Kristalbelli: high-end KBBQ

I live across the street from Koreatown, Manhattan, so as you’d imagine I have eaten a lot of korean food. Most restaurants on the ktown block are either cafe/bakery types or casual dinner style restaurants, and there are so many late-night 24 hour restaurants as well to accommodate the after-clubbing crowd. If you ask me what’s the best restaurant here, it’s tough to say– out of the ones I’ve tried, they are all very similar in price and quality. Pretty yummy, a little expensive if you’re doing bbq, and often with long lines during dinner rush.


Well, take a walk a few blocks north to 36th street and you’ll find Kristalbelli, a much more high-end Korean restaurant. It has a modest, almost hidden entrance from the street, but the decor inside is worth appreciating and the experience is so unique! For one, each table is equipped with a laughing buddha centerpiece with a crystal belly (I’m guessing, hence the name “kristalbelli”). We were told that the crystal heats up to 2-3 x hotter than the oridinary metal grills.
IMG_5881And since it is transparent, you can see the blue flames underneath — too cool. Something else to note– you won’t see some of the usual kalbi or other marinated meats on the menu. Instead, there’s more American-style steak choices like sirloin, wagyu, and ribeye. The menu is an interesting mix of common dishes like japchae and dumplings, as well as more sophisticated and unique options. We went with a combo, and I was really happy with it. [We actually used a groupon which had a separate menu to order off of, but the selection was good nonetheless.]

Onto the food…IMG_5882

Amuse Bouche

A crostini with a schmear of cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon and a dainty sprout. Simple, yummy, not very Korean.

Translation: “dish of 9 dishes.” I’d describe this as a make-your-own korean tacos, with rice cake-like crepes. The presentation was very cute — dainty thin crepes, and a long dish that serves as an assembly line for your fillings + the smallest tongs in the world. Build the “taco” with whatever fillings you want — naturally I tried stuffing a little of everything in, drizzled the dressing, dolloped the red pepper paste, and took a huge bite. The fillings are similar to bibimbap toppings, so that’s the first thing that came to mind when I ate it. Tasty, and a really good date night dish — go ahead, make one for your plus 1.



I couldn’t find this on their regular menu, but our dish was slices of raw tuna wrapped around cabbage and dressed with a light sauce, similar to sushi without the rice. It wasn’t very flavorful, and the tuna was strangely dry. I imagine they might be testing this dish out. Presentation was pretty, but I was missing the sweet taste of fresh tuna.

BBQ: Aged Rib Eye

Our waiter “highly recommended” the aged steak, which is purchased from the same vendor as Peter Luger’s. We happily obliged and asked for a larger portion — meat upgrade! And it was so worth it. Buttery and rich, with a thick layer of fat around the edges and nice marbling, super fresh. The BBQ is full-waiter service, as in you are completely pampered. A bit of fat is trimmed from the steak and used to grease the crystal, the steak is cooked to your desired doneness and you are offered a sample before it is served. Then they leave so you can savor the deliciousness. Some sweet potato and onion are thrown on too as aromatics. We sheepishly asked if they supply lettuce leaves to wrap the meat, so I’ll tell you now that they just don’t do it that way and save you some trouble haha.IMG_5889

IMG_5887It is served with all the accoutrements: a trio of sides (fermented beans, macaroni salad, cucumber kimchi), pickled pink radish slices, kimchi. Again, no seasoning or marinade so you dip the meat into some coarse aged sea salt (did not even know this existed), or some mustardy sauce. I definitely preferred the simplicity of some good salt — it really lets the quality of the meat shine through.

IMG_5890Bulgogi Dupbap

Not much to say, but the meat they use is very tender. It’s standard fare, simple and delicious. It is not served with gochujang and we did not ask, thinking it’s probably also just not done that way. It doesn’t really need it, but I was missing the hint of sweet+spicy.


Korean pancakes! Filled with brown sugar, honey, pine nuts, and cinnamon, served with vanilla ice cream. Oh my god-level deliciousness. It is made from rice flour so it’s like a flattened mochi, filled with melty sugary goodness, and fried until crisp on both sides. I was getting ridiculously full at this point but I could not stop eating it. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. It’s something that I haven’t really seen at any other Korean restaurants, aside from Grace St which I believe is only served after 5pm.

IMG_5893Matcha Affogato

I’ve been obsessed/stuck on this fancy-sounding Italian dessert after watching a Bobby Flay marathon. Affogato sounds fancy, but is really quite a simple nonetheless delicious and lovely dessert. It is traditionally a scoop of gelato topped with a shot of espresso. Here is an Asian take — ice cream mochi topped with a dollop of red bean paste with sweetened condensed green tea that you drizzle to your liking. We poured the entire thing in, a bit too hastily, and it ended up being too sweet for my taste. The condensed green tea is VERY sweet, so proceed with caution. All of the other components are also very sweet, so it was a bit of a sugar overload. I would’ve liked a tall glass of milk to go with it, or to dilute the tea. If you like patbingsu, mochi, or matcha, you will probably enjoy this.

IMG_5892Rice Cake Ice Cream

Aka, mochi. We got sent this dessert by accident, so it was graciously deemed on the house. Essentially it was the same as the affogato, with less components. Kind of meh, wouldn’t recommend. These are easy to find at any Asian grocery store.

