Archive for the ‘$100/2wks/NYC’ Category

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Epilogue

April 9, 2007

$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
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Midway Meditation
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 8, 9 & 10
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 11 & 12
$100/2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 13 &14

I made it! For a while there, I totally thought I wouldn’t, or that I couldn’t. You have no idea how many times I wanted to cheat and have a few more rounds, or go all out at the grocery store (getting that really bad yogurt was a real low point for me–I still have a cup left in the fridge! I just can’t bring myself to eat it!).

Looking back, it was both difficult and easy, only having $100 for two weeks- I mean, if I can do it, anyone can– it’s just a matter of being conscientious about what you put your money towards. ALL THE TIME. And I guess that is what was hardest for me: always having to count my pennies, and make sure that I was in the clear; that I had to be stingy with my money, and always have to think 3 days ahead about what I could budget in, according to where I would be going out for the evening. I mean, all of these points aren’t bad things to keep in mind (except i HATE being stingy), but just a very intensive, calculating thought process. But in the end, I learned that it really is a survival method for those of us on a low-low budget, who like to eat well.

Five Lessons from $100/2Weeks:

1.) Pack a lunch: one of the ONLY ways I made it through the last two weeks was by packing a lunch everyday. This is absolutely essential. Cook a big pot of something during the weekend that you could pack for lunch for a few days. Yoko says that she brings a tuna sandwich with her to work everyday, and uses that lunch money to splurge on yummy dinners. VERY SMART. You could save at least $40/week by packing lunch, that’s $120 a month! Dude, go to Sushi Yasuda for an omakase dinner with that money!

2.) Be creative in your kitchen: keep stuff in the freezer and pantry– having Trader Joe’s frozen foods and other random stuff in the freezer really saved me, as did other ingredients to make my puttanesca sauce or my shrimp omelet. You’ll be surprised at how much you have in the depths of your cupboards– it’s time you used some of that stuff you bought on sale at the grocery store months ago that you forgot about.

3.) It is ok to say NO: if you know you REALLY should not go out cause you’re broke and your friends want to go out fancy, say no. It’s ok, you’ll see your friends some other time, it’s not the end of the world, and you’ll be proud of your demonstration of will-power. But if you really really really NEED to see them (it’s been a bad day, and all you need is a beer and some good company)…

4.) Suggest a cheaper option: maybe happy hour? 2 for 1 drinks, then pizza on the corner? Or for dinner, you can veer your crew towards Chinatown. Entice them with visions of soup dumplings and fresh soft shell crab (tis the season!). If everyone wants something a bit more upscale, do your research and go somewhere BYOB. Plenty of places in the city who can’t seem to get their liquor license: take advantage of their misfortune!!!

5.) Know yourself and your schedule: don’t buy vegetables or fresh foods/ take chicken and meats out of the freezer, if you know that you won’t have time to cook them during the week. If you have a more expensive dinner penciled in for the week, make sure you balance that by cooking and eating cheap during the other days. Most importantly though, don’t beat yourself up over not having money: it’s ok to splurge once in a while. This will seriously keep your sanity in check, and keep you from going bonkers and accidentally spending your entire allowance on one single night (been there, done that). It’s all about moderation.

I am going to conclude this post with a picture that inspired it all:
EAT MY NUTS NY!!! I did it! Living here costs WAY too much, but it is possible to eat well, on a tight budget, with just some effort. But there is NO WAY I would have been able to make it these last few weeks without the support of my dear friends. Thank you for putting up with me! I love you!!!!

*k*

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 13 & 14

April 6, 2007

$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
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Midway Meditation
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 8, 9 & 10
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 11 & 12

Here it is, the final push– my final two days. Will I make it? Read on, my friend, read on.

Wednesday 4/4
Total Spent: $8

LUNCH–> $0
Fumiko and Kayoko Lunch Club. I have leftover Thai string beans and Nasi Goreng from the day before. Fumi brought this delicious stewed squid that Jorge made, Provencal style with just onions, tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh chile peppers. Squid is SO good! It’s a seafood that is so often overlooked, but you can do such great things with it. And what’s more, is it’s cheap!

DINNER–> $8
I had a horrible day at work, but Fumiko lured me to her place for dinner by telling me she’s making mine and Jorge’s favorite dish: Pitan Tofu Salad. More on that in a sec.

I don’t want to come over empty handed, so i bought a bottle of this Cabernet from Spain on the way to their place. At $8, it wasn’t very good–even though it had a big deep dent on the bottom of the bottle, and it was 13.5% alcohol, which is how W(h)ine-o has suggested we choose our wine–but at that price, I’ll take what I can get.

Ok, so this salad. It is just delightful. She got the recipe from Harumi Kurihara, who is basically the Martha Stewart of Japan. A true housewife guru who Fumiko and I model ourselves after. BAH!

