Best Tacos in Manhattan

Otto TacosA common misconception in NYC:  “There’s no good Mexican food here”.  “Skip tacos, concentrate on Pizza, bagels and hala”.  “For Mexican you got to go south then west”.  “Even the Mexican Soap Operas here suck”.  Somehow 350,000 tortilla challenged Mexicans opted for the Northeast, while the rest went to Texas or California.  Well, there’s no mistaken where the best Mexican food in the US is located, but that doesnt mean there are no decent options in NYC.  As with any cuisine you just need to a little bit of homework, thats all.  And in the past few years there appears to be a Mexican renaissance of sorts in NYC.  And if you think the soap operas are bad, think again.  Just like some of the taco joints I will highlight below, they are intense, colorful and will bring you to tears.  Here’s one example that will no doubt change your mind.  Now, lets get down to some of the best tacos the city has to offer…

Tehuitzingo –  I’ve already written plenty about this gem in Hell’s Kitchen.  For a while it was like one of those terrible soap operas (the other ones).  Did they close?  Oh no.  Oh wait, they not only reopened, but they multiplied.  Welcome baby Tehuitzingo on 9th and 41st.  6 pounds, 5 ounces.  Thats how much Lengua they sell every hour.  The original on 10th isnt the same bodega (deli) as it used to be, but the tacos are still the same no frills, no nonsense old tacos.  Its all about the great tasting meats with just the right amount of condiments.  Try the Al Pastor, beef tongue (Lengua), just beef, carnitas, or anything else you fancy.  I havent had a bad one yetTehuitzingo

Otto HorchataOtto’s Tacos – One of the new kids on the block, this LA expat is gathering a lot of attention lately.  Their Horchata makes every other Horchata I’ve had taste like 1% milk.  I tried all the tacos here except the chicken, and shrimp (top) is my clear favorite.  Coated with serrano cream sauce, with onions and cilantro, the Shrimp is perfectly seasoned and cooked just right.  The rest of the lineup is not too shabby either and that includes a mushroom tacos that both my vegetarian readers can appreciate

Empellon Taqueria and Empellon Al Pastor – The natural progression from the labs of Alinea and WD50 is obviously tacos.  Alex Stupak is perhaps the biggest player in this tacos revolution we are experiencing at the moment, with Emplellon Cucina, Empellon Taqueria, and now Empellon Al Pastor.  The latter is the cheap simpler tacos with the namesake Al Pastor, shaved off the spit Shawarma style, leading the pack.  Taqueria on the other hand is the fancy, polished taco option.  And if I would be drafting Tacos as part of a Fantasy Taco League, the beer braised pork tongue would most be my #1 pickEmpellon Al Pastor

Mission Cantina – The Mission District in San Francisco has some of the best Mexican food in the country.  Some in fact claim that this is where the Burrito was born.  So not surprisingly, James Beard winner Danny Bowien of the famed Mission Chinese Food in Mission can make a nasty Burrito, although its take-out only these days.  The wings here are great as well, and all these goodies will make you wonder about the low Yelp score.  Crafty shmancy tacos rule the right side of the menu, with Veggie tacos firmly in charge.  But one has to try the popular masa fish taco and the lamb belly while its still around.Mission Cantina Tacos

Los Tacos #1 – Where I come from, when you see a line, you stand on it, then you ask questions.  Same rule applies to Chelsea Market where three friends from Mexico and California are trying to introduce New Yorkers and tourists to Mexican street food.  Many claim that these are the best tacos in NYC, and who am I to argue.  Try any of them, doesnt matter.  As long as you try the Adobada.  Say it with me, A-D-O-B-A-D-A three times.  Good, you ready.  Now get out there and stand on line for those abodabasChelsea Market Los Tacos

Tacos Morelos – Another fairly new mom/pop/cousin joint in the suddenly taco heavy East Village.  The store and restaurant is on 9th and Avenue A where the slow roasted porky Cochinita Pibil reigns supreme.  But its the cart on 2nd and A, where the EV rockers get their fix after gigs at 2 am, and where my friend swears by the Al Pastor.  Almost 24 hours (they take a break around 4 am)  is 24 hours to me.

Tacos Morelos

 

 

 

Categories: Chelsea, East Village, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

24 Hours in Lake Orta

Italy 2014 035In this food filled itinerary, the lake I like to call Lago d’Orta was not part of it initially.  But guess what Mrs Z found out when she first Googled Piedmont and looked at the first images that came up.  Text conversation:

Mrs Z:  hey r we going to lake orta

Me:  Neh!

Mrz Z:  really?

