For The Love of Ludo

Winner winner, chicken dinner!

I finally got the golden ticket!

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LudoBites 5.0 was amazing as expected. The food was delicious, albeit a little pricey (this meal was def not cheap), but totally worth it. My fave dish was the “Hot Foie Gras Dynamite, Raw Tuna, Lychee, Crackers”. I’m such a foie slut!

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Oh, and thank you to the 2 girls sitting next to us for giving me the cojones to talk to Ludo. Without them, this wouldn’t have happened…

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I eat: Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca

The most anticipated restaurant of the NYC leg of Foodcation 2010 was Mario Batali’s Babbo. Since reservations are accepted one month prior to the calendar date requested, I made sure I called on July 21st at 7AM, ON THE DOT (the restaurant reservation line opens at 10AM)!

1-212-777-0303 … BUSY.

Instantly, my heart sank. For the next 20 minutes, I was in agony. If Saturday night didn’t work, I only had 2 more nights in NYC to eat at Babbo! SHIT SHIT SHIT!

I redialed and redialed, and redialed and redialed. I was so used to the dial and hang up routine that I almost didn’t notice when I finally got through. A lady with a British accent picked up and asked me to hold some more. I waited and waited, and waited and waited. Finally, the lady picked up again and I told her the date and time that I wanted. “No problem,” she said. Really? That’s it? I almost had a heart attack for nothing. Awesome.

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Babbo is located in Greenwich Village, a couple of blocks away from another beloved restaurant of mine, Harold Dieterle’s Perilla. Lodged between two brownstones, Babbo would be easy to miss if it weren’t for the large contrasting letters that adorn the front of the building and the small crowd that usually forms outside, waiting for a table. Luckily for us, we were seated promptly upon arrival.

Having already studied the menu beforehand, I had a pretty good idea of what we were going to order. I decided to forgo the tasting menus and order a la carte. But since my list was pretty long (I was interested in 2 antipasti, 6 primi pastas and 3 secondi), I asked our waiter for his advice. “Is this too much food?” seems to be a question I ask at every restaurant :). He suggested that we order one or two antipasti, cut our primi pastas down to three and the secondi down to one or two. Even though it was difficult to eliminate dishes, it was good advice. The portions at Babbo were pretty generous so had we ordered what I originally intended, they would have had to roll us out of the restaurant.

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The antipasti dishes were great. The “Grilled Octopus” was perfectly tender and the limoncello vinaigrette lightened up the intense charred flavor. Comparing Babbo’s grilled octopus to the grilled octopus at Bottega Ristorante (Napa, CA), I would have to say that Babbo has the upper hand, primarily because of the refreshing vinaigrette. As for the “Steamed Cockles”, the spicy tomato based broth that they were bathing in was sooooo delicious – definitely give me more bread so I can sop it all up, delicious.

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Next up was the highlight of the night: Babbo’s infamous “Black Spaghetti”. I can’t even describe in words how amazing this dish was; I can only drool as I think about it. Best pasta I’ve ever had, HANDS DOWN.

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The other two pasta dishes we ordered were delicious as well, my favorite being the “Gnocchi” (with braised oxtail). Though the “Lamb’s Brain ‘Francobolli'” had great flavor and the pasta was perfectly al dente, I couldn’t really tell that I was eating lamb’s brain; the filling was a lot more ricotta cheese than lamb’s brain. Francobolli means stamps in Italian and as you can see, the edges make the ravioli look like such. Cute right?

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Lamb or duck? That is always the question. This time we chose duck. Remember when I said that Bottega‘s duck confit was the best I’ve ever had? Well, it still is in my book, but Babbo’s “Duck” (with endive marmellata, Babbo pancetta and cherry vinaigrette) is a very, very close second.

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We ended our meal with a “light” dessert. We actually saw the table next to us order the “Assortment of Gelati and Sorbetti” and thought it looked pretty good. My favorite gelato turned out to be the one that I thought I would like the least: Olive Oil. (Side story: So about the table next to us… guess who? Julianna Margulies, her husband and two friends! Apparently it was one of the friends’ birthday and EVERY DESSERT on the menu was ordered as a birthday surprise!)

So, did Babbo live up to the hype? Assolutamente!

Verdict: 5/5
Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca
110 Waverly Pl
New York, NY 10011

Foodcation 2010: My Never-Ending Love Affair With NYC

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been to NYC, the city never ceases to amaze me and I find myself falling even more in love.

For our annual trip (last year was the Pacific Northwest, read here and here), I decided to create our own US foodie tour. First stop? NYC, of course.

We took an early morning flight to JFK on JetBlue. This was the first time I’ve flown JetBlue and if it weren’t for the cheap airfare (in comparison to other airlines) and no charge for the 1st bag, I probably would never fly JetBlue again. The terminal at LAX is HORRIBLE – the line to get to TSA was a total disaster. Before flying JetBlue, I had envisioned it being comparable to Virgin, given the TV screens and radio channels, but it’s not; JetBlue kind of reminds me of Southwest.

