Monthly Archives: December 2012

Giovanni Rana – Verona Legend Turned Bird Killer

CappellettiMy youngest once told me an interesting fact she read somewhere.  10,000 birds die from smashing into windows a year.  And so I have to ask you my loyal readers, both of you.  How in the world do they come up with those stats.  Really, do they actually keep a running tally?  Do they pick up dead birds on the streets and able to determine the exact cause of death or they simply base on the location where birds pronounced dead close to windows, died from smashing into them Angry Birds style.

Giovanni RanaAnyway, I wonder how many pasta lover birds have smashed into the windows of Giovanni Rana.  GR is an Italian legend from Verona who’s passion for ravioli spawned an empire in Italy.  His face is proudly stapled on Tortellini packages all over the country.  But instead of telling you the story you can just see it on his site.  Yes even in Italy they eat packaged/frozen goods.

His daughter in law Antonella runs the new sprawling mini Eataly space in Chelsea piers. Daily made fresh pasta is the name of the game here.  You can eat it, buy it, or take-out it.  Perhaps the finest pasta menu in NYC and we sampled 4 of them (me and my 2 pasta critics, daughters age 12, 10).  On the way I told the kids about daddy’s and mommy’s adventures in Verona and I didn’t get far until the youngest interrupted.. “Ahhm dad, we were there too remember?”  Oh Yehhh!

Giovanni Rana pastaGiovanni Rana pasta

Ricotta Spinach Girasole. – Absolutely delicious Ravioli.  My youngest’s favorite of the bunch.  Comes with more chunks of creamy ricotta, all in this nice baked parmigiano crisp

Ravioli al Brasato. Braised rib meat Ravioli with cabbage and chestnuts. Good although the weakest link perhaps. I felt wanting more of the cabbage and chestnuts especially the cabbage, and the chestnuts.

Lobster Mezzaluna

Lobster Mezzaluna – Very Good!  not Maine lobster from the next door neighbor lobster place but satisfying nonetheless.  The best part of the dish was the Chanterelle mushrooms.  One of those rare moment that I count my blessings for marrying a mushroom hater (hate transferred to the kids)

Cappelletti – the star for me.  Even with the odd side of prosciutto on toast.  Prosciutto, bread crumbs and herbs packed in those Cappelletti.  Each one bursting with flavor.  Well done!

Service with plenty of hiccups as they only open for a few months.  The place feels like mini Eataly with all the tourists, products and cafeteria like setting.  Still, an enjoyable meal in Giovanni’s pasta land.  Welcome to New York Mr. Rana

Ricotta Spinach GirasoleGiovanni Rana

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Minetta Tavern – The Burger and the Beast

First an update on Ziggy Jr our goldfish.  He’s dead!  Pretty sure he took his own life after watching the 100th episode of Full House which my kids are now obsessed with since discovering it a few months ago.  Half of our DVR is filled with the stuff.  But lets move on to one of the best meals of the year…

Minetta Tavern is very unique in that it can be included in more than one or even 2 “Best Of” lists.  Best Steakhouse, Best Burger (Black Label Burger), Best Steak (Cote de Beauf), Best French bistro, and even Best restaurant in its class.

MT is located on the somewhat “divey” MacDougal street, and has a sort of unassuming exterior.  But as soon as you go in and open the red curtains you are transported somewhere else. 1930’s perhaps?  The place is not big and is packed.  The bar area is packed and they sit you almost like they sit you at a family reunion.  Except you sitting next to an Armenian cousin you didn’t know existed.

***Customary horrible pictures with iphone excuse****

Pasta Za ZaI was reading on Chowhound about Minetta not allowing taking pictures so the first few shots were taken with no flash.  Here’s the rundown…

Pasta Za Za – Very good.  I have a weakness for fresh pasta with egg.  They split the dish and put one egg on each.  Although we enjoyed it, not nearly as good as Herbsaint’s version in New Orleans

Bone Marrow – This was just ok for us.  Less so for the wife.  What saved the dish for me was the shallots with port – so delicious.  The baguettes were so buttery almost to the point of inedible.

Black Label burger – Met the high expectations.  The juiciest most flavorful burger that I can remember.  50% of it is 48 day dry aged prime rib eye with the other 50% a combination of brisket, rib and other goodies.  The fries were just ok for me however – not sure what the hoopla was.  Bone MarrowThey were barely seasoned and the aioli didnt save them for me.  But the burger was insane.

