Archive for March, 2007

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Midway Meditation

March 31, 2007

here i am- on my 9th day into $100/2weeks/NYC, with only $26 left. next friday feels like ions away, but i’m gonna do this! i’m gonna get to friday on $26 ($4/day)! victory will be mine!

and as though i were bi-polar, this sort optimism crashes down on me sporadically throughout the day and i just become depressed. and i know that:
– i shouldn’t let money dictate my life
– money does not equal happiness
– Kayoko, you can just stay in and cook for the next 5 days!!!! what fun!!!

blah blah blah. yes, all of this is true, but as a working, hustling, socializing single girl in the dredges of New York City, eating/ drinking on $100 for 2 weeks is FUCKING HARD. i don’t want to sound cliche, and i definitely don’t want you to think that i packed my bags and headed for the big city on some sort of bullshit Sex and the City idealism. and god, after reading about No Impact Man, i surely don’t want to come off as some sort of suffering martyr in the hands of evil consumer-capital NYC. but really, this is next to impossible.

when i tell people i’m doing this, they just say, “oh, you can just cook on $100, that is easy, you’ll be fine.” absolutely, yes, you are right. but realistically, who has the time to cook EVERYDAY, after work, after going out for a drink with coworkers, after having to run from one appointment to the next, after the day-to-day exhaustive routine of NY life.

and really, i wanted to do this and still maintain my lifestyle as much as possible. i go out at least 5 nights a week (meet up with friends, movies, dinner, drinks, lectures, class, birthday parties, shows, performances, and on), and while this is the magical wonder of living here, trying to fit in personal time, let alone cooking time, is difficult to maintain.

sure, i could cook for every meal, no problem. i love cooking. i’m good at it, it’s something that comes naturally to me. but talking to people my age here, we all come to the same conclusion: finding the time is hard. fruits and veggies go bad in the fridge. when cooking, you need to cook huge batches at a time and freeze leftovers. you literally need to PENCIL IN a day in the week when you are allowed to go home straight after work and do your own thing.

wah wah, right? no- i’m not saying this for pity. but i do say this just to illustrate how eating fits into the equation of NY life (at least for me). eating isn’t just to keep me fueled for the day, but it’s a time to see my friends and catch up, to relax and to divert my attention away from work life. so what i ultimately want to accomplish with $100/2weeks is to try to find the balance between my tight budget and still being able to go on my normal routine. it becomes a matter of convenience too– if i have a meeting in the East Village, i need to find a dirt cheap place to eat down there, that’s the bottom line.

so i’ve made some not-smart decisions in the past week, i’ll admit. did i need to go to Blue Ribbon Sushi? no. but did i want to see my friends? yes. was the $20 sushi/ sashimi plate calling my name? yes. we all make choices.

but there are consequences to these choices– i now must somehow eat/ drink on $26 for the rest of the week. i have a birthday party to go to tonight; sunday i’m running around in the city all day; tuesday and wednesday i have a lectures to attend. how i will stay within my eating budget, i haven’t quite figured out yet.

but this is where the fun begins!!!


$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Prologue
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 3, 4 &5
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 6 & 7


March 31, 2007

(Editor’s note: This post was co-written by Aya and Tmonkey. All opinions and typos are theirs.)

Aya: I am always hungry. But Tmonkey, you are always always hungry. What’s up with your metabolism?

Tmonkey: I burn a lot of chi doing kung-fu. Also my massive brain controlled by alien maggots requires about 3 times more energy than a regular human brain.

Aya: That’s cool. And where does your profound desire for ramen come from?

Tmonkey: I don’t know, I think it’s a primal instinct.

Aya: Yeah. I yearn for it in a way that’s like it’s part of my DNA.

Tmonkey: Though I think the movie Tampopo helped to shape my latent cravings for ramen–

Aya: Great movie! OK so Tmonkey and I went to Rockmeisha last night.

Tmonkey: Kayoko told me about this place. I tried to go for lunch twice this week, but they’re not open until 6pm.

