Friday, April 24

Blaze Pizza (New Orleans, LA, U.S.A.)

There's a new pizza place in town, and well, they're kind of the hottest thing right now.  Located in one of the newest buildings in downtown New Orleans, this place boasts a speedy assembly line, fresh dough made from scratch, and a blazing hot oven that fires their pizzas in just 180 seconds.  Think Chipotle, but with pizza.

The newness of this place bring a large line during lunch, and understandably so since their prices are very reasonable (7.95 for a signature), especially for its location.  Although this can be shared between two people, I have to admit to consuming the whole pizza by myself...

Blaze offers signature pizzas, but also offer the option to customize your own pizza.  They offer gluten-free dough, and their cheeses are all pasteurized.  I was torn between the BBQ Chicken and the Green Stripe, which is is a pizza with pesto drizzle over grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, chopped garlic, mozzarella, arugula, and settled for the latter.  I also chose to add garlic to mine (in picture below) from the huge variety of toppings, which made it that much better. 

Even though the line was nearly out the door, because the pizzas are thin crust, they are quick (just 180 seconds in the oven!).  Thin crust pizza is my favorite, and they do it just right without burning the crust.  Another point I noticed was that the ingredients they use look fresh (especially their cheeses), and their workplace is clean.  Unfortunately, I can't say this about the majority of restaurants in New Orleans, and I appreciate it that much more when I find a place that is casual, comfortable, and clean.  Needless to say, I will probably be returning when I'm craving pizza.  And maybe just so I can try the s'more pies. Mmm...

Price: $ (7.95/pizza+tax)
Rating: 4/5
Tip: Open hours 10:30am-11/12pm

Blaze Pizza (website)
611 O'Keefe Ave. Suite C-9
New Orleans, LA 70113
Blaze Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 19

Blue Dot Donuts (New Orleans, LA)

I recently lost my hard drive which stored basically my whole photo collection - and no, I hadn't backed it up on a second drive - so they are ALL GONE.  I was able to capture a few screen shots of photos that decided to stay un-pixelated on Lightroom, but all the "good" ones are gone.  In attempt to stop my grieving, here is my woe-is-me post while I eat my delicious donut.

I'm not the biggest donut eater in the world, possibly because I don't usually do much sweets (thankfully), and I enjoy original glazed donuts almost exclusively, but I have found myself making a stop at Blue Dot more often than I should.  What hooked me?  Their maple bacon long johns and blueberry donuts.

My favorite is the maple bacon, though it is on the sweeter side.  Let's not forget the bacon fat sitting in the glaze that oozes with every bite, but nevertheless, this is one of the items that I always get when i'm at Blue Dot.  I think it's the balance between the savory bacon and the sweet glaze that does it for me.  The blueberry donut (not the blueberry glaze)  is another of my favorites because... blueberries are delicious!  A lesser known flavor they have is wedding cake, and while it's not my pick, I have a friend who loves their wedding cake donut!

Another item they have during Mardi Gras season is the King Cake donut, which is possibly my favorite king cake out there - just cause it's a king cake AND a donut!  The texture is less dense than a king cake itself and just like a donut, with sugar sprinkles on top! Mmm...

The location of this Blue Dot is away from most other businesses and restaurants - but this does make the parking a bit easier. There is as five dollar minimum for credit card charges, which can sometimes be inconvenient, but hey, more donuts for everyone!  But apparently not enough to last till closing time since they start running out late morning!  

There is some seating indoors and out, and though this is a classic donut joint, it's a place where people sit around to enjoy a cuppa with their scrumptilicious donuts.  As for me - I am at home enjoying mine with some coffee while listening to Birdy's Fire Within.

