This is Getaria

IMG_6219Getaria is a tiny fishing village in Basque Country, about 30 minute drive from San Sebastian.  Torbotville, (a town in Pennsylvania) perhaps a more appropriate name due to the widely available fish that became the new symbol of Getaria.  This was the tail end of a 16 day road trip from Madrid, where we spent 6 nights using Getaria as our Basque base.  Some of these pictures came practically from the back yard of our accommodation, Gaintza, a local Txikoli (young but potent local dry white) producer.  Staying in the middle of a vineyard, with a 5 minute walk to the beach, an old town, and world class seafood was not exactly what I imagined.  I will have more on Getaria and its very unique food scene when I get a chance.  Click on any image below to browse through all

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Categories: New York City, Spain | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Z-List Update – 2018

2nd ave Deli Pastrami

2nd ave Deli Pastrami

This is it.  The most important update to date to the legendary, ultra exclusive (according to Harvard) Z-List.  This is a list of 50 of my favorite restaurants in New York City.  If it looks rather random to some, good.  That’s the point.  Its simply my way of answering “what should we eat while in NYC” to 99% of those asking.  All under $100 per person (hence 99%).  The 2018 update features more Italian, Asian, Jewish, and Jews doing Asian:

In:

Pig and Khao, Fiaschetteria “Pistoia”, Ugly Baby, Werkstatt, Faro, Cote, Bombay Bread Bar, Ducks Eatery, 2nd Ave Deli.  Congratulations to the winners!

Out:

Bruno pizza – Not much has changed here as far as I know.  Just like other options more.

Blue Ribbon Sushi – I still like to bring large groups here, but prefer other options overall.

Root and Bone – During a recent meal the signature chicken paled in comparison to its former glory.

Pok Pok – Just cant bring myself to go these days especially since Ugly Baby opened not too far.  A plethora of negative reviews as of late dont help

Distilled – A meh meal last time.  Go to Ducks Eatery for the American stuff

Roberta’s – This (along with pok Pok and Root and Bone) might be the shocker here.  Still love the pizza.  But after a recent meal, you get the sense the pizza is the only reason for the schlep.  Faro is the better choice in the hood

Malai marke – Replacing this Indian with Bombay Bread Bar.

Gotham West Market – Many of the vendors changed over the past year.  It may be even better today.  But its a food court and shouldnt really be on the list

Click here for the complete list

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Pistoia

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A Ducky in East Village Dishes out Killer Goat

Eating With Ziggy

Ducks Eatery logoJune 17, 2018 Update

The annual much anticipated Z-List update is coming up soon so I figured I’ll give you a little preview.  Much anticipated in my household that is.  Something tells me Jean-Georges Vongerichten is not exactly losing sleep on this.  But who knows, I may be wrong

You gotta love places with a signature dish.  And then you really gotta love places with so many “classics” on the menu, you dont even need to order the signature dish.  I was having dinner at at Vietnamese place the other day, my second time there, and I came out as puzzled as ever about its must order dishes.  While at Ducks Eatery, you salivate at the usual suspects… ribs, wings, goat neck, and after the latest mini feast, smoked duck salad, and just about the most outrageous “Rice and Beans” you’ll find in NYC. Not many do the American classics…

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Bouley at Home – The Sound of Silence

Bouley at Home5 hours after the meal

We went to a high school award show where about 100 students receive various awards and scholarships.  Behind me was a rather large burly fella, I think, I never actually got a good look but tried very hard.  For the first 15 minutes I was oblivious to the applause in the auditorium until I realized that the person behind me was clapping a little too hard.  At first I tried not pay attention, but things only got worse.  First came the hope, that his hands will hurt and tire eventually.  He never did.  Then came the interviews, where I asked both my neighbors, who I know, if it bothers them.  I figured maybe its just me getting old, adding yet another sound to the growing list of annoyances like bones cracking, or the bird doing the Hava Nagila-like mating call every morning.  Someone needs to either fu@%$k or kill that thing soon.  But both my neighbors agreed that the clapping was loud.