All in all, Kristabelli deserves a 4.5/5.

The service was excellent throughout the entire meal. The waiters are fluent in English, something very notable for a Korean restaurant, and were present but not overbearing. Ours was so knowledgeable about everything! We threw a lot of questions at him and he had the answers. I think this is an awesome restaurant for higher-end barbecue and Korean food. Because a “higher-end” Asian restaurant is difficult to come by, I think this deserves some credit. You won’t smell like smoke when you leave either, because there are built-in vents around the crystal center — VERY appreciated.



Aureole: upping the classy in Midtown

Restaurant Week is pretty much a hit-or-miss. Although I’m not a huge fan of RW (quite a few misses have been experienced), somehow I always find myself checking out a handful of restaurants every season. Aureole falls into the hit category.

The exterior is beautiful. The interior is even more so: modern, sophisticated, sleek, and airy with high ceilings that showcase the chandeliers and the wine cellar. A surprisingly quiet and classy atmosphere so close to Times Square, and manages to not be uncomfortable or snooty. IMG_5547

Onto the food…
THE BREAD: A nice setup of wooden bowls with 4 different types of breads, served with a lovely large pat of butter because butter makes everything better. My friend asked for some olive oil, which was easily accommodated. The rosemary focaccia was yummy, a tad salty but fluffy and chewy. Avoid the temptation to try all 4 breads and save room for the large portions.



GAZPACHO:  This dish appears on (too) many RW menus. I’m usually not a fan, but the gazpacho was one of the better ones I’ve tasted. It is presented as a puree, and the waiter pours the soup base in. Visually, it was admittedly prettier before the soup went in… the puree became a bit of a frothy mess and separated in the soup. However, the croutons were petite and satisfyingly crunchy, the flavor had more depth than other gazpachos, and it was a very clean and light beginning to the meal.


CAVATELLI: A shell-shaped pasta that resembles hotdog buns (according to wiki). It was made with a white sauce — I believe carbonara? Creamy and smoky in a bacon way. Topped with finely shaved parmesan for a little salty bite. It was solid and traditional, a bit of a safe choice but prepared well. Definitely order this if you’re hungry– it’s a heavy beginning, and a large portion.


CHICKEN: Half a chicken. Plated up and ready to be devoured, with a side of colorful potatoes. This was an astonishingly large portion (altogether we had 2 whole chickens on our table). It was some of the juiciest, tender chicken I’ve ever had. The flavor was not particularly wowing, but it was well-seasoned. It is the best of both worlds of light and dark meat. Definitely recommend.



CODFISH CAKE: A little more potato-y than I expected. I’m a little disappointed in such a simple fish/potato cake that is almost like “poor man’s food.” The salad on top was pretty refreshing but also undressed… I would like at least a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of salt, something? I wish they had added something to elevate it to a higher level. Definitely not as good as the chicken in terms of value.

CHOCOLATE CAKE: Everyone went for the 7-layer chocolate cake with peanut butter ice cream, salted caramel, and cocoa-dusted hazelnuts. It tasted just as good as it sounds. A grown-up version of your favorite candybars all on one plate. A playful and delicious combination of sweet and savory. I appreciated that the cake was not overly heavy or sweet, and the ice cream was airy and captured the pb essence. PLUS, the plate was beautiful to look at (exhibit A above). So gorgeous!

Overall: 4 out of 5 

If I’m down for some good American food, I would go back. The food is solid, traditional albeit not the most inventive or exciting. The service is attentive and not overbearing, and the space is nice enough to take the parents to or for a date night. I was pretty impressed; it’s definitely one of the better restaurants in midtown!

Yelp address:


Elan: playful decadence, new traditions

An exciting new addition to the fine dining scene, elan was a top notch experience.


Elan is the new restaurant venture of Chef David Waltuck, previous owner of the well-loved Chanterelle (now closed). The storefront is unassuming and small. In the vicinity are other famous fine dining restaurants (Gramercy Tavern, ABC Kitchen, Eleven Madison Park, Craft). You’re led through the tall foyer to the main dining area, which is dimly lit, intimate, and cushy with calm color tones. Our group of 5 was seated comfortably in our own little niche. We ordered an absurd amount of food– it is seriously too hard to be decisive here.


Onto the food & drink…


COCKTAILS: I wouldn’t call myself a cocktail expert by any means, but our cocktails were nicely balanced and presented. Fancy like a drink at a speakeasy, and priced like one too. The rum in my was very strong, but after some dilution thanks to the huge iceball in my glass it was nice to sip on. Good if you’re trying to cut back on the booze — it lasted me through until dessert. (The manager came over twice to make sure we were okay with our strong drinks, and offered to make us new ones to our liking. Talk about good service!)


PRETZEL BREAD: It’s pretzel mania – they’re everywhere! These were a welcome change from the usual bread, served hot (plus!) with a dish of mustardy butter. Delightfully chewy and fun-sized.

Foie gras pops, fig, pistachio; Grilled seafood sausage, sauerkraut
FOIE GRAS POP: Try it. If you’re a fan of foie gras, you will love it. If you’re not a fan, these may turn you into one. The foie gras is smartly paired with sweet figs and rolled in crunchy, nutty pistachio to cut through the rich and buttery texture. Presented playfully like a cake pop, but oh so decadent. At 4 bucks a pop (pun intended), these are most definitely worth getting. It may be a little much for one, but between 2 it was a perfect couple of bites.


