Oddity at Valentine's, Taralucci e Vino, Blackhound, and Mandoos!

It’s been an odd few days. On Valentine’s Day, it snowed (kind of ironic?) and I have classes. Why?! It’s bad enough that it snowed and rained ice pellets that literally blows in your face since it was so windy. But still, I have to schlep my behind to the city and be in school. Grrr…
Sorry…I want to vent. Well, on Valentine’s Day during my lunch hour, I walked over to the Time Warner Building and went to Whole Foods for some of their soup and a salad. Oddly enough, the lines were still awfully long during the lunch hour, it looks like the snow never happened. Since those foods don’t look so gloriously amazing, I’m not going to write anything about it. I just want to comment on the fact that it was really humorous that there were a lot of men buying flowers in WF. I felt kind of sorry for the two women who were working in the floral department; rearranging or creating bouquets for the desperate men who thought at the last moment to buy flowers and gifts for their significant other.

WF’s employee wrapping up some roses…

Since I wanted dessert, I went up to the fourth floor to Bouchon Bakery. Those of you who look at my Flickr gallery, you know what I ate: the pomegranate tart ($7.25). The three reasons that lured me into buying this tart was that it was seasonal, it was whimsical and pretty looking, and the way the employee described that tart made it sound amazingly good.

Side view
Top view

The tart is a butter pastry crust, embedded with pomegranate seeds on the bottom layer, topped with pomegranate ganache, with quenelles of whipped cream with an essence of
Madagascar vanilla, with spiral pomegranate cookies on top. Tell me how can you not be sold into buying one of these babies!


But there were little flaws in this tart…unfortunately. The spiral cookie was getting a bit soft due to the refrigeration and the pomegranate ganache lacked that signature tartness of the pomegranate. In a way the seeds that are beneath this ganache actually helped it to bring more of that pomegranate into the party. It was still very delicious, overall. I apologize about the above photo; they only provide you meager plastic flatware to eat your food with and since this crust is very crisp (and buttery), it ended up looking like this.

Yesterday morning, I needed espresso. Since I don’t own those fancy $1,000 machines and a $5o0 coffee grinder that make a great shot and coffee ground, I wanted to try a different coffeehouse for their espresso drinks. This led me to Ninth Street Espresso.
I have heard a lot about this place for the past recent years. The reason why I haven’t been here before because the locations were too far from where I go to school or eat often. Since they have a new location on 13th Street, it’s more accessible now.
The vibe in this place is actually causal-cool. It’s a minimally decorated place. The white painted brick walls, lined with posters about plays. The seating is basically four tall tables with stools to sit on as well as the counter is along the poster-plastered wall.

Their coffee menu is really limited: only espresso based drinks, and no drip coffee here. Also they provide you with one size for your drink: not like Starbucks where you can get a tall, grande or venti. This seems purely traditional in the sense of the Italian way of coffee.

The pastries they offer are from Tisserie. They do look quite tempting but I wanted to pass since I’m planning to eat dessert for lunch.
But I have to tell you, they have some really fabulously great cappuccino!
The espresso was strong, smooth, bold, and it has great crema. Adding that leaf design is a plus, too. Not bad for $3.50. This might jeopardize my long term relationship with Joe (of almost 5 years).

For lunch, I went to Taralucci e Vino. I’ve been here once before just for their croissant (and it was to-go), so I wanted to try their real food.
Their interior is really spacious: a large bar with baked goods and sandwiches displayed, a few tables lining the opposite of the bar and a large table in the back.
I took a seat at the front end of the café/restaurant and ordered their bresaola, arugula, and speck panini ($8.95) and a chocolate tart ($5). Problems with their service: they didn’t provide me a glass of water (since I requested it) until after 3 minutes of eating my sandwich. My first waiter looked over at my direction and noticed that I haven’t gotten my water, and he said “sorry.”

Here’s the sandwich:


The panini was very good. The ciabatta bread was perfectly crisp and fresh, the meats, cheese and arugula worked together nicely. The side salad was dressed to the right amount of vinaigrette.

