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October 24, 2012

Lima: The Tasting Menu at Astrid y Gaston

Since we're going back to South America, I've decided to go back to some of the stories I forgot to tell about last year's trip.

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Last year, as soon as we decided to spend time in Lima while in Peru, I began hearing about all the food options. And at the center of any food conversation about Lima is Gaston Acuria. The defining chef of Peru, Acuria's flagship restaurant is Astrid y Gaston, which happened to be just a couple blocks from the apartment in Miraflores where we stayed.

On our first night in town, we showed up at their door and managed to get dinner at the bar, where we ordered the tasting menu. A few hours and twelve courses later, we
Finished one of the best meals I've had... Pretty much ever. I won't claim to remember exactly what every course was 7 months later, but you can see a good deal of it after the jump.

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July 11, 2012

Montreal: Birthday Dinner at Joe Beef

Yes.

The culinary highpoint in a trip full of amazing food has to be the dinner Tammi and I had on my birthday at Joe Beef. A month after our trip to Montreal, I'm still drooling over the extreme and delicious meal we had there.

Rather than attempt to narrate the meal, I'm just going to give a visual recap of the spectacle after the jump. Enjoy!

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June 27, 2012

Montreal: Dinner at Au Pied du Cochon

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I wasn't messing around when I planned out our recent trip to Montreal. From a month before, I made reservations for our first night at the legendary Au Pied du Cochon. No relation to the Parisian home of cheesy onion soup and pork spread, the Montreal restaurant is often seen as the flagship for Quebec's special brand of rich, hearty, foie gras-laden cuisine.

It's where Hugue Dufour of M Wells got his start and has, until recently, been THE destination restaurant in Montreal. These days, Joe Beef probably puts up a pretty good fight for that title, but more on that later.

For now, you can see our amazing meal after the jump...

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May 16, 2012

Queens: A Roosevelt Avenue Street Food Tour

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I don't get out to Queens much. In fact, besides going to the airports, I mostly like to avoid the borough as a whole. That said, I've been hearing great things about the great food there for years. Last year, the lore took me out to M Wells - twice. Last weekend, it took me to Roosevelt Avenue, where I grazed my way down thirty blocks with my fellow Midtown Lunch contributors, Donny (of Eat To Blog) and Siobhan (of Blondie & Brownie).

The trip wasn't entirely for leisure, though. Siobhan and her blogging partner Alex are writing a street food cookbook and Donny and I will be providing some of the photography. So, you know, it's research. Leading us through this unfamiliar territory was Jeff Orlick, aka JeffreyTastes, who runs regular tours of the area.

I hope to write a few posts about some of the specific places we visited, but who knows when I'll have time for that, so let's start with the highlights - after the jump.

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May 2, 2012

Your First Look at The Bar at Peaches

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Last night, Bed-Stuy got its newest bar. The folks at Peaches have renovated the space where Bread-Stuy used to be and turned it into a bar for folks in the neighborhood to hang out, chat and enjoy each other's company. It's a much needed addition to the neighborhood and I'm looking forward to spending long evenings bending elbows at the bar or holed up in a window seat on a summer's day.

Before they opened, owners Craig & Ben let me in to get a first look at the place. They're also our first confirmed stop on the next Bed-Stuy Crawl, which will tour Lewis Avenue on Saturday, June 2nd.

See more photos of the space after the jump...

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April 17, 2012

Bed-Stuy Crawl, Round 2 Recap

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Last weekend's Bed-Stuy Crawl was an amazing success. Alisha, Nicole and I led a crowd of nearly 50 people to sip and snack at three spots in the Franklin/Bedford corner of the neighborhood. I told you all about the plan last week, so check out how it all went with photos after the jump.

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April 6, 2012

Cuzco: Eating Cuy at Victor Victoria

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It's a fine line between being an open-minded eater and being the idiot who'll eat anything on a dare. I try to be adventurous enough that I don't miss a good meal due but not so much that I'm just eating something because it's there. In Peru, cuy was the elephant in the room. Guinea pig is a local delicacy that I admit had me both curious and a little grossed out. Really though, when was I going to have the opportunity to try it again.

In Aguas Calientes, I almost had cuy confit at The Tree House But they didn't have any on hand. I didn't go hunting for cuy after that, but I mentioned that I wanted to try it to Arturo, a friend of a friend, who leads food tours in Lima (more on that later). He recommended Victor Victoria, a small restaurant that's small, divey and off the beaten path.

We got totally lost the first time we tried to go there, but managed to track it down the next night. Joined by fellow anglophones from Brooklyn and the UK that we met at an Aussie bar down the road, we dove in together and had a pretty good meal.

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April 3, 2012

Cuzco: Chicharron Row

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Our trip to Peru wasn't all eating and hiking - Tammi and I did some sightseeing while we were in Cuzco, too. It just so happens that as we walked to the remains of an ancient inca temple, Qorikancha, we ended up walking down a strip of chicharrones joints. Go figure.

Baskets of freshly fried pork bits were on display in front of each of these places. How could we resist? Culture could wait. Get a look after the jump.

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March 29, 2012

Food/Work: In The Kitchen at Giano

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Earlier this month, I was hired by ScoutMob to photograph at East Village Italian restaurant, Giano for their new Hand-Picked series.

I shot as Chef Matteo prepared a few dishes from cooking to plating to the final dish in order to show what customers can expect from their hand-picked experience. Given the time I spent in the kitchen, it's no surprise that many of the outtakes from the shoot seemed appropriate for the Food/Work series.

Get a look into the kitchen at Giano after the jump.

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November 30, 2011

Cuzco: The open kitchen at Cicciolina

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While the eating options were a bit limited in Aguas Calientes, Cuzco was an entirely different story. One night, while looking for a place to grab a drink, we stumbled upon Cicciolina, an Italian place hidden in a courtyard of shops a block or two away from the main square.

We may have come for a drink, but as soon as I saw that our spot at the bar was directly in front of the open kitchen, it was pretty clear that we'd be spending hours there. See cooks, prep, pasta making and cocktail shaking after the jump.

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September 22, 2011

Peru: The Tree House

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As I mentioned yesterday, the town of Machu Picchu, formerly known as Aguas Calientes, is pretty much a tourist town. That includes the food. Pizza and Mexican and Chinese all stand next to restaurants selling the same ten Peruvian dishes, no one offering anything quite good.

There were a couple exceptions that we enjoyed and a month later, the one that sticks with me is The Tree House. Check out the space and the food after the jump.

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August 17, 2011

Peru: Lunch at Juanito's in Cuzco

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Wow, what a week it's been since I posted from the airport in Lima at 4am. We've bounced around Peru and there will be more reports soon, I promise. For regular updates, follow my digital Tumblr blog, where I've been posting photos like mad.

Once we got to Cuzco and settled in, it was time to look for some real food. We huffed and puffed through the 11,000+ foot altitude and tracked down a sandwich shop called Juanito's, which was highly recommended and just a couple blocks from where we were staying.

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August 10, 2011

Early Lunch at M Wells

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Last week, in my post-corporate afterglow, I took the opportunity to return to M Wells, the site of my amazing birthday dinner. I'd heard great things about the brunch menu and had to see what it was all about. The timing turned out to be perfect as, just the day before, the eccentric Long Island City diner announced that it would be closing up shop due to a rent hike.

I met up with my friend Emily, one of the many awesome people I met at the Foodspotting events this spring. She has also recently left the land of the day job and is pursuing her own projects.

We didn't gorge ourselves the way that Eric and I did back in June, but we ate pretty well. See the courses after the jump.

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August 1, 2011

Nom Wah Parlor with Chinatown Chowdown

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Last week, Tammi and I took to Chinatown's historic dim sum parlor, Nom Wah, to help celebrate the release of Chinatown Chowdown. As I mentioned before, the app is a savior for folks like me that have a hard time figuring out which of the hundreds of restaurants, carts and eateries in the neighborhood to try. I plan to spend some quality time exploring the options and thus far have it to thank for a few good meals.

Follow the jump for photos from the festivities.

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July 20, 2011

Bed-Stuy: Do or Dine brings an adventurous menu to the hood

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Even though they've only been open for a month or so, I feel late to the game with Do or Dine. The internets have been abuzz with talk of all the crazy and interesting food they're churning out for weeks. And that was all before some goofy vegans gave them the best PR gift you could ask for by starting a petition against the foie gras doughnuts they serve.

The restaurant, which is really more like a clubhouse, describes itself as an 'American Izakaya,' only because everyone's tired of the word 'gastropub.' Really though, that's what it is, an awesome gastropub where they cook whatever they feel like trying. I don't care what you call it, it's good and I plan to return soon. After the jump, check out the meal and a very cool surprise at the end.

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July 13, 2011

Kitchens: The Chef's Counter at La Lunetta

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After the Bastille Day fun on Sunday, Tammi and I had dinner at Lunetta, the wonderful Italian restaurant that happens to sit on the site of our first date, those many years ago. By chance, we managed to get a seat at the Chef's counter in the back. Whether it's at the counter at Osteria in Philly or at Cal Pep in Barcelona or I'm just watching demos at The Astor Center, I love seeing - and photographing professionals working in a kitchen. I've been doing more of it lately for some projects I don't think I can talk about just yet, but I take every opportunity to shoot in kitchens and this was no different. Check out the photos, including a rather dramatic flare-up and some delicious food after the jump.

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July 8, 2011

Chinatown: Hua Ji's Pork Chop

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My first excursion into Chinatown with the Chinatown Chowdown app took me to a scaffolded building at the end of Allen Street. I walked past a crowd of people sitting on the sidewalk waiting for one of those cheap fare buses and knew that I'd never have thought to stop here without a proper guide.

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July 6, 2011

Chowing Down in Chinatown

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I've mentioned before that Chinatown always presents something of a challenge to me. It's chock full of interesting food, but much of it is hidden among mediocrity, esoteric signs and thousands of people knocking into each other.

Still, sometimes i manage come across a yummy surprise like Malaysian jerky shops or egg tarts like i had in Hong Kong that make me want to keep going back to look for more.

Recently, a friend gave me the key to finding the hidden goodies to be found in the neighborhood. Craig Nelson, a friend and fellow food fan developed an app called Chinatown Chowdown, which works as a guide to the area's best food.

It's got listings and reviews and photos as well as a map that'll tell you what's closest to you and how much a cab would cost to get there.

Over the next couple weeks, i plan to try to make it do a little exploring with the app as my guide. I'll be reporting in once a week or so with my finds.

June 29, 2011

Birthday Dinner at M Wells

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The day after my birthday, Eric managed to get me to go to Queens for dinner at M Wells. If you haven't heard about it, well, good, maybe I'll be able to get another meal there before they entirely blow up. That's unlikely, as Sam Sifton already raved about it months ago. I'm weeks late with this post and, honestly, I don't have time to do this meal justice with words. See photos and a quick rundown of our incredible meal after the jump.

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May 9, 2011

Malaysian Jerky in Chinatown

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Reminiscing about last year's trip to Hong Kong inspired me to take a trip to Chinatown the other day. Wandering the area, I tried some egg tarts (more on that later), ogled markets, dodged knock off bag sellers and discovered this shop. They had me at 'jerky!'

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May 2, 2011

Hong Kong: Loon Kee Seafood Restaurant

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At the head of Hong Kong's Gage street, right across the street from Lan Fong Yuen tea house, Loon Kee draws passersby in with a visual siren's song of roasted meats hanging in the window.

Behind them, men stand in the window chopping and prepping meat for customers. Their hands, shiny from the greasy skins of pork and duck and chickens, just looking at them work, going in was an inevitability, not an option.


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April 29, 2011

Hong Kong: Thai Hut

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On a particularly debaucherous evening out in Hong Kong, our host took us out to Wan Chai to give us a peek at the seedier side of town. Its probably pretty telling that above all the working girls and over the top everything, we saw there, the thing that I really remember is Thai Hut.

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April 28, 2011

Hong Kong: Tsui Wah

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In our first week in Hong Kong, we passed by branches of the Tsui Wah chain more than a few times without realizing that it was another of the cha chaan tang tea houses, like Lon Fong Yuen (basically diners), that we'd read about. Thankfully, we discovered it in time to stop in a couple times before we headed home.

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April 27, 2011

Hong Kong: Cha Chaan Tang at Lon Fong Yuen

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Among the notes I got from friends and friends of friends ahead of our trip to Hong Kong, I read a couple references to cha chaan tang tea houses as a particular institution in local culture. Despite what I read about it being the home of low budget comfort food, it never occurred to me that it would basically be a diner.

One in particular, Lon Fong Yuen, was highly recommended and conveniently turned out to be right at the beginning of Gage Street, the strip of markets that I obsessively returned to, ogling the Butcher shops and the people who worked there.

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April 21, 2011

Quick Bite: Bar Mut in Barcelona

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After we left La Sagrada Familia on our last day in Barcelona, Tammi and I went to Bar Mut, in L'Eixample for some wine and a few snacks. We were there in that late afternoon dead period that confounded us just about everyday, but thankfully, they were open through the siesta and we spent a couple hours snacking and drinking wine there. See the food after the jump.

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April 18, 2011

Scenes from Barcelona: Kiosko Universal

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Heading to Barcelona, I was obsessed with the Boqueria marketplace. I wanted to photograph it and sample all the different foods there, gorging myself on slice after slice of jamon and who knows what else. Once we got there, though, I ended up mostly window shopping, ogling the wares and wondering how one cooks a cockscomb.

On the one 'morning' we did eat there (and by morning, I mean afternoon), we went to Kiosko Universal.

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April 12, 2011

Quick Bite: Porchetta Platter

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A while back, I got a Blackboard Eats coupon for Porchetta in the East Village. I've gone on about my obsession with the Italian roast pork dish in the past. It's delicious. Usually, I get the sandwich, but with the discount, I figured I'd splurge a bit.

This is the Porchetta Platter with beans and cooking greens. And, I got a side of potatoes & burnt ends. Of course, it ended up being more food than I could eat - I took the potatoes home and broiled them up with dinner that night.

March 31, 2011

Bed-Stuy Tour: Dough

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After catching doughnut fever in Chelsea last month, I found myself particularly intrigued when I got word about Dough, a new doughnut shop in Bed-Stuy on the corner of Franklin and Lafayette. Tammi and I peeked in after leaving Bedford Hill last weekend, but sadly found ourselves too stuffed from breakfast to partake. I did take some photos, including a few of some freshly glazed doughnuts going out. Check them out after the jump.

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March 30, 2011

Bed-Stuy Tour: Bedford Hill

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I've been hearing about Bedford Hill since it opened last year, but hadn't made it out until Tammi and I took our Bed-Stuy tour last weekend. It's on Franklin Avenue, on the same block as Sweet Revenge (where we ended the day about 12 hours later) and just blocks away from the border with Clinton Hill.

The initial shock of being the only black folks in the room in the heart of what used to be seriously "'hood" Bed-Stuy faded relatively quickly. The politics of the "Pratt Area" and the wave of gentrification are an nearly a force of nature in New York and I'm not about to blame a place like Bedford Hill for serving the new residents in the area.

If anything, my only complaint about Bedford Hill is how tight the space is. I'm a big guy and walking in in the middle of a rush, I was bumped and jostled every which way, even after I found a seat.

Still, once we had our food and the crowd died down, it was extraordinarily pleasant and my initial urge to flee relaxed. See the food after the jump.

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March 29, 2011

Brooklyn: The Bed-Stuy Tour Part One

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The weather may not quite feel like spring, but despite the cold, the longer days are inspiring me to get outside and do some exploring. Tammi's been taking some classes at the YMCA on Bedford Ave and it's given us an excuse to spend some time wandering that end of Bed-Stuy a bit more.

That's meant brunches at Peaches HotHouse and Black Swan, but also the discovery of a few new places that have been popping up on the radar of late. Last weekend, Tammi and I spent our Saturday over in the corner of the neighborhood that borders Clinton Hill and Williamsburg that's become known as the "Pratt Area" or even, irritatingly "West Bed."

We stopped in some cafes and bars and generally wandered about, meeting up with friends and seeing what's new and noteworthy. See the beginning of our tour after the jump.

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March 23, 2011

Aspen: The food of BB's Kitchen

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The interesting part of my annual sojourns to Aspen has been tracking down the new restaurants and bars that pop up over the years. This year, I discovered BB's Kitchen, which had only been open for a couple weeks when I got there.

I had a few great meals there and just missed the opportunity to photograph their meat operation for my butchery project. I spoke to the chef, Mark Buley about the restaurant and their plans to bring whole animal cooking to Aspen. If I'd written this post two months ago, I'd probably have a lot more details, but it's all faded a bit, so I'll let the food talk for itself after the jump.

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March 16, 2011

Barcelona: Cal Pep

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Tapas bar, Cal Pep has been on Barcelona's must visit lists for so long that I almost skipped it just because it's so over-exposed. Except that it was clearly on the list for a reason. I wasn't going to skip it just to be contrary.

The crowded line of people waiting for one of the prized seats at the counter Was enough to scare us off one night, but after our lovely lunch at Quimet i Quimet, I was very excited to keep trying the more amazing options in town.

The line, it turned out, wasn't so big a deal. We walked in to find half a dozen people ahead of us and we were seating within 15 minutes. We passed the time with some house wine and watching the show behind the counter as the chef chatted with customers and the staff presented new dishes to each party.

When we sat down, we were asked what sort of foods we liked and whether we had any particular restrictions. It seems the standard serving style is what the Japanese call omakase - chef's choice. You're in their hands and they bring up whatever is fresh and fits your preference. We went with it and enjoyed course after course - plus one addition we couldn't skip. See the blow by blow after the jump.

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March 10, 2011

Cambodian Cuisine Returns - in a truck

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Longtime Brooklynites, may remember the Cambodian Cuisine restaurant that stood prominently in the middle of pre-gentrified Fort Greene. It's giant sign stood out and, well before pho and banh mi became common parlance in the food world, it was one of the only Southeast Asian places outside of the city's three Chinatowns.

It's long since closed and the location has been the home of Smoke Joint, the barbecue-centered sibling of Peaches and Peaches Hothouse.

I had only ever been to Cambodian Cuisine a few times and only really remembered it as a landmark of a lost time. Regardless, I have wondered, from time to time, what ever became of them. Last week, I found out when I stumbled upon their newly launched food truck, Cambodian Cuisine Torsu across from Washington Square Park in The Village.

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March 8, 2011

Quick Bite: Mardi Gras Muffaletta at Rye House

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I've mostly outgrown the drunken bacchanalia of events like Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day, but I did manage to find my own way to celebrate this afternoon. I met up with a friend for lunch at Rye House and discovered the addition of a special sandwich on the menu for Fat Tuesday: their own take on a muffaletta.

The true New Orleans version of the classic Italian sandwich is usually so big that one couldn't hope to eat an entire one in one sitting and expect to do anything more than nap for the rest of the day. Thankfully, this was a bit scaled back to a more reasonable size.

March 7, 2011

Fatty Johnson - gone, but not forgotten

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This weekend, Tammi and I finally got a chance to check out Fatty Johnson, the pop-up restaurant in the space where Cabrito used to be at 50 Carmine Street in The Village. This was cutting it down to the wire, as they finished up service there yesterday. The meal was great and made me wish I'd headed there earlier so I could have tried more of the food.

Check out what we had after the jump.

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March 4, 2011

Barcelona: Quimet i Quimet

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When I put out the bat signal requesting recommendations for where to eat and drink in Barcelona, no less than four friends insisted that we try Quimet i Quimet. The small wine shop in the Parallel district is famous for its tight quarters and it's wonderful selection of tapas.

The talk of its small space certainly made me hesitate. I'm not partial to being bumped and jostled at every turn, but given the word of some of my most respected food geeks, I had to go. We went for a late lunch and actually found plenty of room.

We weren't super hungry, so didn't get that much - although I could certainly have kept gorging myself just because it was all so good. Check out the courses after the jump.


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March 1, 2011

Barcelona: Cafe Viena

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It's been several years since Mark Bittman wrote that the best sandwich he'd ever had was from a cafe in Barcelona, but it's been in the back of my head ever since. Now that we were there, it was high up on my shortlist of things to try while we were there.

The inauspicious Cafe Viena doesn't stand out from the various shops and cafes along La Rambla, but it's so worth the visit.

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January 28, 2011

Quick Bite: Steak & Egg at Lulu Wilson in Aspen

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Last year in Aspen, I had Lulu Wilson's Bacon and Egg dish, which I lit with my iPhone.

The other night, I made a return visit and found that the dish had grown into this Steak and Egg entree. This time, I used my iPad for a broader light over the whole dish.

January 12, 2011

Vietnam: Pho 24

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When planning to go to Vietnam, I had two major foods I wanted to eat as much of as possible: pho and banh mi sandwiches. Our trip to Cambodia didn't leave us as much time to explore as I'd hoped, so my pho exploration was limited to a couple visits to Pho 24, one of the local pho chains around Saigon.

I'm sure there are a million varieties of pho to be had around Vietnam, much of which may be better than what I had here, but I can say honestly that this was the best I've ever had.

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January 6, 2011

Cambodia: Barbecue on Pub Street

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In a town as full of tourists as Siem Reap, Tammi and I indulged in some of the typically touristy spectacle-seeking activities like the fish pedicure and eating some odd meats at a barbecue joint that clearly catered to the sensational eating crowd.

While I eat my fair share of foods that might gross some people out, I seldom engage in the bizarre foods contests that becomes more about eating weird stuff rather than food that actually tastes good. This time we figured 'what the hell?' Check it out after the jump.

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January 3, 2011

Cambodia: Street Cart Sausages in Siem Reap

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Compared to Vietnam, the street food in Siem Reap, Cambodia was pretty sparse. I did manage to find some carts selling skewers of chicken wing ends and even a cart with a variation on the banh mi sandwiches I love so much (more on that to come). The best of the cart food I found was from a lady selling these sweet, salty sausages.

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December 31, 2010

Learning about fish at Eataly's Pesce

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As I've said in years past, I don't really do resolutions as such, but on my list of things to learn more about for the last couple of years has been cooking and eating fish. Yeah, yeah, health blah blah blah. It's good for me, but it's also a whole area of food that up until now I've been woefully unfamiliar about.

So, the week before Christmas, Tammi and I took a break from shopping and stopped in at Eataly for lunch at Pesce, the seafood restaurant by Esca chef, Dave Pasternack. Check out the courses after the jump...


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December 30, 2010

Vietnam: Barbecue Beef at 3T Quan Nuong

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We found 3T Quan Nuong while rummaging through our guidebook for restaurants near the Dong Khoi area where we spent most of our time in Saigon. It doesn't take a lot to sell me on barbecue of any kind, but cook at your table barbecue in a roof garden pretty much demanded my attention. How could we go anywhere else? See the food after the jump.

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December 29, 2010

Vietnam: Com Tam Moc

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Having spent most of my eating time in Saigon obsessing over banh mi sandwiches, I didn't really get a chance to explore too many of the other culinary stylings of Vietnam. But on our first morning, we grabbed breakfast/lunch at Com Tam Moc, down the block from our hotel. Cơm tấm apparently refers to the leftover fragments of rice grains which are sorted out and sold cheaper.

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December 21, 2010

Lunch: How does Paris Sandwich stand up to the Banh Mi in Saigon?

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After writing up my Five Tips for Eating Banh Mi in Saigon, I found myself craving another Vietnamese sandwich. On my last trip down to Chinatown, when I went to Banh Mi Saigon, I noticed Paris Sandwich across the street and added it to my mental to-do list, so this time I decided to give it a try...


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December 20, 2010

Five Tips for Eating Banh Mi in Saigon

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Going to Vietnam, I was excited more than anything else for the street food. I mean, obviously. After all, I even made a lunch expedition to Chinatown ahead of the trip just to pre-game it at Banh Mi Saigon.

So, while in Ho Chi Minh City - which everyone we spoke to continues to call Saigon - I made a point of seeking out as many of these sandwiches as I could find. In the process, I came up with a few tips for the hungry traveler seeking out this particular deliciousness while in Vietnam.


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December 17, 2010

Hong Kong: Egg Tarts at Tai Cheong Bakery

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On my list of recommendations for places I should not miss in Hong Kong, a friend added the egg tarts at Tai Cheong Bakery. I didn't know much about it, but it sounded like a nice snack, so we went for it. When we finally found it, the line out the door and the newspaper clips posted of the former British governor scarfing down the famous tarts confirmed that we were in the right place.

The bakery appears to sell other items, but it seemed like the egg tarts were the main attraction. Right in front of the counter a warming tray keeps them hot and ready for each new customer. Take a look after the jump.

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The Stoned Crow Closing its Doors

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Sorry to interrupt the long string of Asia travel posts, but I just heard this and want to spread the word.

I've got bad news for longtime barflies and burger lovers: Greenwich Village bar, The Stoned Crow is closing at the end of the year. If you know the bar, you're already making plans to head over there now. If you don't, here's why you need to go.

For years, The Stoned Crow has been slinging one of the best burgers in town with little of the hype that has made nearly every other good burger in town an ordeal to get a hold of.

In part, the place stayed under the radar by sitting on a quiet block, away from the hustle and hassle of nearby Bleeker and MacDougal Streets. In fact, you've most likely passed it by on the way to Washington Square Park, neighboring Blue Hill or even the Radio Shack on the corner.

Go inside and you'll be rewarded with a laid-back atmosphere, a beer selection that includes some craft beers but doesn't obsess over it and a pretty amazing burger.

Continue reading "The Stoned Crow Closing its Doors" »

December 16, 2010

Hong Kong: Amazing Ramen at Butao King

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When planning the Hong Kong portion of our trip around Asia, I expected to partake in all sorts of Chinese food from Cantonese to Szechuan and all sorts of foods I'd never heard of. What I didn't plan on was spending two hours in line to go to a Japanese ramen shop, but that's what happened. The night we arrived, I picked up a copy of the local Time Out to see what food and events were below the radar of the guide books. The review for Butao King, a tiny ramen shop in Central was so amazing that there was no question we had to try it.

Continue reading "Hong Kong: Amazing Ramen at Butao King" »

December 13, 2010

Hong Kong: Brat

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Among all the western foods available in SoHo, Brat stuck out most of all to me. An American-style sausage shop, done up like it could be in Brooklyn or Downtown Manhattan - in fact there's a place called Brats in Chelsea.

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I stopped in once and was tempted to eat there. I was put off by the lady who worked there who insisted that I could only take photos if it was for personal use. I don't know the restaurant politics in Hong Kong, but I didn't really feel like going somewhere where I'd be hassled about taking food photos.

Still, given the American junk I ate on my last day of the trip, I should definitely gone here instead.

December 10, 2010

Hong Kong: No Napkins

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One odd thing we found nearly everywhere we went in Hong Kong and to an extent in Vietnam and Cambodia: Napkins are few and far between. Except for the most Westernized restaurants, no one provides napkins with your meal. Even here at Yung Kee, a well known and popular Chinese place in Central, when we asked for a napkin, they brought us a box of kleenex-style tissues.

At other places, I noticed that people walked around with packs of tissues and used those. It made for interesting improvisation after long messy meals to have to figure out how to clean my hands without making a mess of my clothes.

December 8, 2010

Hong Kong: CraftSteak?

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Walking through one of the restaurant strips in the SoHo area of Central Hong Kong, Tammi and I came across CraftSteak. I hadn't known of Colicchio and co having another branch of the now closed restaurant, so I looked closer.

According to the card, the CraftSteak Hong Kong as a whole family of familiarly named restaurants including Blue Smoke, BLT Burger, and Olive among others. I'm presuming these are all licensees and not some crazy joint venture that somehow flew under the radar.

December 5, 2010

Hong Kong: Brunch Club

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Apparently brunch is a thing in Hong Kong too.

December 2, 2010

Hong Kong: McDonald's Red Bean Pie

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While in Hong Kong, we made an emergency bathroom run to a McDonald's in Kowloon. I tend to avoid such Americanisms even at home, but really try to avoid them when I'm out of the country. That said, I'm very intrigued by this Red Bean Pie dessert they sell there. The fried pie shell reminds me of the old school apple pies of my youth and I'm curious how it all works with red beans.

We'll be back in Hong Kong twice more before we head home, so maybe I'll give in and try it out.

November 30, 2010

Philly: Tapas Dinner at Bar Ferdinand

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The night before the marathon last weekend in Philadelphia, Tammi and I spent the evening hanging out in Northern Liberties. We had some drinks at Swift Half and Standard Tap and had a dinner of tapas at Bar Ferdinand.

Check out the course by course after the jump.

Continue reading "Philly: Tapas Dinner at Bar Ferdinand" »

November 29, 2010

Philly: DiNic's Again

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After the marathon last weekend in Philly, there was only one thing that my friend Guy needed to make the hurting stop: A roast pork sandwich from DiNic's. Get a look at the deliciousness after the jump.

Continue reading "Philly: DiNic's Again" »

November 28, 2010

JFK: Croque Madame Opens

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Hanging out at the airport waiting for a flight isn't something people typically look forward to, but when I read that Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde was going to be a part of a new collection of restaurants and bars in JFK's Terminal 2, I immediately suggested that we get a jump on all that Thanksgiving traffic as we headed to Hong Kong.

It didn't hurt that it is located directly across from that bastion of high end mediocrity, Bonfire, my longtime nemesis in Delta Terminal eats.