NY Strip – Excellent!  We ordered medium and it came medium-rare as expected.  Great, nicely seasoned crust and a very flavorful piece overall (28 day dry aged).  But the next day we were talking about the burger.

Chocolate Soufflé – AMAZING!! So rich and yummy

In short, this meal made a mark.  One of the most enjoyable meals of the year.  With drinks and tax $260 for the 2 of us.  Would definitely order the pasta, burger and soufflé again and perhaps go for the massive Cote de Beauf when we go with more people.

NY Strip

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

Sri Lankan in Staten Island – Another reason to visit

LakruwanaLets recap some of the biggest reasons to come to Staten Island…

1)  Staten Island Ferry.  Staten Island is a very unique place.  One of the biggest attractions in NYC is to get there and then get the hell out of there.

2)  To see Meerkats on a lookout at the Staten Island Zoo.  If you have never seen this, here’s an example from another zoo…  

3)  The new annual “Running of the Zebras and Ponies”.  I have a feeling this is going to be a big hit.  Here’s a footage from the last event (play the video)

4)  To see “The Yankees”.  Its the Staten Island Yankees, but most tourists will not know the difference.

5)  For the new “EYE”.  Ok, its a Ferris Wheel that hasnt actually been built yet but is in the works, and it will be bigger than the London eye.

LakruwanaAdd Sri Lankan food to this impressive list.  Sure you have some other nice options like Vida, and the rotating nonnas of Enoteca Maria, but nothing perhaps is as unique as the wonderful Sri Lankan cuisine on the island.  Since the late 60’s Sri Lankans have been flocking the island to create the 3rd largest Sri Lankan community in the US.  Here are 2 of the better options on the island of Staten

LakruwanaLakruwana – Entering Lakruwana is like entering a Sri Lankan museum with every inch of the restaurant decorated from floor to ceiling.  We did their excellent Sunday buffet served in clay pots.  From Boiled egg with curry to Kale with coconut, to Pol and onion Sambols, and the delicious crispy pork.  Although there were only 2 meat dishes, even the carnivores will admire the different variety and the complex flavors.

Sanrasa – Here we did a saturday dinner.  Although Sanrasa has more of a homey look and feel as opposed to Lakruwana, the flavors are as spectacular.  The chef used to work for Lakruwana and also I believe for a saudi prince.  If its good enough for a Saudi price, its good enough for Ziggy.  Some dishes we tried…

Chicken with cashew curry – very good. nice and tender chicken
Lamb with black curry – lamb a little dry but the sauce more than made up for it. Couldn’t get enough of it really.
Hoppers – very nice and unique, like little spongy pancakes made with rice flour and coconut milk, with some cooked with eggs
Kottu Roti – nice. They have an array of roti and hopper specials that come with your choice of meat curries
Lamprie – This is the house special and a must IMO. All kinds of goodies including rice, meat, curry, caramelized onions, cashews, all baked wrapped in banana leaf.  An old Dutch influenced classic
Deviled Shrimp – Fantastic, Thai-like, very spicy sizzling unpeeled shrimp with veggies.
Lamb Biryani – very good
Nice Mango Lassi as well.

There you have it folks.  Another reason to come.  As if you needed any more after surviving the running of the zebras and ponies

Categories: New York City, Staten Island | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Taim is ‘Taim Meod’ but WTF is S’rug

First I should probably explain the title…

Taim – Means tasty in Hebrew.  And is a popular Falafel joint in the west village

Taim Meod – Means very tasty in Hebrew

WTF – Means What The Fuck

But –  Means except for the fact…

S’rug – ??? not sure (more on that later)


          Taim Falafel and Smoothie Bar on Waverly serves some very Taim Israeli pocket food and more.  Small but fierce Falafel balls come in 3 different flavors:  “Green” which most resembles the traditional Israeli falafel, “Harrisa” which is red and packed with mild Tunisian spices and my personal favorite, and “Red” which is another red but mixed with roasted peppers.  The best way to try all 3 is to get the mixed platter which is a good amount of the 3 (around 10 balls – compared to the slightly larger 3 balls by Azuri café, another best Falafel in NYC candidate but losing ground with me).  In addition you get a very Taim, creamy and nutty Hummus, Israeli Salad and a Taboule salad.  The pita is warm and sprinkled with zatar seasoning which is a very nice touch.

