New York City

Bar Bolonat – Shiksa Approved

Ziggy:

Updating a not quite oldie but goodie…

Originally posted on Eating With Ziggy:

Bar Bolonat - Malabi

December 26, 2014 Update:

Took yet another shiksa to Bar Bolonat the other day and had another fun meal.  Plenty of empty tables on a Friday night at 8 pm but by the time we left the place was packed.  Are we eating later now like in Europe?  I didn’t get the memo.  Einat Admony’s pink scooter wasnt there again, and I’m yet to meet this NYC legend.  Yes, to me her accomplishments here are inline with some of the famous chefs in NYC.  Although there were some misses on this particular night, there were plenty of hits, some of which I added to the recommended list below.

Sunchoke Latkes – Hannukah special.  Tasted much better than they looked (they looked like Latkes!).  Nice falafely flavor

Delicata Squash – Good.  Essentially a hefty meaty sweet squash lightly dressed with some Tahini and a few pieces of brittle adding more sweetness…

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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: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 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

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

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

Louro – Another Fun Option For the Village People

Louro - House Made Tortellini

November 17, 2014 Update:

Another fantastic meal at Louro a few nights ago.  The place hasn’t skipped a beat since it opened two years ago.  Sometimes you get caught up with all the sexy new openings and forgetting about the current neighborhood spots that continue to hit on all cylinders.  The place is packed every night seems like, with the ultra talented chef Santos still doing his thing.  In addition to the constantly rotating seasonal menus, Santos continues his Supper Club tradition with the popular Monday night theme dinners like “Lobster night”, “Breaking Bad”, and “Breaking Bald” for those villagers suffering from Frontal Baldness.  Ok, not really, but tonight they do have “White Man does Szechuan” which looks very interesting.

We tried a variety of items again including some of the old favorites, and on this night new favorites emerged.  Like the tremendously flavorful Kimchi Fried Rice (below) which comes sizzling hot loaded with calamari, mussels, shrimp, clams, and egg juice poured table side for you to mix in.  Plenty of pleasant heat and plenty of joy with this one.  More great flavors came out of a simple Lobster soup from its clean, well balanced broth.  And then came the Venison (below).  Two medallions expertly cooked, rare, just slightly seared on the outside.  Because venison is so tender and lean, cooking this more will result in eating two hockey pucks.  It came with some pasta (looked like Cavatelli) as part of a groovy smoked onion jus.  Only the why-so-bitter Broccoli Rabe stood in the way of perfection.

The chicken last time caused me to start seeing other chickens!  On other menus that is.  While this time the chicken was still juicy, tender, very nicely sauced and veggied (Yummy Yam and nicely cooked Brussels Sprouts), it was missing that perfectly crisped skin.  Still a very solid dish overall.  The Monkfish delicate tomato sauce and rice was replaced by a wintery bean cassoulet, and the Octopus Bolognese is still the same old hearty, rich Octopus Bolognese.  One of the staples on the menu along with the Piri Piri Shrimp

This is just about the most eclectic, fun, constantly changing menu I know.  Each dish is well crafted with great tasting sauces and veggies, and the missing “Sides” column almost feels refreshing, as you get plenty of “Sides” with each dish.  Choosing what to order from this menu is as complicated as choosing the manliest umbrella on a rainy day.  Do I go with the white circles, colorful polka dots, or black with pink piggies.  Why cant we have a black umbrella like normal families

Louro Kimchi Fried RiceLouro Venison

April 8th, 2013 Post:

My house smells of fish!  It smells of fish for the past week now. And get this..  we haven’t cooked any fish in the past 2 weeks and so don’t have the slightest idea where the smell is coming from.  Wish it would smell of curry or cumin instead.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fish, but I don’t want my house to smell like it.  Same goes for chicken soup.  When Mrs Ziggy starts making it early in the morning its as if a guest just came in, said hello, threw up, and immediately left without cleaning his mess.

What does it have to do with Louro?  Absolutely nothing.  I’m not even gonna make a clever transition with this like “we had to escape the house and go eat at Louro” because its not really true.  I’ve been planning this meal ever since I saw the Best Dishes of 2012 thread on Chowhound.  I just had to try that much talked about gnocchi dish since my family sort of became gnocchi junkies over the past few years.

