Monthly Archives: November 2013

Brighton Beach For Meshugenahs

Kashkar lagmanPost Sandy Brighton Beach is not only alive and well but kicking some serious foodie tuches these days.  Tuches (pronounced Tooches with a jewish Chhh), if you are scoring at home (or if you are alone) means rear-end in Yiddish.  Its one of a few Yiddish words you need to know when visiting predominantly Russian speaking Brighton Beach.  E.G.  “$3 for this Mondalech?  You can kiss my Tuches”.  Anyway, there’s all sorts of deliciousness waiting your way in good ol’ BB.  And as you will see here only a portion of it is actually Russian.

KalinkaOne can actually argue (me included) that the best food in Brighton Beach is not really Russian at all.  An argument I wouldn’t make with the Dominoes players on the boardwalk or on Ocean Parkway.  But if you must, here’s another word you need to know:  “Gavno”.  As in “Their Strogonoff looked like my Yozhik’s Gavno!”.  In addition to Russian, you can get some tasty Georgian, Turkish, Uzbek, and even Mexican food in Brighton.  BTW, to demonstrate how predominantly Russian this neighborhood is, just hang around in any grocery store and hear Mexican workers argue converse with Russian Babushkas in Russian.  It can be quite hysterical when you witness it for the first time.  Babushka asks a question in Russian, you think OMG this is too funny, but when the answer is in perfect Russian you feel like the joke is on you.

Yes, one can survive without knowing the language here I suppose.  Well not for too long at least.  Dont be surprised if someone approaches you in a restaurant or a store speaking to you in Russian.  But no worries, Ziggy is here to help.  First step to enhance your experience, do it Ruskie style:  Empty a bottle of water, fill it with vodka, and put inside your jacket/bag.  It will be handy later on.  So lets go for a ride, shall we…

Vintage2Vintage Foods – Lets start with my favorite store located on Brighton Beach Ave (Between Brighton 2nd/ Brighton 3rd) .  This is a Mediterranean specialty food store that needs to be explored thoroughly.  You can find not only every nut known to man but every nut known to man covered in some sort of chocolate (ok, a little exaggeration with the last part).  In fact it started as a simple Nut and dried food store but now expanded into something so much more.  You got a plethora of various Russian chocolates – I usually get some sort of mix (rule of thumb:  Anything with a picture of a squirrel or a camel is normally good).  I also get some of the exposed giant dark chocolate bars used for cooking.  I use it for eating!  The Halva is very good, as well Turkish breads, coffee and so much.

Vintage 3 Vintage

Brighton PierogiPierogi Window – Right to the left of Vintage Foods (when looking at it).  This is the national snack.  A large fried dumplings usually filled with savory meat (my favorite), potatoes (possibly with peas), or sauerkraut.  For normally around a buck and half this can be pretty filling and satisfying.  You can wash down the national snack with the national drink, Kvass, a malt beverage that for the most part quite frankly doesnt taste that great.  If you can get your hands on Israeli Black Beer (non alcoholic) sold in various markets/delis, its a much better alternative.

Pierogi window

Oceanview Cafe – Right across the street from Vintage on the corner of Brighton 2nd is this little cafe serving all your classic Russian dishes.  Here you can sample good Borscht, Kharcho (lamb, rice soup I prefer over Borscht), and its a good place in particular for Pelmeni.  If you dont feel like experiencing the scene at Glechik (more on that later) and want more of a quick and relaxed meal, this is a nice alternative.

Glechik - PelmeniA word on Pelmeni:  Essentially the Russian Ravioli.  Mike Tyson’s favorite Russian food as its related to the Italian Orecchiette by name alone.  Both names mean something along the line of “Little Ears”, though the Pelmeni origin isn’t Russian.  Different Pelmeni kinds include chicken, veal, mystery meat, or my favorite the Siberian which is a mix of ground meats like beef, pork, or veal and spices.  Most people enjoy them with sour cream which will be served in some places (otherwise ask).  But my preference is with black pepper and white vinegar which you can askKashkar - Manti for if its not on the table already.  You also have the Pelmeni’s uglier but pretty on the inside cousin, the  Ukranian Varenyky, flatter, may be filled with different stuff as well but for the most part Varenyky referred to the ones stuffed with potatoes (correct me if I’m wrong Varenyky aficionado).  Another cousin is the Manti, aka “Pelmeni Gone Wild” found in the various Uzbek spots in the area.  More on Manti later

