Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bagua Juice

This weekend Alex and I took a trip to Jersey City to check out the 'Not Yo Momma's Craft Fair' and for a change of scenery. We took the PATH train to the Grove Street stop and did some exploring after a quick visit to the fair. One of the first places we stumbled across was this cute juice shop called Bagua Juice.

The purple trim on the outside was so charming we couldn't resist taking a closer look. Although it looked like a cafe from the outside, when we stepped in we realized it was more like a juice bar. Though we were both craving something caffeinated, we decided to try a couple of drinks and sit down in the window seats which had lured us in in the first place.

I ordered the Bare-E-Banana smoothie which consisted of strawberry, raspberry, banana, and blueberry, blended with ice. Alex ordered the Breath of Life, which was a juice that combined fresh pineapple, apple, ginger, and ginseng. We both decided that the smoothie was the way to go - the juice was somewhat lukewarm (which I suppose you can't remedy when you're squeezing fresh fruit), whereas the smoothie was cool and refreshing. A few ice cubes could have helped the juice out, but it also may have watered it down too much.

Though we only ordered two small drinks the total was almost $9, which we both felt was far too expensive for such simple drinks. I guess the price is on par with Jamba Juice, but they don't register too high on the frugal-meter, either. The cafe isn't nearly as cute inside as it is outside, and the lack of music made talking in whisper a necessity, but the window seats were comfortable enough and it was nice to take a moment to relax.

If you happen to find yourself in Jersey City and are looking for something healthy, I guess you can give Bagua a try. Just make sure to sit in the window seat.

Bagua Juice
346 Grove St
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Price: $8.50(ish) for 2 small drinks

Food: 7 - both drinks were good and fresh, though not much different than the ones you'd find at similar juice bars.

Frugal Factor: 5

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Neptune Diner

Diners are great for the unlimited coffee and 24 hour service. The food is usually secondary, so I never go to a diner expecting anything spectacular. Still, I had higher hopes for Astoria's Neptune Diner.

Alex and I were first intrigued by Neptune's large blue sign that we pass everyday on the subway. It is only so long that you can resist a diner that very prominently exclaims "voted best in Queens" before breaking down and giving it a try. So we did just that last weekend.

Western Omelet w/American Cheese

I ordered the western omelet with American cheese, and Alex ordered the Greek omelet, both of which came with toast and home fries, which we asked for extra crispy. The home fries were nothing to write home about, though it was nice to see that they actually were on the crispy side. The omelets were pretty standard and nothing more than mediocre. The cheese in the western omelet was barely melted which is one of my biggest turnoffs. Alex's Greek omelet was ok, filled with tomato, feta cheese and onions, but it was nothing special. Both omelets came on the overly well done side, which makes it even more surprising that their contents weren't completely warm. We probably could have made a better breakfast at home.

Greek Omelet

One of the perks about Neptune is that the price is right. Each omelet was only $7.00 and the coffee was actually pretty good. The service was ok, but that's not the sort of criteria you judge in a diner. I can't imagine I'd come back here under normal circumstances, but if I was craving something decent and quick after a long night, I could probably do worse than the Neptune Diner.

Neptune Diner
3105 Astoria Blvd
Astoria, NY 11102

Price: $15.95 (before tax and tip)

Food: 6 (decent home fries, overcooked omelets with lukewarm innards, soggy toast, pretty good coffee)

Frugal Factor: 7 (although we weren't wowed by the food, we also didn't spend more than 10 dollars each for everything)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dinner Party

This past weekend, Alex and I decided to have a small dinner party with our friends Torie and Jon and wanted to come up with a casual, yet classy menu. We decided to make brussels sprouts with bacon, fried smashed potatoes, and pork wellington. Here's how we did it:

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon:

15-20 fresh brussels sprouts, larger ones halved
5 cloves of garlic chopped
5 strips of thick cut bacon chopped
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then start cooking the bacon in a non-stick skillet. While the bacon is cooking, boil enough water to cover the brussel sprouts and cook for 5 minutes. Next cook garlic in the bacon fat, and incorporate cooked brussel sprouts for about 3 minutes. Transfer everything into an oven safe pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake for 20-30 minutes.

This simple dish will change the way you think about brussels sprouts forever, and they make a fantastic side.

Fried Smashed Potatoes:

1-2 pounds of small red potatoes, larger ones halved
fresh parmesan cheese
oil for frying

Put potatoes in a pot of salted water so that it covers your potatoes, and bring to a boil. Once they are almost fork tender (about 10-15 minutes), drain and let cool on a baking sheet. Once you are able to touch potatoes, lightly press down creating a "smashed" flat potato. Heat up one inch of oil in a cast iron skillet until shinny, and add potatoes with a spatula. Fry potatoes in oil for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and move to a serving dish. Liberally salt and pepper and add fresh grated parmesan on top.

