The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Otto, Ginger and Spice, El Castillo de Jagua and Fancy Food Show aftermath

I'd happily eat any kind of gelato, whether good or bad. At least, if given the choice between mediocre ice cream and mediocre gelato, I'd pick the gelato. I suppose the best decision would be to choose neither and save my taste buds for a more worthy cause, but it's just a hypothetical situation. I can do anything in a hypothetical situation. Hell, I can FLYYYYYY!!!


gelato cups
gelato beats all

Preferably, I'd be stuck with good gelato. Or better than good. "Close to godliness" good. Or, "This is God reincarnated as a frozen, sweet, spoonable dessert that comes in a wide variety of delicious flavors, like the humans he created!" good. Otto's gelato is the last kind. Yeah, yeah, I know Grom is today's "it" gelateria, but as they don't offer both caramel and olive oil gelato (at least, I don't think they do), they lose against Otto.

A lot of people ask me about the olive oil gelato. "WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?" Well, imagine extra virgin olive oil. And...that it. Okay, imagine it in sweet, creamy gelato form. Now that's it. Fat-flavored gelato. As awesome as it may be, it's easy to say that harboring any dislike for olive oil will result in distaste towards the gelato version. On the other hand, if you love olive oil then you may experience a new level of joy (because it's not everyday you're eating a piece of God reincarnated) when you pop that first salt-sprinkled spoonful into your mouth. Your initial reaction may be one of horror—"WTF, this dessert tastes like olive oil, ew ew ew what,"—followed by the happy realization that it actually tastes really good.

But that's just my opinion.

Oh, the caramel. Caramel of my dreams. No wait, caramel of the dreams I haven't even had yet because I suck so much at dreaming that I didn't know caramel could taste so good. The flavor of Otto's caramel gelato changes over time—I daresay it...undulates. (Why I had to "daresay" it and not just "normal" say it, I don't know. "Undulates" is not a very normal word.) It starts off slightly bitter and caramel-y (no duh), but finishes in the back of your throat with a hint-o-salt. It's like two flavors in one! Or five flavors in one! A lot of stuff is going on at the same time, but nothing overpowers the other. It's just sweeeeeeet caramel gelato graaprharhagghs [wipes up drool]

Yeah, I love gelato. Oh, my cup also contained pistachio gelato. Of course it was good, but it wasn't as good as the others flavors. Poor little guy didn't stand a chance.

eggplant ricotta mint
mm, pizza

The second most awesome thing at Otto is their pizza. Arguably. There are some Otto haterz out there—this isn't your average pizza—but I think there are more people like me who love the super thin crust, which retains soft, mildly chewy pizza crust-ness as opposed to turning into a giant cracker, lightly topped with just enough sauce and cheese and whatnot to keep a perfect crust-to-topping ratio without making the crust soggy and gimpy. Carol and I ordered the same pizza, the special of the day topped with eggplant, ricotta cheese and chopped mint leaves along with sliced peppers. EGGPLANT, RICOTTA, AND MINT, people. Surely that combination would elicit an "OMGmusthavethat" reaction from you like it did from Carol and me. Unsurprisingly, it was really freakin' good. I paid my respects to the pizza by eating the entire thing.

Ginger and Spice

Ginger and Spice

Never would I have guessed that at the strip mall off Route 17 near my condo, in between the giant Kohl's and Panera Bread, was an Asian fusion restaurant. The exterior of Ginger and Spice in no way prepares you for the spacious, high-ceilinged, sleek modern interior that looks like it came straight out of...Asia. Or at least not suburban New Jersey.

My mum and I sat in a long booth whose wooden benches were backed by frosted glass paneling lit from the inside. Each table sat atop a floor inlayed with stones and was accompanied by...a flat screen TV? A little one. I'm not sure what for as none of the TVs was on, but I had the power to watch TV if I so desired. The powerrrr.

fried calamari
fried calamari

We started off with salt and pepper calamari, "hand battered with 'angry' flour, seasoned with sweet peppers, Thai chili, scallions and served with curry aioli." The angry flour coating was very light—I would've preferred something a little heavier to give crispiness and a little more "anger" for spicier flavor—but lended some kind of...pleasing textural difference. I dipped everything in the aioli sauce for some of the spicy kick. Not bad, but could be better.