GRILLED SEAFOOD SAUSAGE: Our waiter told us this was very similar to a dish from Chanterelle. Not sure whether they make this sausage in-house, but it is nonetheless tasty. Served sliced up over a bed of sauerkraut and sauce. Tender, juicy, but not completely memorable.
Sea urchin guacamole, taro chips

SEA URCHIN GUACAMOLE: My love for uni knows no bounds, so this guac was a must-order-dish. A traditional bowl of guacamole with bits of uni swirled in, perhaps a hint of wasabi. Served with taro chips, it was a thoughtful and composed asian spin on a classic. Order to share, and (try to) slowly savor the creamy richness.

GENERAL TSAO’S SWEETBREADS: It took a bit of convincing, (because… sweetbreads…) but if I was going to try sweetbreads anywhere I thought why not have it at a fine dining restaurant. Another dish with heavy asian influence, the sweetbreads were small bits mixed in with bok choy in a lacquered sweet + savory sauce. The texture was like a vegetarian meat (think tempeh or seitan) and you could only really taste the sauce . Recommend if you’re inclined to give it a go. It’s a good beginner’s gateway to the world of organ and “other” meats.


FETTUCINI: Tried a bite of my friend’s. A nice portion, well cooked, comforting, but a bit boring. A safe bet if you want something classic.
Chicken pot pie, chanterelles

CHICKEN POT PIE: At first glance, this pie is ridiculously huge. I could barley see my petite friend behind its puffed crust. Once she dug in though, you could see that it was hollow. The sauce/binder component was intensely wine-flavored, not as creamy as I expected, and a bit underseasoned. The addition of chanterelles elevates this from the mundane, but I did not get the comfort I was seeking from a chicken pot pie.

Duck & foie gras burger, bacon mayonnaise, fig, caramelized onion relish, brioche bun

DUCK & FOIE GRAS BURGER: I am still thinking about this drool-worthy special. A manly combo of bacon mayo, caramelized onion chutney, and fig on a brioche bun. Beyond juicy, a little greasy (as a good burger should be), and so satisfying. Prepare to dirty a napkin when eating this. Served with some potatoes… eat those only if you have room after finishing the burger. Plus at $20 it’s surprisingly affordable.

Duck breast, vegetarian spring rolls, smoky jus

DUCK BREAST: A pretty plate with 3 slices of duck, sliced spring rolls on the side. The duck was tender and juicy, the spring rolls a little bleh. I would have appreciated a better side. The smoky jus, however, was delicious. If you have anymore pretzel leftover, dip it. And dip again. You could really dunk anything in it, like….

DUCK FAT HASH BROWNS: I had high expectations, but was disappointed. Needed salt, needed flavor. Everything else was just at a higher level.
Cherry sundae, amaretto cake, cherries, almonds; Chocolate cake, blueberries

CHOCOLATE CAKE: Sadly did not deliver. Lavendar was not detected, and I wanted the cake to be more chocolatey, or dense, or both. It was more like a mild chocolate souffle plated with other mild flavors. It was missing decadence and direction.

CHERRY SUNDAE: This hit the sweet spot. A tall old-timey sundae bowl of ice cream dotted with (strongly flavored) cake, almonds, and juicy cherries. Brings out the kid in you!


TRUFFLES: Complimentary salted dark chocolate truffles to end the meal. High quality stuff. Yes I love chocolate.



4.5 out of 5

The service was superb. Our waiter was friendly, professional but also willing to have a few laughs with us. He gave us great recommendations and knew the menu thoroughly. Ambience is hushed and mellow. Overall the food was delicious and intriguing with a few shining stars and a few lackluster ones. I suspect some of these (*cough* foie gras pops, sea urchin guacamole, foie gras & duck burger) may be the next trending foods. And I will probably be in the fan club. I SO appreciate that there’s a mix of traditional dishes and modern fusion cuisine to please anyone’s palate. It is pricey, but worth it in its decadence. One of my favorite dining experiences — I will definitely be back.

Spinach, Mushroom & Pesto Quiche

Spinach, Mushroom & Pesto Quiche

To me, “quiche” sounds like a fancy dish to order at a restaurant — something French and posh. I was a bit intimidated to try making my own, but I found 2 simple recipes that sounded easy and delicious — the results were flavorful and super fluffy! I think the egg whites really helped to keep things light and airy. This recipe uses a lot of pantry/fridge staples and is adaptable (always a plus!), and makes for a nutritionally sound + balanced meal anytime of the day🙂

Spinach, Mushroom & Pesto Quiche

I made my crust with some buckwheat flour [below] which lends a nice nutty + earthy flavor as well as a bit of extra fiber, but go ahead and use whole-wheat or all purpose flour! You may need to adjust the amount of water you add — whole wheat and buckwheat tend to need more liquid than all purpose. Start with just a sprinkle of water, and add until the dough just comes together.This quiche makes for a nice vegetarian meal option (23g of protein per serving). It would make a really quick weeknight dinner too. The crust and filling can be made in advance — keep separate in the fridge, and when you’re ready just pour the filling in and bake! IMG_4166

When you pour it into the pan, the liquid part won’t cover everything but don’t worry. Just lightly press all the filling in as best as you can — promise it’ll all work out😉


I also LOVE the mix of colors… that lovely + vibrant green spinach! The crispy golden top… yum!