Aya: It took you two times to figure that out?

Tmonkey: Chut up. Anyway, I was happy to try it out. It’s a cute little cozy place, and, incidentally, right next door to the magnificent Annisa restaurant run by Anita Lo. She trounced Mario Batali in Iron Chef America. I’ll take you there sometime.

Aya: You better.

Tmonkey: OK OK. Rockmeisha is really tiny. The kitchen looked like a kitchen in someone’s house. Stuff all over the place. Plus the whole joint smelled like grease. They fry lots of things. What’s an izakaya? We sat at the bar because I like to drink. A lot. I had 2 Sapporo drafts.

Aya: I had the lychee sake. Yummy.

Tmonkey: We started off with the Tuna and avocado salad.

It was delicious – nice ponzu dressing and lots of thinly sliced onion on top.

Aya: The deep-fried mackerel was even better.

Nice fish. But we should have ordered the porkbelly special.

Tmonkey: Now for the main course. I order the Chashumen, and Aya got the Tonkotsu Ramen. Can you tell the difference?

Aya: Um. No. Wait. Which one was mine?

Tmonkey: The second one. Look closely. Mine has 3 extra slice of pork (spoken in bad Chinese accent).

Aya: Oh right. Those 3 slices of pork cost you an extra $5!

Tmonkey: It was worth it! The noodles had very nice texture and resilience. I read they are imported from Hakata – where is that?

Aya: Uh Hokkaido? No wait, oops, it’s way down south actually, in Fukuoka in Kyushu. I don’t know shit about Japanese geography it’s embarrassing. It says here that tonkotsu (pork-bone base) ramen broth originated there, as did the convention of serving the pickled shoga (ginger) with the noodles.

Tmonkey: Yeah that was weird. I don’t know if I liked that. The broth was nice and thick. But you know, it lacked the most important flavor of all – UMAMI!

Aya: Explain.

Tmonkey: You don’t know what umami is??? What’s the name of this blog? Umami is the “fifth taste” — sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and….umami! It was “discovered” by a japanese scientist, Kikune Ikeda, at the Tokyo Imperial University when he was trying to isolate the flavor of seaweed broth. It’s the taste of mushrooms, parmesan cheese, tomatoes, that “earthy” flavor. It rounds out the flavor profile by hitting a certain region of your tongue. My favorite food writer/critic, Jeffrey Steingarten, wrote a defense of MSG, called “If MSG is bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache”? Or something like that. Oh just go read this article. MSG! MSG! MSG!

Aya: We’re in agreement there. So overall, I’d say Rockmeisha, meh, it’s OK – kinda pricey for an izakaya, I guess you have to pay for the location.

Tmonkey: We have yet to find the best ramen in NYC.

Aya: OK, but how do you explain this?

Tmonkey: Hey. I was hungry!

11 Barrow Street
between West 4th Street and 7th Avenue
(212) 675-7775

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 6 & 7

March 30, 2007

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Prologue
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 3, 4 &5

Wednesday 3/28
Total Spent: $5

LUNCH–> $0

Fumiko and I had our usual lunch date. I had leftover pasta alla puttanesca, she had made this absolutely delicious spaghetti bathed in cream sauce with artichokes. She says this is very easy, so i will need to try making this myself. Something about having 2 kinds of pasta in one sitting–one with red sauce, the other with white sauce– that is very satisfying and indulgent.


Matt and I had tickets to see Do Say Make Think at Southpaw in Park Slope, Brooklyn (great venue). But before we met up, I had a gallery opening at work that I was helping out with– all strategically planned out because I knew I could munch on hors d’oeuvres and drink to my hearts content, essentially just eat dinner there without having to spend a dime. Genius.

However, the sushi they served was pretty horrifying– big fat rolls with too much sweetened rice and not enough insides. and just really poorly rolled too, I could have easily done a better job– they were just damn ugly. It was pretty uncharacteristic too, cause the food served at my work’s receptions aren’t usually so bad. But I sucked it up and ate as much as I could– you really can’t be picky when you are on a tight budget. I think I’m finally starting to understand that.