Kashkar CafeKashkar Café –  Remember when I talked about Manti 🙄  If I have to pick one place to visit in Brighton, I think this might be it.  This is the place where you get your Uyghur fix ladies and gents.  Closer to Asian food than Russian overall, the flavors here are little bigger and more coplex.  Try the homemade Lagman noodles in the form of a soup or a dish called Geiro (top picture).  Here you can also sample those Manti, and the Uzbek Plov (rice Pilaf), along with some of juiciest and cheapest chicken and lamb kebabs.  Tremendous stuff here folks.  There’s a similar place on Brighton 4th with a Korean twist where the name translates to something along the lines of “Cafe At Your Mother’s-in-Law”.  The name is a big reason why I never set foot there, but I’ve read its pretty good.  I will spare you the historic details of the Korean Uzbek connection.  I recommend this thing called Google.

Georgian Bread Adjaruli

Georgian Bread – Or Tone Café as its now called since it expanded.  Those love boats are just something else, baguettes on crack.  People flock here mostly for the bread, and the patient ones stick around for the Oasis of the Seas, the Adjaruli Khatchapuri, a mammoth boat with Farmer’s Cheese and egg.  This is very shareable of course.  And if you are staying take advantage of some other goodies like the terrific Lobio, a red bean salad, with ground walnut, pomegranate and spices.  This is on Neptune Ave which is a couple of blocks north from the main hub Brighton Beach blvd.  But the mini schlep is a worthy one.

Café Gletchik – A Brighton institution/Pelmeni legend.  Right off the main blvd on Coney Island Ave.  This is where you can have your complete traditional Russian meal in a lively setting.  Wash it down with a Kompot, the Russian fruit punch.  This is where your water bottle can become handy.  Below is an example on the type of meal you can enjoy here (note: Pelmeni, a must here, is already pictured above)…

Herring with potatoes

Herring with potatoes

Borscht

Borscht

Glechik  - Varenyky

Potato Varenyky

Cherry Varenyky

Cherry Varenyky

Homemade Napolean.  Perhaps the best I ever had

Homemade Napolean.  Absolute must!

Schnitzel with Egg

Schnitzel with Egg. More like a big fat chicken cutlet

Brighton lotteryLa Brioche 2Bakery La Brioche Cafe – This is one of the premier dessert spots on Brighton Beach blvd and Brighton 13th.  Last time I brought my baking obsessed sister in law who required to be dragged out of there with police escort.  Things turned a little ugly when she had a Borat Cheese moment where she went down the aisle and asked the clerk what each item was, until the clerk finally gave in and said “This is cheese Ok?, its Cheese!”.  I kid you not!  And there was no cheese there.

Anywhere on the Boardwalk.  Cant get any more people watching than this.  Between good ol’ Tatiana and its neighbors (or is it down to one neighbor now) you have your pick.  And dont forget to buy Russian seeds on the far left corner (Brighton 4th) of the boardwalk.  I’m pretty sure its illegal to walk on the Boardwalk without holding a bag of seeds but I may be wrong.Brighton Boardwalk

So let me ask you now tourists.  Will you come to South Brooklyn next time to eat a hot dog (Nathan’s) as instructed by your guidebook, or visit the neighborhood next door.

Other than food there’s plenty to do and see in Brighton Beach.  You can visit stores like Kalinka (corner of Brighton 4th) for your souvenir needs.  Or check out the latest Babooshka fashion trends on the Boardwalk.  In the warmer months don’t be surprised to see street performers entertaining Russian children, and if you are really lucky, drunk Parakeets cursing in Russian.

Kalinka Matrioshka

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lazy Post – Postcard Perfect Tuscany

No idea where this is

No idea where this is

For the photographers out there looking for those perfect Tuscan shots, here are some important tips on where to find them.  Grab a pen and pencil (in case… you know… the pencil breaks)

1)  Drive all over Tuscany, especially the Val d’Orcia area

Hmmm, I swear I thought I had more tips, but I’m drawing a blank.  I think this might be it – just drive around with your eyes open.  Surely it would be challenging to drive with your eyes closed, but I’ve seen it done in Florida (and got the metal plate in my leg to prove it).  But the truth is the entire Tuscany region is one giant postcard, and Val d’Orcia is perhaps as picture perfect as it comes.  Simply going from point A to point B anywhere in that area will produce more unique landscapes, quite different than the drive you took to get to point A.

