Crock Pot: Fifth Installment

by | Dec 5, 2007

I organize an in-house book club at my company and it’s pretty neat, if I do say so myself. In a little over a year-and-a-half, we’ve gone from a four-person quiet discussion to a 20-person roundtable which, at our last two meetings, included authors calling in to join our conversation about their books. I love bringing people together who don’t necessarily know each other, but all have something in common: in this case, reading the books we publish. It gives me that warm & fuzzy feeling I love so much. Plus, we get to read and what’s cooler than that? A while back, I hosted a book club social for some of the attendees at P.J. Moran’s where we enjoyed a small, but tasty offering of free appetizers such as mini-quiches and stuffed mushrooms. Since it was after work and happy hour time, we didn’t get a good sense of what the restaurant truly feels like for dining, but P.J. Moran’s is, according to its website, “a pub with old-world charm and warmth near the heart of the big city” and boasts to have “midtown’s best burger” in addition to a lovely menu unlike that of other typical pubs. Located a block or so away from both St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center, P.J. Moran’s is a great place to grab a bite and chill with friends.


When J & C were last in town, they asked Marc and me to join them at an Indian restaurant called Vatan on E. 29th Street. I love Indian fare and was thrilled to be going, but then I found out it was completely vegetarian and I, a vehement carnivore, immediately thought, maybe not so much. Well, slap my fanny and call me Flora, this place was fantastic! Vatan offered a delightfully delicious and mouth-wateringly yummy, all-you-can eat menu (not buffet-style) for $23.95/person which was delivered by beautifully dressed servers in traditional Indian garb. They greeted us and asked if we’d like our dishes kind of spicy or blow-your-tongue-off spicy and then just kept on bringing us plate after plate until we begged them to stop. (Ah, I can still remember the sound of my button popping off my jeans as though it were yesterday.) Here’s a sample of what we ate that night:

*Sev Puri (potatoes, garbanzo beans, yogurt and chutney filled in fried bread)
*Samosa (triangular savory pastries filled w/ spicy potatoes & green peas)
*Batakavada (deep-fried potato balls in a chickpea flour batter)
*Toor Dal (boiled lentils cooked with spices)
*Kheer (rice pudding with saffron and dry fruits in milk)
*Homemade Indian mango ice cream
*Masala Chai (Indian tea cooked with cardamom, ginger and milk)

D & I both work in the same industry and blocks away from each other, so we meet for lunch about once a month to talk about books and boys. At one of our get-togethers recently, we stopped at Europa Café, a NYC-based eaterie that can be found mostly throughout midtown Manhattan. I had never eaten there before and found the place to be immaculately clean and the food pretty tasty for a basic soup/sandwich/salad kind of menu. Europa Café also offers online ordering and delivery which rocks because sometimes racing out for a bite to eat during lunch—especially on matinée day—can prove to be a giant pain in the tuchus.

One of my favorite co-workers and people on this planet is K, so I love when we hang out together because she’s fabulous, fun, and gives great conversation. One evening, we took a walk up to Whole Foods at Columbus Circle, not to buy anything—because the place is crazy expensive—but to have a look-see at all the pretty food stuff. Now, New York City knows how to kick it when it comes to gourmet grocers, but here’s some interesting info about Whole Foods:

Whole Foods Market was founded in Austin, Texas, when three local businessmen decided the natural foods industry was ready for a supermarket format. The original Whole Foods Market opened in 1980 with a staff of only 19 people and was an immediate success. At the time, there were less than half a dozen natural food supermarkets in the United States. Whole Foods Market currently does business with more than 2,400 independent farms, over 75% of which are family farms. In addition to organic produce and herbal health and wellness items, Whole Foods also has a prepared foods department—a lively, warm and appetizing showcase of the creativity and culinary talents of the store’s teams of chefs—and offers an ever-changing variety of quick entrées, side dishes, soups, rotisserie grilled items, sushi and sandwiches, all made with natural ingredients.

The Columbus Circle store opened in February 2004 as the anchor business of the spacious Time Warner Center. Located directly across from Central Park, its 59,000 square feet of retail space contains everything one would need for a quick lunch, a gourmet dinner at home, or a delectable, moveable feast!

One of the nifty things about living in NYC is that there’s a specialty restaurant everywhere you turn. There’s Dumpling Man on St. Marks Place which serves only dumplings in the classic northern Asian style; there’s Mary’s Dairy & Chocolate Bar, a mod ice cream parlor in both East and West Villages; and then there’s Pommes Frites on 2nd Avenue where I met my brother and his fiancée for authentic Belgian fries served with a variety of dipping sauces such as Sweet Mango Chutney Mayo, Parmesan Peppercorn, Wasabi Mayo, and the old standby, Malt Vinegar. A brief bit of info about this dinky food shop:

You won’t find many seats here, but you will find the tastiest treat in town. The potatoes are fried twice. The first time they are cooked through. The second time provides a golden color and makes them deliciously crisp. Europeans have been eating their fries with everything but ketchup for many years, and now Americans may also have the best crispy fried potatoes with their choice of sauce.

No matter how full I am when I leave these places, writing about them makes me hungry for more!


I’m Dina R. D’Alessandro, MS, RDN, CDN. I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in New York City, and I provide nutrition counseling to women.

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