New York City

Hell’s Kitchen – What’s Up?

IMG_2985Latest news from the kitchen of Hell:

I’ve been enjoying a little Ecuadorian hole in the wall on 10th called Nano as of late.  Nano has some serious Nonaism going on, with homey nona style recipes filling up the menu like the Caldo de Bola soup which made the Best Soups in HK cut.  For lunch you got various deals that include the Seco de Pollo, chicken strips in a mild but pleasant gravy, and Sango de Res, beef in a soup like green plantain sauce.  Some of the other offerings look very much Peruvian.  I’ll be adding this one to the Survival GuideCaldo de Bola at Nano

Staying with the Peruvian theme, adding Pio Pio as a large group option to the guide.  Pio Pio is a chain and it wont win any James Beard or Z-List awards any time soon.  But for larger groups, even fairly last minute, I cant think of better options that are also affordable in the area.  Décor downstairs is somewhat funky, drinks are good.  When its time to celebrate something at my company and I’m asked for “Not as expensive as last time, please” (think Blue Ribbon or Taboon), I’m left with a Pio Pio

Removing Hell’s Chicken.  I just dislike going here.  No atmosphere, lackluster food at times.  Honestly the only Korean you need to know about is Danji.

There was a time when I would wet dream about our office being in East Village.  By wet dream I mean, a co worker would shout “Its happening again!”, and another coworker would pour cold water on me.  But those moments are long gone (Replaced by a younger Salma Hayek).  Nowadays, not only Hell’s Kitchen is thriving in the food front, but businesses from East Village are slowly opening locations here.  Taqueria Diana very quietly is the latest one to open a branch on 9th (39th), just a few small blocks from the mew Tehuitzingo.  While a mixed bag so far (good al pastor, poor carnitas), the promise is there for a proper California style Burrito.  With all this Mexican greatness in the hood, I still cant find a decent reliable Burrito.  Oy, first world problems!IMG_2983

A lot of changes happening at Gotham West MarketEl Colmado, trying to become a viable lunch option as its neighbors, introduced a lunch menu consisting of sandwiches and salads.  But based on the punchless fancy burger I had yesterday, they need to work a little harder.  Ivan Ramen keeps reshuffling its lineup introducing various “buns” (think pork buns) including Pastrami buns.  The all-day breakfast ramen which used to be mornings only, is possibly the best thing you can eat in the building at the moment.  The most interesting addition to the market as of late has been Uma Temakeria from Chris Jaeckle, owner of the terrific All’onda in West Village.  The specialty here is Sushi served in wacky forms like nori cones (think ice cream sushi), Burritos, and design your own Chirashi bowls.  Nothing shockingly exciting, but so far so good with everything I tried.  A refreshing addition for the raw fish lovers

If you missed it, I recently blogged about my favorite soups in the area.  A blog post my mom would have been very proud of.  And before that, I gave you my favorite Thai around.  Since then however, I’ve been enjoying another place called Siri Thai on 10th ave, but not quite ready to put on the list with three very solid places there already.  The one cool thing about Siri Thai is that its not only the busiest Thai on 10th, it one of the busiest places period.

Buon Appetito!

 Uma Temakeria

Uma Temakeria

Ivan Ramen Breakfast Ramen

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Avoid Seamless Like you Avoid Times Square

Seamless

Seamless

Choking sign.  Thats what I got from business owners when talking about Seamless the last few weeks.  I knew things are bad but not to this extreme.  Seamless provides a service that is, well, seamless to the consumer.  Ordering food delivery has never been easier.  With your CC info on file, its pretty much point and click.  The hardest part is to move your tuches (with a jewish ch) to open the door.  At my company in Hell’s Kitchen, Seamless is the preferred method for lunch.  At least it was until I told my coworkers the real story.

Seamless charges anywhere from 10-20% commission for every purchase.  The owners I spoke to get charged 16% on average.  Getting closer to the 10% zone and seeing your name on top comes with a high price tag.  This is a huge chunk of their profit without much to gain in terms of customers.  To the business owner, its a middle man, showing up one day out of nowhere to take a hefty cut of the profits.  Like a modern day mafia, leaving you no choice, and no additional business.

