May 31, 2013

New York Eats with Baby

Smörgås Chef West Village

Scandinavian food is one cuisine we can't get in Houston. We visited Smorgas back in 2010 and we really enjoyed their food so I couldn't wait to go back to get my Scandinavian fix. Two and a half years later, they didn't disappoint it was just as good as the first time! 

Because I wanted everything on the menu, we opted to share several of their appetizers. Here's what we had:
Top (L to R): Swedish meatballs and lingonberries, herring quartet, 
gravlaks croquettes, rich pudding,  lingonberry torte, English pea soup, 
house cured gravlaks
The restaurant has tight seatings. They stored the baby's stroller in the back for us and we squeezed his carseat in next to us. His carseat comes in handy, acts as a booster seat for him since he can't sit up yet.

283 W. 12th St.
New York, NY


This place was a couple blocks away from our apartment. The food was good! Diner like ambiance, inside is quite spacious and they're family friendly! Because of our table's location, we parked the baby's stroller near the entrance and had his carseat sit on a regular chair. But, we saw other families parked their strollers right at the table. 
Blintz w/ strawberry compote
Kale egg benedict on potato pancake

144 2nd Ave.
New York, NY

Russ & Daughters

This shop is known for its smoked salmon. In addition to the wide variety of lox, they also carry different types of cream cheese, herring, caviar, etc. You can buy items here by the pound or order a bagel lox sandwich. If you order a sandwich just know that this place is only a shop, there's no place to sit other than the bench just outside the shop but it's facing Houston St. - not exactly quaint.

The benefit of staying in an apartment nearby is I got to buy things here in bulk and have it for breakfast over the next few mornings :-)
Gaspe Nova smoked salmon and caviar cream cheese over an everything bagel

179 E. Houston St.
New York, NY


I have been wanting to eat here for years now. The ramen did not disappoint nor did the appetizers. Everything we had was delicious! However, the ambiance is not what I expected. It's more club like than quaint. It was rather loud as well! To add to the noise, the staff yells in Japanese to greet every customer that walks in. So if you have a sleeping baby, it's probably not a good idea to take them here. A crying baby however, will probably go unnoticed.

Unless you go right when they open, expect the wait to be long. By the time we got there just a little after 6pm, it was already over an hour's wait!
Akamaru ramen

65 4th Ave.
New York, NY


I wish I wasn't so stuffed from brunch when I went here. I really wanted to try their nutella & banana croissant sandwich but instead I settled for a mini almond croissant. I'll be back!

68 Ave. A 
New York, NY

The Grey Dog's Coffee

I found this cafe on Yelp. I was looking for a brunch place near Washington Square Park. When we went, it was on a weekday and they were packed! It's a decent sized cafe, just really tight seatings. We thought it was going to be hard to find a table but, they truly have it figured out. While we waited in line to order, they held a table for us. They also stored the baby's stroller in the back so we could squeeze his carseat next to us.

They're packed for a reason - the food and coffee were good plus, they're just a stone throw away from NYU. We saw a sign saying no studying or table hogging during busy hours.

90 University Pl.
New York, NY

Ciao For Now

Another great cafe I found on Yelp. Great brunch spot near our apartment. Their almond brioch French toast is yummy! Decent sized cafe and since we came during an off time, we were able to keep the baby in his stroller next to us.
Photo credit: Chris Solway

523 E. 12 St.
New York, NY

May 22, 2013

New York with Baby, Part Two

Since we travel quite a bit, I've turned into a last minute packer. But, this was going to be our first trip with a baby and I realize I can't pack last minute anymore. I had to really think about what he needed, what would entertain him, etc. I also didn't want to pack our whole house! So, I started our packing process a couple days before.

In the past, I had my own backpack as did my husband and we'd each bring our own laptops, along with other travel comforts. This trip, we slimmed down considerably. Instead of laptops, we brought our iPads and we shared his diaper backpack.

I got this Okkatots Travel Backpack as a gift from a dear friend. It's one that I registered for. I can't tell you how much I love this backpack. It's very well designed with lots of pockets to keep baby's stuff organized and it's big enough to fit his stuff and ours. It's also very lightweight! I don't use it as my day-to-day diaper bag, only for traveling.

Since we bought our Uppababy stroller with lots of traveling in mind, I was very pleased it worked out well in NYC. The stroller has a big basket underneath, it was perfect to store the backpack and other knick knacks.

During our stay, we chose to carry the bub mostly in his carseat/stroller instead of the baby carrier. I'm sure he would've preferred seeing the city in his baby carrier however, because of his age he wasn't able to sit up just yet. Thus the reason for the carseat, it was mainly for dining out so he could have a place to sit while we eat.

Before we left, we bought a travel bag for the stroller. With the travel bag, Uppababy guarantees any damage caused to the stroller during air travel will be fully covered by them. We chose to travel cabin light so we checked-in the stroller as baggage and only gate checked the carseat. We were very pleased the stroller survived both plane journey just fine.

