Timna – Chutzpah Nation

Eating With Ziggy

Timna Octopus

March 26, 2017 Update:

At Tompkins Square Park, just east of Timna, there’s a Temperance fountain, constructed in late 19th century to help locals with their alcohol self restrain.  Drink water, avoid booze.  Sounds easy enough.  A primarily German neighborhood did all it could to maintain the legacy, up until the prohibition.  Today the park is surrounded by bars!

No such temperance, self restrain luck with Timna’s new spring menu however.  Dish after dish of dazzling combinations between the newcomers and the old heavyweights like the Kubaneh and Octopus, testing my self control and wallet.  Like a fat kid in a candy story, I want to eat all you got, now!

Perhaps if fat kids would eat cauliflower like this, the world would be a healthier place.  At Israeli establishments we are attracted to Cauliflower like Trump to Twitter.  But it was the cured tuna Sashimi that stole the show yet again early on with…

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Provo – Food for Thought 2017

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Thai Orchid Duck

On my first night in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos a couple of months ago I had a Provo nightmare.  It started fine, with me walking on the beach with people that I didnt come here with.  All sorts of random people, like my high school music teacher.  But things turned at some point, to the point where I was awoken with a little sweat slowly dripping down my forehead.  On our little walk, we lost track of time, and I missed breakfast time!  Which also meant I missed Seven Stars’ new omelette station.  Yes, the Provo nightmare is a little more subdued than regular nightmares we have at home.  During a dream last night, my oldest fell from the roof of Madison Square Garden on a sled.  Long story!

But lets get straight to eating.  The biggest takeaway from the last trip is that we should start limiting trying new places.  As much as I try to find some new spots for you and me, this is just not working.  The old guys just keep chugging along, while new places, and especially resort places keep pretending and delivering odd experiences.  There’s one exception however.

Caicos Cafe – Nothing new here.  Our usual first and last stop.  But I start to get the sense that these guys wont be around here for too long.  Wahoo Carpaccio is the same sea butter awesomeness self.  Got two grilled calamaris this time to avoid World War Z.  The lobster Fra Diavola didn’t do it for me this time around. Just missing some of that old pop.  But the old Oriechiette with pork sausage ragu is back with a vengeance, showing very nice depth.  The Octopus starter here is a slap your sister wowster!  Brilliantly cooked on top of this delicious “I can’t believe this is not hummus” chickpea mousse.  Black Tagliolini continues to be a must, and the steak and ribs are very underrated here.IMG_5066

Solana – In NYC, during my Hell’s Kitchen walks, I show visitors the various Thai restaurants and how to tell between the good and not so good.  A big clue is in the looks department.  The ones that look like dingy dives are far better than those with sexy looking rooms with expensive chandeliers.  Such is the case in some cases with Provo, and especially with Solana taking the place of EWZ fave Seaside.  A marked improvement in the looks dept, with dumbed-down food. The blackened fish sandwich is the same Swai as before but not blackened enough, hence blander.  An “award winning” Conch salad paled in comparison to Seaside’s Peruvian conch salad.  Fried Calamari plate looked gorgeous, but a quality and quantity fail.  This is owned by the Vix group people, and I just dont think they care about ingredients nearly as much as looks.

Flamingo’s – The only news here is that they now accept CC.  In other news, the Curried Grouper is still the same melt in your mouth flaky goodness.  An island classic that requires some research (like reading this blog) to know about it.  This time we also did some dirty dancing with a fine jerk chicken and passable ribs.  But you come here for lunch for the grouper and rum punch.IMG_5086

Le Bouchon – Nothing to see here, move a long.  Another great meal at good ol’ reliable LB.  They keep experimenting (on me sometimes), stretching that menu, and stretching that sidewalk to the point that no one can see the board anymore.  Soups are still great.  Escargot is still perfection.  Octopus Carpaccio is outrageous (but not cheap).  The steps to produce it read like IKEA instructions.  Au poivre still rules the island Games of Steak.  And on this night a nice crispy snapper with buttery Beurre Blanc sauce.