Ok, so I head out after two glasses of bad chardonnay and a stomach full of the worst California rolls I’ve ever had in my life. Meet Matt at Union Hall, he offers me a beer, and recalling my ground rules, I accept on the grounds that I can treat him to a slice of pizza. Fair trade, no?

Wait a sec, back up– Kayoko, didn’t you just have your dinner? You are supposed to be fulfilled by the 10 or so pieces of sushi you JUST consumed. Folks, here’s another thing about me and my eating habits: I cannot tolerate having an unsatisfying dinner. God, that’s horrible and sounds snobby and self-entitled. Ugh. But it’s true– yes, I did have dinner, technically, and I wasn’t really hungry anymore– but I just couldn’t let that be my dinner. It was out of the question.

So I’ve had this weird obsession with pizza lately, and I’m always craving a slice. We headed to this random pizza place that is right off of Union and 5th Ave. It was sorta creepy, I wish I had taken pictures of it. Yellowing wallpaper and really bizarre garage sale chachke displayed everywhere. And the price chart hanging overhead was one of those really old school ones where you have to put up each letter one by one, like a theater marquee. You know what I’m talking about? This one had a 7Up logo on it– remember when 7Up was huge? This place had probably been around since at least the 70s. Do the Right Thing, baby!

I got a slice with sausage piled on top, it was very satisfying– totally worth the $, just so I could go to bed knowing that my dinner weren’t those nasty california rolls.

Sidenote: Do Say Make Think were excellent live. I guess some of the musicians play with Broken Social Scene (both outta Toronto). They create a wondrous cacophony of noise that, along with the light show, made me think of what it would sound like if a spaceship landed in Brooklyn.


Thursday 3/29
Total Spent: $21.25


Feeling groggy and heavy (it’s the bad wine), so I got a croissant on my way in.

LUNCH–> $0

Aya’s incredible Nappa-wrapped pork. what a treat!!!

DINNER–> $20

Here is where things get a little tricky for $100/2 weeks/NYC. We had made plans to go to a movie at Film Forum with work-related people a while back, so I couldn’t really back out of this, even though I fully knew what this meant: eating and drinking with them. CRAP. Finding a wallet-friendly meal is hard enough, but tagging alcohol onto the bill is guaranteed to drive the bill up. So I did my best to suggest a place that would be “affordable”, i.e. under $20 (even that was pushing it).

I always have a really difficult time finding a place to eat around Film Forum. I had heard from various message boards that Rockmeisha in the West Village served good ramen, so we met there at 8pm.

We ran into Aya and TMonkey there– I’ll let TMonkey really talk about the ramen cause he’s doing this taste test of different ramen joints in the city and will be reporting on it. But just let me say that Rockmeisha’s ramen is just another disappointment in the consistently depressing ramen scene in NYC.

Minca– bad
Momofuku– badder
Rai Rai Ken– baddest

The only place i’ll go to that is DECENT is Menkuitei in midtown (NOT the one in Cooper Square- same shop, but the ramen is not as good).

But the roasted pork at Rockmeisha was good- flavorful, just the right amount of fat, and thinly sliced- I’ll give them that. the noodles, too soft. the soup, not enough depth, despite the heaviness.

Someone, i beg you, open up a ramen shop that is at least CLOSE to the ramen in japan. PLEASE!!!

And the thing is, ramen is NOT CHEAP. this little bowl of tonkotsu ramen that I slurped in under 10 bites? $9.95!!! Dude, I could go to Great NY Noodle Town in Chinatown and get 2.5 BOWLS of their shrimp dumpling noodle soup that trumps this stuff ANY DAY. makes me mad just thinking about it.