From Florence to Lucca to seeing Volterra through the eyes of Annie Adair, to Siena, Pienza and the rest of the gems in the South, here are some of the best shots we took

Florence - Santa Croce

Florence – Santa Croce

Podere Il Casale

Podere Il Casale near Pienza

Siena

Siena

From Avignonesi to Valiano

From Avignonesi to Valiano

Near Monticchiello

Near Monticchiello

La Foce

La Foce

Siena to Asciano

Siena to Asciano

lucca san michele in foro

lucca san michele in foro

Villa Grazianella

Villa Grazianella

Volterra

Volterra

Pienza to Montepulciano

San Quirico to Pienza (very close to San Quirico)

Pisa

Pisa

San Quirico

San Quirico

Near San Quirico

Near San Quirico

Montepulciano

From Montepulciano

Montalcino

From Montalcino

La Vitaleta (famous chapel by San Quirico)

La Vitaleta (famous chapel by San Quirico)

From Avignonesi to Valiano

From Avignonesi to Valiano

From Abbey of Sant’Antimo

From Abbey of Sant’Antimo

Bagno Vignoni

Bagno Vignoni

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Eating Without Ziggy – Buddha Bodai, Gluten Free in Chinatown

More eating adventures from the Hummus Whisperer…

I told you I’m gluten sensitive!  Did you or one of your family members ever say that?  By now we all know gluten is a more common irritant/allergen than most people think.  Some people’s intestines think gluten is evil and cause Montezuma’s revenge or worse.  This is awful to know because if you live or visit America finding gluten-free food can be depressing while you sit there watch others eat cakes and cookies.  Well, not so fast I say.  You can still enjoy yourself worry free in places like Buddha Bodai in Chinatown.

Buddha Bodai DumplingsBuddha Bodai is a kosher, vegetarian Chinese restaurant on Mott Street.  Come here if you are kosher, vegetarian, gluten-free, or all of the above.  If you are neither, you may still like it.  This is the only place in Chinatown where you may share a table with a(nother) Chinese grandma, Hasidic Jew, Buddhist monk or a European tourist (An avid EWZ reader).  This is the kind of place you slowly fall in love with.  Unfortunately, the menu is heavy on the faux meat dishes.  I personally never go for the mock meat because its just does not taste the same as the real thing, but I do enjoy veggie dishes here.  I ordered $10 worth of various dumplings.  There are some nice looking lunch special dishes, not all are gluten-free but still the largest GF selection in Chinatown.  There are no carts going down the aisle as you would expect in other places in the neighborhood.  There’s a sign upfront that this is a kosher place so that means no outside food or drink.  So don’t bring in the pork rinds.

First up, two kind mushroom Congee.  Then bamboo pith dumplings and steamed watercress dumplings.

This was my first time ever eating Congee.  While the name and texture (similar to oatmeal) are not appealing, the taste is simply delicious.  Mushrooms, some veggies and ginger – delicious!  A Congee is simply a rice porridge with a different name in every country in Asia.  Many Asians, non-Asians, and now hummus whisperers consume Congee during the day.  Bamboo pith dumplings – more awesomeness.
Bottom line is, there may be some better tasting options around Chinatown, but if you make it to Buddha Bodai you will not be disappointed and will be happy you ate healthy, gluten-free food.
 
Buddha Bodai
5 Mott St
 
Buddha Bodai Buddha Bodai
 
 
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Gotham West Market Opens. Ziggy Gains 3.7 lb

Gotham West Market

I haven’t seen so much excitement since my wife brought home not one but two extra large Zappos boxes.  The area I like to call Hell’s Kitchen (because that’s what its called) has given birth to Octuplets yesterday.  For the German tourists reading this blog (For some reason this blog is popular with German tourists – ich danke ihnen!) Octuplets means 8 babies.  8 beautiful, healthy, delicious babies.  We normally get excited when one place opens in Hell’s Kitchen, so 8 at the same time is like… 8 as much excitement.  Essentially what I’m trying to say is that this is the most thrilling thing to happen to Hell’s Kitchen since Ezra from Azuri Cafe cracked a smile (it happened in January 20th, 2007.  I witnessed it.  Though rumors have it that it was just gas)

So far I’ve been to Gotham West twice.  On the day they opened (yesterday), and on the second day (the day after yesterday!).   Here are the vendors starting with the two I ate so far…

Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop – from Ivan Orkin, a Jew from Brooklyn making Ramen in Japan.  While everyone anticipates his LES Ramen joint to open, this one got snuck in first.  I came for Ramen, but got the Smoked Whitefish Donbury rice bowl instead.  Terrific stuff!  Hefty chunks of white fish with Salmon roe, cucumber and scallion.  All on top of warm rice with a touch of sweet soy.  I want to try everything on this menu

Ivam Ramen - Smoed whitefish

El Colmado – Had lunch here today with the Hummus Whisperer.  Classic Spanish Tapas from Seamus Mullen and the rest of Tertullia’s team.  Gil Avital, one of Tertullia’s partners is running the show.  Lovely Smoked Eel Croquettes.  Deviled eggs with smoked Bacalao were more satisfying.  Dates stuffed with Almond and Valdeon cheese were explosive.  This is a classic tapas dish we’ve had many times over the years, and this is as good as it gets.  Gambas al Ajillo were small and simple.  Not the best we’ve had.  Octopus on the Plancha was more like it, tender and nicely charred.  Got  a couple on the house.. Marcona Almonds fried in olive oil. Hmmm, I prefer my raw Marcona from Costco.  Its like crack in my house.  Smoked Idiazabal cheese marinated with olive oil and rosemary in a sardine can was fine.  Very nice lunch overall.  Looking forward to trying the rest of the menu

El Colmado -Deviled Eggs El Colmado - Eel Croquettes, Date El Colmado - Octopud El Colmado - GambasEl Colmado - Cheese

The Cannibal – From the people that brought you Resto and the The Cannibal in Gramercy serving charcuterie, small bites, and various meat specialties like pork neck kimchi rillettes.  Seriously who doesnt love a good pork neck kimchi rillette

Genuine Roadside – Essentially classic American food with a twist.  Fish tacos, beef, pork, chicken sandwiches and a whole lot of burger action.  Not surprisingly the biggest line so far.  Well this is after all, America!

Gotham West Market HKLittle Chef – From  Caroline Fidanza off Brooklyn’s Saltie.  5-10 creative farm to table dishes like the Ship’s Biscuit – Focaccia, soft scrambled egg, ricotta, or the Clean Slate – hummus, quinoa, pickled vegetables, yogurt sauce on naan bread, or try the Cock a Leekie – chicken, leek and prune soup.  Although you may have some explaining to do when your spouse asks you what you had for lunch today if your answer is a “Cock a Leekie”

Court Street Grocers – Smack in the middle of all the action is this other Brooklyn import making gourmet sandwiches.   Such as the Confit of Pork Shoulder, Mayo, Provolone, Broccoli Rabe, Red Peppers, Pecorino Romano, on a Hero Roll, or how about a Braised Beef Shank, Gorgonzola Dolce, Caramelized Onion, Red Peppers, Arugula, Red Wine Vinaigrette, on a Potato Roll.  POTATO ROLL!!

Blue Bottle Coffee – Twelfth location for this popular cafe.  The New Orleans Ice Coffee seems to be popular among other things

You also got the The Brooklyn Kitchen for all your Kitchen needs.  Christmas is coming and I need a dutch oven, knife set, and a personal chef.  Hint hint!  You can even order your turkey here, and attend various cooking classes such as making pizzas with Roberta’s.  And soon you will have a Velo Bike Shop for all your Citibike bike needs.  Stay Hungry Bitches!

Gotham West Market
600 11th Ave, New York, NY

Gotham West Market 3 Gotham West Market NYC Gotham West Market - Ivan Ramen Gotham West Market 2 El Colmado Gotham West Market - Ivan

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Momofuku Ssäm Bar – Mama Funky!

Ssäm Bar KitchenWhen the going gets tough, the tough turns to his iPhone auto-correct to come up with the title

After surviving 5 full days of this I needed a strong meal.  It was like having unexpected construction at home the past week.  5 full days of the youngest practice walking on the high heel shoes she chose for her big Bat Mitzvah day.  5 days and counting.  And the day is not until February.  I needed something real good, not Hearth which I had scheduled originally but something stronger.  The answer came off a tip from Kathryn from Chowdown about the new Chanterelles dish at Mama Funky.  So instead of the famous Hearth Gnocchi, I got Gnocchi that gave me a Ratatouille Moment like never before

Momofuku Ssam BarSsam Bar is located in the Momofuku quarters of the East Village.  Ok, I may be getting ahead of myself a little here, but that’s the direction we are heading looks like.  Next to Ssam around the corner you got Momofuku’s popular Booker and Dax bar, right across the street you got Momofuku’s Milk Bar, and a block away you have of course Ko, the 2 Michelin Star powerhouse.  David Chang is to East Village what beards are to the Red Sox.  Or something like that.