Rating: 3.5/5
Price: $

Tip: Five dollar min on credit card; go before 11am to view their full selection (especially on weekends)

Blue Dot (Website)

4301 Canal St
New OrleansLA 70119
#: (504) 218-4866
Blue Dot Donuts on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 6

Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar (New Orleans, LA, USA)

Before the year ended, I finally made my way to Surrey's, which had been on my list of to-eats since the beginning of 2014.  And...I was impressed!  Well, I was impressed by their shrimp & grits, since I previously didn't have the best impression of grits.  Let's be honest here - before NOLA, I never had any incentive to try grits.  They don't sound particularly appetizing by the way they look and they're generally tasteless unless doused with some kind of sauce...

The only review I can give is on their shrimp & grits, but if you like shrimp and if you like grits - theirs is the best I've had so far in town!  Their presentation is on point, the taste is perfect, and the mouthfeel of the grits is also perfect (not mush, not undercooked).  The shrimp tastes fresh and their ingredients also look and taste fresh.  They also offer a great variety of juices, for those of you who are into drinking your serving of fruit and veggies.  I'll try them... one day.  Service and ambience here are good, on top of their delicious food, making this cafe a great place to have brunch!

Only downside is that there is no question there will be a wait on weekends...

Rating: 4.5/5 (food: shrimp & grits)
Price: $$

Tip: Open 8am-3pm daily

Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar (Website)
1418 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
#: (504) 524-3828
Surrey's Café & Juice Bar on Urbanspoon

The Pie Hole (Pasadena, CA, USA)

Pies are one of my favorite desserts (particularly key lime pie), but this joint takes it to the next level.  The Pie Hole specializes in all kinds of pie, both sweet and savory, all which look and sound super scrumptious!  They also offer coffee, a much needed staple to go along with your slice o' pie...

On this occasion I tried the Mexican Chocolate and the Yam (seasonal) Pie.  The Mexican Chocolate isn't something I would typically go for, but upon recommendation, I tried it... and it blew my mind!  It's nothing like your ordinary chocolate pie - this one is thick, rich, and chocolatey to the very end.  Let's not forget the graham crust and coffee? flavored whipped cream on top, which pairs so well with the chocolate!  The cinnamon is subtle, making this not just any ordinary chocolatey pie.  Need I say?  I'm unexpectedly in love with this pie.

The yam pie was also quite good - a little less sweet and more subtle, but still really delicious.  The mouthfeel of yam remains slightly in the pie, making the pie a little hard to eat, but otherwise, also really delicious.

The location in Pasadena is close to a bunch of shopping and Intelligentsia (which is perfectttt), and at the moment parking in the lot is free for 90 minutes.  Only downside to this place? The pies are quite, quite pricy, so be ready to empty out your pockets!

Rating: 4.5/5
Price: $$-$$$ (for pie)
Tip: Located inside a space shared with a flower shop, Coolhaus, and a spice shop (to the right of Intelligentsia

The PIe Hole (Website)
59 E Colorado Blvd

Pasadena, CA 91105
#: (626) 765-6315
Pie Hole on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 16

Crown (New York City, NY, USA)

While wandering the streets of Upper East Side for some happy hour options, me and my friend stumbled upon Crown.  A restaurant with a bar upstairs located in a seemingly residential area, we carefully wandered in a side door to find a bar with romantic lighting and beautiful wooden interiors.  While I can't speak for their food, which seems to have mixed reviews, I can say that their bar service was delightful.  Online, reviewers have said that they have a happy hour, but as of September 2014, this was not true.  This left me and my friend conflicted since we both obviously were intrigued by this place, but we didn't have many afternoons to happy hour away in New York!

The guy at the front politely went to the back to ask if they had happy hour, and the bartender's apparent response was "We don't have happy hour but we can give you a happy hour."  We obviously decided to stay, and each had a drink.  My friend had the Watermelon Gimlet (12), which she enjoyed (especially the cracked pepper), and I had the Star Anise Negroni (12).  While I was hesitant on the star anise at first, Mariano, our bartender, convinced me otherwise.  I was pleasantly surprised, and even prefer this version to many regular negronis I've had!  The cocktails were made with care, and were graciously complimented with some bread and olive oil.  The drinks were strong, otherwise we would've gone for a second round, and we definitely would have stayed for another drink if we weren't on a tight schedule.  Oh, and Mariano did end up giving us a happy hour!