Here is what you need for the Pitan Tofu Salad (apologies if I botch the spelling of the Chinese words, this is just how I know to say it in Japanese):
– 1 Pitan, which in Chinese is a “1000 year old egg”. It is essentially a preserved duck egg, which turns black over time (is my guess). They are delicious, really, and can be bought by the half dozen in Chinatown. Gotta love Chinatown.

– Soft fresh tofu

– Green onions, chopped

Zasai, or preserved Chinese pickled cabbage, also can get in Chinatown

– Shaved ginger and sesame seeds to your liking

Literally, all you need to do is chop all of the above into bite size pieces, and drizzle some soy sauce on top. That’s it. It’s easy peasy and a real crowd pleaser. At least this crowd. Thanks Fumi and Jorge for yet another wonderful dinner. xx.

***

Thursday 4/5
*FINAL DAY*

Total Spent: $3

BREAKFAST–> $3
So I’m totally sick, and thought that I should get a vitamin packed veggie/ fruit drink on my way into work to cure me. I work in Midtown Manhattan, and dude, this juice bar place charged me $3 for this tiny tiny cup of carrot/ apple/ orange juice. CRAZY!!! Look at this cup! It was all over after 3 sips! New York makes me so mad…


LUNCH–> $0
My biggest supporter, Dawn, at work wanted to celebrate her birthday and the last day of my $100/ 2 weeks with a special lunch with the rest of our department. Isn’t she the best??

There are about 7 of us total in the Film and Performing Arts department at my work, and we try to all get together for a potluck lunch once in a while, where we all contribute something. For this, Dawn brought salad and quiche, Yoko brought curry, Mari brought this delish mushroom concoction that we topped on pieces of baguette, and I brought rice. These lunches are a lot of fun when we actually get our act together and do it. Troy Division told me that he does this with his department at BAM too. Eating really does bring people together!

Mari’s husband’s heavenly mushroom medley:
– 3 kinds of mushrooms, sliced (I need to double check with her what exactly they were, but I’m gonna guess they were portobello, shiitake and something else)

– anchovies

– garlic

– fresh thyme

– lots of olive oil

Add salt, mix it all together and let it sit for one night. This stuff was SO GOOD, and it sounded very easy to make. The olive oil was infused with the taste of mushrooms and thyme and garlic– the oil soaked bread was the best part. YUMMY. I will check with Mari about the exact recipe, and get back to you about it.

Dawn bought a bacon quiche and asparagus quiche at Whole Foods that was VERY GOOD. Really rich and decadent, the pastry was flakey and buttery. Just as a quiche should be. The bacon was perfectly salty and the asparagus quiche really tasted asparagus-y. Excellent.

I could not have dreamed of a more fitting way to celebrate the end of my $100/ 2 Weeks– food that emphasizes fresh ingredients and highlights various tastes and cultures, with the people who I see most often in my daily life, sitting in our romantic work kitchen. Thank you everyone!!!

DINNER–> $0
I was still feeling sick, so I just hurried home so I could rest up. I just boiled some soba noodles and had hot soup. It’s really my ultimate comfort food, and I am happy to report that it was my final supper for my $100/2 weeks/ NYC!

***
Drumroll please…

COMBINED TOTAL:
$8 + $3 + $84.25 (Day 1-12 total) = $95.25

LEFT FOR 0 DAYS:
$100 – $95.25= $4.75

WOO-HOO!!!! I made it with almost $5 leftover!!!! WOW! I’m speechless… it’s been one hell of a ride…

*k*

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 11 & 12

April 4, 2007

$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
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Midway Meditation
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 8, 9 & 10

Monday 4/2

Total Spent: $0

LUNCH–> $0

Fumiko and Kayoko Lunch Club. Fumiko brought leftovers from her Malaysian dinner in Chinatown on Sunday night. I’ve been to this place with her and Jorge before– seriously the best Malaysian food (i don’t have such an extensive knowledge of Malaysian food, but this place was THE spot). it is hidden in this little alleyway between Elizabeth and Bowery. it’s a great little secret– i don’t even know what it’s called!

DINNER–> $0

i’m feeling like hell, so i went home early and went straight to bed (wait, i blogged too, apparently…). just had a congee-like dish of white rice and egg. warms the soul when you are sick.

***

Tuesday 4/3
Total Spent: $1

BREAKFAST
–> $1

two bananas and an orange from my Fruit Stand Man.

LUNCH–> $0

my fridge is literally empty at the moment, so what did i do? i went through my freezer when i woke up this morning. this is what i found:

thank goodness for Trader Joe’s. i bought this stuff probably about a month ago– always so smart to have Trader Joe’s frozen foods stashed away for emergency meals. ALWAYS. this Thai green bean dish is a relatively new item i think, at TJ’s– at least i had never seen it before.

Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian rice dish– i had always been curious about this but never bought it because i always ended up with the Biriyani instead (the BEST). i finally got this i remember, because they were out of the Biriyani (the TJ’s in Union Square is the most poorly stocked place EVER! sometimes i walk out with literally, nothing. it’s maddening).

so literally, all you need to do with both these dishes is put them in a frying pan with a little bit of oil. that’s IT. no water, no spices, no nothing. you open the bag, discard beans and rice over the pan, et voila!, you have both dishes finished in 10 minutes. it’s miraculous- something you can do even at 8 in the morning, i promise.


and just as i thought, these dishes went very well together. the snowpeas, carrots and mushrooms in the Nasi Goreng tasted fresh considering they had been frozen; and the green beans were crispy. the sauce for the green beans wasn’t too salty, a light soy flavor, with some bite to it.

this lunch was assembled under 10 minutes, cost under $5, is vegetarian, and there was enough for about 3 meals. Trader Joe’s, i salute you.

DINNER–> $0

had to go to a lecture at Columbia. the second i walked onto the campus, i was transported back to my college days– the frenzy of learning, the uncompromised idealism, the palpable academic synergy. i was nostalgic for a hot second, and then the rush ended– i am no longer a part of that world.

but god, remember college? being broke and hungry all the time and then blowing your money on really outlandish activities and everything when you actually had it? wait… not much has changed, has it? pretty depressing if you think about it. i may be totally financially independent now, but i still spend my money in ridiculous ways like i used to in my college days. sigh…

ok, so anyways, the lecture: disappointing. however, there was a SUSHI reception afterwards. man, oh man, what a delightful surprise– so happy i somehow stayed strong and made it through the bore-a-thon lecture.

there is nothing less attractive than watching the hungry masses descend upon free food, so here are a few pointers to make it look like you are NOT there just for the food:

– observe, and wait until the initial crowd dies down and (finally) leaves the food table– although this may take a while, you DON’T want to be a part of that ugly scene

– hang back and have a few drinks: usually, people are so preoccupied with getting their grubby hands on the food, that the bar is totally deserted. take advantage– free alcohol is just as exciting as free food

– work the crowd: take your drink and talk to people you recognize (better to get the talking/ schmoozing out of the way BEFORE you start eating)

– NEVER follow the servers with the passed hors d’oeuvres around. BIG NO NO!!!

buon appetito!!! there’s nothing like a free sushi dinner when you are living on $100 for 2 weeks!

***
COMBINED TOTAL:
$1 + $83.25 (Day 1-10 total) = $84.25

LEFT FOR 2 DAYS:
$100 – $84.25= $15.75

*k*

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 8, 9 & 10

April 3, 2007

$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
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Midway Meditation

Friday 3/30
Total Spent: $0

LUNCH–> $0

i boiled some penne in the morning and married it with some of the puttanesca that i had left over from last Sunday’s batch. seriously, it doesn’t get any easier than dumping a handful of dry pasta into a pot of boiling water, even at 8 in the morning. desperate times call for desperate measures! and the sauce flavors were a lot deeper after letting it sit for a few days. shave some parmigiano on top, and you have yourself an easy peasy lunch.

DINNER–> $0

we had plans to travel to Jersey City to visit this historic Loew’s theater, where they were showing Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity on their gigantic screen (excellent film, Raymond Chandler is such a GREAT writer). it really is a magical, gorgeous theater, very gaudy and ornate, but it was abandoned for a long time so it has this brooding, dilapidating, Death in Venice morbidness to it. love it– totally worth the trip out there. we got a tour backstage and boy, what a labyrinth! the place is HUGE! it’s been around since the 20’s, and the community banded together in the 80s and stopped the city from tearing it down– volunteers basically run the place and are continuously restoring the theater as we speak. incredible!

so anyway, i think i sorta found the trick to how to stay out late without starving. it’s all about food conservation. i ate about half of the pasta for lunch, and saved the other half of it and ate it at around 5pm right before leaving for the night. that’s it! i didn’t get hungry for the rest of the night! brilliant!

it was sad though, when i had to say no to a meal in Koreatown back in Manhattan with my friends. i HATE saying no! especially to Koreatown!!!

***

Saturday 3/31
Total Spent: $0

i wish i could be more exciting, but i randomly came down with a bad fever on Saturday so i ended up really not eating anything or going out the entire day. i even missed Dawn’s birthday party. so sorry Dawn! happy birthday!!!!

***

Sunday 4/1
Total Spent: $10

Lunch–> $0

still feeling pretty groggy, i just had some instant miso soup.