The place for the most part.. borrowing yet another line from Breaking Bad… Tight, tight, tight.  If you are a group, 3 or more, you not only get a table but you can also take advantage of some of the family style offers like the Bo Ssäm meal (slow cooked pork shoulder, a dozen oysters, white rice, bibb lettuce, ssäm sauce, kimchi and ginger scallion sauce) and the popular whole rotisserie duck.  However, if you are 1, 2 you get the long communal table where you sit across from each other.  No room for camera which I didnt bring anyway.  To my right, a guy who suspects his neighbor is a serial killer.  To my left, a tower of napkins! Sitting with easy access to an unlimited amount of napkins is surprisingly comforting.

Ssam bar - Roasted ChanterellesWith that said, the food is heavenly.  Between the 6 dishes we shared, 4 great ones, 1 ok, 1 eh!  The breakdown…

The Great…

Striped Bass – Raw, with lychee, rye guajillo bonji, and cilantro.  Just enough acidity and very tasty.  Mrs Ziggy will only eat raw if its exceptional and she ate this

Roasted Chanterelles – Excellent! With scattered ‘drops’ of egg yolk and melted bone marrow.  Just a nice combination of flavors all around.  Coudnt get enough of this dish

Ssam Bar DuckRoasted Jurgielewicz duck – Expertly prepared tender duck with barley, butternut squash, and cranberry.  I found myself wanting more sour from the accompanying stuff but a very nice dish overall

Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes –  Insane! By far my favorite dish.  And I almost didn’t order it.  When I asked about the dish, the waiter assured us it was “Very Spicy” and “Exactly like the one at Mission Chinese” which I don’t care much for.  But I decided to order it anyway and he couldn’t be more wrong.  Plenty of heat but plenty of joy.  Its a beautiful medley of ground sausage, chinese broccoli, sichuan peppercorn, and the awesome rice cakes which were essentially Korean Gnocchi made from rice flour.  A top dish of the year nominee.

The Ok…

Apple Kimchi –  With maple labne, jowl bacon, arugula.  It like eating a well spiced apple.  Its a popular dish and I still recommend ordering it but I just didnt find it as thrilling as the others

The Eh…

Cashew Hozon – Like a cashew “hummus” with some off-putting anchovies.  A regular fresh hummus would have been preferred.

Dessert here is limited so we went to the Milk Bar which we found just ok.  I suggest heading to Chikalicious Dessert Club on East 10th or Sundaes and Cones.  Highly recommend Momofuku Ssam Bar

Momofuku Ssam Bar

207 second avenue (13th street)

Ssam bar - Apple Kimchi Ssam Bar - Spicy Pork Sausage Rice Cakes

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

10 Best Things We Ate in Rome

Cannoli from Ciuri CiuriI know what you thinking.  No, I’m not auditioning for a hand model job.  Although the hands are normally this photogenic this is not the main motivation behind this post, and you should really pay more attention to the beautiful Canollo (single Connoli.  Yes you’ve been living a lie).  With that said, if you insist, who am I to prevent what people want and need.  Drop me a line at ZiggysHands@Gmail.com, also on twitter @handyjobs.

Roma delivered some tasty surprises.  I was all ready to be wowed by all the Cacios and the Pepes, and the Carbonaras, but instead I was impressed by the more familiar items like Meatballs, Mortadella, Burratas and Pizzas.  So in no particular order, our top eats in Rome…

Pizza at Da Remo – Although I’ve been to Rome before this was the first time I experienced the classic Roman “Matzoh” thin pizza.  We enjoyed this one more than the former Michelin star spot we had for lunch in Orvieto that day.  Margherita and the Diavola (like sopressata back home) were spot on, but once we added more toppings things started to get off track a little.  So stay simple with the Matsoh Pizza.  Fun and supposedly flirtatious staff (at least according to RomeDigest.com.  They probably did not notice the hands) lets you take all the pictures you want of the hectic action inside.

