A Weekend My Thighs Will Never Forget Part 2

02Oct08

Scott was kind enough to show me his favorite banh mi place in New York this past Saturday (note: 77 other Yelp reviewers also agree with Scott that this is, indeed, a five star banh mi deli). Hidden in the back of a jewelry store, Banh Mi Saigon Bakery is only recognizable by the poster board that hangs above the glass counter.

I got the spicy chicken banh mi and Scott got the spicy pork. We both got a Vietnamese iced coffee, my first. Walking romantically under one black umbrella, we parked ourselves on the bench of a local Italian grocery store. In between laughter and ridiculous weekend stories, I finally got a bite in.

(Apology ahead of time for the out-of-focus picture. Taking a picture of everything you eat gets pretty exhausting.)

The soft baguette was generously stuffed with marinated chicken and had enough sweet pickled radish and carrots to counterbalance its saltiness. The chicken banh mi comes with plenty of mayo so the chicken stays nice and MOIST, everyone’s favorite word. The cucumber also lends it a nice crunch.

The pork banh mi wasn’t as good as the chicken banh mi in my opinion. Now, if it was Char Siu Pork in there, I might have a different opinion. The pork was more salty and crumbly than I would have liked. While the flavor was good, I’m more preferential to having thick chunks of meat in my sandwich when possible.

After the sandwiches were appropriately “washed down” with our Vietnamese iced coffees (think Pepto Bismol commercial with a brown, instead of pink, syrup coating the insides of your stomach lining in a pleasantly satisfying way), we headed to Despaña to go shopping for our Spanish tapas dinner party the next night. Appropriately greeted by the upside down hoofs of once happy pigs, we walked into the Spanish gourmet food shop and our not-so-hungry stomachs quickly succumbed to the appetite of our very hungry eyes. To our right were the infamous black hooves of Black Iberican Pigs, producers of the world’s finest hams. Their taste is attributed to their free-range exercise and diet of acorns and other nuts and grasses. Only as of December 2007 has Jamón Ibérico been made legal for sale in the U.S, making them both a rarity and very expensive. I believe it was roughly $190/pound at Despaña.

After tasting every open container of sauce, dip, and marinade, we tried every Spanish cheese we were offered and then ooed and ahhed at the prepared foods counter. Then shimmied over to the bowl of Marcona almonds and ate handfuls of those delightfully lightly fried and salted almonds. A couple chorizo stabbings with our toothpick later, I think our eyes met in agreement; we were kinda full.

But no food adventure is complete without a trip to Whole Foods. We got the last of our ingredients and sampled our way down every aisle. If there’s anything I have to say here is that no Whole Foods sampling is complete without trying the Pumpkin-spiced pecans at the chocolate/nut counter. They’re like Thanksgiving in your mouth.

It’s about 5 PM now and we’re not nearly done. After some Greek frozen yogurt (it’s tangier than regular frozen yogurt) and coffee from Oko, we paused for a movie and then….went to dinner.

Cafe Orlin on St. Marks Place is a decently priced, fair-enough restaurant that offers a healthy variety of Mediterranean-inspired dishes. I wouldn’t say the food is the key take-away, but if you’re looking for a casual meal (I hear their brunch is good) in a lively and bustling cafe on the sidewalk, Cafe Orlin gives you just that. Needless to say, if you’re walking in circles looking for a restaurant to commit to, you won’t be disappointed to walk into Cafe Orlin. You might even come back for more.

And I haven’t even got to the dinner party…

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