[yiddish] To eat like an animal, i.e., quickly, noisily, and in great quantity.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cafe con Leche: if you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain

Cafe con leche is the one place I know I can go to on the upper west side for affordable and consistent food. Most importantly though, they serve up a mean pina colada in an actual pineapple, during happy hour you can get 2 drinks for the price of one ($9). They serve other drinks as well, including sangria and mixed drinks in coconuts. Its not a huge amount of drink or as boozy as what I usually like and I am not one who often orders something like a pina coloda, but I can't resist them when I dine here. Double check with the happy hour, because sometimes they are weird about it. With my cold, frothy pina colada in my hand, a paper drink umbrella behind my ear, sitting outside under a raffia umbrella, I could almost pretend I was in the Caribbean... almost. I usually order the same things when I come here. The mofongo appetizer could easily pass as a main dish, there is nothing like mushed plaintains and pork skin to fill up your belly. Their version of ropa vieja is perfectly acceptable; its hard to screw up beef that has been braised, shredded, and sauced up. A special of ceviche was also enjoyable. Though it wouldn't have hurt them to add some shrimp. On this occasion, the service started out a bit brusque, but that could not kill our pina colada and pork induced good moods.

Chocolate Balls

Lookie here what I made for my office.  Oreo truffle bally thingers! And guess what, you can do it too. My apologies if these little guys are not so easy on the eye, but trust me, they taste like a dream. I used 2 sleeves of one oreo container and crushed them up. Then I added a package of cream cheese and smushed it all together. I rolled them into about 40-50 little ballies and chilled them in the fridge. While they chillaxed, I melted 3/4 a package of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a make-shift double broiler. I rolled the chilled balls in the chocolate, added some more oreo crumbs on top and popped them back in the fridge. Use your imagination for other toppings and coatings. I have had a request to make peanut butter chocolate truffle balls next. Easy breezy, and everyone loves them.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the Fried Chicken before Cheeseburger before Beer Diet

After having some cocktails for my friend's birthday at Kemia Lounge (on 44th and 9th with $6 cocktails during happy hour, including a well balanced french martini) the next logical step to take before our 5 Napkin Burger reservation was clearly for fried chicken. We went around the corner to everyone's favorite chicken scented window, Piece of Chicken. I insisted he at least try the goodness and then I just had to join in and get a piece myself. I have sampled the mac n cheese and collard greens here but the $1 single piece of chicken is what is most worth getting here.  They manage to get the juicy, crispy thing down right. I most enjoy the simple fact that you can get one piece and I convince myself only one can't be bad for me. 

After some fried chicken it was due time for a cheeseburger and beer. I didn't really look at the menu, I knew I wanted the Original. The cheese and onion dominate the flavor cleverly, who could resist gooey cheese covered meat. Our waiter may have been hinting at something when he brought over knives, but I was determined to shove it down the old fashioned way regardless of the mess on my face and hands. There was a lot of burger meat in that soft bun and while it had some nice flavor going on, it was a wee wee bit dry. The fries were good enough to that I had to finish them despite me being way way way too full, although I shamefully did leave a bite over of the burger. 

Last stop was the Pony Bar that recently opened. They have an ever changing selection of beers on tap. They display the beer brand, type, and alcohol content on a board behind the bar and announce the changes to it as they switch kegs. I was shocked to find out the witt beer I selected was only $5. Woohoo! 
Kemia Lounge-630 9th ave 
Piece of Chicken- 362 w 45th
5 Napkin Burger-630 9th ave
The Pony Bar- 637 10th ave

Tehuitzingo Deli: gimme more al pastor

Food adventure lovers heart this place for its authentic tacos and its inside-a-deli-ooo cool factor. I headed past the dried chilies and towards the little ladies behind the window to pick up some fun tacos for my lunch the next day. I was happy to see they reheated nicely in the microwave, a minute thirty did the trick. I ordered chorizo, but got pollo. Ok fine, I still liked it. The al pastor is where its at though. Pork and pineapple is a favorite taco type of mine and their version was quite tasty. Both the pork and the chicken were shredded up, tender, and well spiced. They were even nice enough to pack up some hot sauce for me. Though this is not my scrumptious Jackson Heights two dolla tacos, at $5.25 for the two they are a nice stand in. 

 695 10th ave

Hummus Kitchen: hummus is yummus

Decided to walk up 9th to catch a bite; I wanted something on the lighter side and somewhere with outdoor seating to take advantage of the spring breezes. Hummus Kitchen fit the bill with 3 or 4 tiny tables outside the little restaurant. The lemon mint drink-lemonana is the ultimate drink for sipping outdoors in the sun, not to mention kinda gorgeous. I wanted to try out as much of the menu as possible so we chose the mixed platter. It came with a majority of the appetizers on the menu: 2 very green and tasty falafel, roasted cauliflower, a bureka with a nice feta eggplant filling, a few spoonfuls of tabouli, a small serving of the always pleasant combo-feta and beets , and a smokey babaganush (which I actually prefer over hummus, if a Babaganush Kitchen opened up, I would be first in line). The main thing that was missing from this sampler was any hummus.  Being our first visit here, ordering the hummus sampler was very necessary. I was hoping that the hummus recipe itself would be varied, maybe by having one more fava bean based, etc., but the differences in hummus were due to the toppings. Still, they are all enjoyable, with the mushroom being the favorite. I have never thought of putting together mushrooms and hummus, but I enjoyed the pairing.  

I had heard about the sabih sandwhich- eggplant, egg, pickles, and hummus- and had to try it. The pickled element was odd but not in a bad way. I wish the eggplant had more of a presence though. I was kinda hoping for something resembling the magical eggplant that Pick a Pita puts in their sandwiches. Prices are pretty reasonable and it was nice to fill up without any meat... thought I can't say I wouldn't have ordered a shish kebob if it were on the menu. 

768 9th ave

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Deli Goat!

I was so excited to check out the roti experiment that just started at the Best of the West Deli on the corner of 34th and 9th. The staff explained they are testing out serving roti with various curried dishes on Wednesdays and Fridays. I made sure to call ahead to ensure the roti would be offered like the staff suggested. I went for the curried goat, go hard or go home right? My coworkers tried the kingfish and the chicken. Each came with ample roti bread. The portions were big, but definitely not enough to have any leftovers. The goat and fish were $10 and $10.50 respectively and the chicken was $8.50. Ten dollars is a little more than my cheap self likes to spend on lunch, but its a luxury to have something different in these parts.  The kingfish and chicken were prepared in the same curry; the fish worked well with the curry flavors but was a bit too fishy for me, the chicken is the most economical way to go, since there isn't too much of a difference between it and the goat.  I was very happy with the curried goat, it was tender enough to barely need a knife and the curry sauce and chickpeas had garlic and buttery undertones. Pretty awesome for a deli, and even more awesome for this neighborhood. 

Best of the West Deli
212 290-0048
371 w 34th St 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Best Pork Ever is really really far away

Porchetta who? This might be the best pork I have ever eaten. I made the trek up to 174th st in the Bronx to assist a client with an appointment there. I passed a standard looking Spanish restaurant but knew I had to stop by after seeing "lechon asado" advertised and getting my "I have a good feeling about this place" feeling. Once I got there I skipped on the platter and went straight for the gold- half a pound of pork for three fitty. I sat down at an empty table and dove right in; it was everything I could have hoped for and more. The perfect fall apart succulent pork and fat balance. The skin was crispy but easy to chew (unlike Porchetta's) I got half way through and realized that to make matters even more gorgeous, they including a container of garlic dipping sauce. Have mercy! Why o why is this place so very far?

El Nuevo Despertar
920 E 174th St
Bronx 10460

Congee and Cambodian

I had been meaning to check out Kampuchea since I tried their ribs at the Village Voice 1st annual Choice eats, one year ago. Since I am an enthusiast of multiple stops when going out for a meal and in order to keep the prices down by filling up for cheap beforehand, I went to Congee Village for part I of dinner. I love the over the top decor and learned they host karaoke parties in rooms downstairs. We were seated at a tiny table in the little room in the back. The menu is huge and the prices are low low low. They also have a decent drink menu with cheap drinks and an even cheaper happy hour at the bar. I usually go for the mushroom and chicken congee here, but my friend does not care for mushrooms and we went for the high roller chicken with abalone instead. The congee was huge and satisfying as usual, a fair sustitute for chicken soup if feeling under the weather. We also ordered a squid dish with cashews and onions that we gobbled down quickly.

100 Allen st

We walked over to Kampuchea and had no wait- it was a Friday night but before the dinner rush. The long tables are communal and the seats are bar stools, my back was not happy about that. The corner location of the restaurant and many windows allow for great people watching. We shared the ribs, which falls under the category "hot small plate". It was a larger portion than I thought it would be. With the meat falling off the bone, the strong porky flavors, and the addictive cilantro sauce these ribs are a must order. The ribs come from duroc pigs, which are apparently very aggressive piggies that taste amazing. We stuck with the duroc theme with our other order- duroc pork num pang, a vibrant sandwich with all those fixins (cilantro, carrots, etc) that make people crazy for the Vietnamese banh mi and more recently for this Cambodian alternative. Such sandwiches are now available at Kampuchea owner's Num Pang.

78 Rivington St

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Boston Trip: Seafood and French Food

For breakfast on our second day of traveling in Boston, I wanted something well balanced and nutritious to start my day... clam chowder. I walked down the waterfront to James Hook & Company. Their clam chowder was completely loaded with clams, no excessive filler here, this was the real deal. We also took back some delicious lobster salad for a snack later on. This is the perfect little seafood shack with the freshest seafood to eat on the spot or take home to cook up. Eight pound lobsters maybe?

15-17 Northern Ave
Boston, MA 02228

Later we took shelter from the rain at Ye Olde Union Oyster House, a place we have frequented before on visits.
We shared more clam chowder which was very flavorful but not as clam-filled as James Hook. The seafood chowder here did not have as much flavor, much better off sticking with the clam version. We enjoyed a side of baked beans. I was very pleased with my order of steamers, fresh with the right amount of briny taste. Besides the fish chowder, I would recommend all the dishes we tried. Service can be mixed here, on this visit our waitress was a big grump, but I do remember have pleasant waitresses on past trips.

41 Union Street
Boston, MA 02108

For a change of pace we went to Brasserie Jo for dinner located in the Colonnade Hotel. (Warning: the valet parking costs a fortune!) Marinated carrots were served at the table and refilled. Our Senegalese waiter was utterly charming. For an appetizer we ordered the sizzling hot and tender escargot, served traditionally with loads of garlic.

I loved my duck confit, the skin was crisp and the flesh was succulent; the dish was completed with came lentils and salad. The massive braised lamb shank, delicate but satisfying salad nicoise, and the decadent strip steak with bearnaise sauce also impressed us. Unfortunately the restaurant was out of the fish special of the day, despite this we loved our choices. We gobbled the fluffy "floating island" dessert, the lightest meringue with almonds and a vanilla creme sauce. Besides that pesky extra parking fee, the prices of the main dishes were reasonable. We were pleasantly surprised by this French brasserie.

120 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA 02116

And before I left I made Tracey take me to have some J.P. Licks ice cream! They have such a creative selection. Yummy!

Boston Trip: The Achilles/Persephone Project

For our first dinner on our family trip to Boston we chose Persephone, a trendy restaurant in the less trafficed area of Fort Point, which happened to be walking distance from our hotel. We were hesitant to enter, thinking we were in the wrong place, because the entrance is a clothing boutique. But thats all part of the gimmick. As the owner of this year old establishment explained, the idea behind the "project" is that everyone has an Achilles tendon weakness, whether it be shopping, eating or drinking and this allows for all to be stimulated? Did I get that right? And something about Persephone being a symbol of spring and springtime ingredients being a major element of the food... ok something like that. The restaurant displays local art on the wall, and there was a captivating series displayed at the time of our visit.

The menu is divided into categories based on size: small, medium, large, extra large. The menu highlights ingredients that are local, seasonal, sustainable, etc., if you are into that. We didn't bother with the "small" menu, figuring the portions would be way to tiny to share. We
went with a scallops with mushrooms in a light soy vinaigrette from the medium dishes. For 2 scallops, it cost $17.... yea a little much, me thinks. They tasted lovely, but that barely matters.

We were more dis appointed with the squid salad, the squid being mushy and not adding
anything and
the salad consisting of parsley. Thankfully, things got much better from here. I ordered an Arnie P drink that was made with lavender lemonade vodka, vermouth, st germain, mint, tea, and lemon- quite a take on an Arnold Palmer, it was an amazing well balanced refreshing drink, thought I could have handled a bit more of an alcoholic taste, but thats just the boozer in me speaking. Persephone offers a Bin wine list on a chalkboard in the back with wines they are phasing either out or into their menu for only $24, a great bargain, and the only real bargain in this place. The choices are all oddball choices that are not mainstream whatsoever and I cannot for the life of me remember which one we selected, but I do know we liked it. A highlight of the meal came when a bread plate was offered, which we quickly rejected due to it being Passover. (so what we eat
shellfish but not chamatz, don't judge)
The bread dude looked at us uncertainly and asked in a Boston accent "matzah?" YES please. A very thoughtful gesture, we really appreciated it and took advantage of the nice butter. I split the goat "large" dish. I was hesitant to chose it because I do not love an overwhelming gamey taste, but luckily this was not the case. The goat was braised and very tender and the tomato sauce was balanced nicely by preserved lemons and olives. The whole roasted fluke for 2 was expertly prepared and filleted at our table. It was very fresh tasting and light and the portion size was generous. It came with a side of delicious roasted carrots and golden beets. Somehow we managed room for dessert and split the clementine sorbet with sweet cream, the intense dairy flavor worked well with the citrus. They brought the check out with pomegranate truffles that rocked. I would recommend this place for a date you want to impress or a girl's night out, but even for a family night it worked for us.

283 Summer St

Monday, April 13, 2009

Flavor Tripping

So we finally got our hands on the "miracle fruit" tablets. I was really hoping to get the actual berry, but that was not in the cards. Little sister brought home some tablets so we could experience them as a family. Dad was adorable and set up little ramekins of fruit and other foods to try out. We also put out all the sauces in our cabinets. We let the tablets dissolve in our mouths and it left an odd taste. I was afraid that it was not going to work, that my hopes and dreams of tricking my taste buds would never be realized, luckily I was wrong. You gotta go for the bitter/spicy/sour/alcoholic to get the full affect.

Our favorite items:
limes tastes sweet
spicy szechuan leftovers tasted like chicken soup
strawberries dipped in very very low fat cream cheese tasted like cheesecake
mixed alcoholic drinks- the alcohol was barely discernible (that could get dangerous, luckily this was a family event)

Very fun little experiment, I certainly recommend ordering some tablets online and saving them for a rainy day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The "Tell it like it is" Passover Cake

So last night we had a dual Passover seder and Happy Birthday to my 16 yr old cousin. Mom purchased a kosher for passover cake for the occasion. Instead of a standard cake message like "Happy Birthday" or " Happy Pesach" is said this...

I laughed myself to tears.

P.S. You wish your mom's matzah balls were this good...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Baoguette Fail + Deli News

Delivery orders are done by text messaging, that should have been my first clue. Texted my order at 11:50 and received no confirmation, call, etc. The restaurant phone number when straight to voicemail; I left a voicemail and an email. By 1:20 I sent them a text retracted the order. NOT OK TO STARVE PEOPLE, especially not me- I get cranky!! BOOOOO Baoguette how could you do this to me. Especially after tempting me at the Village Voice Choice Eats with your sloppy bao-goodness.

This forced me to go get my pre Passover sandwich craving elsewhere. I went to Best of the West Deli on 371 w 34th st, right on the corner of 8th. I had a very passable chicken parm hero, which was large for under $7. But more importantly I noticed this sign out front hawking roti with curried meats!!! OOOO Apparently they are experimenting with this Wednesdays and Fridays and you must call ahead to place your order. The number is 212 290-0048. I am intrigued... must attempt next week when Passover ends.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Soul Fixins is Moving

Damn, I really was wanting some fried chicken last week when I saw this sign

Hallo Berlin Express: Nice wurst

The express location of Hallo Berlin is small and the service is not great but it gets the job done. This is my go-to spot for when I am with a bunch of hungry boys who don't want to decide between drinking and dinner. They service various sizes of beer, but we usually go with the pitchers ($17) And if you are so inclined, they offer Das Boot. The curry wurst is a favorite of mine. I recently tried the spaetzle and loved it, very garlicky and the noodles had a great chewiness. Their shnitzles are nice as well. The Atkins diet special, as embarrassing as that may be to order, is a smart choice with 3 sausages, cabbage, meatballs, soup, and pickles. The lentil soup is better than the veggie. All the entree portions come with a ton of food, but one wurst makes a nice snack on its own.

744 Ninth Ave

Monday, April 6, 2009

Las Poblanitas: Don't forget to look up

You can get a pretty cheap mexican lunch at this little joint. I am not the biggest burrito fan so I go with the tacos ($3 each or 3 for $7.50) or a torta. I usually stick with the chorizo filling, its a little gamey and full of spicy flavor, but I plan on trying the al pastor next time. There are tables to eat at with semi-waiter service. This is not a high class establishment, but its pretty solid food, quick and filling.
Check out the ceiling poster of some sexy senoritas who love to drink Corona in club attire.

White Bear: OMG GOOD

Holy hell are those little wontons fabulous. I got lost trying to find this place, ate elsewhere, and then had an ice cream craving and followed the sign- to my surprise there was White Bear dumplings, which did not satisfy the ice cream craving, but I did not mind the trade off. The wontons skins are not only gorgeous but of the perfect texture. The filling is a standard pork chive dealy but the saucing adds an extra flavor boost. I got 12 for $4.50. I am hooked, this will be an essential stop for future Flushing trips.

135-02 Roosevelt Ave

Nan Shian Dumpling House: Cheating mouths

I think this may be the only place in Flushing (not including dim sum halls) that we have needed to wait for a table. I always have to order turnip cake if I see it on the menu; their turnip puffs were small, flavorful, and with much less grease than others I have eaten, really really great little bites. My family and I were nervous about trying the xiao long bao... Joe's Shanghai has been our soup dumpling stomping ground for over 10 years, we felt like we were having an affair. We came to the consensus that the crab version here is better than Joe's but Joe's pork dumpling is superior.

38-12 Prince St.
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 321-3838

Best North Dumpling Stall: Whats the dill-io?

This dumpling stall is located inside an herbal/dried food store type place. Don't be scared, walk right in and its on the left. We ordered 10 pork and fennel dumplings- they actually turned out to be pork and dill dumplings. Not sure if this was a mistake in translation or if they ran out of fennel. Either way this was a very different flavor combination, I don't think I have even seen dill used in Asian cuisine. Another little Flushing stall hawking very nicely made steamed dumplings, worth checking out.

135-08 Roosevelt Ave A4
Flushing, NY 11354
(917) 834-4991

Little Pepper: Feel the burn

Down the stairs we went, following the peppers in the window. Our waiter boasted of the chefs talents and of the braised fish dish that had been written up in the NY Times. He was not wrong. The flakey swai fish was amazing in a fiery pot of broth. We also ordered the wood ear mushrooms and pork. I would also highly recommend this dish, the funky looking mushrooms and pork came together with layered flavors and a kick of spice. The kitchen did a good job at toning down the spice for us, though there was enough to provide that szechuan mouth burn.

Note: they are moving in 3 months to 18-24 College Point Blvd
bigger location apparently, but that will be a big loss for this neighborhood