Me:  Thanks for ruining the surprise.  Of course we r

As they say “Happy Wife, Happy Ziggy”

We enjoyed a full day after landing at MXP around 9 am with the lake only 45 minutes away.  Picking up the car from Hertz was a breeze, waiting for the GPS to find a signal was not.  How the Software Developer inner Ziggy did not think about restarting the unit is something only the Bill Gates gods can figure out.  Either way, Google maps to the rescue.  The car this time by the way was rather filthy.  And I dont mean in a cool slang sort of way.  We got a dirty car.  One of those Fiats that turns off at traffic lights and requires sweet talk to move up a hill.  But we made it in no time, and what we witnessed was something way better than what any of these images (and Google’s) capture

Italy 2014 001But there was another surprising aspect that contributed to this little one nighter even more than the lake itself.  Food!  As in the fairly new Agriturismo il Cucchiaio di Legno where we also spent the night.  The Agriturismo is not on the lake so no lake views, although the lake is a short 5 minute drive.  I imagined that once I pass by the lake side hotels of Orta San Giulio I would have hotel envy, but that did not materialize.  I was very happy with this choice and can not recommend it highly enough.  And if you are staying elsewhere and enjoy good food you should at the very least make it for dinner.  Sure you can have a nice meal at the 2 Michelim Villa Crespi or at Locanda di Orta which just got a star a few weeks ago, but for something more “homey” and casual it doesnt get much better than this Cucchiaio.

Italy 2014 144My type of menu here.  the absent kind.  You eat what they prepare that day, and boy did they prepare plenty.  We indulged in a fine plate of Salumi, delectable little salmon bites, and an only in Piedmont shocking Syrian soup.  Then came the “Welcome to Italy” green Risotto, and a homemade Fusilli with pork shoulder that served as another reminder that big flavors can come out from these unassuming simple dishes.  A juicier than juice hen with potatoes, and an even juicier veal cheek sealed the deal before we heard those magic words we’ve never heard in a restaurant before.  “Would you like some more”  A 10 course feast for a mere 25 Euros.  Considering how delicious everything was, it was like a bank robbery.  We reminisced about a meal in Coimbra, Portugal as perhaps the only one that beat this value.Italy 2014 149

They also provided a very nice picnic basket for us for lunch that we used on the picnic tables of the Sacred Mount of Orta overlooking the lake.  Just the two sandwiches in there worth the 10 € per person tag, but there was so much more.  The hotel room was very spacious and modern, with a loft in case we have guests (you never know) or Mrs Ziggy gets mad at me for packing only shoes with holes (like I’m supposed to inspect carefully before packing).  You also get a nice patio facing the back yard.  The whole place is so serene during the day you can hear a lung collapse.  I was surprised to see it run by 3 young girls, and the cook responsible for that wonderful feast, Luigi, is 28 years old.  There must be a law that all young chefs in the lakes region must be called Luigi (ie Luigi of Salice Blu in Bellagio) and when they reach puberty they need to change names.  Makes no sense if you ask me.

What else did we do besides eat and inspect shoes.  We Spent some time in the Sacred Mount.  Quite a stunning setting overlooking the lake, surrounded by it pretty much.  Its a series of chapels depicting the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, from chasing goats as a child, to chasing goats as an adult.  I like goats as well but in a different way.  He apparently loved animals according to my friend.  The place was nearly empty, and extremely quiet.  If someone plays Doodle Jump down in Orta San Giulio you would hear the doodling.  The lake views from here is what you mostly see on Google images.  There are picnic tables by the parking lot, and I cant imagine a better setting for a picnic.

Italy 2014 004

The town itself Orta San Giulio was so much more pleasant than I thought, that we didn’t feel like taking a boat to the island and instead just wandered all over town.  We spent more time than Mrs Z liked in one particular deli with a chatty French owner where we sampled some salami and over 25 year old balsamic vinegar before we bought “Rafi”, the little truffle we carried with us the rest of the trip.  Rafi was a good sport, vacuumed wrapped in rice and all.  Update: Rafi is dead.  Unless the guy made a switcheroo on us at the last minute, the truffle just did not have it by the time I used it a week later.  The much anticipated dinner with our truffle at home turned out to be a simple Linguini with butter.