s'chugYou also get 3 different sauces with that: Tahini, Amba (terrific, smell my finger pickled Mango chutney), and something called S’rug which is supposedly a Yemeni hot sauce.  Now here’s the thing.  I am very familiar with the similar Yemeni Hot Sauce called S’hug and I’ve seen it spelled S’chug and Z’hug, but S’rug is something new.  In fact if you Google S’rug you will only find it mentioned in relation to Taim pretty much.  Quotes by Yelpers and other food bloggers mentioning Taim’s hot Yemeni sauce S’rug as if such a thing exists.  Why do they call it S’rug?  Its like a place that makes Falafel but decides to call it Fakafel, joined by a food blogger army praising the Fakafel without ever mentioning the real thing, the Falafel.

Wait, not finished digressing.  I also happened to be a big fan of the S’chug which is a staple in my fridge.  In fact I have 2 kinds at the moment including the pictured Pereg S’chug which is my absolute favorite.  I spread it on everything.  Goes very well with bread and salami.

But now I digress.  Taim, also serves a delicious Sabich, the falafel’s shy and not as good looking cousin.  Sabich is eggplant, hard boiled egg, Tehini, Amba, and Israeli salad inside a pita.  And their smoothies such as the date, lime, banana, are fantastic as well.

Taim is a tiny popular neighborhood spot.  Its more of a takeout place as it has just enough room for 4 adults and a small cat.  Everything about this place is fresh and delicious including of course… that Yemeni hot sauce… S’rug.


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

Top 15 Things We Ate In New Orleans

CoquetteCoquette’s bread – When you are being careful not to eat too much because you have a huge dinner coming up and still order more bread, it means only one thing: Great Bread!

Boucherie’s Boudins – Fantastic to all senses including smell and touch. Not only you could smell them when they arrived, but the blonde at the bar next to us smelled them as well. “hmmm, I can smell your balls from here” was a compliment in this case.  I think?!

Boucherie Boudins

Boucherie’s Brisket – Juicy, tender melt in your mouth goodness.  And those garlicky Parmesan fries that came with it were just perfect

SoBou’s Cajun Queso – “More pork cracklings please” because our fingers dont taste as savory with this sickest cheese fondue ever

SoBou’s Alligator Sausages and Sticky Pork Belly (tie) – Cheating here a little but got no choice.  We sampled quite a few items in Sobou and these stood out.  You swipe the sausage with all 3 sauces and you got a fiesta in your mouth, add the briny and beautiful Okra to cool things down, until you taste the Pork and the accompanied boudin ball and your eyes widen and you start talking nonsense 

SoBou - Alligator Sausages

Commander’s Palace’s Turtle Soup – More complex flavors!  Much more! About 27 ingredients more!

Herbsaint’s Spaghetti – If I have to pick one spectacular starter, this is it.  Once you break the picture perfect fried poached farm egg and mix in the salty Guanciale, you got pure ecstasy with every bite.  Great Great dish.

Herbsaint's Pasta

Herbsaint’s Lamb Neck – Had a wonderful Lamb Neck in Tel Aviv in the summer but this one beats it by a mile.  Nice and crispy on the outside, perfectly tender falling off the bone on the inside.  And together with the delicate Saffron Fideo noodles and roasted tomatoes you got another spectacular dish.   We also had other goodies in Herbsaint and if there’s a restaurant that provides more excitement pound for pound I would like to know

Herbsaint's Lamb Neck

GW Fins’ Lobster Dumplings – Delicious! Like great Russian Vareniki 

GW Fins Lobster Dumplings

Drago’s Chargrilled Oysters – I may have lost respect with the Chowhounder folks with this one , but to us they were meaty and very flavorful.  Did we just get lucky?