Despite all the threats of passenger protests over TSA security measures, we more or less zipped through leaving a couple hours to spare before our flight. All the more time to explore the menu and have what turned out to be the first adventure of our trip. Sparks literally flew. Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading "JFK: Croque Madame Opens" »

November 22, 2010

Analog Montreal: Schwartz's Smoked Meat

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If there was any one food I absolutely had to eat in Montreal, it was the smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's. Viande fumee was a revelation for me on my last trip there and Schwartz's topped the list.

Here in Brooklyn, we've got Mile End's excellent version, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to go to the source.

So, on our last day in town, when my friends were brunching at the hotel and heading to the airport, I ditched everyone and made my way to St. Laurent to experience it again.

Continue reading "Analog Montreal: Schwartz's Smoked Meat" »

November 19, 2010

Lunch: Banh Mi Saigon

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Even though I still have five days left before our trip to Asia starts, my mind has been 8,000 miles away for days. It's pretty much all I can think about.

Yesterday, my mental wandering took me on a trip far out of my usual bounds down to Chinatown to get a Vietnamese sandwich from Banh Mi Saigon, one of the old favorites in the banh mi craze. I'd never been there, but happened upon it a few nights ago and decided I had to return. Having rated first place in the Midtown Lunch Banh mi-palooza in the spring was definitely a good enough reference for me. Read on for the porky goodness.

Continue reading "Lunch: Banh Mi Saigon" »

November 17, 2010

Montreal: Brunch at L'Express

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When I asked around about places to go with my group of friends in Montreal, Zach from Midtown Lunch emailed me right away to direct me to his findings that he posted on Serious Eats a while back.

Only being there for a weekend, I didn't get to check out a whole lot of it, but we did hit L'Express, on St. Denis in the French district for brunch our first morning there.

Continue reading "Montreal: Brunch at L'Express" »

November 16, 2010

Lunch at The John Dory Oyster Bar

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Today I strayed from my path of finding Midtown Lunch priced dishes in order to partake in some deliciousness from under the sea at the new John Dory Oyster Bar at the Ace Hotel.

The meal was a splurge to be sure, but was absolutely worth it. In the name of posting this now rather than waiting to make time to bloviate about each course, I'm going to post the courses after the jump with some brief notes. Enjoy!

Continue reading "Lunch at The John Dory Oyster Bar" »

November 5, 2010

NC: Breakfast at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen

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I'm not usually a breakfast eater, but while I was in Chapel Hill, my aunt told me how much her students love it when she brings in biscuits from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. I was curious. After a bit of Googling, I found a post about it on Serious Eats and I was ready to go right away.

After it was all done, my only regret was not going every day I was there. Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading "NC: Breakfast at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen" »

October 27, 2010

Quick Bite: Lasagna at Four Eleven West

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Dinner my last night in North Carolina was this lasagna at the bar at Four Eleven West on West Franklin. The pasta was a little too thick and doughy for my taste, but the bolognese sauce was magnificent.


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October 22, 2010

Bed-Stuy: Liquid Oz Opens

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After much anticipation, Liquid Oz, the cafe and wine bar from the guys who run Oz Home and Hardware opened up last weekend. Tammi and I are particularly excited since it's literally around the corner from our place. Tammi claims she may never make coffee at home again.

Get a closer look at the place after the jump.


Continue reading "Bed-Stuy: Liquid Oz Opens" »

October 15, 2010

Self-Promotion: Seasonal Brooklyn

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So, one of the various things that's been keeping me busy and not blogging is that I've been working on a new show. I'm happy to announce that Seasonal Brooklyn is now up at Peaches here in Bed-Stuy.

The work on display is all Brooklyn, mostly within a couple blocks of the restaurant and highlights the area through the seasons. Over the course of next week, I'll be posting the film photos from the show on Analog UltraClay along with a few others that didn't make it up.

The prints this time around are much bigger than at the Habana Outpost show and I'm loving how they look. If you are in the neighborhood this weekend, stop in at Peaches, grab a snack and take a look.

All photos are for sale. Contact me directly at photog at ultraclay dotcom or via my portfolio site.

October 7, 2010

Morini Preview Dinner

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Last night, I took Eric out for his birthday. He managed to get us hooked up with reservations for Morini, the Osteria by Chef Michael White in Nolita. We had an amazing meal of antipasti, pastas and porchetta - not to mention a tasty dessert wine.

Check out the visual tasting tour of the meal after the jump.

Continue reading "Morini Preview Dinner" »

September 10, 2010

Quick Bite: Sausage at The Vanderbuilt

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It's been a little while since I posted any food porn, so here's a quick bite of a couple sausages we had at Prospect Heights' The Vanderbuilt. Above is smokey kielbasa with chickpeas, below, merguez, served on a bed of couscous. Delicious.

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The Vanderbuilt, 570 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn. 718.623.0570

September 8, 2010

The Brooklyn Flea brings back memories

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I'm behind the times in wholeheartedly embracing the Brooklyn Flea. I've been a fan since its inception, but somehow never quite made it over there very often. Lately though, I've found myself there weekly and loving the experience for all the new and old sensations they evoke.

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First, the history. Back before the development boom put giant condos on every block, the strip of 6th Avenue between 23rd Street and, say, 30th Street was home to what seemed like a dozen parking lots that all turned into big open air markets on the weekends. Vendors hawked old comic books, toys, antiques, camera, radio and electronic equipment and all sorts of other hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.

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Second, there's all the food. The food vendors of the flea have banded together and besides being a destination on the weekends at the two Flea locations, they also sold food at Central Park Summerstage shows all summer. More on that to come.

I was going to try to do one post about the Flea and I realized that I couldn't really do it. Since I've been shooting analog on the weekends, I have accrued quite a few photos of the Flea on film. Over the next month or so, I'll post Analog Flea pics every couple days as part of my Ektar 300 series. some will include commentary, so will speak for themselves.

Stay tuned.

September 6, 2010

Eataly: The Staff

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The big story of the moment in the food world is the opening of Eataly, Mario Batali's transplanting of an Italian mega-market to New York. The gigantic space has restaurants, a bakery, a book store and a wine shop interspersed with market spaces selling meat, charcuterie & cheeses, gelato, produce and various other groceries.

The size and spectacle of the place alone is enough to work the eaterati into a lather. I know I was excited. So, Tuesday night, I joined the hordes and scoped out the lunch-worthy options for Midtown Lunch.

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The whole wide internet seems to be reporting on this place right now, so I'll dispense with that except to say that the food is great, the place is huge and it can be more than a little confusing to get around - especially when it's jammed with hundreds of other pushy foodies who absolutely need to be there right away.

That said, I thought I'd dedicate this Labor Day post to the remarkably attentive and friendly staff. More photos of these folks at work, including a spot check in the pizza kitchen from Molto Mario himself after the jump.

Continue reading "Eataly: The Staff" »

August 23, 2010

Quick Bite: Dim Sum at Jing Fong

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Some photos from Dim Sum in Chinatown the other day.

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Continue reading "Quick Bite: Dim Sum at Jing Fong" »

August 17, 2010

Analog Bed-Stuy: Saraghina

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I've been excited about Saraghina since their opening a year ago. Yet, for some reason, I haven't managed to post about it despite thoroughly enjoying many a meal there. I seem to have a block on it.

Today, I'm hoping to circumvent that block by just posting some visuals as part of my Analog and Bed-Stuy projects. Really though, the place photographs amazingly well. It's an eclectic space decorated with strange and interesting signs and objects on the walls and dangling from the ceilings.

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The food is also quite nice to look at, if you can spare the moment to shoot before tearing into it. See some of the food and more of the space after the jump. Most of these were taken with Ektar film, except for the final, which was shot months ago with Fuji Velvia.

Continue reading "Analog Bed-Stuy: Saraghina" »

August 11, 2010

Quick Bite: Hot House Fried Chicken

Nashville-style fried chicken at Peaches Hothouse in Bed-Stuy

Dinner the other night at Peaches Hothouse over in our old section of Bed-Stuy.

The chicken is still magnificent, with a kick that left me sweating. On the side was bacon cream corn, which helped cool me down a little.

While we were there, the Cooking Channel was there filming for one of their shows. Given that (evil) Cablevision doesn't carry the Cooking Channel, I expect no one in the neighborhood will see it.

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One note about the chicken. Those spices are killer and will get on your hands. Be sure to wash them before changing contacts or touching any sensitive bits. I'll just leave it at that.

Quick Bite: Bar Bambino

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Before heading out of San Francisco in June, my colleagues and I grabbed lunch at Bar Bambino in The Mission. Here are a few analog shots from the meal.

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Continue reading "Quick Bite: Bar Bambino" »

August 6, 2010

Pig Roast at The Breslin

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When I last mentioned The Breslin, I wasn't so pleased. The scene of 'sophisticated' frat-boys doesn't do anything for me and the fact that the 'gatekeepers' types stand between me and really magnificent food only made me that much more resentful.

I hadn't been there since my early visits, though I'm regularly tempted. That is until I got the note that The Tower of Justice was gathering friends there for a pig roast as a part of his Bachelor Party weekend of gluttony. The TOJ has guided me, again and again through some of the best food on the west coast, so he is definitely one for picking the right meals and this one was spot on.

Snooty host station and a douchey clientele can only keep me from so much deliciousness before I breakdown and eat some pig. After the jump, see how the pig above turn into this:

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Also, check out the brain shot (last one if you'd prefer to skip). It was the first brain I've ever tasted. It was interesting in texture, sort of pasty. The rest of the meal was amazing - as would be expected. The shoulder offered the juiciest, most succulent portions of meat, but, really, it was all amazing. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to hold up my avoidance of trendy jackasses and pissy hostesses for very long after that meal.

Continue reading "Pig Roast at The Breslin" »

August 4, 2010

Quick Bite: Fried Chicken at Blue Ribbon Sushi

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Blue Ribbon Sushi, Columbus Circle, NYC. 2010.

August 3, 2010

Quick Bite: Mexican Brunch at Dos Segundos

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On our last trip to Philly, Tammi and I enjoyed our last meal in town at Dos Segundos, a Mexican spot in Northern Liberties. I had the chilaquiles, above, which I discovered in San Francisco a couple years back.

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Tammi had the chimichanga, which is basically a fried burrito and inexplicably, something I've never had myself.

Deliciousness ensued.

August 2, 2010

Quick Bite: Stuffed Squash Blossoms at Rustic Tavern

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Rustic Tavern, Santa Monica, Los Angeles. 2009.

July 30, 2010

SF: Lark Creek Steak

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While in San Francisco, my colleagues and I had dinner at Lark Creek Steak upstairs at the Westfield Mall, the place with the awesome food court I mentioned last year.

The best part was that we scored seats at the counter, watching all the action in the kitchen. The food was great, but for me, the more entertaining part was watching (and shooting) the staff as they worked.

Check out some of the highlights after the jump.

Continue reading "SF: Lark Creek Steak" »

July 29, 2010

Quick Bite: Cabrito's Border Dog

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Last year, I lamented the fact that I chickened out on trying the bacon-wrapped hot dogs in Los Angeles. The other day, I finally got a chance to try a version of it.

Among the tasty happy hour specials at Cabrito are a selection of 'Border Dogs,' that is, bacon-wrapped hot dogs with yummy toppings including the guac and chicharrones you see here.

The special also includes a Dos Equis, which I'd just as soon skipped in favor of one of the better drink options. Really though, it didn't matte what I washed it down with, it was glorious.

July 28, 2010

Quick Bite: No. 7 Tacos

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Pork shoulder tacos at No. 7, Fort Greene, Brooklyn. 2010.

July 27, 2010

Quick Bite: Tapenade

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Olive Tapenade, Fraiche, Los Angeles. 2009.

July 23, 2010

Maialino

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After the success of last week's visual food tour of our meal at Williamsburg's Fatty Cue, I decided to similarly catch up on my meal at Danny Meyer's Maialino. Tammi took me there last month for my birthday and we had a fantastic time.

As with all of Meyer's restaurants, the service was amazing and course after course, the food was delicious.

See the photos after the jump.

Continue reading "Maialino" »

July 20, 2010

SF: Rosamunde's Mission Bar

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Rosamunde Sausage Grill, the closet-sized sausage shack next door to Toronado, the best beer bar in San Francisco, has gone into the bar business.

Get a peek inside after the jump.

Continue reading "SF: Rosamunde's Mission Bar" »

July 19, 2010

Quick Bite: Mile End's Smoked Meat

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I finally made it to Mile End in Boerum Hill the other day. I've been enamored with Montreal-style Smoked Meat since my first trip to the Great Up North in 2002.

Viande fumee as they call it in the French part of town, is easily as tender as the best pastrami in New York, but has a stronger smokiness to it and lacks the pepper crusting of a traditional pastrami.

Check out the sandwich after the jump...

Continue reading "Quick Bite: Mile End's Smoked Meat" »

July 18, 2010

Quick Bite: Irish Breakfast

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While we were in Philly, Tammi, my sister and I watching Germany trounce Argentina at Tir Na Nog, a gigantic Irish Pub in Center City.

This was breakfast:
Eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, Irish bacon, maple sausages, and black and white Pudding - black pudding being blood sausage, in case you missed the euphemism.

July 15, 2010

SF: 4505 Meats

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Unfortunately, I didn't end up finding time during my trip to San Francisco to do a butchery shoot with Ryan Farr as I'd hoped to do after meeting him at Cochon 555 in the spring. I did manage to catch up with him briefly at his stand at the Thursday Farmers Market at the Ferry Building.

I spoke to him for a bit while he was setting up and he gave me a quick taste of the day's special. It was all i could do to walk around and wait for them to start serving to get a full serving for myself.

Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading "SF: 4505 Meats" »

July 13, 2010

Dinner at Fatty Cue

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Fatty Cue in Williamsburg is the long awaited barbecue branch of Zak Pelaccio's Fatty Crab restaurants. It takes Asian flavors, fish sauce, peanuts, and so on and adds a rich, thick smokiness to just about everything.

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Manning the smoker is Robbie Richter, who launched Texas barbecue joint Hill County in the Flatiron District. Eric, Tammi and I had dinner there recently and feasted on duck, ribs, more ribs. It was an amazing meal that I could probably document a bit more extensively given some time.

Lacking that, I think I'll let the pictures speak for me this time. Check out the luscious, meaty wonderfulness after the jump.

Continue reading "Dinner at Fatty Cue" »

July 1, 2010

New Amsterdam Market starts a new season

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Sunday morning the New Amsterdam Market started up for the season. Obviously, I'm behind on some posts, so I'll just post photos from the the market. Over the summer, the market will be going on monthly, come September, it'll be weekly through December.

Photos after the jump:

Continue reading "New Amsterdam Market starts a new season " »

June 28, 2010

SF: Incanto

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My first meal in SF was an early birthday dinner at Incanto, Chris Cosentino's Italian offal house in Noe Valley has long been on my wishlist of places to eat, but was never convenient when I was in town. This trip, I made time for it.

The food after the jump.

Continue reading "SF: Incanto" »

June 9, 2010

San Francisco by Bartender

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This is probably my 10th or 11th trip to San Francisco in the last eight years. I like it here, I feel like I have a good lay of the land and know a fair number of great places to eat and drink. The only problem is that since I'm almost always here for work geekery, my free time is limited and so I often end up returning to the same old favorite places and neighborhoods and don't get quite so much time to explore.

I usually ask around for recommendations, but this year I've got a theme. asked a few bartender friends for recommendations for both bars and restaurants to visit while in the area.

The list is extensive and if I get to a fraction of these places in the next four days, I'll be lucky. Similarly, if I added links and whatnot to every place listed, this post would never go up. Google's your friend folks, sorry.

After the jump, the bartenders and their recs. As a bonus, I also got a list of recommendations from the waiter at Incanto, where I had dinner Sunday night (more on that to come).

Continue reading "San Francisco by Bartender" »

June 7, 2010

Babbo Birthday Dinner

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I took Tammi out to Babbo for her birthday a couple weeks ago. It was
her first time there and my first time in years. It's a pain to get a
reservation and we had dinner at 5:30pm, but the meal was amazing and
the service friendly.

It just happened to be the day I received my Canon 5D Mk II, so of
course I had to see how it did with the food porn.

After the jump, grilled octopus, soft shell crab, grilled beef tongue
and more.

Continue reading "Babbo Birthday Dinner" »

May 18, 2010

Self Promotion: City Seen at Habana Outpost

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I'm very excited to announce that Habana Outpost has invited me to put up a show of my photography next month. It will run for the first half of June, with photos up on Tuesday, June 1st through Monday, June, 14th.

The show, which I'm calling "City Seen" will center on my street photography, with some photos that should be familiar to those who have followed the blog for a while including a couple of my all-time favorites.

For updates and further details, rsvp to the City Seen event page on Facebook.

May 9, 2010

Recently on Examiner: Drinking in Brooklyn and the Freedom Party

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If there was much of a theme at all in my last couple weeks of posts it was Brooklyn Bars. Besides the regular Brokelyn 25 series that I've gotten moving again, I've also posted about a few new choice spots to imbibe that have opened up recently. Above is Hot Bird, which I lucked into on its second night open. I basically got the first shots of the space and thus ended up on Brownstoner and Eater. The place looks pretty amazing, so I expect to spend quite a bit of time there this summer.

See what else I've been posting about after the jump...

Continue reading "Recently on Examiner: Drinking in Brooklyn and the Freedom Party" »

May 3, 2010

Peaches Hothouse

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I finally made it back to Peaches Hothouse after my First Look last month. Tammi and I met up there after work the other day and decided to see how the restaurant is coming along and finally find out what this Nashville-style fried chicken is all about.

The dining area is smaller and thus a bit more tight than Peaches or Smoke Joint. In my conversations with owner, Craig Samuels, that seems to be more of the point of Hothouse, a small southern bistro with a varying menu of interesting foods.

The space, a work in progress during the soft opening, seems to have gotten many of the finishing touches taken care of.

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Sadly, one of the touches that hasn't been completed is the liquor license. Despite the tantalizing bar, the SLA still hasn't come through with the goods, so it's byob for the moment.

In our regular visits to Peaches, I've talked to Craig a lot about the business, the industry and the neighborhood. He's told me a bit about what's going on in the kitchen, it all sounds pretty interesting. They've got a smoker in there and are starting to work on their own sausages and doing prep for the other restaurants. I'm hoping to get a chance to go in and photograph them at some point.

In the meantime, he gave us a few samples of the menu while we waited for the chicken to come out. See the food after the jump.

Continue reading "Peaches Hothouse" »

April 21, 2010

Quick Bite: Cabrito

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I imagine many people might not have much of an appetite after watching a pair of goats being butchered, but after my Cabrito shoot, I very much craved some of their tacos. Luckily, the shoot didn't end up taking very long, so there was time for me to sit down and have a few.

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I had a chorizo, up top, a lengua, above, and a pork belly, below. Sadly the cabrito is only sold as a larger dish, so not so much a lunch dish. It was all delicious, regardless, but a return visit for some of that goat is definitely in the cards.

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April 18, 2010

Butchery: In the Cabrito Kitchen

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Last week, I took my butchery project out of the shop into a restaurant kitchen. I went to Cabrito, one of my favorite spots for Mexican in town. After months of email tag with the Chef, David Schuttenberg, we finally nailed down a time for me to come in to photograph him as he took apart a pair of young goats for the week's supply of the restaurant's signature dish.

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It was all very interesting for a few reasons. First off, goats are fairly different from most other animals I've seen taken apart before. David said they are more like rabbits than anything else. They're lean and lithe with fewer 'cuts' as such on them. That's particularly true of the young ones like they get at Cabrito and that they're carrying at Dicksons.

I was shocked at how quick the whole process was. That's in part because he wasn't cutting up chops or roasts like one would for a pig or a cow, but also because the goat just doesn't have nearly as much meat to it.

more photos and prep after the jump...

Continue reading "Butchery: In the Cabrito Kitchen" »

April 14, 2010

Miami: Señora Martinez

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After the cruise, Tammi and I had several hours to kill in Miami. It's not so much a walking town, so we found ourselves hanging out nowhere in particular until lunchtime when we were one of the first ones in the door at Señora Martinez in the Design District.

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The tapas-ish menu had a lunch time pre-fixe which greatly accommodated both our desire for little snacks, like the pan con tomate, above and for a more substantial main, like my perfectly done burger, below. There was also the roasted red peppers and the bacon-wrapped bleu cheese stuffed dates, after the jump.

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The lunch deal was quite a bargain, but, in the end, it was our bar bill that did us in. With so much time to kill and only airport time ahead, there was little else to do but to spend the afternoon imbibing in the libations on hand.

Miami's not so much my sort of town, but if I were to find myself back there, Sra. Martinez would certainly at the top of my list of places to eat.


Continue reading "Miami: Señora Martinez" »

April 8, 2010

Quick Bite: Baoguette

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The beautiful weather this week has drawn me further afield for lunch than I would usually travel. I suddenly found myself craving some deep sun and delicious ground pork.

That led me on a trip to Baoguette. I've lunched at the Lexington branch before, but this time I made it all the way down to the East Village and sat at the eat-in Baoguette Cafe.

It doesn't get much better than sitting in the sun watching St. Mark's Place go by. It was a hard trip back up to Midtown.

April 7, 2010

Seattle: Dahlia Lounge

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This was a magnificent piece of braised pork topped with a poached egg and a dollop of sweet and spicy Asian hot sauce. It was one of the many great small courses I had in Seattle at Dahlia Lounge (after a brief starter at Lola).

Again, I don't remember so much of the particulars, so I'll leave the pictures to speak for themselves.

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April 4, 2010

Cruising: Mongolian Barbecue

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Cruises are famous for having loads and loads of food. Besides the main dinner with its awkward times and assigned seating, there are buffets and carving stations and it's all you can eat nearly around the clock.

Now, an abundance of food does not mean all the food is good. By and large the selections tend to be more like a college cafeteria, but there are a few gems mixed in.

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My favorite was the Mongolian Barbecue Station. It's basically a stir fry station with udon noodles. Simple and tasty, Tammi and I jumped to get it before the inevitable line formed.

The guys working the woks were amused by my photographing them.

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April 1, 2010

Lunch: Single Serve Korean Barbecue at Don's Bogam

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Korean Barbecue is awesome: the big plate piled with meats, the sizzling grill and the smell of all of it cooking in front of you and a group of friends sharing it all. The whole experience is fun and filling and leisurely time-consuming.

The only problem is that it's not so conducive to the lunch schedule and doesn't really scale down for one person so well. Or it didn't, until I found Don's Bogam a couple weeks ago. It sits in relative obscurity a block away from the main Koreatown strip. I happened upon it one day during lunch and decided to give it a try. What drew me in were the lunch specials, which at $12.95 may be outside the Midtown Lunch price range, but still makes for a great bargain for barbecue.

Food and pics after the jump...

Continue reading "Lunch: Single Serve Korean Barbecue at Don's Bogam" »

March 15, 2010

First Look: Peaches Hothouse open tonight

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This evening, the folks from Peaches and Smoke Joint opened up a new branch of their burgeoning Brooklyn empire. On the corner of Hancock and Tompkins, Peaches Hothouse expands on the southern offerings that Peaches specializes in.

I stopped in to get a sneak peek.

Tonight, and for the next two weeks, they will be serving a limited menu as a part of Brooklyn Dine-In, but co-owner Craig Samuel stresses that everything is a work in progress.

The menu, described as 'new southern,' goes a bit more adventurous than the relatively staid menu found at Peaches. Think beef cheeks braised for six hours and fried green tomatoes with bacon aioli.

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The star of the menu is going to be Nashville-style spicy fried chicken, which will make it's first appearance in a couple weeks. In the meantime, Laura's Fried Chicken, above, looks like an amazing substitute. I didn't get to eat anything when I stopped in tonight, but I was certainly tempted to stick around for a few courses.

There were plenty of familiar faces tonight, including a pair of regulars I see at the bar at Peaches nearly every day and Lloyd, the owner of Bread-Stuy, who had the distinction of getting the first serving of food out the kitchen. I was glad to see the neighborhood support, I know I'll be back soon.

Follow the jump for the current offerings and more photos of the space.

Peaches Hothouse, 415 Tompkins Ave. Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, NY 11216

Continue reading "First Look: Peaches Hothouse open tonight" »

March 14, 2010

Cruising: Dining Hours

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In the months before taking this cruise, I found more than a few boosters who were happy to tell me how much they love cruises. They went on to dispute the various complaints and stereotypes about cruises. High up on that list was the dining situation.

Assigned tables and set dinner times they assured me are a thing of the past. Many cruise lines have multiple restaurant options and don't require a set seating time every night. Carnival didn't get the memo. The Imagination sports a single restaurant with table service, Spirit. Our seating was set for 6pm. Every night.

To those unfamiliar, here's how it works. The restaurant only does two or three seatings a night and between them, they have to accommodate for all the guests on the ship. The times are assigned, so some people get to eat at a reasonable hour and the rest of us eat five minutes after lunch. Similarly, guests are assigned to large round tables, wedding-style. The same folks eat together every night. In our case everyone at our table was a part of our group, but if you're with a smaller group or just a couple or family, you share the table and all the awkward conversation you want with strangers.

If you miss your seating and want a later dining time, you have to wait until the whole dining group has come in and then be placed in at any vacant spaces that are left.

I'm sure it all makes sense from the logistical perspective of trying to feed thousands of people, but it's definitely not so friendly for anyone who wants some flexibility in dining.

March 10, 2010

Recently on Midtown Lunch: Pizzacones

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This is a pizzacone. It's an odd little invention that captured the fascination (and for some, disgust) of the blogosphere last week.

This pizza in a cone concept was introduced to the Manhattan eating audience for the first time when K! Pizzacone opened up to much attention last Monday. I had a front row seat covering it for Midtown Lunch.

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I'm not a stodgy traditionalist in pizza or much else, but giving a balanced report on something so weird was a struggle. While I did appreciate the opportunity to eat a wad of melted cheese, I think I'll stick with those boring flat pizzas I've known so well over the years.

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My report last week on Izakaya Moku, on the other hand, was no trouble at all. The latest in a trend of Korean-run Japanese restaurants offers a pretty good lunch deal and I made a point of doing as much -ahem- research as I could. Strictly for research purposes, I assure you.

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It may not be the best Japanese food in the city, but Moku and the other new places in Koreatown offer some very good options within walking distance of my office. If nothing else, I'm psyched to finally have a nice bowl of pork ramen available nearby.

What I'm really interested in is checking out the after work menu, which is far expanded and includes yakitori and various other izakaya fare. I think an Examiner post is in order.

Stay tuned.

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February 18, 2010

Vancouver: Kintaro Handmade Tonkostu Ramen

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Our first stop in Vancouver after checking into the hotel was Kintaro. Guy had read about it and as Asian food is always on the top of my list of things to try while out west, I was more than happy to check it out.

The ramen shop seemed to have quite the following. When we got there, the line ran out the door and that didn't seem to be anything unusual. The neighboring restaurant politely insisted that those in line refrained from blocking their storefront.

Once inside, it was clear that part of the reason for the line was the exceptionally small space. Folks were crammed in pretty tight, but then, pork was involved, so I wasn't surprised.

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The specialty of the house is tonkotsu. Not to be mistaken for tonkatsu, this is ramen topped with roast pork and enveloped in a rich, milky pork broth.

We sat at the counter and I watched as huge pork bones were lowered into stockpots and simmered for the next batches of broth. Like most ramen places, there were variations on the basic stock using soy sauce or miso, but they all came from the same porky base.

I can't track down any notes from Kintaro, but I believe I had an order with extra pork because, well, that sounds like me.

One of these days I need to figure out what goes into that base and try to make a batch of my own. I think some research is in order. I'd better go to Manchenko Tei for lunch today to get started...

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Kintaro Ramen Noodle,
788 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 604.682.7568‎

February 17, 2010

Aspen: Ajax Tavern

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I read about Ajax Tavern in some of my research before I headed out to Aspen and it looked good. I just hadn't figured out where it was and was too lazy to look for it. Then I found it when I was heading to the gondola up to the Monster Party. The next night I headed over for a dinner of appetizers.

The multi-app meal has become my defacto arrangement in the restaurants in Aspen. The entrees at most of the good places run higher than my per diem is ever going to allow, so I've been grazing the smaller portions. The upside is that I get to try out more dishes. The downside is that I end up leaving wanting for more.
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After this meal, I wanted to make my way through the rest of the menu. I started with another take on bacon and eggs, this time with grits. More savory than some of the others, this one had braised pork belly and a fried yolky egg amidst a pool of polenta.

Parpadelle Lamb Bolognese at Ajax Tavern, Aspen. Photo by Clay Williams

Next up was the Parpadelle Lamb Bolognese. The meat was rich, salty and sweet and lovely on the firm pasta ribbons. Topped with a cooling dollop of sour cream, it was wonderful.

Sadly, I had to stop there. I saw many other eye-catching menu items that I would have loved to have spent the entire night exploring. Beef marrow topped the list, but there was plenty more.

Ajax Tavern at the Little Nell
685 East Durant Avenue, Aspen, CO‎ - 970.920.6334‎

February 10, 2010

Midtown Lunching

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So, I wasn't particularly subtle in my recent post about new things afoot, but I wanted to make a point of not mentioning that I'm a part of the new editorial team on Midtown Lunch until something I wrote was actually posted.

So, here's the rundown for those who don't slavishly follow the food blog world: Zach Brooks of the blog Midtown Lunch has moved on to warmer pastures to Los Angeles. We'll forget all the terrible things we feel for LA and instead just be jealous for the warmer weather. I'll be posting, among a handful of other talented contributors in his stead.