In short, Lake Orta is another gem that most Americans never heard of.  And on this day at least I was happy that that was the case

Italy 2014 110Italy 2014 031 Italy 2014 015 Italy 2014 067 Italy 2014 084 Italy 2014 076 Italy 2014 109 Italy 2014 101 Italy 2014 143 Italy 2014 141 Italy 2014 153 Italy 2014 152 Italy 2014 147 Italy 2014 148

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Espoleta – Turkey Wishbone Produces More Tapas

015I panicked!  As I often do in situations like this.  Whenever the opportunity for a quick wish presents itself, I normally panic and wish for something that I already have or something that emotionally stable Middle Aged Americans should not be wishing.  So when I was given a crack at the Turkey wishbone a few weeks back, instead of wishing something more meaningful like good health for my family, a healthier college savings account, or an unlimited supply of Poo Pourri, I wished for Tapas.  I’m not even sure what it means, nor I recall what I was drinking.  I just panicked.

But the wish was granted when I was invited to the launch party of Espoleta, a new Spanish tapas and wine joint in NoHo.  Yes my friends, Mrs Z and I continue to move up the NY social scene at a furious pace.  Espoleta means Wishbone (ha!) in Spanish.  Former tenant Forcella means Wishbone in Italian.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Both sides of the Wishbone are held by Giuilio Adriani, pizza master of Forcella, now running the show at Espoleta.  But that’s not the only big name there.  Suenos fans can finally come out of their Tapa hibernation as Sue Torres is consulting here.  I was told she’ll be in the kitchen once or twice a week.

Chef de cuisine, Francis Peabody, the famous “American physician born November 24, 1881″. Wait that makes no sense, googling some more… Well, not finding much, but Ariel Lacayo, the manager once voted Best Maitre D in New York City by NY Mag says Francis Peabody is a Daniel, and more recently Le Bernardin veteran

Since this was more of a party with mass produced food, we only got a small taste of what Espoleta has to offer. We munched on various Pintxos, Tapas and Paellas.  Japanese squash, jamon, artichoke with manchego, various croquettes, Shishito peppers and more.  My favorite was perhaps the Goat Empanadas with raisins and salsa verde (top).  Excellent Spanish wine here, too excellent perhaps for me to remember to note it down.

Espoleta, with its big names, looks very promising and is one to watch.  Check it out peeps.

Espoleta
334 Bowery

Menu:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/249293660/Espoleta-Menu

016014 013 Espoleta

 

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Antica Corte Pallavicina – When Life Gives You a Pig

Italy 2014 731When we were young and down on life, my mama had this strange saying:  When life gives you a pig, you make Culatello!  Black pigs preferred, raised in Emilia Romagna or Lombardia she proceeded to explain.  You take the muscular side of the back legs, aka the “heart” of the prosciutto, cure it, put it inside a pig’s bladder and let it age in the moldy caves and cellars somewhere near Zibello, north of Parma.  As close as possible to the foggy Po river.  “Its all about the Terroir” she proclaimed.  And only then, it can be designated Culatello di Zibello DOP, essentially Prosciutto on crack.  Prosciutto so prized, it has a different name.  Just don’t tell anyone that Culatello means “Little Ass” as it may take away some of that power from the name, she warned.  Or maybe she was talking beets and borscht, I may be confusing things.

Italy 2014 755Last month we spent a magical day and night at Antica Corte Pallavicina, the most famous producer of Culatello di Zibello out there.  In fact, “You can use the bikes to bike all the way to Zibello on the bike path” our trusted host told us.  Done, and doner, assuming spotting Zibello inland from a distance was close enough for our own aching “little asses”.  But if I would have to pick 5 memorable moments on this trip, riding those bikes along the Po on that day, with those views, passing farms, and with the sun Arrivederciing in front of us, was one of those moments.  Minutes earlier, we visited their famous black pigs, snacked on their own Strolghino (salami), Parmigiano-Reggiano (also aged in their cellars) and drank their own bubblies while sitting on the antique couch in the antiques filled room, watching their antique dog and antique cat very closely (Mrs Ziggy isn’t fond of animals and some humans.  Ok, most humans)Italy 2014 737

For Massimo Spigaroli the journey started over 20 years ago, when he bought the 14th century castle with his brother.  A castle and farm that saw Massimo’s great grandfather as a tenant (after he worked for Verdi who lives nearby).  At the time it was more like ruins, after years of heavy beatings from Po flooding. Nowadays, its a farm, 6 room hotel, a Michelin star restaurant, and a major Culatello producer.  Tourists from all over the world flock to the Corte to see one of Emilia Romagna’s greatest attractions, the cellar of dreams.  Dreams as in if you want them to cure one of those Culatello’s for you, you are dreaming my friend.  And you will keep dreaming for the next 3 years (waiting period).  But meanwhile you can check out the tags of the black pig Culatello hanging in the front.  Armani, Rene Redzepi (Noma), Alain Ducasse, Francescana (“my friend” Massimo Spigaroli tells me if I understood correctly), Prince Albert, Prince Charles, Prince Ziggy, Prince.  We all have our dreams as you can see!Italy 2014 721