Why cant they stop using the service?  I asked that question over and over.  Thats where the choking gesture comes in at some point.  Seamless has simply ballooned into something so big that dropping them means losing a big chunk of your business.  With the acquisition of Grubhub, Seamless pretty much owns the field, and essentially a monopoly.  There are smaller players entering the field like Yelp, and other deliver options like Maple from David Chang but none of these for the time being are disruptive to this behemoth.

The popularity and convenience of Seamless means people order out more and go out less, resulting in even more lesser profits.  The brand is so big that its almost fair to classify it a generic trademark, essentially synonymous with food deliveries, as in “Hey Shlomo, wana Seamless it today”.  When I sit at a restaurant these days its almost like seating at a Seamless establishment as you are surrounded by Seamless signs and listen to Seamless delivery alerts coming from the system.  It makes you feel ancient, not part of the new system, albeit much appreciated by the now overly stressed business.

And as we see over and over again, those same mom and pops simply fold one day and move on.  A little rent increase is all it takes these days.  Mom and pop move on to Denver, a new Starbucks takes it place.  You like that sandwich?  You want them to continue making it.  Call them directly!

 

Categories: New York City | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Nishi – La Cucina Fukina

Gabriele Stabile

Gabriele Stabile

Yesterday I blew the dust off of Fred Plotkin’s Italy For the Gourmet Traveler to brush up on my Sicily food scene.  The book was published in 1996 and is still a good resource for everything Italy foodstuff, since not much really ever change there.  In Venice, people continue to eat canal seafood.  In Piedmont they will continue to munch on Vitello Tonnato and Carne Cruda.  And in Rome they will continue honoring the Cucina Povera (simple food of the poor) for what seems like indefinitely.  You dont come to Bologna and ask what people are eating these days.  Its the same cuisine they’ve been enjoying for centuries.  New York City on the other hand is a totally different beast.  A Plotkin book on NYC would get stale after about a year.  Bagel, pastrami, egg cream, hot dog, steak…  those seeking what New York is known for are missing out in a big way.  New York is known for everything and nothing.  The only constant here is change, and the new Italianish Momofuku Nishi is perhaps the poster child of that NYC ever changing dining scene right now.

The answer to what is the hottest restaurant in NYC right now has never been clearer.  Franklin Barbecue, Noma, a psychic in New Orleans, a call girl in Stuttgart…  Just some of the things that come mind that are more difficult to snatch than a table at Nishi at the moment.  Those lucky enough to make it, got the bragging rights of a Taylor Swift posse member.  The other day they announced that they now accept reservations two weeks out.  That will improve your chance of getting a table by roughly .04%.

But as long as there’s no physical harm involved, I’m game with this modern “text me when my table is ready” wait.  Arrived at 5:45 on a Saturday, 15 mins after they opened, with a disturbing looking line around the block.  But things move fast, as after only 20 minutes I was having the much anticipated meeting with the hostess.  “Next available table is… looking like… ooh, I can sit you on Wednesday, 10:30” was going through my mind as I was expecting the worst (ok, slight exaggeration).  But instead I got “Two and half hours”.  No biggie, as I was planning to take the opportunity to show our visitors (from Staten Island!) Chelsea Market.  I get a text an hour and 45 minutes later, and off we go

Stylish wooden communal tables, extremely loud, supportless seats unless you count the occasional waiter bumping behind.  Essentially a typical NY establishment these days.  No complaints from me as long as the inventive menu delivers (spoiler alert:  It does).  Although the Asian Italian mashup isnt necessarily new to NYC (Piora, All’onda), Momofuku almost makes it look like brand new.

Ceci e Pepe – The early reports signature is what I call a grower.  A play on the Roman Cacio e Pepe but instead of Pecorino, it’s swirled with chickpea hozon which Ssam bar has been toying with for a while now.  The result is a subtle sweeter version.  While I couldnt quite make up my mind if I prefer this over the classic, by the time I finished I found myself “Scarpettaing” the plate with my middle finger.

Nishi Ceci e peppe

Beef Crudo – One of the more complex, and beautiful raw beef dishes out there.  Topped with watermelon radishes (think daikan), ponzu, dashi and scallions.  All combined produces a very nice bite.  And for only $48 extra you can get a decent shaving of winter Black Truffles on top,  Its about $24-30 more than I’m willing to pay for Black, and $10 more than I’m willing to pay for white in the fall.

