Eat me – Said Crif Dogs

I personally think the best time to visit New York City is when a friend who lives there is available and at your disposal. If you go on your own you will most likely miss out on places like Crif Dogs, and I cannot explain how big of a shame that would be.

Crif Dogs has been an East Village staple since it’s opening in 2001, and I had definitely heard about the speakeasy with a wiener hanging in front as a mascot demanding to be eaten. But a year of living in the East Village had passed and I still hadn’t gone, so I made it a priority. It’s so sad to think I had this magical place right under my nose for so long.

After walking down some steps, some classic arcade games, and a crowd of people drinking PBR,  feast your eyes on the menu above the check out counter. They offer everything from beef or pork dogs to smoked and deep fried dogs to veggie dogs, each with it’s own clever nick name of course.

The chihuahua is my choice; it’s a bacon wrapped hot dog with sour cream and avocado. It’s pretty light, and surprisingly refreshing. That is until you start eating the waffle fries you said you’d “share” with your roommate.

Then it’s just about the least expensive, most satisfying lunch or dinner you may find in the city.

Home Away from Home… In My Belly

In the US, by the time most people have graduated college they are living away from their parents and are not coming back. I am no exception. I was working in NYC for 2 years before moving to Melbourne, Australia to work and holiday with the best of them! Since I’m in a completely different time zone it seems okay to feel a little hint of homesickness.

I not only miss US/NY type of things like, say, Hulu, Spodify, Netflix, driving, Broadway, I also miss the food. Mostly, my favorite restaurants in New York. I will now name a few: Meatball Shop, Bianca, Freeman’s, Crif Dogs, Westville, Grey Dogs, Caracas*, Clinton Street Bakery, Eataly, Socarrat, the fried chicken and bread pudding at Blue Ribbon Bakery. I could go on forever but I won’t because you’ll get bored and I’ll get hungry. The good news is that there is an abundance of delicious restaurants in Melbourne to keep me occupied and not wondering how long the line at Shake Shack is right now.

I’ve been a wanderer since I was 14 and have lived away from my family for some time now so I couldn’t figure out why this trip to Australia was different than all the others. There was something that was keeping my home sickness alive and present to the point where I’d lay in fetal position to speak on the phone with parents or send my sister pictures of everything in sight, begging for some in return.

See, I grew up eating Venezuelan food: Arepas, tequenos, empanadas, caphapas, flan, tres leches. I found a few “Venezuelan” restaurants here, but they were liars. It wasn’t the same at all. They have no idea what they were doing and I’d just leave angry every time! I didn’t throw anything but I was definitely at that level. Then one day the skies split in two, a bright light came down and landed directly on a Venezuelan flag swaying beautifully in the wind in front of an Cruzao Arepa Bar down Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. I walked in and heard the music my mom use to play in the kitchen while cooking, I didn’t hear it metaphorically, this is literal. I looked around as if I were the host of a cooking show on the verge of giving my verdict! It was almost the spitting image of what it should have been. Big, messy plates of food, arepas overflowing with different meats, avocado and beans, cheese perfectly melting out of the side of the cachapa, juices offered in every color a crayon comes in. I felt my heart smile. I was home, in the form of food.

I think the problem was I’d never gone longer than a few weeks without eating Venezuelan food, the food I so easily associate with my  family. Now, I’m not saying that the complete reason for feeling home sick was not eating a certain type of food. No. What I’m saying is that eating Venezuelan food, took the sick away from home sick and made me happy. I felt normal again.

That is one of the main reasons why I’ve always loved food. I think it’s a clear representation of different cultures and helps keep memories alive. Food is not only essential in every day life; it’s the best way to connect with others. As cheesy as it may sound, having a bite of that arepa took me on a 30-hour plane ride back to Florida, straight to my parents house.

Do you have certain meal or type of food that you associate with home or family?

*If you’re in NYC/Brooklyn, please go to Caracas and try anything. It’s brilliant Venezuelan food.

Bianca (The Restaurant not the Person)

In lieu of my mom’s birthday I thought I’d write about her favorite restaurant, which just happens to be called the same thing as my parents favorite daughter. 

It’s me! Bianca!  

Located down Bleecker Street (the best street in NYC in my opinion) this gem of a restaurant is beautifully decorated; simple and sweet. Everything is white, the walls are lined with a gorgeous, yet subtle display of plates and flowers. The space is small but you don’t have to sit as close to the table next to you as you would think. When you walk in you get the feeling that can only be described as “Coming Home’. That is, if your home is in Florence, Italy and your mom is known for cooking Italian feasts.

The first time we sat down at Bianca and looked at the menu we weren’t sure what to do. We wanted to try every plate there was, but how embarrassing that would be indeed! Instead we each picked a plate, three appetizers and a bottle of red wine. I’ll only list them out below because we’ve gone back over 5 times and always get the same thing.

Appetizers: Gnocco Fritto (You have too!), Chicken Liver Deglazed with aged Balsamic Vinegar TIMES 2. (I get that the word liver scares you but you also have too!

Entrees: Gnocci con Fromagio (Gorgonzola), Spaghettini al Pomodoro, Tagliolini al Frutti di Mare, Lasagna, Straccetti di Manzo (Filet Mignon).

Dessert: Tiramisu, Chocolate Mousse Cake glazed in a bitter sweet chocolate ganache. 

I have to admit the appetizers are our favorite part. The Gnocco Fritto is a very typical Italian dish but it’s rarely found in Italian restaurants. Especially this well done! If you like Gorgonzola cheese, you should get the Gnocci con Fromagio with extra napkins because chances are you will be trying to lick the sauce off the plate. It’s what I get/do and I’m not embarrassed to admit it.

Not one plate is ever left with food on it, or sauce for that matter. It’s amazing what a family of five can consume… or maybe it’s only our family. My Dad loves it because it’s guaranteed he’ll be able to use his favorite joke. ”We didn’t like it too much” he’ll say to the waiter clearing our empty plates. Half the time they get it, half the time they don’t but he always takes the chance and I actually do think it’s funny.

What I’m trying to say is go to Bianca. Now! Run! No, seriously speaking take your time but get there at 5pm when they open because it will be packed with people by 6pm and they don’t take reservations. Or credit cards, cash only. But don’t fret about the cash, as my mom always says as we walk home, “I feel like we just robbed them”.