One last comment before you go rushing to make this — I HIGHLY recommend using parchment paper. I did not and got a good workout scrubbing my pan… and if the crust is stuck on the pan, then it is not on your plate! Very upsetting if you’re a crust person like I am.  IMG_4168


Spinach, Mushroom & Pesto Quiche

(6 servings; 1.5 hrs)



1 C buckwheat flour

¾ C all purpose flour

¼ t salt

½ C cold butter, cubed

1 T fresh rosemary

1 T white vinegar

2-3 T cold water


2 C mushrooms, sliced

2 C spinach

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (16 oz) carton egg whites

1 C part skim shredded light mozzarella

¼ C parmesan

1 T italian seasoning

2 T pesto

salt and pepper

Equipment: food processor, 8×8 pan


  1. In a food processor, combine the flours and salt. Add the butter and rosemary. Pulse until pea-sized chunks form. Add the vinegar and pulse. Add the water 1 T at a time, pulsing after each addition. Process until the dough just comes together. Form into a disc, wrap, and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. [This will help the butter firm back up, leaving pockets of flakiness when you bake the dough.]
  2. While you wait for the dough to cool, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment.
  3. Roll the crust out and put in the pan, making sure to cover the bottom evenly. Prick several times with a fork, and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.
  5. When the crust is done baking, remove from the oven and pour the filling in. Lower the temperature to 350ºF. Bake for 45 minutes until completely cooked through.
  6. Remove from the oven (it may be puffed up). Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then slice up and serve.



I plated my hefty slice with the spinach I didn’t use up. I stuck leftovers in the freezer and reheated it in the oven at 400ºF for 10 minutes, and it was just as good as the first day!

Inspired by a combo of:

Nutrition Facts: 
Spinach, Mushroom & Pesto Quiche (1)Spinach, Mushroom & Pesto Quiche (2)

The Original

Umami Burger: welcome to the big apple

The umami burger made its way to the east coast about a year ago, and made quite the splash on the foodie radar. This latest “best burger” to hit NYC was EVERYWHERE, and I gladly went to go try it for myself.

I’ve determined there are 2 types of burgers.

1) There’s the classic burger that is reminiscent of McDonald’s, is a smaller reasonable size, and is cheesy and juicy with a soft bun (i.e. Shake Shack, In N Out for those who’re on the west coast).

2) Then there’s the steak burger that is meatier (both in size and in taste), some would say is more upscale, and impossible to fit it all in your mouth in one bite. These are burgers where the meat is the star (i.e. Five Napkins).

Umami burgers fit into the classic burger category, which I am personally a fan of. What satisfies my burger craving is a juicy cheesy burger with a nice proportion of patty to bun to toppings. Think of the Umami Burger as the gourmet version of the McDonald’s burger, with better-quality ingredients and thoughtful toppings (that parmesan crisp, roasted vegetables, housemade cheeses) — you know what I mean?

Onto the food…

Thin Fries – truffle ’em: 


Any burger place should have its loyal side kick on the menu — fries. We got our fries truffled, and they came with 4 sauces. Delicious and crispy, and who doesn’t love partaking in dunking and trying all the sauces? Munch on them while you wait anxiously for your burgers.

The Original:

The Original

The original burger was a bit underwhelming in flavor profile. The bun is such a statement — nicely fluffy and toasted — but there wasn’t enough sauce or cheese to really balance the amount of bread. I could barely detect the mushroom and roasted tomato. I love me a good parmesan crisp, but it was simply too thin and got lost in the bite.

Truffle Burger:

The truffle burger will please any truffle-lover (albeit truffle is a bit of a controversy amongst foodies — Anthony Bourdain has openly shown disdain towards the use of truffle oil). My friends all enjoyed and appreciated the distinct, but not overwhelming, truffle flavor.

Manly Burger:

Manly Burger

I had a bite of the manly burger, which is a towering and aptly named concoction. Delicious, very filling, with a super satisfying crunch. This is for those who like putting their onion rings/fries INTO their sandwich. There’s no guilt here — they do it for you!


Greenbird Burger

I actually loved the greenbird burger which is a turkey burger topped with sprouts, avocado (!!!), green cheese (???) and green goddess dressing. It was super juicy and flavorful, and the toppings worked really well to make a satisfying bite of flavors and textures. Turkey is lean so it can be dry, but props to Umami Burger for making a juicy turkey patty; the avocado and dressing added creaminess and really helped to build a tasty bite.


5 out of 5 for quality, taste, and fulfillment of burger cravings. Expect to wait half an hour, but at least it’s not quite as long as waiting for shake shack. Vibe is fast-casual with a dash of hipster. The burgers are pretty tasty, and I’d say they live up to the hype depending on which burger you get. Overall, it is pretty pricey for a burger, but you’re paying for those quality ingredients and quality taste. I didn’t try any of their desserts, but personally I’d go for a gelato or macaron at one of the dessert bars in the vicinity; walk off some of that food and enjoy the unique character that is the village — or as I’ll always fondly call it, NYU’s playground.