Pizza at Da Remo

Fettuccine Agli Ovoli at La Campana.  Ovoli (pronounced delicious) is sort of a rare, expensive mushroom that is bright, sweet, delicate, almost truffle like.  The whole mushroom is a weird egg like shape (hence Ovoli).  The Italians like to call them as they see it.  (E.G Strozzapreti obviously invented when someone witnessed a priest being strangled).  La Campana is one of those proud establishments with a rich history dating back to the 16th century.  And the best part: Open on Sundays!

Fettuccine Agli Ovoli at La Campana

Seafood Assortment at Le Mani in Pasta.  Terrific finish to an uneven meal at this popular seafood institution in Trastevere.  Fantastic hefty juicy Langoustines, wonderfully chewy flat squid, lightly breaded and grilled to perfection, and a nice whole white fish.  Borrowing from the Hummus Whisperer, we attacked this thing with full force.

Seafood Assortment at Le Mani in Pasta

Gelsi Neri Granita at Ciuri Ciuri – Nothing, no ice cream or a slap in the face, during the entire trip felt as refreshing as this dark beauty.  Sweet but not too sweet.  Is it a blackberry?  Well if it is, its not like any blackberry I ever had.  Reminds me more of the white berry I ate in Israel.  There’s a Borat “Black Not” joke in here somewhere.

Gelsi Neri Granita at Ciuri Ciuri

Burrata from Roscioli – Just edging the sleek, paper thin Mortadella which is what Mrs Ziggy would have picked.  The Burrata, creamy, rich and ever so memorable.  But what stole the show was the semi-dried peppery tomatoes I couldnt get enough of.  Promise me you will get both dishes.  Or we are no longer friends

Roscioli - Burrata

Sliced Pizza from Forno Campo de’ Fiori – Fitting entry right after my post on Sullivan Street Bakery and its room temperature pizza bianca.  If Pizza Bianca (white pizza for those scoring at home, or if you are alone) like in Sullivan was more popular in NYC it would be hot off the oven as opposed to room temperature.  We enjoyed a few slices at this Forno.  Delicious plain, chewy bianca, and one topped with tomatoes.  Bread, salt, olive oil never tasted this good.

Forno Campo de' Fiori

Meatballs from Cesare al Casaletto – Another tough choice here between the meatballs and the super flavorful oxtail.  Add the lightly fried gnocchi to the mix and you got yourself a nice meal at this far enough from the tourists stop (oh those pesky tourists).  The meatballs were some of the most unique balls I ever had.   Airy, slow cooked savory brisket meatballs with just enough creamy pesto. Yum yum yum.

Cesare al Casaletto - meatballs

Biscotti and Cookies from Biscottificio Innocenti – Like eating Biscotti and cookies for the very first time.  Tucked on the quiet side of Trastevere is this 100 year old bakery/factory.  Just walk in and ask for an assortment.  Score one big one for Katie Parla

Innocenti

Fettuccine from Il Sorpasso.  With pesto, zucchini flowers and sunflower seeds.  Need I say more?  Yes I probably should.  Perhaps the single best pesto sauce I ever ate.  There!  One of 3 excellent non-Roman pastas we shared here after some fantastic cheese and cured meats.  A perfect lunch spot after the Vatican

Sorpasso

Cannoli from Ciuri Ciuri – (Picture on top).  Yes, 2 items from Ciuri. a place so good you say it twice.  The trick about good Cannoli is seeing empty shells, which means a fresh fill of that ricotta goodness when you order.  Cannoli lovers – look no further!  Well, you can look further.  Its just an expression.

Categories: Italy, Rome | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Il Forno di Sullivan

Sullivan Street BakeryIt was the end of Friday Donuts as we knew it.  The culprit?  Sullivan Street Bakery.  Here’s what happened.  We had to kill Dress Up Friday prematurely since some of the youngsters in the office didn’t actually own a tie, or shirts without any South Park or Breaking Bad references, or a belt for that matter.  So Friday Donuts was born with everyone taking turns bringing a dozen dunkin donuts every Friday.  There is reason to live!  I resisted at first and did not participate.  A) I prefer to eat earlier.  B) I actually enjoy Breakfast.  C) This is as exciting as Green Borscht Tuesdays.  But I eventually succumbed, added myself to the list and brought my first donuts, just like everyone else from Dunkin Donuts.  Whoop-De-Freakin-Doo!  But on my next turn I decided to show them how to do it.  By spending 3 times as much!

