Eating Good In My ‘Hood: Thai Farm Kitchen

Untitled

Menu

In this life I live, I am always in search of great experiences in the realms of food & drink, music, and fitness. When I am not in a bind for time, I thoroughly enjoy walking through different neighborhoods to see the offerings of local small businesses. As a lifelong resident of Kensington, Brooklyn, we have many mainstays on the business-front, but as of the past few years, I have noticed a few new spots popping up on the larger strips of Church Avenue, Coney Island Avenue, and Cortelyou Road.

Late last year, I noticed the opening of Thai Farm Kitchen on Church Ave between East 4th and East 5th Streets. I believed it was incredibly convenient, as I live just two blocks away, but as the NYC dining market is inundated with Thai restaurants, I quickly thought that perhaps, they were just like the others.

I continued passing the restaurant on my way to the subway as I was constantly in a rush, and one day, seemingly out of nowhere, I saw that I had been followed on Instagram by the @thaifarmkitchen account. I decided to stop in one sunny Saturday afternoon post-nail appointment next door, and I am so glad that I did.

Untitled

Thai Iced Tea

Upon entering, I immediately noticed that nearly all seats at tables were full, a feat in itself for a new restaurant in the hours between lunch and dinner service. I was greeted by co-owner Jess Calvo, and informed him that I noticed the restaurant had followed me on Instagram, so I wanted to pop in, say hello, and try out some dishes. He quickly brought over his wife and chef, Elizabeth Kanyawee Calvo,  and sat us all at the single unoccupied table to chat about their business, culture, and journey to the States.

I told them a little bit more about myself, the fact that I have lived in the neighborhood all of my life, and that on my blog, I enjoy reviewing local restaurants in my neighborhood, and beyond. I ordered a Thai iced tea, and we began our conversation.

Untitled

Interior view from the entrance

As written on the cover of the menu, Thai Farm Kitchen offers farm to table Thai cuisine. The Calvos opened the restaurant in October 2018, and quickly gained recognition from The New York Times. But this isn’t their first rodeo. The couple and their family owned three farm to table restaurants, along with a farm in their native Thailand. They decided to sell it all in search of their American dream, which conveniently set up shop right in my stomping grounds.

Untitled

Chicken Satay

I started my food tasting with the Chicken Satay, seen in the photo above. Made with “free range chicken, marinated with lemongrass, turmeric, spices, served with peanut sauce”, it was a perfect beginning as all flavors were well-balanced and not overpowering. I really enjoyed the sauces on the side as they added another layer to an already delicious appetizer.

Untitled

Decor

The interior of the restaurant is very thoughtful, featuring decor from Thailand and various plates, flatware, and dishes from the collection of Chef Kanyawee Calvo’s grandmother’s kitchen. Many of the dishes on the menu are also her grandmother’s recipes, which give the dining experience a very homey vibe. Although it was my first visit, all of these factors made me feel very welcome, and at home.

Untitled

Tom Yum Noodle Soup

Mr. & Mrs. Calvo presented me with my main dish, the Tom Yum Noodle Soup, which they insisted to me was incredibly delicious, and could not be found at any other Thai restaurant in NYC. The soup consists of rice noodles, fish meat balls, lemongrass, galangal, ground meat, and a spicy sauce. I must say, the spice level of this dish made me shed a few tears, but it is by far one of the most unique and delicious soups I have ever had. The flavors were so complex, which kept me guessing what the next bite would be like. I enjoy the adventure of trying new foods, and with this meal, I unlocked a new level.

If you find yourself in Kensington during the afternoon or evening, be sure to stop into Thai Farm Kitchen. In addition to their dinner offerings, they have a lunch special which is a bang for your buck. Tell them Andrea sent you. You won’t be disappointed!

 

Menu & food photos by Andrea K. Castillo

Interior/decor photos courtesy of Thai Farm Kitchen

I received a complimentary meal from the restaurant

Yes, You Can Have A Plant-Based Meal With Flava at Urban Vegan Kitchen

Urban Vegan Kitchen as seen from Carmine Street

When it comes to food, I am always up for an adventure. When it comes to dining out, I prefer a sexier environment that is chill with unique design elements. When these two things are combined, I am a happy camper, and this is the case with Urban Vegan Kitchen. I attended the grand opening event in late October directly after a hot yoga class, ready to eat, drink, and learn more about the new culinary outpost. As I have many friends and family members that are vegetarian (some vegan), I am always in search of restaurants that have plant-based meals that I can equally enjoy.