3 beers, a starter of hiyayakko (cold tofu) and edamame, and 4 bowls of ramens later, the bill came to be exactly $20 each. I was proud that I didn’t go over that, but not proud that I now officially have less than $30 left and I have only reached the halfway point of $100/2Weeks. WAAAAAAAA!!!!!

$5 + $21.25 = $26.25 + $47 (Day 1-5 total) = $73.25

$100 – $73.25 = $26.75

this is suicide.


ps- i am sorry i didn’t take enough pictures in the last 2 days!

Napa-Wrapped Pork

March 30, 2007

I am so lucky I get to see Kayoko everyday, so I can laugh at her for already blowing half her budget for the $100/2weeks. For lunch I brought leftovers from last night’s dinner and shared them with her — since she is starving this week and all. It’s a fun and easy recipe, and I highly recommend it. You can see it as either a variation on stuffed cabbage or, as Irwin aptly put it, an Atkins’ version of dumplings.

What you need:
1.) Fresh Ground Pork (I suppose you can do this with beef or turkey, too. For veggie recipe, I’d make a firm crumbled tofu – sliced shiitake – cellophane noodle – carrot mix)
2.) Chopped scallions
3.) Freshly grated ginger
4.) An egg (* optional rich coagulant — def necessary for the veggie recipe)
5.) Sesame oil
6.) Napa Cabbage (aka 白菜)

– First, stick the pork in a bowl, throw in the scallions, ginger, egg and a little bit of sesame oil and mash it up with your hands until everything’s all mixed up. You could use a spatula too, I suppose, but using your hands gives you the satisfying feeling that you’re manipulating the food, and plus it achieves an even texture.

– Salt and ground pepper as you wish. Then, take the washed napa leaves and cut them into 2 inch sections, and make little sandwiches of the pork mixture between them.

– Third, stick all the sandwiches vertically in a pot with a lid, and put over medium flame. No water necessary — the water from the napa steam/cooks the pork. Cook for about I dunno, 20 minutes?

– Check up on it now and then. (I don’t have measurements, nor precise times, just feel it out, it’s impossible to go wrong, even if it all falls apart.) Remaining soup after cooking should be saved for use in other soups/stews/broths.

Serve to your loved ones with rice — and ponzu sauce, ideally — and have a happy day.

` ‘ /\ /\
\ (^o * )/ aya

Brooklyn Fish Camp

March 28, 2007

I’ve walked by Brooklyn Fish Camp many a time, and the few times I’d tried to just “drop in” I’d been turned away either by the charming hostess or the long lines (or the hours of operation). Last night, I stumbled there, weak from low blood sugar (lunch sushi from Sunrise Mart never seems to pack enough bang for the buck), to meet Aya, who informed me that there would be a 45 minute wait.

These little things can contribute to one’s overall impression of a place, but I would not be deterred. I’m gullible (yes, I know they removed that word from the Wikipedia) and I am often (too) willing to forgive if I know the intentions are not malicious (this morning I got a Twitter update from my friend Kev that read: “becoming unclear on the distinctions between negligence and malice” to which Aya replied: “negligence is a passive form of malice” though now I would revise that to say that malice implies ill will. Negligence is just laziness, which may or may not have any intention behind it).

The place looked not that crowded — I spotted two two-tops in the back corner. Don’t you hate it when the hostess tells you it’ll be an hour wait and you are staring right at two empty two-tops? In this case, the assessment may have been correct, but not due to lack of seating but rather to under-staffing. I was too bleary to walk the extra block to Blue Ribbon, so we plunked down at the stainless steel bar, and ordered a half dozen Malpeques and two glasses of Txacoli (which, in retrospect, turned out to be the highlight of the meal).

Decor-wise, not too much to write home — I mean, blog — about: homey-ish, kraft paper on the tables (implying greasy fry shack), not too much faux nautical crap hanging from the walls, a nice open kitchen manned by three earnest-looking cookers. The patio seating looked nice, though we took what we could get inside to shorten our wait.