Sullivan CanottosSo I went to Sullivan Street Bakery and bought the following: 6 huge jelly filled Bombolonis, essentially donuts on crack.  Two sweet Canottos, pastries filled with various seasonal fruits, mascarpone, nuts and more (just about my favorite item at Sullivan.  Every bite tastes different.  They also have savory Canottos with prosciutto among other things), and two of the best Almond Croissants you will find in NY.  Game over!  Goodbye Friday Donuts, hello Green Borscht Tuesdays.  Till this day we still talk about how Friday Donuts somehow sunk into oblivion after that breakfast

photo (5)

You can walk on 47th between 10th and 11th and easily miss 3 gems.  An Ice cream maker, a Bodega, and the aforementioned bakery, the closest thing we have to a Roman forno.  Besides the sweet stuff, you got a plethora of goodies that will satisfy any bread aficionado.  Highlights include a chestnut-colored walnut raisin loaf that goes very well with butter in the morning.  A baguette like Stirato that is airy, chewy, and best before the cleaning lady comes (so messy).  I love bringing it home when Mrs Ziggy makes soup and pop it in the oven for a few minutes (I wait until temp reaches 375 or when the smoke alarm goes off.  Whichever comes sooner).  Another similarly messy deliciousness is the marvelous Pugliese.

Sullivan Pecorino biancaYou will also find various paninis, and the popular thin crust room temperature pizzas.  One of my favorites is the aged pecorino filled Strecci, wonderfully chewy and salty pizza dough.  Or try the Strecci topped with tomatoes (or olives, feh!) and a touch of Rosemary

I first discovered Sullivan inside Scarpetta’s bread basket, aka the sickest bread basket in town.  Then it started following me in various specialty stores until I finally popped in, and pretty much never left.  Sometimes they call the cops or try to hit me with Jim Lahey’s heavy cookbook.  Rarely works!  Love knows no bounds.

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Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Eating Without Ziggy – Battle of the Soups, Chinatown

Chronicles of the Hummus Whisperer…

Believe it or not, sometimes I eat without my foodie-call Ziggy. While its never the same as eating with my dear companion or with my dear wife the Hummus Punisher, I’ll resume coverage of my independent food experiences with this column.

Japan:
With winter just around the corner,  wannabe foodies and pepperazzis (obsessive food photo snappers) indulge in tomato soup at hale & hearty soups.  But I started the week with a $6.50 lunch special veggie Ramen at Ajisen Noodle on Mott Street and it’s  just what the doctor ordered.  It originated in Kumamoto of Kyushu, Japan in 1968.  Their ramen is chewy, straight and thin coupled with the secret recipe of a tonkotsu soup base (white soup base from which bones, meat, vegetables and other fine ingredients are cooked for many hours producing a milky white broth).
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Did I mention that I usually hate soups? this post is a great way to offend my mother and mother-in-law as they have been given countless head shakes when offering soup.

China:
I decided to pass on the typical American-Chinese soups that you can find just about anywhere in America.  Xi’an famous foods (cash only)  is certainly not a typical Chinese establishment, with one other location in flushing Queens.  Western Chinese cuisine of the ancient city of Xi’an is served here.  The spicy cumin lamb soups is a fusion of Chinese and middle eastern cuisines at its finest.  The soup had a pleasant aroma from the lamb-bone broth with one delicious extra long flat hand-pulled noodle.  Noodle quality is superb for $8. This father and son run place seats about 20 ppl so get here early as it packs up fast with a long line outside.  Looking around at the plates at the two communal tables, this place is giving Mission Chinese a run for its money in terms of quality and price.  This is definitely my favorite of the group, more to come on this place.
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Japan:
 For a hip, minimalist atmosphere,  stop by Bassanova (cash only).  With the original location in Japan, this newcomer opened in July 2013 in a convenient spot around the corner from canal street.  In addition to other platters, they serve only three Ramen soups in ceramic bowls imported from the original’s hometown of Setagaya.  I enjoyed the Tondaku green curry ramen while sitting at the steamy bar with a boom box playing hip-hop.  Despite a disappointingly steep dollar to Ramen  ratio for any ecconoisseur, the soup displayed colorful ingredients such as moist grilled Berkshire pork, mixed  greens, shrimp, okra, and red bell pepper, and a secret base with a good hint of green curry.  I attacked this soup with brutal force. Who knew Ramen soup would taste so good while listening to “gangsta’s paradise” and enjoying  the “Prado” wallet you just bought on Canal street for your girlfriend.
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Categories: Chinatown, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Florence – City of Eugene

Today the plan was to write one of those “lazy posts” on the Italian City of David.  Its where I spend some time picking the best pictures of some place I visited recently and just throw them in here with minimal word content.  But it just feels weird to do that today due to some circumstances.

