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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.