Oh, the oysters. What can you say really about oysters? Either they’re fresh or they’re not. (We’ll not talk about when they’re not.) These were damn fresh, well-treated, and seemed to have marinated perfectly in waters of the Prince Edward Islands. The truth is, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish between a Malpeque and a Kumamoto, but all I know was these ones were right yummy.

But that has more to do with mother nature (and the ability and desire of the chef to get them to our plates post-haste) so hats off to both.

We bypassed the Restaurant Week menu, and went straight for our instinctual choices: for Aya, the Shellfish Bouillabaisse and for me, that would be the Lobster Pot Pie. Ironic that our engrossing dinner conversation had to do with the increasingly ubiquitous sentiment of “Photo/Video or it didn’t happen” because I have no proof that we had either of these dishes.

Unfortunately I cannot say that I failed to photograph them because they were devoured so quickly, that they were so utterly delicious that they made me lose all sense of bloggerly responsibility. No, while the Lobster Pot Pie was well-made and replete with fresh lobster meat and mushrooms and cream, and a butter-rich pastry to cap it off, I found myself searching for a lemon to squeeze into my mouth, a cornichon, anything with acid to cut through the fat bath in my mouth. Yes, there is a point at which cream and butter can become too much. And this crossed that line.

Aya’s Bouillabaisse, while right tasty and, again, full of fresh ingredients, left me slightly less than impressed. My memory latched onto the ridiculously stale piece of bread that was served with the dish. Peasant that I am, the thing about bouillabaisse I look forward to most (after the actual broth itself) is the crusty crouton (garlic rubbed and toasted) with which one mops up the last drops of the soup. There’s something satisfying in pleasing your gullet with flavored starch AND cleaning your plate at the same time. And to this end, we were thwarted as the staleness factor on the bread piece was so old as to be injurious to the teeth (and I have pretty strong ones).

The sides were also middling, we got french fries and broccoli rabe, though I would have expected our entrees would come with some kind of side action (the pot pie surely could have used it). The pile of broccoli rabe was fairly flavorful thanks to the slices of garlic present, but I found myself reaching for some sea salt and olive oil, not finding either. The fries were thin, the shoestring kind, and ultimately became a ketchup-delivery device (especially after the top on the squeeze bottle popped off and splooged ketchup all over the crayon drawings on our kraft-paper. When we alerted our Lynda-Barry-esque waitress to this, she laughed abruptly at it and walked away).

Like I said, it’s the little things that can add up to contribute to one’s overall impression of a place.

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 3,4 & 5

March 28, 2007

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Prologue
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2

Sunday 3/25

Total Spent: $2.50

LUNCH –> $0

everyone, meet Ruby, Ruby, everyone.

i bought Ruby as a christmas gift to myself just this past December– she is a 3 quart Le Creuset dutch oven, in a deep emerald green. i named her after my favorite jazz composition by Thelonious Monk, “Ruby, My Dear”. she is gorgeous, i adore her, and i try to appease her by cooking at least one big dish with her every weekend, so that i also have enough left over for lunch during the week.

this week, i made pasta alla puttanesca.

i was introduced to puttanesca in italy, and often crave it. its origins lie in Napoli (named after local prostitutes, says wiki), and it is a simple sauce of capers, olives, garlic and anchovies. i remember i had been wandering around the grocery store a few months back, trying to figure out what to cook. i randomly found the recipe on the back of a can of italian pureed tomatoes (shown above–honestly, don’t ignore these random recipes, sometimes you’ll find something worth cooking), and bought the ingredients right then and there- all very cheap. i somehow never got around to cooking it though, so everything was just lying around my place, calling for me, begging me to cook with them. the time had come!

let me first apologize- it seems as though i have accidentally thrown away the can with the recipe. i am a horrible food reporter. so i’m just going to link you to Emeril’s recipe (i know i always reference him, but honestly, i find his recipes to be really simple, straightforward, and accessible, he’s not about the fancypants stuff. i like that). this dish is incredibly easy. the hardest part was pitting the kalamata olives. really.