Simone’s – The strong exception as far as new places go.  We tried it for lunch last time and liked it enough to come back for dinner.  Its the resort area Three Queens if you will, but still a small schlep from the hub to La Vista Azul resort.  Simone, formerly with Sharkbites, is a sweetheart, and treats family like customer!  Oh wait, I think I got it backwards.  The “Conch Ceviche”, now that Seaside is gone, perhaps the Conch Salad to beat.  A beefy fresh Wahoo, like a thick and juicy, flavor packed Swordfish.  Local fishermen dine here both times we were here.Simone's Conch Salad

Thai Orchid – If you follow this blog, you know how much I love Thai food.  So it may sound odd that this is my first time trying Thai Orchid in Provo, but really it shouldnt be. Crispy Duck was exactly what I expected. Crispy, understandably dry, but quite good especially once you add some chili sauce. A lot of nice flavorful crackling action. The Snapper Choo Chee was pretty good too. It’s a thicker, dryer red curry.  With a fresher Caicos Snapper it would have been a chooooo chooooo! instead of choo chee.  Ok, I try.

Chinson’s – Goat curry fix, Check.  Spiciest goat curry out there, which is surprising considering how sweet their Chinese fried rice is and other dishes.  Jerk chicken was on point. But the best thing surprisingly was a pulled pork sandwich. Heaps of juicy pork with a sweetish and sour sauce.  Note to self, again… you dont like ginger beer!  Chinson is now on the regular rotation, graduating perhaps into dinner nextIMG_5181

Cocovan – A new addition to the Coco Bistro family, an Airstream parked in the CB parking lot operating only at dinner time. Perhaps a play on words on Coq au vin.  Love CB, but didnt love, nor quite frankly got Cocovan.  The Shrimp tacos were meh.  Didn’t taste much shrimp, nor blackened, nor “coconut hummus”.  Duck tacos were more like it if not a little dry.  Sweet and sour Caicos lobster tasted like fine rock shrimp tempura.  Lamb lollipops tasted like an average, slightly overcooked baby lamb chops you get at your nearest kebab house with an $8 per lollipop price tag.  20 mins, $120 later with some of us still hungry, now what do you do.  It felt like an overpriced resort lunch with familiar flavors to me, but I have no doubt this will be popular.  I would rather go to something local like Caravel.  Or perhaps a niche player, serving fresh fish tacos, or high quality burgers.

Hemingway’s – If there’s one place that feels like home.  Our first meal on the island over 10 years ago, and nothing changed.  That includes the women running the front who see our girls grow and hairline shrink.  We come here for lunch and order just two things, fish tacos and fish and chipsIMG_5208

Pavilion – First visit to the newish (2 years?) fine dining at the Somerset, in the old O’soleil (aka O’SoSmall?) place.  Hits and misses throughout, and essentially a one and done deal for us.  Good conch spring rolls.  Tasty Poke style tuna cubes sitting on top of avocado that was not fresh, with even less fresh banana chips on the side. C’mon, at a place like this you can’t serve this.  Well cooked, supersized lobster was the star of show, beating the snapper.  Grouper, a major fail.  Crispy battered into a mushy, oversized fish and chip gone horribly wrong.  Ambiance of a typical hotel restaurant.

Sweet T’s – Fried chicken stop on the way to the airport.  Best value on the island

Stay hungry my friends!

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Via Carota – The Road More Travelled

Via Carota FunghiWhen I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  When I make a mistake, its usually a big one.  After all, I am human, and I need to be loved just like everyone else (as the great Morrisey once put it).  Its a rarity for me to come back to a place I didnt love initially, and thankfully it was only a year in this case.  Thanks to the power of social media, and foodies whose opinions speak much more volume than the rest of the media, we can now make New York Italian great again.

Another rarity:  I’m writing about a place I’ve only dined at solo.  When an Italian restaurant with this caliber opens in NYC offering the same great menu all day long, one needs to take advantage during the day.  One of the biggest differences between eating in Italy and the US is the disparity between lunches.  In Italy, lunch is taken almost as seriously as dinner and in many cases there are no separate menus between lunch and dinner.  Since I eat mostly out during lunch, you get extra brownie points for this kind of menu.