The brainchild of co-founders Pamela Elizabeth, of Blossom Du Jour fame, and David Tianga, Urban Vegan Kitchen serves up vegan soul food in the former space of Blossom on Carmine. Once crossing the threshold inside, I was immersed into a super cozy space of white-painted exposed brick walls, standard table & cocktail table seating, lounge chairs, with framed photographs and posters hung on every wall. The lights were dim, evoking a sexy, but not too sexy nighttime vibe, with sounds spanning A Tribe Called Quest to salsa hits played by the DJ of the evening.

Menus & cocktail table seating

The dining area was separated from the kitchen with a glass block wall (seen above), offering a distorted, light-filled peek into where the magic happens. Passed hors d’oeuvres were served throughout the evening, my favorites being the Fried Okra served with ranch dressing, and the Chickpea Hush Puppies served with a house-made remoulade. I saw folks with drinks and realized there was another level below. I arrived quite early, but once I found friends and was able to put down my gym bag, I headed downstairs for a cocktail.

Continue reading

Take A Bite: Brunchin’ On A Weekday at Dominique Bistro in NYC’s West Village

Street view of Dominique Bistro

As a purveyor of all things cool and delicious in NYC, I always enjoy the opportunity to discover hidden gems in one of the greatest cities in the world. A favorite neighborhood of mine to peruse is the West Village as a majority of the pre-war constructed buildings are still intact, hosting unique retail offerings in fashion boutiques, casual-faire restaurants, and cocktail bars. Newly opened in the neighborhood is Dominique Bistro, a Parisian-style French bistro located at the historic intersection of Christopher & Gay Streets.

Interior. Photo courtesy of Dominique Bistro

I was invited by the restaurant’s public relations team to partake in a meal, and write about my experience. As a Francophile and frequenter of French bistros, I quickly agreed to the task at hand. I visited the restaurant on a sunny afternoon for brunch. Although at an iconic intersection, Dominique Bistro feels off-the-beaten path as the block was super calm, and quiet. Upon entering the facade, I was greeted by a lovely ambience which included a full wooden dining area, bar with a vast selection of wine and spirits, eye-catching artwork, and a record player playing downtempo musical selections.

Latte with half & half to start

I introduced myself to one of the servers, and was seated within minutes at a table near the windows on the left. She gave me a menu and insisted I begin with a beverage, so of course, I ordered my favorite caffeinated beverage, a latté with half & half. It was served in such a beautiful mug (above) complete with fern latté art.

I took a look around the space to get a feel of the vibe. There was an equal amount of solo diners and couples. As the dining area was pretty quiet, it is definitely good for someone who wants to work on their computer for a bit as they do have wifi. I would not recommend it for groups as it is a smaller venue.

Croque Madame served with French Onion Soup

Now, it was time to order my meal. The pressure was on, as there were so many great plates to choose from, but I finally decided on the Croque Madame from their “French Market” menu. The croque consisted of prosciutto cotto, gruyere cheese, and a sunny side egg served atop a crispy bread from Amy’s Bread. I had a side of French Onion soup to pair and add yet another cheesy element to my meal, because I absolutely love cheese.

I really enjoyed the textures and flavors of the croque, but I must say, it was not the easiest to eat. I used my steak knife to cut it into smaller pieces, which proved a bit difficult as the bread was hard to cut through. I took spoons of soup in between bites and burnt my mouth because I did not judge the cool-down effectively. I can say I was a bit embarrassed as I was sitting by myself, making a slight mess of crumbs, and burning my tongue, simultaneously. Nevertheless, the flavors were solid.

Chocolate Soufflé

Seeing my visible stress, the server asked if I would be interested in dessert, and of course I responded favorably. I am a firm believer that dessert or sweets can really turn your day around. As a huge chocolate lover, I HAD to order the Chocolate Soufflé. It came out super fresh from the kitchen in a ramekin, with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream atop a small bed of walnuts.

X-rated chocolate vibes

How could I resist this? I put my spoon in to release heat and not repeat my prior mouth burn situation, and the visual was food porn at its best, seen above. To say the chocolate and vanilla ice cream pairing was delectable may actually be an understatement. The varying temperatures paired with the crunchiness of the walnuts made it the perfectly balanced dessert.

When in the West Village, be sure to have a meal, snack, or drink at Dominique Bistro. Its inviting atmosphere and delicious Parisian menu are a treat!