a few adjustments i made to the recipe:
– i did not have an onion, so i put in extra garlic
– watch out when you add the salt- the capers and anchovies are already quite salty, so don’t overdo it
– i didn’t have basil so i added bay leaves
– as an afterthought, i could have added some red wine i had in the fridge- but then again, the capers have enough acidity to them so maybe it wouldn’t have made much of a difference
– anchovies are completely optional- don’t put it in if it’s not your thing (although i hope it’s your thing)
– i only had a box of linguine, so used that instead of penne

altogether, prep time plus cook time was about 45 minutes to an hour. you want to simmer the sauce for at least 30 minutes on low low heat, covered. when done, dump drained pasta into the sauce and mix till each strand is completely coated. i needed some cheesiness, so i shredded some parmigiano on top. not sure if the italians would have approved of this. chopped fresh parsley would have been good to sprinkle on the top as well, but i didn’t have any off hand.

i was a bit skeptical while cooking this, but it turned out quite good, i think. i love this dish for it’s saltiness, with the tarty tang from the capers. the anchovies are incredibly subtle, almost perfumy, and really brings the sauce to life. they didn’t name it after prostitutes for nothing! i have been watching a ridiculous number of Shohei Imamura films lately at BAM–according to him, all women are destined to prostitute themselves at some point. hooray for puttanesca! this one’s for the Insect Woman!

TEA TIME –>$2.50
met up with Alda in Soho for a cup of coffee. but where the hell do you go in Soho for coffee that isn’t overpriced, or isn’t Starbucks? turns out that pastry chef Iacopo Falai opened up a casual little place on Lafayette and Prince, Cafe Falai. i have been to fancy Falai restaurant in the Lower East Side, but wasn’t too impressed- “contemporary” italian. eh. but i do remember the inventive, peculiar desserts, i’ll give him that.

the original Cafe Falai is right across from Falai, so this would be Cafe Falai #2 in Soho. it’s a bustling little place with a small bar and about a dozen or so tables- serving coffee, exquisite cakes and pastries, and brunch/ light munchies. not really my scene, but our cafe au laits hit the spot, and at a $1.50, it may just be the best deal in Soho.

had this work party to go to at Josephina’s restaurant on the Upper West Side. i was really not looking forward to having to schmooze all night, but i knew there would be a buffet and an open bar. SCORE.

when i got to the party, the buffet line was so looooong, so i kept putting it off. by the time any of us were hungry, they had taken away all the food!!!! UGH- we are such amateurs!!! take a look at the cheese board- these people are animals!!!

it’s so sad too cause this was my chance to eat a “nicer” meal during $100/2 wks/NYC. sigh. needless to say, i was starving and only had one pathetic piece of ciabatta bread. we were able to catch some of the dessert action, but Troy Division can tell you about that.

about the food, Kyoko, film historian extraordinaire, said, “The food there was so-so (grilled salmon, pasta with tomato sauce, and I forgot the rest), but desserts were good (very soft chocolate cakes, fruit, creme brulee, etc.).”

so turns out i didn’t miss out on much in the food department. regardless, i had multiple (free) drinks on an empty stomach and was a bit tipsy by the end of the night. you know you’ve been at a party for too long when the open bar turns into a cash bar.


Monday 3/26
Total Spent: $34

LUNCH–> $0
Fumiko brought a leftovers that Jorge made (Fumiko and i have a regular lunch club together- probably for over a year now, we take turns bringing leftovers for lunch. we text each other in the morning to see who is bringing what. it’s really cute. people at work think we are sisters). he created this recipe of chicken stewed with cauliflower, preserved lemons and olives. it was very good. good work Jorge!

