Sunday, February 24, 2008

The World's Best Chocolate Cake recipe


This is a recipe we modified a recipe from Molly's fantastic blog called Orangette. She calls it the Far-from-Disaster cake. We rechristened our version with a more sanguine name- The World's Best Moist Chocolate Cake! The cake pictured above was made using exactly the proportions on her blog, and as you can see, turned out to be huge! We provide the directions with our variations below. The portions have been halved, and we have a different cream and raspberry topping.

3 oz semisweet chocolate (Nestle semisweet chocolate chips).

3/4 cup hot brewed coffee.

1 and 1/2 cup sugar.

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour.

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Nestle).

1 tsp baking soda.

1/2 tsp baking powder.

1/2 tsp salt.

2 large eggs.

1/4 cup canola oil.

3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk.

1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

We followed her exact recipe apart from beating egg whites separately till they were stiff and then added the yellows and other wet ingredients. The method is the following:

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Melt chocolate in hot coffee. Stir mixture till smooth.

In a big bowl, mix sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt.

In another bowl, beat egg whites first with electric beater till stiff. Then add the yellows. The slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla and melted chocolate/coffee mixture.

Slowly add in the flour mixture, beating on medium speed. Cake experts will advise you to fold with a big spoon instead of beating.

Pour batter into pre-greased cake tin or baking dish. It takes around an hour to bake. Check after 45 minutes.

Topping recipe: Heat 10 raspberries, 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp water till it forms a jam like consistency. Cool. I kept the whipped cream and the raspberry topping separately in the fridge and added both to slices of cake as we ate the cake. This was only to increase the shelf life of the cake. If serving for a party, I would suggest slicing the cake in half and spreading the raspberry topping and whipped cream in the centre.

Agozar: Good food, spotty service


Agozar! insists on including the '!' after its name. Apparently they want patrons to be exclamatory when they take the name. Little do they know that patrons also have to do it to get any kind of service to their table. Admittedly, it is hard to find a place at any decent Manhattan restaurant for a large group of people (15 people that evening). This Cuban place is rated highly for its group dining experience by Citysearch NYC. We had to wait till the staff joined our tables together even though the entire party arrived on time (a feat in itself). There was also no space between the table and the wall, so the people who got in first had no way of getting out till the whole row got up. We had to shuffle the tables around ourselves to provide a way to the stuck and in the process ended up spilling drinks, water and breaking 3 glasses in the process.

We were ordering from a fixed-price party menu ($30) which didn't have the ropa vieja, although it appeared on the a-la-carte menu, the cheaper fixed-price menu ($25- less choice) and the more expensive menu ($35- more choice). We had to ask for chips and salsa after we were sitting around for 15 minutes without service. Finally, after an hour, our waiter was finally ready to take our appetizer and entree orders. The appetizers were excellent, particularly the shrimp in garlic sauce, where the flavorful sauce was unlike what the foodie tasted anywhere. The mojito pitchers were potent and did their job well. The service was lacking again and we spent a lot of time between the appetizers and entrees. The entrees finally came out, almost all of them together. The foodie had the shrimp enchillados and the photographer took the skirt steak. The chicken rice was kind of dry and there was only a hint of chimichuri sauce on the steak. The vegetarian paella was good. We should mention that this is one of the few restaurants that actually gives vegetarians a choice better than cold salads.

A sign of good service is when you hardly notice the service at all. It was certainly not the case at our table at Agozar. We had to ask for silverware and for our glasses to be re-filled with water. The waiter seemed to have a high level of complacence, probably due to the fact that his 20% gratuity would be added to the bill regardless of what he did/ didn't do. The place is friendly, but one expects much better service from a place where you spend $57 per person.

We recommend the food at Agozar but encourage you to look at other places for big groups.

Food: 8/10

Service: 5/10

Ambience: 7/10

Agozar! 324 Bowery, New York City 10012

Allen & Delancey: Exclusive and exquisite


The restaurant gets its name from its location- it is at the intersection of Allen and Delancey streets in Manhattan. And its a good thing that we know that now because this gem is really hard to find. Run by one of Gordon Ramsey's ex-chefs, the quality is exactly what you would expect from a restaurant of this class. We heard of this place by word of mouth. Make reservations at least a month in advance. We went there for our anniversary. One of us had the flu, but the friendly staff was nice enough to give us another reservation in a couple of days at short notice.

Lift the heavy curtains at the entrance and you walk into a swanky candle-lit bar. The restaurant sections are appropriately lit with candles only for the 'romantic' twos tables, and slightly more light for bigger tables. They have a communal table which is becoming increasingly popular in chi-chi places of late. Our table was in a cozy corner between an antique bookcase and a big wine rack (see below).


From watching 'Hells Kitchen' we figured that Gordon Ramsey is unusually picky when it comes to how scallops are made ("these scollops are overdone you f**** b*stard you. Get out, get out!"). So we had to order the scallops as the appetizer. And they were really perfectly done. In fact, our standards for good scallops has increased many orders in magnitude. The foodie had the trout and the photographer had the lamb. Both dishes were impeccably made and of just the right portions. The accompaniments on the plate complemented the fish/meat perfectly. The textures were pleasing and the tastes made us go wow. Of course we wished we could actually describe what the sides were. Verjus, Herb Werts, Trompettes? Each of them was amazing, but made us want to run out after dinner and get a chi-chi food dictionary. Dessert was a chocolate crunch terrine, and probably the only 'normal' and familiar dish in the entire night. We don't usually take photos of the dish after we finish, but in this case, we took it to illustrate that we would have licked the plates had it not been a sophisticated place. Service was courteous and the waiter was patient enough to explain every dish to us. He only flinched when the foodie likened the "truffled fingerlings" to classy french fries.