We went back a second time, unintentionally, for “truffle week” where there were 5 featured truffle burgers. I tried a breakfast-type truffle burger which was topped with a runny egg. Honestly, a runny egg can make almost anything taste better, but the rest of the burger was very tasty as well. I’d say Umami Burger gets an “A” for consistency.


Blueberry Coconut Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of my favorite things to bake. It’s sweet, moist, and one of the healthiest baked goods! This one is full of good-for-you ingredients, so grab a guilt-free slice!

IMG_4475There are 1001 recipes for banana bread (it was really hard narrowing down which one to use but really, almost all of the ones I’ve tried have worked out fine!).

Banana bread has bonus points in my book for being super easy, and it’s pretty hard to mess it up! Mix everything together, pour into pan, and bake — the hardest part is waiting for the bread to cool down completely.


IMG_4477Banana bread is also easy to adapt. Case in point: I had blueberries in my freezer, and coconut flakes I wanted to use up, and so this blueberry coconut banana bread was born🙂

IMG_4476You can pick other frozen fruits, fresh fruits that are in season, or dried fruits like cranberries or dates! The chia seeds are optional of course, and I think walnuts would be so yummy in it too!


Blueberry Coconut Banana Bread

(1 loaf, 1 hr 15 min)


1 T coconut oil, melted

⅓ C brown sugar

2-3 medium bananas, mashed

1 egg

¼ C almond milk

2 t vanilla

¼ C nonfat greek yogurt

1 C all purpose flour

¾ C whole wheat flour

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

pinch of salt

2 T chia seeds

1 C blueberries (reserve ¼ C blueberries for topping)

½ C shredded coconut (reserve 2 T for topping)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the coconut oil and brown sugar. The heat of the oil will help melt the sugar. Add the bananas and egg and whisk until well combined. Add the milk, vanilla, and yogurt and mix until combined.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chia seeds. Add the wet ingredients and fold until just combined.
  4. In a small bowl, add the blueberries and a few tablespoons of flour and lightly toss to coat.
  5. Fold the blueberries and coconut into the batter. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
  6. Sprinkle the top with coconut and blueberries. Lightly push on them to ensure they stick.
  7. Bake for 55-65 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then move to a cooling rack to completely cool.

I like to slice up the whole loaf, wrap the slices, and throw them in the freezer. I can easily toast a slice up, or if I’m feeling fancy I’ll make some french toast (pictured below, with toasted walnuts and brown sugar for extra yumminess and flavor).



Sorry, couldn’t resist having a bite before I took a picture — so delicious😀

Inspired by:

Nutrition Facts (for 10 slices)



Poached Eggs with Hash


I probably have brunch at least once a week. I guess it’s become a thing now! Brunch food is just so good. I usually strike a deal with a friend to split our meals 50/50 so I can try 2 things (for those indecisive days… but how does anyone choose between ricotta stuffed french toast and lobster eggs benedict??).

My brunch addiction doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. I made a brunch-inspired dinner the other day with some of the classic elements: a potato hash with swiss chard, red peppers, mushrooms, and parmesan, plus a poached egg on top!


You’ve got your hearty crispy potatoes, a delicious combo of veggies and mushrooms, a punch of cheesy flavor, and a deliciously runny poached egg (or 2).


It’s a super simple meal for any time of the day. You can really throw in whatever you can find in the fridge. Maybe some leftover chicken, spinach, tomatoes, or bacon– yum!  Serve up with some whole wheat toast and you’ve got a hearty balanced meal.


Poached Egg with Hash

(2 servings; 30 minutes)


1 large russet potato, diced into 3/4″ pieces

2 T + 1 T olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 C swiss chard, stems removed, roughly chopped

1 red pepper, diced

1 C mushrooms, diced

1/2 t red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

2-4 eggs (depending on how many you want to eat!)

2 T parmesan, shredded


  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the potatoes with 2T olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread on the baking sheet in one layer. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until tender inside. (I like to leave the skin on for extra fiber, color, and texture!)
  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, heat 1T olive oil. Add the garlic, swiss chard, red pepper, and mushrooms. Saute for about 5-7 minutes until the red peppers are tender. Season with the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  4. Fill a large pot with water to about 4 inches deep. Bring to a simmer. Poach the eggs and set aside. (My method for poaching eggs: Adding a tablespoon of white vinegar. Crack an egg into a bowl, then gently pour into the water. Allow it to sit for about a minute, use a slotted spoon to help guide back any bits of egg white that have floated away, and keep an eye on it. The egg should be poached in 3-5 minutes. As soon as the white of the egg has been cooked through, remove the egg with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel or cloth. I would recommend poaching only 1-2 eggs at a time. Alternatively, you can do a quick search for more methods, like Alton’s.)
  5. When the potatoes have finished roasting, add them to the skillet as well and give everything a quick stir to combine.
  6. Time to plate up! Pile on the hash, sprinkle on some shavings of parmesan, and carefully place the poached egg on top. Give a little sprinkle of salt and pepper to the poached egg, and dig in!


Poaching eggs was a little daunting and it was the 3rd time I’ve tried. The first egg was kind of a fail… but the last one turned out pretty good! If you ended up with an “ugly side,” just plate it facing down and no one will know.😉 Or you could skip the whole poaching process altogether and fry up an egg! Whatever floats your brunch boat.

