When we’re not enjoying gut-busting tasting menus, I keep my figure girlish with a low-carb diet, while my boyfriend eats low-calorie to remain a bronzed glamorboy. And since we don’t cook, much of our evenings together are spent laboring over what to order for dinner. I want burgers on English muffins; he wants sushi. I want steak; he wants salad. I want comfort food; he wants adventure. It’s not fun. But luckily, his adventure-seeking led him one evening to find on our favourite delivery app, Seamless, a brand new restaurant called 7 Green and Grain.
I’ll admit that I basically had to be forced to order from the place. It seemed too light, too healthy, not at all comforting. In the end, it was exactly light enough, so delicious I forgot how healthy it was, and as comforting as a bowl of pasta. It’s not pretty, but it’s delicious.
You start with one of their “Be the Chef” meals, a create-your-own-entree sort of thing where you select from proteins like cage-free chipotle chicken, char-grilled chile lime shrimp, turkey meatballs, and General Tso’s tofu. Next, you choose a base grain like couscous, wild rice, or quinoa. Then, you add what they call a “tasty texture”–stuff like roasted corn and edamame, hot pepper and onion relish, or dried fruit and nut chutney. You also get a side vegetable like steamed kale, golden beets, or caramelized cauliflower, and then you top it off with a dressing like ginger soy, yogurt mint, or miso peanut.
Here, I had the turkey meatballs with quinoa, hot pepper and onion relish, caramelized cauliflower, and the yogurt mint garlic dressing. It doesn’t look like much when it arrives, but once you stir it all together, it becomes this saucy, spicy, vegetal, meaty mix that’s interesting but comforting, hearty but not so dense that you’ll need a nap when you finish it. I have quite the appetite, but this always satisfies me and actually leaves me feeling good about what I’ve eaten.
My boyfriend and I agree that the turkey meatballs are the thing to get. They’re really well-seasoned–when you cut them open, onions and herbs stare back–and I like the way you can crumble them into the grain (or healthy low-carb seed, in the case of quinoa) and make sure every bite has meat in it. We also agree that the hot peppers and onions are the #1 Tasty Texture, because they’re finely chopped, mix in easily, and ensure that the grain won’t be bland. When you mix the spicy peppers with the cool mint yogurt dressing, it’s a delight.
Our second or third time ordering, my boyfriend decided to branch out and got the chicken with quinoa and kale. The chicken is flavorful without being too spicy and isn’t dried out at all. For me, the kale is pretty boring and needs salt, but he seems to be able to forgive that because it’s so healthy.
The vegetable bean chili is great when dumped all over the grain like a sauce, but it doesn’t cut it as a stand-alone dish. It’s almost entirely beans, and doesn’t have any of the deep, rich, developed flavor you expect from chili. They should probably call it a bean soup so you expect the brightness and thinness of the broth.
• Steamed vegetables are pretty awful when you know sauteed vegetables exist.
• The dinner portion is $13 to $17, which is waaaaay too expensive for what mostly amounts to grain or seeds. The lunch portion is much more reasonable at $9 but is also smaller.
• The number of choices in each category is bound to please nearly every palate.
• It’s healthy.
• It’s complex and delicious.
Even if you’ve never visited NYC, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Dylan’s Candy Bar. It’s been featured on a couple of episodes of “Project Runway”, for one, and your mom friends have no doubt chattered away at you during soccer practice about how you just have to ride the ferris wheel at Toys”R”Us and then go to Dylan’s and let the kids fill up a bag with gummy brains, jujubes, and clodhoppers for a mere $12.99 a pound.
Going to Dylan’s is, in a word, hellish. The store is packed–both with candy and with kids–at all times, and the crowd is backed up to the door and blocking the stairs and singing along to the candy-themed music at the top of their lungs. But it’s also, in a word, amaaaaazing. Picture three floors, packed with the newest candy and also the impossible-to-find stuff from your parents’ childhoods. There’s a cafe serving cakes and milkshakes upstairs, a corral of bulk candy that takes up most of the main floor, and a bottom floor filled not only with packaged candy and homemade chocolates and fudge but also candy-related pillows, pajamas, rain boots, and more.
There are giant gummy bears and Swedish fish behind the cash registers, humongous lollipops sticking out from everywhere, and transparent staircases embedded with candy spelling out cheesy sayings. For someone who requested that her boyfriend recreate the candy room from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory for her for her last birthday, it’s pretty much my idea of heaven.
And really, the $12.99 per pound for bulk candy isn’t so bad. That’s basically what all candy stores in NYC charge, except they label their bins $3.99/¼ pound so you think you’re getting a deal. Dylan’s just says, “Yeah, our candy costs $12.99 a pound. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?” And the answer is “nothing”, because not only does Dylan’s have the most candy, it also has the best candy. Never have I ever had fresher circus peanuts than at Dylan’s.