I started with a post about the expansion of Little Italy Pizza, the place I posted about last year that's been my go-to slice spot that's been a favorite of mine for some time. They opened up a place a couple blocks away that I checked out last week.

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The short version is that I'll be plugging another site, but if you are a midtown wage slave, I'd also love to hear about what your favorite (non-chain) food options are. And I'm always looking for news. Checking early and often.

More to come. . . .

February 9, 2010

Photography: Egg Tower

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I didn't actually eat any of these eggs on the bar at Wild Fig in Aspen, but they caught my eye.

Looking back at some recent posts, I realize that eggs have been a recurring meme. Both visually and as a food choice, it's been coming up more and more.

Generally, they've been fried and the bright yellow yolks have drawn me into them, whether spilling out of the b.e.l.t. at Swift Half, on top of the Croque Madame at Rouge or in the Bacon and Eggs appetizer at Lulu Wilson that I lit up with my iPhone.

But these eggs, still in their shell brought me back to my High School Photography class. One of our first assignments to photograph eggs, composed in whatever way we'd like. I don't remember what I came up with and I doubt I really 'got' the potential compositions that can be done with the shapes and curves aesthetically.

Every now and then I think about going back to some of those old assignments (that I can remember) as exercises or practice. I make no promises, but if I do, I'll be sure to post them.

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February 7, 2010

Aspen: Ellina

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D19 was one of the most exciting restaurants I found in Aspen. There's plenty of good food in this town, but not so much that's original. Sushi, Bistros, New American, even the dives all seem to have indistinct menus full of food that's good, but similar to the rest. For the last two years, it was my go to spot for food that was actually interesting to me. It was a place for Italian food that wasn't just like everything else.

So, I was disappointed to hear that D19 had closed, but relieved to find that the chef, Dena Marino had a new place, Ellina, just around the corner.

Continue reading "Aspen: Ellina" »

February 4, 2010

Aspen: Brexi

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In the intervening year since my last trip to Aspen, Brexi opened up a block away from my hotel. It's a shiny new brasserie with a nicely put together menu of classics including a seafood plate a la "The Balthazar"

I stuck to more reasonable fare and had a burger there on my first visit there. The guys down the bar raved about what they considered the best burger in town. I should probably have learned from the local advice I got last year that 'best' is wildly subjective.

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Wait. That's not entirely fair. The burger, topped with Emmentaler cheese, caramelized shallots, applewood smoked bacon and Russian dressing would have been very good had it been served at the medium rare temperature I asked for. Instead, it was perfectly raw in the middle. Like steak tartare.

The other issue was just with the structural integrity of the burger. The dressing and the onions, not to mention the bloody burger were a bit too juicy for the buns to hold together. Instead it all came to pieces by the time I got half way through it. Not always a deal breaker on a great burger, but a bit frustrating when also trying to eat around the uncooked center.

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Let's be clear. I'm not slamming the place. actually really liked it and the service I had there was excellent. The people were friendly and the menu's other items, like the Duck Two Ways special was very good. This came with a confitted duck leg and a seared breast. In this case, the breast being very rare in the middle was totally acceptable.

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I'm writing this with one more day left in town. As I consider where to go for what may be my last meal in Aspen, Brexi definitely makes the short list.

February 3, 2010

Quick Bite: Bad Billy's Mini Tuna Tacos

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When I first started coming to Aspen, the space where Bad Billy's was Cooper Street Ale House, one of the few divey bars in town. It was always a little too fratty for me, but you take what you can get.

When I got here last year, the place looked more or less the same, but the name had changed. I popped in for wings or whatever, but didn't really see any huge difference.

What I discovered is that Bad Billy's elevated the bar food in a pretty wonderful way.

Up top are the mini tuna tacos made with seared sushi-grade tuna sourced from sister restaurant, Kenichi, one of the nicer sushi restaurants in town. Wrapped in blistered, fried corn tortillas, they make an awesome one or two bite snack.

I followed that up with more 'traditional' fish tacos with beer battered fish on flour tortillas.

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On another visit, I popped in with some co-workers and we partook in the $15 pitchers and played some music on the internet-enabled jukebox.

Bad Billy's
508 East Cooper Avenue, Aspen, CO‎
970.925.9225‎

February 1, 2010

Aspen: LuLu Wilson

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When I headed out to Aspen, one of my goals was to explore some new restaurants instead of going back to the same places I always go. I was marginally successful in that those places aren't all the same as they had been in past years. More on that in a bit.

Lulu Wilson, on the other hand was entirely new to me. I had passed there before, but never actually gone in. That night, I walked out of the hotel not quite sure where I felt like going, and sort of wandering aimlessly. I must have looked pretty lost, because some folks stopped me and asked me if I was looking for something.

Turns out they both work in restaurants in town and were more than happy to give me a recommendation.

I sat up front at the bar and had a great meal. The food is contemporary American with many of the same hearty comforting foods you find elsewhere around town.

I started with the bacon and eggs appetizer. The bacon was house-cured and sliced thick. It reminded me that I had cured some bacon before I left and am really looking forward to playing with it in the kitchen when I get home.

The yolky egg was perfect. You can't really come up with a more classic combo. What didn't quite fit for me was the salad, with it's chili aioli. The thickness of the mayo far outweighed the leaves of the salad and the spice just got in the way of the flavors of the bacon and egg.

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After having that, I was afraid the burger I ordered would be way too much food. Thankfully, the burger is perfectly mid-sized. Thicker than any slider or In n Out style burger, but not nearly the quarter- and half- pound behemoths that, though often wonderful, would have injured me on this particular night.

In case you weren't sure, this was where I came up with my iPhone lighting trick that I got so excited about the other day.

January 30, 2010

Philly: Rouge on Rittenhouse Square

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On the Sunday of our Philly weekend, we had brunch at Rouge on Rittenhouse Square. I haven't spent a lot of time in the area, but all I've heard about it is that it's a little posh and stuffy.

That said, there was some interesting chatter on the internets about Rouge, especially the burgers. And there was shopping Tammi wanted to check out in the area, so off we went.

As we walked in, my internal alarms started going off. It seemed a little too chi-chi. The crowd seemed a little too pretty and the place was a little too crowded. Plus, my cousin, who was meeting us was running late, so I didn't think they'd even seat us. I thought we'd be relegated to a cramped corner of the bar and eventually wedged somewhere in the back.

I was completely wrong. They seated us as soon as a table opened up, and when our third didn't show up for almost an hour, they happily came by offering more wine and not once pushing us to order without him or turn the table. We sat there for a couple hours talking drinking wine and relaxing away the afternoon on a rainy Sunday.


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On top of all that, the food was pretty great. I'm all about the Croque Madame these days, which you see here. I 'd had them before, but really got into them in Paris on our Honeymoon. It's brilliant: A grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with more cheese or a bechamel sauce and then with a sunny side up egg on top of that. It's all cheese and yolk and ham and a wonderfully satisfying crunch.

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Tammi went with the burger. which is a thing of beauty. She got through about half of it before requiring some assistance to finish it off. I helped gladly.

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Rouge
205 South 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215.732.6622

January 29, 2010

Philly: Swift Half

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After checking out the new Northern Liberties Farmers Market, Tammi and I had brunch at Swift Half. When we were there over the summer, we sat out there with drinks over the afternoon and watched life go by on the Piazza.

This time, it was too cold for all that, so we sat inside and split a few items on the menu.


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We had some good stuff, but the most memorable was the b.e.l.t., a blt with a fried egg in it. The bacon was so amazingly smokey, it tasted like it just came off of the grill. We also had an order of short rib sliders topped with a dollop of horseradish.

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Interestingly, the menu also offered some custom cocktails. Tammi tried the Ghost of Mary, a bloody mary made with a lighter tomato water and rimmed with black pepper and salt. I'm not one for cocktails, but it was actually pretty good. Tammi can't stand tomato juice, so enjoyed it a lot more than a traditional one, but still couldn't get through the whole thing before the tomato flavor got to be a little much for her.

Swift Half is owned by the same folks as Good Dog, a long time favorite of mine in Center City. Just like there, the beer selection is great and the vibe is casual. The service was a bit slow, but it was friendly and we had a good time.

Swift Half,
1001 North 2nd Street, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, PA 19123-1656
215.923.4600


January 28, 2010

Quick Bite: Standard Tap's Summer Soft Shell

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I know it's snowing in New York today and obviously, it's cold here in Aspen, so here's a glimpse back at summer time.

Since I'm posting about our recent weekend in Philadelphia anyway, I thought I'd post this quick shot of the Soft Shell Crab Sandwich I had at Standard Tap when we were in town over the summer. This time around we just had lingering drinks there after walking around Northern Liberties, but it's still one of my favorite places for food or drink in the area.

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Standard Tap
901 North 2nd Street, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, PA 19123-2301
215.238.0630

January 26, 2010

JFK: Bonfire

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I've never enjoyed airport food. It's invariably overpriced and underwhelming. But it is a place to pass the time. On my way to Aspen, I snacked at Bonfire, another in a long line of mass-marketed celebrity chef driven casual dining spots, this one led by Todd English.

Last year, Tammi and I ate there while waiting for a Friday night flight to DC. It was a month after the shitshow flying to North Carolina at around the same time and out of the same gate, with a dozen other flights all departing from the same place. We figured we might as well find a decent place to relax, get a snack and have a drink.

The menu has an odd collection of offerings, Mexican fare is mixed with pizzas and seemingly random other snack foods.On my first visit, we went with the Latin side of things.

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The chicharrones were unlike any I've ever had, this dish was made up of soft roasted bits of pork topped with a bit too much goopy aioli on top. It may not have been the crispy chunks of unctuous pork bordered with skin crisped to the point of shattering I had hoped for, but it's hard to mess up roasted pork bits, so it was still pretty good.

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We also had an order of Pigs in a Blanket with chorizo, which also had the benefit of being nearly impossible to do wrong.

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This visit, I choose poorly. I skipped the Mexican and Pizza options and instead had a hot dog. At $16, I presumed there must be something interesting to it. Unfortunately, there really wasn't.

The Giant Hot Dog was indeed rather large, but ultimately not nearly worth the hyper-inflated price tag. The rosemary fries that came with them were interesting in concept, particularly with the flaky deep fried rosemary leaves and sprigs as an accompaniment. But, there wasn't really any flavor there.

I've never been to an airport restaurant that I would ever consider patronizing 'on the outside.' I don't know if I would run out to 'Bonfire Downtown,' but it's definitely a good place to know about for the next time I'm in Terminal 2 with time to kill.

January 24, 2010

Quick Bite: Polpo Pizza at Osteria

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This is a pizza. With octopus on top. It was listed as one of Philadelphia Magazine's 239 best dishes in Philly. Why?

Because when you're in the presence of a pizza genius, you go for the menu's oddest option, a thin crust spangled with charred octopus, dusted in fiery chili flakes, and graced with cool, rich mozzarella.

I can't argue with that. So, when we got to Philadelphia last weekend, dinner was at Osteria and Polpo as on the pizza. It was magnificent. The hot cooking crisps the exterior, while the internal texture maintains its distinctive firmness. The cheese and chili flaked tomato sauce all worked together far better than you'd imagine. I loved it.

The rest of the meal was wonderful as usual. We could have gone back there for every meal that weekend and still not eaten everything we'd wanted.

January 18, 2010

Philly: Restaurant Week

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Just a quick note that this week and next week are Restaurant Week in Philadelphia. Last night we had a huge Middle Eastern meal at Zahev in Old City and this afternoon we nearly hurt ourselves going through the courses at Butcher & Singer, pictured.

The meals are $20 for lunch and $35 for dinner both were incredible values.

More on Philly and the great meals we had to come.

January 14, 2010

Philly: Dinner at Osteria

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Perhaps I just hope to keep Osteria as my personal Philadelphia secret. That's the only reason I can think of why I somehow have neglected to post about it for the last two years. It's been a must go place for me since before Tammi ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2007. Yet, whenever it comes to writing a post about it, I always manage to put it off.

The meal is a multi-course fantasy of interesting Italian cooking ranging from porchetta with tuna sauce to octopus on pizza to rabbit sausage to pig's feet that even Tammi likes. It's all over the place in the best possible way and the courses are small enough that you can graze your way through the experience.

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Yesterday, I made our reservation for dinner at Osteria Friday night, shortly after we get into town. I've been looking back at some of my notes posted on Twitter over the summer when we were there last and it's got me all excited again.


Some highlights:

* polpo totally different than last night. Meat shreds in mouth. Milder fish flvr. Tender, not as firm as most. Char less strong.

* porchetta served cold sliced, like cold cuts. Topped with a mayo laced tuna sauce and greens.

* wow! Tammi's eating pig's feet "and liking it"

* tortellini stuffed with braised, ground, shredded pigs feet. Burrata stuffed delicate pasta pillows with sprinkled olives, pasley.

* we got the last plate of suckling pig. Moist, tender, transcendant.

* "course for course, perfection." says Tammi. I can't argue.

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Seriously, it's a wonderful experience made even better by sitting at the chef's counter and watching the team make their magic in the kitchen. I have my request in for the same spot this weekend. Here's hoping.

Osteria
640 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
215.763.0920

January 12, 2010

Lunch: The Breslin

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Today, Sam Sifton of the New York Times will be reviewing The Breslin, the new restaurant in the Ace Hotel. Mere blocks from my office, I've had my own opportunity to check out the place and I'm not sure there's a lot that Sifton might say that would make me want to check it out again.

It's a sad thing, because everything I've had and heard tells me that the food is pretty amazing, but the culture of the place puts the scene first and customers second.

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The lamb burger, the only thing Ive had there is wonderful. The rest of the menu seems ridiculously magnificent. But much like The Spotted Pig, by the same folks, the crowd of 'see and be seen' types takes all the fun out of it and the staff seems to buy into that culture deeply.

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In a perfect world the entire clientele of the place would change. The people who show up to places because it's popular would forget it ever existed and the wonderful meat dishes would be available throughout the day for the rest of us to peruse at will.

Instead, there's a crowd of loud, unpleasant people talking about their polo weekends in Florida and Argentina and the staff spends more time ignoring you than finding out if you need anything. Apologies for being crotchety, but this is exactly the sort of thing that upsets me the most. Not sceney places that I'm not remotely interested in, but places that I would love to go to were it not for the nonsense.

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January 10, 2010

Lunch: Rye House

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Ever since getting into the analog world, I've found myself spending a lot more time in the FlatIron District. Whether stopping at a Color Lab to drop off or pick up film or going to Adorama or Calumet to pick up new rolls, I'm in the area between 17th Street to 23rd Street from 5th to 6th Avenues a couple times a week.

Changes in movement patterns around New York always inevitably leads to some interesting discoveries and Rye House is one of the best kind. After discovering it and stopping in for a drink after work, I made a point of returning for lunch a week or so ago.

Up top are a pair of sloppy joe sliders, which had the perfect balance of meat to bun to avoid a ridiculous mess. Topped with a couple rings of jalapeño peppers, it had just the right kick to it.

Below is a cross section of deep fried Mac n Cheese. It's an intriguing sounding snack. Clearly it piqued my interest. Sadly, it just shows that not everything ought to be fried. The outer crust just didn't add anything to the experience and in the end, I probably would have enjoyed it more in a bowl.

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A couple days ago, I stopped in again and tried one of the sandwiches, the Cuban. It was pretty perfect, Berkshire ham, roast pork, gooey cheese and tart and tangy pickles. Yeh.

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There are a few of other sandwiches on the menu I'd like to including the Beef Wellington with Filet Mignon and Foie Gras and the Pittsburgh with Andouille Sausage and a house slaw. I have got to try both of those.

What really fascinates me is an item from the dinner menu that I've got to have: Buffalo Sweetbreads.

Rye House, 11 West 17th Street, NYC. 212.255.7260

January 7, 2010

Lunch: Salt and Pepper

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I've been passing Salt & Pepper by for the last five years. Besides being the type of hole in the wall that is entirely missable, it's also wildly varied in a way I haven't really seen anywhere else.

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The front counter offers Latin and American food, serving everything from cheesesteaks and fried chicken to oxtails and pepper steak. There's also a strong Italian contingent with chicken parm, lasagna and meatballs.

That selection alone is vaguely unusual, but if you can squeeze through the narrow space up front and the tight seating area, you'll find another counter in the back.

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There you'll find an Indian and Pakistani spread with all sorts of options including vegetarian dishes, Naan and various curries like the Goat Curry I tried out. You don't see goat offered in many places, so I had to give it a go.

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I grew up with goat as a regular dish at home, so I don't think of it as very unusual, but I guess it's not so common. You'll almost always find it braised in a strongly flavored sauce, like curry, which makes the expected gaminess unnoticeable.

If you can't get past the whole goat thing, there's chicken and fish and lamb along with a number of vegetarian options if that's your thing.

See more photos of the space after the jump.

Salt & Pepper, 139 West 33rd Street, between 6th and 7th. 212.268.1919

Continue reading "Lunch: Salt and Pepper" »

On Examiner: Korean Barbecue

Kunjip Slideshow, by clay williams

After a lull in coverage, I'm back on Examiner posting about late night foods. This week's focus was on 24 hour Korean Barbecue in Koreatown. It's a wonderful thing.

Look at those ribbons of meat, ready for a ser on the grill. It's even better with a charcoal fire, but there aren't so many of those any more -- probably for the best at the places that cater to the post-karaoke crowd at 4am...

I'm also trying to find more events, parties and shows in the next couple weeks to cover for Examiner. If you know of any, let me know in the comments.

January 6, 2010

Lunch: Wolfgang's Bar Menu

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Last week was that languid period between Christmas and New Year's Day is a little surreal in New York. Those of us who actually show up to work, the office is a ghost town. Midtown is more crowded than ever, but it's made up almost entirely of tourists. Even the commute is more relaxed and roomy.

Keeping with the indulgent mood of the week, I met up with Eric one day for lunch at Wolfgang. Now, luxury week or not, we weren't getting Ribeyes or Porterhouses in the middle of the day. Instead, we go every once in a while to snack on their excellent bar menu.

I had the Cheeseburger topped with a thick slab of rich unsmoked bacon above. Getting a burger from a steakhouse is a habit I picked up years ago upon learning of Peter Luger's burger. That is a magnificent thing. Sadly, it's not nearly close enough to go to for lunch, so Wolfgang is my next best thing. They don't have the thick slice of muenster cheese or the buns made from their Luger's great dinner rolls, but they do have one thing that is centrally important: great meat. Both the beef and the bacon are juicy and tender and done just right.

Eric went with something you can't get at Luger's: the most literal take on a steak sandwich I've ever seen. It's actually a steak, grilled and chopped up to fit on a bun. Dab a little sweet and tangy house steak sauce on top and you've got one of the best sandwiches you're going to find around.

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At around $20 each, it's a splurge that only fits in the budget every now and again, but it's definitely worth it.

Wolfgang's Steakhouse
4 Park Avenue, New York, NY.
212.889.3369

January 5, 2010

Quick Bite: Dumont

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This sexy beast is the legendary Dumont Mac n Cheese. I stopped in last week after stopping in at The Meat Hook for some holiday weekend goodies. It's been ages since I've made it to Dumont, I'd in fact almost forgotten that I blogged about it a couple years ago. My infrequent visits mean that I invariably go for one of their classics when I'm there, the burger or the mac n cheese.

The MTA has seen fit to mangle my weekend transit again, so I plan to reinstate Williamsburg Weekends this month so as to avoid the shuttle service. Maybe I'll get a chance to stop in again and see what else they've got.

For now, enjoy the gooey goodness.

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January 4, 2010

Lunch: Haru Hana adds a new Japanese option in Koreatown

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This afternoon I had lunch at the new Japanese restaurant in KoreaTown, Haru Hana. It calls itself a Japanese Pub and stocks many of the izakaya favorites I know and love, but the decor and crowd, particularly on a Monday afternoon was much more subdued than all that.

Signs prominently advertise that they are open 24 hours a day, so I'll have to report in again after a late night visit. In the meantime, here's what I had for lunch.

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I passed on the katsu and udon, which I've had quite a bit of in the last month or so and chose a broiled eel rice bowl. I love Unagi. The sweet syrup that coats the top of the eelskin and gets soaked up by the rice is a thing of beauty.

I also tried a couple of the skewers to see what that was all about. Here I had one with bacon-wrapped sausages and the other with chicken and garlic. The sausages were sweetly tangy , like those I had the last time I visited Go Go Curry. Being wrapped in bacon, it's an automatic win. The chicken skewers sported leg meat and garlic cloves toasted until the two were visually indistinguishable. Thankfully, I noticed the different in texture before biting into the garlic by mistake. The flavors may have mellowed out as it grilled, but I don't think my co-workers would really appreciate the difference

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I do have to say one thing about the yakitori. They were wonderful, but after years of eating Japanese skewers at izakaya after izakaya, I have come to expect an open kitchen where I can watch the flames lap at the meat leaving bits of char and juices dripping. When I don't see them, it doesn't detract from the experience exactly, but I notice that it's not there.

Really though, it's not hard to tell when you look at the space. The restaurant is shotgun-style, like many of the other ground floor spaces on the block. There's precious little space to offer up for the ceremony of open cooking.

The menu is widely varied, with everything from Tonkatsu to Udon to Yakitori to sushi. This could be a good thing or a bad thing. Most Japanese restaurants tend to focus on one cuisine and do it really well, so it's a little unusual. That said, the dishes I had were wonderful and I'll be happy to work my way through the menu to take advantage of the of all that variety.

Haru Hana
28 W 32nd St
Between Fifth Ave and Broadway
KoreaTown
212.736.5393


December 29, 2009

Quick Bite: Irish Bacon Burger at Spike Hill

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Lunch in the deluge Saturday afternoon at Spike Hill. I'd never noticed that Irish Bacon was an option on their burger. I feel like I'm seeing more Irish/English Bacon around on menus these days. That's a good thing.

The funky blur around the edges here is from my spiffy new Lensbaby Composer I got for Christmas from Tammi. I'm hoping not to overuse it, but it's a lot of fun.

WinterMarket 09: Porchetta

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Sara Jenkins' fantastic roast pork is what began my obsession with that rosemary and fennel scented lusciousness that is porchetta last year. So, it was wonderful to run into her booth at the Wintermarket on Sunday.

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My only disappointment was that the little porchetta sandwiches being served were not warm and fresh and custom made with requests for cracklins honored, but pre-made and chilled by the frozen temperatures outside. I guess that just means I'll have to make another pilgrimage down to the East Village one of these days.

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What was very cool was that she's now selling a packaged seasoning with Sicilian sea salt, fennel pollen and other ingredients that construct a semblance of the flavors she uses for her porchetta. I used it that night to season the pork roast I picked up at Fleisher's.

December 21, 2009

WinterMarket 2009

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Yesterday morning I braved the piles of snow to go down to the Seaport to attend this year's WinterMarket at the Fulton Fish Market.

I haven't written much about the New Amsterdam Market project recently, but it's been moving on track as far as I can tell. Starting this summer, there have been monthly markets taking place down there, but this was the first I'd manage to make it to since last year.

Despite the snowstorm, my fellow food nerds were out in force. I wasn't nearly the only one with a camera shooting food, servers and displays. It was great. I ran into Dave from Eating In Translation and we compared camera notes and geeked out for a moment.

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I wandered around shooting and eating and chatting with some of the vendors and had a great time trying out some new and interesting foods. Over the next couple days, I'll post some highlights of what I saw and ate.

Hawai'i: Me Barbecue

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Mé Barbecue is a divey little takeout Korean place off the main strip in Waikiki. We found it on our first night in Hawaii and kept going back as an alternative to the pricey but not so good breakfast buffets at the hotel.

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The menu offers around 40 different dishes that are mostly Korean, but also represent the Hawaiian mosaic. They even had a Loco Moco, which I didn't get a chance to try. My first dish there was the Portuguese Sausage Breakfast. These sausages are a local favorite, another other delicacy introduced with the huge influx of immigrants over the last century. The sausage was nicely spicy but not overpoweringly so and the over easy eggs left a lot of tasty yolk to slather it in.

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The other dish I had there was Bi Bim Bap, a Korean dish I've been eyeing in KoreaTown back at home for a while. It's a scoop of rice topped with veggies, kimchi, shredded kalbi and a sunny side up egg. It's an awesome thing.

December 17, 2009

Lunch: Dogmatic

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I already love hot dogs. Who doesn't? Whatever your preference for toppings or types of dogs or methods of cooking, it's a pretty great food.

Dogmatic didn't really have to do so much work to improve it. I'm really glad they did, though.

This gourmet dog is stuffed into a small hollowed out baguette. But, that's only after it's been slathered in a sauce of your choice including the intensely flavored Truffle Gruyere.

Yeh, really. It's then accompanied by one of a number of sides, in this case a cup of mac n cheese. Because, you know, the more cheese the better.

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December 16, 2009

Lunch: Is Go Go Going?

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It's a testament to my priorities in the world that the first reports that Hideki Matsui was leaving the Yankees for Los Angeles, all went something like this: "What about Go Go Curry?"

The hazard of basing your entire business around a single free agent player is pretty clear. But then, we've all enjoyed the quirks that make this place so interesting. According to reports, there is no plan to close up shop, although a Los Angeles branch may be in the works and the owner maintains his allegiance to Matsui.

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Despite the recent abundance of Katsu in my diet, I decided to stop in yesterday to check out the scene on the ground.

There was no sign of a change in color scheme or Angels gear anywhere. The staff still wore Yankee colors and most importantly, they still give out free toppings coupons on 'Go' days, that is any date with a '5' in it.

Best of all, the Katsu is still wonderful, the curry still think and the new-to-me pork sausage makes for a tasty combination with the other elements of the meal.

December 14, 2009

Lunch: Arang -- Japanese Fusion in KoreaTown

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According to Midtown Lunch, Arang in KoreaTown used to be Korean/Sushi Buffet. ML also reported that they had shut down. I discovered it after that, once they had revamped and got rid of the buffet.

They still specialize in the Korean and Japanese, but the buffet has been scuttled. Now, you can order one of a number of bentos, like the one above with kalbi or lunch specials of Tonkatsu.

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I'm on a katsu kick these days, so the last time I was there I tried out the Cheese Donkatsu. I can't name too many Asian foods that work with cheese, so it take a moment to wrap your head around. But then, as I've observed before, katsu is just schnitzel. And fried, breaded things can be quite tasty with cheese.

The crust is crisp, the cheese is gooey and the katsu sauce adds a sweetness to it that can be unsettling at first, but works pretty well.

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On an earlier visit, I tried their Curry Katsu just to see how it stood next to Go Go Curry. The answer is that there's no comparison. It's entirely different. Arang's curry sauce is chock full of potatoes and carrots and chunks of meat. It's thinner in texture than the dense sauce of Go Go, but there's so much stuff in it that it doesn't really make a difference.

The best part of all these lunch specials is that they are reasonably priced for a sit down meal, with most if not all specials under $10. The place is rarely crowded during lunch hours, so it's a good place to go when you need a break from being surrounded by office mates all day.

Arang
9 West 32nd Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 947-3028

December 8, 2009

On the Examiner: Late Night Eats

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Tomorrow, I start up a feature on Examiner all about late night food. I know, where do I come up with these things! Really though, even the least food-savvy people crave _something_ after a night of imbibing. What's yours?

Chime in here or on the Examiner post or with the Midtown Lunchers I polled on this questions last week.

I even fixed up the comment section, which I gave up on some time ago. You can log in and post with many different logins, so give it a go and let me know what I should be checking out.

Hawaii: Chibo

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As I mentioned, we took full advantage of the glut of Asian food available in Honolulu. We breakfasted on Korean Bi Bim Bap, slurped down ramen, sampled Yakiniku and Katsu. And at Chibo, we had Okonomiyaki.

In the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, I found the only US branch of President Chibo restaurant we visited a couple years back in Ginza, Tokyo. We had dinner there on the first leg of our trip and stopped in again for lunch a few hours before our flight home.

Both times we sat at the Griddle and watched the magic happen. Of course, I took the opportunity to photograph the cooks doing their work.

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The first time we had the tasting menu, which had several courses and included a steamed egg soup that was really interesting; shrimp and beef fillet that were perfectly charred in the right places with crisped garlic slivers sprinkled on top and of course, the okonomiyaki.

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Chibo
Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center
2201 Kalakaua Avenue, Suite A-305
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Tel: (808) 922-9722

December 4, 2009

Quick Bite: Tonkatsu at Bairin

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Back in Waikiki, we had lunch at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin, a Katsu place on a slightly out of the way block. I had a thick cut pork loin katsu platter.

I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of Katsu, but I was a little dubious about the thick cut. The loin tends to be pretty lean and can dry out a lot unless it's pounded into oblivion a la Schnitzel. But this was meaty and juicy and the exterior had crunchy texture without dominating every bite.

They also sold bottles of their sweet katsu sauce that I meant to buy but I forgot to order one before we left.

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Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
255 Beach Walk,
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Tel: 808.926.8082

December 3, 2009

Lunch: In the mood for Japanese

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I haven't shaken my craving for Japanese food since getting back from Hawaii. Coincidentally, I ended up having to run lunch errands in Midtown East two days in a row this week. As I've mentioned before the East 40's is basically JapanTown North. So, I took the opportunity to slurp down some more noodles and enjoy the dulcet tones of "Irrashaimase!!" upon entry.

Above is a Tuesday's Kara age Curry Udon, a favorite of mine from Udon West's uptown branch. Without repeating myself too much, I'm a big fan of Udon. It's thick and hearty and perfect eating on a chilly fall day. Combine that with the warming spice of the rich curry broth and the visceral satisfaction of the crunchy on the outside, tender and herby on the inside fried chicken and I could eat this all winter.