Nutrition Facts (with 1 poached egg)


Sweet Potato & Kale Pizza

IMG_3745I love pizza just as much as the next person, but the kind that you get at a pizzeria can be super greasy (I’m one of those people who sadly blots the oil off my slice while all the yummy toppings inevitably come off with it). I wholeheartedly believe pizza can be healthy! And really, you can play around with any combination of toppings, sweet and savory (dessert pizza anyone?).


I wasn’t quite ready to make the whole thing from scratch, so I was so happy to find pizza dough at Trader Joe’s! Their whole wheat dough made everything come together so quickly and easily, but of course you can make your own crust from scratch too (props for the devotion!!).

I had some leftover sweet potatoes and kale, so this recipe I found was just meant to be😀 It’s simple but so flavorful, and I loved the play between the sweet potatoes, tangy vinegar, caramelized onions, earthy rosemary, and hearty kale on a rustic whole wheat crust. It also looks so vibrant and colorful! Always a good indication that you’re getting a nice variety of nutrients.


Add whatever toppings you like– just make sure to roast/precook the toppings that have longer cooking times.  Think of the pizza as a blank canvas and use your artistic flair. (that drizzle of balsamic… my attempt at this so-called “artistic flair”). Or just slap on all your ingredients, it will probably taste just as good either way😉


Sweet Potato & Kale Pizza

(4 servings; 45 minutes)


1 sweet potato, sliced ¼” thick

½ red onion, sliced ¼ “ thick

1 ½ T olive oil

salt and pepper

1 whole wheat pizza dough

1 C part-skim shredded mozzarella

1 C kale, chopped

1 T rosemary, chopped

4 T balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

  2. Mix the sweet potato and red onion with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange on the baking sheet in one layer. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is tender.

  3. Increase the temperature of the oven to 450°F.

  4. On a well-floured surface, roll out the pizza dough to a long rectangle about 12” by 18”. Top with the mozzarella, kale, sweet potato, onion, and rosemary. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the entire pizza. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is done baking. (Or follow the directions for your own crust!)

  5. While it’s baking, reduce the balsamic vinegar. I did this by microwaving it in a cup covered with a damp paper towel, at 30 second intervals for about 2 minutes until it became syrupy. Be careful, it’s very hot and acidic smelling!

  6. Take the pizza out of the oven and drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar over the top.

  7. Slice it up and enjoy! Serving suggestion: a side of veggies (Roast some vegetables at the same time the pizza’s cooking in the oven, or have a simple salad!)



This pizza was also delicious cold (one of those moments when you can’t be bothered to use a microwave).

A great intro to making pizza at home. Plus I can put whatever I want on it — I’m always indecisive what topping combo to get at a pizzeria… they are usually so meat-centric! No worries, now that I can make my own at home I’ll definitely be trying more amazing combos.

What’s your “regular” when you order pizza?

Nutrition Facts

Original Recipe:


Smorgasburg: Brooklyn’s Fantastical Food Market

If you’re looking for a food market in NY, I highly recommend making a trip to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I made my 2nd trip to this amazing foodie fest over the weekend in search of some good eats. Smorgasburg is a fantastical huge food market where dozens of food vendors — local, upcoming, and already-famous — set up shop every week to sell their delectable goods. Invite friends, family, and fellow food-lovers, and go early! They often sell out before the official closing time.

The first time I went to Smorgasburg was during the fall season —  it was set up in an outdoor square, right on the water’s edge. My friend and I made a beeline to the stand with the longest line, asking the people in front of us what exactly were we waiting for. Lo and behold, it was for the ramen burger. We were told they only have 200 total, so we crossed our fingers and stayed right there with a master plan: one of us would stay in line while the other scouted out other vendors in the area.

First up: alligator chili (Brooklyn Bayou, $10)

IMG_3496My companion came back with a good lookin’ bowl of chili… When I found out it was alligator I was intrigued  (Bizarre Foods anyone?). Served with a large hunk of white bread over a bed of rice, topped with a dollop of sour cream. We dove right in… took a second bite… third bite… still looking for the alligator… Sadly we found only a few small bits of meat. The chili was quite ordinary, even on the boring side. It wasn’t particularly savory, spicy, or memorable. There was too much rice-to-chili ratio (the bread was really not necessary added carbs). Skip this one and save your first experience with an alligator for another time.

Next: mac & cheese w/ caramelized onions and bacon (Milk Truck, ~$10)IMG_3494

I was determined not to be disappointed a second time, and Milk Truck was very promising. I’d heard rave reviews about it and sure enough, there was a good crowd of people waiting. It took about 10 minutes for my order to come out, but I finally heard my name called and I was handed a glorious-looking cup of mac & cheese. It was everything you want in mac & cheese: satisfyingly chewy pasta and gooey cheese (just enough of both), with sweet caramelized onions + smoky bacon + toasty breadcrumbs. I’m not sure if $2 for bacon was really worth it, but it definitely added more to love in the already delicious combo. This was very rich, so share with a friend or two! It’s really filling and you’ll want to save room for other bites.