On our visit this weekend, my boyfriend and I picked up a couple of bags of our bulk favourites for Halloween movie season (and then immediately devoured all of it in a 24-hour period) and these:
A s’mores Rice Krispies treat with graham cracker and chocolate between the layers. It was the softest, most marshmallowiest Rice Krispies treat I’ve ever had. It was also too big to fit into my mouth.
Creme brulee candy corn and blueberry cobbler candy corn. My boyfriend read about the blueberry candy corn just a few months ago while we were Googling the exact flavor of candy corn. It’s supposedly only available in Eastern Canada, so I immediately Facebooked every Eastern Canadian I know (one) and asked her to be on the lookout for me, secretly knowing that I’d spend the rest of my life blueberry-candy-corn-less. AND THEN I FOUND IT AT DYLAN’S.
The creme brulee tastes like vanilla frosting, and the blueberry cobbler really does taste like blueberries. The original candy corn flavor is still my favourite, but oh, the novelty.
Cadbury Screme Eggs. Finally Cadbury figured out that like Peeps, there’s a market for Creme Egg ridiculousness all year long. Screme Eggs taste just like Creme Eggs but have a green yolk instead of yellow. Finding these made me feel so stupid about the chocolate Cadbury Creme Eggs I’ve been hoarding in my freezer since Easter, and my BFF and I are now anxiously awaiting the Christmas and Valentine’s Day ones.
None of these specialty items seem to be available on the Dylan’s website, so please let me know if I can pick some up and ship them to you in Ohio or Louisiana or wherever. For a mere $15.99 per pound plus shipping.
If you want to buy me a cupcake (hint), make it one from Crumbs Bake Shop. Yes, it’s a chain. No, it’s not as fresh-from-the-oven as Magnolia Bakery. Yes, each one contains half your daily recommended caloric intake. That’s sort of the point. When I eat a cupcake, I want it to be an event.
Or just, you know, a Saturday afternoon when I’ve already eaten half of a baguette slathered with cheese and honey, dumplings, pizza, and Cadbury Eggs. Don’t judge.
My boyfriend can’t resist caramel, so he chose the dulce de leche with chocolate cake filled with caramel cream cheese frosting, covered in caramel cream cheese frosting, and zigzagged with caramel and chocolate. It did not disappoint.
I chose the Elvis for the peanut butter chips. I always get the Baba Booey for the peanut butter chips, even though I secretly prefer white cake to chocolate a million times over. So when I saw a cupcake with peanut butter chips AND white cake, it was
It’s soft banana cake injected with banana cream, frosted with peanut butter and banana buttercream, and rolled in peanut butter chips.
Peanut. Butter. Chips.
Earlier this year, I wrote about my only visit to Sushi Yasuda, widely regarded as one of the best sushi restaurants in NYC. I was still in my twenty-four-year phase of not liking fish then and had really gone out on a limb there by ordering a tuna roll.
Since then, my boyfriend has mentioned going back approximately four hundred times. Usually I’d have no problem accompanying him and ordering the very safest items on the menu, but the problem was that he wanted to try the chef’s omakase, where you have no say in what you’re served. Which, from the reviews I’d read, involved everything from scallop roe to giant clam to eel. My boyfriend promised he’d eat anything I couldn’t, though, knowing I’d try my best not to be squeamish, and we made a reservation to sit at the counter in front of the chef preparing our sushi. You know, so I’d be really embarrassed if I couldn’t eat something he gave to me.
The chef would place one or two pieces of nigiri sushi for each of us on a wooden tray with a small pile of ginger to act as a palate cleanser. No soy sauce nor wasabi was offered, as the restaurant is known for adding exactly the right amount to its rice as each piece is formed. We used our fingers to pick them up, which was pretty exciting to a couple of Westerners who have been specifically taught not to eat with our hands, and aside from one minor (okay, humongous) slip up on my part, it was an easy, not-at-all scary first omakase experience.
Smoky, fresh, and vinegary.
I was going to say that I’d love to know how an uncooked sea creature become crispy, but I probably don’t actually want to know. It was definitely a shock and a bit of a delight to bite into something that looked soft and pliable and to find that it had a crunch.
This is where the major slip-up occurred, but I’ll have to write about it in a separate post to save your appetite.
Ironically, the eel had been one of the items I was most hesitant about before dining at Yasuda, and it’s the thing I walked away craving the most. Partly because it felt like a novelty next to all of the uncooked fish and partly because it’s just a really meaty, sweet bite. The charred flavor contrasted the sugary sauce so nicely in a contest between richness and brightness.
We weren’t quite satisfied yet and requested another round of eel; our chef informed us he had five different kinds!
Compared to other restaurants as a whole, Yasuda could never be 5-donut material for me. Inherently, the dishes are less interesting than those at a new American or French restaurant, and the flavors are so mild that it was hard for me to talk about them much beyond their differing textures. I really loved the simplicity of the meal but desperately needed that eel to break up the monotony of raw fish after raw fish. Because each dish was so similar, the meal just flew by, and it’s hard for me to believe I had 20-odd pieces of sushi.
