I’m getting a little rusty in my old age. In the early days of the blog, I was the one dragging my friends to obscure hole-in-the-wall joints in the East Village–now I’m perfectly happy to go to Grand Sichuan over and over again.
But Mark and Diana have my number, both literally and figuratively. We had plans for a double date on Saturday night and as I texted with Diana about what we would do, she ignored my suggestion to return to the home of Gui Zhou Chicken and Dry Sauteed String Beans and, instead, told us to meet her and Mark at Elvie’s Turo-Turo on 1st Ave. and 12th Street. “It’s a Filipino place,” wrote Diana. The old adventurer in me perked up: “See you there,” I wrote back as I grabbed my camera (or Craig’s camera, rather: mine’s been in repair for eternity), excited, once again, to try something new.
Followers on Twitter were all atwitter at the mention of Filipino food. “Be sure to try Crispy Pata (deep fried pork leg), Chicken Adobo, Bangus (milkfish) and Halo Halo (shaved ice dessert),” wrote pleasurepalate. “I hope that includes a pork belly stew,” said ddot_. “Filipino food is the joint,” said chaofundc.
I thought I’d never had Filipino food before, but then I remembered a trip I took almost three years ago (yowza!) with Patty to Cendrillon in SoHo. There I had my first Chicken Adobo and it was so good, I remember it vividly. How could I not with all that vinegar? For that’s what Chicken Adobo is, for those who’ve never had it: chicken cooked in vinegar. And it’s every bit as pungent and exciting as you’d expect it to be: I was an instant fan.
Here at Elvie’s Turo-Turo, the food isn’t as refined as it was at Cendrillon (and, for the record, last I heard Cendrillon is no longer in SoHo, but has relocated to Brooklyn and renamed itself Blue Yam–see here.) But it’s a great deal: for $8.50 you get two dishes and a big plate of rice. In this economy, that’s good to know, isn’t it?
Here are Mark and Diana studying their options:
(I really like that picture even though I hate Craig’s camera which proves that there are no such things as bad cameras, just bad photographers–so sorry for hating you, Craig’s camera.)
We all ultimately selected variations of the same thing–everyone got the Pork Adobo, called–more accurately–“Adobong Manok O Baboy,” described on the menu as: “chicken or pork dish seasoned with fresh garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves, pepper and anise.” Mark got another meat dish with his, but Diana, Craig and I all chose Pinakbet: “mixed vegetables sauteed in shrimp paste.”
Here’s what it all looked like:
(It’s funny, I recognize that plate from Fishs Eddy: if you like it, you can find it there too.)
The food here was really flavorful. The pork adobo was just as vinegary as I had hoped, though some of the pieces were tougher than others (perhaps it didn’t braise long enough?) The tender pieces, when I found them, were pretty scrumptious.
The shrimp paste vegetables took some getting used to: it’s an unfamiliar taste, that shrimp paste. But it adds a nice seafoody kick to something that is, by nature, earthy; sort of like adding anchovies to a salad dressing or using fish sauce in other kinds of Asian cooking. Over time, I liked it.
Now the best-looking thing at Elvie’s Turo-Turo was definitely the dessert: we saw happy tables swarming over giant sundaes of shaved ice and ice cream–I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re known for. Yet, we were trying to make a night of things: we were finished with dinner in 20 mintues–there were no waiters or waitresses, it was all counter service, so that happens very fast. We made the executive decision to stretch the night out by getting dessert elsewhere; and that elsewhere was just an avenue away–Momofuku Milk Bar.
Good Lord in heaven: what has happened to this place? Maybe it’s because it was a Saturday night, but this was the noisiest, most aggressive mob of people I’ve ever seen clamoring for dessert. It was miserable in there and very confusing: there was a number machine and numbers up on a wall, but the number I pulled was 306 and the number on the board was 260. There couldn’t have been 46 people ahead of me, could there?
We panicked and decided to flee at once. “I know a great cupcake place on 7th Street called Butter Lane,” said Diana.
“Great!” I barked. “Let’s go there.”
Welcome to Butter Lane:
Ah, what an oasis of calm compared to Momofuku Milk. Here, in this adorable space, eccentric people talk to you about cupcakes. Specifically, the cupcakes on the counter all made with fresh berries:
“There are no unnatural flavors in any of them,” explained the nice woman. “It’s all made fresh right here.”
I opted for a raspberry cupcake, while Craig chose a French vanilla (they have French Vanilla and American Vanilla and I really don’t remember the difference.) Mark and Diana chose some kind of Mark and Diana cupcake combo and here’s everyone (except me, cause I’m taking the picture) modeling their cupcakes:
Ah, looking closer, I can see Diana had a strawberry:
“Mmmm,” she said when I asked her how it was.
I took a bite of mine and indeed it was quite fresh tasting; nothing artifical about it. I have to confess right here, I’m not very particular about cupcakes. I know when I really DON’T like a cupcake (case in point: The Cupcake Cafe) but as for the ones I do like? I don’t join the throngs who call Magnolia’s too sweet or such-and-such a cupcake too buttery. They’re all good to me. I will eat them all. If you don’t like them, please: give them here. I like cupcakes.
And thus concludes a post about Filipino food and cupcakes. If there’s a moral here, it’s certainly this: break your patterns! Don’t go back to Grand Sichuan over and over again. Don’t eat dessert at Momofuku Milk, you’ve already been there. Eat Filipino food. Eat cupcakes at Butter Lane. Live a little! Thanks Mark and Diana for waking me out of my stupor: I won’t suggest Grand Sichuan ever, ever again.
(But if you suggest it, I can’t promise I’ll say no….)