The dessert:
My question to you is, do you see anything wrong with this tart? If your answer is “yes” then you are correct. The first telling of there was a problem with this tart was that the chocolate has bloom on it. I was trying to oversee that flaw and hoping that it was just the chocolate, not the tart would be an issue. However, when I actually cut into the crust, it was soft and crumbly, and when I ate it, the crust was tasted funny. It tasted odd and I kept thinking to myself, “is it really stale?” Eventually, I asked my waitress that was there anything in the crust that made it taste…different? She asked, “Do you mean vanilla or hazelnut?” I replied, “No…something nutty but not hazelnut.” She said she’ll find out for me and eventually she came back with the answer that it was just a “sugar dough crust.” When she told me that I was a bit ticked off. I just let it go since I don’t want to waste anymore of my time with this place and just paid for the tasty sandwich and the disappointing tart.

Since my sweet tooth was unsatisfied, I walked over to the East Village to Blackhound.
I’ve seen their gorgeous cakes numerous times whenever I go to Dean & Deluca (which is rare anyways). When I glanced on their window display, I saw these…
How can I possibly pass up on these?! So I went in. The two people who were working there were really nice and helpful, they were also stocking up the bakery. I thought it was kind of odd at this time of the day since it’s about 1:30 PM. Anyways, it took me a good 5 minutes figuring what the heck do I want. Everything looks fabulous to eat but I could only eat one. Oh the choices…oh my stomach! I mean, could you even just pick one thing and be satisfied with it? Just take a look…(click on it for a larger photo)

Eventually, I opted for the “gift box” cake ($6). Just because it looked cute and what’s in the cake sound delicious too.Innards

The cake is basically a white cake, layered with raspberry jam, marzipan, and sliced almonds. It is then enrobed with tempered bittersweet (about 65%) chocolate, vanilla buttercream “ribbon”, fresh raspberries, and an orange marzipan flower. Yummy…this totally made up for that disgraceful tart. Heck, I want to go back to Blackhound and get their mini Busy Bee Cake.

Towards the late afternoon-evening time, I went to Kim’s office in Midtown East. Since her boss is out of town and her co-worker left early, she let me drop by early. I gave her homemade chocolate dessert presents for her half-birthday. It’s basically the stuff I made from this post (sans the hot chocolate but I gave her a shot glass of that ganache, anyways) and a chocolate parfait done by my own interpretation. I just took a random photo of her on the computer but she ended up posing.
It gotten a bit complicated for our planned dinner destination after picking up our Juilliard concert tickets. Originally she picked either Fika or the Burger Joint. But then she wasn’t feeling for either one of those things and she thought up of wanting to eat dumplings at Mandoo Bar.
I just liked the fact that they have open windows to show the cooks making these mandoos and have trays displaying them.

Little dumplings waiting to be cooked…

We ordered a plate of Mini Mandoos ($6.99) and Dolsot Bimibob ($10.99) to share. Here the mandoos:
Aren’t they cute little things? It’s basically a steamed pork dumpling filled with chives and it’s a lot smaller. Tastes good, but I love my homemade stuff more.

Here the dolsot bimibob:
It looked really awesome…and that stone pot is rocket-hot that it was radiating heat, warming our table. This pot is filled with rice, topped with a raw egg, julienned cucumber, carrots, daikon (an Asian turnip), watercress, bean sprouts, and I think it’s mushroom (the brown stringy stuff)? The waiter asked us if we wanted him to mix it for us or we should do it ourselves; we opted for the latter. But about less than a minute, we had second thoughts about putting our hands on that skin-searing pot and asked them to mix it for us.

Thankfully, he’s mixing it…

After that somewhat of a dramatic scene of a waiter tackling the semi-stuck rice onto a hot stone pot, we get to eat. The rice was different that what I’m used to…the burnt parts of the rice gave it a different texture and the vegetables are not what I usually have in my thoughts of a Chinese-style stir fried rice. I know it’s supposed to be different but it was pretty damn tasty.


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.