a kitchen timer.
    4. Slowly add the flour to the bowl in small batches, carefully folding it into the batter after each addition using a rubber spatula. I use a fine mesh sieve to sift the flour in, as if you were dusting something with powdered sugar.
    5. Once flour has been incorporated, pour the lavender butter around the edges of the batter and carefully mix in, again using a spatula. Once batter is ready, remove the tin from the freezer and pour heaping tablespoons into each madeleine mold. Bake for 14-17 minutes, until cookies are golden brown around the edges and spongy on top.
    6. While madeleines are baking, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Bam.
    7. When madeleines have finished baking, remove from the oven and let cool for a minute. You then can use the tip of a knife or your finger to loosen the cookies from the tin. Dip or drizzle cookies with the lemon glaze. Enjoy!
    Notes
    1. Madeleines are, in my opinion, best enjoyed within an hour or two of baking them, although they will last a few days if stored in an airtight container. The texture will become a little less crisp, though, the longer you leave them.
    Adapted from AllRecipes
    Adapted from AllRecipes
    Omeletta http://omeletta.com/

Lavender Madeleines with Lemon Glaze

 

Thanks for reading and hope to see you around Total Noms soon! You can also check me out on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and watch my weekly video recipe tutorials on my YouTube channel.

 

Congrats again, Ruthy!!

Happy Eating :-)

mally

 

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Italian Polenta Bake

Italian Polenta Bake- a creamy layered casserole | from omeletta.com
It’s not even two weeks into 2014, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.  Since I’m still writing “2010″ on all my checks, I suppose I should just get used to the fact that it is actually 4 years later.  I mean, it’s not like pregnancy brain has shot my memory to hell already, or anything.  

I’ve made a ridiculous amount of freezer ready food lately, and this Italian-style Polenta Bake was thoroughly supposed to be part of that Freezer Crowd.  But it was so warm and creamy and flavorful that it never actually got stored away.  Which means that, hopefully, I’ll have some time to make another batch before my stubborn baby finally decides to make his (her?) way into the world.  
Italian Polenta Bake
Wasn’t it just last week I was all worked up about not being ready to have this baby yet? Lo, how the tides have changed.  Now I’m not only ready, but seriously impatient.  Then again, it’s not like anyone could accuse me of being a woman who does a great job overall at waiting.  I’m pretty good at waiting for cakes to rise and meringue to set.  I’m not good at waiting for hot pizza to cool before I try to eat it, for waiting for my husband to return my calls when I have a burning question to ask (important questions like, “Can you bring home milk?”), or for another season of Orange is the New Black to start.  Then again, no sane person ever successfully waited for hot pizza to cool off before digging in, so I’m sure you’ll let me off the hook on that one.

Italian Polenta Bake

This Polenta Bake is sorta casserole-y, sorta lasagna-y, and 100% big on flavor.  You can up the spicy heat factor if you wish, and add as much cheese to the polenta as your little heart desires.  The parmesan crust makes a great topping, but even more cheese stirred into that polenta could never be a bad idea. 

Italian Polenta Bake

Just make sure you’ve let it cool a bit before digging in – you trust me on that one.  

Italian Polenta Bake
A great change-up on your typical casserole, complete with spiced ground pork and layers of smooth, creamy polenta
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon butter
  2. 1 cup ground polenta cornmeal
  3. 2 cups heavy cream
  4. 2 cups tap water
  5. 1 cup chicken stock
For the casserole layer
  1. 1 lb ground pork
  2. 1 onion, minced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  5. 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  6. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  7. ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  8. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  9. 1/8 cup tap water
  10. 1 tomato, diced
  11. 1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
  12. 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Make the polenta
  1. Melt the butter over medium heat and add the polenta. Stir to lightly coat, then add the heavy cream, water and chicken stock. Cook, stirring often, until the polenta is soft and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before use.
Make the casserole layer
  1. Preheat the oven to 350*F. Pour half of the polenta into the bottom of a heavily greased 8”x8” baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. Cook the ground pork over medium heat, crumbling it well as it browns. Once the pork is mostly browned, add the onions and cook until they have softened. Add the garlic, ginger, fennel, cumin, pepper and sea salt and cook until the garlic has softened and is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to dish, and add the tomato, green pepper and water. Deglaze the pan, scraping up as much of the brown bits off the bottom as you can, and lightly cooking the tomatoes and pepper in the process. When most of the water has cooked off, remove the tomatoes and pepper and set aside.
  3. Layer the sausage mixture on top of the baked polenta in the baking dish. Add the tomatoes and peppers on top in an even layer, and pour the rest of the polenta on top, smoothing it out as much as possible. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and place back in the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes, until the cheese has browned and the edges of the pan have crisped. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Omeletta http://omeletta.com/

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Table Scraps 1/11/14

First Table Scraps of the new year, woot woot!

Table Scraps dancing Travolta | from omeletta.com

 

January 11, 2014

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I work with my family’s IT business as their part-time marketing director.  A part of that job is being the voice of the company on social media.  So, naturally, I fell completely in love with this story of a comedian who forged a genuine friendship with the Applebee’s Facebook page.  

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I was such a rabid fan of Heath Ledger from the time I was about 14 years old – ever since he was in this awful, short-lived television show Roar, which was basically Zena Warrior Princess set in Ireland (my love of the Irish runs deeper than I care to admit, sometimes).  I had his pictures plastered all over my locker in high school and everything.  I was so pissed when he died of such a stupid cause of accidental prescription drug overdose. 

Long story short, this awesome transformation GIF made my day.  

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How great is David Sedaris?  Answer: Only the greatest.  This is a beautiful, funny piece about his family moving past the death of his sister, and it’s hilariously sweet in only the way that David Sedaris can be.

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I loved this Dad’s daycare questionnaire answers (but what daycare asks what a baby’s “strengths and weaknesses” are?) 

I can 100% see my husband filling something like this out.  

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Email stresses me out sometimes.    Did I sound normal in that response?  To delete or not to delete? (The delete question is partly why I find myself with five thousand “labels” for emails, each with their own sub-label or five).  So I fully identify with 11 Awkward Things About Email.

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MUSIC!

I hate to say this, but I have been listening to nothing interesting lately.  So instead you get a picture of Obama playing the trombone:

Play That Thang | from omeletta.com

You’re welcome, America. 

Enjoy the weekend, kids! 

 

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