March Recap

The month of March turned out to be busier than expected. We (finally) closed on a co-op apartment, a deal that has been in the works since August of last year. Between settling up the paperwork and making arrangements to move, we've had little time for much else.

And when you have little time, that exactly when unexpected things pop up.

In the first part of the month, I spent a few days in Austin, Texas, for the SXSW festival, doing more writing and reporting work than eating, I'm sad to report. But it was still a fun trip. Soon after, I headed down to Florida to see some family members. This past week we've focused on finding people who can take over our rental apartment. Everything that has come up has taken well more than one day... a lot of mental preparation and physical follow-through.

The good news is I've had several very good meals during this busy month. The day we signed the closing papers for our new home, Boyfriend and I celebrated at Casa Mono in New York, an upscale and modern Spanish tapas and wine restaurant. Notable from that meal was the skirt steak with romesco sauce and onion marmalade ($18), a mingling of juicy meat and sweet counterbalance. Bacalao croquetas with orange aioli ($9; shown) could have stood up to four appetites, although we only brought two.

Fat Radish, also in Manhattan, while not as memorable and classy as Casa Mono, wowed me with a vegetable-focused menu that was anything but dull. Roasted cauliflower with olives, raisins, and almonds ($14, probably double the price it should have been) mastered that same sweet-savory balance found in Casa Mono's skirt steak. The deviled (that is, bacon-wrapped) brussel sprouts ($8 for six pieces) popped with smokey flavor. Service crawled, and the main dishes weren't as stunning as what we ate to start, but I may return just to see what the beetroot crumble, with goat's cheese, swiss chard, hazelnuts, and oats, is all about.

3 Great Inexpensive Restaurants in New York City

My last three restaurant outings in New York have been absolutely astounding, and I never spend more than $40, including tax and tip, for a full meal with drinks.

I've been remiss with my camera lately, but I'll do my best to add photos to this post in the coming days.

From Insider Images, photo by Diane Bondareff.
East 17th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Manhattan
Laut has the best Malaysian food I've eaten outside Malaysia. Granted, I haven't had much Malaysian food outside Malaysia, but that's part of the problem. You can find a few very good restaurants in some neighborhoods in Queens, but it's a long  trek to get to them... even for me, and I live in the same borough (Queens is an enormous county, folks)! Malaysia is a cross-cultural mecca, and its food reflects the absolutely best flavors and freshest ingredients from around southeast Asia. Indian spices, Thai chilies, southern Chinese cooking styles--it's all there. At Laut, order curry laksa if you like coconut soup. It's a large bowl with an incredible array of everything inside. If you're a first-time Malaysian diner, try the beef rendang, a Malaysian classic.

Earl's Beer and Cheese
Park Avenue between 97th and 98th Streets, Manhattan
At Earl's Beer and Cheese, you're going to drink good beer and eat good cheese. It's not the finest selection of either that I've found in New York, but the place is fun, casual, and inexpensive. For a couple of bucks ($6-$8), grab a beer at the counter while ordering a grilled cheese sandwich. A few other specialty items dot the menu, including a gargantuan pork taco, but stick to grilled cheese for ultimate belly-filling satisfaction. I was a big fan of the double-cream brie with blackberry mostarda (similar to a jam or preserves) on brioche.

Parm (sandwiches ordered to go come in paper;
in the restaurant, they're plated),
image from Eat It, Atlanta.
Mulberry Street between Prince and Spring Streets, Manhattan
Here's a place I recommend to both locals and tourists--er, "visitors"--alike: Parm. Parm embraces the unique foods found in Italian-American cuisine. Bright red tomato sauces, fried calamari, ooey-gooey cheese things, and sandwiches make up Parm's identity. The diner-like restaurant is owned by the same group that started the impeccable Torrisi Italian Specialty, which sits directly next door. Don't let Parm's down home comfort and value trick you into believing that it'll be a cinch to get a seat. In fact, that's true for all these restaurants. Show up early, like 6 or 6:30, and snag a table before any of these places get too jamming.