As for the meal, other than a few minor hiccups, it was exceptional.  The restaurant has a fancy feel, but at the same time its unpretentious and comfortable.  You feel like a guest of the estate rather than at a dining establishment.  The combination of antique, modern, floor to ceiling glass windows, and the overall spaciousness felt unique.  This is not Farm-to-Table.  This is 50 yards-look-outside-your-window-what-do-you-see-to-Table

Italy 2014 780Once you settle down you are greeted with the homemade butter, Grissini, and a Cuban cigar box filled with delicious bread.  I love a good bread and butter, especially when the butter is of perfect spreadable temperature.  “When in Rome…” you go for the “Podium”, three Culatello aged 18, 27, and a black pig aged 37 months sitting at the top of the podium lip syncing the Italian national anthem.  The 18 month was silky smooth, sweet, and in a bizarre way reminded me of delicious small dried fish.  While the 37 was brinier, and packed in a lot more flavor.  The 27 was somewhere in between.

Basic but fantastic Tortelli with ricotta and spinach.  And an even better al dente Risotto crowned by green beans and surrounded by three gentle sauces that somehow worked nicely together.  Very high degree of raw material throughout, though it didn’t quite work with the rabbit.  Great ingredients, looks fantastic but the rabbit “cubes” a bit dry and uneventful.  For the white Ox they add another large table to yours and carve the beast right in front of you.  It was expertly cooked, on the rare side with great flavor, if not a tad too cool.  The Ox plate included an exceptional supporting cast of mushrooms, various garden veggies and a fine tasting zucchini topped with Parma cheese and breadcrumbs.

Italy 2014 790For dessert we were lucky to be joined by our new friend who lives not too far away.  And as expected, marvelous desserts here, especially the “Baba” rum cake which was just about the best rum cake I ever had.  The top notch Mousse, was a great finish to a magical evening

Massimo Spigaroli is very proud of his place, a celebrated one Michelin star.  While in NYC Michelin stars are distributed like candy (I got one!) in Italy there are standards that must be met.  I normally dont pay as much attention to service as others do, but it was hard to overlook this kind of hospitality.  Since we had to leave early to a dairy producer and couldnt stay for breakfast, the staff prepared a box filled with more Culatello, and various homemade goodies.  In a food oriented trip such as this, Antica Corte Pallavicina fit the itinerary like a gloveItaly 2014 743

Italy 2014 776 Italy 2014 758 Italy 2014 729 Italy 2014 762 Italy 2014 778 Italy 2014 781 Italy 2014 786 Italy 2014 796 Italy 2014 795 Italy 2014 771

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Root and Bone – As Simple as ABC

root and bone gritsBefore I tell you more about this gem in Alphabet City (the last of the Manhattan neighborhoods that hasn’t received a hip name), there are a few developments in my personal life I would like to share with you.  Well, more like events really, not so much developments and not so interesting to the average reader Really.  Two milestones in one day (yesterday) that are fairly significant in one’s growth as a parent and more importantly as an American parent.  The first event was taking my youngest daughter, who is suddenly obsessed with hockey, to her first Islanders game.  Only those readers who experienced this can understand the magnitude of this thrill.  Especially those sport fans who never produced sons experiencing this a bit later on.

One can argue that the second event is even more significant, as it made me connect with the American people like never before.  Everyone, including tourists should do it at least one time during the holidays to show solidarity and patriotism.  We are Americans!  Some of the strange things we do, like tipping and brunch, photo (10)may seem different to some foreigners but this is who we are, and this our culture.  You dont question it, just like I dont question taking my shoes off in other countries, and not assuming that all those wonderful little plates they give you in Portugal when you sit down at a restaurant are free.  I’m talking about, you guessed it because what else could it be, wearing my first Ugly Christmas Sweater.  Although all I have is a spray of Poo Pourri to show for as my consolation prize in the ugliest Sweater contest, it felt great I tell ya.  You see I realized that there’s really no such thing as a fashion failure anymore.  Any fashion faux pas is either brought back by hipsters at some point or makes a big comeback once everyone in the world agrees that its ugly.  Or like in this case, its both!  I’m thinking perhaps I should hold on to those 80’s Hawaiian shirts after all, before Mrs Ziggy cleans the ‘hers and hers’ closet again.