Below is a bowl of Pork Belly Ramen from Manchenko Tei on 45th Street that I had on Monday. The two could not have been more different. The noodles were thin, soba, I think and the broth was lighter and silkier. Topped with a hunk of pork belly that was beautifully braised it was easily as satisfying.

There's so much food in New York, I'll probably end up back into my usual patterns of a little of this a little of that soon enough, but I'm really enjoying exploring the many many Japanese options available right now. The weather has had me craving soups, but I definitely want some yakitori sooner rather than later.

More to come.

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(PS: Welcome Midtown Lunch readers! Apologies for the poor navigation, I'm working on it. Please feel free to look around.

November 23, 2009

Hawai'i: The Loco Moco

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This is the Loco Moco: a thick beef patty, topped with a fried egg and starch-thickened gravy served on a bed of rice. Think Salisbury Steak with rice and egg. For breakfast. Weird right? It's actually pretty good and a really interesting example of how Hawai'i integrated so much of the influences that have flooded the islands since Captain Cook 'discovered' them 200 years ago.

Contemporary Hawai'ian cuisine is notoriously low-budget and ingeniously cobbled together with whatever is on hand. Famously, Spam is more popular here than anywhere else in the country. Without getting too involved in a discussion/monologue on the politics of big business and imperialism at the turn of the last century, suffice it to say that there has been a lot of poverty and plenty of cultural intermingling over years.

The Loco Moco pulls together American burgers, Japanese rice and hangs onto the 50's era aesthetic of TV dinners and powder packet gravy.

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I prefer the egg over easy so the yolk mixes in with the rice. The gravy is thick and goopy and rich and binds it all together. It's a little much for me, but it's been interesting to try out a couple examples of it.

November 15, 2009

Quick Bite: Italian Sausage

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When I was in High School and College, I loved wandering the street fairs every summer. I didn't care that, except The Antic, they were all the same and rarely represented any aspect of the block of the neighborhood they were in. I wasn't particular.

I liked the gathering of people and, of course, I loved the food. The highlight for me was always the Italian Sausage stands. I could have Hot or Sweet, but always covered in a mountain of peppers and onions. For the life of me, I can never find one nearly as good in a store. Most pizza shops that sell sausage heroes, just don't have the flavor or the nice char from the griddle.

Last week, I passed by one of these fairs, probably one of the last of the season, and right on the corner was a sausage stand. I had to have one for old-time sake.

I just have to add a note of photo-geekery here. The pic is one of my analog shots, that I took on a roll of Fuji Velvia slide film. Check out the way the colors just glow out of the shot. I can practically smell the onions just by looking at it.

November 9, 2009

Lunch: Buffalo Chicken Pizza at Cafe Rustica II

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The idea of spicy chicken and bleu cheese on a pizza may seem wildly unusual to many, but for me it brings back memories of my college days. Back in Amherst, Mass, there is a pizza shop called Antonio's that specializes in odd toppings. There were plenty of others including Potato Bacon, with thin slices of baked potatoes with cheese and crispy bacon bits on top, but 'Spicy Bleu,' was always one of my favorites

So, when I saw this buffalo chicken pie come out of the oven at hole in the wall Cafe Rustica II on 35th Street, I had to have it. Though not nearly as good as my far off memories of Antonio's, it was close enough to take me back for a moment.

A firm layer of mozzarella sets the foundation of the slice. It holds what might otherwise be watery ingredients in place. The bleu cheese is a thinner dressing that I'd like, but is just strong enough to balance out the tang and spice of the buffalo sauce. The chicken chunks are breaded and fried, a departure from the slices I had back in college and maybe an improvement. The crispness of the breading adds another texture to experience and manages to soak up some of the hot sauce, making it a better vehicle for flavor.

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The way I found it was entirely by accident. My usual Herald Square pizza spot, Giuseppe's apparently closed down but I still wanted a slice, so I stopped in here.

In the 5 years I've worked in the area, I had only gone to Cafe Rustica once. Passing by, the signs out front declare it a 'Trattoria Pizza and Pasta House.' This is ridiculous. The closest thing to decor in this dark, cave-like space are the exposed duct work in the ceiling. This is not Trattoria. It's not even a Restaurant. It's a Pizza shop. Make no mistake.

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October 14, 2009

Seattle: Lola

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Lola is one in a collection of restaurants in Downtown Seattle owned by Chef Tom Douglas. It's generally Mediterranean and the menu includes much meat on sticks.

I only got to have this snack there while waiting for dinner at another of his restaurants across the street (more on that later). It's grilled lamb heart, which sounds pretty intense.

I've been curious about heart for a while (see Captain Beefheart), but this was my first real opportunity.

The flavor was intensely meaty without being particularly gamy or overpowering. The texture surprised me. I always presumed that heart would be very tough, but even though the meat was firm, it wasn't excessively so.

I had high hopes to return to Lola to explore the rest of the menu, particularly the other skewers, but alas, my stomach troubles thwarted that. Given all that went uneaten in Seattle, I'm sure I'll return at some point.

October 10, 2009

LA: Kogi

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I've been putting off my Kogi post (for months!) because there is just so much already written about the phenomenal hype surrounding the truck. You've heard it all before. It's been on the food blogs, the food mags, trend reports on the cutting edge and even on NPR. Yes. Food trucks are awesome. Yes. Many of them use Twitter. Got it. And really, more importantly, yes, Korean and Mexican foods fuse well.

So, here's the short version:
Long line, great food, totally earns the hype.

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I had two tacos, one with spicy pork, the other with short ribs and a pair of sliders. All were topped with shredded kimchi.

In hindsight, given that the beef on the sliders is that same as is in in the taco, I'd have made my second taco chicken or maybe have used it as an excuse to gorge myself on a kogi dog.

Regardless, much like the dinner the other week at Minetta Tavern, I walked away disappointed that the hype for Kogi seems to be entirely earned.

Being so good means that it's actually worth jumping through stupid hoops like standing in line for 45 minutes or having dinner at 5:30pm because you aren't important enough to score a reasonable res. And that annoys me, because really, I'm rarely willing to put up with that crap.

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The good news is that the little secret of the Kogi Truck is that they sell the same menu most nights at Alibi Room in Culver City. I didn't make it there on my last trip, but it's definitely on my short list of places to go next time I'm in Los Angeles.

September 28, 2009

Quick Bite: Locanda Verde

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In the name of getting more posts up more often, I'm introducing a new feature: Quick Bite. I'll post an image or two from a (hopefully) recent meal with a note or two.

This weekend, Tammi and I had dinner at the bar at Locanda Verde. I had the awesome ribbons of parpardelle, above, topped with a lamb, veal ragu.

Below is the grilled octopus that I raved about when I posted on LV over the summer.

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August 25, 2009

Der Schwarz Kolner Opens!

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Fort Greene's brand new Beer Hall, Der Schwarz Kolner opened a couple weeks ago after much anticipation. Tammi and I ended up getting there 15 minutes after they opened. The menu was still in flux and there was much frantic bouncing around by the staff, but the energy in the room was great.

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As the name implies, they specialize in the cuisine of Koln (or Cologne to you francophiles). What that means in practical matters is that you get plenty of wonderful Kolsch beer. As I've mentioned before, Kölsch is "light and sweet, but with a bite of hops that provides a zen-like balance." And thus a perfect summer beer.

We hung out there for a couple hours, sampling the compact (three item) menu. The bratwurst was juicy and well spiced. The pretzels were tasty, but lacked salt for some reason. The last dish, which had an odd (read: German) name was nothing more complicated than a slab of gouda cheese and a roll. Tammi's rather fond of gouda, so she gobbled that up and loved it.

Before we headed out, we saw an off the menu special coming out of the the kitchen: some tantalizing red kielbasa sausages showed up at the table next to us.

It's a testament to both the draw of a beer hall and the neighborhood that within an hour of our arrival, the place was already crowded. I know I'll be back.

(Many thanks to Eater for linking to my opening day photos)

August 24, 2009

Philly: Breakfast at DiNic's

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I haven't had a chance to post about our philly trip yet, but here's a good start: for breakfast Saturday morning we split a Roast Pork Sandwich at DiNic's in Reading Terminal Market.

What better way to start the day?

August 14, 2009

Weekend in Philly

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This evening, Tammi and I are going to Philadelphia for a little downtime together. We haven't been there together since she ran the Philadelphia Marathon in '07.

It's just the weekend, but of course the food is pretty planned out. Tonight it's dinner at Amada, tomorrow, it's Osteria. We're staying right down the block from Reading Terminal Market, so I can't imagine we won't check out DiNic's.

Beyond that, we'll be wandering around, and enjoying the city. Tammi has a couple shops she wants to hit and I'll be photographing and such. It should be a lot of fun.

There will be Tweets, so if you want the bite-by-bite, follow away.

August 12, 2009

LA: West 4th/Jane

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In the middle of Santa Monica, West 4th/Jane sits in homage to a transplanted New Yorker's memory of Corner Bistro, a couple thousand miles away. I didn't get to go in, so I can't say how well the burger compares.

Apparently they just opened a couple months ago and got a fair amount of blog attention. Based on at least one site, which refers to it as being inspired by "NYC Gastropubs," it sounds nothing like the original.

Hell, the fact that there seem to be more than 5 things on the menu and a hundred beers available should tell you all you need to know.

West 4th/Jane
1432 4th St
Santa Monica, CA 90401

August 11, 2009

LA: Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs

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While it does seem as though I ate everything while in LA, there was one local delicacy I passed on: The bacon-wrapped hot dog. Oh, I've had hot dogs wrapped in bacon before, I just haven't had any that were 'griddled,' as seen here, on a baking sheet on the street.

As someone who has often celebrated street meat, it's probably dubious for me to draw a line here, but I was skeptical enough to pass it by. All I had heard about the dogs was that the local health department was down on it. I mean, bacon cooking at lowish temperatures in sunny California presents a few obvious concerns to me too.

But apparently there is a long history of these dogs in Mexican lore and particularly in Mexican communities in Los Angeles.

Personally, I've let my cautious side stop me from partaking in these in the past. But seeing the crisp bacon and smelling the aromatic peppers and onions, I was truly tempted. It's only the meal I had just finished that stopped me from finally giving one a try.

Locanda Verde

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The night before leaving for LA, Tammi and I had dinner at Locanda Verde, the great new restaurant in the Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca. It was our second time there, after a birthday meal there in June.

The restaurant has gotten a huge amount of press on the blogs since it opened in late May and I have to say it's pretty well deserved.

I don't really know where to start describing the highlights of the meal without just listing everything.

The blue crab crostino was nicely spiced with black pepper to enhance the flavor of the crab.

The Lamb Meatball sliders are amazing. We had that the last time and had to have it again. The meat was richly flavored without any powerful gaminess to it was topped with a cheesy tomato sauce and pickle. I could eat them all night.

The grilled octopus was tender, but still had just the right firmness. The fish flavor was clearly present without being overpowering. And it had just the right amount of char to counter the other tastes.

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The winner of the night was Tammi's linguine with shellfish. Its sauce was sweet and creamy with flavors of herbs, garlic, lemon battling out with chunks of lobster, shrimp and clams tossed in. It was amazing.

There was plenty more, but I'm trying to keep it brief. Just thinking about it is making me hungry.

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich Street
New York NY 10013
212.941.8900

August 10, 2009

Lunch: MFC (formerly Bon Chon)

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A month or so ago the Bon Chon Chicken in Koreatown (and I believe the location in Flushing) suddenly changed its name to Mad For Chicken. According to Midtown Lunch, this is a familiar story:

Ah yes- the old open a franchise... steal the recipe... decide you don't want to pay the royalties anymore game. If this whole thing sounds familiar, it's because it is. Shorty's (on 9th Ave. btw. 41+42nd) did the same thing to Tony Luke's. Thankfully for Midtown Lunch'ers one commenter is reporting that the chicken pretty much tastes the same as it always has, but I'm guessing it still takes forever to get your order. Thanks to Lunch'er Paul for passing along this link to the Bon Chon Website.

I stopped in for lunch before a couple weeks ago and can verify that on all counts, things are about the same. The chicken was the same, if slightly spicier and the service was just as slow.

I will say this though, the place did seem more crowded that I had ever seen it during lunch. And the waiter actually warned me that the food would take about 45 minutes, which I don't think I've ever seen before - it always takes that long, they just don't usually warn you.

Lunch: Num Pang

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Farther afield than even the extended area I've been attempting to survey as part of my walking project, Num Pang's sandwiches are good enough to hop a train for. I was downtown running a couple errands during lunch and took the opportunity to sample the pork belly special.

The sandwich, above, sported meltingly tender pork belly topped with pickled cucumber and rhubarb, shredded carrots and sprigs of cilantro. The flavors and textures fell together magically. The roll, which I worried might be too thick, turned out to fold perfectly with the meet when biting into it.

My only complaint was structural. The pickled rhubarb, simultaneously tangy, tart and sweet, was left in whole stalks, which are rather difficult to bite through. Each bite I struggled to get through it without yanking the entire piece out of the sandwich. If it had been cut up into smaller bits, the logistics of eating the sandwich would have been more convenient.

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Num Pang serves Cambodian sandwiches. They are similar to Vietnamese sandwiches in that they include a good deal of tender pork, stinging spice and tangy pickles, but with wider variations than what I've seen at traditional Vietnamese spots. I can't speak to other Cambodian sandwich shops, Num Pang seems to shine brightest on it's often changing menu of specials. Of course, it's regular menu is nothing to write off either.

Num Pang
21 east 12th street, new york, ny 10003
phone: 212.255.3271

August 7, 2009

LA: Musha Again

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I've got nothing new to say about Musha that I haven't already said. I had another great meal there the other night.

My only complaint for the evening was that the dishes should have been paced out a little better. Within 15 minutes all of the small plates we ordered were delivered and cluttering the table. It felt a little rushed and diminished the experience a bit. Otherwise, the food was spot on as usual.

Instead of yammering on some more about it, here's some eye-candy:

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August 6, 2009

LA: Pizza Mozza 2 Go

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Following the market trend that has popped up here and there, Mozza has opened up a shop a couple doors down from the Osteria. It's called Pizza Mozza 2 Go. The name is pretty straightforward, but the store is not just a takeout window to the popular pizzeria.

Nancy Silverton stocks the shelves in the front counter area with some of the key ingredients that she uses at the restaurants as well as some gems that she's managed to source on trips to Italy.

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In the back room, customers can wait for their pizza over a glass of wine. The waiting area looks awfully familiar to the New Yorker's eye, with marble-topped tables that look to be the same as those used in the large bar area at the front of Otto.

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And really, because I can't stop raving about Mozza, this is what I had for dinner that night. The housemade fennel sausage was fragrant and wonderful.

August 5, 2009

LA: Fraiche

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Last Monday, after we finished our main setup, we returned to Culver City to eat at Fraiche, a block away from Ford's. The food is primarily country cuisine from France and Italy, serving rustic meals in what under other circumstances could have been a romantic dinner. If I ever manage to come out here away from work and with Tammi, I would love to take her there.

Above is the Oxtail parpadelle I had. Oxtail is great for this sort of preparation. The meat shreds into pieces that fit just right on the fork with the pasta. The sauce was a puddle of broth that moistened every bite and hung along the face of the rough-textured mustard greens. The sweet meatiness balanced out the greens' typical harsh bitterness.

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To start, I had an order of Tete de Veau, which is a fancy way of saying head cheese, which is really just a euphemism for 'cow face and jelly.' It's the jelly bit that usually gives me a little trouble. Sometimes it's just a little too much texturally and lacks much in the way of flavor. It can just get in the way of the meat that I'm actually looking to eat. But when it's done right, there isn't too much gelatin and what there is of it, melts into a concentrated beef juice.

This was like that. The meat was firm and hammy and in thick chunks that fit well on the slices of bread.

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The meal was great and the space was nicely put together. We sat outside in the dining section of the patio. Right across from us was the bar's patio, which featured high tables and stools as well as a couple couches. I could totally imagine sitting out there, lingering for hours with friends after a meal.

Fraiche
9411 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
310.839.6800

July 30, 2009

Lunch: Soba Totto

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A couple weeks ago, work took me up to a satellite office in the Grand Central area. As soon as I knew I was heading up there I started contemplating my lunch options.

Then it came to me: Japanese. While there's plenty of Korean food coming out of K Town, there isn't much in the way of Japanese food in the area besides some anonymous sushi spots here and there. The east 40's on the other hand hosts a veritable Japantown, catering to an older crowd than the raucous scene down on St. Mark's Place.

Soba Totto is one of my favorite places in the area. One of three upscale izakaya in midtown, I've often enjoyed the yakitori and somewhat exotic fare. All three locations roast interesting skewers of cartilage and rare chicken thighs and such. This location specializes in soba noodles, as seen in the soup on the right.

Most noodles are striking for their texture rather than flavor. Soba's buckwheat base adds another dimension. I'm told that the Japanese consider soba noodles to be comfort food, a taste of home. I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to pinpoint the difference, but I find the flavor to be heartier, meatier.

Paired with that was the bowl of ginger-marinated sauteed pork belly slices on a bed of rice. The whole meal, at $15 was a great deal.

I may have to return for lunch even when I don't just happen to be in the neighborhood.

July 29, 2009

LA: Ford's Filling Station

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When I told my travel companion that he might not make the reservation I made for Ford's Filling Station, he insisted that we would just have to go again later in the week. He -had- to go back to Ford's. I managed to move the reservation back a couple hours and we had a late dinner that night.

Like a lot of restaurants these days, Ford's menu is based on the notion of working with local, seasonal, quality ingredients. The restaurant is said to be the pioneer of both this philosophy of cooking and of the downtown Culver City area. Apparently, the area was fairly desolate until some investment in a local theater revived it. In a recent interview with LAist, Chef Ben Ford talked about how perceptions of the area have changed as well as his preference of sourcing food from the farmers market.

The food really shows the care that goes in it. My main dish, the Jidori chicken had a wonderfully crispy skin with remarkably juicy meat. The mashed potatoes and succotash on the side completed a great comfort food combination. I ordered a side of Mac n Cheese too, which looked fantastic, but after this and our starter, I couldn't eat another bite.

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We began with a long strip of flatbread topped with jamon serrano, cheese and caramelized veggies.

My only complaint about the entire meal was the order of Pork Rillettes. I found the grind to be too fine, leaving a pasty texture that didn't really work for me.

Overall, one disappointment out of the whole meal was perfectly acceptable. The meal definitely reinforce that Ford's is a place ot return to again and again.

Ford's Filling Station

9531 Culver Blvd. Culver City, CA
310.202.1470

DC: Dinner at Marvin

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On our second night in DC the other weekend, Tammi and I met up with friends for dinner at Marvin. As I mentioned in a previous post, Marvin's menu stars the somewhat startling combination of Southern American and Belgian dishes. Though it seems odd at first, I have to say it worked well.

I had the chicken and waffle, above, which was wonderful. The breading had just the right crispy crunch to it and was complemented wonderfully by the sweetness of the syrup. Even the side of sauteed greens with a cream sauce that sat beneath the waffle mixed well, adding a slightly bitter edge to all that sweet and savory.

Tammi went with an order of Moules Frites, which came with a huge pile of mussels. She was so full from that, that she barely touched her fries. If you knew how much she loves fries, you'd understand how good the mussels must have been.

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After dinner we headed upstairs and listened to the DJ spin some tunes while we relaxed for a couple hours. The space filled up over the evening and there was a great vibe. Good times.

July 28, 2009

Will Der Shwarze Kolner Ever Open?

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I first heard rumor of a beer garden opening in Fort Greene, way back in March. Obviously, I was very happy. Beer. Schnitzel. Outdoor space. What's not to love?

And being positioned a block away from Habana Outpost means it'll have an interesting crowd and hopefully will have a moderating effect on the drives that overwhelm the place on the weekends.

But, I was apprehensive. There was no word of when they would be opening. So, I sat tight and didn't think about it.

That is until Brownstoner reported that they would be open by the end of last month. With hopes of tippling over brats and shnitzel for 4th of July Weekend, I stopped by to find it shuttered.

Last week, I passed by again and the gates were half open. I stuck my head in and asked about an opening date, but didn't get anything more than "Soon come."

So, there you go: Soon come.

LA Recs: The Tower of Justice Returns

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Stephen, a.k.a. The Tower of Justice is a long-time friend of the blog. Last year he offered tips on where and what to eat in San Francisco and he has advised on LA Eats in the past as well. Below is an extended and updated list of recommendations. Note the liberal use of the term 'bomb-ass.' That's how you know it's real.

Here are a few options to consider:

Downtown

Near the Staples Center is Philippe's, which as you may recall is the birthplace of the au jus roast beef sandwich.  They don't serve it with au jus in a dipping bowl, but instead ask you how many dips you want--one, two, or three.  Get it with two, which provides you with enough juice to give the meat some flavor but not too much so that the french roll loses its integrity.  They also serve 10 cent coffee.  It isn't transcendent but it's novel.  At each table, you'll find spicy ass mustard or horseradish sauce (I can't remember), which is bomb-ass.

In Chinatown, which is about 10 minutes northeast of downtown, you'll find Empress Pavilion which has some great dim sum.

In Koreatown, which is about 10 minutes west of downtown, you'll find all sorts of good eats.  My favorite is Beverly Soon Tofu on the northwest corner of Olympic and Vermont.  It's a spicy tofu soup made with all sorts of good meat/seafood combinations.  The bowl is a mini-cauldron that is bubbling when it is brought to your table at which point the waitress drops a raw egg into the bowl so that it can add another layer of flavor.  If you go, order the pork/seafood combination broth and ask for it "regular" spicy.  ("Spicy" spicy is really too hot, to the point where it begins detracting from the meal.)

There is also a Kyo-Chon chicken joint in K-town.  I've been to Bon-Chon, which also recently opened a store in LA k-town, and I still prefer Kyo-Chon.

Two other places to think about.  One is Honey Pig, which is a korean bacon joint.  They have giant pans in the shape of an inverted cone placed over a gas grill.  The inverted shape allows the bacon grease to burn off and collect in a pool at the bottom.  They serve the bacon with all sorts of kim chee, all of which you can wrap either in some leafy green or a rice wrap slathered in sesame oil.  Be sure to save some of whatever meat you're eating because the wait staff will come and make fried rice at the table with the leftovers.

Another place to try is Park's BBQ, which is on Vermont, just north of Olympic (and around the corner from Beverly Soon Tofu).  I've never been to Park's but the word on the street is that this place has the best beef bbq in K-town.  I think they even offer kobe beef short ribs.  Yikes.

Mid-Wilshire

One place in the mid-wilshire area you may consider is Umami Burger.  I have a pic of my burger in my mobile uploads folder on FB.  It's more novel than profound.  My umami burger had a patty, shiitake mushrooms, and a parmesan crisp.  My sister had the green chile burger which was better, I thought.  I hear good things about the triple pork burger.  

Another place you might try is Loteria, which is at the Farmers market at the Grove shopping center.  Loteria serves up some bomb ass chilequiles.  The head chef there is often featured on KCRW's "Good Food" podcast.  

Westside
I noted Musha on your list.  Everything there is good, but here are a few things you MUST try:
Kakuni (slow-cooked pork belly)
Saba: this mackeral, which not everyone loves because of its extremely fishy taste.  I recommend this if for no other reason than to experience having the wait sear your fish at the table with a blow torch.
MFC: Musha-Fried Chicken.  Enough said.
Vongore Udon: this dish is a relatively dry udon dish with clams and mushrooms. Savory goodness.
Spicy Tuna-Dip: they mix up some sashimi grade tuna with some spicy sauce, and serve rice cakes on the side.  

Some other good items include the risotto, which they serve tableside in a big block of parmesan cheese; somen noodles, which are really clean-tasting; an omelette with octopus and soba noodles (I can't remember the Japanese name).

Another place in Santa Monica is Bay Cities Italian Deli.  Their "Godmother" sandwich with spicy peppers is legitimate.  

If you get a chance to swing through Westwood, I also recommend your swinging through Stan's Donuts.  They have peanut butter and chocolate and peanut butter and banana donuts, both of which are great.  I usually go with the banana donut because it has real bananas.

A day ago, ToJ added one more suggestion to this list of wonders,

"Check out Daikokuya in Little Tokyo. Bomb ass pork ramen. The broth is milky white from pork parts having been cooked in it for days."

Bomb. Ass. For real.

July 27, 2009

LA Recs 2: Laura's Finds

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This is Laura. She moved out to LA last year to go to grad school. From pretty much the minute she landed, I've been hitting her up to go eat at places I read about. As she was procrastinating during finals, she put together an extensive list of places she likes or has heard good things about. Here are the highlights:

La Brea Bakery La Brea and 7th St - Los Angeles REALLY delicious sweet breads, seating outside and a few tables only at that but great if you want to grab a cup of coffee and a scone or muffin or breadstick. $-$$ (for pastries...)

Campanile
La Brea and 7th St.
Same owners as La Brea Bakery
Good brunch on the weekends. Fancy place that is kid friendly. Website says brunch times during the week as well but when I went at 11:30 on a Friday they gave us lunch menu only. But that's ok because the mushroom and truffle omelet was still on there and it was YUM!
$$

Phillip's BBQ
Crenshaw just south of I-10
I haven't been here personally but I have seen the trough of meat (pork ribs, beef tip, chicken, you name it-they BBQ it) that my friends have ordered and it smelled good! You order in pounds of meat...and if they run out of corn bread then they just give you a whole loaf of Wonder Bread...mmm
$$

fraiche
9411 culver blvd
culver city ca 90232
310.839.6800
Really good specials and seafood! And wine. Kind of a fancy place, totally delicious!
$$$

Taco truck by the Ralph's parking lot
Glendale Blvd and Alvarado (just off the 101 N Alvarado exit)
Need I say more...great taco truck with like 5-6 salsas to lather on the yummy meat!
$

Chano's Tacos
Figueroa - North of Adams (East side of Fig)
Just a must eat when near USC...took me WAY too long to try this place out! Good carne asada burritos. Nachos are cheap kind w cheddar melted on top and bottom layers don't get any cheese but other than that they have great food!
$

http://www.wingstop.com/
Crenshaw north of The Cobbler Lady on the West side of the street
Just yummy wings in like 7 flavors with at least 3 dipping sauces at a cheap price, w seasoned fries and a drink you can't miss. 10pcs (2 flavors), w fries, and a drink for under $10. Eat in or take-out. One of the few places open after 10pm in my 'hood!
$

Mexican place down the block from Lyric Café
Great drinks and food is delicious! Pricing comparable to NY prices and gives a generous helping of food.
$$

July 25, 2009

LA: Food Recs, Part One

This year, I asked 'the network' (read: Facebook) for some recommendations as well as a couple well placed experts on the ground. The results could fill a month of eating even with an open schedule, so I don't know how much of it I'll be able to actually make, but I intend to try my best to put a dent in the list.

In addition, I plan to make visits to some old favorites, like Musha, Pizzeria Mozza and tonight, when my colleague with the car comes, it's Ford's Filling Station in Culver City.

I was going to collect all the recommendations in one post, but looking at them now, I'm realizing exactly how intense this list is. Let's start with some of the highlights:

First and foremost, the Kogi BBQ Truck, which has lit the blogotubes on fire with praise received forceful recs from no less than four of my friends. I was already hoping to make it out there, but a little dubious about all the hype. I still am, but really, Korean barbecue tacos are too brilliant to pass up.

Beyond that, recommendations varied from Ethiopian at Merkato on Fairfax to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.

I got a nice music recommendation from Joshu, who worked in the college radio station with me back in the day, "It's been a while, but last time I was there, Catalina Jazz Club was putting it down with the music and food. Goes without saying that you need to eat some of the divey Mexican that Californians on the East Coast bitch relentlessly about missing."

Along those lines, Harriet, who lives in LA chimed in about the "Great Mexican food ... at Loteria in the Farmers Market at the Grove (a stand) or at their new restaurant in Hollywood."

I've been to both in past years and would definitely go back. She continued, "For dinner, try Susan Feniger's The Street on Highland near Mozza. My favorite restaurant is Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica."

I like Santa Monica because it's the only area of LA I've seen that's remotely walkable, but with one or two exceptions, I haven't been blown away by the food. So, I definitely want to give this a try.

Over the next couple of days, I'll be posting more recommendations from a couple locals. Stay tuned.

July 16, 2009

Lunch Explorations

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I complain about the culinary wasteland that is Midtown, but all things considered, I'm in a relatively good spot to eat if I take a little more than the customary 15 minutes to grab something quick and eat at my desk.

Last week, Tammi and I started working on losing some weight. I refuse to call it a diet, but healthier living is probably for the best, so we'll see what happens. There may be some mention of it here and there on the blog, but if you want weekly updates on such things, see Ed Levine. That's not my thing.

Here's where it's relevant: One of my goals is to walk more and I figure what's more motivating for me that food? So, I'm trying to get out to some of those places that are pretty close to my office, but further than I would usually consider for lunch. Think 2nd Avenue, Curry Hill or Chelsea. All within 10 blocks of my office, but outside of the 2 block radius I typically lock myself into.

My trip to Baoguette was my first such excursion. My goal is to do this at least once a week. If nothing else, it should make for some more interesting eating options which can't be bad.

July 13, 2009

Oyster Sliders at Ed's Lobster Bar

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This is the most wonderful thing ever: Oyster Sliders.
Bacon-wrapped. Fried. Oyster. Sliders.

Seriously.