But something tells me Rita Sodi and Jody Williams know a lot more about Brownies than I do.  Even prior to this at I Sodi and Buvette, they proved they can flat out cook.  Mario Batali is a fan.  At Via Catota they created the type of corner eatery where you meet your friend for lunch after a long trip in Thailand.  The initial hype stemmed from the names involved, was probably unfair for a place like this, but many Villagers took advantage early on.  Today, dont be surprised to see the place full during lunch.Via Carota Cacio e Pepe

Its worth coming back here just for the Funghi.  I love a good Mushroom dish, but very rarely I get a dish that speaks to me in this kind of language, Yiddish.  Oyster, Maitake, Trumpet and one more I didn’t recognize perfectly grilled with all that wonderful earthiness, on top of smoked grilled Scamorza, with shallot, garlic, and olive oil vinaigrette.  A mishegas combination that works oh so beautifully.  It could be NYC’s mushroom dish to beat.

Yesterday the Rabbit tasted like a mighty fine fried chicken, with wonderful herby notes throughout.  Nicely done, but with the caveat that it may taste very much like chicken when its fried like that.  The Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe here is as legit as it gets west of Rome.  I preferred it over the popular Pappardelle with wild boar ragu which tasted very average to me on the first visit. Another interesting dish is the fagioli all’ucceletto, a tomatoee stew of beans and sausages.Via Carota Rabbit

The rest of the menu is a a vegetarian delight, ranging from the very Tuscan Ribolita to what seems like “best of market” veggies.  Regulars pay attention to the rotating array of specials which doesnt leave much room for menu criticism (pasta offerings may seem light at first glance).  The most famous dish here is perhaps the Svizzerina, a cross between steak tartare and a rare bunless burger.  Will be back with family or friends to this one sooner than later

Via Carota
51 Grove St
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Funghi, Rabbit, Tonnarelli, Fagioli, SvizzerinaVia Carota

 

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What’s Cooking in Hell

IMG_5546Corner Slice, the Ivan Ramen backed, much anticipated pizza quicky in Gotham West Market taking over the Blue Bottle Coffee space finally opened.  The thin square pizza slices are cooked in fancy electric ovens, as I imagine the only allowable method in the building. Dough ferments for a long time, and just about every ingredient made in house.  My first slice was a simple mozzarella, tomato, basil.  Slightly on the greasy side, but nice and pungent tomato sauce.  But the other day my Sopressata was a little overcooked and overpriced.  They have their reasons I’m sure but one measly Soppressata slice the size of pepperoni doesnt warrant $4.  Another nice addition to GWM, though I would have loved to see something a little more interesting

Ippudo added more deliciousness to the menu.  This time vegetarian Sesame based Ramen that even non vegetarians like yours truly can appreciate.  The Karaka Spicy New York I tried is simply outstanding.  Rich, wonderfully complex broth, without the heaviness that follows sometimes from Tonkotsu. Its been a weird Ramen season for me as I’ve been frequenting the heavyweights (Ivan, Totto, Ippudo) instead of the small guys like Mentoku which I really like.  And I find myself more and more slurping non-pork based ramen like vegetarian and chicken.  Whats happening to me!IMG_5576

Chaan Teng is being added to the Survival Guide, even though not everything I tried there was a slam dunk.  Even for family dining, sharing dishes like their take on General Tso’s Chicken, far more interesting than something like Carmines.  Just try to avoid all the figurines in the back wall and by the bathroom, unless you think its time to have that talk with your son.

Removing Poulette from the guide.  Last experience was way too Boston Markety for me.  Where did all the Herbes de Provence and juiciness go?

Nano Ecuadorian still great

Puff Cha Ramen still sucks!

The other day on the Hell’s Kitchen Tour we bumped into Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cake at Gotham West Market.  I briefly spoke to Luke (I just called him Luke, no idea what his real name is.  Its like calling Tom Cruise, Ethan) who told me they were shooting The Defenders starring all three superheroes.  I imagine The Defenders will defend the Kitchen from all evil, like Ezra, the Azuri Cafe Falafel Nazi.  I welcome this development

Last week the tour bumped into Ivan Ramen as I mentioned on another post.  I met him before many times but always fun when we cross paths during the tour.  This time while my guests, a family from Toronto were enjoying his Pastrami buns.  Check him out in the current season of Chef’s Table.  On the same day we bumped into a crew from Univision doing a special on Tehuitzingo coming sometime in April.  I will post a link when I find out

Stay hungry my Amigos!IMG_5578

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Babbo – The Taj Mahal of NYC Italian

Kinda busy with tours as of late, so just reblogging another oldie and a goodie. But something (weather man) tells me I may finally have time to write this Tuesday…

Eating With Ziggy

Babbo Black SpaghettiTo fully appreciate Babbo, one should arrive 15 minutes early.  Stand outside, check out the menu listed that includes today’s specials, and pretend that you are waiting for someone.  But more importantly, check out the people arriving.  There will be the boring arrivals – the locals and those who have eaten at Babbo before.  And then there are those with that special sparkle in their eyes.  The same sparkle you get when you finally reach Machu Picchu.  I saw a grandma with her well dressed family, pausing in front of the sign, exhale a huge sigh, followed by a smile (unless it was gas).  I watched a family of four taking their time, taking it all in, with a particularly thrilled dad who asked me to take a picture of the happy with family.  I happily obliged, and charged them $20 (the Times Square Elmo going rate at the moment).  The…

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Ivan the Formidable

Eating With Ziggy

Ivan Ramen Salmon Donburi

March 5th, 2017 Update:

All sorts of major developments with the Ivan.  The Ramen Junkie keeps reinventing himself, and has even given us some bedtime entertainment.  Yes, Ivan Orkin is featured in the latest season of Netflix’s highly acclaimed Chef’s Table which I highly recommend.  Its refreshing to see someone on the show who you actually know and talk to from time to time.  Naturally the show helped revive his Lower East Side flagship in a big way.  And so if you havent been in a while, or never, prepare for a possible 2 hour shock on some evenings.  Yesterday I heard quotes ranging from 1 to 3 hours, albeit on a Saturday night.

Coincidentally, or not, the menus in both NYC spots have gotten a facelift as of late.  At the Slurp Shop however, at the moment looks more like a botched botox job.  The great Donburis (rice dishes including top) are…

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Hell’s Kitchen on St Patty’s Day – Best Bars for Grub

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Boston Mini Report

img_5452Pressed for time a little bit today so I will just cut to the chase.  Visiting colleges (in case my new career doesnt go as planned) was first priority, but snuck in a few good ones, and some mehs…

Island Creek Oyster Bar – A bit of a mixed bag but fine overall.  Very good oysters (forgot what they were).  Grilled Razor Clams were fresh, meaty, a little bland but fine.  Excellent clam chowder.  The best dish was the lobster roe noodles.  Not quite the brilliance of Lincoln’s Strozzapreti (NYC) similar roe noodles, but a wonderful combination of tender short rib, heaps of grilled lobster, oyster mushrooms, and pecorino.  Monkfish special was a a little dry and meh.  The Black Bass from Virginia with gnocchi was more like it.  Great flavor and perfectly cooked.  Fish and chips the kids requested but hardly touched were average.  A little too much batter.img_5440

Row 34 – Best meal of the short trip by quite a distance.  More excellent clam chowder, Lobster Bisque.  Mussels cooked well but on the small side.  A very solidly juicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken.  Nicely done.  Warm Buttered Lobster was lobster roll perfection.  Like best of Lobster in a beautifully buttered bun.  $29 is french fries territory for us New Yorkers, but maybe its just not a Boston thing.  The daily whole fish was nothing short of sensational Dorade smothered with a chick pea, farro, harrisa, olives and a touch of Tahini concoction.  Silky smooth Butterscotch Pudding a nice and proper finisher.img_5453

Salty Pig (lunch) – Menu looked really great initially but lunch turns out only pizzas, sandwiches, and charcuterie.  My bad for not inspecting properly prior.  They tease you with their slow motion pasta making in the open.  Charcuterie board is a poor value of 2 meat choices (4 pieces each), a sad tasting pecorino and pickled stuff.  If you remove everything but the meat you are left with very little meat for $17, and not much of a shareable option.  Calabrese pizza with Broccoli Rabe, Scamorza, Eggplant, Calabrian Chili, a combination that just didnt work.  Excellent Funghi though – Hen of The Wood (Maitake), Fontina, Crema di Prosciutto, Farm Eggimg_5473

Tenoch Mexican in Medford (Near Tufts) – Original plan was to stop at Courthouse Seafood on the way to MIT but 90 minutes turned into 60 and seafood mission was sort of accomplished by this point.  Solid tacos and burritos in what seems like a popular stop.

Oggi Gourmet Foods (Near Harvard) – Did the trick with its fresh salads, sandwiches and jerk chicken.

Amorino gelato on Newbuty.  Pricey but never disappoints.

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Hearth – The Booze Megillah

Eating With Ziggy

Hearth

February 20, 2017 Update:

This is not your ex’s Hearth.  The 13 year old East Village staple got a makeover, Marco Canora seems happier and healthier, and the menu essentially turned upside down.  Some of the remains like the terrific Gnocchi, the Spatchcock chicken, and the light but pungent Rigatoni with pork ragu are now the classics, but much of the menu has changed.  The emphasis continues to be on highest quality raw material.  In fact you can even say some of this stuff, like the bone broth is life changing.  Although I’m almost ashamed to say I only had it once, from the Brodo window.  While it was great, its hard for this non-resident to go for bone broth in arguably the best food neighborhood on the east coast.

But I’m more convinced now that this may be New York’s best Gnocchi dish.  The texture of these melty pillows cant get much better…

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Legend of Taste – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

legend-of-tasteThis one is for the 1%.  No, not that 1%.  But the 1% of the readers that can make it to this one.  The location is, well, let me put it this way.  When you sit around with 5 hounds (as in Chowhounds), and one of the topics of conversation is where the F are we and what do you call this area, you know we are way out there.  And when you find yourself in an area in Queens with so much parking wealth that you dont know what to do with it, you start questioning if you are still in city proper.  But, its close to someone out there.  And if I can convince one person for this one, preferably a local, its well worth it.

Simply put Legend of Taste is some of the best Chinese food I’ve had in NYC, and probably the best Sichuan.  You almost find yourself expecting an old grungy looking place, but instead I found a clean and comfortable room that looks more like your mainstream New York Chinese establishment.  The entire window front is completely bare except for one very important note.  More important than “Zagat Rated” or “We are on Trip Advisor”, or most of the crap you see on windows nowadays.  Its a copy of this original post.

Even the menu on first glance looks like your corner Chinese takeout.  You have to dig in and dig well into this one.  The waitresses speak English, which is important not only with ordering the right items, but the right heat level.  And it was, naturally, completely empty as Mr Leff put it, at least by the time we left.  There were two or three other tables occupied when the six of us (Including this gentleman) came to this gem.  At no point things went south, but I will try to make it easier by ranking the food from best to worst

Chengdu Fish Fillet With Pickle Vegetable– Easily shareable between six and simply outstanding. It has some sneaky heat that with soups one needs to be a little careful.  Plenty of delicious flaky flounder, and I especially enjoyed all the Enoki Mushroom action that sent me straight to Fei Long supermarket in Sunset Park a couple of days later.  Even good when it was cold an hour laterlegend-of-taste-chengdu-fish

Szechuan Style Crispy Eggplant – This was an obvious order coming in and the talk of the town coming out.  Everything about this was great, from the crunchy bell peppers (looks like chili ) to the light fried eggplant, to the peanuts.

legend-of-taste-crispy-eggplant

Double Cooked Sliced Pork – This was probably the surprise of the meal.  By now you got this wonderful taste sensation going, and this had this welcoming sweetness. Almost paper thin slices of pork with Leeks almost as delicious.

legend-of-taste-double-cooked-pork

Cumin Lamb– Another winner. Fragrant, thin tender slices of lamb with cumin you can smell from across the the round table

legend-of-taste-cumin-lamb

Beef with Long Horn Pepper – A simpler version of something similar I enjoy at Szechuan Gourmet 56 on occasion. Missing perhaps garlic chips that could have made it better. But still very solid, and again, tender wonderfully cooked meat which is the theme throughout it seems

legend-of-taste-beef-with-peppers

Smoke Ribs app – Tastier than they look. Smoky, dry but delicious.

Szechuan Pork Dumplings – A little doughy and flat, but with great pungant filling.  Aided much by the excellent sauce

Bok Choy with Mushrooms – Maybe the only dish I didnt care for, but only because I had better versions of it (Han Dynasty). If this would have been my first crack at it, it would have been amazing!

Coparing the joy/cost ratio to the great Indian Accent (the previous post) is almost comical, and somewhat reflected in my score below.  All this for $23 per person.   It felt like I just stole a little boy’s lunch money, while kicking his pet monkey in the gut in the process, before taking the monkey too

Legend of Taste
2002 Utopia Pkwy, Whitestone
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Chengdu Fish, Crispy Eggplant, Double Cooked Sliced Pork, Cumin Lamb, Beef with Long Horn Pepper

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