spider roll
spider roll

My spider roll, stuffed with tempura fried soft shell crab, cucumber, red peppers, and avocado topped with some more of that aioli (NO SPIDERS) was pretty good, although not, "Oh my god I need this again" good. I think it would've been better without the red peppers, which tasted out of place.

crab cakes
crab cakes

My mum will always get crab cakes if its on a menu, perhaps in the same way that I'd gravitate towards duck confit. While I don't remember much about her crab cakes (they're not a favorite dish of mine), I recall liking the salad. Or...the salad dressing, since that's really what you're tasting. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell what the dressing was made of because MY TASTE BUDS SUCK; all I know is that my taste buds liked whatever they were being slathered with. There was this hint of something that reminded me of mint, some kind of floral oil, but it definitely wasn't mint. And I could actually have imaged it allll in my head since my mum had no idea what I was talking about. It may have just been a very flowery honey—we were pretty sure the dressing was honey-sweetened. Otherwise, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT WAS IN IT, and now the mysteries of the salad dressing will haunt me until I die. Or until I go back to the restaurant and ask what's in the dressing.

We were too stuffed to get dessert, one of the more unfortunate consequences of not having a bottomless stomach. For another review of Ginger and Spice, check out Big Apple Dining Guide.

All hail the mighty cubano


Yes, I finally got the $4 cubano from El Castillo de Jagua. Diana and I popped in there before going to the Sunshine Cinema to see Broken English (my short movie review being, "It was alright and earns a few extra points for being in Paris").


For $4 I don't think you can do much better than this sandwich. In between the pressed, grilled bread halves are layers of juicy, tender roast pork, ham, cheese (which was hardly perceptible, fine with me), tangy pickle slices and what may have been mayo, although apparently cubanos aren't supposed to have...mayo? Eh, whatever, I like mayo. The combination of all these ingredients results in this ridiculously tasty sandwich oozing with the comforting flavors of porkiness and fat cut by the pickles and whose soft texture is interrupted by the satisfying crunch of the bread, which is thankfully non-greasy. This sandwich could've been more compressed, but I have no complaints. Cheap. Filling. Pork. That is Robyn-food.

chicken sammich
chicken sandwich

As Diana ate her entire chicken sandwich and I consider her to be pickier than I am (easy since I', not that picky), I'm going to assume it was a good sandwich. She considered taking half of it home, but instead took off one of the slices of bread off the other half and ate it as an open-faced sandwich so she wouldn't be overstuffed. I should've done that with my sandwich too; I was so stuffed I could barely eat dessert.


We both ordered the $1.50 flan. It may look like an innocent little caramel sauce-coated cube of puddingly goodness, but it was surprisingly dense and very sweet. I couldn't finish it! I failed! Diana actually finished her whole cube and ATE MY LEFTOVER FLAN BITS. If you know Diana, she is a wee lil' person (I mean, if I fell on top of her she'd be a goner) and tends to eat small portions. She also isn't nearly as into sweets as I am—I tend to take the role of "dessert garbage disposal" when we eat out—yet look how the tables have turned. OH THE MONSTROSITY! I wonder if I'm a bad influence on her.

I should keep in mind that I spent my morning chomping through the nutritional void Fancy Food Show, which could explain why I wasn't up to eating the whole flan cube. Oh, Fancy Food Show...I'll get to that in a bit.

I'd put El Castillo de Jagua on my short list of restaurants I like so much that I've visited them at least three times. It won't change your life and might possibly give you sodium poisoning, but it's reliable...porky...and inexpensive. Score.

Food, food, food...too much food

I hope your stomach is empty

Last Tuesday I went to the Fancy Food Show with Ed, not because I had any important role to play but because I had never been to one of these behemoth food conventions before and I couldn't be a Serious Eater without such a life-changing experience.

I had never been to Jacob Javits Center before. It is quite large. I mean, it feels like a small city contained within walls of metal supports and glass. And when you walk into the exhibition halls (the lower level was where the real action was), your eyes are met with row after row after row to the 100th power of stalls touting their product as the most awesome thing out there, whether that be a microwavable meat-filled snack or a gourmet chocolate bar or a flavored water or line of roasted nuts or Meals in a Muffin. Think of the endlessness of Walmart—if you stand in a certain place the aisles seem to reach infinity—but with packaged food

It's frightening. I looked over this kingdom of free samples and didn't know where to start. I didn't really want to start since there was no way I would really be able to eat everything I wanted without requiring a stomach pump. Thankfully, Ed encouraged me to get over the irrational fear of trying stuff and got me to...try stuff, most of which occurred at the Garrison Confections booth.

chocolate...oh dear

My photos are mostly on the higher end of sucking (or the lower end of being good), so here's one of the better ones.