Car seat cover
Two weeks before our trip, it was still snowing in NYC!! Spring was nowhere in sight and I knew Manhattan gets really windy so a regular blanket won't cut it. I quickly went on to look for a car seat cover and I found Jolly Jumper Sneak a Peek Sneak-a-Peek Infant Carseat Cover Deluxe. This cover was perfect!

Carseat cover in action on this chilly evening.

So happy the outer shell is water repellent. All I had to do
was close the flap and it kept baby warm and dry.

May 18, 2013

Eats: Brasserie 19

I've heard good things about Brasserie 19 but never checked it out until recently. I was very pleased with our dining experience - the food was delicious and service was great!

Reservation is highly recommended but not required. We went on a whim on a Saturday night and they were able to accommodate us.

Foie Gras Torchon Special

Crudo Special

Seared Diver Scallops, Boudin Noir, Apple

Plateaux de Fruit de Mer

Brasserie 19
1942 W. Gray St.
Houston, TX

May 17, 2013

Anniversary Dinner at Oxheart

We never truly celebrated our anniversary last year. I was in the first trimester of my pregnancy and I suffered some pretty bad morning sickness. I was determine to make up for it this year. Oxheart did not disappoint!

You need advance planning to dine here. They only accept reservations, at times they're booked a month in advance. For our May 10th dinner, I made our reservation in April through their online reservation system. Since their restaurant is very small, they do ask for a credit card number to hold the reservation.

Menu is tasting menu only. They offer two different four-course tastings for $49 and a seven-course for $79. We splurged went for the seven-course!

Complimentary sparkling wine to celebrate our anniversary

Raw brassicas leaves and pickled stems, goats whey, chrysanthemum, and herb oils

Heirloom carrots cooked with exotic spices and coconut, avocado, corianders 

Homemade biscuits and herb lard

Gulf warsaw grouper roasted over pecan wood, spring onion escabeche, three egg sauce, caviar

Tartare of smoked beef leg, kombu aspic, lime, cucumber, african blue basil, rau ram

Cauliflower cooked two ways, with raisins, currants, brown butter, and mustards

Rabbit, poached saddle with green garlic ash, and braised legs with sour cream and hakurei turnips

Fennel mousse with white sesame nougatine and orange

1302 Nance St.
Houston, TX

New York with Baby, Part One

Last month, we took the baby to New York City to meet up with his grandparents. It was the bub's first trip on an airplane, he was 3 months old.

Living in Houston, we fly United Airlines by default. On our way to New York, we got upgraded to Business Class. That's right! Baby's first plane ride and he's already traveling in style. He better not get too used to it, ha! While it was nice being upgraded, it also meant holding him the entire flight. I much preferred our return flight to Houston in Economy Plus with an empty seat next to us. It allowed the bub to sleep freely on the empty seat giving us a break from holding him. 

United has a funny way of boarding passengers. They board everyone by group number depending on your elite status or where your seat is located. They don't make any preferential treatment for passengers with kids or babies so forget about early boarding.

Ground Transporation
We decided since we have a baby now it was best to hire a car service to get to our rented apartment. With that in mind, we purposely flew into La Guardia since it was easier and cheaper to get into Manhattan. I was about to reserve one of the big companies, like Dial 7 or GroundLink but after reading the reviews on Yelp, I was very hesitant. Instead, I used a local company called Quick Ride Corp that I found on Yelp.

The process had me skeptical at first but it was exactly how everyone described it in the reviews. Keep in mind this is an Asian operation so, they're very short and to the point. For pick up at La Guardia, I called them the night before. The operator asked for my arrival time, flight number, and destination - quoted me $30 for the fare and I was to call them when I landed. That's it. You get no confirmation number, nada! I called them when we were on our way to the baggage claim. There was no hi or anything.
Operator: you landed? You have your bags?
Me: just landed, don't have our bags yet.
Operator: ok, call me back when you have your bags. *hangs up*

I called back after we got our bags, the operator gave me the car number and model/color of the car. The same was true when I reserved a car for ride back to the airport. I called the night before and they had a car waiting for us 5 minutes before scheduled pick up time. Whatever system they have, it works! They're reliable and that's all that matters when you're traveling with a baby.

The cars were all recent models. On the way from airport it was a Hyundai Elantra and the way back was a Toyota Sienna. Side note: cash only.

To secure the bub during the ride to/from airport, we brought his car seat with us but not the base. The car seat was part of stroller anyway.

I highly recommend renting apartment when traveling with a baby. The ease of having a kitchen, washer/dryer, a living room to hang out in is worth every penny. It some cases, especially since we were meeting his grandparents in NYC, it was cheaper as well. I found a great one in East Village - a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom for $350 per night. Before booking, be sure to ask what floor the apartment is on and if there's an elevator. Babies come with a lot of accessories! Luckily, this apartment was on the first floor.

We really enjoyed staying in East Village area versus touristy ones like Midtown. East Village has lots of great coffee shops, craft beer bars and ethnic restaurants to explore.