June 9, 2009

Opening: Saraghina

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Saraghina, a new artisanal pizzeria opened up tonight in Bed-Stuy.

We had heard the rumors for months. I didn't know when. I didn't know where. But some sort of sit-down pizza restaurant was opening in Bed-Stuy eventually. Sadly, in this neighborhood, eventually can stretch into years.

I was pretty excited when I finally found details on Grub Street about Saraghina. Most important among them was that they would be slinging pies in the 'hood within a week.

Yesterday, we stopped in to talk a look. What we found was the beginning of a friends and family opening party and a chef ecstatic to show off his new place.

We didn't make the opening but hope to get out there this weekend.

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May 28, 2009

Habana Outpost: Summer Time is Here

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I've posted about The Outpost's re-opening every year since I've been blogging. This year, I'm behind the times. They opened up with a street festival as usual that included a performance by KRS-One (that I missed by minutes).

On Memorial Day, Tammi and I had our first Cuban sandwiches of the year and spent a couple hours relaxing over food, drink, and beats provided by DJ Juice E.

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This year there were a few subtle decor changes here and there, but other than that, it was still the Habana Outpost we've come to know and love. The place is a lot more crowded these days than it was those many years ago when they first opened but it's still a good time.

May 16, 2009

Candied Bacon = Glorious

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Last weekend Tammi and I took my mom out for brunch at The General Greene. I have nothing new to say since our last visit except this: Candied Bacon is Glorious.

I don't know what they 'candy' it with, but it's not a hard glaze, as I imagined when I encouraged my sister to order it. Instead it is just like regular, thick, juicy, meaty, thick-sliced, wonderful bacon, but it's got a honey-like coating across it.

May 14, 2009

Butchery: Appleman Takes Rising Star Award At The Beards

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This is a tenuous link to the butchery thread, but I wanted an excuse to use this photo. Nate Appleman, one of the faces of the Butchery trend on the west coast received the Rising Star Chef at last week's 2009 James Beard Awards. I've been a fan of Appleman ever since taking his class at Astor and trying his food at A16.

May 5, 2009

Lunch: Loreley

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After having the katsu curry at Go Go, I was thinking about the German roots of what's essentially Japanese shnitzel. The next day, I ended up on the Lower East Side and I took the opportunity to examine the source materials at Loreley, a German restaurant and beergarden.

Loreley is one of my new favorite places to go in the afternoon in LES. I hear the scene is godawful after work, but before that, it's a quiet, uncrowded spot to enjoy some sausage, shnitzel or strudel.

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It's also a great spot to sample some great German beers that you don't often come across. The focus at Loreley is on the Koln region, its food and its fine light bodied beer, kolsh. More like a traditional pilsner than anything we fine in the US, kolsh is light and sweet, but with a bite of hops that provides a zen-like balance.

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Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten
7 Rivington Street New York, NY 10002
Lower East Side
Between Bowery and Chrystie Street
phone 212 253 7077

Citifield Eats

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After reading about all the good food that was to reside in CitiField, the new Mets stadium, I knew I was much more interested in going to a Mets game for the food than the baseball. I'm no sports fan one way or the other, but The Mets, along with the Knicks and the Rangers seem to exist solely to prove that having a big budget and a large market does not mean you won't lose more often than you win.

Last week, Tammi and I joined a couple friends to see The Mets lose and, more importantly, to find a shorter line for Shake Shack than I can find in Manhattan. It was a success on both counts.

Tammi and I had single shack burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, and an order of fries from the frites place. Given the ridiculous lines at Shake Shack, I haven't had one of their burgers since last year. Their line at Citifield was the longest there, but still about a quarter of the size of the one in Madison Square Park. The burger was the same small, juicy patty with crisp veggies on a chewy potato roll that I know and love.

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What was more surprising was that there was no line to speak of at the Blue Smoke booth. The sandwich was good, the meat had a tender flakiness to it with the tangy seasoning of the Blue Smoke rub embedded within. It was slightly dry though and could have used a spare drop or two of barbecue sauce.

The upside of the visit was that we got to eat well, but as a first foray, it only covered familiar territory. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to go again to sample the food at El Verano Taqueria, Catch of the Day by Esca's Dave Pasternack and Mama's of Corona, for some local flavor. On future visits, my time may be better spent exploring the other food options than watching the game.

May 4, 2009

Lunch: Go Go Curry

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I love Go Go Curry. It's the perfect convergence of quirky Japanese culture and yummy Japanese curry.

Japanese curry is an interesting thing. It's certainly not like the Jamaican curry I grew up on. It's thick and muddy, almost like a chili, spicy and full bodied.

Go Go specializes in serving this curry gravy over plates of rice and then adding toppings that are the centerpiece of the meal. Chicken, pork, shrimp, and any number of other options including boiled eggs or natto, fermented soybeans are offered.

I chose katsu, pork cutlets which are pounded thin then breaded and fried, a preparation borrowed from the Germans, who call it schnitzel. The difference is the sweet sauce that accompanies katsu, here drizzled on top of the pork. It's awesome because there's so much going on here: The flavors of the sweet, the spicy and the porky compete with the textures of the crunchy breading, the tender meat and the slight mush of curry sodden rice.

Then there's the quirk. The entire theme of the restaurant revolves around Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees, formerly of the Yamiuri Giants. The name Go Go is Japanese for 55, Matsui's number. Any day after he hits a home run, anyone who comes in gets a free topping.

I have no idea what baseball and curry have to do with one another, but as I've seen in Tokyo, it's more than just a game.

For a peek at all of the options, here's the awesome plastic display in the window:
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May 2, 2009

Brunch: The General Greene

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Tammi and I finally went to The General Greene last weekend, a few months after the opening hoopla died down. Sunday the temperature broke 90 degrees, which suited me just fine after a soggy and cold April. Our friend Abbey met up with us there and we lingered for a good couple hours over drinks and brunch in the shade.

I had the Chicken Confit Skillet, above, which was excellent. Served in the cute cast iron skillet that it's cooked in, it was brunchy due to the three eggs dropped on top and cooked into a sort of casserole along with some spinach. It's an awesome variation on the cocotte concept that I've been fascinated by for some time.

The chicken was moist and tender and may have inspired me to start up a couple confit projects at home. The eggs were cooked through and enveloped the other components of the dish. I'm partial to softer yolks, so if I were to try this, I might leave it in the oven/broiler for a minute or two less. And the sprinkling of a few crystals of sea salt brought it all together.

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In an interesting bit of turnabout, Tammi chose the less breakfasty dish of a grilled sandwich, which would usually have been my choice. It looked very good, but it was late in the day and I hadn't eaten a bite of anything all day. I needed something more substantial.

The food and service were wonderful and now that the crowd seems more reasonable than early reports suggested, I am all about going back. Interestingly, I find myself unsure of which meal I want to return for first, dinner or brunch. The brunch menu stocked a number of other tasty looking skillets and sandwiches that looks truly inspired.

The General Greene
229 Dekalb Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 222-1510‎

May 1, 2009

Lunch: Rafiqi's

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A couple weeks ago, when the weather first improved from the dreary rain mess of April, the hordes of office workers, myself included, flocked outdoors. Unfortunately, we all got in each other's way. The line for my usual curry cart was jammed.

I wandered around a bit looking for alternative curry suppliers and found Rafiqi's on Park and 32nd Street. I've often heard about the wonders of Rafiqi's, a chain of curry carts around the city which has blog reviews posted on the side of the cart.

The first noticeable difference was how quickly the line went. With 3-4 guys in the cart, they were churning out meals like a machine. Where I'd usually have to wait 15 minutes for my regular spot, I was in and out of line in 5 minutes.

The lamb, which had already been charred and was piled up on the skillet, was excellent. I found the chicken lacking, mostly because it wasn't actually curried. It was fine, certainly juicy, but it didn't hit the curry spot I was really looking for.

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Rafiqi's also offers a much bigger array toppings and additions than I've ever seen before at a curry cart. There was corn and cilantro and olives among other things. I didn't try too much this time around, but I could see myself giving Rafiqi's another go if old E&G Pyramid is a bit too overloaded.

Rafiqi's
Park Avenue South & 32nd Street

April 28, 2009

Taco Trucks: Can You Hear Me Now? The Oreja Taco Can.

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I've already mentioned my fondness for the taco truck. What's even better are the trucks that have the crazy off cuts that you don't find often. In this case, it's the truck in front of the basketball courts at West 4th Street.

That's where I bought this exotic delight topped with orejas, pig ears. I've been all about cartilage lately. The soft crunch in every bite is amazingly satisfying. On top of that, ears have unctuous, lip-smacking skin wrapped around which adds another layer of texture to the experience.

It's not for everyone, but I certainly love it.

April 27, 2009

Kyochon Still Under Construction

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In the last week, Midtown Lunch reported the news that the KoreaTown announced Kyochon will not be opening for another couple months.

Today I peeked in the door and what I saw pretty much confirms that. Here are a few pics of the demolition still in progress:

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April 26, 2009

DC: Ben's Chili Bowl

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Everyone's talking about Ben's Chili Bowl these days. It's been months since the blogs were abuzz about the where to go in DC during the pre-inaugural festivities.

Ben's, a fixture on the U Street strip that used to be called the Black Broadway, received particular attention after then President-Elect Obama stopping in to ask "What's a Half-Smoke?"

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This is a Half-smoke, topped with everything, including the eponymous chili. It's a damn good dog. Don't let the shop's name fool you, the chili is peripheral, the Half-Smoke is king. The meat is spicy and flavorful and firm enough to give just the right amount of resistance to the bite.

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The chili complements it extraordinarily well, but strictly in a supporting role. It's a condiment, I probably wouldn't eat it on it's own any more than I would have a bowl of mustard or ketchup. It's more a thick gravy that soaks into every pore and crevice of the bun extending the flavor of meat to depths unimaginable.

I'm salivating just thinking of it.

April 24, 2009

DC: Pide at Rosemary's Thyme

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This is a Pide (pronounced pee-day). I had it for brunch at Rosemary's Thyme not far from our hotel in Dupont Circle.

Pide is a type of Turkish pizza, a flatbread with a meaty topping. This one was topped with Sujuk, Turkish sausage on one half, Pastirma, cured beef strips on the other and cheese with veggies all around. Since it was brunch, they threw an egg on top. Based on the meal alone, I'd be raving about the place, but the experience was dampened by poor service.

No one was rude, but everything was very slow. I don't know that there was a single time that the waiter came by without apologizing for the tardiness of one thing or another. Looking around online, it seems that this is a common experience, which is unfortunate. The space itself is pretty nice, with a huge indoor space taking up what seems like 3 storefronts and an outdoor deck that stretches across all of them.

This dish was really great- almost good enough to make me want to return. But given the experience, I'm more likely look for a Turkish place with better service.

April 13, 2009

CT Travel: Slim Food Options at Union Station

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This food disaster brought to you by S'barro. Yeh, S'barro, the most wretched chain of 'pizza' slingers in the northeast. Yet, when I'm heading home from Connecticut, it's the best of some truly foul options available at Union Station in New Haven. What irritates me about this is that I've spent enough time in New Haven to know at least a couple places to get a good bite, but none of it is convenient to the train station.

When I was in school, I passed through this station semi-regularly and loved the D'Angelo's steak shop that served what was my favorite steak and cheese sandwich until I finally visited Philadelphia.

Now, there's a Dunkin Donuts, whose doughnuts are even chalkier and staler by the afternoon than they are in the morning. And there's Subway, which produces an odor that nauseates me half a block away.

And then there's S'barro, amazingly the lesser evil.

April 5, 2009

NC: Taqueria Vaquita

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Possibly the best meal we had in North Carolina was at Taqueria Vaquita or Taqueria Cow, so known for the giant cow statue that has loomed over the small structure since it was a dairy market way back when.

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Not long after brunch, we stopped in for a taco or two as a snack, just to try them out. The plan was to swing by for a few minutes and then be on our way. We ended up sitting at a picnic table snacking and hanging out with some of my aunt's friends for a couple hours

Tammi and I started out with Tacos al Pastor, Lengua and Chorizo, above. Before we were done, I was already eying the menu.

My aunt, the vegetarian only had a quesadilla without any filling. This confused the counter guy, because who would pass up the wonderful delights that could be on a quesadilla. All the same, she loved it so much that she requested a stack of their homemade corn tortillas, served up hot off the griddle. We all picked at them between rounds of tacos.

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Tammi and I imbibed sweet Tamarind juice, going through 3 of them over the course of the afternoon. My aunt and her friend Tanya found a familiar flavor from the islands to quench their thirst. Jamaica, known as Sorrel to most West Indians is a drink made from dried red flowers that are a holiday staple in my family.

It may not have been the most historically 'authentic' meal to have in the South, but it was definitely the best. My aunt may regret taking me there as it will definitely be a required stop on future trips.

Taqueria Vaquita
2700 Chapel Hill Road,
Durham, NC 27707

April 1, 2009

Motorino

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Motorino is not like the myriad brick oven pizza spots around New York. Instead of the crisp, thin-crusted delights I've known and loved for years, they serve up what I've since heard described as West Coast-style Pizza. The voluptuous crust bulges with a body that is light and fluffy. The texture is more like Indian Naan than any Pizza crust to be found in New York.

My first Motorino pizza was the Sopressata Picante. It was amazing. Besides the wonderful crust, the chili-tomato sauce was a shock, more like a moderately spicy salsa than any typical pizza sauce. The meat was cut into small, chewy wedges instead of the usual thin slices. With each bite, I felt as well as tasted the pieces of spiced charcuterie.

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If I had any complaint, it was the structural integrity of the slice. With such a soft crust, it tended to flop down beneath the meat and sauce, spilling its contents before making it to my mouth. I'd advise folding the slice to get around this.

On my second visit, I went with a less meaty option, the Brussels Sprouts & Speck:

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The leaves of the sprouts blistered and charred along with patches of crust and the thin edges of the speck. Prominent in the layers of flavors was the pungent grated parmesan that laid in the crevices throughout the pizza.

The biggest issue with Motorino is that they still lack a liquor license, so you'll have to wash down your meal with a tangy Italian orange soda. Up until a week or two ago, they were BYOB, but the idiots at the State Liquor Authority have begun cracking down, despite the fact that it's their needless bureaucracy that's stopping them from selling their own booze.

Either way, I'll be back, but one day I hope to have a nice glass of wine with it.

March 31, 2009

NC: Mama Dip's

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There are a great many Carolinians who will be offended by this, so I'll get this out of the way first, our dinner at Mama Dip's was not very good. Easily the worst meal of the weekend. We raced over there Sunday night, to get there before their 9pm(!) closing time.

The choice of restaurant was clear because how could we go to the south and not have some southern food? Turns out that we could have gotten far better options here in NYC. Tammi had the veggie plate which included overcooked Lima Beans and bland cornbread. My dish of Fried Chicken and BBQ Pork Ribs (which wasn't the pulled pork I actually ordered, but I let that go) were similarly middling. The ribs were overdone to the point of mushiness and the sauce was sweet without any of the tang or spice or smoke that makes a good barbecue sauce. The chicken didn't have nearly the crispiness they should have had and the mac n cheese was gritty and unpleasant. Of all people, my aunt, who tends toward the pickier side was happiest with her meal, but she lives there and knew that the catfish was exactly what she wanted.

Sad, sad, that we didn't get any great bbq or fried chicken, but I'm not complaining. The rest of the food we had this weekend was wonderful, so, one iffy meal is fine.

March 27, 2009

HB Burger

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When I first heard about HB Burger, I was curious. The gimmick is that the burger costs $9, which is relatively cheap for a sit-down burger. The other night I decided to check it out.

Now, unlike a lot of others, I don't really have a huge issue with Heartland Brewery, the local tourist trap brewery with locations in pretty much every terrible place locals try to avoid. Working across the street from one of said attractions, I sometimes find it the lesser of many evils and partake. The beer brewed by The Greenpoint Brewery, the folks who also make Kelso, is pretty good, if not spectacular.

With those caveats, I went into HB Burger without particularly high expectations. Yet I still managed to find myself surprisingly disappointed. The issue wasn't with the quality of the meat or the bread or how well the burger was done. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. My issue from the start was with the size. The burger was just too small to satisfy, but not nearly small enough to get a double or two like one would at Five Guys or In n Out Burger or Burger Joint or even White Castle.

Clearly, the point of this exercise is to encourage the purchase of many toppings or a pile of sides, but I wouldn't give in. So, I left wanting more.

March 26, 2009

Late Night: The Shwarma

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Showing a bare modicum of discretion, I'm going to call this feature 'Late Night.' This category could very reasonably be called 'Drunk Food,' given that while always good, most of the dishes I expect to discuss are 100 times better after an evening of revelry. I've already covered White Castle and the Taco Truck (as well as other tacos),

The Shwarma, also known as the Doner Kebab to the Turks and sharing more similarities than differences with the Greek Gyro is an internationally recognized celebrity in the world of late night fare. In Mexico, they righteously substitute pork for lamb in the al pastor taco. In Paris, we passed a dozen spits roasting layer upon layer of lamb around the corner from the music row where we stayed.

The massive structure of meat is constructed with horizontal columns of fat which melt down, basting all the meat below. But, I expect I'm not telling you anything new. You've either seen these 'meat logs' around town in one way or the other and either fled in disgust or ran gleefully towards it.

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This particular Shwarma was served up from my go to place on MacDougal near Bleeker in The Village, Yatagan. It's not nearly the only one in the neighborhood. And, while I love it, it's not the best I've ever had, it now has a long-standing sentimental value just for being associated with so many of the late nights I've had through the years.


Yatagan Kebab House
104 MacDougal Street
Greenwich Village

March 25, 2009

NC Trip: Food Recs

We're just a couple days away from heading to North Carolina, so I'm looking forward to warm weather, hopefully rain-free, and some nice downtime. Here's a note my Aunt forwarded to me from a friend with more recommendations on where to eat. . . .

Hey Heather,

I've been brainstorming dinner places (you'll probably want to make a reservation for a Saturday night).

DINNER
I love Piedmont. It's my default restaurant for a good meal, good cocktails in downtown Durham.


Revolution is the newest on the scene. I haven't been, but I've heard good things from those who have. My coworker Anna who is self-appointed restaurant critic likes it a lot.


Na Na's isn't cheap and isn't the newest or funkiest, but I think they have some of the best food and service around.


Rue Cler is a good standby, if you're feeling Frenchy. Their mussels w/fries is a winner. And again, a downtown Durham restaurant, which I like.
http://www.ruecler-durham.com/

LUNCH
If y'all decide to just do lunch, I would suggest Toast, on Main St. Paninis and a great, simple salad.


PIedmont also has a great lunch.

As does Watts Grocery. They annoy me for dinner, but damn they make a good hamburger.


And of course, the ubiquitous, basic taquerias are fabulous. I'm a big fan of the mole enchiladas at Taco Cow. Actually called Taqueria La Vaquita.


DESSERT
If you decided to skip the meal altogether and go straight to drinks and dessert, I'd suggest Magnolia Grill. It's the original Durham great restaurant and has been written up mazillions of times. I've had a fantastic dinner there and a so-so dinner there. But the desserts are otherwordly.

xo,
A

Lunch: Tina's Cuban Pork

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I've been eating at Tina's since it opened as Sophie's before the schism. Since the beginning, the pernil or slow roasted pork has been central to my meals there. I know, it's shocking. I used to get the Cuban, but they pre-make them, which just doesn't seem quite as fresh, although it's clearly quicker during the lunch rush. So I just go to a pernil sandwich with whichever combination of toppings that strike my fancy on any given day, these generally include cheese and raw or sauteed onions.

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Occasionally, I'll want something more substantial and have a whole meal, like this Pernil with rice and beans. This particular order defeated me, leaving me stuffed with quite a bit left over.

The pork is juicy and flavorful. Though it lacks the citrus flavor you get at Cafe Habana/Habana Outpost, given that neither of them are available in midtown, I'll take what I can get.

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Much more importantly is a recent addition to the offerings that I just discovered this on my last visitat Tina's: chicharrones. Chunks of crisp fried pork skin are available in large trays on the counter at Tina's. Ask for some and you'll get a bag and the opportunity to take as many chicharrones as you can fit. I crushed them up and sprinkled them over my meal, adding the random crunch to each bite. Glorious.

I'm not sure if Tina's is offering the 'Pernil with a Twist' Midtown Lunch special, but I'm much more interested in a 'Pernil with a Crunch' option.

March 24, 2009

Lunch in the Hood: Peaches

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Last week, I had lunch at Peaches for the first time. I was inspired after a post I saw on TONY's Feed Blog that mentioned a couple sandwich specials on the lunch menu that they called some of the best in the city. This one is among them: A Black Angus Meatloaf sandwich. Served on a roll with a pile of goopy melted cheese and caramelized onions, it's fantastic.

I hope that this stays on the menu. They usually stock a Turkey Meatloaf sandwich, that my eyes gloss over just out of principle. This sandwich was good enough to motivate me to keep coming back. Hopefully when I do, it'll still be there.

March 23, 2009

Lunch: Little Italy Pizza

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This is the Marinara Mozzarella Pizza from Little Italy Pizza a block away from my job. It's no bargain at $3.50 a slice, but it's one of my favorite slices in New York, so I end up here almost every week.

Constructed counter-intuitively with thick slices of cheese directly on top of the crust then topped with dollops of sauce which leave thick puddles of sweet tomato and shredded basil on every slice.

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For all the wonders of the topping, the crust adds a dimension lacking in most regular slices: The inner layer is soft and chewy, complementing the slight resistance in each bite of the firm cheese. By contrast, the bottom layer is crisp and slightly charred, dotted with sprinkles of breadcrumbs all along it.

The sign says Little Italy Pizza, but it doesn't appear to be at all related to the much better known Little Italy on Vanderbuilt near GCT. Looking it up on Google Maps, the closest hit I get is "Big George Pizza," with an address on the corner, 2 doors down from the actual space. Whatever the pedigree, they must be doing something right given the recent expansion into the tobacco shop next door. That's a good thing

Little Italy Pizza
33rd Street between 5th and Madison.

March 16, 2009

Lunch: The Curry Cart

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There are few things I miss from my days of working in and around Times Square, but the street food definitely ranks up there. Unlike most of Midtown, the Murray Hill/Herald Square/Empire State Building area has a pathetically light Street Food population. When I read Midtown Lunch's pieces on carts and trucks serving all manner of food from Middle Eastern to Jamaican to Korean, I pine for Midtown North in a way I never really thought possible. Not that being below 23rd Street wouldn't be vastly better in all regards, but it's relative.

Besides a couple hot dog carts with pretzels and shish kababs, this cart, on the corner of 32nd and 5th Avenue is the only consistently available vendor of street meat. It's sad. But he's good and always has a decent crowd, so I'm sure he's not going anywhere any time soon. Until I stood there last week taking pictures while I waited in line, I had never noticed a name on the cart. Apparently it's E&G Pyramid Halal Cart.

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This is my usual: Chicken curry and lamb on yellow rice, topped with hot sauce and white sauce. Love it.

On the side he throws in some iceberg and a couple tomato chunks along with some sauteed cabbage, which is pretty tasty. But the main event is the meat. The chicken is season with a great curry mixture that I've tried and failed to replicate at home. It's spicy, but not over the top. The lamb is pre-cooked gyro meat, but he sears it on the griddle until it's got a great crispy char on the outside that adds depth to the blend of flavors and textures.

When I want something smaller, I just have the chicken wrapped on a pita. The mixtures of the sauces and the curry soak into the thick walls of the pita and become a medium for the combined flavors.

So, while I wish there was a bigger variety of street food in the area, at least part of that desire is so that I'd have a shorter wait to come back to this one.

March 13, 2009

NC: Trip Planning


Tammi and I are heading down to Chapel Hill later this month to see my aunt for her birthday. Of course, I'm already looking into my food options. There are quite a few, Bon Appetit called the area "America's Foodiest Small Town" last year. My aunt, a vegetarian teetotaler has spent the last couple of weeks trying to think like me, scoping out local restaurants and wine bars. We've been discussing the options in Chapel Hill and in general Triangle area.

So far, here's the list of places we might try:

Lantern, a pan-Asian place that I read about in Gourmet a while back.

Provence, a French restaurant that my aunt has said we have to try.

Glass Half Full, a wine bar with small plates.

The Carborro farmers market, where I've read meat from Ossabaw breed Pigs are sold. I've been curious for a while about what other heritage breeds taste like, so I may need to get something to take home.

There's another nice little wine bar we went to on our last visit that I'd be happy to visit again and Elaine's on Franklin, which we visited last time I was there.

Of course, we'll have some southern food while we're there. Tammi is particularly fond of grits, and I'm sure I'll track down some fried chicken or pulled pork. We'll probably hit Mama Dip's for brunch.

I'm sure we'll do something else besides eating. We may even actually go to Durham, which I still haven't seen, but I'm not too worried about that right now. If anyone has suggestions for food or non-food related activities in the area, let me know.

March 11, 2009

Lunch: By Mandoo, Denied

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Weeks ago, I went to a dumpling party at Eric and Marni's. It reminded me that I had yet to partake in one particular treat in Koreatown, Mandoo, a dumpling and noodle house where the food is prepared fresh in the window for all to see. I've been passing it for some time, but always put off by the rather intimidating line that often stretches out the door.

Over and over since then, I have tried to pop in before the lunch rush, to no avail. I've avoided the option of calling in an order largely because it would require me to eat them at my desk, when I want to enjoy them uninterrupted by work-related nonsense. I hold onto it as my last ditch attempt. More to come...

March 6, 2009

Murder Burgers

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Tammi and I share the guiltiest of guilty pleasures: White Castle burgers. These usually end up as our late night gorge after an evening of imbibing. Much like the Taco Truck I exalted recently, a sack of 10 cheeseburgers between the two of us profoundly hits the spot at 1am on a Friday night.

We usually end up at the White Castle on Atlantic Avenue, on the border of Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill as we're heading home from the night's festivities. Usually we walk, but at least once we've had a cab stop there on the way home.

March 4, 2009

Paris: Robert et Louise

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Tragically, this piece of loveliness was not mine. I have to mention it anyway. It's the Ribeye steak for two, cooked on the open wood fireplace in the back of Robert et Louise, in the Marais.

I first read about the restaurant in Ruth Reichl's extended Editor's Note in last year's Paris issue of Gourmet. I immediately added it to my short list.

We passed by one night hoping for dinner, but walk-ins weren't available. The small space fills up pretty quickly, so you'll need to make a reservation a few days in advance.

When we got there for our reservation, the beautiful old tavern space was packed tightly from the entryway down to the kitchen. I stood next to the open kitchen watching the staff work as we waited for our table.

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My main was duck confit, while Tammi had a Beef Bourgignon. Our meal was wonderful, although even now the most memorable part was the steak we didn't have. I had a pair of sausages, a boudin noir and a boudin blanc that were grilled in the open hearth in the back wall of the restaurant.

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The spectacle of the fireplace drew our attention for most of the night. Hunks of meat grilling above, while firewood burned to charred embers below. Days later, Tammi and I were still smelling the wood smoke in our coats. I got hungry again every time.

March 3, 2009

Lunch: Golden City

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It's easy to forget Golden City is there. Between name changes, a move across the street last year, and an innocuous location in the middle of 33rd Street, it seems more like it's trying to elude attention than attract it.

Honestly, the Chinese food selection blends in with thousands of others across the city. And the buffet in the front has an anemic selection of offerings that I rarely give a second look.

What makes it worth remembering is the other cuisine. Behind Golden City's Chinese menu is an entirely different offering: Vietnamese food. Pho, Pork Chops, Summer Rolls, the whole shebang. Sadly, no Banh Mi sandwiches, but I make do with what I can get.

Before I discovered Pho 32 in Koreatown, this was where I went whenever I needed a hot bowl of soup on a crappy day. It's still a good backup if the crowds on 32nd Street are too much. Meat selections are standard, offering Brisket, Sirloin, Tripe and Tendon.

The star of the show to me, is the Pork Chop lunch special seen here. For $6.50, I get a pile of thinly sliced chunks of grilled pork on top of fried rice.

While the char is not quite as intense as I'd like, the coating of juices that permeate every bite more than makes up for it.

It also makes up for the odd music that was playing last time I was there. It was a compilation of pan flute music including "My Way" and "Take on Me." Yes, "Take on Me."

While I can't vouch for the music, the pork is wonderful.

In case of any confusion, here's a picture of the shop, with all three names clearly on display:

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March 2, 2009

SF: The Food Court

Out The Door at the Smithfield Mall's Food Court

I have to say, I was concerned when the words Food Court came up as a suggestion for dinner. I was in SOMA with a couple former colleagues and a few friends from high school who have since become SF expats. I had declined to make any suggestions, in the hopes that the locals among us would come up with some awesome place I had never heard of.

Turns out they did.

The Food Court at Westfield Mall on Market Street is the antithesis of everything those two words have meant together before.

As a part of a high-end revamp of this mall, which included adding "the largest Bloomingdale's west of Manhattan" as the flagship tenant, the basement level was filled with the best fast food I've ever seen. Offerings include a Tri-tip steak shop, Korean Barbecue, a gelateria and an outpost of The Slanted Door, the incredible Asian restaurant in the Ferry building. Called "Out the Door," the space reminds me most of Republic in New York. It's much more casual and inexpensive than the original.

I wasn't in SF long enough after to properly survey the rest of the food, beyond a nicely done burger at Bistro Burger, but I know where I'll be going between sessions the next time I'm tethered to Moscone for a week.