These potatoes are not only a cheap side dish but they can also pack a bunch of flavor and color to a dish.

Pork Wellington:

2 pork tenderloins, trimmed and cut into 8 medallions and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 T. garlic minced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 bag baby spinach
1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed
16 pieces of thin sliced prosciutto
2/3 cup goat cheese divided into 8 pieces
2 eggs beaten with 2 T. water

Sear medallions in 1 T. oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat on both sides. This should take a total of 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and chill until completely cool. Don't wash your pan, you will want to save it for the gravy later.

Next, saute garlic and pepper flakes in 1 T. oil in a large skillet until fragrant. Add spinach, toss to wilt, and season with salt. Drain spinach in a sieve, pressing with a spoon until dry, then coarsely chop and cool completely.

Once everything has cooled and your puff pastry is thawed you are ready to assemble your wellington. Roll out both sheets of pastry to 12" squares and divide into 8 even sections. Assemble wellingtons by first laying a slice of prosciutto on each square, then topping with a pork medallion. Top pork with 1 T. each of goat cheese and spinach, then another slice of prosciutto.

Fold corners up to the top, and then fold the opposite corner to the center in the same way; press corners to adhere. Tuck in the sides as if wrapping a gift and fold up remaining corners, gently stretching pastry over open areas to enclose the fillings. Transfer wellington to a parchment-lined baking sheet coated with nonstick spray.

Preheat oven to 425 with the rack in lower third; brush wellingtons with egg wash. Bake until golden, 20 minutes. Rest 5 minutes before serving.

Lastly, but certainly not least, my favorite part of the meal,

Roasted Mushroom Sauce:

1/2 lb. assorted mushrooms, sliced (4 cups)
2 T. shallots, minced
1 T. tomato paste
2 T. all-purpose flour
2 T. unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups of chicken broth
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh parsley

Saute mushrooms with salt in oil over medium heat in the pan used to sear the pork. Cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add shallots, saute 1 minute, then stir in tomato paste and cook until it starts to brown, about 1 minute. Add flour and 2 T. butter; cook 1 minute.

Deglaze with wine; increase heat to high. Boil to reduce and thicken, 2 minutes, then add broth and herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce coats a spoon, 12-15 minutes.

Off heat, whisk in butter and pepper. Discard herb sprigs before serving.

I'm not going to say that this recipe is simple to make or particularly wallet-friendly, but it is definitely worth the time, effort, and cash. Alex and I both agree that it was one of the best things we have ever cooked and will definitely be making it again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Aphrodite Restaurant

Astoria is known for its Greek restaurants. They’re sort of the equivalent of Chinese food in Chinatown. But with a different restaurant on almost every corner, you’ve got to try a bunch before you can decide which is your neighborhood favorite. And after doing a little tasting around the area we have found one that we think is good enough to mention.

Aphrodite Restaurant, formerly know as Ditmars Gyro Place, is located on Ditmars Boulevard and 33rd Street in Astoria, Queens. The place itself is nothing fancy, just basic and small, but the food is pretty good. It is owned by a nice Greek family, and we usually see many of the same family members there whenever we stop by for a bite.

The last time we went I ordered the chicken souvlaki platter, and Alex ordered a mix of chicken souvlaki and beef gyro. Both of the dishes come with a small Greek salad, rice (or french fries) and some pita. The tzatziki sauce that accompanies the pita is very good. It's creamy and salty and much less chunky than some other tzatziki sauces I’ve tried.

The chicken souvlaki is very good. It has a nice, light, charred flavor to it, and is soft and juicy. The gyro meat, on the other hand, has great flavor, but is a bit drier than I would like it to be. The rice is good but nothing special, as is the Greek salad.

For desert we took home this amazing pastry. We have no idea what it is called but it is truly out of this world. It consists of a bottom layer of shredded wheat drenched in honey, topped with some sort of double cream custard and nuts. It is super rich and creamy, but somehow doesn’t feel too heavy.

We still plan to keep checking out some of the other Greek spots in the neighborhood, but right now Aphrodite is our go-to spot for some quick, cheap food.

Aphrodite Restaurant
33-01 Ditmars Boulvevard
Astoria NY 11105

Price: $23.90 (before tax and tip) - naturally we didn’t save the receipt and we only have a takeout menu for the restaurant before the name (and price) change. So my best guess is that the chicken souvlaki platter costs $9.95, the mixed gyro/souvlaki platter $10.95, and the desert about $3.00.