Ok New Yorkers... please tell me how your maneuver around the subway with baby solo. There are no elevators to go down to the station!! Some stops have an elevator from platform to station but to get to station itself... all stairs! 

May 16, 2013

Eats: Afternoon Tea at Flora & Muse

While we're on the subject of afternoon tea, here is another one my friend Patty and I went to a couple months ago.

My review on Yelp:
"There aren't very many places in Houston that serves afternoon tea, especially one that serves it on a weekday. After much research, my girlfriend and I found this place. It was moderately priced at $35 for 2 people. The spread included finger sandwiches, cookies and a couple muffins. Overall, the spread was good but nothing mind blowing. We liked the bread the sandwiches were served on. It was some kind of cheese roll - delicious! While the cookies were nice, we were really disappointed there were no scones. It just doesn't seem like a proper afternoon tea without it."

This is more like what I expect from an afternoon tea session where everything is served on a tiered platter and you get a pot of tea of your choice.

Flora & Muse
12860 Queensbury Ln, Ste 143

May 15, 2013

Eats: Kiran's Afternoon Tea

I've been wanting to try Kiran's afternoon tea for some time now. They have it every second Saturday of the month, from 3-5pm. Unlike your traditional afternoon tea where everything is served on a tiered tray and you get a pot of tea of your choice, Kiran's experience is more of a tea pairing.

Upon sitting, we were asked if we wanted lemonade or sparkling wine. I chose the lemonade. Although it was on the sweet side, I liked the hint of mint in it - reminiscent of a virgin mojito. We were then served a samosa that was paired with Masala chai tea.

Lemonade starter

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Samosa with Chutney

Masala Chai Tea
Next was a plate of finger sandwiches that was paired with Lovers Leap orange pekoe tea. We were served: cucumber with cream cheese & mint, salmon salad, chicken salad, spinach & goat cheese, and egg salad. The star of this plate was the chicken salad! Unfortunately, their choice of bread was disappointing. I assume it was potato bread but whatever bread it was, it tasted stale.

Finger Sandwiches
Next up was scones with homemade berry sauce and clotted cream. This was paired with Margarets Hope darjeeling tea. This made up for the lackluster we experienced with the finger sandwiches. Frankly, it was the best part of the whole tea experience.

And finally, dessert! It was just okay. I could've done without this part, the scones was good enough.

For $35 per person, I really expected more out of this experience. I felt the atmosphere fit the money - they provided valet parking, had a live harpist, the waitstaff were very professional - but the food fell short. I'm not sure if reservation is required but it's definitely recommended.

4100 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX

May 10, 2013

Ramen in Common - Tasting Event at Soma Sushi

I'm glad I had the opportunity to attend last Wednesday night's ramen tasting event at Soma Sushi. It was organized by Carl Rosa, the man behind The Sushi Club of Houston, who is on a new mission to educate Houstonians about ramen through a new group he founded, Ramen in Common. This event was number 2 of 3, the first one held a week ago at the same location. I like being number 2 in this case, because Soma made some adjustments based on feedback it received from the first attendees. This was my first time attending one of Carl's events and as I expected, it was very well organized.

We got to sample 3 different ramens that Chef Gabriel Medina specially prepared for us. I'm no food critic nor am I a ramen connoisseur so all I'm going to say is, they were all delicious! Personally, I liked the seafood ramen the best. I'm typically not a fan of seafood noodle soups but, this one won me over. While tasty, I found the other two broths bit salty for my palate.

Before the tasting commenced, Chef Medina made it a point that the ramens he prepared were by no means traditional, rather his creative interpretation of it. I just enjoyed this event because I got to taste 3 very different kinds of ramen in one seating. Events like this makes me hopeful that one day Houston could potentially have a true ramen shop.

This tasting was $30 inclusive of tax and tip. If you would like more information about this group, visit their website or join their Facebook group.


Chef's Trash Plate - pork rind, red grapes, garlic tempura, pickled apples

Kaisen Seafood Ramen

Black Bean Ramen

Yuzu Sorbet

Texas Ramen

Yuzu Cheesecake

May 8, 2013

Baby Stuff: Beco Baby Carrier

Baby Carrier
After hours of reading reviews online, I finally settled for the Beco Gemini as my baby carrier. Bjorn is probably the most popular brand out there but, many reviewers complained about back and shoulder pain especially as baby gets heavier. I already have a bad back so, this wasn't going to work for me. A lot of people liked Ergo for comfort but, it doesn't have the option for baby to face forward. Beco seems to be the compromise of the two. Like the Ergo, it has a supportive waist band that helps distribute baby's weight yet, it allows baby to face forward once they're able to support their head. Here is my experience with it so far:
- Comfortable. Granted the bub is only 16 lbs at the moment but so far, no back or shoulder pains.
- No additional infant insert needed.
- The ability to carry baby four different ways, so far I've only used two.
- No pockets to carry small items like keys and cell phone.

Beco baby carrier in action