Westfield San Francisco Centre, 865 Market St.
(415) 512 6776

February 25, 2009

Lunch: Pinche Taqueria

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After months on its last legs, my iPod gave up the ghost last night. I knew it was coming, but now I had to replace it. Today, I finally gave in and bought an iPhone.

Since I was downtown anyway to go to the Apple Store, I took the opportunity to get some tacos from Pinche Taqueria, the wedge shaped shop in NoHo.

Above are the Carnitas, Pollo Asado and Al Pastor tacos that I had. They were wonderful.

What caught my attention here was the pork roasting on a spit in the al pastor in the traditional method that I fell in love with in Mexico City:

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Pinche Taqueria
333 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 343-9977

Lunch: 2nd Ave Deli

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After watching Anthony Bourdain's special, "Disappearing Manhattan", I found myself suddenly and deeply hungry. In scene after scene, Bourdain hit classics around Manhattan that I really, really wanted, none moreso than the glorious pastrami sandwich at Katz's Deli.

I decided then and there that I had to have some pastrami for lunch the next day.

I knew I wouldn't be able to make it downtown during my lunch break, so I set my sights closer to home.

The new 2nd Avenue Deli re-opened in Murray Hill to much fanfare last year after an extended hiatus. A bit too much fanfare for me as my first attempts to eat there failed due to lines out the door.

Things are more reasonable now and I was able to get the lovely stack of thinly sliced smoked meat you see here in short order. The pastrami is lean and meaty with crisply textured edges. I slathered some tangy house mustard on the sandwich and it was gone in minutes.

Of course, I washed it down with a cream soda.

I can't say that I'm not still craving Katz's Pastrami, which is juicier and sliced thicker, but this was still great and worth coming back for. Next time I'm here, I'll be trying the tongue sandwich and maybe the gribnes I keep hearing about.

February 24, 2009

Aspen: Piñons

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Word of mouth from locals is usually the best way to find a great meal. So I was excited when I heard the recommendations for Piñons from staff at The Wine Spot and later at Zocalito. At both places the words, 'Best in Aspen' came up. That seemed a little much to me, but with such strong reviews, I couldn't leave without trying it.

Sadly, word of mouth can also lead to unwarranted expectations. I can't say anything bad about the meal I had. It was good. I had a duck quesadilla starter and the steak main you see about.

That said, it wasn't a very interesting meal, particularly given the price. For a steak at their prices, I want something aged and buttery. And the variety of the menu reminded me of my initial impressions of Aspen, years ago: contrived, unnecessarily full of itself and overpriced. I can't speak to the decor or the ambiance, since I sat at the bar and didn't see much of the main dining area. I'm no militant locavore, but the fact that a key item on offer is New Zealand Elk steaks when there are probably elk within 5 miles from the restaurant seemed a little stupid.

Contrasted with Zocalito or The Wild Fig, where my meals weren't great, but displayed an interest in trying new things and challenging the palette, Piñons was just boring.

February 23, 2009

Endless Summer

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Hipsters get a bad rap. Seriously. I mean, fine. They're clothes are hideous, they do dumb things, like join flash mobs and they have absolutely no perspective on the world outside of their little bubble. Also, they've ruined irony for the rest of us. And they run up rents, because their parents are paying for them to live here, unlike the rest of us. But, you know what? It's ok. Really. Well, mostly. Because they love food, booze, music and art. And I can't be mad at that. Even if the music is rarely my thing. It's the principle.

What brought on this sudden surge of hipster love? Two words: Taco Truck.

The other night, I wandered through Williamsburg, after spending the evening at a crowded gallery and an empty new beer bar (more on that to come) and there was the Endless Summer Taco Truck serving up exactly what I needed: A Chorizo Taco. I stood there on Bedford, salivating, while they hooked me up with some spicy, meaty, wonderful goodness. And all was right with the world.

February 22, 2009

Paris: Pork Spread

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At Au Pied Cochon, as one would expect of a place named after a Pig's foot, they don't sully bread with a pat of butter. Instead they provide a small bowl of pork pate to spread. Much like everything else here, it's profoundly rich.

February 20, 2009

SF: Yoshi's SF

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I went to Yoshi's for the first time last year for my birthday, hours after we got into San Francisco from Atlanta. We had an incredible meal there and then saw Ahmad Jamal perform live there in the attached Jazz club. At the time, the had opened fairly recently in as an attempt to revitalize the historic music district on the Fillmore.

Despite great food and the big Jazz line-up they seem to pull in, apparently it's not making a lot of money. Eater SF has reported more than a few times on it's empty dining rooms, 'deathwatch' specials and government subsidies (as part of the revitalization plan). I, for one, have managed to stop in at least once on each of my 3 visits to San Francisco in the last year. I don't know when I'll be there next, but I hope it's still up and running when I do.

DC Dispatch

What's a Half-Smoke?

This Weekend, Tammi is taking a Ladies' Weekend down to our nations capital to knit, hang out and generally swoon in Obama-Awe. On request, Guyvera chimed in with a number of recommendations on places to eat. I'm posting it here for my own future reference as much as yours.

For further recommendations, Serious Eats posted a DC Eating Guide for Inauguration week last month.

And now, Guyvera...

Typical DC-Fare:
Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's is close to the U Street/Af-Am Civl War Memorial stop on the Green Line
Ben's is cheapish. Most things on the menu are decently sized, and run $6-7. You can be happy full (and greasy) for $10 or less. Things to get here are 1/2-smoke hot dogs (w or w/o chili); chili fries (quite quite good), scrapple (if you can handle it), greasy breakfasts (with grits!). Ben's is good, but in my personal opinion not earth-shattering. Still, it's a bit of a must-hit for a number of reasons (local celebs, famous place, mix of "real" DC people and assorted hosers). Ben's keeps late hours, and is the kind of place that tastes better the later it is.
(1213 U St NW (between N 12th St & N 13th St) (202) 667-0909)

In the U street Area, there's also a respectable soul food place called Oohs and Aahs (it's good, not transcendent, and tends to be heavy with the salt), a good (if salty and with unpredictable hours) VEGETARIAN SOUL FOOD place run by Black Israelites (no joke) across the street from Howard Univ. It's called Soul Vegetarian. Prices are about $10/plate, but I usually eat 1/2 for dinner and 1/2 the next day for lunch. Yep, the portions are really that big.

One of my favorite hangouts in the general area is a place called Busboys and Poets. It's a bookstore, cafe, and performance space. I find the cafe to be overpriced, though the food is good (not totally worth the price, but not a disaster either). Lots of good looking professional people here in their late 20s early 30s. Nice vibe. Internet, lots of poignancy and whatnot.
(2021 14th St NW (between N U St & N V St) - (202) 387-7638)

Walking distance (20 min walk) away, is Amsterdam Falafel
This place is in the heart of the Adam's Morgan area. Amsterdam's falafel by itself is ok. Where it shines is in your ability to add whatever topping you please from their self-serve bar: beets, yogurt, hot sauce spicy enough to give me the hiccoughs, peppers, cabbage, tahini, etc. The fries here are also particularly delicious, and I'm not much of a french fry-man. Falafel sandwiches here run about $6, but if you stuff the pita well, you won't really need anything else. There are not a lot of places to sit here. If you eat outside on a weekend night, you can watch drunken frat boys wander the streets.
(2425 18th Street NW - (202) 234-1969)

Ok. one or two more for now, and maybe a couple later on tonight...

Chinatown area:
Full Kee Restaurant
Chinatown in DC is a testament to displacement and gentrification. It's becoming Chinatown without Chinese people. Anyway, the food at Full Kee is good, reasonably priced, and there's stuff here both for people who like "General Tso's Chicken" and for people who like Congee, or more "typical" fare. My fave is something like "Stinky turnip greens with pig intestine." No joke. De-lish!
(509 H St NW (202) 371-2233)

Matchbox
Gourmet pizza, tasty sliders. This is a "scene" place. It's not crazy expensive, but you go here in part to see and be seen. It's a hangout, and is often ridiculously packed on weekend nights at prime dining hours. It's ok. You know I'm not exactly highbrow in my dining choices. This place is respectable. You already know where to find truly quality pizza. Food is fine.
(713 H Street NW (between N 7th St & N 8th St) (202) 289-4441)


Two places I haven't been, but am eager to go:

Lighthouse Tofu
This is supposed to be The Spot around here for soon dobu (spelling?), an often spicy Korean stew (rice served on the side) with tofu and your choice of meat. TOJ introduced me to this particular dish at a place in L.A. Very nice. The page on Yelp.com that describes this place is full of typical Yelp nincompoopery, but the reviews collectively do a good job of describing the stew.
(4121 Chatelain Road Suite 100 Annandale, VA 22003)

Honey Pig
Korean BBQ. I can only hope this is the DC area cousin of a place with the same name I've visited a few times in LA. This is pricier, though not fancier than any other place on the list. Maybe in the neighborhood of $20 per person? Korean BBQ. You know the drill. Tasty Pork meat bits. Mmmm.
(7220-C Columbia Pike Annandale, VA 22003 (703) 256-5229)

Also, I'd be remiss to not mention the local chain of burger joints called Five Guys. I've seen one or two in NYC, but the Washington Metro area (actually northern VA) is the birthplace. Think the East Coast version of In 'N Out, except not quite as fresh, but with a lot more toppings, better fries, and a total lack of creepy religious subliminal messages. In 'N Out is still my gold standard for fast food burgers, but when I get a hankering for a greazy cheeseburger, and I'm here, I go to Five Guys.

February 18, 2009

Lunch: Mondello's Chicken Parm

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The Chicken Parmesan, seen here, is the main attraction at Mondello. I've been coming here for lunch since I started working in the neighborhood five years ago and pretty much every time I've gotten this sandwich. When I get there, invariably there's a line of others at the hot food station all waiting for the same thing. It's no coincidence that that station is located closer to the door, I've seen the line go out the door on more than a few occasions.

The chicken is done right. They're plump and moist, probably due, in part, to the heavy turnover since the cutlets are never out long enough to dry out and shrivel up.

The sauce may be the best part of the whole sandwich. Mondello calls attention to this integral part of parmigiano dish that's so often overlooked. Where other places may dump pizza sauce on top, here, they offer a choice of regular and a meat sauce. Both have a salty, sweet flavor, but the meat sauce has a richness that adds another dimension to the sandwich.

Lately, I've been getting a mound of extra cheese on top to supplement the mozzarella that's already on the chicken when it's in the steam tray. It's not entirely necessary, but it just adds to the gooey awesomeness of the whole experience.

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Mondello
3 E 37th St
Midtown, New York, NY 10016
(212) 684-2411‎

Aspen: Zocalito

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I'm not sure how long ago Zocalito opened up in Aspen, but I had never seen it before this trip. It's not unreasonable to think it may have been there for years given it's location. It's situated downstairs in a side alley off the outdoor mall on East Hyman.

I noticed it once early on and wasn't sure if I wanted to try it. The signs declare it a "Latin Bistro," which hinted of a pan latino fusion concept that seemed pretty annoying. Later, I heard a few good things about it, so I decided to give it a go.

The place was empty. The only ones there were the Bartender/server and his friend sitting at the bar. I was concerned, but figured it was worth a try. I'm glad I did. On closer inspection, the menu presented some really interesting options, that were if nothing else educational.

My main course, below, was a T-bone steak covered in a Mole sauce made from various exotic chile peppers. Apparently, this is one of the Chef's focuses in authenticity. He travels to Mexico every summer to find suppliers items that he can't get in Colorado. The first is chiles, the other is Mezcal. The waiter showed me a book of photos they took when last down there. The piles of peppers dried and fresh at various markets and the collapsed shack that distills the Mezcal make me think their chef would be a pretty awesome travel companion.

T-bone with Red Mole

To be honest, I ordered it less for the steak than the sauce and sides. The mole was thick and earthy.The steak itself didn't have a whole lot to offer, but that was for the best. Whatever a better steak might have had to offer would have been lost in this powerful sauce.

The other thing that drew me to it was the slices of cactus leaf that decorate the top. I've seen them in Mexican Markets before and really wondered how they taste, but never been willing to pick one up and cook it myself. Turns out, it's sort of like okra. Take that how you will. It's firm on the outside and sort of slimy in the middle. Like I said, it was very interesting. Also mixed in with the sides were huitlacoche, corn 'mushrooms' that added a distinctive flavor and texture.

The potatoes on the side were gratineed, crisp around the edges in just the right way.

My starter was, predictably an order of Queso Fundido, which I have raved about in the past and so will refrain now. Suffice it to say it was all I had hoped from a bowl of hot, melty cheese.

I can't say Zocalito made my favorite meal in Aspen, but it was the most challenging I had had in a while and I really appreciated that. It was great ot be able to actually try something new there. With that comes the risk of the unfamiliar. I would go back if I find myself there again next year, just so I could explore their more interesting options further.

420 E. Hyman Street
Aspen, CO
970.920.1991

February 11, 2009

Lunch Returns to Bon Chon!

Bon Chon Drumstick

I first wrote about Bon Chon Chicken almost two years ago, inspired by the buzz in the Times and on the blogs. A few weeks later I tried to take go with a co-worker and they had stopped serving lunch. I was crushed.

Yesterday, hours after getting the skinny on Kyochon, Midtown Lunch had another post about Bon Chon. Apparently it's been open for lunch for months and no one knew!

So, today after a particularly aggravating morning at work, I recovered with a Medium Hot & Spicy Combo:

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It was all I remembered: sweet and sticky with a tingly with a subtle spice that builds after the first two, three, four pieces. I stopped there out of a modicum of self-control, but also because I needed to proselytize. I brought back a handful of wings and gave them to the co-workers I knew would appreciate them. My first stop was the guy who missed out the first time. I felt I owed him.

What I had forgotten about was the particularly long wait time for the food. Despite the mostly attentive service and ordering as soon as I sat down, my order took about 35 minutes to show up. So, it's not a quick lunch, but it's delicious.

SF: Magnolia Snacks

Duck Wings at Magnolia

At the end of my Lazy Saturday in SF, before heading to the airport, Will and I grabbed dinner in the Upper Haight at Magnolia a brew/gastropub. I had stopped in once before with TOJ and Guyvera, but didn't eat. This time, we passed through relatively quickly, so I don't have extensive notes, but I had to point out to of the small plates I tried while there.

The idea of honey coated duck wings still fascinates me. Of all the things I see done with duck these days, the wings seem the most neglected. I've been thinking of ways to cook duck and home and this has certainly pushed me forward.

The other, below, is the quail scotch egg, which includes two food items that capture my imagination whenever I hear about them: The quail egg and the scotch egg.

Whenever I see quail eggs in an asian supermarket, I start to think of things that would be cool to try with them. The tiny eggs always seem like a great way to do . . . something, but I never really think of what.

I think of the scotch egg like many consider the turducken: blissfully excessive. A boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, then breaded and deep fried. What's there not to love?

Usually, it's just about everything. The fried breading isn't particularly crisp, the yolks are overdone and everything in between is pretty mediocre.

In this case, the yolks were fine, the breading was good, but the sausage, a homemade Italian, was not quite what I wanted here. All of it was good on it's own, but didn't quite come together the way I wanted it to...

Scotch Quail Eggs at Magnolia

What was great was the beer, including the Bluebird Bitter, mentioned in the '100 things to eat' list I mentioned last week.

Really, Magnolia demands multiple visits, which I just haven't been able to dedicate in my few visits. I don't know when my next visit to SF will be, but this I hope to pencil in some quality time at Magnolia to really taste what they have to offer.

February 10, 2009

Kyochon, Coming Soon

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I've been passing this sign for a couple weeks now on the corner of 32nd and 5th Avenue, mere blocks from my office, but I had no idea what KyoChon was. Today I got the scoop from Midtown Lunch (which linked to my Pho post last week - thanks!):

Kyochon, the Korean fried chicken chain with U.S. branches in Flushing and L.A., is replacing the Brooklyn Bagel Cafe on 32nd and 5th in Koreatown. Called the "granddaddy of the Korean fried-chicken scene" Kyochon features fried chicken flavored with soy sauce, garlic, and ton of spices... oh, and there are spicy version available. And of course, the most important thing... it's open for lunch! No word on when it will open, but it can't be soon enough.

I'm so happy to hear about this as the two best Korean Fried Chicken places that I know around here are bars that don't open until 4pm.

February 6, 2009

Hot Soup on a Cold Day

Pho

With the crap weather we've had lately, this big bowl of Pho hit the spot yesterday for lunch. I've mentioned the soup at Pho 32 before. This was my usual, the #4 with slices of brisket, tripe and tendon on top of a pile of noodles in a deeply beefy broth. All for $8.

February 5, 2009

SF: 100 Things to Try Before You Die

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The TOJ, forwarded this link to Guy and me yesterday. It's 7x7 Magazine's list of 100 SF things to try before you die.

It's a pretty impressive list. I've got 11 down:

3. Carnitas taco at La Taqueria

14. Beef brisket at Memphis Minnie's

15. Oysters on the half shell at Swan Oyster Depot

21. Pizza margherita at Pizzeria Delfina

23. Beer sausage with sauerkraut and grilled onions at Rosamunde Sausage
Grill

24. Blue Bell Bitter from the cask at Magnolia Pub, above.

29. Spaetzle at Suppenküche

35. Salted-caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery (well a taste)

40. Cheeseburger at Taylor's Automatic Refresher

48. Angels on horseback at Anchor & Hope

51. Maccaronara with ricotta salata at A16


Additionally, I've been to, but not tried the recommended dishes at:
The Slanted Door
Out the Door
Hog Island Oyster Co.
Bob's Donuts
Little Star

January 26, 2009

Aspen: The Wild Fig

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I've been to The Wild Fig pretty much every year since I started coming out to Aspen. The food is generally Mediterranean with a focus on Southern France. I usually get one of the bigger entrees, like risotto or lamb shanks, which have always had me coming back for more. This time I changed it up a bit and went with the small plates.

I started with a bowl of French Onion Soup, which I recently mentioned is a new favorite dish I picked up over the honeymoon.
Unfortunately, the soup here was surprisingly disappointing. It seemed like it should be perfect. There was a thick layer of gruyere, deeply caramelized onions laying under chunks of sodden chunks of bread. The problem was how the flavors came together or failed to. First, the cheese had the texture I love, but was saltier than I would have liked. The cheese, bread and onions were packed in so tightly that there wasn't much room at all for the actual soup. The liquid that was there was thick and intense, more like a demiglace than a proper broth and there wasn't a lot of it.

My other course was a vast improvement, Clams and Chorizo. Everything came together perfectly here. The flavors and textures perfectly complemented each other making a wonderfully complex dish. Clam juice and tomato broth are boosted by the contrasting smoke from the chorizo. Each bite was an amalgamation of textures, placing chewy clams, firm chorizo and meat cherry tomatoes, cut in half and stewed to bursting.

I've had many good meals at The Wild Fig, so the unusual miss on the Onion Soup was never going to deter me from returning, but if there had been any doubt, the Clams and Chorizo resolved it immediately.

The Wilg Fig
315 East Hyman
Aspen, CO.
970.925.5160

January 25, 2009

Aspen: D19

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About five minutes after I got to D19 in Aspen, Dena Marino, the chef passed by and asked me, "Weren't you here last year? You sat two seats over from where you are now." Clearly, a creature of habit, I had dinner at the bar last year as well. On that visit, I chatted with a great booster of the restaurant that turned out to be her father. Obviously, he had great things to say about the great Italian food Dena and her team serve at D19. I was certainly happy with it enough to put it high up on my short list of places I wanted to visit again.

In fact, I had hoped to go earlier in the week, but had no appetite for most of the week after my misadventures over the weekend. Fully recovered, I chose my meal with one foot towards the exotic and the other firmly in the world of comfort food.

I started with the exotic, Charred and Tender Octopus, Marino's signature dish. She even shares the recipe on the website, which I want to try at home at some point. It was wonderful. I loved the firm texture, even if slightly chewier than I'd prefer. But then it's octopus, it's supposed to be.

The flavors all worked very well together, blending the subtle fish flavor of the octopus, the salty char and the tangy sauce of chili flakes and cooking liquid.

After the octopus was gone, I coated the arugula and potatoes with the sauce making them irresistible. When I ran out of veggies, I turned to my bread, sopping up every last drop I could.

My entree was a big bowl of Spaghetti and Meatballs, which was everything it's supposed to be: Comforting, delicious and with meatballs the size of tennis balls.

I love sitting out at the bar. From there I see all the traffic coming from the kitchen, the waitstaff coming in for drinks and, best of all, I get to spend some quality time with the personalities behind the bar.

My service on this visit was from Joe, who spent most of the time working the crowd, greeting his regulars and hooking them up with the hot spots in the area and Dennis, who I recall from last year. Dennis helped me out quite a bit selecting my libations for the evening.

My first round was a Cesari 'mara' valpolicella 2006. Light bodied and fruity, but not overly sweet. It reminded me of chianti, but without the cloying finish that typically puts me off.

Second up was a Syrah from Paso Robles. Which worked with the Spaghetti having a fuller, bigger flavor and a thicker mouthfeel.

Dennis also gave me a taste of a Barbaresco they offer by the glass, a Moccagatta 2000.

The main event for me in the wine world was the dessert wine. I had a Torcolato, which is a lesser known Italian dessert wine, made well more or less by one winery, Maculan. I found a photo I took of it last year and was reminded that I wanted to have it again. It was Cold, sweet and thick, fruity, yet not overly sweet.

After seeing how much I enjoyed that, Dennis gave me a taste of icewine from the Canadian side of Niagara falls. Made with the Vidal grape: Wonderful. Fruity, sweet with lychee flavors.

I'm not sure if I'll swing it, but I really hope to have another go at D19 before I go.

D19
305 South Mill Street, Aspen.

January 22, 2009

SF: Bar Bambino

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I first checked out Bar Bambino over the summer when I had an afternoon to hang out on my own. I visited again on my lazy Saturday and enjoyed the panini sandwich above. It was made with a house-made Italian sausage, a sweet and spicy pepper relish and provolone cheese. The sausage had an interesting flavor to it that reminded me of Chinese five spice, so cinnamon among other seasonings.

On my first visit, I had more of a chance to sit and linger over more snacks, including a meat plate and the awesome bowl of meatballs below. When I get home, I want to get my meat grinder up and running again and try out my own version of San Francisco's 'Meatball Mondays.'

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I didn't sit inside either visit, but I found the vibe there to be great for wiling away an afternoon over wine and tasty snacks. Bar Bambino is definitely a place I'll return to.


Bar Bambino
2931 16th Street, San Francisco, CA
Between Mission and South Van Ness
415.701.VINO (8466)

January 19, 2009

Photo of the Day: Sushi Chefs

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Blue Ribbon Sushi, NYC. 2008.

January 15, 2009

Paris: French Onion Soup

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In Paris, I discovered that I love French Onion soup. This shouldn't have surprised me, as it involved butter, onions and lots of cheese, but the soup we had at Au Pied Cochon was the best I've had. I tried to make some when I got back, but wasn't quite satisfied. The broth and the onions were great, but I got the cheese wrong, which is crucial.

Based on the weather lately in New York, I'll have plenty more opportunities to need a great soup to warm up chilled bones.

January 12, 2009

SF: Chilaquiles

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As mentioned, I altered my usual Saturday in San Francisco routine this time around. But I still made it out to the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building that I love so much. In fact, I managed to get there before the hordes that usually run me off.

Instead of my usual Oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co., I had a plate of Chilaquiles at the recommendation of the TOJ, whose guidance has been a great help in the past. He messaged me as soon as he found out I was going there.

The exchange went something like this:

Clay is up earlier than he should, but is going to get up and go to the farmer's market.

ToJ at 10:59am January 10
be sure to get the chiliquiles at primavera and a cappucino at blue bottle!

Clay at 11:02am January 10
TOJ, I heard the chilaquiles at Mijita is pretty good too. Any opinion?

ToJ at 11:03am January 10
Mijita is good, but if primavera has the red (rather than the green) sauce, go with primavera. Out. Of. Control.

Out of Control indeed.

Here's an overview of what we have here: Scrambled eggs, topped with the aforementioned red salsa, black refried beans with crumbly Mexican cheese on top, and salsa crusted tortilla chips with crema fresca and avocado chunks. It's really an amazing thing.

When I was in San Francisco with Guy, he had an order of Chilaquiles and commented on how amazingly light it seemed despite the contents. I declared that the lightness is an illusion created by the fluffy eggs, the cool crema and the light texture of the avocado. In reality, it's a pretty heavy meal, as demonstrated by the nap I took immediately after returning to my room.

January 9, 2009

SF: Anchor & Hope

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Wednesday night, Will and I went to Anchor & Hope in the Financial District. The huge barn-like space is set up to vaguely resemble a New England seafood shack with west coast sensibilities. Tammi and I went there when we were in San Francisco in June and had a fabulous meal, so I wasn't surprised to have had such a great meal there again.

Everything we had was wonderful, starting with the oysters, which we sucked down far too fast for me to take a photo of.

I managed a moment of self-control for the Angels on Horseback:

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These bacon-wrapped oysters presented contrasting and complementary textures and flavors. The soft, collapsing texture of the oysters paired perfectly. With each bite, the bacon shattered into a million pieces of smokey salty magnificence, only to reveal the softly textured oyster, also salty but with flavors of the sea.

The rest of the meal after the jump...

Continue reading "SF: Anchor & Hope" »

January 8, 2009

SF: Frontera Fresco

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Last year, Rick Bayless opened a "Wolfgang Puck"-style high end fast food outlet in the food court of the Macy's Union Square here in San Francisco. When I heard about it, I was very excited. I had a great meal at Frontera Grill in Chicago a few years back and Bayless' cookbooks and TV show are great. I really love the depth he gives to Mexican food, which is so often done poorly.

As I mentioned in my Bayless sighting post last year, it was at Frontera Grill that I first had Queso Fundido. I love it. It's molten, fondue-like chihuahua cheese that can be used as a dip or a topping or eaten straight.

That's what I was hoping for when I saw the Queso Fundido Huarache as one of the items available at Frontera Fresco.

This is what I got:

IMG_6644 - Version 3

The huarache is a flatbread topped with the melted cheese, a black bean paste and chicken chorizo (!). Also on the hurache were a mixture of lettuce and baby spinach and a crumbly feta cheese.

I wasn't so impressed, which was a disappointment.

First, I have to say that I'm opposed to the idea of chicken chorizo more than I was offended by the taste. It was fine. It had the right seasoning, but it was chicken and tasted like it. Chicken sausages have their place, but this isn't one of them. Also, the flatbread was also a little to starchy.

I think my expectations were higher than they should have been given that it was Bayless' entry into a market that really knows Mexican food. I respect the menu for offering food that you aren't going to find at Taco Bell or even Chipotle. There aren't many fast food places where I can get huaraches - in New York. In San Francisco, on the other hand, there's a lot more Mexican food, and it's probably better than this.

Paris Souvenirs: Jurançon


IMG_1327, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

"Don't let anyone see you walking down the street with that! They'll want to be your friend and you'll know they only like you for your Jurançon!"

That was the least colorful advice given to me by Juveniles Wine Bar owner Tim Johnston, an old scot who, for 10 years has run this Australian themed wine bar in the heart of Paris.

The wine, a sweet dessert wine, is by Uroulat a family vineyard in the southwest of France, near the Pyrenees. It has a light body for a dessert wine and tastes strongly of apricots.

When I tasted it after our meal, I had to have it. But they didn't have any regular sizes left, so I was 'stuck' with this magnum. Johnston said the wine is great to drink now but offered that it will be even better in 5 years, "If you can hold out that long."

I can't guarantee that it'll survive until 2013, but we'll see...

January 4, 2009

San Francisco Bound Once More

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All of two weeks ago, I discovered that I was returning to San Francisco for work. I'm heading out today and as usual, looking forward to a week out west.

Of course, I've already started thinking about which restaurants I want to hit while I'm there. While I'll clearly be partaking in many tacos, the trend this time around skews heavily Italian.

I've already mentioned A16 in the Marina area.

Additionally, I've heard a lot about Chris Cosentino, who evangelizes for Offal on his blog, Offal Good. He's the chef at Incanto and runs Boccalone, a salumeria in the Ferry Building.

In the Mission, there's Delfina and Pizzeria Delfina on the 18th Street corridor and Bar Bambino, a wine bar on 16th with tasty meatballs and other antipasti.

There's also Little Star Pizza on Valencia, where I shared the deep dish pizza above.

December 22, 2008

Porchetta Class at The Astor Center

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I'm ridiculously behind in posting this. And at this point, I'm so behind on posting anything that there's much more to say, but here's the start.

On Friday, December 12th, I attended a class at The Astor Center led by Nate Appleman and Shelly Lindgren from A16 in San Francisco.

In a bit of serendipity, I discovered the class in November just a day after deciding that I wanted to make some sort of Porchetta for next weekend's Holiday Party. Except I had no idea how to do it. I was going to wing it, but then I came across this.

I've mentioned Porchetta before, but for the uninitiated, it is roast pig, usually whole, seasoned with salt, rosemary, garlic and fennel that is rolled and roasted. What you get is meltingly tender meat, scented with the herbs in every bite and surrounded by crispy skin. It's amazing.

I had heard of A16 during my research for my last visit to SF in the summer, but never made it out there. I just found out I'll be going back to SF in two weeks, so I'm definitely going to check it out. I don't know if Porchetta is on the menu, but from the morsel handed out at the session, and the rummaging through the A16 book I picked up while there, they definitely have food I need to eat.