But in terms of sushi-eating, Sushi Yasuda was an unmatched experience for me: the freshest fish, prepared perfectly, and eaten the moment it left the “kitchen”. The decor was simple and elegant and the service quietly excellent, with our tea being replaced at regular intervals to ensure it was always warm. I loved having access to the chef, and even with all of my fish-related wimpiness, I enjoyed everything he chose for us. I think the omakase was a novelty for me, but with Yasuda’s extensive menu and non-inhibitive cost, I can imagine many more nights there in our future.
Dr. Boyfriend and I had been watching too much “Bizarre Foods” and desperately wanted some pho from Xi’an Famous Foods, but we were too lazy to take the bus two miles downtown, so I hopped onto our favourite delivery site, Seamlessweb, to find someone who’d bring it to us.
And that day changed our lives forever. Since then, we’ve tried as much of Obao‘s menu as possible, but the problem is that everything is so good that we hate to give up our favourites to order the dishes we haven’t tried. So here’s what we’ve managed to eat thus far:
My friend Chubby Chinese Girl thought this was too dry and hard, and I can see where she’s coming from, but for me, the caramel glaze framing each piece more than makes up for any juicy pork expectations you might have. Plus, I actually enjoyed tearing the pork apart with my teeth like a wild person. I didn’t care much for the too-vinegary pickled papaya on the side, but the fresh mint was perfect.
I was skeptical about these. Dr. Boyfriend had them one weekend while I was away and assured me I would be impressed, but I . . . I don’t know what I was thinking. The spare rib is so deliciously grilled, and when you chew on the sugarcane as you sweep the meat off, the sweet juices leak out. Plus, the hoisin-peanut dipping sauce is just so rich you want to use the sugarcane to sponge it all up at the end.
The fact that these are called “lettuce wraps” and are served with big pieces of nice-looking lettuce would make one assume that you’re supposed to wrap the spring roll in the lettuce and eat them together. But we have yet to do that. The spring rolls are perfect just as they are–fried and crispy on the outside but never overdone on the inside–and slapping some boring lettuce around all of that just seems like a good way to detract from the flavors of pork, shrimp, taro, and mushroom. But I’m open to debate.
I’m under the impression that sambal is usually a spicy chili sauce, so the fact that the flavor is worked right into the calamari batter seems pretty neat to me, and Dr. Boyfriend appreciated the cooling cucumber relish on the side. Naturally I didn’t try this, because I still don’t entirely trust delivery seafood. Stop judging me.
A salad that doesn’t actually include any lettuce and is full of flank steak? Yes, please. These slices of tender steak and sweet fruit are marinating in cucumber and lime juices when they arrive, but don’t be fooled: this dish is spicy! So spicy that we sometimes can’t even finish it because we’re too busy crying and wiping our noses on each other. You think, “Pineapple! That should counteract the peppers.” But no. The only way to quench the fires is to cut out your tongue. And this salad is worth it.
For those of you who don’t like to weep in your dinner, this salad with shaved cabbage, rau ram herbs (the cilantro of Vietnam, apparently), lime dressing, and crushed peanuts is bright and summery. I liked it so much I was inspired to make my own cabbage salad the next weekend, which, if you know anything about me, is a major feat.
This is a terrible picture of a much more interesting dish. With thinly slices of beef and rice noodles in a broth that punches with bold ginger and anise flavors, it’s messy and belly-filling. Dr. Boyfriend gets his with these beef balls that are kind of slick and slimy on the outside, but he swears they’re delicious.
I often say that I don’t find Asian food comforting. I find it exciting and interesting, but if I’m looking for feel-good food, it probably doesn’t involve sesame, and it sure doesn’t involve lettuce. But I crave this dish. I think about it when it’s not near. I doodle its name on my memo pads at work.
It’s broad flat noodles with egg, sesame oil, scallions, and lettuce. I usually get mine with chicken, but I once accidentally ordered it vegetarian and still thought it was the best. I love the texture of egg mixed into dishes like this (soboro don is another favourite), and the sesame provides this deep, rich flavor that makes it seems like the chicken was cooked in it for hours. And the noodles. The noodles are pan-fried in such a way that their edges get crispy. I’m salivating here.
This is the very essence of comforting. Even with that lettuce.
I’m no Asian foods expert, so I won’t bother trying to speak of authenticity of the flavors and preparation at Obao, but in terms of sheer visceral experience, I look forward to ordering from Obao like other people look forward to Christmas. While I do think the appetizers and salads are each a few dollars overpriced, my Kua Gai is worth its weight in gold. For the well-developed flavors of absolutely everything we’ve ordered, 4.5 donuts.
5 donuts: transcendent experiences
4.5 donuts: extremely awesome meals
3.5 donuts: good eats
2.5 donuts: food I could have made
1 donuts: dinners not fit for the dogs
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