root and bone chicken

Remember that little girl I was talking about earlier?  Other than hockey, she particularly likes mac and cheese and fried chicken.  So when I was looking for a place that serves both last Sunday, a return to Root and Bone was a no brainer.  I first tried their much hyped bird in the summer, not too long after they opened, but I may have been under some heavy Barolo influence which makes me like everything.  This time it was for brunch, affectionately called in my house and every other country, lunch!  But we don’t question, remember?  Southern homey soul food by two Top Chef veterans that look more like “The Bachelor” veterans, via Miami.  Famed Miami Beach Yarbird’s lose is NYC gain.  Well, Yardbird probably didn’t lose anything, its just an expression people.

root and bone wafflesWe started with Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits.  If you ever see something called Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits on a menu and neglect to order it, you are an enemy of America!  These were light, airy and awesome, and once dipped in the gravy-like Honey Chicken jus, awesomer.  Benne seeds (fancy for sesame) and salt on the side for you to dip may be there purely for esthetic reasons, as I didnt feel the need.  Terrific Mac ‘n’ Cheese topped with more biscuit and featuring elbow pastas that will make you donate the elbow pastas in your kitchen cabinet to charity.

I feel like there’s some sort of a chicken renaissance going on in NYC at the moment with both Rotissarie and the fried kind.  You got the new Bird and Bubbles, The Habanero in Ma Peche, Somtum Der’s version, and so many other notables all over town.  The fried chicken here should at least be mentioned in the same discussion.  Its sweet tea brined, and dusted with dehydrated lemon magic powder that gives it that extra zesty tone.  Although, the dusting was more liberal the first time around (perhaps too liberal) there was no flavor lose this time.  The chicken, featuring no greasiness whatsoever is just a solid, juicy fried chicken, with flavors enhanced by the accompanying spiked tabasco honey sauce.  I preferred to sprinkle it on the white meat only.  And in true southern style we paired it with the Buckwheat Waffle that came with Cheddar and Whiskey Maple Syrup

root and bone buscuitsHaving eaten the chicken before, perhaps the most interesting item for me was the so called Trumansburg N .Y. Stone Ground Cheese Grits (top).  They came loaded with corn and ‘pimento cheese’, a spreadable hybrid of cheese and Pimiento (cherry) peppers.  The entire dish is a beautiful medley of textures and flavors.  And in a city filled with mediocre desserts as it seems as of late, the sticky toffee pudding with whiskey sauce and beer flavored ice cream was perhaps the best finish I’ve had this year.

Update:  The Poo Pourri works!  Dont think I need it honestly, but it works.  I may have to bring some to some of my coworkers.  You know who you are!

Root & Bone
200 E 3rd St
$$$

root and bone mac n cheeseroot and bone sticky toffee pudding root and bone

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bologna’s Porticos, Knobs and Porticos

Italy 2014 1510This one goes out to all those readers with those special needs, sufferers of Porticos and/or Door Knob fetishes.  You know who you are and you should also know that you are not alone.  Tens thousands of people with such infliction flock the porticos of Bologna annually.  They tell their friends and neighbors that they go to the food capital of the world, the place that invented the Bologna Sandwich (neglecting to explain the intricacies of the Mortadella and its bastardized American version to the clueless neighbor.  Smart move savvy traveler, smart move).  But what they dont tell their friends, because they cant comprehend, is all about the joy of running around through Bologna’s 40 Kilometers of Porticos, with minimal clothing sometimes.  But who am I to judge.

Those same Porticos have been around for hundreds of years (some since the 12th century), and while other Italian cities outlawed them at some point, Bologna continued to Portico itself to become the Portico capital of the world.  That includes of course the longest Portico in the world, 3,796 meters running from the city walls up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.  Not quite the climb for us (hey, I’m on vacation, not competing for the biggest loser)

And as to the door knobs all over the historic center, well, they are just pretty door knobs.

Italy 2014 1274 Italy 2014 1597 Italy 2014 1483 Italy 2014 1630 Italy 2014 1302 Italy 2014 1718 Italy 2014 1619 Italy 2014 1614 Italy 2014 1507 Italy 2014 1598 Italy 2014 1436 Italy 2014 1584 Italy 2014 1414 Italy 2014 1583 Italy 2014 1391

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Trattoria La Coccinella {Serravalle Langhe} – Game Changer

Trattoria La Coccinella Porcini TowerI’m having a writer’s block of the worst kind.  Earlier this evening I burned some of my more useful fingers on both hands in a freakish oven accident, so the process of typing is hampered a bit.  Lets just say DO NOT USE OVEN MITTS BOUGHT IN PUERTO RICO GIFT SHOPS.  I’m strongly considering unfriending the person who gave it to me on Facebook.  Only problem is I’m not sure exactly who that person is, and I dont have a Facebook account.  It hurts almost as much as listening to Ariana Grande in the car, a condition that millions of dads these days are suffering from at the moment.  Why would anyone buy cheap oven mitts anyway.  Oven mitts got only one job really when you think about it.  Like the hideous looking car bumper protectors you see on the roads used to protect and preserve bumpers from scratches, purchased by the same people who can no longer wrap their remote controls in plastic due to public pressure.  One job:  PROTECT YOUR HANDS FROM SECOND DEGREE BURNS.  Failed!