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After landing at JFK, we took a taxi into the city ($60 including tip: $45 flat fee + $5 toll + $10 tip). We booked a room at the Best Western Bowery Hanbee Hotel located at the edge of Chinatown. For those who are budget conscious, this is a great hotel, if you don’t mind the stench of the streets as you walk outside (don’t worry, you can’t smell anything inside). The hotel is conveniently located a block away from Grand St. Station (B, D) and a couple of blocks away from Bowery Station (J, M). From these two stations, you can get/transfer to anywhere in the city! The hotel offers complimentary continental breakfast (served until 10AM), but the selection is very limited: hard boiled eggs, make your own waffles, various pastries and fruit. To save money, the breakfast is sufficient, but NYC has so many good breakfast/brunch places to offer so go on, splurge a little!

[Source: Website Photo]

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So besides eating, you can’t go to NYC without doing some touristy things right? Right. Since we were in NYC during the summer, I thought it would be cool to check out Coney Island. A 50 minute train ride down to the south end of Brooklyn, Coney Island is home to Nathan’s, where they hold the annual July 4th international hot dog eating contest, and the world famous Cyclone roller coaster.

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If you’ve ever ridden on Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia and thought, wow, this ride hurts… well, let me tell you, the Cyclone at Coney Island is 100 times worse. Basically we paid $8 each to experience the roller coaster OF DEATH. Not only was it extremely jerky, but at every drop, I thought I was going to fly off and die. Now, I consider myself a thrill seeker; I’ve been sky diving and this experience was way more terrifying than jumping out of a plane. TRUST.

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Being that it was a Saturday, there were many people walking on the boardwalk or laying out on the beach. As we strolled along the boardwalk, we came across a large gathering of people and dance music blasting. Apparently, a dance circle formed in the middle of the boardwalk. There were only a few people with enough balls, or alcohol in their system, to get their groove on in the middle. The half-naked man in the blue pants and the boy in the red definitely stole the show.

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Coney Island was an interesting experience. Yes, it’s “dirty” and a little “run down”, but so is the pier in Santa Monica. If you’ve never been to Coney Island, it’s definitely worth a trip. But remember, Cyclone = ROLLER COASTER OF DEATH.

We took the train back and stopped at York station just so we could walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

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After so many failed attempts, I can finally say that I did it! But honestly, it wasn’t that impressive. Having biked across the Golden Gate Bridge, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge just pales in comparison.

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Walking from end to end took approximately 40 minutes, and that’s with stops to take a few pictures. If you want to walk across the bridge, I suggest starting from Brooklyn since you will be facing the skyline instead of having it behind you.

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During our time in NYC, we also visited the Met. Although the “suggested” admission price is $20/adult, you can actually pay whatever you want since it’s more like a donation, but please don’t be cheap; the Met is worth every penny. And by the way, the museum is HUGE. If you’re interested in visiting the Met, you should really plan your way around beforehand – look at the museum floor plan and map out which exhibits you want to see. As for me, I headed straight for the Egyptian exhibit…

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I passed through the American Wing and Medieval Arts…

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… to make my way to the Greek and Roman art exhibit.

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All this took about 4 hours and I didn’t even get to hit the SECOND FLOOR! 😦

What about shopping? Well, instead of shopping for clothes, I went shopping for a knife! I’ve been itching to buy another knife since it makes so much more sense for Henry and I to each have a “good” knife to use while we’re cooking. Not having to wait for each other and rewash makes all the difference!

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Korin is a distributor of exquisite Japanese chef knives, beautiful tableware and restaurant supplies. Their showroom/store in located in downtown NYC. Many chefs refer to Korin as a candy store and that’s exactly how I felt when I ventured inside.

With the help of the resident Knife Master, we purchased a Misono 440 7” Santoku. It is just as sharp as our Wusthof, but a bit lighter, which I’m starting to really appreciate.

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And that was that. Sadly, 4 days just flew by so quickly. Next stop: Philly.

I’ll end with 2 things that I must have in NYC…

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Shake Shack

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Halal Cart (53rd and 6th)

——–
NYC Eats (+our verdict):
Ippudo, 4/5
Russ & Daughter’s, 5/5
Katz’s, 4.5/5
Nathan’s, 3/5
The Stanton Social, 3.5/5
Shake Shack, 5/5
Halal Cart 53rd and 6th, 5/5
——–

Apparently I’m Delicious

My 2nd attempt to hike the Mt. Wilson trail was pretty much a FAIL. I only made it to the second stop: Orchard Camp. Along the way, I seriously wanted to just keel over and die. This trail is no joke, especially in 80 degree heat.

I’d like to blame my physical weakness on the fact that I didn’t eat much for breakfast – just a few pieces of fruit. But it was most likely because I haven’t exercised regularly in months! Yup, that’s how I do it. No exercise for a month and then BAM, 30 mile bike ride or 8 mile hike. My body loves me.

A few days later, I started to itch at work. A few hours later, I counted 18 bumps all over my body; Two more bites developed over the next couple of days. At first, some of my coworkers thought it was fleas, but the bites really didn’t resemble flea bites (I googled :)). The big welts seemed more like spider or mosquito bites. Regardless, whatever bug(s) bit me had a good freakin’ meal. You’re welcome.