There were about 100 students getting awards that night.  Each student received two sets of applause (when he/she gets on stage, and comes out).  And some receive special awards, adding to a total of 300 applause moments during the two hour ceremony.  At some point I thought I could perhaps ease the pain by envisioning a Seinfeld episode about this.  George experiences the same thing twice with the same dude sitting behind him in two different events.  It bothered George.  He then discusses the mad clapper with Seinfeld and crew, getting blisters while trying to demonstrate.  George then spots the Mad Clapper randomly walking, then proceeds to follow him to wherever he was walking, which turns out to be his granddaughter’s kindergarten play.  He then makes sure to sit behind him clapping so hard, the blisters pop and he starts to bleed and separates his shoulder, much to the horror of some of the kids who started to cry and went to their parents.  At the end he realizes the Mad Clapper is deaf

Two hours before the meal

“David Bowie Is” at the Brooklyn Museum – Crowded!  Silent but crowded.

The Meal

It was hard to imagine while walking on 21st st that somewhere inside all of this craziness awaits tranquility.  But there it was, a spacious multi room ‘Home’ to Bouley’s latest concept.  We sat in the room on the right, which I can only describe as a large library room without the library.  There was peace and there was quiet, rarely seen or heard in NYC.  Bouley himself was my closest neighbor sharing a table with a reporter, and I couldnt hear him, or even clearly see him (I was told that was him).  There were the occasion gentle kitchen sounds and chatter from the test kitchen behind me (I think our room is called the Test Kitchen room, not Library without a Library room.  Although I sort of like the latter and I dont like to feel like I’m part of an experiment).

I wont go into much detail about the 5 course lunch except to say that it was very good.  However I liked the whole experience more than Mrs Z who expected more refined service and food for the price (after tax/tip $100 per).  The standouts came early with the outstanding Oysters, and Porcini Flan.  Three Oysters dressed with lemony mousse like “cloud”, salmon roe and caviar delivering exquisite flavors when combined.  “Porcini Flan” was a delicious earthy soup featuring Alaskan Dungeness Crab, and Black Truffle Dashi.  Mrs Z’s Eggplant Terrine, and egg, ham, polenta dish werent as exciting but very good nonetheless.  Eggs and black truffles heavily featured on the menu.  For mains we both preferred the slowly braised Beef Cheeks with Black Kale Gnocchi over the chicken.  Desserts were lite, serviceable but forgettable compared to the rest.

5 days after the meal – The doctor recommended a white noise device to combat the ringing in the ear to help me sleep.  I think he was secretly taking notes while I recited the Seinfeld episode so let this post serve as legal proof.

Bouley at Home
31 W 21st St (5/6), Flatiron
Rating: 2.5 Zs (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Porcini flan, Oysters, Beef Cheeks

 

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

EV Bites – June 2018

Szechuan Mountain House - Chicken with Chili

Szechuan Mountain House

EV Bites is a new monthly feature, showcasing 5 places in or around East Village you should know about.  I will occasionally extend the border to Nolita and LES, and maybe even mention a name more than once.  East Village in case you are not aware is an incubator for top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisines.

Szechuan Mountain House – I’ll start with the most important one and the one worthy of its own post.  Lately we are seeing quite a few of these Queens establishments spilling out into the city and this one is possibly the most important one.  There was no need to wait for word of mouth, or reviews as it got popular from day one.  I sometimes SMH at the lines to SMH.  This is not for the faint of heart though.  The menu is loaded with “Mala” tingle triggers like the beef Slices with Enoki Mushrooms in Sour Soup, and Stir Fried Chicken with Dry Red Chili Peppers.  The only dish I didnt care for after 4 visits is the dry Shrimp with garlic.

Miss Lily’s 7A Cafe – In my constant pursue of jerk chicken perfection after Ma Peche dropped its wings from the menu, I think I found them at Miss Lilys east side little sister.  But there’s a lot more going on in this Jamaican diner, starting with the party scene (pray that its someone’s birthday that day) and the hefty and juicy jerk chicken roti

Miss Lily's 7A Cafe - Wings

Uncle Boons Sister – I almost gave up on this fast casual little sister after a curious fried Skate dish that stayed on the menu for about 5 minutes.  My facial expressions probably did it.  And you can very easily see everyone’s facial expressions in the 5 tables inside this hole in the wall.  Its not super comfortable but its quick and easy, and sometimes at 4 pm that is what you want.  Try the fiery fried chicken Laab, and the flavor packed Thai basil stir fry with fried egg

Uncle Boons Sister - Fried Chicken Salad

Superiority Burger – Lets not talk about why it took me all these years to finally try this celebrated burger, but concentrate on this:  Its fu$#ng awesome!  For someone like me who will never crave a veggie burger, I essentially need to be passing by while about to pass out in order to have this.  This little guy had a lot more going for it than any Shake Shack burger I ever had.  And today I came back for seconds and added the famous Broccoli salad and the infamous Superiority Water!

Martina – For Dessert!  East Village is loaded with amazing ice cream.  Once you are done with the pizza and the best white bean dish in NYC, try the Fior di Latte soft serve at Martina.  But you must add the toppings especially the cherries in order to make this do its magic

RIP Anthony Bourdain

 

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Pure Thai Cookhouse Survival Guide

Eating With Ziggy

Pure Thai RatchaburiMay 31, 2018 Update:

Does this happen to you?  You look at the fridge, and see one portion of some of the best leftovers your fridge will ever see.  You start to calculate and analyze who will be the lucky person to enjoy this, while the rest feast on canned sardines with couscous.  The longer it stays there, the more precise the calculation needs to be in order to avoid the disastrous outcome:  Trash.  Such is the case with the crab fried rice and curry paste with pork in my fridge at the moment.  Its now day 3 (T-Day) and its text time.  I just have to be very careful with the wording.  I dont feel like couscous!

But after many solo meals or with friends at Pure, this was only the third time I took my family there.  And it was a feast for the ages.  I will add…

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Frenchette Swings and Misses

Frenchette LobsterJust like my 0-7 Fantasy Baseball team.  Thats 0 as in zero, and 7 loses during the first 7 weeks of the season.  In a league that I created and won the most championships, this is very unfamiliar territory to me.  Injuries, luck has something to do with it, and maybe just maybe thats what happened at super hot Frenchette the other day.  A minor Citibike accident on the way to work by one of the cooks, and/or bad choices on my part.  Who really knows.

But what I do know is that Frecnhette did not live up to the hype it is receiving at the moment.  Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson (Balthazar, Minetta Tavern) first solo project is the hottest and most anticipated opening of the year.  I learned a long time ago that expectations need to be in check when you go to such places.  But being a fan of Minetta Tavern and everything I’ve read prior promised a slam dunk birthday meal.

Frenchette Rabbit

Hard to judge a place after just one meal.  Especially a place that is less than two months old.  Professional critics will take their time and make multiple visits, while others like  TimeOut seem perfectly content with 3 dishes.  I had plenty of thrilling meals (Bombay Bread Bar, Faro), and less than thrilling meals (Legacy Records) as of late, but more data is needed before I write about the others.  Although after a recent Adam Pratt review of Legacy I wont be rushing back either

The place looks like a classic Brasserie.  The service was friendly but showing its very young age.  It took some time to get plates on a few occasions, and getting that welcome bread at the end of the meal led to some comic relief.  No harm done of course, but I did wish for that wonderful Arcade Bakery bread to come warm

Frenchette Chicken

The Guinea Hen Terrine shined early on.  The Razor Clams not so much.  They were fully cooked and served with crunchy fried crumbs of something that totally overpowered the clams.  I’ve seen this combination work as a cold crudo wiith less crumbs but this is not Italian.  Brouillade, scrambled eggs with escargot was one of the most interesting dishes. It takes 20 minutes of mostly nonstop stirring the butter and egg to the consistency of soupy polenta (grits).  Its delicate and delicious alright, but the egg lover in me was wishing for it to resemble what it promises, scrambled eggs.

The lobster was your average lobster according the lobster critic at the table (I concurred).  The roast chicken for two was very good but just not different or special enough.  The chicken was well cooked and the accompanied Jus helped.  But when the best part of the dish is the potato puree with Maitake side you wonder if you paid fair price ($64).  However the Stewed Rabbit was probably the biggest dud.  Served with morels (best part) and Pappardelle like pasta with light cream sauce.  The meat was mostly dry and tasteless and we just couldnt get passed the Alfredoish look and feel.  I was intrigued by the $88 Turbot, but we are off to Turbot country soon (Getaria, Spain) so I passed.  We did like both of the desserts on the menu.

Frenchette
241 W Broadway, TriBeCa
Rating: One Z (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Terrine, Brouillade, Chicken, Desserts

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

Gloria, I Think We Got Your Number

Eating With Ziggy

Gloria ShrimpMay 21, 2018 Update:

Did you see the news?  Gloria retains its 3 star rating!  You probably missed it because, well, the news is not out yet.  But it will be in a minute.  Gloria in Hell’s Kitchen is quite possibly the most underrated restaurant in NYC today, and I have proof.  Gloria registers a 0.12 on the TouristMeter™.  TouristMeter™ is a foolproof way of measuring how touristy a place is by dividing the number of TripAdvisor reviews (mostly tourists) by the number of Yelp reviews (mostly locals).  The lower the number the more local it is.  And when you are walking distance from Times Square it doesnt get much lower than this.

The magnificent Skate has now been replaced by a magnificent Skate!  It is now a mammoth $50 Skate for two which we elected not to have this time.  The Jonah Crab with that Sabayon sauce is pure joy with every bite…

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Popina – Wacky New Italian in WeCo

Eating With Ziggy

Popina NegroniMay 15, 2018 Update:

That chicken!  Its as real as Traveler’s Diarrhea.  I’m not sure I’ve had better Schnitzels in Austria, and I’m not sure I had better Chicken Milanese in Milan.  Its the perfect example of what delicious sweet heat can do to a bird.  Worth braving to WeCo just for this dish.  Well, its not like you have much of a choice here.  This is one of two mains.  The other item on the current menu is the elusive great sounding Porgy which is never there when I’m there.

Popina also makes a killer Negroni.  I think thats the only thing I ever drank here.  The pastas continue to impress.  One of which I had not too long ago was particularly memorable, but for the life of me I cant remember the ingredients (Seriously what kind of blog is this.  Not the serious kind).  But the anchovy Bucatini is…

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What’s New Down Under

Legacy Records Octopus

Legacy Records

I mean Hell, not Australia.  Its been a while since I had some Hell’s Kitchen news but I’m still there at least once a week munching around prior or after a tour.  Here are some recent developments including some tweaks to the Hell’s Kitchen tour:

Legacy Records – Hell is apparently shrinking.  38th street between 10th and 11th and immediate surrounding area to the south is now being re-branded by the giant real estate firms to Hudson Yards.  Well, until I get subpoenaed by the president, I’m not adding another section to the blog.  This is Hell’s Kitchen as far as I’m concerned and will remain so for the time being.  Delicious Hospitality, the team behind downtown restaurants Charlie Bird & Pasquale Jones has opened another Italian, Legacy Records in Hud..err.. Hell’s Kitchen.  After one quick solo meal I’m not quite ready to give you the ye or niet, but I know these guys and what they are capable of.  It may be the most hidden pre theater option out there

Tehuitzingo – Reliable Taco joint and home to the best Lengua in town simply closed with no explanation.  Their other location closed months ago.  As to the reason, I only heard rumors which I’m not willing to share, but its nothing to do with food.

City Sandwich – Sort of under new management, but this is not exactly bad news (departing manager may disagree).  One of the partners is still around, with a new experienced one joining in.  Still the same great Portuguese inspired sandwiches except some weekly classics like the great Roberto are now available daily.  Still the same great bread and mini egg tarts coming from Portuguese bakeries in Newark.

City Sandwich Roberto

The Roberto

Chaan Teng – Is now Qi.  Same decor, same sex toys, and some of the same staff, but different menu.  The main chef/owner left and they needed to change

Ñaño Ecuadorian Kitchen – Ñaño continues to fire on all cylinders.  I know they are out there but this is the only Ecuadorian I know, and visit from time to time.  A staple on the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide since day one.  Try the Seco de Pollo, chicken stewed with Naranjilla (sour fruit grown in Ecuador), herbs and spices.  As the city continues to gentrify and become more corporate (See Legacy Records), we need to cherish these mom and pops that survived the storm.

Nano

Nano

Gotham West Market – This is not your ex’s GWM.  If you havent been in the last year or so, you will find a totally different and a lot healthier market today.  The fish happy Seamore’s replaced the meaty Cannibal so expect some elevated poke bowls and other raw goodness.  El Colmado space is now part El Colmado (spanish tapas) and part Whirlybird serving rotisserie chicken.  There’s now Jianbing (Beijing style crepe) by Jianbing Company.  And Waffle de Lys doing their French waffle thing.  All joining Corner Slice, Ivan Ramen, Choza and Genuine Roadside.  This is the most interesting lineup in a while

Hell’s Kitchen Tour – Its been a year and a half now since I quit my day job in order to start my own tour company.  During that time I’ve seen the East Village and Brooklyn tours morph into something I’m proud of, the original Hell’s Kitchen tour pretty much stayed the same.  Until now.  Some new developments in the area made me make some tweaks that I’m very excited about.  So while the reviews mainly focus on the other two tours, I’m here to tell you to give Hell’s Kitchen a chance!  BTW EWZ Tours is now #8 on Trip Advisor Food Tours (Out of 105).  Who said rankings on TA is meaningless!

 

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