Nishi Beef Carpaccio

Chicken and Dumplings – Another great dish.  A riff on the Korean Sujebi, with Chicken, bread dumplings and plenty of delicious shiitake along with an excellent rich broth.  Mrs Ziggy especially appreciates a good soup and this was her favorite dish

Nishi Chicken Dumplings

Spicy Beef Sichuan – Perhaps the top pasta of the night.  This is where they take a classic Italian dish like Pappardelle with meat ragu, and applying bold Sichuan flavors like Yacai (preserved mustard greens), fermented chili paste and tofu.  Like Pappardelle with ragu, and Dan Dan noodles gave birth to a baby named Roger.

Nishi Spicy Sichuan

Chitarra with Squid – The only miss of the night.  Should have gone with the clams Grand Lisboa.  This was sort of one note, with fishy XO sauce that doesnt quite go well with this pasta for me (emphasis on “for me”.  How dare I question the king).  And then there’s the squid that sort of gets lost in the shuffle.  I like the use of XO in heavier pastas like the Agnolotti in All’onda.  Add the odd price of $36 (why?), and its an easy skip IMO.

Nishi Chitarra

Leg of lamb – Truly exceptional piece of meat.  Arrives looking nothing like the legs you know and love.  So tender, so delicious, with white beans and sauce that would disappear much quicker if there was bread (no bread here and not really necessary.  I’m just being a little melodramatic)

Nishi lamb

Finished with the famous Korean dessert… Pistachio Bundt Cake.  Or is it Italian?  Either way, it was a proper finisher, pictured below with my friend Robert still pursuing his dream of becoming a hand model.  Some wine, some Limoncello slushies (about a drink each) added up to $320 for 4 (Note we ordered 2 of the Cecis as one is not enough for 4).  No tipping allowed.

Momofuku Nishi
232 Eighth Avenue
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Ceci e Pepe, Beef Crudo, Chicken and Dumplings, Spicy Beef Sichuan, Leg of lamb (or shoulder), Pistachio Bundt Cake

Nishi Bundt Cake

 

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top 10 Dishes of 2015

Aquavit Bird's NestDid you think I had forgotten about this?  You were right, I did.  But then I remembered!  Then forgot again… remembered… but then decided not to bother.  Then I changed my mind again when someone wished me Happy New Years just the other day.  If its not too late for that, its not too late for this.  Personally I think about a week of Happy New Years sounds about right to me before the notion expires.  And I dont quite get the writers who list their best of, weeks before the end of the year.  How can they possibly be so sure that they wont eat something amazing in the next few week.  I had one of the dishes below in the last few days of the year….

Uni Mushroom Ramen at Jun-men

Calling this one Ramen is like calling Maialino’s Cacio e Pepe, Ramen.  Its essentially a nicely crafted, rich, and beautiful looking pasta.  Mushrooms, salty Pancetta, Porcini butter, truffle oil, noodles, and Uni that gets better and better in quality.  I’ve had this dish three times last year.

Uni Jun-Men Ramen

Courtesy of Jun-Men

Pastrami Sandwich at Harry & Ida’s

I’ve eaten many fantastic sandwiches during my youngish adult life, but very few left a mark like this one.  Thick, plentiful, tender, perfectly spiced slices of pastrami with cucumber and dill.  The greatest thing to enter the pastrami scene in many years

Harry & Ida's PastramiFairytale Eggplant at Bruno Pizza

One of the standouts from a standout meal.  Pizza is in the name, but the attention to detail spreads throughout.  Eggplant and Shishitos come with this mild black cashew paste that transforms this dish, like a fairytale.

Bruno Pizza EggplantMission Chinese Chicken Fingers at Fuku+

Momofuku and Mission, a marriage made in heaven.  As much as I love high spice and heat levels, I find the Mission Chinese wings a bit too intense.  But applying the seasoning to the meaty boneless Fuku chicken is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.  Pair it with the mini Fuku sandwich for a nice fiery lunch

Mission Chinese Choicken Fingers Fuku+Squash Carpaccio at Santina

I was all set to list the wonderful Cecina of the wonderful Santina which I must have each time.  But after the last visit, I think I have a new favorite.  Thinly sliced squash with pumpkin seeds adding a nice texture, crème fraiche dropped like Hershey kisses, brown butter, pink peppercorn and other spices and herbs.  Get this.

Santina Squash CarpaccioBreakfast Ramen at Ivan Ramen

Take out my favorite dish (White fish turned Salmon Donburi), replace it with something like this, and I quickly forgive and forget… until you change your mind about the whole “available all day” thing.  Rich cheddary Dashi, Scallion omelette, ham, noodles, and more.  Magic in a bowl

Ivan Ramen Breakfast RamenEggs with Caviar at Ko

Picking a favorite from this meal is like Ray Lewis picking his favorite illegitimate child.  Soft scrambled eggs with Osetra caviar and breadcrumb-like fried potatoes, with homemade bread and radish butter. Like breakfast at Putin’s!

Momofuku Ko eggsPastrami Rubbed Rib Eye at Khe-Yo

Lets first clarify a few things, and please dont shoot the messenger.  There’s no pastrami, and there’s really no steak here.  The steak is a rare special, but can be found at sister American Cut, and we are talking about pastrami spices, not actual pastrami doing its best bacon impersonation.  Steak of the year!

Courtesy of Zagat

Courtesy of Zagat

Truffle Seafood Broth at Oiji

Mussels, Shrimp, two Crispy Rice “Sheets” that sizzle when the broth is poured table side.  But its all about the beautiful, dark, rich broth that makes this a winner.  Just a small hint of truffle, perhaps not enough to be part of the name, but just enough to round up the perfect broth

Oiji Truffle Seafood BrothArctic Bird’s Nest at Aquavit

Perhaps the most instagrammed dessert on the planet.  The more I learn about Scandinavian chefs (see Chef’s Table on Netflix) the more I understand the motivation.  A masterpiece!

Happy New Year! ;)

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Why Di Palo’s is my Favorite Food Store in NYC

Ziggy’s first book review. Best dishes of 2015 coming up next

Eating With Ziggy

IMG_1622

January 26, 2016 Update:

My absolute favorite thing to do while on vacation is, you guessed it, eat.  And my second favorite thing is to read about what I’m going to eat on my next vacation.  Instead of reading a book about Sicily, I opted to read Lou Di Palo’s wonderful Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy, hoping to get some useful tips on my next destination.  I got that and then some.  It was especially great reading about the history of the store, and the stories, moving stories, about Lou’s life and travels in Italy.

The book reaffirmed something I suspected all along.  There’s nothing like Di Palo’s in the city of NY, and maybe even in the entire USA.  After just finishing the book, I cant wait stop by the store.  This time I’ll be one of the ‘jerks’ that bypasses his turn in order to be served by Lou.  I need more…

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Best Soups in Hell

Akamaru Modern Ippudo

Akamaru Modern Ippudo

Winter is here in beautiful Hell’s Kitchen.  The sky is blue, the birds are chirping, and the cabbies are singing “I feel pretty, oh so pretty” and other West Side Story tunes.  That’s what it feels like after you have any of those soups below on a cold NY day.  Let me put this another way… I’m not a soup person.  It rarely excites me, and I would never go out of my way for decent soup.  So for me to write about soup, it must be something special.  This post is 15 years in the making really, and none of these are your average homemade Ratatouille moment grandma soups.  For that I recommend grandma!  (although I will touch on some of those at the end)

Caldo de Bola at Nano – Perhaps I should have added to the above “Unless your Grandma is Ecuadorian”.  A tiny Eucadorian hole in the wall on 10th serves this traditional thing of beauty.  Rich, beefy broth with veggies, beef, corn on the cob, yes corn on the cob which is probably the least interesting item in there.  The most is a giant plantain dumpling with all sorts of awesome deliciousness inside… more beef, raisins, egg and peanut sauce.  Sounds bizarre, but it works

Caldo de Bola at NanoSpicy Ramen at Totto – Home to Ziggy’s first and coincidentally last Ramen, with about 100 in between.  Delicious Chicken Paitan broth topped with spicy sesame oil and your choice of chicken or pork belly (I’ve never had the chicken, always pork).  I like to sit at the counter at the 51st/10th location where you can also get some apps like Spicy Tuna Don at half price with your ramen (lunch time only I believe).  Cash only.

Totto Spicy RamenSukhothai Pork Noodles Soup at Pure Thai Cookhouse– While its hard for me to stay away from the rest of the menu normally, during frozen tundra times, this is the dish of choice.  A clean but tangy pork broth with rice noodles, sweet sliced roasted pork, long bean, bean sprout, peanuts, dried shrimp, ground pork, and if thats not enough, topped with pork cracklings.  Yes, its busy, YES its delicious.  Skip the option to upgrade to the homemade egg noodles and stick to tradition.  TRADITION!

Pure Thai SukhothaiShanghai Pork & Shrimp Wonton Soup at Mooncake Foods.  Calling this Wonton soup is almost criminal.  Whether you generally like Wonton soups or normally pass on them at your neighborhood Chinese takeout in favor of the hot & sour, is irrelevant.  Pure, clean chicken broth with a generous amount of fantastically meaty dumplings, and noodles (extra).  Perhaps the best cure for the common cold in the hood.

Mooncake Foods Wonton soupAkamaru Modern at Ippudo.  I’ve exchanged eye pleasantries and perhaps tasted a spoon or two, but after a dozen or so visits, I’ve never actually had Ramen at Ippudo that’s not called Akamaru Modern, mainly out of fear.  I’ve made it this far, waited this long, not settling for potentially second best.  This porky Tonkotsu Ramen with a secret umami paste transforms ramen as we know it.  A game changer.  While Totto is my quick ramen fix, this one is where I would bring a wife, or a date

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai – I’ve already written about this one in great length.  Forget winter!  This is the official cure to summer time sadness.

Pam Real Oxtail Soup

The RestIndie Fresh at Gotham West Market got unusual and healthy soups like Borscht that can even make a Babushka blush… a rather shy Babushka.  When I’m in the mood for something simple like white bean or split pea soup I head to my friend Anna at Café Ole.  Sometimes when I feel naughty, I get Ezra’s terrific split pea with my falafel at Azuri CaféMocu Mocu serves a most unusual Miso with white bean and Sausage.  RIP Bis.Co.Latte, and Holly’s amazing soups

Mocu Mocu Miso

Mocu Mocu Miso

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

Hanjan – Plan B Gets an A

House of Hao’s

It was one of those wildly premature excitements we experienced when we pulled over at 8 pm Saturday in front of 2 week old Nishi.  No line, on the worst time possible to visit the hottest restaurant on the east coast right now.  “Its gonna be about 10 or so” he says, “Oh, 10 minutes?  thats great” “No, I mean we can sit you at 10!  But its most likely gonna be 10:30”.  They just began a texting service… well whoop dee freakin doo.  Thats about 90 minutes more than I’m willing to wait with a kid.  Strong plan B it is.

Something tells me the great Hooni Kim doesnt mind the plan B tag here considering plan A was the latest David Chang (Momofuku) venture that is taking the city by the Chaloopas.  To give you an idea, the buzz on Nishi started before there was even any sign of a Nishi or anything else really.  No one knew what its gonna be.  The buzz started when Momofuku took on a lease on the space in Chelsea.  Z-List winner Jun-Men Ramen was another plan B contender since Mrs Ziggy still hasnt been (I’ve been 4 times).  But after flirting with Danji about a dozen times, I figured it was time to check out its younger sister, who coincidentally also keeps her goodies in her drawers!Hanjan

Hanjan, albeit newer, is more rustic and casual than Danji.  Communal table in the middle flanked by rows of individual tables with semi comfortable couches (chairs are more comfy), with dim lighting (I think its about time restaurants create blogger/vision impaired spots with ample lighting) contribute to the fun vibe.  As with Danji, the focus is on locally sourced, sustainable seasonal ingredients from local farms.  As I’ve been saying for a while, Farm-to-Table is a funny concept considering there are so many places doing the same thing but not billing themselves as such.  Any good ingredient driven establishment like Danji, Hanjan, and many all over town are essentially Farm-to-Table.  But I have zero issues with those places like The Marshal that call themselves as such to separate from the competitors nearby

Hanjan DumplingsStarted this one with a bang.  Kim’s take on Ddukbokki, Spicy Rice cake w. Pork Fat and fishcakes.  I thought I’ve had all the various shapes and textures of Korean/Chinese rice cakes but I guess I was wrong.  This one was “meatier”, chewier texture smothered with that classic intense Korean hot, sour, sweet chili sauce.  Very good and Mrs Z, and youngest favorite of the night, though I still prefer the Gnocchi like porkiness of Ssam Bar which is in a league of its own (yet another disagreement with these guys).  Pork and shrimp fried dumplings tasted much better than they looked.  Spicy Chicken Thigh Skewers were good if not slightly overcooked (slightly).  Hanjan gets its chicken from a top Brooklyn purveyor, freshly killed over the last 24 hours, so never frozen.

BBQ Wagyu Short Rib comes as part of a Ssam set of goodies was a high quality, nicely marbled piece of meat.  Good, but not particularly as memorable as the next dish.  Long time EWZ historians know how fond I am of a nicely constructed fried rice dish, and this was one of the best I’ve had in NYC.  Kimchi & Beef Brisket Fried Rice with a fried egg delivered big time flavors with nice socarrat action. The key here was little crunchy cubes of Kimchi pickled Daikon (Korean radish) that tied all the flavors together.

Hanjan
36 W 26th St
$$$
Reccommended Dishes: Rice Cakes, Dumplings, Short Rib, Fried Rice

Hanjan Rice Cakes Hanjan Skewers

 

 

 

 

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lupulo – A Taste of Lisboa in… Chachkitown?

A less than “hoppy” update on Lupulo…

Eating With Ziggy

Lupulo

January 7, 2016 Update:

Sorry to say I’m not as enthusiastic about Lupulo after a recent visit.  The place may still be a fun spot to grab a beer and perhaps some Piri Piri chicken, but the food is way too hit or miss and pricier than it should be.  Also for a Saturday night I would expect it to be much busier.

A special of snails in garlicky sauce was bland and uneventful.  The dry snails were impenetrable and could have used some French mastery perhaps.  Shrimp Porridge with two perfectly cooked shrimp was quite good.  No complaints about the shrimp turnovers either.  Manilla clams and Brussels Sprouts were fairly forgettable.  The one big miss was a lamb leg that was under-cooked while lacking any distinct flavors, accompanied by far (good) and some pickled veggies that didnt quite belong.  The Frango chicken with Piri Piri sauce was still good.  Nice and…

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Most Memorable Meals of 2015

Pulker's Heuriger Feast

Pulker’s Heuriger

And just like that, its over Johnny.  2015 was yet another year of great eats, great drinks, and yes great chicken wings.  I’m grateful!  Grateful for living in the greatest food city in the world.  Grateful for living with someone who not only supports this addiction but also willing to sleep with that thing.  Grateful for the kids who will eat anything as long as its not made by mom and dad.  Grateful for the friends and family.  What will 2016 bring?  Sicily!  Other than that who knows.  Most likely more chicken wings.  Here are the most memorable meals of 2016…

Momofuku Ko (NYC) – Quite possibly the best meal we ever had in NYC was at this new Ko 2.0 location.  An 18 courser, counter sitting, feast for all senses extravaganza.  Perhaps the best, most unique dining experience NY has to offer at the moment

Momofuku Ko Venison

Bruno Pizza (NYC) – The best meal with the most unassuming name.  While there wasnt anything earth shattering food wise, the entire meal from start to finish was just brilliant.  And before Danny Meyer made the news with his no tipping policy, there was Bruno implementing its own spin on the controversy.

Bruno Pizza Eggplant

Aquavit (NYC) – Emma Bengtsson’s Chef’s tasting menu is quite possibly the most underrated tasting menu in town.  The kicker here is that not only you are presented with tasty opulence coming out one after another, but you also got the anticipation and the arrival of one of the most Instagrammed desserts on the planet

Aquavit sorbet

Caicos Cafe (Turks and Caicos) – An odd mention considering we’ve been here over a dozen times, but still very much memorable in my mind.  Two meals on every visit is our ritual these days, and both meals this past year featured all our favorites and then some. It just gets better and better.

Caicos Cafe - Tagliolini

La Taqueria (SF) – Strange for me to choose this one over the great meals we had at Cockscomb and NOPA.  But this rather hectic light lunch was the one that gave me food envy like no other.  I’ve been eating tacos and burritos for many years, but the carnitas tacos and Carne Asada Burrito here was like eating this stuff for the very first time.  Cliche, but true.

La Taqueria food

Pulker’s Heuriger (Rührsdorf, Austria) – Our first foray into the Austrian Heuriger scene was memorable to say the least.  A wine grower’s wine tavern that serves menuless, fresh, local homemade food.  This one is right by the Danube, in the picturesque Wachau Valley.  This is why you rent a car

Pulker's Heuriger

Hibernia (Anguilla) – Still fresh in our minds, we are still awestruck by this one.  A 30 minute drive East brings you to this foodie paradise.  Brilliantly executed Asian inspired food with a French flair in an absolute stunner of a setting, surrounded by essentially an art gallery.  A dining experience like no other

Anguilla Hibernia Smoked Trio

Categories: Anguilla, Austria/Czech Republic, California, New York City, Turks and Caicos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Quality Italian – Locals Trap

Quality ItalianIn my adopted home of Turks and Caicos (I’m not worthy) there’s a little famous place called The Conch Shack, nicely situated right on the beach.  Its an island institution of sorts, appearing on various “best Caribbean shack” lists and quite popular with tourists and locals alike.  The same fame also means an occasional “Tourist Trap” tag given by visitors with less than stellar experiences.  A rather unfitting tag considering the establishment lacks the number one ingredient for a “tourist trap”… location.  To get to the Conch Shack visitors need to hire a car, or take an expensive cab ride.  There are other reasons why the Conch Shack is far from a tourist trap, like the constant need to protect a reputation, but the bottom line as far as I’m concerned is location, location, location.

Times Square and much of Midtown Manhattan is on the other end of the spectrum.  As tourism continues the steady yearly rise, rents continue to skyrocket, and restaurateurs need to stay on top of the tourist game.  In a sea of establishments that are strictly in the business of making tourists happy (think today’s Little Italy), there are plenty of reputable establishments that can’t afford to release clunkers out of their kitchens.  Spots like Ma Peche, Marea, Betony may not satisfy everyone, but you get the sense they care about every single dish they put on the table.  Up until last weekend I thought Quality Italian and Quality Meats were in that same company.

It took about 5 minutes to realize that I’m sitting in a slightly fancier, tourist filled Rosa Mexicana.  Except that in RM I would be attended to initially without asking for it.  For the 5 of us this evening, we opted to share a yellowtail crudo (good, though I prefer the flat skinny cuts over cubes), Ricotta (very good), a few pastas, one steak and the world famous chicken parm shaped like a 12 inch pizza pie.

The Bucatini & Clams was actually quite good.  Covered by a rich, pleasantly peppery ragu with potatoes.  But it comes with a price tag, $33, which is $11 more than the listed online price (at the time of this writing showing $22).  Same price discrepancy with the Agnolotti and the rest of the pastas, not so much with other items on the menu

Quality Italian Bucatini

On occasion we do see price discrepancies between actual and online menus, but not quite to this 50% extreme.  Perhaps I dont frequent mega touristy area restaurants often enough, but how the hell do they get away with this.  Whether this is a mistake or not, after several tries I have not given any explanations from Quality Meats representatives.  The closest to that was a “Oooh really, we’ll let our marketing dep’t know”

On top of that I was not even given the opportunity for redemption.  A bone-in filet was dry and flavorless.  Dont believe me? ask my 13 year steak aficionado daughter who picked up on that before I took my first bite.  A recall a similar cut at Del Frisco’s nearby that was much more successful.  At a place known for their ways with the meat, this was as shocking as the pasta-gate.

The legendary Chicken Parm has been talked about since QI opened.  Bloggers, Yelpers, Eater, children books written about this famous dish.  The cost:  $64.  The verdict:  It tastes approx $10 better than Mrs Ziggy’s version.  Its a decent bite initially, but the sweetness of the sauce takes charge before you even finish the first slice.  And if the sauce is not sweet enough, among an arsenal of condiments to justify the cost, you also get honey.

As we say bye bye to 2015, let this post be the beginning of the new and angrier improved Eating With Ziggy.  The reason I finally got to experience Quality Italian was because I was looking at something to eat before the new musical School of Rock and seeing the new tree which to me looks exactly the same as the previous 30. And if there’s one thing I learned from School of Rock is that when the time comes, sometimes, you just gotta STICK IT TO THE MAN!

Quality Italian
57 W 57th St
Recommended Dishes:  Ricotta

Quality Italian Chicken Parm

 

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

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