A Day of Fooding (mostly with Helen)

I apologize for not writing for a while, even though you see the photos from my Flickr photostream on my sidebar and the page itself, it’s just because I’m busy with work, studying for LSATs, and now my family is going through a rough time because my mother’s seriously ill. I’m just writing to you guys now for the sake of not focusing on my mother’s situation and keeping myself sane. So, here’s what happened on Monday, when things were generally mirthful.

It’s been an awful while for me to have a real day of fooding. What I mean is that I went to more than two places for the sake of food or drinks in one day. Where have I been to? Just read on.

During the morning, I went all the way to the Upper West Side for the sake of cookies. You might be thinking, “Cookies for breakfast? You must be nuts!” Well, for me there is no time restraints for the sake of sweets. Think about it. Some of us eats donuts, muffins (which sometimes taste like a cupcake), chocolate croissants, or danishes for breakfast. How can you tell me that eating a cookie is a ridiculous idea? Anyways, I went to Levain Bakery.

Levain Bakery The home of cookie goodness…

I seek shelter in this bakery since it was starting to rain lightly and thankfully they do have some seating inside. As I mentioned before I got myself a chocolate chip walnut cookie ($3.50). I know you think shelling out $3.50 for a cookie is ridiculous but you haven’t eaten a cookie like this in the city. It’s so gooey, chocolatey, packed with walnuts, and it’s so soft and chewy since it’s barely baked. It’s like eating an underbaked cookie that is baked…if you get my drift. I hope. Seriously, if you’re a woman who’s undergoing PMS, this will totally satiate that craving we all have during that time.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie COOKIE!

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie in half Split into two…

Gooey... Gooey…

I ate only half since I know I’m going to have lunch with Doug and Helen at Bar Stuzzichini within a few hours. Eventually Helen ate a piece of this later on and she understands how this cookie could almost be considered the ultimate chocolate chip cookie.

Moving on, we all met at Bar Stuzzichini almost noon. Surprisingly, we were the first group of people to eat here, or at least seated but eventually there are more diners around 1 PM.

Bar Stuzzichini & its Interior Photos Bar Stuzzichini & Interior photos

They do offer a prix fixe lunch for $20 but we were interested in doing a la carte. After we ordered, we were given the bread and condiments…and Helen took random photos of the place with my camera, but Doug’s portrait survived from my photo editing session.

Bread & Condiments of sorts... Bread and Condiments

Doug It’s Doug!

Eventually the stuzzi (as the waiter kept calling them) came in 10 minutes later. Stuzzichini is an Italian word for small bites or snacks that is meant to be served with wine; think of it in terms of Italian style tapas.

Three of the Five Stuzzi 3 of the 5 stuzzi shown…

Tiny Apps... Tiny apps…

As you can tell from the photos, these appetizers are tiny. Sure, they’re small plates and they can be shared but when I had my multiple tapas experiences from Alta and Salud, the portions were a bit more generous (well, maybe not Salud but you get the point). At least they were tasty and the main theme going on for all of these plates were tender (meant for the octopus) and light (everything else). The best of the five stuzzi (polpo (grilled octopus), arancini (fried balls of risotto), polpette (meatballs), crostini di ricotta pecora, and crostini di ceci) were the polpette and the polpo. The others were good but it didn’t tantalize my tastebuds when I was eating them.

After we finished our appetizers, it took them a looong to get our main courses out. I kept glancing at my watch wondering where the heck is our food and Doug’s boss called him soon enough that I felt awful for holding him back because of the slow service. But after waiting patiently for 15 minutes, our sustenance finally came out.

Doug's Chickpea Sandwich with side salad Doug’s Sandwich

Doug's Sandwich in half halved

Doug's Chickpea Fritter Sandwich - Innards Sandwich innards

Doug’s chickpea fritter sandwich ($9) was pretty good; slathered on both sides of the sandwich bun with ricotta cheese. The chickpea wasn’t dense and somehow there’s fish in it. Strange. The negatives on this sandwich was the characterless, seedless, untoasted bun and I think the sandwich overall lacked seasoning.

Helen's Short Rib Braciole Alla Pizzaiola

Helen's Short Rib - innards Innards

Helen’s Braciole Alla Pizzaiola (short rib; $13) looked like something an Italian grandmother would make. It’s so rustic and simple in presentation that it looks like from a home kitchen. This short rib is basically a soft, slow cooked, boneless slab of beef drenched in thick tomato sauce. It was well seasoned but it’s really simple in terms of flavor.

My Gnocchi My Gnocchi

My Gnocchi all Amatriciana ($14) was very good. It’s very light and not gummy. The tomato sauce was well seasoned with bits of onions and guanciale. I still think it’s a bit too safe, flavorwise but it is satisfying.

We have to skip dessert since our lunch took way too long for Doug to stay since we technically stayed there for almost two hours…and it’s not even a three course meal. Eh, I think Bar Stuzzichini has fine Italian food but for the sake of our time and the price for the food, I might not go there too often.

Helen and I are left to ourselves and hang out for the rest of the day. We have the plan of seeing a movie nearby and we ended up deciding to watch Bourne Ultimatum. I admit I haven’t seen a movie since Memoirs of a Geisha (I know, I’ve been living in a cave), it would be something Helen and I could waste our time and be entertained. We have another hour to until the next showing since it was playing by the time we bought our tickets, so we walked over to the East Village for some ICE CREAM!

Sundaes & Cones Dessert time!

Yep. I took Helen to Sundaes and Cones for dessert since it’s so hot and humid on Monday. Helen and I perused the myriad of choices of flavors they offer and eventually after trying the lychee and corn ice cream; I just went for a cone of corn. Helen was craving for green tea.