Crown is definitely a gem in the city away from the bustle of the city, and I would return next time I'm in New York!  While I really can't speak for their food, I can say that the presentation of their food had me eyeing others' dishes while there.

Price: $$$
Rating: 4.5/5

24E & 81st St.
New York, NY 10028
#: (646) 559-4880
Crown on Urbanspoon

The Halal Guys (New York City, NY, USA)

First night in New York I was out with a friend and after having flown in from New Orleans, and needless to say I was hungry!  A friend had suggested The Halal Guys to me, and sure enough, I found myself in proximity to their stand in the city.  The stand is a bit hard to find when you don't know what you're looking for, as it's away from all the lights in Times Square, but it's still close enough of a walk, and they have a big sign with "Halal Guys" written on it.

I got their chicken plate, as directed by my friend, and for less than $10, it was a whole lotta food!  Especially for NYC.  I don't eat like a mouse (ie. very little) and there was still quite a bit left for my friend to munch on.  The flavor was decent, a little salty for my liking, but somehow very addicting!  And no, I did not have any alcohol that night.  It definitely was not the most amazing chicken and rice that I've had, but I can see it being better than bad pizza while drunk in the Big Apple.  With that being said, hot food is always delicious on a cold night, and if you're into spicy, their hot sauce will definitely warm you up!

The Halal Guys is a food truck so there are no seats and some people mind that, but there are some buildings with stairs that you can sit on during off-hours.  Overall, not a bad place to grab some grub if you don't want to dish out that dough in Times Square.

Price: less than $10/order
Rating: 4/5

The Halal Guys (Website)
SE Corner of 53rd and 6th
New York, NY 10019
Midtown West, Theatre District
#: (347) 527-1505
The Halal Guys on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 20

Sarabeth's (Central South Park, CA)

Now that my posts are all jumbled and it's almost been a month since I was in NYC, I'm finally getting around to posting about all the delicious, beautiful food I ate.  Here is the first of my series from the Big Easy to the Big Apple.

Breakfast (or brunch) is my favorite meal of the day, as I've mentioned many times before, so naturally, my first proper meal was exactly that!  Where is my first, and unfortunately, only real brunch stop?  Sarabeth's, of course!  I say of course because if you know me, I'm secretly (or not so secretly) a huge fan of Gossip Girl, and this is one of their favorite destinations.

I had my usual latte to start, then finally decided to go all out and order the Crab Cake Benedict (24).  The latte was strong, with lots of fluffy foam (not the usual American latte foam), but nothing too spectacular in my opinion.  While the crab cakes were good, they seemed like they weren't as fresh as they could be.  The flavor was decent and not fishy, and of course it was real crab meat (for $24 one would hope so), but the crust was just stale.  The eggs were a little overcooked for my taste, and the muffins were very stale, but the salad was quite refreshing.  My friend had the Eggs & Kale (17), two eggs over a bed of delicious kale with some almonds.  The almonds were delicious and the dish fresh, but for what you're paying for?  Maybe a tad bit much.  Overall, I wasn't too impressed by my plate, but I'm still glad I came here for the experience.

I feel like I must add that the service is quite good, but the wait for food is long and they only have one bathroom stall.  Maybe this is the New York way - I've noticed many restaurants only have one-toilet bathrooms.  All in all, I was a bit disappointed, but I was pre-warned by overhearing a local say that Sarabeth was "just not as good as it used to be" and has lost some of its charms.

Price: 25-35pp USD or depending on your order and drink | $$
Rating: 3.5/5

Sarabeth's (Website)
40 Central S. Park
New York, NY 10019
#: (212) 826-5959
Sarabeth's on Urbanspoon