Trattoria La CoccinellaThis is extremely unfair of me to write about my damaged precious fingers in a post about one of our favorite, most talked about meals in recent memory.  But I’m also using the blog in a way as a diary in case I’ll have to write a book at some point.  I was told that that is the next step for a successful food blogger.  The only minor hurdle is the “Successful” part, and learning how to write properly.  Or spell!

La Coccinella was particularly memorable in many ways.  Starting from the spectacular drive to Serravalle Langhe from Barolo where at some point the sudden silence from Mrs Z meant that she wanted me to concentrate on the road and not look at all the beauty surrounding us.  I remember clearly the majestic Lady of the Snow church in Monforte D’alba that we found on the way.  The Israeli couple we met in the parking lot of the restaurant.  The drive to Serralunga d’Alba after the meal that made me want to go to the bathroom, partly out of fear but mostly just because I needed to go to the bathroom.  But most of all it was the meal and the hosts, the three stooges, Alessandro, Massimo and Tiziano, who dished out one magical plate after another.  The anticipation, and a quick glance at the menu meant cancelling all post meals appointments.  We are staying for another marathon.

Trattoria La Coccinella RavioloneTrattoria La Coccinella Carne CrudaI opted for the truffle menu. Three dishes shaved with white truffles resting comfortably on the table.  Carne Cruda, while quite exceptional, I couldnt help but compare it to the artistry in Priocca the day before which was one of the top dishes of the trip.  A lone Raviolone stuffed with potato and egg, oozing with greatness.  At this point I realize this is perhaps the most flavorful truffles of the trip.  The truffle finale was the outstanding egg with Bra cheese fondue.  Truffles and eggs – could not get enough of them during the trip

The menu also features antipasti with the option of trying all of them.  Guess what option we chose.  Salmon, shrimp and cheese ball set the tone nicely.  A lovely Porcini tart followed.  When Mrs Ziggy eats anything with mushrooms that means you just did something special.  Perhaps the most interesting thing we ate here came in the form of an onion.  Upon arrival, the first signal from the brain is that there’s no conceivable way this thing tastes good.  Its an onion!  An onion that is baked with salt then filled with chicken liver, baked some more, sprinkled by some more salt and Voila!  One of the most unique and delicious dishes of the trip.  Lastly an outstanding veal terrine with a supporting cast that would make Woody Allen envious:  An onion marmalade and a veggie tart.

Trattoria La Coccinella Egg cheese fondue

Mrs Z was also especially taken by the Plin stuffed with cheese.  Surprising big flavors coming out of these unassuming little things.  The leaning tower of Porcini with potato was nice and meaty, though could have used a touch more seasoning.  Hazelnut/chocolate cake was the perfect finish to a very enjoyable meal.  One of a handful marathon meals we did during this trip, and one I would love to repeat.  I can not recommend this one more highly.  Well, judging by the start of this post I guess I could but choose not to.

Trattoria La Coccinella

Via Provinciale A3, 5, 12050 Serravalle Langhe CN

Italy 2014 573

Trattoria La Coccinella veal terrine Trattoria La Coccinella Salmon, Shrimp ball Trattoria La Coccinella Plin Trattoria La Coccinella Hazelnut chocolate cake Trattoria La Coccinella porcini tart Trattoria La Coccinella inside

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hell’s Kitchen Sandwich Awards

15 years ago when I first got familiar with the area, I couldn’t name two decent sandwiches.  Well, I could actually, but they would not have made this list today.  Times, as they say, “They Are A-Changin'”, as the area is suddenly flooded with all sorts of well crafted sandwiches that even tourists should target.  If I miss a big one here, please share.  But as far as I know these are some of the best and most unique sandwiches in Hell’s Kitchen and in some cases NYC.  And to make it just a little bit more interesting, I gave them awards!

The Dolly Parton Award- IL VIP at Sergimmo Salumeria.  A most excellent sweet sandwich featuring robust raw materials.  Prosciutto Crudo from Parma, homemade mozzarella, Arcadian mix, EV olive oil and a lovely fig spread from Casa Giulia.  On the sweet side of things like Dolly’s smile, and so not for everyone.