Andrew Schotts, the chocolatier who created the mountains of chocolate pieces before my eyes, said I could eat half of the piece and toss the other half. Throw out chocolate? I had never heard of such a thing in my life. It's why would you do that? Sadly, eating tiny bites is a necessity if you are to live through a food convention.

But I didn't eat half. I ate the whole thing. "She's new to this," he remarked. Oh yes. I'm the foolish noob who eats three chocolate pieces (lemon cupcake, banana passion fruit, and some sort of plum thing, all very good) and three chocolate covered toffees (which, due to Andrew's penchant for using as much butter as he can, resulted in non-sticky toffee chunks that effortlessly crunched like what I would expect the texture of compressed angel wings to resemble, ANGEL WINGS) and subsequently doesn't want to eat chocolate ever again. Or at least for the rest of the day.

Besides the chocolate I also had some excellent mango sorbet from Ciao Bella, cherry ice cream from Gianni, lightly sweetened soda from Kristall and chocolate covered salted caramels from Fran's Chocolates.

Ed had to go back to the office so I wandered around for a while longer. A visit to the upper level was disappointing, rather boring and more corporate. The bottom level is where it's at.

I walked back to the office since it was only about 10 blocks and two avenues away, but I failed to think about the consequences of walking in intense heat and humidity while lugging around a stomach filled primarily with ice cream and chocolate (you know, the lovely combination of sugar and fat). By the time I got back to the office I felt a few steps closer to death. Or dehydration. Downing a bottle of Snapple and sitting in an air conditioned box made me feel better after a while.


1 5th Ave

Ginger and Spice
1300 State Rt 17, Ramsey, NJ

El Castillo de Jagua
113 Rivington St


jodie / July 15, 2007 9:42 PM

i had otto's gelato when i was in nyc and loved the olive oil and caramel ones too! ohhh god i shall save up to go back for some moreee... hmmmm.

those crab cakes look like falafel.

Jason Perlow / July 15, 2007 11:02 PM

Hey Robyn. Didnt know you lived up by Ramsey. We should do Kinchley's sometime.

I did a short writeup of Ginger and Spice shortly after it opened for the New York Times back in 2005. The opening chef at the time was Doron Wong, who formulated all of the cuisine at the restaurant. Unfortunately, he didn't get what he was promised by the owner, so he and the pastry chef high tailed it out of there, and he ended up at some fancy restaurant in the Hamptons instead.

The Bergen Record shortly followed up with a full review of the restaurant after my NYT Quick Bite and they awarded it four stars, right before Doron left town. It still retains the four star rating, but the cuisine is no longer as inspired and in my opinion, is not deserving of that rating any longer. The owner, Vincent Chin, has also been posting the restaurant for sale on Craigslist, so I'm not sure how great they are actually doing.


jo jo / July 16, 2007 12:00 AM

grom is overrated. their pistachio is o.k. and their flavor of this month the peach with tiny choco chips does not have much "peachy" flavor. it was so thin that i thought it was a sorbet.

the UWS does not have many good food places so if you live up there it's a place to get gelato, but not worth a special trip.

Annie / July 16, 2007 12:54 AM

I sent sandwiches to the Gourmet News group at the Fancy Food Show last Saturday and got to chatting with them. They told me to come to the show and visit them and get free stuff and have a blast! I wish I had, but my stomach was wierd already and, almost thirty years older than you, I fear collapsing on a hot sidewalk with a tummy full of junk. So I stayed home but it looks like I missed a good time. (I do like in when foodie people order our sandwiches. It always seems like a compliment)

roboppy / July 16, 2007 1:24 AM

Jodie: YEAH THEY ARE SO GOOD! I wish they had a stand-alone gelato shop though so I wouldn't have to go to the restaurant...

They do kinda look like giant falafels. Ooh.

Jason: Yup, I'm snuggled away in a huge condo complex in Ramsey! WEE!