After the jump, my notes on how to turn that fine specimen above into this:

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Continue reading "Porchetta Class at The Astor Center" »

October 8, 2008

Antics 08: Mai's Chicken Curry


IMG_9549, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Mai is a Southeast Asian place that we've gotten snacks from in past Antics, but never actually gone to for a meal.

I headed for their stand just to get a skewer of Chicken Satay but then I saw the Chicken Curry and went for that. The curry was really interesting here. The sauce was more of a thick, spicy peanut sauce than a typical curry. I enjoyed it, especially with a cold Singha to wash it down.

I really enjoyed it and hope to make it there for a meal in the near future.

September 20, 2008

Return to Musha


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Here's a bit of awesomeness I've been saving from the Los Angeles trip: Scallops, seared by blowtorch at Musha in Torrance. After rereading last year's post on the Musha branches, I have nothing new to add except this: Yum!

Above is a shot of the seared scallops cooked tableside by blowtorch (awesome!).

Below is a shot from the bar at Musha Santa Monica. (Plug: It was posted here on Eater LA)

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September 18, 2008

Photo of the Day: Break Time 3


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Greenwich Village, NYC. 2008.

September 16, 2008

Brother Jimmy's


Brother Jimmy's, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Brother Jimmy's, a new bbq spot opened up a month or two ago near my office. I had never heard of it before, but the buzz at the time of opening was that it is part of a chain based mostly on the upper east side - and tended to attract a UES style crowd.

To the uninitiated, the ues pretty much has 2 groups, rich old people and twenty-somethings fresh out the frat house.

That said, most of the posts I read about Brother Jimmy's stuck to maligning the customer base, not the food, which generally got good marks.

This was the first time I came across it since it opened. I was on my way elsewhere so I didn't get a chance to go in, but I'll definitely be trying out their bbq soon.

Stay tuned.

September 12, 2008

SF: Rosamunde Sausage Grill


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Though Toronado doesn't serve food, every table has a menu on it and empty serving baskets pile up at the end of the bar. The popular choice of snack at the bar are the sausages at Rosamunde, right next door.

I had the beer sausage, which was fantastic, but I could have tried out everything on the menu. It all looked so good. I'm glad I made it out at least once this trip.

Continue reading "SF: Rosamunde Sausage Grill" »

September 9, 2008

The Upside of Fall


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I can't say I'm particularly happy that summer just blew by this year. With so much going on, I didn't get nearly enough time to relax outside and enjoy the season. But with September here, there are some benefits to cooling weather.

I took advantage of today's dank and rainy weather to tuck into a nice bowl of Pho from Pho 32 in Koreatown. I came across it late in the spring and couldn't bring myself to have soup when it was upwards of 80 degrees out. So, this was my first opportunity to return.

This bowl, the number 4, I believe, has thin slices of beef brisket, flank, tendons and tripe along with noodles. All the different textures of meat and the rich broth were incredibly gratifying. If nothing else, I now know how I will survive the winter ahead.

Continue reading "The Upside of Fall" »

September 7, 2008

SF: Posole


IMG_2444, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I only had a taste of Guy's Posole at Los Jarritos in The Misson, but it was wonderful. Hominy kernels and chunks of pork, braised to perfection swam in the spicy, savory tomato broth.

My only hopes is that I can somehow find a place that serves it here in New York - or learn how to make it myself.

La Taqueria Tacos


IMG_3437, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I had my share of tacos while in San Francisco. These are from La Taqueria and there were among the best I had the whole time.

If you look closely, you'll notice that the inner tortilla layers are crisp, having been hard cooked on the griddle. The effect is brilliant, offering both the soft chewiness of the soft shell and the firm crunch of a hard shelled taco.

Seen here are a carnitas taco and a lengua taco, my favorites. My attraction to crispy shredded pork is obvious. I don't think I need to elaborate. Lengua on the other hand is one o those things that people have some trouble with.

I won't deny that my initial attraction to eating tongue was the competitive foodie instinct that leads many of us to eat random ridiculous things to prove our intestinal fortitude (sometimes literally). But beyond that, the texture, which is almost creamy in its tenderness is amazing.

Below is an up close and personal perspective.

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La Taqueria
2889 Mission
415.285.7117

September 6, 2008

Photo of the Day: Taco Time


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La Taqueria, The Mission, San Francisco. 2008

September 5, 2008

SF: Nachos at Taqueria Cancun


IMG_2412, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This vision of loveliness was served up at Taqueria Cancun. ToJ, Guy and I headed there right after picking Guy up from sfo.

I had never considered getting Nachos at a Taqueria, largely because I only ever associate the dish with the terrible "casual dining" establishments where I tend to encounter them. These were nothing like that.

The immediate shock is the lack of hot orange cheez whiz on top. Instead there was thick, gooey cheese on top. Craziness. The dollops of crema fresca and slices of avocado added cool and soft to the crisp texture of the tortillas.


August 17, 2008

Photo of the Day: Hanging Lanterns


IMG_5150, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Village Yokocho (Izakaya attached to Angel Share), East Village, NYC. 2007.

August 12, 2008

LA: Luna Park Fondue


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On my last day in LA, sfter we wrapped up with work, we headed downtown for lunch at Luna Park. I've had some great meals at Luna Park in San Francisco and visited the Los Angeles branch a couple years ago.

I wasn't blown away by my sandwich, a Baked Ham and Cheese. I had hoped for something more interesting, but in the end it was just ham and cheese.

But my starter was a different story. A fantastic spin on bread and cheese, the fondue is simple in concept, but complex in flavor. The thick chunks of bread were seared, presumably aftera dip in olive oil, allowing just enough char to add new texture and flavor.

The goat cheese was thick and velvety and clung to the toast. I can't even begin to tell you what it does with the apples. Awesome.


Luna Park
672 S. La Brea (near Wilshire)
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.934.2110

Peaches Update


IMG_6771, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Here's a brief update on Peaches, the new Southern restaurant in the neighborhood.

Saturday, Tammi and I took our niece, nephew and my sister out to dinner at Peaches. It was our first time trying the full table service menu.

I had a great Red Beans and Rice, with Andouille Sausage, topped with a dollop of Pulled Pork. It was smoky and wonderful.

Everyone else loved their meals as well. I'm hoping to head over there on a regular basis, so more updates will come over time.

One thing to note is that they still don't have a license for beer and wine. When asked, our waitress supported the local wine shop, plugging Olivino, a block away.

That's all great, but I think the next time I go, it'll be a six-pack I bring to accompany some of the gigantic Beef Ribs that I spied passing by.

Yum!

August 9, 2008

Photo of the Day: Teardrops


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Luna Park, Los Angeles. 2008.

(Whoops, didn't realize I already had a POTD today. Consider this a bonus.)

LA Signs: Circus Do-Nuts


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Carson, Los Angeles. 2008.

August 7, 2008

LA: Wrap Up


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I've returned from LA right into a busy busy time at work and home. When things calm down a bit, I have a few more things to post about. In the interim, here's the quick run-down of the meals I haven't had a chance to mention:

-Dinner at Ford's Filling Station in Culver City
-Dinners at Musha branches in Santa Monica and Torrance
-Lunch at Luna Park

And finally, above is an evening at Union Cattle in Hermosa Beach, not typically the sort of place I'd end up going to, but it was entertaining. And no, I didn't end up on the mechanical bull.

So, stay tuned, I'll be back in a couple days with more LA dining and SF planning.

August 4, 2008

LA: Santouka


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The US branch of Santouka, the Kyoto Ramen shop where I had that fabulous pork cheek ramen last year, is located in the 'restaurant row' of the Mitsuwa marketplace
in Torrance. This row, which looks suspiciously like a food court has the best looking mall food I've ever seen. Besides Santouka, other eateries serve curry, tonkatsu, and sushi, among other Japanese foods. There's a branch of Mifune as well, which I've been to in San Francisco a few times. There was also a place called Italian Tomato that serves cakes and spaghetti, which I don't really get.

Like most food courts, the restaurants only offer counter service, with most diners eating in the central seating area. This was interesting to me because the original Santouka is a full service 'sit down' restaurant in Kyoto. It was oddly converse to my visit toLoteria Grill. Whereas the original Loteria is based in a barely covered section of an outdoor farmers market with picnic furniture tossed in for quick eating, the Hollywood branch is much fancier, with a full bar and waitstaff.

Regardless of the setting, the food was just as wonderful. I had to have the pork cheek ramen again. It was fantastic.


IMG_7551, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.
While looking through the Mitsuwa website, it seems there is a branch in Edgewater, New Jersey, apparently with a Santouka. I may finally have a reason to cross the Hudson. More to come...

August 3, 2008

LA: Return to Mozza


IMG_8355, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Last year I raved about Mozza, part of the west coast outpost of the Batali-Bastianich empire. The other day I took the opportunity of a trip downtown to go back for lunch.

There isn't really much more to say, it's fabulous. The pizza above is the unofficial 'Meat Lovers' pizza, topped with pepperoni, sausage and guanciale. It was intense. I can't say enough about the crust. At times chewy and soft or crisp enough to shatter, it stood up to the weight and flavors of the toppings admirably.

I still haven't made it to Osteria Mozza, the higher end, dinner-only space next door. I've still got a couple more nights here, so maybe I'll figure out a way to get back there.

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.297.0101

LA: Donuts!


IMG_9014, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

An interesting thing I've only just discovered about Los Angeles, is that it appears to have avoided infiltration by the Donut cartel. Everywhere we go there's some small doughnut shop selling their wares. If one recalls, I've ranted before about the chain mediocrity and what a revelation _real_ doughnuts can be.They vary wildly in quality, with many selling morsels as stale and tasteless as the mass market competition. Others transcend.

I was more impressed with the custard filled on my second visit than the glazed on my first. Bob's Donuts in San Francisco is one of the greats I've had. On that scale, Randy's is pretty damn good, but thinking about it makes me want Bob's.

July 30, 2008

LA: Loteria Grill Hollywood


IMG_7526, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Monday night my colleagues and I had dinner at the new Hollywood branch of Loteria Grill. We had a great time there. The food was excellent, the service was friendly and the space was beautiful.

While my companions went for burritos, I chose tacos so I could sample more varieties of fillings. Obviously, pork was my priority. On the left is the shredded Cochinita Pibil, pork slow cooked in a banana leaf. On the right, Carnitas, roasted and crisp. I loved them both, but that isn't a surprise.

The one disappointment of the meal was the Albondingas taco, not pictured, which I had high hopes for. It was filled with three small beef meatballs in a tomato chipotle sauce.

It sounded awesome, but the meatballs didn't have nearly the chipotle flavor I expected and the meat itself seemed overground and had a slightly pasty texture to it.

I have made similar meatballs before from a cookbook I bought in Mexico last year, but have never had anyone else's, so I was very excited. I'll have to stick to homemade for now.

Regardless of that one small disappointment, I really enjoyed the meal at Loteria.

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There is much I could say about the beautiful space and interesting decor, but the most important note for anyone who may go there is that there is no noticeable sign. One of the folks I met up with there got totally turned around after walking by it a couple times. The only reason I knew what to look for was because I'd seen photos on Eater LA.

Loteria Grill Hollywood
6627 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles
323-465-2500

July 22, 2008

Return to LA LA Land


IMG_7713, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Work will take me out to the City of Angels again next weekend for a little over a week. Clearly, I'm already planning out my meals. Musha and Mozza are already in the plans. Hot dogs at Oki Dogs or maybe Pink's are a must as well.

I've been checking out Eater LA among other sites to hear about what's new and wonderful out there. Last week I discovered that Loteria Grill, whose Farmers Market location I visited in my first time in LA, has opened up a new location a few weeks ago. That's on the list.

Rummaging through my delicious bookmarks, I was reminded that there is apparently a branch of Santouka in Torrance. I'm so hoping they have the pork cheek ramen. I have to have that again.

Last summer I visited Santa Monica beer bar and restaurant Father's Office on my last day. It reminded me of the 'new' Blind Tiger with it's interesting and wide selection of beer and tasty bites.

It's also time to revisit the recommendations the TOJ gave me last year.

More to come...

July 21, 2008

Jakewalk

Not that I have any appreciable number of readers, but I try to stick to a few principles in keeping this blog. One of them is that I want to avoid ever trashing the places I write about. I feel like there's plenty of negativity on the internet as it is, there's no reason to add to it.

I also know enough people in the hospitality industry that I understand that off-nights happen. I've put off writing anything at all about my experience at Jakewalk, because I don't want to be one of those irritating netizens who gets their jollies writing tirades tearing down someone else's hard work.

So, I post about my visit in as much of a matter-of-fact manner as possible, hopefully keeping my editorializing to a minimum...

When my party of 4 got to Jakewalk, half the tables were empty. We ended up sitting in the back, across from end of the bar with the waitstaff station and the kitchen. Even so, it took 15 minutes for our order to be taken. After another 15 minutes, one of my friends walked the 5 feet to the bar to ask for our drinks again. During that time our waitress passed by us going to the other tables without checking in on us once or even letting us know that our drinks were coming. One of the proprietors I believe, took over and tried to sooth us, but we were already irritated.

It was another 45 minutes before our food showed up. The guy we had been dealing with spoke to us a few times apologizing for the delay and letting us know that it was nearly ready. It wasn't until we got our food that the waitress came back. Instead of being apologetic that our food took so long to show up or that she never once followed up to see how we were going, she advised us that we should try to enjoy ourselves even though it took a long time.

The most frustrating part was that none of the food actually needed to be cooked, just cut up and dropped on a plate. We had an order of Rillettes and a plate of cookies both of which require no preparation at all. The fondue was the most complicated to prepare because it had bread, apples and sausages that had to be sliced up along with the cheese that had to melt in the bowl. This should not have taken an hour.

Really though, the worst part is that the food and wine were all good, but the overall experience was awful. On principle, I would never go back to a place that treated me so poorly. So, I won't be back either way.

July 15, 2008

Rustik Tavern

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One of the best benefits of bike-riding for me has been the exposure to areas I would otherwise never see. This has inspired me to explore beyond my standard MTA-mandated locales and find places that aren't so convenient to the train travelers among us. Which is how I came across Rustik Tavern.

I had gone to the Home Depot on Nostrand to pick up a few things and planned on riding down to Fort Greene to get some food. After a few blocks of riding with half a ton of stuff on my back, I saw Rustik and decided that closer was going to be the better bet.

I like Rustik. It's very rough and I have to say the food I had the first time was not so great. The waitress later told me that no one from the kitchen showed up that day and the rest of them were improvising. This explained the shriveled, overcooked chicken that came with my waffles.

They opened up last year and are still experimenting on their format. Posters hang advertising comedy shows and jazz performances, on a recent brunch visit a band played Mediterranean music for fewer than a dozen customers.

But going there reminds me of being at Moe's in 1999/2000. The crowd there is communal and fun and the neighborhood, just on the Bed-Stuy side of the Pratt area, reminds me of Fort Greene when I just got out of school. Before the crowds overran places like Habana Outpost and Stonehome, there was no trouble finding place to chill over a beer and meet your neighbors.

I look forward to spending more time at Rustik. At some point I'll need to figure out a convenient way to get there without the benefit of my bicycle one day so I can see what it's like in the evening. I'll be sure to report in when I do.

July 12, 2008

Peaches is Open!


IMG_6803, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Tonight was opening night at Peaches Market, the new restaurant by the pair that run the successful Smoke Joint Barbecue spot in Fort Greene. I've been excited about Peaches since I first heard about it a month or two ago. I've been silent on it only because I didn't want to jinx it and no firm launch date had been announced until a week or so ago.

Apparently they did publicize it enough, I swear the whole neighborhood was there tonight. I suspect they were a bit too successful, given that there were crazy delays getting the food out. Even so, I'll cut them plenty of slack for doing as well as they did on their first night.

I have a ton of questions about how the place is going to work. Tonight the 'Barbecue Counter' was open, serving a menu pretty similar to what I remember of my visit to Smoke Joint in the same counter setting. The initial reports I read said that Peaches wasn't going to focus on the barbecue so much as be a general southern dining restaurant. My presumption had been that it was going to have table service as well.

Both of these things may be 'day two features' that will come after the kinks have been worked out. We'll have to see. Right now they are only going to be open on the weekends, Friday - Sunday, allowing them time during the week to continue with the work.

Another important note is that they don't yet have a liquor license. I had assumed that getting one would be impossible given our byzantine liquor authority rules and the school and the churches just down the block, but it sounds like that is something they expect to have soon.

I'll be visiting several more times in the coming weeks, so expect more details along the way. I can't begin to convey how excited I am to have a place like this just down the block from home. Already I've met a neighbors that I've only ever said 'hi' to on the street. I felt a sense of community I haven't truly felt in the 20-odd years I've been living in Bed-Stuy. I'll definitely be there to support them as much and as often as I can.

July 3, 2008

New Amsterdam Market: Mini Ham Sandwiches


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Marlowe & Son sold these fantastic little sandwiches with ham, pickles and butter. Really, its all you need. I still haven't made it to their restaurant yet. I've got to get out there soon, because these were awesome.

New Amsterdam Market: Hen Sandwich


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At the recommendation of some friends we ran into just as we got to New Amsterdam Market, Tammi had this open-faced Hen sandwich with walnuts and radishes from Bridge Urban Winery, the Williamsburg outpost of a Long Island vineyard. I had a bite and enjoyed it, but I have to say that I'm not so clear on the various distinctions between birds.

One booth that I didn't get a chance to peruse as well as I'd have like is Bo Bo Poultry, which had quite a variety of birds on display. I'm hoping to make it to their retail outlet before it closes up at the end of the month.

June 29, 2008

Bars: Spuytin Duyvil


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Spuytin Duyvil sits in an unlikely storefront, away from the neighborhood's main strips. Behind the hole-in-the-wall façade lays a gourmet soul. Snacks include ever-changing offerings of meats, cheeses and pâtés. The beer selection is impressive, with representatives from Sri Lanka to Switzerland and a rather large delegation of Belgians, which are broken down into Flemish and Wallonian.

It's a small space and looks very much like it was decorated by ... me. There are maps and subway memorabilia everywhere. The furniture looks like it was all picked up from the Salvation Army shop on Bedford. It's all old and interesting and usually comfortable. I'm really a big fan of this place, but I have a few problems with it that have made it hard for me to ever end up there. It's been ages since I've been there.

My biggest issue with Spuytin Duyvil is the hours. They don't open until 4 or 5pm even on the weekends and they tend to fill up by 6 or 7pm. I end up in Williamsburg either in the afternoon or at night, so when I want to hang out there for an afternoon and try out some of the crazy obscure stuff they have, they're closed. When I stop in later, the place is packed.

To be honest, I haven't really tried to get in there since Fette Sau opened, so maybe things have cleared up a bit, but given how long the lines end up for barbecue, it may just end up collecting overflow crowds.

I tell you, success ruins everything.

359 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn
718-963-4140

June 23, 2008

Photo of the Day: The Gallows


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Chinatown, NYC. 2008.

June 19, 2008

SF: The Tower has Spoken


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A couple of weeks before heading to San Francisco, I polled Guyvera and The Tower of Justice aka ToJ for some recommendations. As we have discussed foodblogging together in the past, I have no compunction against reposting his email. Enjoy!

SF: The Tower has Spoken

La Taqueria is the gold standard in SF. Be sure to get two carnitas tacos, with cheese and avocado, crispy style. This last request--crispy style--is key because what it means is they overfry the inside tortilla, providing a nice juxtaposition in textures with the softer, outer tortilla.

To be honest, I know less about Taqueria San Jose and Taqueria Cancun, although if memory serves, Taqueria Cancun has a decent burrito. For a GREAT burrito, go to Taqueria San Francisco, which is on 24th (or maybe 25th) about 5 blocks east of Mission St. They have great carnitas burritos.

Beyond tacos, there are a couple of other latin american joints you should try. If you like Pupusas, then Panchitas on 16th and Valencia is solid. This has been my good old reliable spot. More recently, I got hip to El Zocalo which is more towards the Outer Mission, I think on Mission and 30th. Conveniently enough, El Zocalo is within walking distance to Mitchell's Ice Cream, where the Ube (Filipino purple yam) ice cream is a must try. At both pupuserias, I order the pupusa plate with pupusa revueltas (filled with pork, cheese, and beans).

You might also consider Mi Lindo Yucatan, on Valencia and 15th (I think). Guy and I went there one time a long time ago, but they have delightful chicken and pork dishes. If memory serves, they have a black bean chicken and/or pork, and one wrapped and steamed in banana leaves. They also serve fresh tortillas in a little bin instead of tortilla chips which is novel.

Other places to eat in the Mission area (but which are not necessarily within the "Taco" genre or penumbra of foods) include Little Star Pizza. You're a New Yorker, and so you have the right to be skeptical of any claims to fame about pizza elsewhere, but this place is pretty tasty. It blends the Chicago deep dish style with California ingredient consciousness. They use a cornmeal crust which is interesting. I usually like to get sausage, mushroom, and ricotta cheese--they put dollops of ricotta cheese on the pie, which brown during the baking process.

If you have any questions or need recommendations on the fly, feel free and call me.

The Tower has spoken (Konichiwa bitches!)

June 18, 2008

Food Finds: Pepper Sauce


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Since I've been finding more interesting food-related artifacts out of the supermarket, I'm changing the name of this feature to "Food Finds." That way, I don't have to preface half of the posts with "Well, this isn't really from a supermarket but..." because that was annoying... Now on to something I found in Atlanta... Pepper Sauce!

At nearly every table in Atlanta I encountered these bottles. Called Pepper Sauce as opposed to Hot Sauce, all there is to it is vinegar and hot peppers. The waiter at Pashcal's recommended using it on Collard Greens. I've made something like this before and had no idea it was a regional delicacy. I'll have to remember that next time I'm making greens.

June 17, 2008

Photo of the Day: Raw


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Imahan Restaurant. Shinjuku, Tokyo. 2007.

The restaurant is also known for its beef sashimi, but this plate of beef was bound for the Shabu Shabu pot. I did try beef sashimi while in Japan and loved it. I have no expectations of converting anyone, so I'll leave it at that. If you are prone to consider trying such things, go for it, you'll probably enjoy it or at least find it really interesting. If not, no amount of description is going to help.

June 16, 2008

SF: Hog Island Oyster Co.


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The vendor at the Farmers Market selling the oysters I've been going on and on about are the Hog Island Oyster Company, which has an oyster bar inside the Ferry Building as well.

June 14, 2008

SF: Taco Taco!


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Sadly, these two delightful stacks of meat and salsa crammed onto tortillas were the only tacos I managed to eat this trip. With little time to go for variety, I stuck with more moderate ingredients. I skipped the lengua and cabeza in favor of carne asada and carnitas, both great choices.

I got these at Taqueria San Jose on Mission around 23rd Street. My next stop was to be La Taqueria a block or two up, but they had closed for the evening. Instead I walked down to Taqueria Cancun on Mission and 18th and picked up a Burrito for Tammi and I to split. Tragically, that was the entirety of my Burrito eating in San Francisco. This is very upsetting. I'm trying to figure out when I can get out here next to rectify this situation.

June 13, 2008

ATL: Watershed


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As I mentioned, before heading out to Atlanta, all my research pointed to one thing: Fried Chicken. And over and over again, I found accolades for what may be "The Best Fried Chicken Recipe" by Edna Lewis and her partner Scott Peacock. The story was familiar, I had read about them a few years back, either in Gourmet or the NY Times or both. The key is the redundancy in its preparation. It's both brined and then soaked in buttermilk. Ms. Lewis died a few years ago, but Peacock offers it at Watershed, a restaurant made out of an old gas station in Decatur.

I had to have it.

Continue reading "ATL: Watershed" »

June 11, 2008

Birthday Dinner at Yoshi's


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On Sunday, I turned 31. Like my previous birthday, much of it was spent in the air. Last year we spent most of the day flying to Japan, a trip I blogged pretty extensively.

To celebrate the big day, Tammi and I had dinner at Yoshi's on Fillmore. We had a fantastic meal there, possibly the best I've had all year. After days of delicious, heavy southern foods, we both welcomed a lighter fare.

That said, the dish that sticks with me the most was still fried: Unagi Tempura, a whole eel fillet fried in tempura batter. It was a little difficult to handle with my poor chopstick skills, but it was fantastic.

I also had some uni that had an incredibly complex flavor. I love uni. Your mileage may vary, depending on your tolerance for odd textures. I've lovingly compared it to a wad of snot in the past. it doesn't slide down your throat like an oyster, it sticks to the roof of your mouth, lingering long enough to release every bit of flavor it's got. Tammi's not fond of the stuff, but I love it.

As we shared a selection of fish from Tsukiji Fish Market, I realized that it was already Monday in Tokyo, exactly a year since we blindly wandered the aisles at Tsukiji, trying to avoid being hit by the 'careening' turrets.

After dinner we saw Ahmad Jamal and his band perform at Yoshi's Jazz club. It was a great show.
::c::

May 27, 2008

The Tour: Bushwick Tacos


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The break at the halfway point of the Tour de Brooklyn was at Maria Fernandez Park in Bushwick. It's was zoo. Thousands of bikers converged there for snacks and water and ended up bottlenecked in the entryway. The tour itself stopped for the duration of the break, meaning that those who wanted to just keep going, couldn't and had nothing else to do but take up space in the cluster.

A bunch of us opted out of trying to get into the park and just went to the taco spot across the street. It took a while as well, I'm sure no one warned them that they'd be getting all that business on a Sunday morning, but it was worth it.

I was hyper aware of the idiocy that leads me to discover restaurants a mile or two from home through a tour like this. Bushwick is right next door to my corner of Bed-Stuy, but I never go there for more than groceries. I have gone from Mexico City to San Juan to Red Hook to Buenos Aires to get authentic latin food, but I haven't once sampled the chuletas on Broadway just down the road.

That should be rectified. More ot Come

Photo of the Day: Who Watches the Watcher?


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A minute or two after I took this picture, the kid came up to me and showed me a picture of myself that he took while I was shooting. Street Photography starts early. Nurture it.

May 20, 2008

San Juan: The Parrot Club's Chuletas


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The Parrot Club is one of many flashy, new style restaurants on Calle Fortaleza in Old San Juan. We had lunch there the last time we went to Puerto Rico and had some of the best Cuban sandwiches I had ever had. This time we wanted to try out dinner. It was great.

The pork chops I had, above, were much thicker than traditional chuletas, which are usually either pounded flat or just cut very thin. These, as you can see were grilled, instead of fried and gigantic. Tammi and I were amazed that they gave me two, but fear not, I managed to polish it off.

May 8, 2008

Radegast


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mmmm....sausage....mmmm...beer. That's pretty much the best way to sum up Radegast. It's a huge Beer Hall in Williamsburg that opened up a few months ago. I'm told it's similar to the Bohemia Beer Garden out in Astoria, but the number of times I go to Queens for leisure you can count on one hand. I've been meaning ot go forever, but never really motivated myself to go. Now I don't have to. heh.

One bit of advice, the good stuff is in the back room. I wish someone had mentioned that to me the first 3 times I went there. The kitchen menu is wildly mediocre. It all sounds pretty good, but never quite hits the spot, particularly since the whole place is filled with the smoky aroma of grilling meat in the next room.

The grill, on the other hand, offers only goodness. The list is short: Kielbasa, Bratwurst, Weisswurst and Incredibly juicy Pork Chops, along with fries and burgers that I've never bothered with because, really, they have kielbasa and pork chops.

The kielbasa, pictured here, is all that it should be. The guy at the grill keeps it on the fire for a while - longer than you think he should when you're standing there dying to bite into it. But, trust the man. He knows what he's doing. When you finally get the sausage, it has exactly the right amount of crisp char to complement its smoky sweet insides. The casing has just the right amount of resistance to make each bite satisfying.

Radegast's bratwurst is a revelation. I've always found brat's to be a little on the bland side, not nearly worth all the fuss tat people make over them. I mean, it's meat stuffed into a casing, I'l eat it and like it, but it's never appealed to me the way a smoky kielbasa or a spicy italian would. Not so at Radegast. The brat's stand up as an equal in the pantheon of juicy, flavorful sausages.

Even the sauerkraut is amazing. It's unlike any I've ever had. It's softly crunchy and tangy and nothing like the crap I've had on my hot dogs from the papaya stand.

I'd go on and on about the pork chops, but they're pork chops. You know they're good.

As for the reason I kept coming back those first few times, before I knew about the grill, that would be the beer. They have a rather large selection of German, Polish and Austrian beers, many of styles you aren't likely to find in too many places. I'm fond of the schwarzbier, a malty black lager and usually go with one of those. Last time though, I had a nice, light kolsh, which was perfect for a sunny spring afternoon.

As with all great things in New York, the word has spread and it can get stupid crowded there, but persistence pays off in the end.

Resto's Tete de Cochon Sandwiches


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Apologies for the low budget food porn, my cameraphone was all I had on hand.

I first heard about Resto and their Pig's head sandwiches when Eric passed me a link to a Grub Street post about it. The story goes that the chef started making this for the 'family meal' the crew shares before the dinner rush. It was so popular that they added it as a regular dish for customers. In fact, it's been the only thing I've ever seen on their specials board in either of the visits I've made to Resto.

The sandwich is served with pickled vegetables and crisply charred bread. Both offer a complexity that might otherwise be lacking, but can occasionally be overpowering. The char on the bread in particular can be a little more bitter than I really want. The pork is wonderful. Depending on which parts are included, you may experience the gummy chewiness of the skin or shreds of meltingly tender cheek meat.