Food: 7

Frugal Factor: 8 – though the food itself is pretty good, the fact that you can have a full, satisfying dinner for just 10 dollars really makes this place a great value.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


This past weekend we went to Long Island to visit Alex’s parents and decided we were in the mood for some barbecue food. We ventured to BOBBiQUE, in the nice little town of Patchogue, to fulfill our craving.

Upon entering we were greeted with a list of over 80 decently priced beers and a standard barbecue menu with a few twists, like fried pickle chips (which practically begged to be ordered). We weren’t greeted, however, by the extremely unorganized wait staff, and really had to contemplate staying the hour-and-a-half wait.

After some hesitation we decided to stay and when we finally sat down the first thing we wanted were the fried pickle chips. They turned out to be worth the wait - deliciously crisp, salty, and sour, all at once. They were served with something akin to tartar sauce, which really helped to draw the pickley flavor out from the substantial amount of breading. For $4.95, the portion was surprisingly large and well worth the small price tag.

For our main course we both ordered the 3-meat combo platter, which includes 3 meats of your choice, as well as corn bread and 2 sides for $18.95. I ordered the ribs, wings, and fried chicken strips, and Alex ordered the brisket (chopped), wings, and ribs. For sides we got coleslaw, collard greens, and two orders of fries.

The one thing that stuck out in both of our minds were the wings. They were not your typical bar wings, but instead a juicy, nicely grill-charred wing with a very light coating of barbecue sauce. The rub on the ribs was also quite good, though we found the meat to be just a little drier than it should have been. The sides were uniformly good, though nothing to write home about.

Patchogue is a colorful town with lots of restaurants and bars, and an easy trip from the city. If you’re looking for a day trip and are in the mood for some wings, head to BOBBiQUE if you can stand the wait.

70 W Main Street
Pachogue, NY

Price: $42.85 not including tax or tip ($4.95 pickle chips, 18.95 3-meat combo X 2)

Food: 7

Frugal Factor: 7

Thursday, March 5, 2009


It just occurred to us that we’ve never had a formal introduction. So without further ado…

Welcome to Frugal Feast NY. We are your hosts, Aj and Alex – two fun-loving guys living in Astoria, New York (at least until the rent goes up) that like to eat. Although we enjoy the full-range of the food spectrum, from haute cuisine to dollar dumplings, most of the stuff we typically eat tends to fall somewhere between the two.

Frugal Feast isn’t necessarily about finding the cheapest food possible (not everyone would think a burger and fries are worth $16, but oh, how they are wrong), but finding worthwhile, delicious food that probably won’t break the bank.

We’re not setting a price limit on the food we post, but generally meals will not cost a great deal more than $25 per person, with the vast majority being much, much lower. We will include receipts (if we can find them) or estimated prices to give you a good idea of just how much everything will cost you.

We’ll also be posting some recipes, because sometimes nothing is more fulfilling (not to mention cheaper) than eating at home. In this case we’ll try to come up with a total price based on the ingredients used.

We’ve come up with a rating system that is pretty simple. We rate food based on two qualities – the food itself, as well as its frugal factor. The frugal factor takes said food rating into account, and compares it to overall cost to help you decide if something is truly worth it.

And usually it is. Although we’ve made plenty of missteps along our eating journey, part of the fun with food is trying something new and forming your own opinion about it, even if it doesn’t taste all that great.

Thanks for reading and happy eating,

Aj and Alex

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Homemade Pizza

Alex and I enjoy doing the majority of our cooking on Sunday afternoons. Pizza is something that is quick, easy, and cheap to make at home. Since we have yet to spring for a pizza stone, we have been making deep dish pizzas in our cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets are pretty inexpensive and a great addition to any kitchen. I got ours on Amazon for only $15.99

Here's what you will need to begin:

Pizza Dough

Either purchased from a local pizza place or homemade. I used our bread maker for this dough.


- 1 onion chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more depending on how spicy you like it)
- 16oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 Bay leaf
- Salt/Pepper to taste


Here you can really use anything but we made it with mozzarella cheese, thick sliced pepperoni and thin onion slices.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F

For the sauce, first lightly brown the onions in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, then add the minced garlic. Once everything is brown, add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer on low for about an hour.

Put a thin coat of olive oil on the bottom and the sides of the cast iron skillet. Be sure not to add too much, otherwise your crust will become oily rather than crispy. Then, place the pizza dough in the middle and work it out to the sides making sure that the middle is thinner than the edges to create a crust.

Once your sauce has cooled down, spread over the dough, add cheese and the rest of your toppings.

Bake for 45 minutes.


Rating: 8 out of 10
Price: about $9.00