VIP at Sergimmo Salumeria

The Bill Clinton Award – Philly Cheesesteak at Shorty’s. Given to a most outstanding sandwich that comes with the occasional strange urge to pull down your pants even though the thing looks sort of sloppy and unattractive.  Get it the way it was intended.  With Whiz, “Wit” onions, and mushrooms.  I’ve had it in Philly and this is the real deal

Philly Cheesesteak at Shorty's

The Me Love You Long Time Award – Dave at City Sandwich.  A great all around sandwich with top notch ingredients that is best enjoyed slowly with a glass of wine or Manischewitz.  This beauty features an ample amount of fresh minced sausage, chili pepper, garlic, olive oil, melted mozzarella, and peppers, and the Portuguese bread from across the river cant be beat

Dave

The Oom Pa Loom Pa Award – Banh Mi Cha Ca at Co Ba 53.  Given to the best sandwich with the least amount of syllables. Historically given to a Banh Mi.  Hanoi-style fish, usually means “Catfish” or “I cant believe its not Catfish” Swai, Basa, or other Catfish-like creatures, with fresh dill, onion, mayo, jalapenos, and house-made pickles on a French baguette.  Not only easy to pronounce but tastes great

Banh Mi Cha Ca at Co Ba 53

The Kim Kardashian Award – Pig’s Ass Sandwich at Casellula.  Nuff Said!

The If You Build It They Will Come, And Come Again, When Weather Permits, Because Its Too Far Award – Pork shoulder at Court Street Grocers (Gotham West Market).  Given to a most outstanding well crafted sandwich that is a leader in its kind but a little bit out of the way.  Pork shoulder confit, mayo, provolone, broccoli rabe, pickled red peppers inside a terrific Caputo (Brooklyn) hero.  If you ask me, I think the name of the award is too long, but hey I don’t make the rules.

Pork shoulder at Court Street Grocers

The You Say Shawarma, I Say Shawarma Too Award – Shawarma Sandwich at Azuri.  Award given to the best Shawarma!

Note: Azuri is a 2 time “No Soup For You” winner.  Recent reports of Ezra smiling or even happy are most likely greatly exaggerated (I still think its gas) but I can no longer put him in that category.  Everyone seems unfortunately friendly these days or faking their unfriendliness for gimmicky purposes.  “Hey look at me I’m so unfriendly, tell your friends, start calling me the Muffin Nazi, bla bla bla”.  Ezra was a natural!

Azuri Cafe - Chicken Shawarma

The Breaky Bad Award – Bench Girl at City Sandwich.  Given to the best breakfast sandwich.  This one features Portuguese Alheira sausage, Grilled Onions, Spinach, Melted Mozzarella and Olive Oil.  Available all day, every day.  Now lets see if they change the name to Breaky Bad from Bench Girl before any use of online petitions.  Bench Girl sounds boring and borderline insulting if you ask me.

photo (31)

The Carlos Danger Award – Pig’s Head Cuban at The Cannibal (Gotham West Market).  Given to a great sandwich that is especially selfie/twitter/instagram worthy in all its glory.  Pigs head terrine, ham, gruyere, mayo, pickle.  Perhaps the hottest sandwich in Hell’s Kitchen at the moment.

The Cannibal - Pig's Head

The Barack Hussein Obama Award - City Sandwich.  A lifetime achievement award given to the top overall sandwich maker.  Last year’s Miss Congeniality winner takes top honors this year.  A Pioneer and a leader in the Sandwich making business.  Well deserved!  (ps. I’m expecting this mention on the window at City Sandwich in no time.  As my mom used to tell me “if you got them, flaunt them”.  A bumper sticker “I got a sandwich award on EatingWithZiggy will do as well)

Big Big Mazal Tov to all the winners!

City Sandwich

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cremona – Violins R Us

Italy 2014 698When I asked master violin maker Robert Gasser if I can stop by at his workshop in Cremona, he asked me if I play the violin.  Before I said no, I quickly checked to see if there’s a violin version of Guitar Hero.  Turns out its a no!  Also, turns out master violin makers close sometimes for lunch, as we painfully found out while touring Violinville.  But that’s ok.  We got a good taste of what this gem of a city is all about.  Until I had to call AT&T to upgrade my data plan, and in turn have my phone completely disconnected somehow for the rest of the day.

Before Robert Gasser there was the Amati family, building violins in Cremona from 1538 to 1740.  Other families like the Stradivari followed suit, and the city’s connection to the violin never looked back.  Nowadays, you got violin maker workshops, bow makers workshops, statues, schools, and yes.. the all important violin shaped chocolates and cakes.  Violins are everywhere your turn.  And if you are a music lover, or can really rock Guitar Hero, you may find the Violin Museum very interesting.  Convenient public parking is right across the street.