Highly recommended for fine dining on special occassions. Around $67 per person including wine and their speciality pomegranate martini.

Food: 9/10

Service: 8/10

Ambience: 9.5/10

Allen & Delancey, 115 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

Monday, February 18, 2008

Turkish Kitchen: Great all-you-can-eat brunch


In a city of great Sunday brunches, Turkish Kitchen stands out as an epic. The all you can eat buffet food is high-quality and does not cut corners on taste or variety like the food in most other restaurants. The staff is polite and service is good. If you don't have Saturday night dinner, then the $27 Sunday brunch is well-worth the price. If you put your mind to it, it will be the only meal you will need that day. 



The variety of their selections- from greek and turkish salads, phyllos, to the meat patties, chicken and fish (they even have scrambled eggs) is delectable. Make sure to keep some room for dessert. The place is great for big groups. We celebrated a couple's birthday and they were accommodating enough to let us get our own cake. Although eating the cake after a smorgasbord of fine Mediterranean cuisine requires extra special effort. The ambience is sophisticated yet extremely comfortable. They have 3 brunch times on Sunday. We have gone at 1pm and sat there till 3:30pm. It is almost impossible to find a spot without reservations, so make sure you have reserved at least a week before your turkish gastronomical challenge.

Food: 7/10

Service: 7/10

Ambience: 8/10


Turkish Kitchen

386, 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Phone: 212-679-1810

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Graffiti: A lovable contemporary Indian-American place


(Image from

You will not be able to spot Graffiti unless you are actively looking out for it. This is a great place to cozy up with your special someone or even meet their mom (as one couple did when we were eating there). Seating is cozy to the point of being cramped. Tables of two are often right up next to each other so you have to be nice to the stranger next to you and watch your conversation. The décor may be described as very contemporary-chic (lots of antiques and abstract art, and a pretty huge chandelier). The lighting is so dim that reading their menu will take some ingenious handling of the candle on your table. The food is excellent. We had the most memorable paneer appetizer ever (green mango paneer). The foodie got the crab noodle roll and the photographer got the sesame beef sandwich. The portions are skimpy, especially for the price, so if you are really hungry, you might have to go get pizza afterward. The owner clearly has great taste in décor and food. We would highly recommend if you aren’t famished, and with an advisory to watch your elbows.

Food: 8/10

Service: 9/10

Ambience: 8/10

Graffiti, 224 E 10th Street, NYC 10003

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Indian Chinese food: The notable

Tangra Masala: The big-daddy of Indian-Chinese food

Mostly when we go to Queens, it is for cheap groceries and barely commentable greasy all-you-can-eat Indian buffet. Tangra Masala on Grand Avenue, Queens is worth the subway ride, including the transfer to the local train that you need to get there. If you like spicy Indian-style chinese food, you will want to make that trip everyday.

The décor is pretty low-key and drab. The place is small and cramped and the waitress can barely speak English. The superior quality of the food and very low prices more than makes up for it. We highly recommend the chilli chicken (in both the dry and gravy versions), as do numerous other faithfuls that go there. They have opened another branch closer to Manhattan (on the 7 line) which is bigger and has somewhat more than a paltry décor. Recommended only if you like it hot!

Food: 9/10

Service: 4/10

Ambience: 4/10

Chinese Mirch: Good, but be prepared to wait and wait and wait

We have never managed to get a table at Chinese Mirch without at least a 30 minute wait. To their credit, the place is extremely popular and has good reason to be. The food is excellent and they can accommodate fairly large groups. We highly recommend the crispy fried okra as an appetizer. The menu is certainly not spicy to leave you gasping for air and seems to have reached an appropriate balance to maintain its distinctive Indian style but for a western palate. Recommended, especially if you have friends who have never tried Indian Chinese food before.

Food: 8/10

Service: 6/10

Ambience: 7/10

I-Chin: I pass

Run by the same people as Chinese Mirch, this place near Murray Hill seems to have forgotten to add spices, or sauces for that matter, to its dishes. The food was quite bland and we had to add soy sauce to get any kind of flavor. If you do see yourself in I-Chin, get the Okra chips for the appetizer. Everything else on the menu is equally disappointing, especially after a visit to its mothership.

Food: 5/10

Service: 6/10

Ambience: 7/10

Follow Me Café: an undiscovered gem on the UES

Tucked away in a building on 62nd and Lex (on 62nd st) is a small, cozy and excellent place. The food is cheap, waitresses are efficient and the clientele looks very, very good. This has become one of our favorite hangout spots in the city. We have been to the Follow Me Café more than a dozen times and will keep going there for an unpretentious, warm experience. The food selection is great for any time of day- omlettes, sandwiches, savory and sweet crepes, wines and beverage selections. The portions are for the health conscious- a side of generous salad accompanying most sandwiches and omlettes (very European- and unlike a lettuce leaf and tomato ‘salad’ of most places in the city). The stuffing of the omlettes compliments the cheese in it very well (we have had all of them and recommend the Mediterranean omlette). The skirt steak sandwich has a delicate Chmicuri-style sauce that will satisfy the ardent carnivore. Their lemonade and iced-tea is served in cute jar-mugs. The only complaint (if you can call it that) we have is that the tables near the door are exposed to the elements, so we would suggest that you sit at the inner tables. Its great for big or small groups and is ideal for people-watching for both guys and girls. Although you may have to wait for a table sometimes, it is never longer than 5-10 minutes. A must go to place. Since most of our trips there are spontaneous, the photographer is usually without his camera. We will correct it on our next trip there.

Food: 8/10

Service: 8/10

Ambience: 9/10

 Follow Me Café, 62nd St and Lexington, NYC


Febuary 2, 2008