 

Dominique Bistro

14 Christopher street
West Village, NYC 10014

(646) 756-4145

 

All photos by Andrea K. Castillo

I received a complimentary meal at Dominique Bistro.

Take A Bite & Sip: Up On 20 at the Hyatt Herald Sq. Offers Food & Drinks With A View

View of Up On 20. Photo: Real Hospitality Group

Let me paint a picture for you. You’re in the middle of Herald Square in Manhattan on a late weekday afternoon. You may be in the area for work, or visiting for a few days. You are in desperate need of food and drink that doesn’t completely break the bank, and isn’t an Applebee’s either. You are coaxed with huge signs from chain restaurants in the area, but how about if you wanted to be slightly off the main street, and able to catch spectacular views while you are it? Let me introduce you to Up On 20.

Located on the roof deck of the Hyatt Herald Square, Up On 20 is the hotel’s rooftop lounge. I visited on a grey Thursday to check out the location’s food and drink offerings, along with its views. As the weather wasn’t the best, the space was not packed, which made me feel better about having a meal solo. I was greeted by a lovely waiter/bartender and told him I was there for a review. He wasted no time to get me seated and really give me the lowdown on the space.

View from my seat of the Empire State Building. Photo: Andrea K. Castillo

The hotel itself opened back in the fall of 2014 and Up On 20 is newly opened for the summer season. I found a cocktail table near the perimeter of the space, to better gaze at the city’s architecture below me, including the Empire State Building.

I snapped a few touristy photos of my surroundings, then got to the menu. The waiter gave me a few suggestions which I trusted as he seemed to be quite the foodie himself. I started with a rum cocktail called “The Old Virgin” which had a base of dark rum and prosecco, with lime and simple syrup. The drink definitely had a kick, but if made with a tad less lime, the finish would have been a little smoother.

All the food. Photo: Andrea K. Castillo

My food platter consisted of white fish sliders with avocado, NYC-style fresh pretzels with fresh sesame mustard, meatballs with hoisin sauce, and shrimp ceviche paired with kettle chips. I would call the cuisine style “New American Fusion” as it melded flavors from both the Americas and Asia alike. So what did I think of the food? Let’s go one by one.

  • White fish sliders with avocado on whole grain bun: fresh flavors and overall great ingredients for a slider. As the fish is quite plain, a smokey or spicy element would have made this top notch.
  • Pretzels with fresh sesame mustard: pretzel consistency and mustard was very good. A bit too much salt on the pretzel.
  • Meatballs with hoisin sauce: great meatball consistency with sauce pairing. No complaints, but had to bring the rest home because of the portion size.
  • Shrimp ceviche with kettle chips: REALLY liked the shrimp ceviche as it had pineapple in it and reminded me of the ceviche back in Belize. The kettle chips were good, but went soggy quickly as I visited on a rather humid day. A good alternative would be fresh tortilla or plantain chips.

Drea vs. Food. Photo: Andrea K. Castillo

I had a lovely experience at Up On 20, and would definitely want to go back on a sunny day. The open atmosphere makes it great for everything from after-work drinks, birthday parties, business meetings, and a casual date. Prices are mid-range, with cocktails in the mid to upper teens, and food made to share. If you are in Herald Square anytime soon, definitely check it out. Address below.

 

Up On 20 at the Hyatt Herald Square

30-32 W 31st St

New York, NY 10001

*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo

I received a complimentary meal and drinks at Up On 20.

#AlifeinthedayInToronto: Take A Bite at Patois

“Juicy Jerk”, the crafty sign behind the counter at Patois

As promised, I am here to share bits of my recent trip to Toronto with you, in a weeklong series entitled #AlifeinthedayInToronto! If you have come accustomed to the topics that I cover on the blog, you would have noticed that I am a huge foodie, and I love to discover new eats everywhere I go. Aside from spending time with friends both old and new, a big part of my Toronto experience revolved around food.

Fresh off the plane, my first stop was Patois, a Jamaican-Chinese fusion restaurant on Dundas St., in close proximity to the park, nightlife, and other cute restaurants.

Pineapple Rum Punch, quite refreshing

Upon entering the space, I noticed how inviting it was, having extended bar seating for groups, as well as a good amount of tables in front, and towards the back of the space. I went with my Toronto guide Jahmal, and we took a seat at the bar as it was quite busy at that time (after-work/dinner hours). We started off with drinks, I had the special which was Pineapple Rum Punch, seen in the photo above. The house rum for Patois is Gosling, a famous dark rum from Bermuda, which the restaurant uses in all their rum beverages. The punch was refreshing, but it could have used a bit more of a kick (I’m not a lush, I promise).

