smoked salmon and avocado ftw

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My new favorite sandwich is salmon and avocado. I used to be a turkey and colby jack girl, then I switched to tuna salad sandwiches, and now it’s all about the smoked salmon and avocado. If I phrase it like that, it sounds like I’m becoming more hoity or health conscious, but it’s really just that I’m discovering new foods and my palette is improving. I’ll still go for a good ol’ turkey and cheese every so often. But smoked salmon and avocado? Wow. It’s a revelation. The only problem is that in comparison to other sandwich options, it’s downright pricey.

When I first started working, I ate out every lunch, which in the Flatiron District equates to a serious drain on the bank account. Now I try to bring my lunch to work, but I still love Cafe Prague, because they’re amazing. And their smoked salmon and avocado sandwich (pictured above) is just TOO amazing. So yummy. But at $11.92 a pop (with a side of chips), it’s just too much for me. So I went to the grocery store, bought sliced potato bread, avocados, smoked salmon, and swiss cheese, assembled, and voila! My version (pictured below) is not as great as Cafe Prague, but for the budget conscious, it’ll do.

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Cafe Prague
cafepraguenyc.com
2 West 19th Street
Flatiron District, New York, NY

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eating lunch … at my desk :(

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I remember this one article that said that although eating lunch away from your desk is incredibly important psychologically, employees’ satisfaction levels are also correlated to whether or not they had a choice in eating at or away from their desks. Makes sense, right? Mind breaks are important, but so too is the freedom to choose for yourself. And I totally get it. Being forced to eat at your desk is a double whammy of suckage.

I usually don’t mind eating at my desk. In past jobs (architecture firms) we always had the choice to eat at our desks or the meeting/kitchen table depending on if you were working or wanted to socialize, but since deadlines were constantly fast approaching, it was pretty common for us to order in food, eat at our desks, and chat while eating/working. Here, we always eat in the kitchen because we share a single (albeit partitioned) office table that is viewable to passersby. We have to eat in shifts and I find it incredibly mind-numbing to eat while staring at a white wall, but as long as I have my phone to watch Coursera lectures or read some emails, I’m fine.

But when everyone else goes for a meeting and I’m alone and am forced to eat lunch at my desk in order to keep an eye on the door? That bites. Especially when it’s a slow day. There’s only so much BuzzFeed, DailyMail, and BoredPanda one can read before one’s mind goes completely numb. The sandwich was good though. Wagas never fails.

grilled cheese for the win

There’s a new restaurant in town and it is beyond amazing. Right next door to CinnaSwirl and actually sharing the same address is Co. Cheese, another sign that Americans are taking over this city. But instead of that being an apocalyptic statement, it’s a glorious one (although maybe not for the traditionalists). Co. Cheese is a sign that not all Americans are English teachers, we don’t eat McDonald’s all the time, and lowbrow food can be darn good food.

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Co. Cheese is a grilled cheese restaurant. Oh yes. But it’s not just cheese, bread, and butter; it’s got options. Back when I was in New York, there was the whole gourmet simple food thing going on, like specialty hot dogs, fancy mac and cheese, et cetera. In a city like New York, known for both the best pizza on the planet and dollar cheese slices, it made perfect sense and I didn’t think that much of it. In Shanghai, where it’s a struggle to find decent comfort food, and where you’re usually stuck deciding between the fancy schmancy restaurant with food flown in straight from France (with its associated prices) or the somewhat sketchy place on the corner with its ten-kuai noodles in a plastic-lined bowl, a proper grilled cheese sandwich is like ambrosia not meant for mere mortals.

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At first the thought of a grilled cheese restaurant was like “those crazy expats,” but upon first bite of a brie, avocado, ham, pear, and arugula grilled cheese sandwich from Co. Cheese, I was in heaven. And instantly I felt three times more American, remembering all those grilled cheese sandwiches I used to make with Colby-Jack on sliced sourdough bread. Let’s face it, as simple as the grilled cheese sandwich is, there are probably a million ways to make one: In a toaster oven, on the stove, with an iron? Kraft Singles, a mix of cheeses, shredded or sliced? White bread, whole wheat, sourdough? Which sides get buttered? Any toppings or tomato soup to dip it in?

There’s just something so great and democratic about a grilled cheese sandwich. Grilled cheese sandwiches are for everyone, and everyone loves ’em. Co. Cheese steps things up a notch by offering a wide range (I need to try the mac and cheese one next) so it’s beyond the standard grilled cheese that I could make at home. But even if it were just cheese, bread, and butter, being that this is Shanghai, where you have to go to specialty or import shops for good cheese and bread, Co. Cheese is greatly appreciated and fills a niche. It’s simple lowbrow food, but it’s so darn American, so darn appreciated, and so darn good.

Co. Cheese Melt Bar
32 East Yuyuan Road
Jing’an District, Shanghai

hong kong food (tbt)

Throwback Thursday! Back in December I went to Hong Kong for a two-day visa run. Here’s some of what I ate. Because when one travels, one eats. And since I’d been to Hong Kong previously, I had already seen the sights so I didn’t do much except wander around the art galleries and do some shopping while waiting for my expedited work visa to come through.

And you know what? There’s only one place on the list (Ebeneezer’s, which was really great) that I can’t get in Shanghai. The others (Café de Coral, Delifrance, Toast Box, and Starbucks) all have locations in Shanghai, and instant noodles are, well … everywhere.

In my defense of this rather depressing list, I was on a tight budget. I did have one good meal in a nice Cantonese restaurant … but there’s no photo of the delicious seafood stew I had because I was too starving to think about photos first. I’ve never been to any of the places’ Shanghai locations (other than Starbucks of course), but I will definitely have to visit Toast Box again. I’ll pass on Café de Coral though … there were eggshells in my eggs.

leftovers leftovers leftovers

There’s a lot of food in New York. Thank goodness because I’m not a good cook (although for the sake of cheapness, I try). Eating out so often means … yummy midnight leftovers! It also means a very sad bank account … but let’s not think on that, eh?

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Beyond Thai Kitchen: Drunken Beef Fried Rice

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M&O Market & Deli: Fish Sandwich

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Red Rooster: Harlem Chowder

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M2M: Hamburger and Fries

All of these are totally recommended. Beyond Thai Kitchen’s drunken fried rice is really darn good and every time I go to M&O I try a different sandwich and am consistently completely satisfied. Red Rooster in Harlem on 125th is pricey, but it’s worth the trek and splurge … at least once. And as for M2M … I can’t even count how many times I’ve been there or how many hamburgers I’ve had from there – I also really don’t think I’d want to know.

arby’s roast beef in the airport

Arby’s! Roast beef! Arby’s sauce! Yum! There is no Arby’s near where I lived in Houston, there is no Arby’s in China, and there is no Arby’s in Manhattan. So basically what I am saying is that I had not had Arby’s since undergraduate … and college was quite a while ago. But I like Arby’s!

When I had a layover at the Baltimore (BWI) airport (my first time at that airport), I saw that they had an Arby’s and I got so excited! Classic roast beef sandwich, please! Back when I was younger I used to be somewhat OCD so I would have to rearrange the roast beef so that it was level (because usually when then stick it on the bun it’s kind of in a big clump) and spread the sauce on evenly so every bite was the same. This time, I squeezed two packets of sauce onto the thing and gulped it down. Verdict: SO YUMMY.

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