DINNER –> $27

ok, this is where my lack of discipline becomes overly apparent and shameful (and is how i got myself into this $100/ 2 weeks/ NYC predicament in the first place). when i have money, i blow it. over a quarter of it. on Blue Ribbon Sushi. but really, i just can’t NOT go to Blue Ribbon Sushi during Brooklyn Restaurant Week (3 courses, $21!)- they have this sushi/sashimi combo as one of the choices, which has never ever let me down. Blue Ribbon is probably one of my favorite sushi spots in the city.

i am a true glutton, so i said YES. i ordered. i ate. i threw down $27. do i regret it? hell no! Troy Division will be telling you more about the meal, so stay tuned.

Associated Supermarket
Park Slope, Brooklyn

after having spent $27 on dinner and feeling slightly guilty about it, i decided to really try hard to be strict at the grocery store. advice: don’t ever skimp on yogurt, no matter how poor you are. my absolute favorite is the Stonyfield Farms french vanilla (cream on the top- ooh la la!), but in a moment of overwhelming discipline, went for the cheapest stuff on the shelf instead. i used to actually get this when i lived in Sunset Park and there were no good grocery stores around- and i don’t remember it being this bad. i don’t even want to talk about it- the fact that i’ll be eating this for the rest of the week upsets me. it’s out: i am a yogurt snob.


Tuesday 3/27
Total Spent: $0.50

BREAKFAST –> $0.50
a banana and tangerine from my fruit stand man. he always gives me a discount, he’s great.

LUNCH–> $0
leftover pasta puttanesca, and i munched on Aya’s awesome grilled asparagus, rice and tomato/egg dish. yum!

came home “early”, at 8:30pm, planning to cook up some chicken that i had defrosted over the weekend. but god, it’s so damn HARD to want to cook after work!!! i ended up just steaming broccoli and making my tuna broccoli dish. it’s about all the energy i could muster to feed myself. i have however, managed to marinate the chicken, but it will need to wait to be cooked another day (gotta do it before it goes bad!!!).

$2.50 + $34 + $0.50= $37 + $10 (Day 1&2) = $47

$100 – $47 = $53

…i’m so royally screwed.


footnote: to answer Jeni’s question: yes, all this INCLUDES tax and tip. everyone, please pray for me.

The Best Soup Dumplings in Manhattan

March 26, 2007

I made this little video this weekend. Check it out and let me know what you think! It’s the first in a series…

The Best Soup Dumplings in Manhattan

I was inspired to take some photos and make a regular ol’ blog post, but then I decided to mess around and try to distill it into a little video. One thing I can say: it’s a completely different art to try to express something in video as opposed to words. Quite frankly, it feels a little “dumbed-down” or bullet-pointed. But then again, it’s a completely different medium! Hope you like my little experiment.

Yuba County

March 26, 2007

Over the weekend, I spent some time in Nikko which is about three hours away from Tokyo. Most people go for the gaudy shrines – wooden and painted in bright red and gold reflecting Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu’s glory. Anyhow, the weather wasn’t very agreeable – so there was nothing else to do except…EAT!

Turns out, this place is famous for yuba or tofu skin. No complaints here as this is one of my favorite foods – and within the top 5 things I miss the most when in the States.

-yoko in tokyo

Pictured top right Yuba soba – buckwheat noodles with two types of yuba – in a roll and in flat layers. Absolutely delicious as the noodles were also handmade at this shop. 700yen (about $6)!

Pictured below Yuba shabu shabu – yuba hot pot. Throw in yuba and veggies into a clay pot full of soy milk – absolutely wonderful. 2,500yen (about $20+).

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2

March 25, 2007

before i start, let me lay out some ground rules for $100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC:
– i cannot be “taken out” for a meal, but i would love it if you would cook for me!
– i will, however, graciously accept “in-kind donations” if we go out. example, if you get a side of fries, i am allowed to steal a few (something i would do anyways)
– having drinks is INCLUDED in the $100 limit
– generally, i don’t eat breakfast (bad habit i picked up when living in italy), just yogurt and granola if i do at home before leaving the house, so i will usually only be talking about lunch and dinner (but will include breakfast if i spend $ on it at some point)
– i may not be able to find time to blog everyday, but you will just need to trust that i am not cheating

ok, here goes!