Oo, I didn't know Ginger and Spice had been around since then. Too bad the chefs left. I wouldn't say it's a 4 star place. :\ And if it's being sold I guess it's not doing too

Ah, I just had to Google Kinchley's to find out where that was. OMG PIZZA! Sadly my mum isn't into pizza (she's my fooding partner in NJ...cos...I live with her) but maybe I can convince her to come? :)

Jo Jo: Peach with lil chocolate I plan on making my own peach ice cream of some sort. They're selling loads of peaches at our local farmer's market, YESS!!!

Annie: It was a good time! :D Besides the "wanting to die and melt into a puddle" feeling after I stepped out of the convention center. Annd perhaps we could've seen each other...but...we'll have to arrange for a meeting later. OOH?

Eric / July 16, 2007 10:40 AM

Yay Robyn! You were able to finally order the cubano! Just like you I did try the pernil first though lol.

And as far as flan goes...have you ever been to a Cuban restaurant in Hoboken called La Isla? Their flan is the best I ever had! So smooth and velvety. They have traditional items on the menu and some fusion-y stuff. The funny part is that the place is in a hole in a wall type small diner.
But Robyn, you GOTTA check it out if you haven't done so already! (Food rating is a 26 on Zagat!)

maria~ / July 16, 2007 10:50 AM

Geez, girl! As usual I'm super duper envious of your food adventures, especially the Fancy Food Show!!! Like you, I'd probably have eaten the whole sample. Seriously, there are still people in this world who don't have the fortune to sample awesome chocolate, so why waste, right? ;)

janet / July 16, 2007 11:19 AM

Arrr. Totally been obsessed with anything salted+caramel+chocolate these days. Said the pirate who loves such salty sweets.

Man, I don't know how I haven't been to Otto yet. Grr.

janet / July 16, 2007 11:20 AM

Arrr. Totally been obsessed with anything salted+caramel+chocolate these days. Said the pirate who loves such salty sweets.

Man, I don't know how I haven't been to Otto yet. Grr.

Yuizaki / July 16, 2007 12:26 PM

I'm sooo jealous you got to go to the Food Show. Sounds so delicious.

:) Lucky girl. I would never eat half of a chocolate and throw out the other...what kind of evil suggestion is that?! No way...did they ever think how the other half feels? So wasted...poor chocolate...

auntjone / July 16, 2007 1:16 PM

I went to a FFS in Chicago a few years ago and nearly ate myself into oblivion as well. It is amazing how quickly you can fill up just sampling things. I think you forget how much you've really eaten until it's too freakin' late and you want to die. Of course, there is also the danger of trying something you discover that you don't like (like goat cheese) and having to eat something else immediately afterwards to get the horrible, unexplainable, oh-god-please-kill-me-now taste out of your mouth. I haven't tried goat cheese since.

susannah / July 16, 2007 6:20 PM

How do you find out about all these food shows?! Free chocolate = awesome.

Oh right . . you work at serious eats. =)

roboppy / July 16, 2007 6:28 PM


I've never been to La Isla, but it's super close to the train station. I couuullld go. Thanks for the rec!

Maria: I am totally just making up for the people who can't sample the chocolate. :)

Janet: Oh dear, I think we have to go to Otto. :) You want the gelato, oh yes.

Yuizaki: I would feel bad for the other half of chocolate too! Not that it has feelings or anything. But. But it still feels wrong!

auntjone: I tend to forget how much I've eaten until I reach the, "I'm going to die, I'm going to die right now by stomach splosion and it ain't gonna be pretty," point. Disturbing, yes. Sorry about the goat cheese experience. I luckily didn't eat anything that noxious, although a mint flavored soda was kinda weird.

Susannah: Ah yes, working at SE has something to do with that. :D Also, a friend told me about it...and then I was happy to find out that being part of the press means NOT HAVING TO PAY, WOOHOOEHOEOE!

threetoedsloth / July 16, 2007 8:05 PM

Normally I'd be completely openminded about that olive oil gelato, but I tried the Shangri-La Diet last year, which requires you to drink shotglasses of straight olive oil every day, and it made me so nauseous and belly-clutching that I've been wary around olive oil ever since.