It's a good thing this place is just outside of the 2-3 blocks I'm typically willing to walk for lunch. Otherwise, I'd be eating this a couple times a week.

May 7, 2008

San Diego: Yard House


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I didn't hear about the Yard House until my last night in San Diego. It's unfortunate, because I didn't have time to linger and sample their huge variety of draft beers they offer. With 100 taps, I'd have needed a few trips just to cover the beers I'd never heard of.

Looking at their website, I discovered that it's actually a pretty large chain with 11 locations in California alone and more in seven other states. That doesn't surprise me given it's "Flashy Generic" decor. The site boasts "Great Food, Classic Rock and The World's Largest Selection of Draft Beer."

Ambiance, it doesn't need, it's got tons of beer.

Yard House
1023 4th Ave. , San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 233-YARD |

May 4, 2008

The Spicy Lamb Burger at Chez Oskar


IMG_4070, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I've been going to Chez Oskar for years. The service is lacking more often than not, but I keep going back for 2 reasons: the fact that they don't care if you linger for hours and the Spicy Lamb Burger.

It's always great. juicy, picant and perfectly complemented by a thick pat of goat cheese.
::c::

April 29, 2008

Mexico City: Pata Negra


IMG_3408, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

We inadvertently took advantage of the great exchange rate at Pata Negra in Condesa. Even though it was listed as a tapas bar, very few of the dishes we got turned out to be particularly small.

When I ordered 4 empanadas, 2 sandwiches and a lamb skewer we saw our neighbor eating, the bartender warned us that we may want to tone it down a bit. But, given the prices, I couldn't imagine that each dish wasn't going to be gone in 3 bites. Everything was considerably bigger than that.

Having had a number of empanadas in Buenos Aires the year before, I expected a small turnover, smaller than a Jamaican Beef Patty. Instead we got what looked much more like a slice of Sicilian Pizza, a thick square covered with pastry and filled with spinach, salmon or other such things. They were huge, if not all great. We tasted a little of everything to make sure we took advantage of the variety we ended up with.

The winner of the meal has to be the sandwiches, especially the one pictured above, stuffed with juicy red chorizo slices. yummy.

In the end, I think we paid $40US, including a few sangrias that Tammi had and several local beers. All with enough food to feed 4 or 5 people.

Ramen on the Rise


IMG_6415, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

The first time discovered that Ramen was more than the crap I bought at the drugstore in Amherst for 8 pack for a dollar was on my first trip to Hawaii. Waikiki in particular gets a lot of Japanese tourists and among the amenities offered is a good deal of Japanese food.

I totally fell for Ramen there, Udon specifically. I mentioned it in the Hawaii Guide, but it bears repeating.

In any case, I'm pretty psyched to hear about the recent openings of more ramen shops in the East Village. So far I have only been to Udon West on St. Mark's, which I just stumbled upon and hasn't gotten any press that I know of. The other two have been severely over-blogged, so have been packed. I'm hoping that the attention will die down and I'll get a chance to check them out soon.

In the meantime, enjoy this shot of a lovely curry udon with fried chicken that I had at Udon West.
::c::

April 24, 2008

Photo of the Day: Hot Stuff!


IMG_3963, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Habana Outpost, Fort Greene, Brooklyn. 2008. Yeh, it's been a while... ::c::

February 24, 2008

Photo of the Day: Sunflowers


IMG_3883, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Stonehome Wine Bar, Fort Greene, Brooklyn. 2007.
::c::

February 1, 2008

Aspen: Montagna's Hot Rocks


IMG_1458, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This was probably the most interesting dish I had in Aspen. I had it in the front room bar at Montagna, the restaurants at The Little Nell Hotel, the menu included many small plates for the "Aprés Ski" period. (For the record, "Aprés Ski" is one of the most pretentious terms ever, but is pretty much accepted as a part of the Aspen daily schedule.)

The shrimp and chorizo skewers were served with a heated river stone on a bed of banana leaves, cinnamon sticks and star anise. The shrimp was par-cooked and could be placed on the rock as long as you want in order to achieve the perfect amount of char.

Continue reading "Aspen: Montagna's Hot Rocks" »

Soggy Shake Shack


IMG_4996 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

FYI: Even on a crappy, rainy day, there were a dozen people waiting for their Shack Burgers. I'm going to have to call in my order next time. ::c::

January 28, 2008

Aspen: Where to Eat

Before I headed out here, Eric sent me a link to an article from Food & Wine by Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson on what's new(ish) to eat in Aspen. So far, I've checked out 4 of the 5 places described. Hopefully, I will have some posts about them in the next couple of days, along with some others.
::c::

December 11, 2007

Mexico City: Tortas


IMG_3132, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

The other great street food we had in Mexico City was the tasty sandwich called the Torta.

The bread is a small football shaped hero roll. Its insides are smeared with smoky chipotle paste, then lined with slices of avocado, tomatoes and onions.

A variety of local meats are offered as fillings. I only tried the salchicon, a kind of bologna chopped into lardons, and later pierna, slices of roasted fresh ham. They were also sold with ham, chorizo or any of a long list of other meats. Both tortas I ate had that gooey queso fresco I love so much.

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Much like the spit-roasted tacos al pastor, I need to find these in New York. These are way too good to believe they aren't around in New York somewhere. I may have to make an expedition out to Queens or Sunset Park to hunt them down.

Mexico City: Tacos al Pastor


IMG_3505, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I expected to eat some great street food in Mexico, but Tacos al Pastor were an epiphany.

These were unlike every other al Pastor I've eaten before in New York, San Francisco or anywhere else. Typically, it's just braised meat, not even necessarily pork. That is a travesty.

In Mexico City, "al Pastor" is defined by a giant hunk of pork roasting on a spit. It turns slowly browning all sides until an order comes in. Then, he of the giant knife turns the spit to expose a perfectly browned side of pork, crispy and juicy.


In one motion, he deftly slices off each piece of pork and tosses it into the tortilla waiting in his other hand. In many places there is a skinned pineapple above the pork on the spit. He reaches up and with the flick of the wrist cuts off a slice that lands right on top of the pile of smoldering pork waiting for you. The Taco is topped with a little salsa and served up fresh:

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The very concept is brilliant: a pork gyro. We need this in New York. Seriously. I mean, it's so obvious but it's not there. Why? It's maddening.
::c::

November 24, 2007

Mexico City: Tezka

I read about Tezka a week or so ago when I was scrambling to figure out where we should go and what we should do here in Mexico City. Bittman raved about the place. When I realized that it was just a few blocks from our hotel, I decided it should be our first stop.

We went with the tasting menu, six courses of whatever the chef felt like doing with some set ingredients. Over the meal, we saw other tables also on the tasting menu get variations on the same courses we had.

After the jump, I've got shots of each course with minimal commentary. I'm experimenting a bit here with format, so tell me what you think.

Continue reading "Mexico City: Tezka" »

November 17, 2007

Madrid Recommendations


IMG_3928, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

My world traveling friend, Eli is heading to Madrid soon and I offered the few recommendations based on what I remember from my trip there with my sister back in New Year's '03. I can't believe it was really 5 years ago.

Here's the list I sent, slightly extrapolated:

Restaurante La Paella Real (Calle de Arrieta 2) is apparently the only place to go for paella in Madrid.
Lhardy (Carrera de San Jeronimo 8) has been around since 1839 and has a gorgeous old decor to it. From whatI recall, it's just down the street from Puerta del Sol.
Restaurante Sobrino de Botin (Calle de Cuchilleros 17) has been in business since 1725, making it one of the oldest restaurants in Europe, if not the world. Even though it's listed in every guidebook, it wasn't particularly touristy. They're signature dish is the suckling pig. It's a block or two away from Plaza Mayor.

Sights:
The Prado houses the work of Spain's most famous historical artists. I believe it only has works through the 19th Century. This where you'll find a lot of Goya's work, including "Saturn devouring his son." It also has one of my favorite paintings, Velasquez' "Las Meninas." First of all, it's huge, wikipedia says it's about 10 feet tall and 9 feet across. And the piece itself has a lot going on, with 8 characters, including the painter - twice. Picasso did over 20 studies of this painting, apparently he always aspired to be like Velazquez.

The Museo Reina Sofia is where you'll find Guernica, which really you just have to see. It's intense.

November 11, 2007

Photo of the Day: Parilla


IMG_0862, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Palermo, Argentina. 2006.

November 9, 2007

Dinner in Manayunk


IMG00219.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Dinner last night turned out not to be steak, but actually a little better, imo. Apparently all the downtown restaurants were booked up by celebrating Nutters, so our hosts took us out to Jake's in Manayunk.

We had a good meal with the only complaint coming from the guy who ordered the surf and turf. He ended up with just about enough lobster to fill a shot glass, which had been described on the menu as half a one pound lobster. When he complained, he received an additional teaspoon of lobster meat.

I had a Foie Gras starter and a Venison entree. I'm not sure how I feel about Venison in general, I keep trying it out with mixed results. Last night's meat was was perfectly done, but there was still a slight gaminess that I wasn't quite into. It may be that Bambi just isn't my thing. Thumper on the other hand, I'm all about.

In any case, I very much enjoyed the meal and the company. Most of the time when going out with vendors, the discussion ends up sticking firmly on the sales pitch, with them taking the opportunity to try to finesse more of your company's money out of you. Alternately, it devolves into testosterone-laden frat house antics and you realize that you're sitting across the table from a sleazy salesman or a socially inept engineer. Better to have the sales pitch.

Last night had none of that. We talked shop, but also travel, food and wine. It was fun.

What was interesting to me about Jake's and Manayunk was how early it seemed to shut down. We were seated around 7pm and the house was three quarters full, by 9:30pm, there were only 2 other tables wrapping up their meals. It struck me because I've found recently that Tammi and I have been going out Thursday nights more often than Friday nights in the last couple months. With Tammi's marathon training, most of the time we don't even end up being seated until 9pm and the restaurants still have steady crowds.

November 8, 2007

Eating Good in the Neighborhood?


IMG00205.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I knew it was coming, so eating at Houligan's for the last couple days has been fine. Tonight we're getting taken out for Steak, so I'm hopeful for better fare.
::c::

November 7, 2007

Philadelphia: The Foodery

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On North 2nd Street and Poplar in Northern Liberties, I stumbled across this Deli and Beer shop called The Foodery. It's got an fantastic selection, including many local area brews as well as special productions from further afield. They stock more than 750 beers, I saw more than a couple that I hadn't heard of before. I was tempted to pick some up, but schlepping them home is not in the plan.

They also have a branch in Center City that I may hit the next time I'm there.

::c::

The Foodery, Northern Liberties
837 N. 2nd Street at Poplar.
215.238.6077

The Foodery, Center City
324 S. 10th Street at Pine.
215.928.1111

October 28, 2007

Nashville: 2nd Ave North

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On my last night in Nashville I got away from Music Row, the main area of Broadway and headed out to 2nd Avenue North. Whereas Music Row is full of small, gaudy Honky Tonks, some authentic, some not, 2nd Avenue North has no authenticity whatsoever. It starts with a Hard Rock Cafe and ends with Hooters. In between it's more or less the same sort of thing. Now, I usually avoid this sort of thing, but given the choice of Honky Tonk or nearly anything else, I have to seriously consider my options. The lesser of two evils actually turned out to be a fair amount of fun, despite my snobbery.

I even managed to see some live music in Music City. A co-worker and I ate at BB King's and watched Cissy Crutcher, a soul singer and her band play. The show was really entertaining. The fried chicken pretty good too. After that we avoided some of the early Halloween revelry and hung out at one of the less crowded bars on this strip.

::c::

Nashville: Jack's Bar-B-Que

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I knew I was in for a much better Tennessee barbecue experience than at Rippy's as soon as I walked into Jack's Bar-b-que. Besides the excess of anthropomorphic pigs that Guy advised me to look out for at the finest of establishments use for decoration, there was also the smell. Wood smoke permeated the entire space.

Another clear indicator was evident when I paid. It was the cheapest barbecue I've ever had. The large pork sandwich, served on a kaiser roll, as opposed to the small's hamburger bun, along with mac n cheese and a bottle of Shiner Bock set me back a whole $10. That's roughly half the price of any such combo available in NYC that I know of.

Continue reading "Nashville: Jack's Bar-B-Que" »

October 25, 2007

Nasville: Rippy's


IMG_8950, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Rippy's Smokin' Bar + Grill sprawls. The ground floor space takes up two extended store front, each with it's own bar, one with an eating space, the other with pool tables. Upstairs is third bar and a patio, which I'm sure would be a lot more pleasant on a warmer day.

The service isn't so great, think 40 minutes and still no food. But then a million people - myself included - just dropped in a block away for a conference that they hadn't expected, so they were totally slammed. It happens.

The important thing is the food.

And by that criterion, it's a total disappointment.

A list of offenses after the jump...

Continue reading "Nasville: Rippy's" »

October 17, 2007

La Esquina


IMG_5656 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

La Esquina got a lot of press a few years ago for its basement bar. The entrance is behind an unmarked door of the tiny taqueria on ground level. It was one of those 'in the know' places that generally don't interest me at all. That whole hipper-than-thou vibe is annoying and contrived. Especially when the place that no one knows about is the subject of a million blog posts and newspaper articles.

But they serve tacos. Good tacos, as Eric told me a number of times. His advice was to bypass the snooty bar and just go to the taqueria.

One day when I couldn't take midtown any longer, I headed down to check it out.
The food, after the jump.

Continue reading "La Esquina" »

October 8, 2007

Bars: The Stoned Crow


IMG_6256, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

The Stoned Crow is a narrow, low-ceilinged dive hidden on an otherwise anonymous block just off Sixth Avenue in The Village. I've been going there for years and I still only know the street as "Not the block where Babbo is, the other one."

Personally, I think it stays cool through sheer anonymity, but not in a pretentious, 'in the know' sort of way. There's nothing smug about The Stoned Crow, it's just a laidback spot with a few well priced good beers and great burgers. The crowd here is one of the better ones in the area. It's rarely packed and it has none of the belligerent college kids of Macdougal or the overdressed grad students at The Dove or the tourists everywhere else. It's just a relaxed after-work hangout spot for people who don't wear ties work.

The place has tons of personality, between the movie and music posters that cover every inch of the walls to the old redhead who owns the place. She holds court over the pool table in the back every night.

Lately they've gotten a fair amount of attention for their burgers, after they managed to get a cook from Corner Bistro. I took Tammi there a couple weeks ago and now it's one of her favorite places for burgers. Just like CB, the bacon is key here. It's smoky and crispy and wonderful. It stands out among the juicy beef and thick layer of cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.


The Stoned Crow
85 Washington Place
New York, NY

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October 7, 2007

New Kien Tuong


IMG00065.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I met up with Eric in Chinatown this afternoon and he took me to a restaurant near Grand and Chrystie that offers as a special, chunks of roasted meats on rice. We had Roast Pig, not to be confued with Roast Pork, and Roast Duck on a bed of rice with a tangy sauce. When I was done, I needed another order of pig.

It was incredible.

Even more incredible is that in the end, two orders of Pork and Duck on Rice and an appetizer portion of Pork added up to a whole $12.

Pardon the poor quality picture, I took a quick shot with the cameraphone so I'd be sure to find it again.

New Kien Tuong Restaurant
83 Chrystie Street, NY, NY 10002
212.966.2878

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September 11, 2007

Go!

Note to self (and anyone else reading this):
I have to go here.
::c::

August 8, 2007

Pizzeria Mozza

I'm loathe to ever admit that anything is better outside of New York. It's a very difficult thing fo me to do. I love to travel and I think about living elsewhere all the time, but ultimately the deficiencies I may see at home are owing to some larger national or regional issue than anything specific about New York.

So when Eric told me that he thought the pizza at Pizzeria Mozza was better that Otto, owned by the same folks here in New York, I was skeptical and very confused. I've learned to respect Eric's opinion about such things over the 20 years we've known each other. yet here it was, he was claiming that LA, the anti-New York had a better pizza pizza! than a place in the city of our birth.

Unfathomable.

Yet, I headed out there Sunday night after the games were all done and had a meal that I only wish were available back home. And this isn't like going to France where everything is butter and fat (which is to say fat and fat) and finding that everything is better, of course that's better. No, this is head to head, chef to chef, even sharing the same owners and backing and LA topping New York.

Continue reading "Pizzeria Mozza" »

Musha!

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While in LA, I managed to check out both branches of Musha, an excellent izakaya out there. As mentioned earlier, I got recommendations for Musha from two expert sources, Eric and the TOJ. My visits completely reinforced my faith in both of them.

I had the Musha Fried Chicken at both places. It's excellent. A crispy breaded boneless chicken thigh sliced into strips. The presentation reminded me of Tonkatsu, the breaded, fried pork cutlets I had in Japan. The flavor was something else entirely.

According to the Menu, the Musha Fried Chicken is "Marinaded in soy sauce, sake, ginger and garlic served with 2 kinds of grated daikon and a ponzu sauce." The flavor of light citrus permeated, particularly when dipped in the accompanied sauce made up of soy sauce and ponzu. Sweet, salty and tangy all vied for my attention in each bite.

The photo above is Tanshio, salted beef tongue, that I cooked on a Shichirin Griller, yakiniku style. The small charcoal grill was the perfect size to fit on the counter in front of me at the Santa Monica branch.

On my visit to the Torrance branch, I had Unagi, broiled eel sliced into chunks and mixed in with rice in a variation in its typical presentation. There was also Braised Pork Belly, served in a soy sauce based broth and cooked with sweet potatoes. My dining companion had a wonderful Ahi Poke, Hawaiian style tuna tatare.

I was also very interested in Musha's Cheese Risotto, which is served out of a giant block of parmesan cheese. I only skipped it - along with noodles and most rice in order to save room for other dishes.

More after the jump!

Continue reading "Musha!" »

Double Double!


IMG_0280, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I love In n Out Burger. Amazingly, when I first tried it, in San Francisco a few years ago, I wasn't so into it. The one I had was too dry. Thankfully, I tried it again last year when I was back in LA. Then I tried it again. And again. This time around I only got my Double Double fix once, but I take what I can get.

Louisiana Fried Chicken


IMG_0239, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This pile of crispy loveliness was found in the depths of Carson, California, a bit of a hike away from the X Games site in Los Angeles.

It was quite possibly the best fried chicken I've had. The breading was thick and crunchy and full of spices. Underneath the crusty skin, the meat is juicy and flavorful. There was a hint of garlic in there somewhere. The hot sauce is served in a cup for easy dipping, which was perfect. The sauce was tangy with a heat that creeps up on you.

Some folks had brought some back to the trailer for the crew and I was blown away. When I found out that it was just a few blocks away, I headed out there for lunch the next day. Louisiana Fried Chicken is a total hood spot. It's got the bulletproof window at the counter, the whole thing. If it wasn't in a strip mall, I'd have felt like I was back in Brooklyn.

August 1, 2007

Tips from the TOJ

The Tower of Justice, an eating buddy much more familiar with this land of highways and movie stars than I sent me some recommendations. I'm not sure when I'll be able to go off the reservation and actually check out some of these places, but I have hopes:

It will be hard to find good food without a car if you're staying by the airport, unless you have in mind establishments with pole dancing as their primary attractions. If you can manage a car, here are a few suggestions. Alternatively, if you're on a tight schedule, I would recommend taking a cab up to Santa Monica and just walking around in that area. Lots of good places to eat there.

Musha Restaurant (Santa Monica): I took Guy to this little trendy dive of a restaurant in Santa Monica, and I resisted making bathroom runs for fear that Gallo would swipe any remaining morsels on my plate. This place serves Japanese pub food, and Sapporo beer on tap. Highlights include: braised pork belly, octopus omelette with noodles, musha fried chicken, udon noodles with shimeji mushrooms and clams.

Versailles (Palms/West L.A.): this place serves Cuban food. It's a fun place, and if I recall, they have a couple of killer pork dishes.

Zankou Chicken (West L.A.): this is an Armenian owned joint that serves the BEST rotisserie chicken. It also offers hummus and other middle eastern goodies.

Let me know if you have a more flexible schedule and will have access to a car. The list of great restaurants in LA is endless, so once I know where you're heading, I would be more than happy to give you a more targeted set of recommendations.

Eric suggested the Musha in Torrance last year when I stayed in that area, but I never made it. Maybe that'll be dinner tonight...

June 23, 2007

Ramen Shop Vending Machines


IMG_3630, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Another rather cool thing we happened upon were these vending machines in front of a number of small ramen shops in Tokyo. Before you walk into the shop, you decide which dish you want, buy a ticket from this machine and hand it to the person behind the counter.

Again, brilliant!

This was incredibly helpful to us, since it meant avoiding most of the language difficulty involved with ordering food. All we had to do was look at the pictures and press a button.

Besides being a convenience for tourists, it's a great business idea. It frees up space inside the tiny shops and time for the workers. They don't have to waste half the staff taking orders because it's dealt with already. Every place we went to with this system had only two people running the show.

The corollary, of course, is that it's just replacing workers with machines, passing the work on to the customers, something I'm usually firmly against. In this case though, the places are so small that I can't imagine where a cashier would even go.

June 18, 2007

Kyoto: Ponto Cho

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Our hotel in Kyoto was just a block or two from Ponto Cho, an collection of interconnected alleys anchored by a pair of main strips, the main stretch, lit up at night with signs and the narrow parallel alley closer to the river sat in its shadow. The area is full of bars, restaurant and clubs stacked in anonymous buildings and packed into narrow pathways. We wandered through here blindly searching for food and drink, sometimes successful sometimes not. Occasionally, we found ourselves stalking geisha walking out of one of the private clubs on their way back to Gion, just across the river.

Continue reading "Kyoto: Ponto Cho" »

June 15, 2007

Pork Cheek Ramen


IMG_2757, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This wonderful vision of deliciousness came from Santouka, a spiffy little ramen shop near Gion in Kyoto.

I can't begin to tell you how I love pork cheeks. This restaurant touts the fact that you only get 200 grams of cheek per pig. That's not the point.

The decadence of pork cheeks comes from the meltingly tender texture you feel as it deconstructs in your mouth. It's the waves of richness that overcome you when you taste it.

June 14, 2007

Random Observation: Check Please!


IMG_3324, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Apparently, in Japan, the way to signal that you want the check is to make an 'X' with your two index fingers as demonstrated above by my lovely assistant.
::c::

June 12, 2007

Okonomiyaki


Okonomiyaki, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.


Monday night was the end of the first leg of our trip. After the baseball game, we headed back to Ginza and looked for some food.

After a mostly embarrassing experience at a small izakaya down a dark alley, we stumbled upon President Chibo, an Okonomiyaki restaurant.

When we got there, they were getting close to closing, but let us in anyway. The staff was super-friendly even though we came in as they were wrapping up the night.

Okonomiyaki is often known as a Japanese pancake, which isn't really as descriptive as you'd want. Since fillings often include squid and cabbage and bonito fish flakes, you should probably know more about it before you order it for breakfast and drown it in maple syrup.

I first heard of it from Lara, who had gone to Japan a few years before we started dating, probably 10 years ago now. The only one I had ever had was the one at the izakaya attached to Angel's Share in the Village (upstairs from Around the Clock). It's thick like a pancake and stuffed with squid and cabbage, topped with fish flakes and japanese mayo.

This was totally different. It was much more like a crepe, the batter was pours onto the skillet in front of us and spread out flat, while our fillings, pork, octopus, noodles and scallions cooked on the grill.

I hear there are a lot of okonomiyaki places in Kyoto, I place to look them up tomorrow.
::c::

May 25, 2007

Bars: Dove Parlor


IMG_4378, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I sort of inherited The Dove. Frank, the owner of Black Star, along with Jen and Henrietta, two of my favorite bartenders there, opened this place up after Black Star closed. I think I may be the only former Black Star patron who goes with any regularity though. Dove is anything but a recreation of Black Star.

As the name suggests, Dove is a parlor more than a bar. It goes old fashioned with its antique looking decor and the doilies sitting under every glass. They recently started serving tea sandwiches and cheese plates.

Dove is also one of the more 'grown-up' bars near Washington Square Park, catering to the (slightly) more mature professional school crowd. These are the folks who have gotten past the frat party conditions of Macdougal, but still cram into a room a little more than they should. So watch out when stopping by on a Friday night. You might get flashbacks from your rush hour commute.

The drink menu focuses more on mixed drinks and wine much more than most other places in the area that I know. Tammi discovered the Sea Breeze here as she began migrating away from fru-fru cocktails. The wine selection is small, but has some good stuff. The beer selection is not extensive, it doesn't stock anything rare or obscure, but it has a very good basic set. When I'm there, I fall back on an old favorite, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Dove Parlor
228 Thompson St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 254-1435

May 23, 2007

Dressler


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"I'm trying to think of more excuses to come back here." Tammi said while we were having brunch at Dressler Sunday morning - not 12 hours after having had dinner there.

That's a little overboard, but I really wanted some more doughnut holes. This week's flavor was cinnamon sugar.

Dinner on Saturday was great. I had beef and beef, ribeye steak and braised short ribs on top of mashed potatoes and spinach. I loved the contrast between the firm steak and the meltingly tender short rib.
For Brunch I had a tasty burger that I couldn't finish because I was full of doughnut holes.

This is definitely going to be our go-to place for a while.

May 17, 2007

Spike Hill's Hot Wings


IMG_8653.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I spent the afternoon at Spike hill on my day off the other day.

One of their daily specials was Hot Wings, which I can rarely pass up. These burnt the hell out of my mouth, but were so good. Instead of the standard 'Frank's' style hot sauce, they used a Vietnamese chili sauce, speckled with red pepper flakes. It was sweet and hot and left my mouth nearly numb. I'm hoping that they have these there again.

(Update: Over a year later, I still haven't seen these offered again. I think I'll have to try making this myself next time I make hot wings.)

May 15, 2007

Bars: Spike Hill

Spike Hill

I'm a big fan of Spike Hill. It's got a great versatility to it. Regardless of your mood, Spike Hill is almost always the right place. A couple weeks ago, I ended up going there two days in a row. Once in the evening when I went out drinking with Eric, then the next day with Tammi after brunch, we spent a couple hours lounging in the back.

In case you missed it, here's what I wrote for the williamsburg beer tour in the brooklyn record:

Spike Hill is not your typical beer bar. There are 12 taps and nearly 50 bottles, serving up beer of all styles and nationalities — yet it has none of the geekery you might expect. There's no need to impress anyone with your vast beer knowledge here. You can sit in the front window and watch Bedford Avenue pass by, chat with fellow patrons at the long dark wood bar, and/or pack into the deep booths in the back with friends or a laptop. The menu takes unassuming dishes like grilled cheese and makes them interesting as well as comforting by changing up the breads and cheeses.

Spike Hill is probably one of my favorite bars around. I'm finding myself there more and more lately.
::c::

Spike Hill
184 Bedford Avenue at North 7th Street
718.218.9737

May 14, 2007

The World According to Clay

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Google now offers personalized maps without the geekery previously necessary to put one together. I've wanted to do one since Eric put together a Paris map for his trip there last year.

I've started populating the map with bars I've been to in my travels. At some point, I'll figure out how I want to connect it to the site, in the meantime, click on the screenshot above and take a look.
::c::

Fort Greene Street Party

(Originally Posted on The Brooklyn Record):

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The fine folks at Habana Outpost pulled out all the stops this weekend. Their re-opening party spilled out onto South Portland Street, the festivities took over the block as local artisans sold their wares, clowns and other performers wandered about and bands played on for the crowd. Hundreds came out for the first cuban sandwiches and mexican corn of the year to be served out of the big red truck at the heart of it all.

We were there for much of the afternoon listening to the DJ alternate with Conjunto Guantanamo, a Cuban band based in DUMBO. The stilt-walkers danced above us as we sat out in the sun. We missed it, but the circus atmosphere took a more mature turn in the evening with a fashion show followed later by a burlesque performance.

Habana Outpost, 757 Fulton Street (at So. Portland); (718) 858-9500.

-clay williams

Photo by ultraclay!

Chicago Notes


IMG_2357, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Kevin, a former co-worker, is heading out to Chicago soon and asked for some recommendations. Follow the Jump for the extended version of my picks.

Continue reading "Chicago Notes" »

May 13, 2007

A Full Day

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Wow, yesterday was great.

When I got out to Habana Outpost, they were still setting up, so I wandered over to The Brazen Head. Lo and behold, they were having another Cask Ale Festival! I had a few rounds there before it started to fill up.

When I got back to Fort Greene, Habana Outpost was packed. Their opening party spilled out on the street, filling the whole block of South Portland. Local artisans and vendors sold their wares, clowns and stilt-walkers wandered about, there was even a fire-eater. Tammi, Laura and Guy met up and we split a couple sandwiches and some corn while we watched bands perform on the stage set up in the middle of the outdoor space. After the crowd overtook us, we went to Stonehome and had a bottle of sparkling rosé.

Then, Tammi and I headed to Boerum Hill for a barbecue. Dale, who I haven't seen in close to 2 years was in town. It was great to see him.

After all that, a bunch of us headed out to Wonder-Full, the Stevie Wonder tribute party out in Williamsburg. I still don;t know enough Stevie Wonder music, so a litle of it was lost on me. I still enjoyed it. I took off a little early though.

I was wiped out.

May 11, 2007

Habana Outpost Re-Opening Party


LEE, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

If you're looking for me, tomorrow, look no further than Habana Outpost. I plan to spend as much of the afternoon as I can there. I can't wait to sit out and relax over several beers, a cubano and mexican corn.

::c::