When people mention the subject of Trip Advisor, the immediate thing that comes to mind to most people is Reviews.  Mainly reviews of Restaurants, Hotels,  and Attractions.  But very few know about Trip Advisor’s other powerful arm, the Forum.  You can spend a month in some city or country’s TA forum and gain a wealth of information.  Information that is absent from your guidebook.  The forum to me is internet’s best travel tool.  All this, thanks to regular forum participants that spend their spare time helping tourists with the various questions they have.  They are some of their city’s greatest ambassadors.  One of those ambassadors was Eugene Martinez who tragically passed away a few days ago.  I never actually met Eugene but we came very close when I was there in June.  Eugene was a tremendous help in making our Florence stay as memorable as it was.  From my interactions with him and from what I heard he was kind, caring, funny, and passionate about the city of Florence and Tuscany.  He will be sorely missed.

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Categories: Florence, Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Georgian Bread in Brighton Beach – The Looooooove Boat!

AdjaruliIf only my parents would have taken me to Georgian cafes for some delicious Khatchapuri instead of staying home watching The Love Boat all those years.  Would I have appreciated it as a kid?  Not sure.  I know my youngest who went with us to one of those a few weeks ago, would have rather stayed home and watch the same Full House episode for the 25th time.  You realize that your kid watched a particular episode for the 25th time when you as a parent already know the entire episode by heart without actually ever watching it.  I’m still convinced that that is the reason our goldfish, Ziggy Jr. Jr. (not to be confused with our previous goldfish Ziggy Jr.) leaped to his death.  When you hear that music, when one of the adults on the show explains yet another life lesson to the kids, on an hourly basis, there’s just so much you can take.

Georgian BreadYou know the place is authentic when you are not sure exactly of its name. Georgian Bread?  Tone Cafe?  Khachapuri-R-Us?  Whatever its called, this Brighton Beach gem is worth the schlep, even while being a little out of the main babushka hub.  Lets call it Tone.  Tone recently renovated to transform a takeout place into a takeout place with a cozy, rustic, attached sit down with gorgeous views of the oven.  The only type of oven in NYC where you can say “gorgeous views of the oven”.  In a city filled with some amazing and unique bakeries, add Tone, or the Georgian bread place near you to you list.Tone Cafe - Georgian Bread

The main draw here is the Khatchapuri, essentially bread with cheese which can come in various forms and sizes.  But the one to get is the Adjaruli Khatchapuri, a boat shape bread topped with Farmer’s Cheese and an egg cracked open right before serving.  You then mix in the egg with the cheese and the result is a gorgeous feast for all senses.  The bread is hard, crispy and the perfect partner for that rich, runny mess you just made.Adjaruli

The Adjaruli is made to order, and can take as much as an hour to make.  Anywhere between 30-60 minutes to be exact.  And while you wait, you can either order other things, or drool over all the bread being made next door via the glass wall , or do both (RECOMMENDED!). So grab a napkin (something heavy duty and pretty.  Not what you got in the deli last night and saving them for a special occasion) and lets take a look at how they are making those other love boats, the plain ones…

Tone Cafe - Georgian Bread

Master slaps the bread inside the stone oven

Tone Cafe - Georgian Bread

Bread master prepares the bread

Tone Cafe - Georgian Bread

Mmmmm… come to Ziggy

Tone Cafe - Georgian Bread

Guy with the stick puts the bread into cooling area

We managed to eat about half of the Adjaruli because we were no longer hungry after pre-stuffing ourselves with the following goodies.  The best perhaps came first.  Lobio, essentially a sick red bean salad, with ground walnut, pomegranate and spices.  The perfect starter!  Imeruli was another form of Khatchapuri, this one being cheese filled soft bread.  Satisfying, although not particularly unique to us.  Mtsvadi, Shashlik (Shis Kebab) was a decent kebab.  The “Kababi” on the other hand, ground beef pork perfectly seasoned and slow cooked, wrapped in flat bread was fantastic.  Drinks available are the normal Russian fare including the sweet Pear Soda, and the Kompot (like a fruit punch), which the Russians like to dilute with vodka they carry in water bottles.

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

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