GROCERIES–> $10
Key Foods
Washington Ave., Prospect Heights

grocery shopping in my neighborhood is not something i really look forward to. i basically have to walk about 15 minutes for the nearest DECENT store, which saddens me because there are few things that i find true pleasure in then grocery shopping (i know, it’s weird).

whenever i walk in, there is always this slight medicinal smell. it’s so not ok. but really, i can’t complain, their produce isn’t all that bad (i’ve definitely seen worse), and they carry good yogurts, which is all i can really ask for.

so i came out with a quart of Brown Cow maple yogurt (at $4.50, pricey as hell, but i’m sick so i splurge– Brown Cow is creamy and rich and so so good), broccoli, organic eggs (on sale, otherwise, i don’t generally care if my eggs are organic or not, although i do like them brown), scallions and bottled marinara sauce (on sale for $2.50).

DINNER–> $0

i was planning on just chilling out Sunday night, maybe go to see a movie, maybe just stay in, when i got a phone call from Troy, my old landlord (not to be confused with Troy Division). i talk about them a lot, him and his partner, Kumiko– they are basically my surrogate family out here in NY. i found my first apartment off of Craigslist in Sunset Park, and since i moved here without knowing anyone, Troy and Kumiko, who own the building, welcomed me into the neighborhood and into their home. they truly are wonderful people, and some of my dearest friends here in NY– they really take care of me and look out for me. it’s nice to have that in such a lonesome city, and i truly think that if i didn’t have them here, i would have left NY long ago. even though i’ve moved away, i still try to see them a few times a month.

ok, so back to my dinner. Troy knew i was sick and told me that Kumiko was making nabe, which is a traditional japanese stew, perfect for cold winter nights. this is EXACTLY what sickly Kayoko needed. and on top of this wonderful dinner invitation, Troy said he would pick me up. LUCKY ME!!!!

Kumiko is an excellent cook– she just puts stuff together and creates the most inventive, tasty dishes. this night, she said she threw in whatever she had in the fridge and freezer: fresh shiitake mushrooms, snow peas, scallions, carrots, crabmeat, shrimp, chicken breast, tofu and ground pork balls that she had used to stuff cabbage the night before. amazing. this was all simmering in a soymilk based broth that really brought out all the flavors of the ingredients in the pot. mmmmm… so hearty and soulful!

and in the japanese tradition, once you eat to your heart’s content, you add rice or noodles at the end to finish it off. we had ours with udon. slurp!

Tweezy, their bratty yet darling french bulldog, was one happy lad after our fabulous nabe feast– he eats everything!

***
COMBINED TOTAL:
$10 + $73.25 (Day 1-7 total) = $83.25

LEFT FOR 4 DAYS:
$100 – $83.25= $16.75

i’m gonna make it!!!

*k*

$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!!!

*k*

$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

$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.

DINNER–> $5

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

BREAKFAST–> $1.25

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!!!!!

***
COMBINED TOTAL:
$5 + $21.25 = $26.25 + $47 (Day 1-5 total) = $73.25

LEFT FOR 7 DAYS:
$100 – $73.25 = $26.75

this is suicide.

*k*

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

$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.

DINNER –>$0
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.

GROCERIES–>$7
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!

DINNER–>$0
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!!!).

***
COMBINED TOTAL:
$2.50 + $34 + $0.50= $37 + $10 (Day 1&2) = $47

LEFT FOR 9 DAYS:
$100 – $47 = $53

…i’m so royally screwed.

*k*

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

$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

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

DINNER
– 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

LUNCH
– 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.

***

DINNER
– 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

*k*

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Prologue

March 23, 2007

it’s payday. and while this should be a celebratory occasion, i’ve gotta pay my april rent with this one, which is sadly all but $100 of it. for any fiscally responsible adult, this should be no problem- money made from both paychecks should be equally distributed throughout the month. ha! what a concept! i spend it when i have it–i shop, i eat, i drink– and then, POOF! it’s all gone in record time (at least this is what has happened in the past month). Suze Orman would have a ball with this one.

so to stick with my new year’s resolution of “living within my means”, i am going to try to eat on $100 for the next two weeks starting today. for those of you that live in New York, you KNOW how difficult this is going to be. 14 days, $100, that’s $7.14/day, $2.38/meal . are you kidding me???? i mean, this is a city where charging $7 for a Bud Light is considered NORMAL!

this will be two weeks of cooking, digging far back into my pantry and freezer for improvising, doggy bagging, traveling far to find dirt cheap eating, and possibly groveling– all of which will be documented for your reading entertainment. remember that part in Half-Baked when Dave Chappelle takes Mary Jane out and he only has $5 in his pocket? yeah, that’s me for the next 2 weeks.

i’ll be sure to update you daily. let the games begin…

taken on my way to work yesterday, on Franklin Avenue- friggin fantastic. very appropriate attitude for the next two weeks. EAT MY NUTS New York City! screw you and your overpriced cost of living!!! $100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC- it is SO ON!

*k*