Drago's Chargrilled Oysters

Mr B’s BBQ Shrimp – So good we broke a cardinal rule and came back for seconds.  Peppery, buttery, buttery, buttery (thats 3 sticks) goodness

Mr B's BBQ Shrimp

Sammy’s Ray Ray Po’Boy and Salmon Sashimi (tie).  From the Po’Boy festival these 2 came on top.  The Ray Ray is a delicious combination of fried chicken ham and cheese.  But I need for someone to point out the vendor of the Salmon Po’boy (Hummus Whisperer fave) since I cant recall

Red Gravy’s Lombardo – Grits + Eggs + Gravy + Cheese = Silent moment

Red Gravy's Grits and eggs

Cafe Du MondeCafe Du Monde’s Beignets – The history had something to do with this one,  the cafe au lait helped, and those Beignets are nothing to sneeze at.  Because if you do you, you’ll shower your friends with powdered sugar. 

GW Fins’ Bread Pudding – The winner of our accidental bread pudding competition that featured 7 of the city’s top BPs.  By accidental I mean desperation with over 20 years of living in NYC with major bread puddings withdrawals.

Special mention:  Sweet Palate’s Pop Rock Chocolates. 

Drinks:  Bloody Mary from Marie’s Bar, French 75 from French 75, Dark and Stormy from Boucherie, Faubourg Tall Boy from Sobou. 

Zei Gezunt and stay hungry my friends!

Categories: New Orleans | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Orleans Eats Day 5 – Depression Now Hits Ziggy Clan

Nola ZooIts Nicholas Cage's future tombour last day in N’oleans.  Staring at Nicholas Cage’s future tomb in the St Louis Cemetery and still somehow haunted by the zoo images from yesterday (another example above), a sudden feeling of uneasiness hits.  The feeling goes into another mode when I realize at the cemetery that my stomach has transformed into this nicely rounded pregnant like shape.  Later on I notice I can no longer see my… shoes.  Time for 4 weeks of couscous and kimchee diet after this trip.  But first we have some unfinished business… more beignets and revisit Mr 3 sticks of butter (aka Mr B’s Shrimp).  Well sort of finished business revisited actually.

Cafe Beignet –  More wonderful sugary goodness.  Until I had a sudden cough and sprayed sugar all over.  These  beignets were larger and fuller (less airy) than Cafe Du Monde’s.  But if I have to choose one I would go with the legend here.  And the legend’s Cafe Late was better.

Mr B’s – As I indicated before this is a major rarity for us to go to the same place twice.  Turks and Caicos is the only place where I do this with my favorite restaurant in the world, Caicos Cafe.   Started with a wonderful plate of rice and beans which came with some nice and juicy sausages.  The same sausages and other meats however were a bit overcooked inside the pasta jambalaya which disappointed overall as it did not have the same kind of explosiveness that we found in so many NO dishes .  The seafood gumbo and the famous BBQ Shrimp we enjoyed on day 1 saved the day

Mr B's Jambalaya

Mr B's Gumbo

The Sweet Palate – A gourmet chocolate gem of a place that definitely entertained our sweet palates.  They get their chocolates from a master chocolatier in Barcelona, Oriol Balaguer who used to work for Feran Adria at El Bulli arguably the most famous restaurant in the world when it was open.  Feran is the master that invented molecular cooking .  These little chocolates were understandably expensive and as expected rich and explosive, especially the one dubbed Pop Rock.

MuffulettaCochon Butcher – This is not a review.  Plenty of locals recommended Butcher as the place to sample the Muffuletta, which is a large round loaf filled with various cold cuts, cheese and an olive salad dressing.  Back in the day Italian immigrants who used to work in the French Market used to go to the nearby Central Grocery for lunch to get the cold cuts, cheeses, olive dressings and the Muffuletta bread and eat them all separately until the owner of the store advised them to combine all the ingredients into one and hence the Muffuletta was born.  MuffulettaCentral Grocery is still there going strong and still according to the locals has one of the best Muffulettas in town.  But based on my experience with Cochon Butcher, and this is coming from someone who has a sandwich as his avatar, the Portuguese Francesinha, aka the worlds best sandwich, the Muffuletta is not for me.  Partially due to the heavy olive presence.  Still, you have to give it a shot while in New Orleans.  Pretty sure its the law and you have to fly back with one 

5 days of culinary bliss in new Orleans has come to an end but more content coming up about our faves of the trip.  Stay tuned

Categories: New Orleans | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Orleans Eats Day 4 – Depression Hits NOLA Zoo!

We are breaking every travel rule on this trip.  We revisit a restaurant for the second time (Mr B’s day 5), we go to a Russian punk concert, we party with hippies, we stand on long lines for a sandwich, and we go to the city zoo.

ZppTo get to the zoo is easy.  You take a street car, transfer to a bus mid way, hitchhike to the zoo shuttle that takes you to the zoo motel to spend the night, and in the morning they speed boat you via a series of swamps to the main gate.  To get back you take a taxi!  A very nice zoo once you get over the fact that the animals are in a state of a major midlife crisis or depression.   One gorilla looked extremely concerned about something the entire time.  Another gorilla was staring at me the same way I stare at windows showcasing pastas.  The lions and tigers looked fairly lifeless just lying motionless the entire time until one tiger lying on his stomach just lifted a paw to rest it against a tree, almost saying “here you go, feast on that tourists”.  The flamingoes we very pretty but looked like were having some of an argument, perhaps about where to get the best Gumbo.

Red Gravy – One of the newest and hottest breakfast spots in the heart of the city.  Owner Roseann dishing out all kinds of tasty and unique Italian dishes for breakfast like the popular Polpetta, a meatball ricotta, red gravy omelette.  The Polpetta wasnt on the menu when we visited during the weekend, but we did have a terrific Sicilian Egg Pie, flaky pastry baked with eggs and cheese.  I had the ‘Lost Bread’ special which was a nice variation of french toast while other enjoyed grits with eggs, red gravy and cheese, and another dish of shrimp beignets.  I have to admit although I liked my dish I had serious egg envy. 

Red Gravy's SicilianRed Gravy's Grits and eggsPo'Boy festivalPo’boy Festival on Oak Street – You say Po’boy, I say sandwich.  If there’s a difference between a Po’boy or a regular Italian bread sandwich I dont see it.  But the Po’Boy is big here in N’oleans.

Po'Boy festivalThe festival was fun but crazy busy.  We almost turned around and left, but the Hummus Whisperer was smelling something good.  We started with Pascal Manales simple and cooked BBQ shrimp Poboy.  Tasty especially considering this was the shortest line we’ve seen.  The lines to the more popular eateries like the Boucherie food truck painfully stretched.  We tried a variety of sandwiches including Seafood au Gratin from Breads on Oak, the only place using its own made bread, while every other place was using the same bread from the same source.

While the Hummus Whisperer and Mrs Critic greatly enjoyed the Seafood au Gratin, my favorite was probably Sammy’s Ray Ray – juicy fried boneless chicken, ham and cheese, whats not to like.  As is often the case the big disappointment is the one most sought after, Red Fish Grill’s Pecan Crusted Trout Meuniere Poboy. Sounded much tastier than it was.  It was lacking something…what do you call it…oh yes.. FLAVOR!

Po'Boy festival - Ray Ray

Po'Boy festival - BBQ ShrimpGW Fins – More deliciouness! Another New Orleans legend but not exactly New Orleans food.  What you get is a fresh seafood extravaganza where the seasonal menu changes almost on a daily basis.  A truly spectacular menu for seafood lovers.  Started with their famous  Lobster Dumplings which were very satisfying, like very good Russian Pilmeni. The sizzling oysters were sizzling alright, and absolutely delicious.  The blue crab pot stickers were a bit too doughy but enjoyable nonetheless.

GW Fins Lobster DumplingsI was looking for their renowned Scalibut (scallops encrusted halibut) on the menu but it took the day off.  Nevertheless we really enjoyed the Brie and blue crab stuffed flounder with some sort of bread and mushroom concoction and asparagus.  The black drum was simply fried and came with a delicious lobster risotto that stole the show.  A dish of just the risotto would have been just fine me thinks.  I didnt expect to see Maine lobster in New Orleans. 

One of our missions on this trip was to fill ourselves with as much Bread pudding as possible as we dont really get any good ones in NY.  We ate about 8 of these babies in pretty much every dining establishments.  A clear winner has emerged in GW Fins.  White chocolate and caramel bread pudding with dark chocolate and pecans.  The dark chocolate is really the difference maker here.  You know something is good when you can’t have enough of something while completely full.   A nice ending to another terrific meal

GW Fins DrumGW Fins Oysters

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