5 month old Louro by David Santos is another great addition to the West Village dining scene.  At first glance inside I was a little surprised at the upscale diner look.  Booth tables right by a long bar.  It gets less diner-ish in the back however.  The food is sort of Portuguese, Italian, American and as usual we tried quite a few items.  Here’s a great, good and ugly breakdown.

The Great:

Piri Piri Shrimp – Really enjoyed them.  Not as good as Aldea’s preparation and similar dishes we’ve enjoyed in Portugal but cooked and seasoned very well nonetheless.  Not too spicy so the kids were able to enjoy as well.  Love anything Piri Piri

Louro - Piri Piri ShrimpOctopus Bolognese – So good.  All about the sauce.  Tiny bits of octopus and goose pancetta?  (sort of a Pancetta goose blend I suppose).  Anything would taste great with that sauce including car keys.  Thankfully the waitress convinced us to get more bread.

Monkfish – Delicate, perfectly textured and absolutely delicious. And with that light Portuguese tomato sauce and rice, YUMMO! I couldn’t stop eating it. Until I tasted…

Louro - Monkfish

Roast Chicken – Wow! I did not want to order it.  But wife and kids wanted to try and I’m glad I lost that argument.  I suppose I forgot that the Portuguese can crank out some delicious chickens.  Comes with a nice rye berry risotto and spinach, but that chicken was very flavorful and that skin was so perfectly crisped I could eat just that.Louro - Roast Chicken

The good:

Seafood fritters –  Enjoyed them.  Not bad at all.  Like those seafood beignets you get in New Orleans

Louro - Seafood fritters

House Made Tortellini (top) – Pleasant, light, filled with Nettles among other things.  Not very memorable but tasted good.

Striped Bass –  A popular dish here normally with a snapper instead.  Bok Choy, shiitake, coconut ginger broth. Very pleasant dish and well done.  Thank you baby Jesus for sending me a family that doesnt eat mushroomsLouro - Striped Bass

The Ugly:

Gnocchi Romana – Ahhh, the irony.  As often is the case the first thing I wanted to try was the least favorite.  I dont think its the same dish the chowhounders were raving about.  The cream sauce just tasted like a regular cream sauce to us (they call it permesan foam) and the gnocchi was semolina but had the texture of tiny breakfast potato cubes.  I just kept trying it just to see what I was missing until me and the kids finished the plate.

The menu OCD chef keeps changing the menu and it did not match the menu on their site at all.  Overall a very good meal and something to keep in mind when visiting the village. The wife much preferred the food here over future Michelin star Aska the day before.  Check out Louro readers.  Both of yous

Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Top 10 NYC Pastas

Lincoln StrozzapretiHi, I’m Ziggy.  I love pasta!  I had pasta last night, for lunch today, and I will have plenty of it in the next few weeks as I embark on another trip to mother Italia.  I think about pasta more than.. you know… Sports!  And before I leave you idle for a few weeks I figured to leave with a bang, a post about one of my favorite subjects.  My favorite pastas in NYC in no particular order…

Trenette Al Pesto Trapanese at Mercato.  From the port of Genoa sailors brought Trenette al Pesto to Trapani, Sicily where the dish was perfected even further with the addition of almonds.  Homemade chewy dried Trenette cooked to al dente perfection, with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil.  Its fresh, simple, and quite tasty.  I havent seen this dish anywhere else, and at $12, I feel like I negotiated something at the shuk with just a stare

Mercato Trenette

Fusilli with Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea – One of two NYC classics on the list, and perhaps the most celebrated pasta in NYC America.  Articles, blog posts, children books (Goodnight Fusilli with Octopus!) have been written about this clasic.  The twisted homemade Fusilli is tossed with the most addictive fresh red sauce you will ever taste, with Sangiovese braised octopus, and bone marrow being the culprits.  A no brainer on this list

Marea Fusilli

Strozzapreti Con Aragosta at Lincoln (top) – Perhaps the best dish I’ve eaten this year.  Calling it simply Strozzapreti with lobster should be punishable by Italian law.  The beautiful Strozzapreti, which most likely were invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled to death (Strozzapreti means priest chokers) are made with lobster coral hence giving them the orange look.  They are mixed with not only sweet chunks of lobster but also lobster and scallop sausages (my favorite part) which is like eating the most glorious chicken skin you can imagine.  The sauce is zesty, light, and the perfect compliment to this delicate dish.  A classic in the making.  Not always on the menu, and preparation may differ based on season.