Jerk Chicken Chow Mein, spicy yet mild

Next up was our meal. Jahmal ordered the Jerk Chicken, and I ordered the Jerk Chicken Chow Mein, as seen in the photo above. The jerk chicken was shredded and marinated in jerk sauce and seasoning, placed over a bed of chow mein. You could taste a bit of soy sauce, and shallots were mixed in to fuse both Jamaican and Chinese flavors. Overall, a good mix. I cleaned my plate.

Bread pudding, a treat!

As Jahmal had to leave, I decided to stick around and chat with my new friends at the bar, and try a dessert. As with my prior two choices, I went with the special, which was Bread Pudding. What made this bread pudding special was that the raisins were soaked in rum, and it was served with a dollop of fresh cream on top to balance tastes. This was a great treat and wonderful way to finish off my meal.

I would definitely recommend Patois to anyone interested in a good meal and cocktail in downtown Toronto. Be sure to check out my full list of spots in my Enjoy Toronto w/ AKC TripleSpot List!

 Patois

794 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M6J 1V1

Just East of Palmerston Ave

Phone: 647.350.8999

Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

Take A Sip & Bite: The Organic Grill

A view of The Organic Grill via the street. Photo used by permission of he restaurant.
A view of The Organic Grill via the street. Photo used by permission of he restaurant.

My world of food is quite complex, but is based in foods that are quite rich and paired with specialty cocktails and/or very strong coffee beverages. I’m always down to try something new, and for some time I have been considering infusing my diet with more vegetarian meals. Aside from wanting to be a little healthier myself, I have a growing number of vegetarian and vegan friends, so it is a personal preference to eat more of what they do.

Given this fact, I jumped at the opportunity to try the food at The Organic Grill. Located in Manhattan’s East Village, the restaurant is fully vegetarian and Kosher, offering a multitude of vegan meals, along with a few dishes for those that may be pescatarian.

Our appetizer: quinoa bites with a smooth avocado sauce. Very similar to falafel.
Our appetizer: quinoa bites with a smooth avocado sauce. Very similar to falafel.

I visited the restaurant on Saturday, March 8th with my favorite vegetarian buddy Indira. The space was very cozy, decorated in warm colors with a welcoming staff. Patrick was our waiter, and he gave us all the background on the restaurant and menu. We started off with an appetizer, which you see in the photo up top, of quinoa bites, think quinoa falafel, with a super smooth avocado dip, served on some greens. The consistency was quite hearty given the multi-grain composition of the bites.

My beverage: the Lemonana, comprised of lemonade, agave, fresh mint, and crushed ice.
My beverage: the Lemonana, comprised of lemonade, agave, fresh mint, and crushed ice.

To drink we both had fresh blended juices beverages. Indira had the Ginger Punch, made with ginger ale, apple juice, orange juice, and fresh ginger. I had the Lemonana (shown above), made with lemonade, agave, fresh mint, and crushed ice. Super refreshing!

Indira's meal: OG Burger sliders.
Indira’s meal: OG Burger sliders.

Up next was what we had been waiting for, the main course. Indira’s plate arrived first, which was the OG Burger sliders, a serving of three different veggie burger options. All three were served up on an Ezekiel bun, which has a sweet potato and chickpea flour base, including a roasted mushroom with shallot and dijon relish, black-eyed sweet potato slider, and the pineapple jerk slider.

My meal: Pumpkin, butternut squash, and cranberry filled dumpling over sautéed kale.
My meal: Pumpkin, butternut squash, and cranberry filled dumpling over sautéed kale.

I decided to go with a fully vegan entree which was a special of the day. It consisted of dumplings which resembled ravioli, filled with pumpkin, butternut squash, and cranberries, served atop a bed of sautéed kale. The dumplings were topped with a cranberry cream sauce, which was divine!

Our desserts: Berry crisp and assorted macaroons
Our desserts: Berry crisp and assorted macaroons

We finished off our meal with an array of desserts including a berry crisp (seen on the left) which was made with stewed strawberries in its own sauce layered with oats and grains, paired with a tasting of fresh coconut macaroons made on site.

Indira and I had great service at The Organic Grill, and I was pleasantly surprised in myself that all of my food choices were not just vegetarian, but vegan, who knew? I would definitely recommend The Organic Grill to anyone who is vegetarian, or those that want to try really tasty vegetarian food. I will be visiting again very soon!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo