Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cabin Fever

It hasn't been real crappy, but it's still winter. Fighting the doldrums one fisticuff at a time, I think of summer moments, this one in particular:

Che Gruyere: May I have a slow gin fizz
Country Club Teen Waitress: ...?...
Che Gruyere: It's delicious

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Taking a Moment to Raise My Head from the Holiday Trough


Eating, drinking, and being merry has left my brain full of holiday mush, so how about a quick list of highlights?

1. Crown pork roast with cranberry apple stuffing. This was the second of my mother-in-law's pork contributions made special for the birth of our savior, the first being a ham fresh from a pastured piggy. Both renditions of the other white meat were incredible.

2. Egg nog. I'm getting really good at making this, and electric mixers procured from wedding registries only increase my awesome power. I've used this recipe for three years running, but I cut down on the booze to please the crowd (and keep booze on hand for those who prefer a little nog with their booze).

3. Buffalo chicken dip. Put the word "buffalo" in front of pretty much anything and I'll eat it. This was no exception.

4. Wii Monopoly. Simply shake the Wii remote and pray you don't land on Boardwalk when there's a hotel there. The game does the rest.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Guest Post: My Lucky Day

D-tron sez:

"I received a beautiful tin of cookies from one Mrs. Fidel Gastro. Chocolate chip and peanut butter with Hershey's kisses. They are delicious. And I mean it. If I had a dollar for every time I said that, I would have one dollar."

Today's Qdoba


Was actually Marathon Grill. In the four months I have been here, this was my first time patronizing the Philadelphia staple. The Cuban burger was a regrettable audible (I went in fully prepared to order chicken salad). The play on the Latin panini doesn't work with a hamburger patty in lieu of roast pork. D-tron's turkey burger with proscuitto was definitely the better option, and I was consumed with food envy.

Fidel: Hey D-tron, would you ever consider using your powers for evil?
D-tron: I don't think I'm programmed that way. Should we hog and jog?
Fidel: You mean dine and dash?
D-tron: Whatever. I'll go to the bathroom first.

Hogging and jogging ensues.*


*Actual events may not have included hogging and jogging. D-tron, thanks for lunch.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

This is a Christmas Miracle.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cheesesteak Tally

Pat's: 2
Geno's: 0
Delassandro's: 2
Steve's: 1
Street Meat: 3
Other: 4.5
Total: 12.5

Today I am eating a mushroom cheesesteak from a food cart over on 16th Street. I forget the name, but it's on the west side and close to Market. I know that "healthy cheesesteak" is an oxymoron, but this one has a "guiltless" taste to it (not a bad thing). It's almost as if I could eat three of them without filling up. Buen provecho.

Lunchtime stroll highlight: The junkie that stopped me to ask if "Holiday" has one or two "Ls" before he put sharpie to cardboard. Analog spell check. Brilliant.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Naptime, Willpower, and the Job Market


I just got back to the office with some mediocre sesame chicken from the Chinese food truck on the east side of 18th Street between JFK and Market. The dude in the cubicle next to me is enjoying a lunchtime nap, snoring loudly, mouth agape (camera phones: what can't they capture?). Considering the current job market, it's probably a real stupid idea to play chicken pong* with him, but boy is it hard to resist. Buen provecho.

*Chicken chunks are the ping pong balls, his mouth is the cup. If I succeed in making the shot, hilarity ensues.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gift Baskets

Amidst all the layoffs, party cancellations, and doorbuster stampedes, gift baskets manage to survive. The first of a hopeful many showed up at the office doorstep today, and so far I've eaten a half of a sweet sorpressata link, one eighth of an asiago cheese wheel, and a teeny tiny chocolate and hazelnut truffle. But, since nobody else seems to be interested, it's likely I'll take the whole thing down myself. Buen provecho.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Buffalo Wings?

Although they're dubbed with the same name as the bar food staple, the only thing Coyote Crossing's interpretation shares is the chicken part. The deep fryer is replaced with the slow cooker (or an oven set to low), Frank's Red Hot is replaced with god-knows-what-but-holy-shit-it's-delicious (my first guess would have to be a modified mole sauce), and the blue cheese is replaced with sour cream. The result is a tender treat that requires zero effort to wrest from a stubborn bone. As the chicken melts in your mouth, spice and sweet battle each other until you finally have to swallow. It's enough to make you forget about those other buffalo wings. Buen provecho.

Coyote Crossing is nestled among the blue collar townhomes of Conshohocken, PA. In addition to delicious ass wings, their margaritas and entrees do not disappoint. And if dancing's your thing, DJ Strike spins on Friday nights (but both times we have been there, the place was deserted).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Today's Qdoba


Queso burrito with pork, corn salsa, hot salsa, pico de gallo. It may well have been a Top 25 burrito.

D-tron sez, "Don't put my face on the internets."

I say, "Shut up and eat your burrito. Would you hand me a napkin?"

Fist fighting ensues.*


*Actual fist fighting may not have occurred.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Neat Little Bows

I watched National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets last night (and you can punch me in the face for that). Despite Nic Cage's uncanny resemblance to a burn victim, I enjoyed it. Not so much for the shitty CG and lightning fast puzzle solving, but more for the fact that I knew a happy ending was inevitable, and with it a full update of the characters post-denouement. Way to go, Disney.

Surprise!

I'm 95% sure that the cart guy on 17th and Market put pastrami instead of bacon on my breakfast hoagie. I'm 100% sure that we're on to something here. There's a place in Salt Lake City called Crown Burger whose signature sandwich is a cheeseburger topped with pastrami. If you subscribe to the "everything's better with bacon" maxim (and if you actually put bacon on everything), I recommend spending a week trying this out with pastrami. It will change your life (or kill you). Buen provecho.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Worst Snack Ever

As a man on the move, sometimes life hands me lemons and I'm too busy to make lemonade. Having less than a moment to spare between pointless meetings that didn't require my presence, I grabbed a pretzel hot dog yesterday. Holy shit was it shitty. The dough wasn't fully cooked around the pretzel, so I alternated crunching and chewing a pretzel that literally tasted like cardboard (I took a bite of a cardboard box when I got home just to test the palate). As a young boy, I ate moldy bread thinking that the bluish spores were berries. I'd take the moldy bread any minute of any hour of any day over the pretzel hot dog that's probably still making its way through me now. Buen provecho.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Cheesesteak Tally

Pat's: 2
Geno's: 0
Delassandro's: 2
Steve's: 1
Street Meat: 2
Other: 4.5
Total: 11.5

Having Ma and Pa Gastro in town (stay tuned for a report on all the misadventures) gives just cause to eating Philadelphia's signature sandwich more than once, especially since they decided to stay for an entire week (yes, a whole week). Last night's choice was Chubby's, a place directly across the street from Delassandro's, who happen to be closed Sundays. Great fries, above average steak (the meat has a great seasoning), but the fake Cheez Whiz took it down a couple notches. Buen provecho.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Top Five, er, Four Sandwiches

Today, over crepes at the crepe place next to Giwa, D-tron pulled out a huge gun (like the one in the Clint Eastwood movie), pointed it at my head, and made me name my five favorite sandwiches. Sadly, I could only name four, but since D-tron didn't really have a huge gun, I was still standing after lunch. Any suggestions for number 5?

Top 5:
1. Cheesesteak (duh)
2. Fat Knight (similar to the Fat Darrel, which is now copyrighted by Darrel himself, because he's a paper chaser. Hell, I'd do the same)
3. Croque Monsieur
4. Chicken Parm
5. __________

Oh yeah, the crepe place was the kind of place you'd go with your Rittenhouse Square living grandmother (if you had one). Our waitress, even though (s)he looked like Grace Jones, was about as nice as you can be while still keeping it authentique. My overpriced crepe was topped with an over-fried egg whose yolk was more mealy than oozy. The crepe itself had the right sponginess, but overall, it lacked that certain je ne sais quoi that satiates you. I wanted to order another one, but fearing the wrath of faux-Grace Jones (and realizing my lunch hour was almost up), I left hungry. If you're in the mood for a snack or a light lunch (but not a quick one), I'd say go ahead and give it a try. But if you're hungry, you should opt for one of the top 4 above. Buen provecho.

Friday, November 21, 2008

You Want Fries With That?


With great risk comes great reward (or the loss of your tailored french cuffed Brooks Brothers shirt), and a perfect demonstration of this can be found here. In my case, I think I'm just trying to make my junk food more efficient.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Beefsteak Post Script

Yep, that's vanilla ice cream over tenderloin. A more literal interpretation of the hot beef sundae.

Beefsteak Redux


When the cold winds blow in from the north (or when James googles "beefsteak dinner"), the beefsteak-as-fundraiser season is upon us. Last year's outing left us begging for more, and even the recent move to Philadelphia couldn't prevent me from taking in another beefsteak as soon as I got the chance. With my expectations boiling over, I recruited a fellow glutton to join me on the two hour drive to Verona, NJ, for the Broken Arrow District Boy Scouts of America Annual Beefsteak Dinner. If you think that's a mouthful, have a gander at the (crappy) pictures.

This year proved to be a much more muted affair compared to last, although I'm certain the beer was much more abundant this time around. I imagine this windfall can be blamed on those in attendance, a sparse crowd with a median age of 49. And while the Verona Community Center was a nice facility, the low ceilings and dim lights added to the "4pm dinnertime at the nursing home" ambience. Thankfully, nobody tried to give us the wrong pills or steal our wallets. I'm getting off topic here. Back to the food, which was catered by Nightingale, the original beefsteak catering service since the 1930s. We were running a bit late (Che was even later), and by the time we arrived, the tenderloin was making its final rounds. Thankfully, the two waiters circling the dining room concetrated their efforts on our table, and before we knew it, our plates were piled almost a foot high with buttery tenderloin and crispy freedom fries. It was enough to satisfy, but not enough to make us sick, which was a bit of a disappointment, especially because the final hour of the event did not have a comedy hypnotist to help the food settle. Instead, there were some pretty crappy raffles, made only crappier by DG's preference for statistics over gambling (he put all his tickets into one basket). As the crowd shuffled out, making it awkward for us to stick around and drink, we figured it was time for us to do the same. We were graciously thanked by the organizers for showing up, who were quite surprised that their beefsteak had attendees from both NYC and Philadelphia. We thanked them back by taking beers for the road. Until next year's carnage, buen provecho.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How Dry I Am

The food dehydrator is up and running. The first desiccation? Beef jerky, of course. Sadly, the meat was too thin and I slept too long and I wound up with brittle shards of cure. This was unfortunate until I had my first bite, which was a spicy and salty punch in the face. The marinade concentrated itself into what was left of the meat, providing an intense flavor that whisked me away to my days backpacking through the wilderness*.

The best part? It's so easy to make. A bowl of soy sauce, liquid smoke, red pepper flakes, and any other rugged ingedients you can dream up. The worst part? Waiting the 24 plus 12 hours to get to the finished product, but that beats the old timey days when it took the better part of a week AND you had to worry about wild animals all up in your business, potentially eating not just the jerky, but your face to boot.


*actual backpacking may not have occurred

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cheesesteak Tally

I've decided to tally the number of cheesesteaks I will eat as long for as this blog remains active. If anyone can show me how to install a sidebar graphic, I'll buy you a cheesesteak. Without further ado, here's a rough count broken down by venue:

Pat's: 1
Geno's: 0
Delassandro's: 2
Steve's: 1
Street Meat: 2
Other: 3

Total: 9

Today I went with mushroom, american, hot sauce, and ketchup from a cart called "Breakfast N' Lunch" on 18th and Market. Big roll, but not enough meat to fill it, even with the addition of canned mushrooms, which could have already spent a day out of the can. Perfectly acceptable for four bucks. Buen provecho.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fresh My Ass

Dear Baja Fresh,
Please cook your rice. Please rotate your salsa stock. Please instruct your cashiers not to cough into their hands behind the counter. Please melt the cheese on my "enchilado style" burrito. Please tell your cooks to stop giving me dirty looks through the pick-up window. Please do not ever again serve the pile of crap that I ingested this past Sunday. In other words, please do your best to give a shit about what you serve. If you can't, then please take the word "fresh" out of your name.

Regards,
Fidel

Friday, November 07, 2008

Channeling Victorino

A combination of honeymoon nostalgia, leftover brown rice, and a transplanted Hawaiian World Series champion were all the inspiration I needed to make my own Spam musubi. Hate if you must, but only if you've already tasted it. You will be pleasantly surprised at the richness of the meat and how well it marries with the brick of sushi rice below. I think the secret could be the sauce that the Spam gets hit with at the end of cooking. Soy, mirin, and sugar give it a sweetness that makes you forget you're eating canned meat. Be careful with the sugar, though. I overdid it last night and had a bitch of a time cleaning the molasses out of my egg pan. Also, most recipes call for a musubi maker, a plexiglass box with a plunger used to make these culinary cubes. Lacking this special tool, I went McGuyver on that ass and used the empty Spam can. Buen Provecho.

Spam Musubi

1 small tin of Spam, cut into 1/4 inch slices and then halved
3 cups cooked short grain rice cooled to room temperature (I used brown rice)
1 sheet of nori, cut into inch slices
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sugar (this turned out to be too much. A tablespoon should do)

Combine the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, fry the Spam (no oil needed) until browned on both sides. At the end of cooking, pour in the soy sauce mixture and use tongs to coat the slices. Remove from heat. If you have a musubi maker, fill with rice, plunge away, top with Spam, and wrap in nori. Repeat until finished with rice and Spam. You can also form the cubes yourself, or use the empty Spam can.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I Sure Do Love a Good Bender

The amazingness that was last week (after pretty much the best weekend of my life):

Monday: A ticket to the World Series. Like a hypoxic mountaineer just steps from the summit of Everest, I deluded myself into the notion that the game would go on. Prior to the cats and dogs, however, I finally had the Schmitter, which I've been meaning to try since I heard some jerk talk about it during the cleanse. It sets itself apart from the ubiquitous cheesesteak by adding fried tomato, salami, and russian dressing, and to rationalize the gluttony, it's served on a kaiser roll. Sadly, my high expectations were met with disappointment, more than likely because it was a windy 40 degrees at the stadium, so the whole thing was cold after the first bite. I refuse to give up, though, and thankfully, the establishment that created the Schmitter just so happens to be in my neighborhood.

Wednesday: After unloading my ticket to a neurotic Indian, Mrs. Gastro and I joined the Gastro-in-laws for cheesesteaks from Delassandro's (my new 2nd favorite cheesesteak) and cheese fries from Chubby's (near and far, nothing compares to Pat's cheese fries, but these are in the ballpark). Unlike Pat's and Geno's, the steak is of the chopped variety, and there's a pile of it three feet high on the grill at any given time of day, so even if you call it in, they don't make it until you show up. Not exactly cooked to order. I think the beef could have used a little more salt, but I numbed my tongue with cherry peppers to cope with this. After dinner, the fightin' Phils won the World Series, which meant a stroll down Manayunk's Main Street, and more whiskey and colas than necessary, partly because of this, but primarily because I turned 30.

Thursday: Visit number four to Qdoba (please don't remind me that I hated the first visit. I know), which I've dubbed the pork burrito visit (and every fourth time from here on out, I will get pork). The assembly line put double of everything on it, and the result was a two pound behemoth that I probably shouldn't have finished. Then again, I probably shouldn't have drank my face off the night before.

Friday: A day off from work and a Wawa hoagie. If you don't know, I feel sorry for you. In the evening, a novelty costume and too much Red Bull. It usually doesn't work, but this time I was screaming at everyone I was with and laughing like a stupid banshee. My apologies to all who were with me.

Saturday: Just like the man upstairs, I saw that it was all good, so I finally got some rest. And some Chinese take-out.

Bender complete. Buen Provecho.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Muchas Gracias

To all those that had a hand in this past weekend's sorpresa, especially Mrs. Gastro, I am thankful to have such great friends and family. It was the best birthday ever. I love you guys.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Buffalo Chicken Shitsteak

Dear Cosimo's Pizza,

You have three options; either replace the hot sauce with something that doesn't taste like apple cider (Frank's Red Hot isn't that difficult to come by), take the damn thing off the menu, or change the name to "dessert steak." And after you've made your decision, bring us the cheese sauce you owe us from last night's botched order of cheese fries. Jerks.

Regards,
Mr. and Mrs. Fidel Gastro

Monday, October 13, 2008

In a Word, Opulence

A dear friend of mine was married this past weekend. I think he outdid everyone I know by having a lobster station at the cocktail hour. A pile four feet high, a professional short order shucker slanging tail and clawmeat by the dishful, and a vat of drawn butter. I haven't eaten that much lobster since, well, ever.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood


Rather than seek out new and interesting places to try (last night would have been an ideal night for a sports bar to watch the Phillies jonron their way out of a two run deficit), we settled for Applebee's, which makes sense because it's the halfway point between us and the in-laws, and also where our waiter was kind enough to let us order half price appetizers before 9pm. Problem is, when you're getting such a sweet deal (yes, even if you're eating mounds of heavily salted carcinogens, it's still a sweet deal), you could completely render the deal null and void by ordering way more than you need. This is exactly what my fat ass did, and between four people, we managed to rack up $100 worth of food and drink. At Applebee's. That's like spending more than five bucks at taco bell. Buen provecho.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Forged in the Flames of Cheese Sauce


I think every burrito deserves a second chance, especially when the restaurant queue makes its way out the door. After Qdoba served me a burrito both soggy and dry (in all the wrong places), I lowered my expectations and joined D-tron for another go, this time ordering one of their signature burritos, the Chicken Queso. Professor D opted for the Vegetarian Gumbo.

With long lines at the outset, you're subject to table-lurking. Fortunately for me, D-tron scored us a seat while my receipt printed, most likely by giving someone his signature "ice grill."

So here we were, me tearing the burrito foil back, and he already slurping what appeared to be a delicious bowl of soup and rice. The Chicken Queso burrito is made proprietary by a ladle of cheese sauce (canned or otherwise, cheese sauce is like a warm blanket on a cold day. Sadly, if you dipped yourself in cheese sauce to stay warm, once it congealed, you'd be pretty cold, plus you'd look like a real dumbass). Too bad the ladle was more of a tablespoon, and I couldn't really taste it among the hunk of rice and assorted spoofuls of beans, sour cream, chicken, and salsa. Overall, nothing new and innovative. Then again, with my expectations hovering near "this will be a shitty lunch but what the hell," getting a Chipotle replica turned out to be exactly what I wanted. Admit it, if you couldn't get Pat's for some reason, you'd make your way over to Geno's. Assembly line burritos are just plain good (if you can manage to properly cook the rice), whether they start with a Q, a C, or anything in between. And how was the gumbo? Well, you'll have to ask D-tron, but watch out for the "ice grill." Buen provecho.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Food Cart Take Two

Continuing my "Cart for a Day" themed Thursday, the falafel couple outside the 7-11 on 15th and JFK makes a delicious, albeit messy, falafel burrito (I call it a burrito because the pita is thin like a tortilla). Their falafel balls are not of the crunchy on the outside and dry on the inside variety. They have more of an all around chewy consistency, like a savory munchkin, or a potato croquette from Sal's in Carroll Gardens (Google it and order a few. They're the shit). The hummus is silky smooth, and the vegetables are fresh (unlike a certain food truck I've written about in the past). The only complaint is that it's not really lunch-size, but it's too big to be a snack. At $3.50, it should quell the hunger, no? And I'd overdo it with two, not to mention the fact that I'd be spending seven bucks on a meal from a cart. These things will have to be ironed out in the future, as I'm certain that I will return. Oh yeah, and these guys didn't dump ketchup all over my lunch, like that fucker from this morning. Buen provecho.

Broken Breakfast

Dear Toothless Food Cart Vendor,

The order was "bacon, egg, and cheese; salt, pepper, hot sauce." Please do not presume that I want half a bottle of ketchup as well. The only thing worse than ketchup on eggs is purple ketchup on eggs. That, or maybe eating a tin of skoal.

Regards,
Fidel

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Live Strong

Lance coming out of retirement to cycle with a message? Or could it be the fact that li'l Phelpsy-poo stole Armstrong's thunder as the world's greatest athlete? Seven Tours vs. Eight medals. The timing's a bit fishy, no?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Qdo(n't)ba


Singular reader, I believe you are well versed on my little Chipotle problem. Not having one within lunching radius, I resort to Qdoba, whose similar burrito stylings I sampled today. The verdict in question form:

Would it kill you to keep an eye on the rice? Every single bite was a soggy and mushy mess. I could swear that it was minute rice, and if I paid a bum $5 to dig through the trash at the end of the day, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a surfeit of empty red boxes intermingled with the avocado skins.

The pork? An arid desert of flavorless flesh. It's doubtful that a grain of salt even made it on the loin.

The salsa? The corn offering's corn component was undercooked, and the spicy offering tasted more like ketchup.

Three strikes, Qdoba, and you're out (but I will likely go there again tomorrow to try out the chicken burrito and cross my fingers that the rice won't be a disaster). Buen Provecho.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Flipping the Script

This is freakin' amazing. I wish Nebraska was a little bit closer.

Dinner in Hell

Google "Rachael Ray is the devil" and you'll come up with pages upon pages of results. Sadly, I couldn't find the original article I was looking for; it had a wonderfully childish picture of Ms. Ray adorned with a goatee, two slits for eyes, and horns (my favorite likeness of the Prince(ss) of darkness). Getting to the point, which is not "Satan lives among us," rather, it's that I bought my wife a subscription to Everyday with Rachael Ray, and I was pleasantly surprised with one of the recipes, the Pita Salad. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Channeling Alice Waters, the recipe calls for local produce that's available at the end of the summer, tossed with a light dressing of lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil (or EVOO in devilspeak). An added dimension of crunch comes from pita bread that has been baked in the oven for 10 minutes. It's the perfect meal for when you go play squash before the grocery store, then spend too much time at the grocery store because the grocery store's changing from a SuperFresh to a PathMark and you can't find anything, then get in a nonsensical fight that lasts longer than it should, and finally you arrive at dinner way past 9pm. On a weeknight. Buen Provecho (or Yum-O! in devilspeak).

Pita Salad for 2:
1/2 head of romaine lettuce
1/2 red pepper
2 tomatoes
1 cucumber
2 pitas, cut into eighths
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Small garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Bake the pita in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in a big bowl. Chop all the vegetables and toss with dressing. Add pita and toss again. The recipe also called for fresh mint and fresh parsley, but we skipped both because our grocery store's herb selection sucks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Aqua Fit and LA Fitness Rant


I have nobody to blame but myself for not checking the class schedule, but would it really be that difficult to keep at least one swim lane open during water aerobics? Furthermore, this no towel service thing is a flippin' joke. How can you have a pool and no towel service? It's like starting a fire knowing that there's no water around to put it out. And finally, I understand that demographics require the location to be in a strip mall, but please do not go on and on about making a commitment to fitness and then park yourselves a hundred feet from imminent and slow death by processed foods. LA Fitness, you get a C-. Barely.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

How I Spent Last Weekend

Perusing the pits of this year's Red Bull Soap Box Race in Manayunk, I'm kicking myself for my general lack of initiative. On the other hand, spectating from a covered porch doesn't suck too much. I'm nearing the end of my ability to drink for 14 hours straight and then function in the days following, but much like Brett Favre, it's hard to give up the things you love, no matter how much abuse you may have to endure.

Some of the takeaways/highlights:

1. Philadelphians don't fuck around. Even in the midst of a hurricane, the event was chock full of blue collar/white collar/popped collar spectators, most likely in attendance for any potential carnage.

2. If you're bringing beer in your cargo pockets, make sure your shorts have a belt.

3. Emergency rain ponchos are pretty freakin' sweet.

4. My wife is an amazing beer pong player.

5. I'm pretty sure I agreed to an ultimate frisbee league. If you see me on the street, you're totally allowed to punch me.

6. The tie that binds is always John Cusack films. Better Off Dead is my personal favorite.

7. If indeed you decide to make the commitment to a 14 hour drinking day, be sure to end it with a cheesesteak and cheese fries, and if you can't balance on your own, don't be a hero and try to put others to bed.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wearing Dockers...And Loving Every Minute of It

Flat front and olive in color, everything's coming up Fidel with my new pair of Dockers. Boy, I really need to find myself someplace to eat.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Aftermath

Instead of eating vegetable soup and maintaining a raw diet, I've gone the way of the kid with the crusty moustaches on the Wendy's commercial and made the personal choice to become a meatatarian. To be more exact, I went on a mild food and liquor marathon, stopping only to refill my plate and/or glass with very bad food (bad in the sense that any cleansing that may have happened is now null and void). Presently, I'm tapering off, but it was hard to say no to the enormous chafing dish filled with corned beef hash this fine morning.

(I promise to get back to better reviews, dear reader. I apologize for this drivel. Stay tuned for something much more interesting than the breakfast buffet at the Rochester Courtyard by Mariott and their offering of made-to-order eggs)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Back to Zero

So I bailed early. Twelve hours early, to be exact, but only because this weekend is Labor Day, which means I'll be called back to the grill to prepare an assortment of perfectly seasoned and seared animal flesh. I want to have enough time to prepare my intestines for the binge that will likely ensue. And what was it like to have something other than sweet lemon on my tastebuds? In a word: glorious. Variety is truly the spice of life. And eating. I also snuck a few bites of the vegetable soup I'll be eating today (and that of which I presently reek).

At the end of it all, I feel amazing, and the added bonus is that I lost 20lbs, so I can put the elastic pants back in the closet. If you can shut the world off AND you can make food your enemy for 10 days, I highly recommend taking the plunge. When you're done, pat yourself on your newly flat tummy and smile. Buen Provecho.

Vegetable Soup Recipe:
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
2 potatoes, quartered
3 carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 long hot pepper, or any hot pepper, sliced
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Sweat the onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil until onions are translucent, about 3 mins. Add the rest of your vegetables and spices, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer the fuck out of it (an hour or so).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Resolve

Take note: traveling and cleansing do not play nice in the sandbox. Yet another test of wills yesterday as I got stuck in the conference room seat directly in front of the bagels, and subsequently, the sandwiches. But today is the last day of this torture. I'm a little disappointed at the amount of weight loss, but I think that's more a function of the fact that I became such a fat shit. Alas, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right?

Mental status: I'm no longer crazy, but I am a little angry
Tummy status: Ready to eat buffalo wings, tomato pie, cheesesteak, pizza, chicken parm, soup dumplings, and pork fried rice all in one sitting (and wash it down with an assortment of beers, including Miller Lite).
Energy level: Still way up, although it was tough getting out of bed this morning.

Tomorrow I drink orange juice and eat vegetable soup. I'm accelerating the reintroduction of food (which could be bad), but I'm flippin' starving. See you on the other side. Buen provecho.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Numb

Like the frostbitten mountaineers less than one hundred feet from the peak of Everest, I have become devoid of feeling. And poop. The morning hums along and I am literally empty. Last night I played squash for the first time in three months. I was surprised that I didn't pass out from lack of food. I was not surprised that I flailed about the court and generally sucked the big one. No ball control, poor T management, flat feet. It was all wrong. Luckily the new club has no court fees and is seemingly uncrowded (6 courts and 138 members), so I can catch up on much needed practice. Getting back to the cleanse, I'm starting to wonder what will happen in it's wake. Will I submerge myself in a grease-laden sea of fast food? Or will I follow Mr. Burroughs' hippie ass advice and only eat raw? I wish I could subscribe to the Marc McGehan diet: rice and beans and more rice. One thing is for sure. I'm definitely going to get shitfaced. Buen provecho.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Six Down, Four to Go

This weekend was a severe test of wills as I watched my brother-in-law Wii bowl a 300 and had to pass on the congratulatory round of shots. I also had to pass on a pile of grilled burgers, charred hot dogs, red potato salad, soft pretzels with cheese sauce, and about fifty Miller Lites. It was my own personal vision quest, and leaving the party left me with a new resolve to ride this thing out. It also left me really fucking bitter and hungry. But we're getting ever closer to that steamy bowl of vegetable soup, and I feel better than I've felt in a long time. It's good to clean yourself out every now and again, if for nothing else than to reunite with your beloved foodstuffs at the end of your journey.

(You may note that I'm going completely crazy. I could have sworn I was hallucinating the other day. I've had the mouth of a sailor. And I'm even enjoying the musical stylings of Li'l Wayne. God help me)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Road Show

I'm not hungry at all. That's a goddamned lie. There's a bowl of M&Ms sitting on the receptionist's desk less than 12 feet away from me. I'm ready to give it all up for a couple of chocolatey crunches. Seriously. I think this is my first test of willpower, and it's getting mucked up by the fact that I'm back in NYC and I've already thrown back the quart of juice I brought along and I'm 7 hours away from another sip of sweet, sweet lemonade. This must be how bees feel on their way to the flowers, feverishly flapping their ricepaper wings in order to keep their stripey fat asses aloft. That makes no sense at all. Oh well, forget it. I'm going to drink some water and hope that Jesus will give me strength enough to make it through the rest of the workday. Buen Provecho.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sleepwalking

The evening tea requirement is starting to interfere with my slumber. I was once again jarred from sleep to take care of business, which now resembles boogers. Clearly (no pun), there's little left on my insides. I'm starting to battle hunger, be it the commuter with a sack of McDonald's on the way home, or just the morning walk from the train through a food court, where the smell of bagels braids itself with my nose hairs. In a couple days time, they say the hunger's supposed to subside. I can see it getting worse, especially as we go into the weekend, when drinking all day is not only acceptable but also encouraged (I encourage myself to drink during the day and I find it acceptable). I've a few days to mentally prepare for the temptation, but until then, I raise my glass of lemonade to all you eaters and readers. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yellow is the New Brown

I honestly thought that I would be chugging this "lemonade," since it's the only thing I can consume other than water (and Philly water, if you've ever had it, has the faint flavor of cigarette butts), but after a hair past 24 hours, my teeth are starting to hurt. I think I'll have to up the brushing to more than a few times a week.

Moving along to other fun changes my body is going through, the other end is now dispensing liquids instead of solids, although a few did sneak out a 4am this morning as a result of the herbal tea I drank before bed. Surprisingly, there hasn't been much action aside from each morning's "internal bath." The upshot is that I get to catch up on some reading.

No major hunger to speak of, but we're early on. Plus, I'm pretty sure I ate enough to hibernate for most of the winter, so my reserves are pretty full.

Stay tuned for more updates, and enjoy your food, because I can't.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Today (actually last night) is the beginning of my first foray into the world of "cleansing." Yes, I talked heaps and piles of doggy doo when a friend of my wife went through with it. I couldn't possibly understand why someone other than those shitheads in Hollywood would put themselves through such torture. And then hearing that it was a way to purify the body, well then you might as well blast some Yanni and kick your own ass. Almost a year later, I'm eating my words instead of eating food, and every now and again taking an internal bath (use your imagination), so as to purify my own body. My gustatory excesses over the last few months have left me 20 pounds heavier and quite unhappy with my overall health. So for the next ten days, like it or not dear 2 readers, I'm going to wear out my backside and give you all the clinical details in the most creative way possible. That way we can all hopefully return to the happier days of enjoying the food instead of just cramming it in my piehole and then being pissed off that I ate so much. Wish me luck.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sapporo Me Another One

The continuation of the caloric onslaught that marks my final days in NYC led me to Go last night, normally a late night beer fueled glutton fest, but this time for dinner a little earlier on. After multiple beers with an old boss and a gallery opening curated by a professional sailor, what better way to end the night than with a plate of octopus balls and dynamite yaki (okonomiyaki with kimchi), and of course some more goddamn beers? Here's what I've learned after multiple visits, including this, the final one:

1. The sushi here sucks, so don't get it. You're better off eating poison straight from the box. In fact, you should only order from the laminated menu with the grill specials. That means octopus balls, any of the pancake options, and fish sausage stuffed with cheese.

2. They're only open at night, but they're open late. I would say that the later you go, the better the food tastes.

3. Drowning whatever's in front of you in mayonnaise is always a good (delicious) idea.

4. The service is pretty crappy, but I probably wouldn't give a shit either if I was serving some drunk round-eye.

5. I'm hung over.

Buen Provecho.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bookends

As my Brooklyn days dwindle, I am ever eager to cram as much food in my mouth from as many locations as possible. Hovering in between nostalgia and consistency, my lovely wife and I decided on a final meal at Joya, which was actually the first place I dined upon landing in Cobble Hill. Remember that you are Joya, and to Joya you shall return.

The place is an all-around slam dunk. You get cheap ass food, local artwork, the owner's in a band, minimalist decor, and an 8 out of 10 on the service scale. If it weren't for the crowds, we'd probably eat there more often. Unfortunately, last night's food missed the mark. Maybe that's too much of a blanket statement. It was the Pad Thai (white man's Thai) and the warm beer that put the rest of what was on the table in vertigo. There was way too much plum sauce, giving the dish an unbearable sweetness that lingered far too long in your mouth, and the noodles themselves had the rubbery consistency of poorly cooked calamari. Aside from this unfortunate mishap (really the centerpiece of our meal), the rest was delicious, although the whole fish I ordered was filleted such that I spent a lot of time deboning. Moving on to dessert (which put me over the edge and made me want to deliver a food baby), we opted for the fried banana. Take a note, readers, skip the appetizer to save room for this masterpiece. It's a banana spring roll surrounded by neapolitan ice cream. The fried wrapper adds a savory note to the pile of cream and sugar, and it's a perfect ending to what is usually a perfect meal.

Overall, one hell of a goodbye meal. And for $50 all in, including booze, it's still the best value in Cobble Hill when it comes to Thai food. As a pair of bookends, I bid you adieu, Joya. I hope our paths can cross again, and soon. Buen Provecho.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What Do You Want on Yer Tombstone?

Readers (all two of you):

As you may know, I will be relocating to Philadelphia shortly (less than a week to be exact). While I certainly look forward to everything that Stephen Starr has to offer, including his Atlantic City offering of French Onion Soup Dumplings, I leave New York City with a heavy heart. I have started what I hope to be a long string of suggestions for a final meal over on Serious Eats. Nothing's too outlandish, but try and stay within the constraints. Buen Provecho.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Nobody Reads This Anyway

But I'm sorry for the literary lag here. Special updates of note to whet your appetite (for desctruction):

Five Guys still has the best burger. Goodburger (home of the goodburger) has the right idea, but next time I'll refrain from getting "The Works." Ketchup, mustard, and mayo on the same sandwich is like the suicide fountain soda (all the sodas available). It only sounds like a good idea.

I took my wife to Saul for her birthday. Holy shit was it good. The tagliatelle first course had everything I would never think to ask for in a pasta dish: bacon, poached egg, and a silky broth that tasted like a meat smoothie (that's a good thing). Follow that up with sweetbreads atop an Indian-inspired pile of potatoes and pickled cauliflower, a pale ale pairing, and you've got the best meal on Smith Street (sorry, The Grocery).

I've spent the last two weeks eating more than 3,000 calories per day. It's very hard to sustain that much sustenance.

There was a pig roast at 3rd Ward on July 20th. I didn't go.

That's all for a week or so. Buen Provecho.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh Shit


Dear Tom Mylan,
Please forgive me and my inability to cook pork. I feel as though it should be me engulfed in flames and not these spare ribs, not these chops.



Again, terribly sorry for thinking I actually knew what I was doing. Buen Provecho.

Kind Regards,
Fidel

Friday, July 11, 2008

Not Roger. Not even close.

Dear Stand-in for Roger the Bartender at Camp,
I understand that every now and again you have to have a cigarette. Smoking is cool. But if it's 6:55 and the 2-for-1 happy hour special ends at 7, you should not hang out post-smoke until 7:15 and screw my darling wife and I out of a free brew doggie. Furthermore, we sat patiently while you bullshitted with a dude that by most people's standards would be considered a douchebag. That in and of itself should qualify us for one on the house. You can have the tip money, but the next time you're behind the bar, we'll keep walking.

Regards,
Mr. and Mrs. Gastro

Monday, July 07, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Other White Meat


"You know all those assholes that don't get out of the way when you're trying to get on the subway? And all those crowds on the street? And the fucking UPS guy? Every last one of them used to cure meat. It's just how it used to be done."

Or something like that. Tom Mylan is a genius, a history buff, and a goddamned good butcher. By day, the carving artist is behind the scenes at Marlow & Sons, Diner, and Bonita. In the evening, he's a moonlighting educator at The Brooklyn Kitchen, where you can witness the miracle of turning a whole hog (actually a side) into chops, belly, jowls, loin, and yet even more cuts that I am unfortunately ignorant about.



The whole process takes a little under two hours, beginning with an espresso, and finishing with sauteed pork kidney. Along the way, you learn about each cut of meat, the best way to cook it, and trade secrets that you may or may not have read in The Omnivore's Dilemma (I'm certain that all 10 of us in attendance gave it a recent read). For instance, I learned that there's only two hanger steaks to a cow, meaning that if you and your date both get steak frites at your local bistro, you might as well eat the whole cow. Food for thought indeed. It's not only a lesson in butchery, but also sustainability.



What I love about the grassroots approach of programs like this is that the people running the show love what they do, and want nothing more than to share that joy with the masses. It sounds corny, but it's true. I felt like an amateur throughout the process, but in the end I was given all the tips I needed to make sure that the 8 pounds of pork that I walked away with (triple cut chops, belly, and ribs) were put to good use. Buen Provecho.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dispatch from Philadelphia

Does a cheesesteak taste better when it's prepared in a stainless steel cart by an old man with a glass eye (at this point you should also ask yourself if a bear does you know what where)? Of course it does. But it's not the glass eye that improves the taste. It's actually the care with which the sandwich is prepared and the smiling service. It also helps to be in Philadelphia, where the bread is nothing short of a miracle, and the meat is grilled on a surface that has seen thousands of pounds of meat. Buen provecho.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Try Again Beca

Dear Nancy Whiskey Pub,
Why must you tarnish your perfectly cooked chicken wings with jarbecue sauce (barbecue sauce from a jar)? Please advise.

Regards,
Fidel

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sometimes You Can't Depend on the Kindness of Strangers

Dear New Bartender at Lobo,

Quite frankly, you suck. Please don't quit your day job. Although after last night's performance, I doubt you could be good at anything. In what I consider to be a free country, why are we not allowed to have a $5 happy hour margarita at the bar and then sit at a table for dinner? We would have even been generous with the tippage. Instead, you get zero, which is what you deserved after being such a jerk, and to add insult to injury, your margarita skills are worse than Mr. and Mrs. T. Thank goodness the rest of the staff is consistently stellar. As for you, I hope your days at Lobo are numbered.

Regards,
Fidel

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Iced Crappy

Dear Au Bon Pain in Metrotech Center,

Your iced coffee tastes like dirty water. I was dangerously close to vomiting after a single sip. I would think it wise to cease and desist your miserable iced coffee operation and stick to asiago cheese bagels.

Regards,
Fidel

Monday, June 02, 2008

Tailgating



If burgers and budweisers aren't your thing for pre-game eats, Jackson Diner offers a great alternative right off the 7 train. Don't let the name fool you, the cuisine is Indian, and it's worth leaving a bit early to make a pit stop before Shea (although I did find it to be overpriced).

Located in a strip mall that offers everything from cell phones to Saris, Jackson Diner's sprawling dining room seems better fit for a monsoon wedding than a tailgate, but the Taj Mahal beer offers common ground, and even though there were no blue mountains on the label, the beer was just as crisp and refreshing as its rocky mountain alternative. After a few bottles to numb the tongue, start with samosas (classic) and paneer pakora (possibly classic, but nothing I've seen on Indian menus), and don't be shy with the green and brown sauce. The appetizers offer even more common ground due to the fact that they are deep fried. I imagine if we were tailgating at a cricket match, samosas and pakoras would be the snack of choice.

After a few piquant potato pockets and chewy cheese chunks, we ordered lamb korma, malai kofta, and chicken tikka makhanwala. To soak up the extra sauce, we ordered a couple of naan that were graciously divided for us to share (note: the garlic naan sucks unless you are in the vampire business). As much of a meat eater as I am, the clear winner of the three was the malai kofta, but I would have to say that it was all in the sauce. It had the appropriate amount of heat and it didn't stick with you, which allowed me to actually taste the other two dishes instead of giving me a numb tongue and a mouthful of spices that are supposedly exotic (even though I can get them at Met Food across the street). The korma and the tikka makhanwala (which I secretly hoped to be tikka masala with a different name) were both delicious, but definitely not life changing, and the portions were a little off. We had a ton of sauce left over once we finished the naan and the rice.

Overall, in Queens, each of these dishes were much spicier than any Manhattan counterpart, even in curry hill or curry row (although most of those places suck just as much as Jackson Diner's garlic naan). This could create issues once you're at the game, especially since the last place you want to be sitting is a wet seat smeared with muddy air force one footprints in the upper mezzanine toilet. If your stomach was not made for spicy food (i.e. you're a white boy), maybe stick to tailgating. Buen provecho.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chain Gang

Five Guys is currently at the top of my "Holy Shit That's a Great Burger" list. My recent visit more than makes up for the Burger King idiocy of a couple weeks ago. That's all for today. Buen Provecho.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Highlights

Turns out that it's real easy to grill on my roof. Shame on me for waiting three years to test the theory, especially since it was a piece of cake. The grill came from the Rite-Aid on the first floor, a steal at $7.99. At first glance, it was a true piece of shit, but it wound up making a mean burger and breast of chicken. Added bonus: Even with the wind doing its worst, I didn't set the roof on fire.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Craic That Whip

Wednesday night's guest bartending event taught me two things:

1. Irish folk are wicked philanthopic.

2. I have no friends.

Let this post serve as a "thanks a million" to the proprietors of Ceol Pub on Smith St. in Cobble Hill as well as a "thanks for nothing" to the jerks that didn't show up. You know who you are.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Misteak


If I took this picture, crumpled it up, and then stepped on it, it might resemble what I just ate. Regrettably, I took the subway two stops to the Chinatown outpost of Burger King, and ordered the Steakhouse burger. Now let us deconstruct it from top to bottom:

Bun: Off to a good start. Not smashed into the rest of the sandwich.

Mayo: The usual BK four tablespoons, but enough bun and lettuce to hold it together.

Lettuce: A few shavings, probably a 2 on the 1 to 5 scale.

Tomato: Two small slices. I guess the roma tomatoes were cheaper today.

Breaded and Fried Onions: A soggy mess. Too close to the A1 sauce.

A1 Sauce: A watered down version of the original. Tasted more like sweet and sour sauce.

Cheese: Winner in the "Ingredient That Tastes Most Like What it Should Taste Like" category.

Patty: One and a half times the size of the bun, but thin and dry with leathery edges.

Overall: Fidel, you're a dumbass for thinking this would taste any better because the commercials are funny. Buen provecho.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Timing is Everything

Dear Acne-Riddled Girl that Lives in Our Building,

No matter how much of a hurry you are in to reapply Proactiv solution to your already destroyed face, please refrain from taking our wet laundry from the washer and putting it on top of the dusty dryers. Or, better yet, please readjust your laundry schedule so as to not coincide with ours, because if this continues, there will be two hits: my wife hitting you, and you hitting the filth that we are forced to call a laundry room floor.

Warm Regards,
Mr. and Mrs. Fidel Gastro

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Wag, You

Dear Kobe Bryant,

Please kill yourself. I'm sorry, that's too harsh. Please do all you can to get a season ending injury.

Regards,
Fidel

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Becha Me Mucho

This is Rachel:





This is Rachel's lasagna:




Pictured above is my second helping. Sausage, bechamel, and homemade sauce worthy of a New York mafioso. And after the second helping, while the rest of the party played "Drink Fifty Tequila Shots in an Hour," I silently peeled back layer after layer of pasta, eating them like savory fruit roll ups. And when the sauce and sausage emerged, I picked out the little chunks of spiced ground pork and popped them like whoppers. I think there's no better compliment to the chef than sneaking more of the main course when you're not supposed to. In fact, I think that even after the lasagna made it into the fridge, I was still picking at it. I hope that nobody was counting on leftovers. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The State of Stadium Food

Recent developments in my career have allowed me the luxury of attending live sporting events, and I have made the following observations:

1. The closer you are to the field/glass/court, the better the access to chicken fingers. In fact, at field/glass/court level, you can even get sushi. However, my wife is the only person allowed to order sushi without being subject to endless ridicule and dirty looks. Time and place, people, time and place.

2. When other people pay for it, the beer tastes better. But no matter how delicious it may be, it's never a good idea to order 12 beers on someone else's tab, especially if you don't have the aisle seat.

3. This has nothing to do with food, but it should be noted that sporting events are no place for kids, unless your kids are allowed to drop the f-bomb at home and pick fights with people who wear the wrong jersey.

Buen Provecho.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bad Beer, Worse Food

Dear The Heartland Brewery on 51st and 6th

Boo and double Boo. Your light beer offering tasted like orange juice from concentrate that you get in the tiny cans on the airplane, and your cobb salad had no taste, even with such pungent ingedients like blue cheese. The chicken was definitely chicken flavored meat product, and the boiled eggs were definitely from a jar. Also, guacamole is for chips. Avocados are for cobb salads. If you don't know the difference between guacamole and a plain avocado, please go f**k yourself.

Kind Regards,
Fidel

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nachos Muchacho

Please be advised that Pete's Ale House in Brooklyn has the greatest nachos in the world. You get a perfect balance of cheese, chili, and chips, all of which are made even better when you get a jalapeno thrown in the mix. Pair it with a beer from their extensive draught selection (I recommend the Liberty Ale) and you've got the perfect accompaniment to the Mets-Phillies game, or the angry lady throwing menus across the dining room. Buen Provecho.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

French Food Hates Americans

Dear Provence en Boite,
Thank you very much for running out of cassoulet. The steak frites replacement was a real shit show. The cut of meat was way too big and way too greasy. Maybe it's my own fault for already having beef in the form of a pork roll burger for lunch. Regardless, I was disappointed. Furthermore, your service was a big pile of poo. I don't speak French, but I'm pretty sure "Could we get some water?" doesn't translate to "Please ignore us and our entrees presently drying under the heat lamp."

Regards,
Fidel

Monday, April 07, 2008

Roast Beef and Raffles

3rd Annual Claire Finley Memorial Beef and Beer
Warminster, PA
All you Can Eat and Drink: $30

The idea of a fundraiser centered around food is by no means a novelty. There's the pasta dinner, the bake sale, even the occasional young thug on the subway selling Snickers. If I were any sort of food philosopher, I would launch into food being the stuff of community, but I'm more of a glutton and a people watcher. If you're a like-minded individual, you ought to check out Philadelphia's version of last month's Beefsteak Dinner, the Beef and Beer, another tour de force of heavy eating and drinking, but this time with raffles and a disc jockey.

In lieu of butter soaked tenderloin on toast, the Beef and Beer offers chafing dish after chafing dish of slow roasted beef, fresh horseradish, baked ziti (aka "zeets"), and two kinds of potato salad, German, and the kind swimming in mayonnaise. And instead of helping yourself to Bud Light cans in strategically placed coolers, the Beef and Beer offers endless pitchers of Miller Lite, the best light beer ever created.

Once the belly's full (usually two to three plates piled high), one can attempt to burn calories by taking a stroll through the aisles created by the raffle baskets. Or, if the beer's doing what it's supposed to do, one can head straight to the dance floor. After a few songs, a giant candy bar shows up in the hands of the guy running the show (Gene Finely, brother of Claire, a real freakin' awesome dude), and the dance contest begins. Some dude took his shirt off, but it was the Asian breakdancer that walked away with the 5 lb. chocolate monstrosity after a flawlessly executed windmill.

And the evening rolls along. Line dancing, more beer, and finally, the basket raffles. Another year, another beef and beer. Thanks to my mother-in-law, not only did I get to stuff my face, but I was also blessed with having a designated driver. Much more than the raffles, the sense of community one observes at these events has to be the most rewarding take-away, and I hope I'm around next year and the year after that to be a part of it. Buen Provecho.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Cure


I love The Cease for being from the Midwest. I love his penchant for hard to injure quarterbacks and the irony of his lactardedness as a Wisconsinite. But his most redeeming quality has to be his ability to find an obscure foodstuff in an all too common location. The foodstuff of note this time around being the buzz meat La Quercia, a domestic porker available to purveyors only as a whole hog. Making local prosciutto has to significantly reduce the cured meat's carbon footprint, which is a grand thing for mother earth, but I was upset to see such a huge markup in Manhattan, where the premium (at Otto, natch) was double what I paid at The Jake Walk in Carroll Gardens ($5 for a single there as opposed to $10 in the big city). Granted, the fuel consumed by a refrigerated meat truck idling on 8th Street and 5th Avenue at 5am on a Tuesday might beg the premium, but I would rather Mr. Batali work it into the price of his myriad Italian wines, or any other combination of his non-local ingredients kicked out of the earthy boot that is his Disneyworld. I'm all for paying the premium associated with consuming local foods, but if your entire menu is FOB Italian, you should probably forgo the opportunity to serve domestic prosciutto, especially if you're going to charge and arm and leg (and a shank) for it. Let somebody else benefit from that gimmick. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

You Broke My Heart (Sort of)

Dear Fette Sau,
I am fully disappointed in your latest brisket offering. It was all fat and no lean. Jack Sprat would have died on the spot. Thankfully, your baked beans and pulled pork are the best in NYC (leaps and bounds beyond Hill Country's), and they're even better with a gallon of Liquid Gold. It's fully worth reeking of campfire in the subsequent days after visting. But seriously, you should really do something about that brisket.

Regards,
Fidel

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Smoke, Mirrors, and Lots of Herring


I've always been interested (and disappointed) in the lapse between the appetizing graphics on a box of processed meals and the actual food inside. Alas, I am way too lazy for this much documentation. Thankfully, Germans are hyper efficient and this guy Ryan has a lot of time on his hands. Buen provecho.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

What's so good about it? Certainly not throwing rotten food at people carrying their crucifixion crosses up the hill, although it is pretty easy to get caught up in the mob mentality. And if you're the guy that has to carry the cross? Sheesh.

On the other hand, if you adhere to the no meat during Lent policy, the one I made mention of in an earlier post, you have a great excuse to eat fish and chips. Unfortunately, the best fish and chips are all the way over in Galway, so I'll probably just have a turkey club. Buen Provecho.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This is the Place

A few notes about Salt Lake City, UT:

1. Holy crap is it easy to get to the slopes. Half an hour door-to-door, no crowds once you're up there, and the cushiest snow imaginable. If you're extreme like me, this is a plus.

2. Holy crap does the beer taste like carbonated water. Ever ordered a coke and it came out clear and tasted just like club soda? Kind of like that, except you feel extra bloated and you can't send it back because that's what it's supposed to taste like. One can only depend on brewer buddy Adam Curfew for quality suds. If you're planning a trip, let me know and I'll make sure he gets you sorted out.

3. There are a whole host of Mexican fast foot joints that kill it: Alberto's, Beto's, Los Betos, Molcasalsa. All open 24 hours a day, so if you've got the drunk munchies and are willing to risk the DUI, the burritos are unbelievable, plentiful, and cheap.

Basically, it's the best place to snowboard, but the worst place to drink.

Friday, February 29, 2008

1,900 Calories of Faith

1. I just ate 1.5 meat laden burritos (no joke), absent-mindedly forgetting about my plans to wear leather pants this evening (joke).

2. The whole thing about no meat on Fridays during Lent came about because the clergy was in cahoots with the fishermen (and not because God is made of meat), so I have no remorse about eating sausage, roast pork, and chicken today.

Buen Provecho.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Paper Covers Rock, Vinny's Beats Carmine's

My darling wife and I were out on the town last night for a Broadway show (thanks again, sweetheart). With its close proximity to the great white way and its "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" consistency, we decided upon the classic one-two punch of Carmine's caesar salad and penne alla vodka with chicken, and while we were not disappointed in the least, we both agreed that Vinny's rendition of the same pasta dish kicks the crap out of Carmine's. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blue Collar Bliss

BFTC Annual Beefsteak Dinner
Bergenfield, NJ
All You Can Eat and Drink (and the zipcar): $55

Fellow meathead The Cease does a wonderful job of covering this glorious occasion on To Beet or Not to Beet. Below are some more photos. If you go, don't eat the bread. Also, Leo Chase is a fraud. An hilarious fraud, but a fraud nonetheless. Buen provecho.

Conlon Hall. I bet there's been some mean CYO games played here.


The Cease pre-beef

Some guy claimed that he ate 42 slices of beef. I think I managed half of that. The plates will keep coming if you let them.


James H multi-tasking

Che G. Pre-Hypnosis

The Cease post-beef (note the bread pile)

BK Value Menu

Dear Burger King on 34th St. and 8th Ave,

Thank you for regularly changing out your grease. The cheesy tots were a hair shy of perfection, and the only thing keeping them from such elevated status was my guilt for eating deep fried macaroni and cheese.

Thank you also for the freshly prepared Whopper Jr. I really did get to have it my way.

Regards,
Fidel

P.S. The reggaeton background music was also a nice touch.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Spinning in Memphis

Dear NYSC Spin Class Instructor,

The song "Walking in Memphis" sucks. I don't mind the techno, but Marc Cohn? Please save it for your drive home in your Ford Escort.

Regards,
Fidel

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Get the Door


Actually, you've got to pick it up, but for the next hour and a half, you can get a one topping Domino's pizza for $3.99 at the Domino's on Smith and Bergen. I picked up two. Buen Provecho

Friday, February 15, 2008

Its go time!!

Stay tuned for my own harrowing tale of gastronomic importunitiousness (see post below) as I attempt to make a purportedly simple cassoulet to curry the favor of my Valentine.

Already a day late, will Che also be a dollar short???

Stay tuned.

ps- Importunitiousness isn't a word. I made it up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Home is Where the Heart Is

I have to agree with the rest of the food bloggers that spending 2/14 at a restaurant is best left to those who need help in the romance department. I prefer to spend it without pants and in the kitchen. For me, love is best expressed with food, and not by a silk rose purchased at a gas station counter.

The menu:

Spicy tuna hand roll
Miso Glazed Sea Bass
Flourless chocolate cake

Wine pairing: Domaine Michel Cheveau 2006

With limited time to get home from work, get the supplies, and get cooking, I went ahead and let Hana make the hand rolls (for a little cliche factor, you can arrange the hand rolls on a plate to make a heart shape), and I let Provence en Boite make the flourless chocolate cake.

The bass itself was a breeze. The glaze is a combination of light yellow miso, soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Coat the fish, chill it for an hour, then broil it for 6-8 minutes. I served this on top of yukon gold potatoes whipped with butter and greek yogurt. Finally, I added some color to the dish with a ring of seaweed salad and toasted sesame seeds. You have no idea, but if you want to come over for dinner, I'll gladly make it again.

The end result? A very happy valentine. We got to eat her favorite things from start to finish, and everything I needed for the meal was within a 5 block radius. The sea bass came from Fish Tales, where the fishmonger was happy to place a special order for me. The wine and sake came from Smith & Vine, and the Beaujolais pairing was spot on. And as mentioned above, two local restaurants were also happy to lend a hand. Sometimes, it takes a village. Buen provecho.

Extra Value Meal

Dear McDonald's on 34th and 7th,

Your grease is also dirty (see Wendy's post from 2/7). Your snack wraps are a soggy mess of ranch dressing. Where is the quality control? I'm not lovin' it.

Regards,
Fidel

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

La Nueva Conquista

There’s a magical place in my neighborhood called La Nueva Conquista. The awning out front states that it is “Spanish/American Food Domincan Style Cooking”. Here’s why its so amazing:

1. Its name is La Nueva Conquista.

2. There is no set menu, and everyday they have a new selection of dishes to choose from. They include more traditional dishes like chicken guisado, beef stew, and baked chicken, but they also have way crazier stuff like goat stew and pigs feet. And everything is served on a giant bed of beans and rice, with your choice of white/yellow or red/pinto, respectively. And, if you get there early enough, you can also get plantains.

3. They offer to put gravy on everything. Think about it. Putting gravy on your beef stew. Just think about it.

4. The dude that works there is wicked fat and has the craziest coke-nail I’ve ever seen. He’s really proud of it. You can tell.

5. They don’t really have set hours, but rather they close shop when they run out of food. This adds an extra level of excitement as you rush home at the end of the night.

6. Its super cheap. Each plate is only $7. You can’t even buy two tacos at La Esquina for $7. That’s the magic of low overhead.

On the downside, there’s very little space to sit and eat (hence the low overhead) and normally when I walk in there, the people (not the employees) look at me like I just walked into their living room and put my feet up on their coffee table. But the folks that work there are ultra-friendly and very accommodating.

Definitely check this place out if you’re in the neighborhood.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gung Hei Fat Choi

Happy Chinese New Year! Today is probably not the best day to find yourself in Chinatown. No matter how bad the opium withdrawal, you risk losing an eye to gunpowder-laced confetti, or worse, finding yourself at the receiving end of a silly string attack. After mulling over the potential hazards, one finds that the singular pro outweighs the cons. There's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of navigating the throngs of revelers in search of the culinary jewel that is the soup dumpling, except, of course, the soup dumpling itself.



The concentration of restaurants in Chinatown is such that one might think a soup dumpling is easy to come by. But a delicious soup dumpling? That's a little more difficult. My limited expertise in the field led me straight to New Green Bo on Bayard St. and east of Mott St. It was 15 minutes through the crowds to get there from the Canal St. stop on the 6 train, and once in the vestibule of the restaurant, I knew it would be an hour more. On to plan B, Shanghai Cafe on Mott St. north of Canal. Another crowd sidestep ballet and I was there. Since the parade was focused south of Canal, Shanghai Cafe had yet to be bombarded, and I was seated immediately. Moments later, the first of two orders of soup dumplings arrived, tiny blossoms taunting me in their bamboo sauna. I had to let them cool off, and after doing so, I employed the system of dumpling on spoon, hole in the dumpling, slurp the soup, and pop the remaining deliciousness in your mouth. And once you get the system down, it's hard to restrain yourself from going on a soup dumpling bender. The size and flavor of the soup dumpling tricks your mind into thinking you never have to stop. Thank goodness it's a lunch hour, and not a lunch afternoon. Buen Provecho.

Super Value Menu

Dear Wendy's on 34th and 8th,

Please clean your fryer grease. Your chicken nuggets and french fries have an acrid tinge, and the honey mustard dipping sauce does nothing to mask it.

Regards,
Fidel

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Captain Beefheart

Now, I’m not exactly sure what a Head-to-Tail Dinner is, nor do I know who Chris Cosentino is, but one thing I do know is that when a man with frosted tips points a pig’s head at you, you do what he says.

Apparently this is an organized dinner in which they serve offals, which are basically organ meats and entrails. I love how people come up with ambiguous names for these parts of the animals so you think that maybe it’s something delicious. Like sweet breads. As in, “Would you like to try the sweet breads, sir?” and I’d be all like, “Sweet breads?? Sure. That sounds delicious. Is it anything like figgy pudding??”

But for anyone who is an adventurous eater, this sounds like a really interesting event. Especially if you’re as big a fan of candied cockscomb as I am.


LINK


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

La Esquina

La Esquina is amazing for as many reasons as it is terrible. On the up-side, its open 7 days a week from noon to 5 am. I'm not sure who needs tacos at 5 am on a Tuesday, but apparently somebody does. Now, I'll admit that sometimes that someone is me, and when it is, that someone is wasted. But they don't judge. No way. They'll serve tacos to just about anyone willing to pay three times what a taco should cost.

And there's the rub. Every time I go there, I have to spend just a little more than I wish I had to spend. Not a lot more, but enough to make me long for easier access to a Grilled-Stuffed burrito with a side of Cinnamon Twists. And they have a $15 minimum on credit cards, which is just dumb.

But perhaps the greatest thing about La Esquina is its most unlikely menu item... La Hamburguesa. As many people know, hamburgers have become a big thing in New York these days, which is why I'm so surprised that I've never seen the burger at La Esquina on anyone's list (Fidel just informed me that it did make it on the Chowhound's top 5). I probably never would have ordered it myself had it not been recommended to me by a very hungry man, but I'm glad he did. Here's what good about it:

1. It's grilled and it tastes grilled, like a something you'd cook in your backyard. Its the only hamburger I've had in the city that truly tastes like it was good on a charcoal grill. It has the grill marks and everything.

2. It not only has lettuce, tomato and onions, it also has avocado and some sort of special sauce. I guess this is how they justify calling it La Hamburguesa. I also add ketchup.

3. Its just the right size. Its not a freaky-huge burger like you get at Jackson Hole, or 22 feet tall like Dumont. Its not by any means small, but you won't need a bib to eat it.

But the best part is this- since you can only order take-out, the burger gets kind of banged-up, the way McDonald's burgers do. Sort of smushed and delicious. I'm not sure why that makes it so good, but it just does. And to that end, if you eat at the bistro next door (not the fancy spot downstairs), don't order La Hamburguesa. It's just not the same thing. I'm not sure how they manage to screw it up so bad, especially since I believe its the made in the same kitchen as the take-out counter, but stick with the tacos (and order a Michelada).

Monday, February 04, 2008

Spin Class

Comida. The good stuff is really bad for you. I try my best to exercise, especially since I can't resist the last buffalo wing on the plate (and the requisite bleu cheese dunk). Today was spin class. During one of the many climbs in the 45 minute workout, I noticed my calves in the mirror and thought to myself, "Man, how sweet would it be if I had a tasmanian devil tattoo on my calf?"

There's always tomorrow's lunch break for that. Buen Provecho.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Street Meat

Rafiqi's
9th and Broadway
Lunch, no soda: $5

The aroma that wafts from the corner of 9th and Broadway holds a special place in my heart, right next to pool exhaust. It's comforting and familiar, and it's the siren song Rafiqi's uses to get you in line for a box of meat and rice, salad, hot sauce-white sauce. The general consensus is that street meat will kill you. Your intestines will explode with the fury of a thousand Spartans, and afternoon productivity levels will reach new lows as you spend the rest of your day in your "other" office. Logically speaking, a street vendor is subject to much more scrutiny than that of a storefront, and it's difficult to conceal hygenic shortcomings in a 5' x 5' stainless steel box. In that respect, I trust it. On the other hand, how can you get a healthy portion of chicken, lamb-flavored meat product, and rice for less than five bucks?

The answer is not low overhead. The answer is cut-rate ingredients. The "lamb" is really pressed meat and spices. Texturally, Rafiqi's does the right thing with it. It's cut from the shawarma-tisserie and thrown on the grill until a crunchy shell forms. Nonetheless, it's simply cubes of halal spam. The chicken is just plain wrong. In the age of chicken breasts, I'm not used to eating fatty chicken. It has the consistency of undercooked chicken, and no matter how many spices you rub it with, the texture screams salmonella. The salad is soggy lettuce and one slice of tomato. The rice is overcooked. The sauces are nothing more than mayonnaise and sriracha, and you'll get at least a cup of each squirted all over your platter. Aside from the crispy "lamb," the dish was a major disappointment.

This is one outpost of many Rafiqi's. Quite possibly, the expansion of the operation has diminished the quality of the food. The testimonials printed all over their cart sing their praises, but I have to put them at the bottom of my list of halal food trucks. If you're near 9th and Broadway, spend the extra money and time and make your way over to Chickpea on 3rd Avenue and St. Mark's Place. Buen Provecho.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Restaurant Week Only Sucks a Little

If you know where to go, NYC's restaurant week can be quite pleasant. The McFancy spots owned by culinary keiretsus with serious buying power can afford to be more generous than the likes of the mom and pop joints. We caught a real bad one a couple years back at the '21' Club. The first course was a mixed green salad, the entree was your choice of trout or chicken, and dessert was creme brulee. I think they've stepped it up since, but even a revised menu doesn't help the inferiority complex you get from the captain's accusing eyes. At the other end of the suck-no suck spectrum is Blue Water Grill, where the $35 prix fixe menu doesn't read like a catered event from 1987, and where you don't have to be embarrassed that you're ordering from the restaurant week menu. Granted, we still dropped $150 after wine and tip, but likely would have spent twice that much if we went the a la carte route. If you can still manage to get a reservation, I recommend the spicy salmon maki, the almond crusted black ruff with mushroom risotto, and the chocolate torte. No Meyer lemons on the menu, but that guy Meyer's a douchebag anyway. Buen provecho.

Friday, January 25, 2008

LBF

Today I bid farewell to my LBF (lunch buddy forever). After many a culinary(?) endeavor, including a month long stint at Chipotle, he has informed me that there are greener pastures elsewhere in the city. The overly priced and crappily prepared offerings extending three blocks in all directions from the office will miss you, and so will I. I wish there could be a montage here, but I'm in the middle of some serious paperwork, so instead I will list without spaces the places we frequented in no particular order:

piolachipotlereservoirjohnnyrocketslebasketsilverspursacmestriphousetacobellthesmith

Godspeed, Mr. Henry, and good luck. May your new eyes guide you along a righteous path.