Friday, 3/24
Total Spent: $6

– leftovers from Sepi’s delish Nouroz dinner party
–> $0

– decided on Mee Noodle Shop in midtown after seeing a performance at my work. a bustling chinese takeout place (at least during lunch), with decent noodle soups. i’m sorta feeling under the weather so i got the large chicken noodle soup and the three of us shared the meat buns. i especially love their chicken noodle soup cause it comes in this metal tin bowl, like we’re camping or something.
–> $6


Saturday 3/24
Total Spent: $4

– i’m rushing to make it to a movie at BAM, with not so much time. after burrowing around in my fridge for a sec, i find frozen shrimp from Trader Joe’s– so i decide on a shrimp and scallion omelet (i saw a video piece by Mark Bittman about a month ago, which inspired me. LOVE Bittman!).

i make the rice, and the omelet is done in literally 5 minutes. ALWAYS good to have frozen shrimp from TJ’s in the freezer- it really adds that extra umph when you need some thing to add to salads or fried rice or whatever. as a rule, i always also have eggs and scallions in the fridge for the same reason.
–> $0

simple ingredients of eggs, scallions and shrimp.


run frozen shrimp under cold water for about 4-5 minutes.


heat up about a teaspoon of oil (veggie or olive, your preference) into a pan, and add chopped scallions and shrimp- fry for about a minute. add eggs. cook to preferred runniness.

serve egg concoction over steamed rice, and season with salt, fresh ground pepper and soy sauce (preference). et voila! you have a delicious protein-packed meal in under 10 minutes.


– after the movie, we head up to this relatively new burger place up the street from BAM called 67 Burger. it’s sorta pricey, about $7-8 for gourmet burgers, but they had a grilled cheese on the menu for $3.75. excellent.
–> $4

very crowded by 6pm.


excellent grilled cheese–you even get to choose what kind of cheese you want (american, cheddar, swiss, blue, pepper jack). AND, the tomatoes and onions were free additions! SCORE! the garlic pickle chips are also worth noting– they passed the crunchy/ salty/ sour test, vital for pickles.


fries were good, freshly fried. they had all sorts of great beers on tap too: Bass, Stella and Blue Point. thanks Fumiko and Troy for sharing this!! Fumi’s blue cheese burger was very good as well (i of course stole a bite!!)– from what i can tell the bun didn’t get all soggy with grease, which is the downfall of many a hamburgers in this city.

COMBINED TOTAL: $6 + $4 = $10
LEFT FOR 12 DAYS: $100 – $10 = $90


なまがきfest Part II: Jackpot

March 23, 2007

Ever since reading Aya’s “なまがき fest: Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar” post, I had been out on a mission to eat oysters. Which has since brought me to Shimokitazawa’s Jackpot Oyster Kitchen twice. There’s something perfect about celebrating pay day (which, by the way, seems to have coincided for those of you in NY and us in Tokyo today) on a Friday with a delicacy like oysters.

And oysters I ate indeed. A complimentary oyster is brought along with drinks – marinated in vinegar. Then we got our 1/2 dozen raw oysters – all from different parts of Japan – labeled with cute little toothpicks with flags declaring their origin. I must admit that one of the key points that brought me back to Jackpot was their woodstone oven. We ordered a four cheese pizza with just the right amount of blue cheese. We also got some vegetable sticks with miso dipping sauce, baked Provence-style oysters, oyster spaghetti, oyster/shrimp pie (pictured) and baked salmon. Coming straight from work on a Friday night, upon ordering I wasn’t sure if this was going to be enough food for the three of us (my mom, her husband Lakshman and I). But this was a lot of food in retrospect.

Overall – the oyster spaghetti was awesome. The pizza is one of the best I’ve had in Tokyo (sadly, Tokyo is not the best place for pizza). I can do without the big screen tv that barfs out MTV Japan endlessly though (thankfully, it’s on mute).

– yoko in tokyo