My Corn Ice Cream Cone Mmmm…corn

Helen's Green Tea Ice Cream Cone Green Tea

We're Enjoying Our Ice Cream We’re Happy

My corn ice cream was awesome! It’s creamy, not too sweet, with tiny blended bits of corn. Trust me if you like corn, you will like this frozen, dairy based form of corn. Mmm… Helen’s green tea ice cream, though I haven’t tried hers (but I ate it before) seemed very good since she seemed like a happy camper.

After we finished our dessert, we headed back to the movie theater in Union Square and watched Bourne. For the inquiring minds, I think the movie was ok. I really liked the action sequences but everything else besides that didn’t really intrigued me. Oddly enough when we’re about to leave the movies, Helen was craving for coffee. My insane, caffeine-dependent mind sparked the thought of Joe’s.


Interior of Joe's Interior

We both ended up ordering a large iced coffee since it’s still humid and hot. Helen being Helen, she bolted to the counter where they have all the different sweetners and lids for the drinks and she found her true love…liquid sugar (aka sugar syrup). So she shook, poured, and poured the sugar that it amounted to a seventh of the volume of that coffee cup. Yep. She loves her sugar.

Helen's Happy
She’s happy cuz of sugar!

We found ourselves a table in Joe’s, sat down and sipped our coffee. But when she tasted her coffee, Helen wasn’t satisfied with the sweetness level of her coffee. Yeah, can’t you believe it? She got up and added a couple more dashes of sugar syrup until her sugar-lovin’ tongue is content. It’s hard to believe that I’m still friends with her even though she’s destroying the concept and integrity of great coffee.

Helen's tasting...and thinking does it need more sugar

Once we’re finished with our afternoon coffee, we went home since the skies are threatening for rain and I have to do my typical evening routine…studying.

Levain Bakery

167 W 74th St
New York, NY 10023

Bar Stuzzichini
928 Broadway
New York, NY 10010

Sundaes & Cones
9 E 13th St
New York, NY 10003

Joe: Art of Coffee
95 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003


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

  1. Chef John says:

    Great photos! Check out my video recipe blog when you get a chance. Our photos were on the samepage over at tastespotting. Nice to meet a fellow foodie.

  2. Casper says:

    Well Tina, first off I must say best of wishes and regaurds for your mother, I know it can be hard to deal with a situation like that in the family. But, certainly looks like you had the best of times out. I totally understand your frustration with Helen though, being myself a fellow coffee lover. (You know its too sweet when you can’t taste the roast, damnit!) And that Ice cream sounds so interesting and divine, I had some fantastic tiramisu and some sweet cream and chocolate gelato last night which was quite interesting. I loved how the captured the flavour of Tiramisu so closley that I could taste the textures of the flavour!
    Keep eatin’!

  3. thewanderingeater says:

    Chef John: Thanks! Nice to meet another foodie as well. :)

    Casper: Thanks for your condolences. Yes, it’s been a good time. I wish I did that more often. Ooh! You had gelato! I love gelato. It’s the stuff of dreams. I’ll be eating a good bit once my classes start in less than 3 weeks.

    Ahonag: Sure!

  4. Doug says:

    Hi Tina,

    The small plates were quite good, but you’re right about the “characterless, seedless, untoasted bun” – that might have made a big difference on the sandwich. Overall, it was good for what they were attempting – something akin to eating a cloud (it was so light and fluffy).

    It looks like you guys had a lot of fun after I left :P

    Hope your mom is doing alright and that the studying is progressing. ttys.

  5. thewanderingeater says:

    Doug: Every component on a sandwich sums its possible greatness; it would’ve been a better sandwich if the bun was at least toasted.

    Yes! Helen always make fooding a heck of a lot more fun than…eating for the sake of eating.

    Thanks for your sympathies.

    Carol: Thank you for your support. :)

  6. Robyn says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your mom! :( I can’t imagine what I’d do if my mum were sick… ….FALL APART AND GO INSANE, really. I assume she will never get sick, but I can never really know…(goes paranoid)…

    Anyhoo, I ate a Levain cookie for breakfast once. Totally fine. Yeeah. YEAH. Yeah. I like how you caught the meltingness of the chips. :D

    You wouldn’t wanna see what I do with coffee. .__. But even with sugar, I don’t like it that much. Wah.

    Helen’s hair looks cute! And…um, that means Helen looks cute. Yes.

  7. thewanderingeater says:

    Robyn: Thanks for your sympathies. I don’t think you need to go to paranoia but it’s true, it can happen to anyone, anytime.

    The best part of that cookie was the melting chocolate chips, besides being soft, chewy and delicious. :)

    SO what do you do with your coffee? If you go beyond sugar, it’s just the milk part…which something Helen doesn’t mind having in strong coffee actually. Eeek.

    Helen’s funneh, odd (in a good way) and adorable. Yep that’s her.

  8. wendy says:

    Hi Tina,

    That cookie looks divine. I wouldnt have been able to stop at 1/2.
    I hope your mom is ok. Best Wishes.

  9. Wonders says:

    I love Joe’s coffee! My bf works a few blocks from there so it’s very convenient for me to sit there with a yummy cup of coffee while I wait for him.

  10. thewanderingeater says:

    Wendy: That cookie was divine. I would’ve eaten the entire cookie but I need stomach space for lunch which took place three hours later…

    Thanks for the well wishes.

    Wonders: I think there’s a cult following for Joe’s. I know I’m not the only food blogger who loves his (as in Jonathan Rubenstein, the owner of Joe’s) coffee.

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