(status update: we are now 10 spots away from our ramen burgers and starting to feel full… )

Third (most anticipated): ramen burger (Ramen Burger, $8)


First thing we lined up for, but 3rd to be eaten. After 45 minutes we finally got ahold of the famous ramen burgers. I didn’t have many expectations (I like ramen and I like burgers, but did they really need to be made into a sandwich?), but I was pleasantly surprised! Rather than the greasy concoction I imagined, it was an innovative and yummy Asian take on a classic burger and definitely belongs in the “gourmet burger” category. The meat is tender and juicy, the shoyu sauce is delicious and savory, the greens are a nice departure from lettuce, and the ramen buns are sturdy and add an interesting texture. The medium-sized burger comes packaged in a convenient and unassuming wrapper (in-n-out style) which barely manages to catch the juice and sauce drippings — seriously consider eating this standing up to avoid potentially embarrassing pants stains. The ramen burger is a novel experience; tasty and worth trying at least once, but I wouldn’t wait longer than 15-20 minutes for one especially now that the hype has died down. My friend waited a mere 10 minutes during a recent trip.

[Short coffee break/interlude: walk around, enjoy the view, digest!]

Finale: Stroopwafel ice cream sandwich (the good batch, $5)

IMG_3495I was almost too full to pass up dessert — almost. But I couldn’t leave without trying at least one, and this was calling to me as we were leaving. What is a stroopwafel you ask? It’s a thin waffle-shaped cookie that is slightly crisp on the outside and is chewy and soft inside. Mine came with salted caramel ice cream, and it was HUGE. The cookies are skinny but manage to hold their shape as you take bite after bite, and the flavor and texture and quality of ingredients are really outstanding. I reluctantly called it a day because I really could not fit anything else into my belly, but I was determined to go back — there were still so many things to try!

Fast forward to last weekend

It was hard to accept that they would not reopen until spring… so I was absolutely ecstatic to be informed that Smorgasburg had moved to the indoor brooklyn flea market (translation: no waiting!). I immediately tracked down some friends to go.

We made our way into Brooklyn, through hipster territory, and up the grundgy and slightly sketchy staircase of an old brick warehouse. A group of girls holding fuschia donuts (mental note to grab one later) + a waft of bacon indicated that we were heading in the right direction.

We had to walk a good ways until we reached the main attraction of Smorgasburg. After securing a table and stools (a highly sought-after commodity), my friend went for a ramen burger (there was hardly a line), while I settled on Lonestar Empire the next stand over.

First Bite: brisket sandwich, mixed, with potato salad (Lonestar Empire, $10)



The one-woman-operation dished out my freshly sliced brisket atop a bun with a side of potato salad, and I grabbed myself a few pickles and a good dousing of bbq sauce from the self-service section on the side. It’s a tall sandwich that doesn’t skimp on the meat. The brisket was moist and tender, but the sauce definitely helped to deliver a punch of tangy flavor. The roll was just the right size (too much bread is a pet peeve), and the pickles were a crunchy break in between bites of brisket. I would pass on the potato salad, which was an extra $2 and was disappointingly ordinary — save room for more delicious offerings.

Second Bite: milk truck classic + caramelized onions add-on (Milk Truck, ~$7)


…Such as this one. An ordinary grilled cheese made into something pretty extraordinary. $7 is steep, but the quality of the ingredients (amazing cheese + balthazar bread + perfectly caramelized onions) kind of justifies it, right? Ooey, gooey and crunchy. If faced with the choice of either their mac & cheese or grilled cheese, I would have a difficult decision to make. Both are the best-of-the-best “classics.” The only gripe was having to wait an extra 10 minutes for my friend’s order, even though we ordered back-to-back. Regardless, be prepared to wait so take a walk around, narrow down your next target, have a few samples, and come back to pick up your freshly prepared cheesy fare. While we waited, we grabbed…

 Third Bite Sip: orange and fennel soda (Brooklyn Soda Works, $4)


Well, what can I say. It really just tasted like orange juice with a good splash of seltzer. A nice concept for a “better” soda, but I’m not really a proponent of soda OR juice for that matter. What I really wanted was a cup of blue bottle coffee but I couldn’t find the stand. My friend enjoyed her apple and ginger soda.

Fourth bite: pollo guisado and carnitas tacos (Oaxaca Tacqueria, $7)



My companion came back with two fully-loaded tacos (seriously, look how colorful and gorgeous all of those toppings are!). The chicken was alright. We agreed the carnitas was the better of the two and had significantly more flavor. We also left the outer tortillas on the plate — 1 tortilla did the job of holding it all in. Eating the tacos is a messy ordeal, but a pretty tasty one. Although they were not my favorite bite of the day (I wish there was more flavor or texture, something to take them to the next level), I thought they were fresh, authentic, and worth trying.

Fifth Bite: ice cream sandwich (Sunday Gravy, $5)


It was the bite that almost never happened. After making a lap around the flea market area, we found ourselves back to where it all started (ramen burger stand). A quick glance at the southern comfort food on the menu of Sunday Gravy didn’t appeal to me, but upon closer inspection, we realized they were grilling up fluffy buns for ice cream sandwiches. Then we couldn’t line up fast enough. “Pistachio honey ricotta gelato on a caramelized brioche roll?” YES, PLEASE. This was hands-down my favorite of the day. Freshly made-to-order, it was love at first bite. The roll was blissfully soft with a resounding crunch from the caramelization, the gelato was smooth and creamy, and the whole sandwich rolled in some crushed nuts — we devoured it in seconds. It was is hard to share.

