Plating It Up: It’s Not Just a Side Dish

Bacon, crostini, East Village, Lower East Side, Mac 'n Cheese


The common side dish is no longer playing second fiddle. What was once considered just a side dish on menus has slowly grown into the focal point of some entrees. The trend in food culture of upgrading the side dish has been especially popular with macaroni and cheese, with portion sizes that create this childhood favorite into an adult meal.

S’mac (Sarita’s Mac ‘n Cheese) has has created a meal with familiar combinations like cheese burger and buffalo chicken and some exotic spices with their cajun and masala versions of the mac ‘n cheese which are served in your own individual cast iron pan. Another favorite, that’s also good for kids, is Brooklyn Mac in Greenpoint. With similar dishes as S’Mac but with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. There’s even a kids menu with smaller portions, making Brooklyn Mac a perfect family destination.

Another favorite, especially for the late night crowd, is the Mac Bar in the heart of SoHo. It’s modest size with its yellow walls and curved interior makes you feel as if you were standing inside and elbow macaroni noodle. The Mac Bar’s menu of playful and rich version of classic pasta dishes, including the Margarita Mac, Mac Stroganoff and Mac Lobsta will make you forget you’re eating a bowl of mac ‘n cheese!

There Goes That Food Truck Again: Van Leeuwen

Bakery, Brooklyn, Coffee, Cookies, Desserts, East Village, Food Trucks, Ice Cream

One morning on my way to work I spotted the Van Leeuwen truck. Now, I know they have great artisan ice cream (Palm Sugar, Red Currant, Roasted Banana, Earl Grey), but I thought it was odd that they were out so early. When I stopped at the truck, it was then that I realized Van Leeuwen is also a bakery. Along with that great ice cream, the truck also had rich ground coffee and a variety of pastries and cookies. I decided to grab an orange muffin and couple of cookies (chocolate and ginger). If you never had their ice cream, it’s truly something special. Their pastries are on a par with the ice cream. The guy working in the truck told me that they have different pastries each day.

An Education on the Dumpling

Asian, Dumplings, East Village

I attended the East River Moon Festival at the New Amsterdam Market on September 30th and had the chance to watch and sample some great vegetable dumplings prepared by Chef Wai Hon Chu. After the event at the market, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chef Wai to expand my knowledge on the elusive dumpling. Chef Wai co-authored, The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide, and we discussed the basis of the recipes in his book. 

FJNYC: How versatile is the dumpling (what are the best fillings)?

Chef Wai: The dumpling is incredibly versatile and there are dumplings from just about every part of the world.  The book is organized by month to encourage people to eat seasonally when they can. Many of the ingredients featured in the book peak during certain months.  For example, in our June and July chapters, you will find dumplings such as Leaf Bread, and Fresh Corn and Coconut “Tamales” made out of just picked corn, while in the September chapter you will find Potato Dumplings Stuffed with Sugar-Stuffed Plums because the Italian prune plums needed for this recipe are only available in early fall.