But there’s more to Cremona than violins.  The Duomo with its magnificent façade and frescos is one of the most underrated in Italy.  At some point we found ourselves almost alone, while we prayed for world peace, and for the AT&T rep to get shingles.  The climbable bell tower is the tallest pre-modern tower in Italy, hence the symbol of the city.  The baptistery even with all its nakedness looks rather glamorous inside.

Cremona is as non-touristy as they come seems like for a large city.  Extremely clean and very bike friendly.  For a New Yorker like me, seeing older ladies riding bikes is always a Kodak moment, and right up there with attractive young women collecting garbage.  Food wise, I was in a way glad I could not find the pizza place I planned on due to my phone not working.  Because plan B turned out to be quite good.  Tramezzini are soft white bread with the crust removed, and judging by the lines, Ugo Grill is the place to get them.  Because of the lack of crust and the texture of these sandwiches you are in the mercy of the place delivering high quality ingredients, and Ugo certainly does, starting with their homemade mayo.

Italy 2014 648 Italy 2014 649 Italy 2014 685 Italy 2014 708 Italy 2014 693 Italy 2014 696 Italy 2014 701 Italy 2014 704 Italy 2014 651 Italy 2014 659 Italy 2014 654 Italy 2014 668 Italy 2014 676 Italy 2014 686 Italy 2014 705

Courtesy of Ugo's Facebook

Courtesy of Ugo’s Facebook

 

 

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Sale Grosso – Is This Bologna’s Top Seafood Option?

Sale Grosso SpaghettiReports of the seafood demise in Bologna may have been Sale Grossly exaggerated.  You like it?  I thought of that line while shaving this morning, which is were I do most of my deep thinking.  Whenever I say that for some reason the usual reply is “You should think about growing a beard”.  With a beard not only I would not be mistaken for Russell Crow anymore, but I would also be single and unemployed.  My full time job involves solving software related issues and very often the solutions come to me when I shave.  It also helps me with the various daily First World Problems like figuring out where I left my iPhone, what to have for lunch, who really shot Jr, and why are my shoes wet.  Turns out the shoes were wet due to exhilarated excitement of some nieces and nephews playing hide and seek in the closet the night before.  Yes, they get excited and they pee in your shoes.

Also during shaving I normally devise the all important action plan of where we’ll be eating seafood on our next trip.  We normally find ourselves craving seafood at some point of any trip, especially in Italy, regardless of our proximity to the sea.  La Tellina in Sienna was a nice find last year, while Le Mani in Pasta in Rome was less successful but hit some marks.  In this case, I figured after a week of heaviness in Piedmont and ER, Bologna would be the place for seafood, and all signs pointed to Sale Grosso.  Hidden in some alley in the university area, and with some locals never even heard of it, the “hidden gem” cliche comes to mind.  In fact some locals even turned up their noses at the idea of eating seafood in Bologna

Sale Grosso Octopus

I don’t mean to set you up for another feast as it actually turned out to be a rather light lunch, at least for our vacation standards.  Burratina (Burrata) with Bottarga (salted dried tuna roe “sticks”), shockingly good, and grows on you as you are nibbling on it.  Bottarga is not something you normally see on NY menus.  The Burrata was oozing with richness and went very well with the salty dried tuna, and the olive oil used was especially noteworthy.  Octopus, simply grilled, tender and absolutely delicious, arrived with some of the best tasting grilled veggies we had on this trip.

Rolled breaded fish stuffed with raisins, pine nuts and other unidentified objects came with expertly cooked Broccoli Rabe and creamy tomato water. Perhaps the dish of the day, which included a very nice dinner later on.  Spaghetti with Seafood was perfectly al dented with generous amount of fresh shellfish and fish. This is what every basic Spaghetti with Seafood should taste like.

Sale Grosso Fish

Smiling, friendly owner, slightly overdressed for the occasion, unless we all were underdressed.  Wife who wasnt there is the brainchild of the Mediterranean inspired menu.  She’s from Bologna but with southern roots.  And the cook during lunch was from Puglia where some of the lunch dishes get their inspiration from.  Nice and comfortable room, popular with locals and nearby university students and staff.  Looked like we were the only tourists there.  While the lunch menu showed plenty of market freshness and creativity, during dinner things pick up a notch.  Check out Sale Grosso guys

Now if you excuse me I need to go shave in order to figure out what to wear tomorrow.  Ciao!

Italy 2014 1383-001Sale Grosso

 

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 866 other followers