I had my eye on a couple more things, but since we were getting to the point of dangerously full, we grabbed them to go:

Spanish Bruffin (The Bruffin, ~$4)



Bruffin = “breakfast in a muffin,” but I would argue that bruffins are delicious any time of the day! The Spanish bruffin had manchego cheese + chorizo rolled into a butterly, flaky, croissant-like brioche muffin. I know, there are a lot of things going on there, and the end result is super tasty and I can’t believe no one has thought of it before! The filling is swirled in like a cinnamon bun, so you get goodness in every bite. It’s served warm, but if you want to eat it at home just pop it in the oven at 350ºF for 8-10 minutes and it’ll be fresh and as good as new! Definitely give this one a try. The staff is really friendly and lured us in with samples of their brownie. They sold out of half of their flavors by the time we got there, so go early if you’re dying to try a specific bruffin. I can’t wait to conquer the other bruffin nations😉

Hibiscus & Chocolate Mocha Donuts (Dough, ~$2.50 each)



These huge glistening donuts was one of the first things I saw when I walked into the flea market, so it was inevitable that I’d have to try (at least) one. Dough was featured in Unique Sweets, so I was really excited; they actually looked like the ones on TV! We split the hibiscus donut for dessert that night, and ate the chocolate mocha the next morning. The hibiscus was interesting, but not as interesting as I’d expected. The chocolate mocha was more satisfying. The donuts are not quite fluffy like yeasty glazed donuts, but also not quite cakey– the density is in-between. I personally prefer a fluffier donut and thought the one from Doughnut Plant was better. I was also slightly disappointed by the packaging– they don’t have boxes available unless you buy 4+ donuts, so ours were stuck in a bag and, as expected, the glaze came off by the time we got to eating it. They rotate the flavors (I saw cheesecake and poppyseed donuts brought out as we were leaving) so if you’re hunting down a flavor you might have to wait.

All in all, there is something to please everyone at Smorgasburg. Spend a few hours at this foodie hotspot where some of the best and trendiest food vendors are conveniently gathered, and bring friends that are willing to share🙂

Chocolate Chip Banana Buckwheat Muffins

On a recent food shopping trip, I made an impulse buy: buckwheat flour. I’d seen it pop up in so many recipes, pictures, and blogposts so I decided I wanted to try it out! After a little bit of digging, I learned that buckwheat flour is gluten-free and is a great alternative to all-purpose flour, with a higher fiber and nutrient content.

My first venture trying buckwheat: chocolate chip banana muffins.



I got the recipe from Pastry Affair, and I gotta say I’ll definitely be trying more of the recipes on the blog (their pictures are gorgeous too!). I might’ve also bought these cupcake liners because I thought they would match… totally justifiable right?IMG_3779


Just throw everything into a bowl and mix together! Easy with minimal cleanup… because who wants to wash extra dishes?


They turned out so delicious and moist! And I find that I actually like the more intense, whole-grainy, nutty taste of the buckwheat flour — it reminds me a little bit of black sesame seeds (and looks like it too). It’s definitely has a stronger flavor than whole wheat flour, so the strong banana + chocolate flavors in this recipe make it a good intro to baking with buckwheat. The muffins are made mostly with pantry staples so you can whip them up if you get the sudden urge to bake something! (I like to keep a ripe banana or two in the freezer for these occasions.)



^ The prettiest muffin of the bunch. I think the cupcake liners made a difference — you eat with your eyes first after all! You can use cacao nibs like in the original recipe to make them gluten-free.

I brought some in for my preceptor (and some of her friends) to try. None of us are gluten-free, but everyone approved! I think I’d actually put in less sugar next time because they were pretty sweet from the banana + chocolate. They are as moist as any banana bread should be, and the chocolate chips make it feel like a special treat. I topped each with a few sliced almonds (Trader Joe’s honey roasted) before putting in the oven. They’d also look nice with a sprinkle of rolled oats, but would be delicious just as is!


Chocolate Chip Banana Buckwheat Muffins

(18 muffins; 30 minutes)


⅓ C smart balance butter, room temperature

⅓ C brown sugar, unpacked

1 flax egg (1 T flax meal + 2 T water)

3 large bananas, ripe

⅓ C almond milk

1 t vanilla

¾ C buckwheat flour

¾ C all-purpose flour

1 t espresso powder

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

½ t salt

½ C semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, egg, and bananas until well combined.

  3. Add the almond milk and vanilla and whisk until well combined.

  4. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

  5. Stir in the chocolate chips.

  6. Fill your muffin tins ¾ of the way full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. (The chocolate chips may leave streaks so make sure not to overbake them!)

  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

  8. Eat!

These were AMAZING with coffee for breakfast. Or have them as a small treat for dessert🙂

If you’re not going to eat them all right away, they also freeze well. Freezing baked goods keeps them fresher than sticking them in the fridge, which can cause them to harden.

Back to the pinterest board to look up more buckwheat flour recipes!

Nutrition Facts (without almonds)

Original Recipe: