Monthly Archives: October 2012

When the going gets tough…

The tough buys cereal on the Internet at almost triple the price…

It is best to explain this with the following timeline.  Some of the dates are approximate while other are completely made up.  Important note about the hurricane all the way at the bottom.

1564 – The Algonquians, native Americans of New England discover Maple Syrup

2002 – Post Foods introduce Post Select Maple Pecan Crunch cereal

2003 – Ziggy discovers Post Select Maple Pecan Crunch cereal.  Ziggy abruptly ends Halva addiction

2003 – Ziggy gets ridiculed for drinking cereal from a mug by his 8 years old daughter.  “What the f%^$ are you doing pops” were her exact words.

2006 – Ziggy’s local markets no longer carry the Maple Pecan cereal.  Time to go hunting

2006 – Mrs Ziggy is ecstatic that her husband has finally turned things around and spends more quality time with the family like going food shopping

2007 – Ziggy finds the cereal in Wegmans in Woodbridge, NJ.  Dispatches Mrs Ziggy on a monthly basis

2009 – NO MORE CERAL IN WEGMANS.  Ziggy goes camping in Woodbridge by himself.  He tells his wife he “Needs to find the inner Ziggy”

2010 – Ziggy finds the cereal in Da’gostino’s in Manhattan, removes patch from left arm.

2010 – 2011 – The golden years

March 2012 – Da’gostino’s no longer carries the cereal.  Their salad bar is still abysmal, and their sushi chef is depressed, most likely due to their lack of quality cereal.

May 2012 – Ziggy spends month drowning sorrows with Halva

July 2012 – Da’gostino’s call the cops due to suspicious activity

August 2012 – Ziggy tries to enjoy his vacation in Israel

October 2012 – See picture!

Hurricane Sandy has hit New York and New Jersey 2 days ago.  I have friends in Brooklyn that are still pumping water from their homes.  If I made them smile or anyone else affected by the storm, its a successful post.   Hang in there guys

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Eating Without Ziggy – Hummus Whisperer’s San Francisco Report

I was already eating good food in NYC the day of my flight, as I somehow convinced the wife and daughter to attend the annual Grub Street Food Festival in LES, per Ziggy’s recommendation from the night before.  We arrived at the start at 10am and tasted the freshest bites.  The most memorable items included the melt in your mouth smoked short rib & pork shoulder chili with hominy from Char No. 4 (not Chanel No. 5 as they told me), borscht from Gifelteria, and coffee with a delicious pear walnut tart from Cafe Grumpy.

This was my first business trip in 2 years and last time I went to Des Moines, Iowa, enough said. First stop was at the Newark airport terminal C, the Grand Central Oyster Bar at the Newark airport Terminal C!!! Had a lovely platter of 8 oysters, the best in NYC, per Ziggy, and definitely the best at Newark Airport. Next was my first class meal with my 3rd Bloody Mary.  The chicken was a TV dinner, but the ice scream sundae on this United flight was a pleasant surprise.

There are 4487 restaurants in San Francisco according to an online review site and I’m here for 4 nights.  I think there are just as many restaurants as the homeless on the block of my hotel,  and according to a local friend they come here from all over the country to get paid a stipend and enjoy the mild weather. Apparently the city is believed to have the highest number of homeless people per capita of any major US city.  One of the reasons they arrive, in my opinion is…Sardines. It’s so important to the food scene, that Ziggy gave me an assignment to blog about “Sardines and anything else, but mostly Sardines.” It appears that there are actually no more than a dozen restaurants in SF that serve sardines, but I will look for Sardines as I don’t want to disappoint.

Lunch: The Melt – the place specializes in melted cheese sandwiches. Trust me they know what they are doing. I had the “ballpark sandwich,” a weekly special in honor of the SF Giants, spicy cheddar with hot dog and special secret mustard recipe – very tasty, they grill the bread perfectly and hide the pickle underneath the gourmet chips, all for $5.50.


For dinner I convinced my coworkers to have our first experience with Burmese food, Burma Superstar in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. I knew that the place usually has a 1 hour wait, but because the SF Giants were playing game 7 of the National League series, the place easily had room for 4. The restaurant looks like a typical eatery you can find in NY’s east village, but no human feels like a sardine here. What I didn’t know is that their tea leaf salad and rainbow salad were recently featured on the Food Network.

Each one was a perfect blend of ingredients, 21 and 25 ingredients respectively. As for the rest of the menu, I learned that the depth of smells and flavors far exceeds Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Korean food. I had a delicious mixed vegetable curry (pictured on left), my coworkers had the pumpkin shrimp and garlic shrimp dishes. The calamari salad was also outstanding. I had a Soju, Ginger, and lemon juice drink called “i know Kung  fu” as a perfect accompaniment. If you are looking for a delicious, authentic Asian experience in SF, this is the right place.

Breakfast and lunch were an easy choice with The Plant in the building. A great selection of organic juices and smoothies, as well as manual drip coffee, a concept I have not seen in NY, used to achieve the perfect brew.  Same place for lunch, a veggie burger to die for (the bun was red!).  I had one with melted cheese and mushrooms and another with wasabi Aioli. I also ate a tasty red Thai curry veggies with coconut rice.
In my hunt for sardines, I climbed a mountain, actually a Russian Hill to Pesce. Should I take a trolley? Neh. I climb like a local, even the roads have marks so you don’t slip. Note to self, stay at the Fairmont next time. That’s where the Detroit Tigers World Series delegation is staying. Grace cathedral down the block, they do yoga in there!! An hour an a half later, I finally arrived at Pesce, serving Venetian Cicchetti.  The chef is from Venice. I’m definitely the only tourist in a mile radius excluding those traveling on the trolley.  I picture the entire Tanner family from the show Full House eating here.  immediately sat at the bar and Ordered the Grilled Sardines!, squid ink risotto with Calamari, and one of my new favorite vegetables, the brussels sprouts.  First bite of sardines…delicious, no bones.  This is the kind of place I want to visit once a week. Then burned it all off by walking more steep hills and took a trolley downhill for an exhilarating ride.  Next stop, Venice.
On my last night I chose to explore a different side of the city that most tourists don’t dare to visit, the Mission District, better known as “the Mission.” You can consider it a hipster neighborhood similar to the Lower East Side with a rich history of immigrants from Germany, Ireland and more recently Mexico. Walking through the neighborhood, I saw pot smoking bums, hipsters, Punks – a thriving subculture there, packed tattoo parlors, and churches with Mexican mariachi bands, as well as Mexican, Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan restaurants. I passed a famous french Michelin two star rated restaurant called Saison. There are over 350 restaurants in the Mission alone. I arrived at my destination, Gracias Madre, a Mexican restaurant famous for its unique, fresh vegan cuisine. From the first taste of their home-brewed ginger ale and bite the Appetizer, butternut squash and caramelized onions folded into tortillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa, I can tell that they emphasize healthy, organic, fresh local ingredients and flavors.  For main course I continued a squash theme with a delicious Roasted poblano chile stuffed with butternut squash and caramelized onions, topped with pecan cream sauce and pomegranate seeds, served with black beans, rice, and tortilla with side of zucchini. Also ordered a cashew version of Flan, which turned out more delicious than regular Flan.  In my opinion, this is one of the best vegan restaurants in the world.
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More Ratatouille Moments at Scarpetta

Scarpetta
I have mentioned this phrase before.  Ratatouille moment.  What is a Ratatouille moment Ziggy? Well, I’m glad you asked Timmy.  A Ratatouille moment derives from the movie “Ratatouille” and the moment is when the tough, ugly, mean, hard to please critic takes that mega important bite of the Ratatouille.  Well, you can see for yourself

For me Ratatouille moments are a bit different.   They are not really about me reminiscing about something I ate as a kid.  Although I did have Bacalau in Portugal that reminded me of some awful Gifilte fish I had as a kid.  That would be the opposite of a Ratatouille moment I suppose.  After the 10th Gefilte fish I was the youngest member of our city to file for a restraining order against his parents.  And as far as Bacalau in Portugal goes, they say they can make it in 365 different ways for every day of the week.  We must have picked the 2 worst days.  The 2 ways they invented in days 364 and 365, well after they ran out of ideas and just focused on completing the cycle.  But I digress.
Scarpetta, tied with Marea for the meal of the year, gave us some “Moments”…
We started with a stunner.  Without a doubt the most impressive bread basket I have ever seen.  It included a Focaccia, a Stromboli (mozzarella and salami sandwich) among other goodies.  And it comes with 3 great condiments, a great tasting butter, eggplant salad and olive oil.  What a start.  After nibbling on some nice apps like the ribs, Mozzarella, and the Farmers Market with truffles, the monsters have arrived.

Creamy Polenta with truffled mushrooms – Fantastic! creamy and light polenta with those savory mushrooms took me back to Enoteca Valpolicella in Italy’s Valpolicella wine country.   I was counting the blessings of being married to a family that did not like mushrooms which includes my wife, her sister and her mom.

Polenta at Scarpetta

Cavatelli Capretto – Melt in your mouth, juicy tender Capretto. Some in our party claimed this was their favorite.

Rabbit Agnolotti – This was a personal favorite.  Nice perfectly cooked rabbit in those pillowy delicate mini raviolis bursting with flavor. Couldnt get enough of this.

Spaghetti with tomato & basil – This is one of Scott Conant’s signatures and the most famous Spaghetti with red sauce dish in NYC. Homemade fresh pasta with the most amazing tomato sauce I ever tasted. Another one I couldnt get enough of.  Reminded me of a simple pasta I had once in Varenna.

Spaghetti at Scarpetta

Duck & Foie Gras Ravioli with marsala reduction – Spectacular looking and spectacular tasting. All kinds of nice contrasting flavors packed in this one. Another must

Duck & Foie Gras Ravioli at Scarpetta

We could have stopped right there but we didnt.  What followed was a much less memorable cod, and a finish of an odd coconut Panna Cotta which had a soupy texture that I did not care for.  The Hummus Whisperer had the Sheep’s milk Ricotta from Lazio with honey which seemed like a better choice

Generally I favor the places that have a signature dish like the Spaghetti in this case.   But I especially favor places that offer many other options that are equally as good.  The experience was less perfect for my wife and her sister who will be quick to note the cramped space (for the 8 of us) and less than stellar service.  And normally I would be quick to note the same.  But when you are in one of those moments, any flaws are not only quickly forgotten, they get ridiculed

Scarpetta

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Sleep No More – Random Thoughts

Sleep No More is a unique NYC theatre experience set in a so-called “abandoned” hotel called the McKittrick Hotel.  Instead of watching a play unfold you run around up and down stairs wearing a mask following characters from room to room and watch various dream-like sequences of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  I will not bore you with any specific details but instead I WILL bore you with various Random Thoughts I had from scene to scene…

Scene 1 – Well, this is interesting

Scene 2 – I wonder who wore the mask before me

Scene 3 – what’s up with the mad rush. Joining the mad rush. Losing the mad rush after the couple before us exited prematurely

Scene 4 – I can’t breath through the mask and I’m starting to sweat. almost profusely

Scene 5 – where did I park my car

Scene 6 – I swear to god if this woman steps on my toes one more time I’m tackling her.

Scene 6- oh! it’s my wife

Scene 7 – getting hungry. should have made resvs at Mineta Tavern instead of rubirosa.

Scene 8 – Wow, this scene is intense. Wonder how far we can go if we try to recreate it at home.

Scene 8 – tired of holding my wife’s hand

Scene 9 – what if we can get bar seats at Mineta. We need to start eating at the bar like the cool folks

Scene 10 – Now sweating profusely.

Scene 11 – Wait a minute I’ve seen this scene already

Scene 12 – I tell the wife that it’s important for us to follow lady Macbeth after this scene. I did not tell her that I got that info from a blog post about how to get the most nudity from the show. Hey don’t judge. That’s the first thing that google brought up when I typed sleep no more.. and nudity.

Scene 12 – I should have paid more attention when we learned about this in school.

Scene 13- trouble breathing again. What if I get a heart attack right here during this scene. Will they take off my mask? If they do would everybody just converge near me to see what I’ll do next? Perhaps it’s best if they leave the mask. Will the paramedics need to wear masks too? Not a good place to have a heart attack

Scene 14 – wow, she has small…

Scene 15 – Wheres the exit

Scene 16- mistakenly found 2 more scenes while looking for the exit

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Staten Island – Viva la Vida

Our goldfish Ziggy Jr. is not well.  He hasn’t eaten in 2 days, he is slow to react to disturbances and stimuli, and his poop has sort of a mahogany tone to it.  Our history with previous Ziggy jr’s indicate that he does not have much time left.

What Ziggy Jr. desperately needs is a meal at Vida (OMG I can just see Vida’s owner rolling her eyes at this transition :roll:).  Vida has all the ingredients for a fun meal with the family.  It got that nice neighborhoody vibe, quirky waiters, and home cooking that is better than mama’s.  Ok, cooking better than my mama is not exactly a stretch (thankfully my mom does not read this blog, nor does she know I have a blog, or knows what a blog is) but Silva Popaz, Vida’s chef/owner sure knows her stuff.  Vida is a chef’s restaurant.  When the chef de cuisine is out, the restaurant is closed.  So many more known establishments in the city don’t follow this rule.

Reading the menu at Vida is like visiting Disney’s Epcot.  It’s as eclectic as a menu can get.  Between the Asian style shrimp, Gumbo, Hummus,  chicken Francaise, and the rest of it, all major continents are well represented.

We started with the always reliable Vida bites — pulled pork, pico de galo and avocado sauce on bread.  Another regular for us is the mussels with cilantro, shallots, garlic, and white wine.  This decadent sauce normally screams for some serious  finger dipping, until they bring more bread.  I wasnt quick to wash my hands following the meal.

Vida

For main the wonderful special Butternut Squash Lasagna with marsala reduction well demonstrated Silva’s talent and originality.  The marsala, just like with Scarpetta’s foie gras ravioli added nice intensity to the dish.

Vida

My feeling of uncertainty after not getting my usual gumbo dish this time and ordering something I normally never do, did not last long.  The special chicken stuffed with sausage, spinach and mushrooms was outstanding.  Perfectly crisped skin with that savory filling made every morsel regret sharing the dish with Mrs Ziggy.

The kids were enjoying their linguine Fra Diavolo with shrimp, calamari, mussels, and Asian style hanger steak.  Sorry about the quality of the pictures which I blame on lack of lighting, and lack of skill

I normally get the bread pudding for dessert but this time I was convinced to try the Tiramisu cheesecake.  Wowser!  Perfect finish to one of the best meals we had in Staten Island.  Is wowser an acceptable food blog word I wonder?  I’m still new to this blogging thing and I dont want to embarrass  myself.

Silva gets much of her culinary influences from her trips around the world.  A recent trip to Morocco can almost assure a bigger arsenal of exotic spices and perhaps a nice Lamb Tagine in the near future.

Vida up until recently was the only restaurant in Staten Island included on the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand list.  Its like a michelin star for affordable neighborhood joints.  The excellent Enoteca Maria has now joined the list for 2012.  If Vida is not Staten Island’s best, she is not far behind.

Recommended dishes:  Vida Bites, Mussels, Gumbo, Stuffed Chicken, Tiramisu cheesecake

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Madison Square Eats Highlights

Roberta's

        One week to go.  Run, dont crawl to Madison Square Park for some of the yummiest snacks New York City has to offer.  The who’s who and what’s what of the NY food fair celebrities participating in this bi-annual month-long event.   You got the Roberta’s, the Red Hook Lobster Pounds, the Mayhems, the Stouts, the Momofukus, you name it.  The only minor issue is finding a table. If things get desperate you may need to use that fake Arthritis book you’ve been carrying in your purse and pretend to read it in front of the people sitting.  I’ve seen this trick on the bus once where some fool got up and gave his seat.  Ok, it was me – I got a big heart so sue me.  But I digress

MSE

Here are some of the goodies we enjoyed on a recent trip…

Baby Got Back Ribs – Nicely seasoned dry rub ribs.    Considering this is not exactly straight from the grill this was actually fairly tasty, falling off the bone ribs.

Trapizzinos

Broken English – Trapizzinos.  Romes’s biggest import since Giada De Laurentiis.  Like Pizza pita stuffed  with all kinds yuminess.  We tried the beef, chicken, veggie Trapizzinos, all delicious!

Red Hook Lobster Pound – Lobster rolls.  You cant go to one of those without having a lobster roll.  Perfection in a bun.

Hong Kong Street Cart – Ja Jiang hot noodle with pork belly and 5 spice tofu.  Another winner.  A lot of flavor packed in this one.

Hong Kong Street Cart

Ilili – Lamb Shawarma wrap.  Perhaps the only dud of the evening and I’m a big fan of Ilili.   Somewhat dry and you taste too much wrap. The Phoenician fries with garlic aioli were delish however.

Roberta’s – Bee sting pizza was very tasty.  Its spicy Sopressata (spicier than other Sopressata’s I’ve had) and the added honey contributed to interesting contrasting flavors. They also had a nice white brussels sprouts, mushroom and garlic pie which was equally as good (and I’m not a big white fan).  And a top notch Margherita

Roberta's Bee Sting

Wafels & Dinges – Belgian Waffles.  Perfect finish to a perfect fantastic, slightly chaotic meal.

Wafels and Dinges

Wafels and Dinges

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Israel in Pictures – Tel Aviv

 

Day 11 – 14

Dimmed the Capital of Mediterranean Cool, Tel Aviv is the city of Mosts…

Most Imaginative…

Tel Aviv

Most Artistic….

Tel Aviv

Most Spiced…

Tel Aviv

Most Creative…

Haj Kahil

Most Patriotic…

Tel Aviv

Most Contrast (ancient Jaffa vs new Tel Aviv)…

JaffTel AvivMost weddings in one place (Hatachana)…

Tel Aviv

Most Creative Attractions (Hatachana, Palmach Museum, and much more)

Tel AvivMost White – Nicknamed the White City for its Bauhaus architecture…

Tel Aviv

 

Most Happening…

Tel Aviv

Most Beautiful…

Tel Aviv

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Israel in Pictures – Jerusalem

Day 6 (continues) – Arrival

To the tunes of “Yerushalaim Shel Zahav” and Matisyahu, we entered beautiful Jerusalem.  We settled in at the Dan Panorama and moved on to the Kotel, for the tunnel tour at 20:00.  In order to understand the importance of the western wall, the Kotel tunnel tour is an absolute must.

JerusalemThe KotelThe Kotel tunnel

Day 7 – Ir David and old city

The city of David is where it all started.  As you walk around the remains of ancient Jerusalem even a month after this post chances are you will see new excavated discoveries.   The main attraction here is walking through Hezekiah’s water tunnel, ancient’s Jerusalem’s main water supply.  This is a nice challenge for the claustrophobic as it gets narrow and low in places.  You will need flashlights (which you can purchase in the gift shop) in this 40 minute walk.

We also saw Robinson’s Arch, Davidson Center (all near Ir David) and finally got some quality time at the Kotel before seeing the rest of the jewish quarter and the colorful shuk.

View from City of David  Hezekiah’s TunnelRobinson's ArchKotelShuk

Day 8 – Masada and the Dead Sea

If there’s one place in Israel that is a must, Masada may be the one.  Not only you have the spectacular remains and the views but you also see the great story of the revolt unfold.

Cant the say the same about the Dead Sea.  I couldnt wait to get out of there to be honest.  Best part of the visit was lunch in Crown Plaza.MasadaMasadaDead Sea  The light show at the tower of David museum capped another fantastic day

Day 9 – Yad Vashem, Mahane Yehuda, Eretz Bereishit

Yad Vashem was moving to say the least.  I cant quite put the experience into words and I will not.

After a short stroll in the nearby Ein Keren neighborhood we visited Mahane Yehuda food market.  The most famous food market in Israel.   You need to come hungry to this.  We spent the evening in Eretz Bereishit (Genesis land) where we had the total biblical experience.  Well, almost.  I dont believe Ambulances were invented yet.

Yad VashemMahane YehudaEretz BereishitEretz BereishitDay 10 – Israel museum, Dig for a day

Israel’s top museum was one of the most unique museums I’ve ever seen.  The shrine of the book and its dead sea scrolls and the model of second temple ancient Jerusalem worth the price of admission alone.

After a short visit to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) we said goodbye to Jerusalem and headed to Bein Guvrin Israel Museum

Israel MuseumIsrael MuseumShrine of the bookKneset MenorahDig for a day in Beit Guvrin

 

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Israel in Pictures – Safed and drive to Jerusalem

Day 6

We said goodbye to Nof Ginosar and the Kineret (sea of Galilee – sunrise picture below) and headed to Safed aka Tsfat aka Madonnaville where we spent the entire morning.  Safed and its mystical old city was the closest we encountered to a beautiful European village perched on a hill.  Safed is the birthplace of Kabalah (hence Madonnaville) and one of the holiest cities in Judaism.  We visited a candle workshop, historic synagogues, and tasted our first Yemenite Lachuch from Ronen the ‘Lachuch’ guy (pictured below – I think he’s smiling, not sure) )

Sunrise over Kineret

SafedCandles in SafedLachuch guySafed

We then started driving toward Jerusalem.  But first we stopped at another holy site, Gangaroo, an Australian animal zoo.   Ok, not quite holy, but once I saw the freaky gray fox bats I started to wonder.  A dip in the natural pools of Sachne (Gan Hashlosha) was just what the doctor ordered…

GangurooGangurooGangurooGangurooGangurooGangurooGangurooSachneSachne

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Israel in Pictures – Galilee and Golan

Day 4 – Rosh Hanikra, Upper Galilee

We are leaving Haifa and are on our way to spending 2 nights in Kibbutz Nof Ginosar on the sea of Galilee.

The spectacular Rosh Hanikra right on the Lebanese border is a geological formation of caves (grottoes) that took thousands of years to form.  A short cable car ride takes you down to the cave area where you are face to face with fierce sea.

After the caves we moved on east to Bat Yaar, a dude ranch.  But we didn’t come for the dudes nor the ranch.  We took a jeep tour.  We drove through the Biriya forest, stopped at famous grave sites, collected (or stole, still not sure) lychee and enjoyed nice views of the Galilee.
Rosh Hanikra
Rosh Hanikra
Rosh HanikraJeeping Biriya forest
Jeeping
After a nice lunch at Al Basha near Rosh Pina we moved on to Manara Cliffs for their cable cars and zip lining.  We had to wake up the zip lining attendant as we were the first ones to do it THAT WEEK.  luckily he remembered what to do.   From the top cliff you have magnificent views of the Hula valley.   Finished the day in style with a great dinner at Roberg’s.
Manara CliffsManara CliffsManara Cliffs
Day 5 – The Golan Heights 
This was a jam-packed day.  Spent most of the morning in Katzrin where we visited a reconstructed Talmudic village and the remains of its ancient synagogue (below).  You got a fairly good sense of how life was like 2000 years ago.  Also visited the nearby Golan Olive Oil factory where we got an interesting tour.
We then climbed Mt Bental for more sweeping views of the Golan and Syria, and crawled through former Syrian bunkers (well we walked actually –  trying to sound dramatic).  Lunch was right there at Coffee Anan, a pun on the former UN leader (Anan means cloud).
Katzrin synagogueGolan Olive PressView from Mt Bental
After lunch we went to De Karina chocolate factory where you get to participate in a chocolate workshop among other things.  A bit more Disneyland than I expected.  We then cooled off while water rafting at Kfar Bloom before a nice dinner at Dag al Hadan, a restaurant with its own trout farm situated on the Dan river.
De karinaDag al HadanDag al Hadan
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