Uni Tagliatelle at Cull & Pistol – Fresh squid-ink egg noodles tossed in uni sauce and topped with tomatoes, bread crumbs, squid and Santa Barbara uni.  Marea’s uni pasta is perhaps the best I’ve had, but Marea is already on the list, and C&P’s version is pretty darn fantastic and quite different.  The sweet uni reins supreme with that rich sauce, and the smoky squid and bread crumbs add more texture to this dark beauty.  When a place makes only one pasta, its very often a good one.  Balaboosta, The NoMad come to mind as well

Cull and Pistol Tagliatelle

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil at Scarpetta – Simple isnt it?  Well, why dont you try it, and invite me for a tasting.  Recipes are all over the internet.  Chances are unless you are Scott Conant reading this (hey Scott) you will not succeed in matching the flavors of this classic.  Its fresh, bright and every ingredient suddenly comes to life.  Scarpetta’s signature dish and the most celebrated Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Basil this side of wherever they make the best Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil.  Pure awesomeness.

Scarpetta - Spaghetti

Homemade Pappardelle With Sweet Sausage at Da Andrea – There are a lot of similar Pappardelle pastas in NYC with all sorts of tasty ragus (Bar Pitti makes a good one with either rabbit or wild boar), but none of them made so many locals happy for so long.  Ok, its only been 14 years but still.  A staple on the menu since they opened in another location (Hudson st).  The purists may turn up their noses at the thought of “fake truffles” when they see Truffle Oil being used, but we dont have truffles or wallets growing in our backyards in NYC.  Not yet!  And besides, unlike many truffle oil dishes I’ve had in this town, this one got that aroma which convinces your brain that you are eating the real thing.  And dont forget to order some Tigelle with Prosciutto, another Emilia Romagna specialty

Da Andrea - Pappardelle

Half Portion

Agnolotti at All’onda – This is a tricky one since its not even the most popular pasta at All’onda (that honor goes to the Bucatini or Garganelli), nor the second or third most popular actually.  But in this town, its more unique and interesting to me than the others.  Not your average Agnolotti, nor “Plin”.  They are Mortadella filled with pistachios, and a crazy homemade XO sauce made with dried shrimp, scallops and soppressata.  XO is a sauce that Cognac laden Hong Kong chefs invented in the 80’s, except they forgot to add the key ingredient, Cognac.  This version of the sauce adds a funky aroma, and  plenty of depth, to otherwise good but basic Agnolotti

Bonus mention:  Sort of a bizarre marriage between the Agnolotti and the Cull & Pistol dish in a way is the splendid Bucatini with black garlic and Dungenese crab at Piora.  I didnt taste enough of it to include it

All'onda Agnolotti

Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe at Maialino – Open the drawer in the kitchen where you keep the pens, ribbons and paper clips (just in case that paper clip emergency comes), take a pen and write the ingredients for Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe… Tonnarelli, Cacio, Pepe!  The Romans like to keep it simple (Carbonara, Gricia).  And when I was in Rome last year, in a way I was disappointed that I wasnt exactly blown away by all the wonderful Carbonaras and Cacio e Pepes because Maialino quite frankly spoiled it for me.  If you’ve never had this dish before perhaps because “pasta with cheese and pepper” doesnt sound very enticing, now is a good time to have it.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Stracci at Osteria Morini – From the one who knocks I bring to you the one dish that you will not find in Emilia Romagna out of that splendid ER inspired menu.  Wonderfully chewy wide ribbon pasta inherits the juices of the succulent braised mushrooms.  I would be happy with just the mushrooms.  It was love at first Stracci at one of my favorite Italians in town

Osteria Morini Stracci

 