Howevers, that pizza looks delightful!

misoponia / July 17, 2007 3:22 PM

Whoa hoah hohaha.....that caramel gelato sounds...sorta like the Berthillon chocolate ice cream I had in Paris. In its frightening supernatural ability to convey a person into alternate states of tongue consciousness.

:( Sadly enough, I've never tried caramel gelato...I always get tempted away by other flavors. What a waste of having been in Italy! DDDD::::::::

Uh oh. Just thinking about that ice cream makes me want to sing. *cough*
Youuuuu, oh Robyyyyn, my frriiiiiieeeeeennnd!!

:( I make no sense.... and I think I might scare away your readership by my insane commenting. But I get really excited every time I think about you and Diana going to Europe. AND ITALY. E BOLOGGNANANANANAAA

Boots in the Oven / July 17, 2007 4:37 PM

Robyn, that gelato from Otto looks amazing! And that pizza combination... omg. I remember when Otto opened there were all these people saying "eww, that's not TRUE pizza" and turning up their noses - I'm glad to hear it's awesome! of course, now I have to go. Dangit.

Steamy Kitchen / July 17, 2007 10:08 PM



(stomping feet & pouting)

Why didn't I say, "I want to live in NY" instead of "Florida sounds like a great idea"

I'll now go back to my Bob Evans soggy green beans made for senior citizens of Florida with no teeth.

roboppy / July 17, 2007 11:31 PM

threetoedsloth: ...shot glasses of olive oil?



That would definitely turn me off of olive oil. Aw. I don't blame ya for being wary.

Susannah: I worship the flan.

Lee Anne: If I can't scare away my readership, neither can you! :D I can totally imagine you singing. I can't wait until this happens in REAL LIFE!!!

I need to try that Berthillon stuff again. I had it once...but...I think I need a bucket of it. Or something. I dunno. Well, when ye come back to NYC we'll go to Otto, OKAY ok. And we should go to Paris together so we can bug out to Berthillon ice cream in unison. The power will be so intense, there might be a small explosion...

M. Girlie and L. Pants: Most pizza in NYC probably isn't "true" (because there' much of it) but HEY I will eat whatever tastes good. Whatever combination of wheat + stuff on top of wheat. Also, the pizza is just the right amount so that I can eat the whole thing and feel satisfied, not whale-like!

Jaden: When we have slushy crap snow and our faces feel like freezing off, Florida will seem better. :D

...But I do like it here. Haven't been to Florida in a long time! I remember heat! The sun! It hurts! .__.

Anyhoo, you seem to be doing well food-wise. :D I LOVED THAT PANCAKE OMG. I was happy to blog about it!

Miss Shoe / July 18, 2007 2:47 AM

OHHH wouldn't olive oil gelato taste GREAT on bread???!!! (gurgle)

Paris Glace / July 18, 2007 1:37 PM

Nice to relive the Fancy Food show in yr shoes..and I missed everywhere you went :(
Only 1700+ booths..
I have to admit I have not tried Otto's gelato.
I am deeply ashamed :(
I will act on it soon.

B / July 18, 2007 6:39 PM

Savoury Gelato and ice cream is something I've wanted to try for a long time. After living in spain, olive oil ANYTHING sounds fantastic!


B / July 18, 2007 6:39 PM

Savoury Gelato and ice cream is something I've wanted to try for a long time. After living in spain, olive oil ANYTHING sounds fantastic!


eatyourheartout / July 18, 2007 8:45 PM

Hahahaha. Yess.... I ate Robyn's leftover dessert! I just broke my.... record! Although, the Flan was... rather small in size. Sorta.

I wouldn't been able to eat that all if it wasn't for my last open-faced sandwich ;)

You think I'm really picky? I know a girl who's a lot pickier than I am!

roboppy / July 19, 2007 12:33 AM

Miss Shoe: I've never had gelato on bread, although I know that's popular...somewhere. Sicily? I'd try it!

Carol: OH JEBUS you better go to Otto soon.

B: I wouldn't really say it's savory, but it's like..half savory. Mostly sweet with a hint of savory-ness. :)

Diana: The flan was small but DECEPTIVELY SO! Because it was DENSE! Like. Compressed flan.

Well, I wouldn't say you're really picky, but pickier than I am. And I don't mean that in a bad way; I should be more discerning about things. I'm only picky about a few foods, like macarons and pizza! .__.

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