Pasta with White Truffles At ?? – Ok for this one you need to do a little bitsy homework.  Its white truffle season at the time of this writing and you can enjoy your Tagliatelle, risotto, scrambled eggs, pizza, car keys or anything else you desire with White Truffles from Alba, Tuscany or Umbria.  I know Lincoln, Maialino, Marta have it currently and last year The NoMad (below) offered it at cost.  Its a feast for all senses, especially the nose.  Me?  I’m not touching the stuff this season in this town, as I’m heading to the source, Alba white Truffle festival.  Buon Appetito!  Ciao, Ziggy

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Categories: Chelsea, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Rank Empanada Mama’s Empanadas

photo 2A Hell’l Kitchen Guide staple from day one, this mama hasnt skipped a beat since it opened.  Even when things seem slow everywhere else in the neighborhood (between lunch and dinner), these guys are busy.  I’ve gone on a special empanada diet for the past few weeks.  And for the purpose of this post, I picked 10 Empanadas which consists of all the popular ones, plus a few I was just curious about (e.g. polish).  Scoring is 1 to 10 Z’s, with 10 Z’s being the best.  Congratulations to the winners.

ZZZZZZZZZ (9) – SPICY CHICKEN.  The creme de la creme.  Chunks of chicken breast slowly cooked in mama’s special picante sauce which is reminiscent of the Israeli S’chug, a fiery delicious Yemeni spread.   This is the definition of “pleasant Heat” that stays with you for a few hours.  Fairly spicy, not for everyone

ZZZZZZZZ (8) – BRASIL – Traditional Brazilian style empanada with ground beef, olives, sauteed onions, and potatoes.  Juicy, flavor packed with excellent depth.

ZZZZZZZz (7.5) – CUBAN – Slowly roasted pork, ham with mozzarella cheese and a touch of sofrito sauce.   Very nice!  The ham and the sauce take this to another level

ZZZZZZZz (7.5) – DESAYUNO COLOMBIANO – Colombian sausage, cheddar cheese, eggs and Spanish onion.  A solid breakfast snack that’s available throughout the day.

ZZZZZZZ (7) – VIAGRA – Seafood stew with shrimp, scallops, and crab meat.  The shrimp half is a bit boring, but then when you get to the other stuff.. oooh boy!  Nice fishy flavors.  The Viagra especially goes well with the Brazil!

ZZZZZZZ (7) – TJC – Mama’s tuna melt with cheddar cheese and jalapenos.  While I didnt rate it here because I havent had in a while, the Tuna/Jalapeno Empanada (no cheese) may be even better

ZZZZZZZ (7) – MAMBO ITALIANO – Roasted Italian sweet sausage with red and green peppers, onions, mozzarella cheese and a touch of tomato sauce.  Pretty much exactly what you’d expect…  Sausage and Peppers

ZZZZZZ (6) – POLISHPolish sausage (Kielbasa) sauteed with sauerkraut.  Good if not a bit bland.  I like my Kielbasas a bit tangier.

ZZZZZ (5) – REGGAETONCaribbean style roast pork with sofrito seasoned yellow rice and peas.  I’ve enjoyed this in the past but now finding it a little dry and in desperate need of that green sauce.  Would have been better without the rice

ZZZZ (4) – CHEESESTEAKSkirt steak with mozzarella cheese and a Latin twist.  The latin twist is it squirts all over the place when opened!  Steak a bit tough, no flavor, no likey

Even though I ranked the Polish and Reggaeton at the bottom, the only one I would avoid is the last one.  Reggaeton is fairly popular.

The green sauce is nice.  Red sauce not so much

photo 3photo 1

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Five Pre-Theater Restaurants to Target

Taboon inside

Taboon

The other day I was checking out a restaurant in the theater district for a friend and the very first line of the first Yelp review made me almost spit out the Shawarma I was eating.  “Theater District is well known for its dining”.  What? Where? Boise?  If you say it out loud to someone in the subway you will get crazy stink eye stares from the locals.  The pre-theater bunch on 46th street and around has plenty of decent options like Carmen’s, Becco, Basso56 and its not necessarily a bad idea to dress up and go to one of those.  Most likely the average place is an upgrade over Boise.  But considering the level of cooking you find everywhere else in NYC, the truth is that Theater District dining is close to the bottom of the pack.

But the point of this post is not to slam Theater District dining, though I do get some pleasure from it it seems.  The point is to make it easier for the Hell’s Kitchen’s guide followers to pick a solid, affordable but somewhat unconventional place to eat before or after your show.  The HK guide is one big mishmash of mostly cheap ethnic eats, not really suitable for pre-theater unless thats what you are after.  So to make it easier for the readers I’ve flushed out five places out of the guide where you can have an exceptional meal.  All these places are not in the district but close enough (5-10 minute extra walk on average depending on the size of your heels).  Or you can just take a 5 minute taxi ride that will add $5 to your $500 evening.  I think you can afford it

Taboon (Middle Eastern)

In that spot (10th/53rd) you gotta be good to succeed.  Nothing but data centers, a liquor store, a deli and appartment buildings surround you.  Taboon utilizes its good looking “Taboon” oven to create the type of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes that will make your kids put down their phones and tell you about their day.  Yes, that powerful.  One of the top chefs in Israel help create the menu for Taboon initially.  Try any of their bread specialties, the chicken with the Israeli couscous (big and bubbly just like I like em), and the sick Silan, one of my favorites desserts in the city.

Taboon

Danji (Korean)

An instant winner with the Michelin man, this Hooni Kim’s Korean inspired tapas joint dishes out greatness in consistent fashion.  When you sit next to your new friend at the Broadway show who will boast about her Filet Mignon at Joe Allen, astonish her with the Tofu with Ginger Scallion Soy Vinaigrette, and the fiery Korean Chicken Wings, Bulgogi Beef Sliders and the Pork BibimBop you just attacked at Danji.  And after you explain to her what a Bibimbop is, perhaps its also a good time to tell her that there’s also a Joe Allen in Miami Beach where she lives and/or she can get a decent filet mignon in Boise

Danji

Mercato (Italian)

You have a plethora of Italian joints in the area.  Plenty of mediocre ones with Becco and Carmens one of the better and most popular, especially with families seeking family style dining.  But I have a different spin on “family style”.  Instead of sharing one huge chicken parm and penne alla vodka (Carmens) or order the all you can eat pastas of the day (Becco) why not share four or five different pastas that are much closer to the true south Italy cooking, vs the the south Italy cooking Americans often confuse with.  Pastas like the stupendous but simple Trenette with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil, or the rich gnocchi with finger licking beef and pork ragu, or the pasta of the day like the Cavatelli.  This is true Italian, by Italians, with Italian accents (for those with a Fish Called Wanda syndrome)

Mercato

The Marshal (American)

Sysco, Cargill, Fats R Us, are some examples of names you will see if all the area restaurants would require to print their distributors on the back of their menus.  But at the Marshal you will see the 14 local farms they deal with to produce just about every ingredient on the menu.  This is our answer to Slow Food in Italy.  If something is no longer on the menu it means its not currently grown.  A brilliant sides lineup, along with the best bread and butter in the area, followed by roasted chicken, meatloaf, best mussels this side of Newfoundland, and an amazing ice cream sundae to boot.  American food, in America, cooked by Americans (with a little bit of help by Central Americans!)

The Marshal - Bread

Ippudo (Ramen)

You may not be able to hear each other,  but you will have more fun than 96.5% of all the restaurants in the district.  Between all the shouting of the staff every time someone comes in (“welcome”), leaves (“Thank You”) or goes to the bathroom (“aim well”), and the slurping of the best noodle soup you will ever have, you wont have time to talk to your spouse anyway.  Dont be surprised if you are the only none Asian couple in the room (unless you are not a non Asian couple of course).  The best pork buns in the city (I tried a bunch) and you will be hard pressed to find better Ramen than the splendid Akamaru Modern

Happy Eating!

 

Ippudo

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Somtum Der and Hava Nagila Shoes

Somtum Der BarThe other day I went to a fairly lavish wedding.  There was caviar, lobsters, oysters, and all sorts of opulence.  Heck, I even had to not only wear a suit and tie, but also the special shoes that are hidden in the hers and hers closet.  The special Hava Nagila shoes!  You know, the ones that you only allowed can take out when there’s Hava Nagila involved.  Another words, a big, special event.  So we danced, we laughed, we cried, and we met some unexpected familiar faces which was a big surprise since I came expecting to know no one.  In fact when someone asked me how I’m related, I said “you know the mother of the bride?  I know her boss”  Meaning my wife.  That’s the only person I knew.  But on this day, with all the caviar and all the wonderful things I ate, the best things I ate was fried chicken and grilled marinated pork, just 5 hours earlier at Somtum Der with none other than the Hummus Whisperer.

Somtum Der Lemongrass drinkSomtum Der is the type of place you wouldnt caught me dead wearing Hava Nagila shoes.  Meaning she will kill me if I ever attempt this terrible crime.  But the place is pretty neat.  I normally avoid eating Thai outside of Hell’s Kitchen since Hell’s Kitchen is fairly represented.  You want Isan cooking, we got that.  You want Ratchaburi, Hell’s Kitchen got that too.  But there were two places outside of HK that I wanted to try for a long time.  Somtum Der and Uncle Boons.  One down, one to go.

Somtum Der is a newish Isan, joining Zabb Elee, Larb Ubol and the great Queens Isan joints.  Isan is the historically poor Northeast Thailand region.  Normally poor means a lot of seasoning to compensate for the otherwise uneatable meats and fish.  Poor = creative = opportunity.  Like the folks in Turin, Italy back in the day, who added hazelnuts to chocolates to compensate for the great cocoa shortage, hence opening the doors to Nutella, Ferrero Rocher and every chocolate with hazelnut out there you’ve enjoyed all those years.

Papaya salad

Papaya salad

This Isan feels different than the rest.  The Papaya here is king as the name implies (Somtum means Green Papaya Salad.  Der means Dare as in “I dare you Americans to eat our Green Papaya Salad”).  In fact, “Papaya King” was replaced in the title by “Hava Nagila shoes” midway through the article.  Yes, thats how I operate.  Sickening isnt it?  But dont worry, I’m seeking help.  The menu is filled with 8 papaya salads.  Like kindergartners, we chose the one on the menu with the biggest picture, the one that says “Recommended”, while the rest of them either said “Not Recommended” or “Not Obamacare Friendly” (meaning, Thai spicy).  Our Tum Thai Kai Kem, papaya salad with salted egg was just right.  Just what one would expect from a Papaya Salad.  Some traditionalists may expect something more fiery but it was just right.

“Sharing is Caring” is the motto here, eating with forks and fingers, no knives (just like in Laos inspired Khe-Yo.  Laos is Isan’s neighbor, sharing some of the dishes and traditions.  Papaya salad was actually invented in Laos).  The Khao Moo Tod Kratiam Prik, fried garlic pork with jasmine rice and fried egg was good, Sa Poak Kai Tod Der der-style deep-fried chicken thigh was one of the highlights.  Moist, juicy, very flavorful, and not greasy at all.  Moo Ping Kati Sod grilled coconut milk marinated beef skewers was another winner.  “Moo” oddly means pork, not beef, but you can sub it with beef.  A tiny bit dry but excellent profound sweet coconut flavors.  Perhaps the dish of the day was the Moo Rong Hai Derhouse special grilled marinated pork.  Fantastic seasoning producing deep lasting flavors, with two coconut rice sticks to help cool things off.  Just about each dish came with the house made hot sauce, other than the rice dish which came with fish sauce.  The only disappointment was the Sai Krok Isan, fried Isan sausages.  Not much flavor, or crunch on those sausages.  We tried to revive them with fish sauce, hot sauce, mouth to mouth to no avail

Marinated Pork

Marinated Pork

Dont leave without trying their refreshing Lemongrass Juice, and Thai Iced Tee.  In that order.  They were sadly out of the Taro in Condensed Coconut Milk, but the Thai Tee Panna Catta was surprisingly scrumptious.  It tasted just like Thai Iced Tea.  Cant wait to try the rest of the picture friendly menu

Somtum Der
85 Avenue A
$$
Recommended Dishes: Lemongrass Juice, Sa Poak Kai Tod Der, Moo Ping Kati Sod, Moo Rong Hai Der, Tum Thai Kai Kem

Rice and Pork

Rice and Pork

Beef Skewers

Beef Skewers

Chicken

Chicken

Sausages

Sausages

Somtum Der

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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